There is nothing wrong with being confrontational; the spark of debate ignites the fires of understanding. But I am not sure that using terms like "ignorant" and "narrow minded" is really conducive to enlightened discussion. Even a cursory glance and Tony's and my posts show that, whatever you might want to say about us, ignorance and narrow mindedness are not our most pronounced traits.
I understand your passion on this issue. It is a given that ardent film devotees like ourselves are going to have firmly held likes and dislikes that go against the grain of much critical and popular thinking. I just got stomped over at the LIBERTAS site for defending Keanu Reeves in a "Worst Movie Stars" thread; I have had friends openly laugh in my face for calling Reeves our generation's Garbo (that's not a joke). I (along with member robertdavidmonell) have raised a few eyebrows on this site for defending Jess Franco. I’ll give you a few more examples: I consider Marlon Brando's critically lambasted performance in THE MISSOURI BREAKS to be one of his greatest; I adore Robert Altman's much derided BUFFALO BILL; and, as I have written before, champion Mike Nichol's CATCH-22, a film that really brings out the hate in people.
Robin Wood is a brilliant critic, and his book, HOLLYWOOD, FROM VIETNAM TO REAGAN, is the single greatest book of film criticism that I have ever read. Wood's insightful criticism led me to revisit Martin Scorsese's THE KING OF COMEDY and William Friedkin's CRUISING, both notorious critical and box office bombs, and see them for the masterpieces that they are. But I disagree with Wood on other things (he despises David Cronenberg; I only despise him after DEAD RINGERS. Wood has great things to say about HEAVEN'S GATE; I fall asleep every time I try to rewatch it). And so it goes. But citing Wood, or anyone for that matter, as an authority is a dangerous game. Wood was one of the first passionate defenders of Wes Craven's THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT. That's a rough one. Is he right? Is he wrong? Neither, what he is is illuminating, which is what a great critic is supposed to be - he shows us things we hadn't seen before.
Film appeals to us on a very primal level, I think, right down into the foundations of personality; therefore, as individuals, we are bound to have fierce disagreements about the worth of certain films. In defending or rejecting films we are, in a way, defending that primal thing, the self, or rejecting things that we find inimical to it. In my own life, I have found that, as I change and grow, my own fiercely held opinions have often changed with me. For instance, in my hot youth, I was second to none in my high opinion of DePalma and Lynch; now I find them repugnant. Ignorance? Narrow mindedness? You decide.
The original point to this whole thread is a topic that was of some importance to Welles: why do so many older directors decline artistically (not all, some). Is it personal? Biological? Psychological? Institutional? Some combination thereof? We are using Hitchcock as an example. Why? First, because he is such an important figure. Second, because, whatever we may want to say about individual films, there is a general critical and popular consensus that Hitchcock’s movies exhibit a noticeable decline of quality and vision after THE BIRDS.
No one wants to throw any films into the trash. The point being made (somewhat hyperbolically, to be sure), is that, after a certain point, the films of many great directors cease to be essential. Please understand the distinction. I am not saying they are not interesting. I am not saying they are not entertaining. Sometimes they are, and sometimes they are not. What I am saying is that these directors are no longer doing their best work. What I am saying is that, if PSYCHO, and REBECCA, and THE BIRDS had never been made, the world would be a lesser place. On the other hand, if TOPAZ had never been made, I don’t think many people would miss it. To use another example, I am on record in another forum as saying that Martin Scorsese has not made an essential film since THE KING OF COMEDY bombed. That’s an extreme position, I know, but I hold to it. I don’t think that the history of cinema would be lessened by being deprived of his output from that point on (yes, including GOODFELLAS). But it would have been lessened by losing TAXI DRIVER and RAGING BULL. But Welles, and I, and Tony, and a number of others ask, why don't more directors, and especially Hollywood directors, continue making masterpieces right into their dotage? There is no obvious reason for them not to. Other artists do it, all the time. It's not ageism, its a legitimate question.
I cannot claim to speak for Tony, but I think the point he was making, in his inimitably unsentimental and brutally realistic fashion, was that, as much as we all fervently wish that Welles had completed those last projects, his terrible health may have precluded him from doing his best work. Welles was undoubtedly at the peak of his artistic powers near the end of his life. He was also a physical wreck. The man could barely stand up in the 80’s. Could he have pulled it off? Very possibly, yes. Equally likely, no. We’ll never know, because another unsentimental and realistic fellow, Death, intervened. But it is not ignorance and narrow mindedness to open that line of inquiry. Richard Lester, a frequently great film director, pretty much stopped directing before he was sixty years old. When asked why, he said that he didn’t have the stamina anymore.
Since I have tossed a few bombs lately, I'll toss one more. I don't like VERTIGO. Yes, I know it is supposed to be one of the master's best, but after upteen viewings it leaves me cold, and for a very specific reason. I just can't stand Kim Novak's performance. For me, she radiates nothing but immature self regard, so I fail to identify with Scotty's obsession with her character. In a film about obsession, that's a problem. I think Grace Kelly would have made VERTIGO great. I think Vera Miles might have made VERTIGO great. Hell, I think Tippi Hedren might have made a go of it. But Novak sinks the film. And to back me up, I'll cite a good authority, Hitchcock himself, who, when asked how he liked working with Novak, responded "Well, at least I got to throw her in the water!" I hope that Glenn Anders will not think the less of me for this!
Last edited by mido505
on Sun Sep 30, 2007 10:58 pm, edited 2 times in total.