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.