joi, 28 ianuarie 2016

Our friends, the plausibles

A.H. To insist that a storyteller stick to the facts is just as ridiculous as to demand of a representative painter that he show objects accurately. What's the ultimate in representative painting? Color photography. Don't you agree? There's quite a difference, you see, between the creation of a film and the making of a documentary. In the documentary the basic material has been created by God, whereas in the fiction film the director is the god; he must create life. And in the process of that creation, there are lots of feelings, forms of expression, and viewpoints that have to be juxtaposed. We should have total freedom to do as we like, just so long as it's not dull. A critic who talks to me about plausibility is a dull fellow.

F.T. It's sometimes said that a critic, by the very nature of his work, is unimaginative, and in a way, that makes sense, since imagination may be a deterrent to his objectivity. Anyway, that lack of imagination might account for a predilection for films that are close to real life. On seeing The Bicycle Thief, for instance, he's likely to think this is just the sort of thing he might have written himself, but that thought couldn't possibly occur to him in connection with North by Northwest. This being so, he's bound to attribute all kinds of merit to The Bicycle Thief and none whatever to North by Northwest.

A.H. Since you mention it, I might tell you that The New Yorker critic described that picture as "unconsciously funny". And yet I made North by Northwest with tongue in cheek; to me it was one big joke. When Cary Grant was on Mount Rushmore, I would have liked to put him inside Lincoln's nostril and let him have a sneezing fit.

By the way, since we're being so critical of the critics, what line were you in when we met for the first time?

F.T. I was a film critic. What else?

Francois Truffaut & Helen G. Scott - Hitchcock: A Definitive Study of Alfred Hitchcock, Simon & Schuster; Revised edition (October 2, 1985)

luni, 4 ianuarie 2016

The Monster Problem

Romero embraced the political reputation of Night of the Living Dead. It was hard enough to have a hit movie, so why complain? If people thought he was making a statement, he would give them that. The zombies this time prowl a shopping mall and are comments on the rampant consumerism of American Capitalism. The movie suggests the living shoppers are more brain-dead than the zombies.

Romero applies a mercilessly satiric touch. The politics in Night of the Living Dead was an accident, but Dawn of the Dead's political statement was not. "Because of the critics, I knew we can't do a zombie movie for the fuck of it," Romero says. "It has to talk about the times, have a social point."

While Night of the Living Dead maintained a somber tone of nihilistic doom, Dawn of the Dead laughed at itself merrily. The cannibalism and ripping of limbs was disgusting, knowing, and outrageously over-the-top. It was actually a much closer reflection of Romero's sensibility than the grim dread of Night of the Living Dead. He was not a gloomy guy. For the European version, Romero said that Argento took out jokes that he thought wouldn't work with an Italian audience. But the real noticeable change is the look of the movie, the black-and-white severity of the earlier zombie movie replaced by garish and bold hues. The vietnam veteran and makeup guru Tom Savini assisted on the effects, but the bloody fingerprints of Argento are all over the movie.

The reviews were the best of his career, and a stark contrast in tone with the notices for Romero's last zombie film. Roger Ebert, who was so dismissive of Night of the Living Dead, called the new movie "brilliantly crafted, funny, droll, and savagely merciless in its satiric view of the American consumer society. Nobody even said art had to be in good taste."

Notice the use of the term "art". By making a second political zombie movie, Romero proved that Night was no fluke. He was an auteur with a vision, except his particular one involved the ripping off of limbs. The fact that both movies were deeply collaborative and that the idea that Romero was the sole author distorted as much as it illuminated did not change his reputation. Romero would be a master of horror for the rest of his career. Martin remains his favorite movie. As for Dawn of the Dead, he just laughs at the acclaim. "People thought it was such a subtle commentary," he says, "but I don't know what they were talking about. It was a pie in the face."

Shock Value: How a Few Eccentric Outsiders Gave Us Nightmares, Conquered Hollywood, and Invented Modern Horror, Jason Zinoman @Penguin Press, 2011