Toate filmele sunt proaste. Demonstraţie în 18 puncte
Concluzia e că îmi plac extremele şi lucidităţile. Nu-mi plac ăştia care vor ei să-mpace şi-şi în public, aşa, de faţă cu toată lumea. Ar putea să facă asta în privateţea lor, dacă îi ţin nasturii de la spielhoseni. Ce cred eu e că moderaţia (neutralitatea, fericirea comună, optimismul, curăţenia) e plictisitoare. Gardurile sunt plictisitoare. Logica e simplă. Cineva mai trebuie să arunce şi cu clor în apă. OK, mă luasem cu altele, cu poveşti despre Coreea, Andreea Vass, câte şi mai câte… Dar acum revenim în miezul problemei: am găsit un articol extrem (!) de bine scris din The New Yorker, datat 23 iunie 1980, an miraculos, scris de Pauline Kael. Ne-am fi înţeles bine. Why Are Movies So Bad? or, The Numbers se numeşte thingy-ul ei şi, pe scurt, se aprind nişte felinare:
(în variantă comprimată)
1. (…) when I see people lining up to buy tickets I sometimes think that the movies aren’t drawing an audience—they’re inheriting an audience. People just want to go to a movie. The lines (and the grosses) tell us only that people are going to the movies—not that they’re having a good time. They think the grosses are proof that people are happy with what they’re getting, just as TV executives think that the programs with the highest ratings are what TV viewers want, rather than what they settle for.
2. The corporate heads may be business geniuses, but as far as movies are concerned, have virgin instincts; ideas that are new to them and take them by storm may have failed grotesquely dozens of times. But they feel that they are creative people—how else could they have made so much money and be in a position to advise artists what to do? Who is to tell them no? Generally, these executives reserve all their enthusiasm for movies that have made money; those are the only movies they like.
3. If a studio considers eighty projects, and eventually twenty of them (the least risky) go into production, and two of them become runaway hits (or even one of them), the studio’s top executive will be a hero to his company and the media, and will soon be quoted in The Los Angeles Times and The New York Times, talking about his secret for picking winners—his intuitive understanding (…) When Alien opened “big,” Alan Ladd, Jr., president of the pictures division of Twentieth Century Fox, was regarded as a demigod; it’s the same way that Fred Silverman was a demigod. It has nothing to do with quality, only with the numbers.
4. There are a lot of reasons that movies have been so bad during the last couple of years and probably won’t be any better for the next couple of years. One big reason is that rotten pictures are making money—not necessarily wild amounts (though a few are), but sizable amounts. So if studio heads want nothing more than to make money and grab power, there is no reason for them to make better ones.
5. The studios no longer make movies primarily to attract and please moviegoers; they make movies in such a way as to get as much as possible from prearranged and anticipated deals. Every picture (allowing for a few exceptions) is cast and planned in terms of those deals. Though the studio is happy when it has a boxoffice hit, it isn’t terribly concerned about the people who buy tickets and come out grumbling. They don’t grumble very loudly anyway, because even the lumpiest pictures are generally an improvement over television.
6. Because the studios have discovered how to take the risk out of moviemaking, they don’t want to make any movies that they can’t protect themselves on. Production and advertising costs have gone so high
7. If a movie doesn’t have an easily paraphrasable theme or big stars, it’s hard to sell via a thirty-second TV commercial. And so, faced with something unusual or original, the studio head generally says, “I don’t know how to market it, and if I don’t know how to market it, it will lose money.”
8. The studio doesn’t care if K. could become a star in this part; he wants R., because he can get a $4,000,000 network sale with the impassive, logy R., a Robert Wagner type who was featured in a miniseries. By the time it is released and falls by the wayside, and he is publicly humiliated, K., disgusted at not having got the part, may have accepted a dumb role in a TV series and become a hot new TV personality, whom all the movie studios are propositioning.
9. Chances are that even if the writer/director had been allowed to use K., he would have been completely enraged and demoralized by the time he started shooting, because the negotiating process can stretch on for years, and anyone who wants to make a movie is treated as a hustler and an adversary. “Studios!” said Billy Wilder, paraphrasing an old complaint about women. “You can’t make pictures with ’em, and you can’t make pictures without ’em!”
10. If a big star and a big director show interest in a project, the executives will go along for a $14,000,000 or $15,000,000 budget even if, by the nature of the material, the picture should be small. A third of the pictures being made by Hollywood this year are in the hands of first time directors, who will receive almost no guidance or help. They’re thrown right into a pressure cooker situation, where any delay is costly. They may have come out of sitcoms, and their dialogue will sound forced, as if it were all recorded in a large, empty cave; they may have come out of nowhere and have never worked with actors before. Even if a director is highly experienced, he probably has certain characteristic weaknesses, such as a tendency to lose track of the story, or an ineptness with women characters; he’s going to need watching. But who knows that, or cares enough to try to protect the picture? The executives may have hired the director after “looking at his work” that is, running off every other reel of one of his films. They are busy people.
11. A writer who is commissioned to adapt a book and turns in a crackerjack script, acclaimed by the studio executives, who call him a genius, then stands helplessly by as the studio submits it to the ritual lists of the stars and the directors in they can get the biggest guarantees on. To put it simply: A good script is a script to which Robert Redford will commit himself. A bad script is a script which Redford has turned down. A script that “needs work” is a script about which Redford has yet to make up his mind. It is possible to run a studio with this formula. But this world of realpolitik that has replaced moviemaking has nothing to do with moviemaking.
12. For the executives a good picture is a picture that makes money, and so after The China Syndrome clicked at boxoffices, they could be heard talking about what a wonderful craftsman its director, James Bridges, was, and after The Amityville Horror, with its unbelievably clunky script by Sandor Stem, showed big grosses, they wanted to sign up Stem as a writer/director. At the bottom as at the top, the executives want to score; they want a hit, not just for the money but for the personal pleasure of the kill.
13. Part of what has deranged American life in this past decade is the change in book publishing and in magazines and newspapers and in the movies as they have passed out of the control of those whose lives were bound up in them and into the control of conglomerates, financiers, and managers who treat them as ordinary commodities.
14. Book publishing, magazines and newspapers, movies and television and live theater—these are businesses, of course, but traditionally the people who work in them have felt privelged (by birth or ability or talent or luck, or by a combination of those factors). Contemporary variants of these people insist on being celebrity artists themselves, and right now they all seem to be writing and directing movies.
15. In movies, the balance between art and business has always been precarious with business outweighing art, but the business was, at least, in the hands of businessmen who loved movies. As popular entertainment, movies had something of what the vulgarian moguls had—zest, a belief in their instincts, a sentimental dedication to producing pictures that would make their country proud of their contribution, a respect for quality, and the biggest thing: a willingness to take chances. The cool managerial sharks don’t have that; neither do the academics. But the vulgarians also did more than their share of damage, and they’re gone forever anyway.
16. When the numbers game takes over a country, artists who work in a popular medium, such as the movies, lose their bearings fast. There’s a pecking order in filmmaking, and the director is at the top—he’s the authority figure. A man who was never particularly attractive to women now finds that he’s the padrone: everyone is waiting on his word, and women are his for the nod. The constant, unlimited opportunities for sex can be insidious; so is the limitless flattery of college students who turn directors into gurus.
17. Filmmakers want big themes, and where are the kinds of themes that they would fight the studios to express? It’s no accident that the two best recent American movies are both fantasy fairy tales—childish in the fullest, deepest sense. Working inside a magical structure, Carroll Ballard in The Black Stallion and Irvin Kershner in The Empire Strikes Back didn’t have to deal with the modem world; they were free to use the medium luxuriantly, without guilt. You can feel the love of moviemaking—almost a revelry in moviemaking—in their films, as you can also in Walter Hill’s The Long Riders, despite its narrative weaknesses and a slight remoteness. But we don’t go to the movies just for great fairy tales and myths of the old West; we also hope for something that connects directly with where we are. Part of the widespread anticipation of Apocalypse Now was, I think, our readiness for a visionary, climactic, summing up movie. (…) Pictures like these should all end with the fathers and the children sitting at home watching TV together.
18. The major studios have found the temporary final solution for movies: in technique and in destiny, their films are television. And there’s no possibility of a big breakthrough in movies—a new release of energy, like the French Wave, which moved from country to country and resulted in an international crossfertilization— when movies are financed only if they fall into stale categories of past successes. It would be very convincing to say that there’s no hope for movies, that audiences have been so corrupted by television and have become so jaded all they want are noisy thrills and dumb jokes and images that move along in an undemanding way, so they can sit and react at the simplest movie and there’s plenty of evidence, such as the success of Alien. (…) Yet there was also a backlash against Alien—people were angry at how mechanically they’d been worked over. And when I sawI saw The Black Stallion on a Saturday afternoon, there was proof that children who have grown up with television and may never have been to a good movie can respond to the real thing when they see it. There was a hushed, attentive audience, with no running up and down the aisles and no traffic to the popcorn counter, and even when the closing credits came on, the children sat quietly looking at the images behind the names. There may be a separate God for the movies, at that.
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foto: screenshot Alien (1979).