The Pearl Button (El botón de nácar , France-Spain-Chile-Switzerland, 2015)

The disappearing

The disappearing

Patricio Guzmán’s poetic documentary returns, partly literally, to the territory of Nostalgia for the Light, his stunning 2010 documentary about Pinochet’s ‘disappeared’. Much of the imagery is beautiful and the tale of the disappearing, through colonial genocide, native Patagonians is interesting, but Guzmán’s attempt to link them to the victims of Pinochet’s murder squads over-stretches the point.

I’m, however, not sure I’m best placed to comment as I have lost my love of film. Since the turn of year the only film I’ve enjoyed is Enemy of the State. I’ve given up on many well-regarded films and seen critically lauded Leviathan and Spotlight, but neither moved me. A temporary malaise or, after 36 years of fairly intense film watching, have I burned myself out? At the end of last year I finally put the second edition of Introduction to Film (out this month) to bed: that was hard work so maybe my ennui was caused by writing the book. Roy Stafford commented, ‘I’ve never heard anything like it’. It’s extremely puzzling because I am enjoying television drama… Anyone come across this; anyone know the cure?

Hence I’ve barely blogged this year; I have nothing to say…


2 Responses

  1. I, strangely enough, have an opinion on the lack of love for the movies now. I am in the same boat as you and it really hurts me. It’s not that I don’t love movies but more that I don’t feel compelled to watch them. I’ve seen some fairly good movies in the past year – Carol, Inside Out, The Lobster, Justin Kurzel’s Macbeth – I thought were quite outstanding but I didn’t see them in the cinema. I saw them at home, which 4 years ago would have been outrageous to me because those are films that demand a big screen, despite their reasonably interior narratives and subdued, intelligent visual style.

    In fact, the only movies I’ve seen this year in the cinema are the event movies – The Revenant, Captain America, Batman v Superman – and I feel like I only saw those because their carpet-bomb marketing pretty much suggested that if I didn’t see those movies I was an idiot for not doing so and wanted to stay a part of a cultural conversation*. And while I liked two of those, I don’t really think ultimately they’re great Cinema (argument could be made for The Revenant, mostly because it looks spectacular), they pass the time but they’re not in any way essential.

    And if the movies have one problem at the moment it’s that they are inessential. Steven Soderbergh can explain it better than me here and he raises a number of issues that I think are crucial as to why movies are going down and he saw this coming years ago. But I know find, as you seemingly do also, the really essential viewing, the really meaty good work is being done on television, and not just drama. I’ve devoured more great TV this year than I have movies – The Night Manager, Undercover, Line of Duty, Game of Thrones, House of Cards, Better Call Saul, Deutschland 83, and the more interesting work is being done on the small screen. And in the case of something like Game of Thrones, it’s more “cinematic” than any movie I’ve seen this year, in terms of both mise en scene and pure ambitious scope.

    Creative people are moving towards it because it offers the diversity that cinema once did and the ever-growing behemoth of the studios, which as Soderbergh says are producing less content but have a bigger piece of the market share, are making content with a 12a certificate, which looks, feels and sounds the same, but have a different title. There is no diversity of voice anymore within the studio system.

    I think there is hope, in the super low budget independent filmmakers (who may not have great films but have the potential to make them) and those who are making films overseas, but anything getting wide releases in the UK at the moment feels like a bit of a letdown.

    PS – The Witch and High-Rise are the only movies I’ve seen so far this year that were really exciting (I hear great things about Jeremy Saulnier’s Green Room and Linklater’s Everybody Wants Some also but have not seen them).

    *I am really disturbed that the cultural conversation of movies now swirls mainly around superhero movies controlled by a fascistic fanboyism, spawning thousands of ill-conceived and badly written think pieces by people who should know better that are basically killing film criticism, writing and discussion.

    • You’re for too young to be suffering from ‘ennui’ Will, which I suspect is my malaise. TV is where it’s at but I’m not even finding old, ‘classic’ movies interesting either. I agree that the superhero behemoths are not interesting but mainstream cinema often isn’t as it chases money; which is not to say it is necessarily rubbish of course. There’re other art forms that can be devoured; fortunately I still love music and I’m getting back into literature as I’m now mostly an English teacher again.

      However, if ‘Ivan’s Childhood’ gets a screening locally I shall be going!

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