Two highly-intelligent articles I’ve read recently make me realise how shallow our public discourse on films tends to be. I suppose it’s because films are there to entertain us that most critics and commentators treat their failings so leniently. Any film that comes along with any complexity or surprise is greeted with wonder. I’m as guilty of this as anyone. But as I read Zoe Heller in the New York Review of Books on ‘Gone Girl’ I realise how casual my response has been. I enjoyed the film, was duly tricked by the twists, and came out saying that of course it was all nonsense, and the characters utterly unreal, but it was clever stuff. Zoe Heller – always so wise in her perceptions – showed me how lazy I’ve been. I don’t know how to be clever with links, but I think this will take you to the article: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2014/dec/04/gone-girl-hard-work-marriage/?insrc=toc
The second piece is from the New Yorker, I think maybe the New Yorker blog, as the magazine has a different review. It’s on ‘Birdman’, a film I greatly admire. But read Richard Brody – not a writer I know, but one I will now follow – and again I realise how casual my response has been. Try it here: http://www.newyorker.com/culture/richard-brody/birdman-never-achieves-flight
The point is not to admire writers who write hatchet jobs, it’s to raise the demands we make of films. Somehow we’ve fallen for the notion that our choice is dumb-but-entertaining, or intelligent-but-pretentious. Both these commentators are asking for something more, for human truth and for deeper wisdom. I want that too. Their critical gaze calls on me to raise my game. Watch this space.