TUESDAY, DECEMBER 13, 2022
Balthazar suffers and dies: Just to be completely honest, we've seen and liked several films which might strike others as boring.
We're thinking of My Dinner with Andre (1981). We're thinking of Wings of Desire (1987).
We saw Wings of Desire at The Charles one night long ago, probably during its first run. We came home and dreamed a highly affecting dream, whose contents we can't recall.
Several decades later, we watched it again on our TV screen. Our reaction was totally different. Plainly, you had to see it in a darkened theater, perhaps on that very night.
For these reasons, we can't reject the possibility that we would also like and admire Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles, the newly-crowned world's greatest film, assuming we could make it through the length of this greatest film's title.
Based on what we've seen and read, we'll guess that we wouldn't like the famously unwatchable film with the seemingly stereotypically downbeat Euro-"feminist" framework.
We prefer a more hopeful feminism. But it's certainly possible that we'd end up liking this.
As we noted yesterday, the New York Times' Manohla Dargis has listed Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles as history's third greatest film. In her estimation, the greatest film of all time is Robert Bresson's Au Hasard Balthazar (1966).
By happenstance, we have seen that film. Through the miracle of YouTube, you can watch it too, simply by clicking this link.
We're going to guess that you won't like it. We suspect that you're likely to find it puzzlingly amateurish, weirdly tedious, also quite possibly dull.
That, of course, doesn't mean that Dargis' judgment is "wrong." It does raise a question about where our tribal frameworks come from.
Yesterday, we showed you Dargis' list of the ten greatest films of all time. As we noted, we've seen three of these films, one about ten million times:
Manohla Dargis, ten greatest films
1) Au Hasard Balthazar (Robert Bresson)
2) The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola)
3) Jeanne Dielman (Chantal Akerman)
4) Flowers of Shanghai (Hou Hsiao-Hsien)
5) The Gleaners and I (Varda)
6) Tokyo Story (Yasujiro Ozu)
7) Killer of Sheep (Charles Burnett)
8) Little Stabs at Happiness (Ken Jacobs),
9) There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson)
10) Shoes (Lois Weber)
The Godfather is highly familiar to many Times subscribers. Many of those others are not. Therein lies a possible bit of a small minor lurking conundrum.
Without attempting to be too haughty, we'll note that lists like those of Dargis and her colleague A. O. Scott tend to come straight outta film studies degree programs. There's nothing necessarily "wrong" about that, until such time as there may be.
In our view, it's slightly odd when a major newspaper employs a pair of high-end film critics whose aesthetic sensibility is so separate and apart from that of the paper's subscribers.
In the case of the New York Times, it may well be that this exercise in academic high taste helps establish one of the newspaper's branding themes, in which the Times is thought to be a smart publication. Subscribers tend to play along, knowing that the red tribe's rubes would never tolerate lists of that type, the way we brainiacs do.
Go ahead—we dare you! Go ahead and take the Balthazar Challenge! Go ahead and try to watch 15-20 minutes of Dargis' world's greatest film.
We're going to guess that you'll have no idea why this film would strike someone as the greatest film of all time. When you react that way to the selections of Dargis and Scott, you make us flash on sacred Nietzsche, explaining where certain types of values come from.
We've often written about the way we've been abandoned by the logicians. Have we possibly been abandoned by the high-end film critics too?
Go ahead—take the Balthazar Challenge! There's no such thing as the world's greatest film, but if there actually were such a film, can you really see why this film would be that?
Your lizard will tell you to play along. Are you able to ride herd on such deeply sourced advice?