Friday, February 15, 2008

The End of Taste As We Know It?

Once again Jim Emerson has come up with a great post over at his Scanners Blog entitled "The End of Taste." Check it out.

Also, over at Cerebral Mastication, Ali Arkin writes up his thoughts...very good blog, check it out.

As for my thoughts on the topic, I don't quite know yet. I think I need some more time to think about it. But I will ask this: am I any less of a film connoisseur because I may think that RoboCop is on the same level as say...a Truffaut film?

Do you we as moviegoers put too much weight and importance on certain films because critics (or others) classify them as high art? Can I be just as entertained by Lucio Fulci as I could if I were watching a Fellini film? I say yes.

I think that we all evolve as lovers of music, film, art, etc. and in doing so we still carry with us the things we love from our early stages of fandom. I can honestly say I don't know if I would be where I am today as a lover of film without the crappy John Woo action movies that I watched countless times as a 7th grader. Would I have been able to enjoy some of the references and layers of Tarantino's Kill Bill films had not studied the dreck?

I mean Woo has talent, don't get me wrong, but I did watch Hard Target before Hard Boiled, The Killer, and A Better Tomorrow. So before I discovered his good stuff, I thought his most horrible film starring the Muscles from Brussels, was simply awesome. I had never seen action done like that before, and I had never seen slo-mo used so much. Also, I was able to see the origins of the two-people-pointing-guns-at-each-other-at-the-same-time gimmick. When Face/Off came out, I thought I had seen the greatest movie ever, and I went through and watched his film, especially The Killer, about 30 times.

Funny how much our tastes can evolve.

After seeing Face/Off I wanted to know as much about John Woo as I could, so I read interviews he gave. One of the things he mentioned was a great French film that inspired him for The Killer called Le Samourai. I didn't even know who Jean-Pierre Melville was, but I was determined to seek out this film to see what could have possibly inspired my favorite action movie.

I couldn't find the film anywhere, but rather than give up I held out hope, and in the Summer of my 8th grade year, to my complete shock in a tiny little video store in Sunriver, OR I found a copy of Le Samourai.

I rented it and watched it...and waited...and waited...for anything, something to happen...and nothing did. What the crap was this? Where was the action? But I did watch the whole thing, and when it was over I couldn't believe that I had found myself completely hypnotized by the story. This wasn't an action movie, and after watching it a second time I finally saw what John Woo saw: an introspective story about an isolated hitman.

I had an epiphany and realized that with music and dialogue, through subdued acting and muted action, a filmmaker could portray his point without the cheesy slo-mo action scenes and Michael Bay-esque camera spins to make actions seem interesting. A film connoisseur had been born.

At this time, speaking of Michael Bay, I went and saw The Rock in the theater. I hated it. Every moment of it's epic two and a half hours. I remember sitting in theater and just waiting for the movie to wasn't anything like Speed which gave the illusion like it was longer than it actually was with its three different short films in one two hour movie. No, The Rock was just excruciating and painful to sit through. For the first time I had begun to feel the effects of Melville and Le Samourai and I started to see the films I loved so much (I was such a huge action nut) through a different, more critical lens. I started to ask myself, there has to be something more to movies besides this?

The funny thing is, now I can look at a film like The Rock and watch numerous times for how awful it is. I can appreciate the film on a whole different, not so critical, level. I think with age I have been able to appreciate not just the campiness of films like The Rock but also that maybe they shouldn't be taken so seriously, and now I see that it's okay for me to like a really bad action movie by Michael Bay, and a serious French Noir film by one of the great filmmakers of all time, Jean-Pierre Melville.

I can think of some movies where I have done the opposite as well...reversing my original feelings of praise towards the film and turning it into a hatred because so many people go through life still thinking that movies like The Professional, The Fifth Element, The Usual Suspects, and American Beauty are still "great" movies. I remember thinking that Luc Besson was the next big thing and I wacthed The Professional and La Femme Nikita as nauseum. Now I cannot even bring myself to watch any of his films. Looking back on those two movies I can see what I saw as a middel school film buff, but today, they leave me feeling empty.

Interesting, no?


  1. The two photos above re-confirm my belief that scenes where someone has a gun trained on another person simply must be in two-shots.

    Good post.