Friday, September 07, 2007

5 points of an art film

Just sent Federico Fellini's Oscar-winning classic 8 1/2 back to Netflix. This is one of the top ten films of all time, according to a lot of critics. Myself, I didn't finish it. I thought it was terrible. I gave it two stars, and that's because of Claudia Cardinale.

I think it is appropriate at this time for me to reveal my five-point profile of an art film. An art film is a film in which: (1) Miserable people (2) sit around talking (3) and smoking (4) and committing adultery (5) but nothing really happens.

1) The people in art films are bored and unhappy. They hate their lives, even though generally they are materially well off. Life bores them, the world has nothing left to offer them, they are weary of everything and everyone. It helps if they are European.

2) In art films, people talk a lot. And the conversations are very important and very carefully crafted, although they don't really advance the plot. (See #5.) So you have lots of people sitting around talking for long stretches about very ordinary things, and they interrupt each other and talk over each other, as people do in real life. Also as in real life, most of the talking is not very interesting. (That's why people go to the movies.)

3) Everybody smokes in art films. And they smoke a lot. And the camera lingers on the cigarettes and the smoke in that artsy kind of way. I don't know why this is thought to be such a sophisticated, beautiful thing-- smoking is gross.

4) In art films, it's important for everyone to be mired in adultery. And it's never pre-marital hanky-panky-- it's always people cheating on their spouses. But not in a sexy way. In a bored, disappointed, world-weary sort of way. In 8 1/2, for instance, perhaps since it was made fifty years ago, there are scenes of lovers embracing, or passionate kisses (again, perhaps due to #3). But there is a scene of a mistress demanding a job for her husband from the married protagonist.

5) Most importantly, nothing really happens in an art film. There really is no plot. If I had to sum up the plot of 8 1/2, I would have to say something like: A movie director is tired of the movie business. But that's not a plot. It's a setup. It's a premise. You start with that, and move on. Like this: A movie director is bored of the movie business...

...AND SO HE quits and follows his dream to become a professional hockey player.
...AND SO HE makes the best film ever and changes Hollywood forever.
...AND SO HE joins the CIA and becomes a spy with the perfect cover story.
...BUT THEN HE falls in love and rekindles his love of life.
...BUT THEN HE is approached by a mysterious stranger who says she is from the future, and that only he can prevent the robo-pocalypse.
...BUT THEN HE has his world turned upside down by the boss from hell-- literally-- when he discovers that his producer is Lucifer, prince of darkness.

Something should happen! But not in an art film. In an art film, nothing should happen, except the talking and the smoking and the miserable, unfaithful people gradually becoming more and more bored with their lives. I don't see why this kind of movie is so popular in certain circles, but it doesn't do it for me.

Lots of critics gave 8 1/2 5 stars; I give it 5/5 on my art-house disaster scale. I recommend seeing it only if you think your life is too thrilling and happy-- like if you just won a gold medal in awesome at the rock and roll Olympics-- and you can't afford depressants in pill form.


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