Really enjoying the discussion on high vs low art (aka tuxedo vs blue-collar films). Is an auterist film inherently interesting? Recognizable, yes; interesting, no. It's funny how a writer who uses a repetitive, yet recognizable, style is pan-fried by the critics, but when a movie director does the same thing, it's interesting. I don't have a problem with Yun's championing of apparently blue-collar movies (Joker, you'll never live that phrase down); it's the apparent arbitrariness--and the kowtowing to lowbrow subversion--of his taste that's problematic. Fortunately, Yun's arbitrariness and admiration have a ring of recognizability, and I take comfort in it. Who ever said that auterism couldn't be applied to the craft of film criticism?
I do agree with Joker's contention that true subversion occurs when a director takes essentially mainstream, genre material and makes it genuinely entertaining and pleasurable. It's so easy to imbue art with smatterings post-modern irony (or smatterings of anything that normally doesn't belong in the genre)--the movie becomes a blank page for one to throw whatever interpretation one desires. The Fast and the Furious
is testosterone-driven fun (and it would have been soooo much more interesting if Walker and Diesel--an appropro name for an actor in this flick--made good on the sublimated homoeroticism and gave each other a great big smooch before their separation: talk about subversion). But to salute a movie like 3KMTG, a movie that revels in ugliness and hatredness? The sensibility of a movie like 3KMTG is, to put it mildly, not borne out of sophistication or observation or an appreciation of anything but its own ugliness and impotence. It's an adolescent movie made by filmmakers who tried to do something funky with the whole Vegas/Presley sub-genre, but instead found that they had nothing refreshing to say, so the piled on the unsavoriness, hoping to grasp at a new angle. This potpourri of cinematic excrement certainly succeeded by setting its bar far lower than "mere pleasure and entertainment." It's one thing for a filmmaker to fail and devolve out of entertainment into putrescense, but it's another thing for a viewer or critic to embrace it.
That said, let me segue into a quick review of Under the Sand
, which I just saw on DVD. This movie provides perhaps the most intricately cut-up interpretation of denial and grief I've ever seen. Ozon's movie takes to the disappearance, loss, and ultimately death of a loved one as a jeweller to a piece of rough-hewn diamond. He cuts away at it until the result is a movie that is iridescent with the multi-facetedness of loss and mourning. And I think Charlotte Rampling's performance is forceful and exploratory, and the director lets her eroticize her grief. It details an individual's process through the denial, grieving, and healing process, without showing the character really reaching the state of being healed: it's like taking epsilon steps in a calculus proof. The movie evokes a mathematical precision in its depiction of coping with loss. The movie does not mock grief or present grief with a whiff of broad irony (an easy thing to do), but it gives grief its full expression, without apology or wink-wink knowingness, and it delivers the vision with great respect to the suffering character and to the audience. In this age of genre films with fast-food ironies and made-to-order subversion, Ozon's movie is truly tonic.