Friday, May 05, 2006

What we're all about.

In the past two weeks, my wife and I watched The Godfather and The Godfather, Part Two. For her, it was a first viewing; for me, it was a first time seeing them from beginning to end unedited after watching them on TV many times. Sadie said she wanted to go to school and talk to other teachers about it, but realized how stupid it would be to go to school one day in 2006 asking, "Have you guys heard about this movie, The Godfather?"

The movies are, of course, brilliant. Nobody disputes this. Each film is plot-heavy, yet features wonderful character portrayals and development. What each film has, too, is subtlety. Things happen without anybody saying anything about it. Characters are revealed by the expressions on their faces. And yet the films are subtle without the pretentious pointlessness of a film like Lost in Translation. Somehow, a 3 hour movie moves by quickly. These films suck you in with energy, power, and passion--not emptiness.

And emptiness--the modernist dilemma of isolated man, existing in a meaningless industrial world that has lost its past meaning and tradition. I hope I never see another film exploring this theme again. Not that I haven't loved many works of art exploring this theme--but the point is I've loved MANY works of art exploring this theme. It's unnecessary. It's tedious. If you want to be an alienated figure railing against the emptiness and isolation of modern society, nostalgic and desperate for the tradition of the past, well, you're not that alienated. Get in line--you'll find plenty of other artists just as alienated as you. Perhaps you could all get together and get over yourselves.

I'm interested in something new. Modernism used to speak to me, but I've grown out of it. I've taken a postmodern worldview that also reaches back to older understandings of humankind, identity, and community. I've got little time for whining nostalgia about loss, about alienation and isolation. It's been done and been done well.

Perhaps all ideas have been done, and as civilization advances, it will take greater and greater geniuses to possibly innovate and deviate.

But was the writer of Ecclesiastes correct when he wrote that there is nothing new under the sun? Is human nature, human experience, human knowledge, human emotion, fixed and always without change? I don't know. on the one hand, perhaps humans now feel and do things that are no different than in Old Testament times. One of the joys of old paintings is to see the faces of people, and to see no differences of appearance and expression from people you see today. Joy is joy, sorrow is sorrow, whether I see it in the mirror or see it on a Rembrandt. And yet, perhaps humans have evolved, and new experiences of life mean there is, in fact, something new under the sun.

Ecclesiastes is great, though, and anybody who wishes to create art about despair should read it first. Perhaps everything you'd like to say is already there.

2 comments:

  1. so you're saying artists should stop creating films or writing books about isolation or struggling with the modern world or their place in existence etc etc because its been done but you give the eternal green light to plotted mob movies? i doubt one theme or another should be dismissed since it's been done-- that's absurd. how a theme or whatever is dealt with is the key and i found lost in translation a lovely and moving little picture that had a lot of genuine humor and warmth. it isn't godfather though and since godfather 1 and 2 is one of the ten greatest pictures ever made i'm not certain you can make an arguement of value of godfather vs lost in translation or whatever. but if art dealing with isolation and loss and attempting to define oneself in the modern world etc is not legitimate than some of the finest works of the 20th century are instantly dismissed.

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  2. I don't like the mob genre. The Godfather movies are great movies in and of themselves--they transcend genre specification.

    I'm not dismissing those great works of the 20th century--I'm saying they're there. I am not so much artistically as philosophically fed up with the isolation/alienation/modern world sucks theme. I've moved on. There's got to be something more. People can keep making works of art dealing with those themes; I'll just keep judging/dismissing them, hoping for something more. There's got to be a better way to deal with the world than "Woe is me! I'm so isolated and alienated in this world! I'm so nostalgic for some values of the past!"

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