MONDAY, DECEMBER 5, 2022
But also, West and Trump: Donald J. Trump has now declared that the United States Constitution should be "terminated."
Hold on though—it gets even dumber than that! Kanye West has now declared that Hitler wasn't so bad after all. Also, there's the way the Morning Joe crowd has reacted to these events.
Also, though, there's also last week's unveiling of new greatest film of all time.
How does this array of topics actually hang together? You're asking a very good question! Let's start with the new greatest film.
Attention, Storyline shoppers! The newly-anointed greatest film of all time is a movie you've never heard of!
The identity of this greatest movie has emerged from a new survey. What's the title of the greatest film? Brace yourselves—here it comes:
Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles
That's the somewhat unwieldy title of the greatest film of all time. Released in 1975, Jeanne Dielman was directed by Chantal Akerman, a Belgian filmmaker you've also never heard of.
Briefly, let's be frank! The fact that you've never heard of this film doesn't mean that it isn't the greatest film of all time.
Of course, everyone knows that there's no such thing as the greatest film of all time. But if there actually were some such film, Jeanne Dielman could of course be it, whether you've heard of the film or not.
Still, the fact that this has been voted the new greatest film strikes us as highly instructive. It helps us understand where our basic ideas come from, including our ideas about the best way to respond to the dangerous public behaviors of people like Trump and West.
On what basis are we reporting that Jeanne Dielman has emerged as history's greatest film? Simple! It was voted as such in the new Sight & Sound critics' poll of history's greatest films.
Sight & Sound conducts this survey every ten years. In 2002, Jeanne Dielman had been known to critics for 27 years—and critics selected it, at that time, as the 75th greatest film.
The film wasn't known to regular people at that time, but it was known to film critics. Back then, it was only the 75th greatest film—but today, it's number 1!
What explains the rise of this film in the Sight & Sound survey? Almost surely, there are at least several factors involved in the switch—but it's also worth noting a humorous aspect of this great film's great rise.
The humorous aspect is this:
Based on what we've been reading and seeing, this greatest film—Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles—is almost impossibly boring. It runs for well over three hours, and it seems to be impossibly hard to sit through!
Quite a few people have noted this point in discussing the great film's ascension. Consider one example:
Over at Vox, Alyssa Wilkinson voted in the new "greatest films" survey. Her report about last week's unveiling appears beneath this pair of headlines:
It’s best you know nothing about the new greatest movie of all time
The movie “Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles” was recently declared No. 1 in the prestigious Sight and Sound poll. Go in as cold as possible.
If you plan to watch the film, why should you "go in as cold as possible?" As she starts her intriguing report, Wilkinson starts to explain:
WILKINSON (12/1/22): I’m forever playing catch-up, so years ago when I walked into my first viewing of the 1975 drama Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles, all I knew was that I probably should see this movie I’d heard of. What I didn’t know was anything else. Its plot. Its significance aside from its brilliant Belgian director, Chantal Akerman. The fact that it’s 201 minutes long (yes, that’s almost three and a half hours).
I discovered the runtime a couple minutes before it started and flinched. But, having texted my husband that I’d be late for dinner, I settled in. And was instantly mesmerized.
I can’t tell you why. Not because I don’t know, but because the experience taught me that this is a movie it’s best to see knowing as little as possible. I can tell you that it’s long, and for much of its runtime, it’s extremely boring. That is, precisely, the point—and if you’re ready to lean into patience, you’ll be rewarded.
For much of the greatest film's great length, the film is extremely boring. That's "precisely the point," Wilkinson says—though she adds that you'll be rewarded in the end if you can stick it out.
Later, Wilkinson explains the way this unknown film managed to become the greatest film, greater even than previous winners in this survey like Citizen Kane and Vertigo:
WILKINSON: There are lots of factors that led to this point. The movie is astounding, to be sure. Akerman, its director, who is a pioneer of feminist filmmaking, died in 2015, three years after the last poll. The film also was restored and re-released in the Criterion Collection in 2017, which means people like me who hadn’t seen it previously (we didn’t all go to film school) got a chance to do so in theaters. And the pool of voters from which the final list was drawn has been diversified since 2012, so it’s possible that helped with a film that is, undoubtedly, an ur-text of feminist film.
But I don’t want to discount the fact that Jeanne Dielman offers something unique: it runs against the grain of the frenetic, effects-heavy, plot-driven cinema world we now inhabit. It treats its audience like adults, people who have developed the ability to pay attention to something without looking at a second screen every three minutes. It’s repetitive. It feels like watching time. It does not explain what it is about because it thinks you will watch long enough to learn. It barely has any dialogue. There are no jokes. It has no references to the outside world, no story that can be turned into a franchise. You don’t want to watch a sequel to Jeanne Dielman.
According to this critique, you wouldn't want to experience a second such film—but this one's the best of all time!
You wouldn't want to see a sequel! That said, Wilkinson's explanation continues:
WILKINSON (continuing directly): But it’s also the kind of movie that, while you can watch it at home, absolutely begs to be seen in a cinema next to a dozen other people. (Hard to imagine a bigger audience than that.) Not for big-screen eyepoppers or huge sound effects, but because there are a few moments you have to be watching intently to catch and, then, you’ll gasp.
If I sound like I’m being vague, it’s because I am. If you’re ready to watch Jeanne Dielman, then I want you to go in as unspoiled as possible. A movie like this one is a little like a training ground for experiencing art. It asks you to enter without expectations, to sit quietly and get yourself out of the way, to fidget and feel antsy and stay and see what the movie wants to give you. There are vanishingly few movies like this anymore—certainly next to none being produced in Hollywood.
According to Wilkinson, if you sit through the full three hours plus, there will be a few moments when you'll gasp.
If you're in a movie theater, you'll be sitting with maybe a dozen other people. It's hard to imagine the greatest film attracting a bigger audience than that!
You're going to fidget, and you'll feel antsy, as the drudgery proceeds. Hollywood almost never produces films like this any more!
Perhaps a bit comically, Wilkinson finally notes the source of Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles's unparalleled greatness. As it turns out—and also, perhaps a bit comically—this new greatest film of all time is "a little like a training ground for experiencing art."
Presumably, the world's film critics already know how to execute that task. For that reason, they understand that this is the world's greatest film, even though you've never heard of the film and it would bore you stiff.
In our view, there's a lot to learn from this turn of events in Sight & Sound's new survey. More precisely, there's a lot to learn about where our basic frameworks of understanding come from—including the frameworks we bring to bear upon public figures like Trump and West.
Is Kanye West best understood as a public enemy or as a (tragically) public idiot? Similarly, what would be the most sensible and constructive way to respond to the latest idiocies emerging from Donald J. Trump?
Is Donald J. Trump a dangerous villain, or is he best understood as a fundamentally disordered person who seems to be dealing with mental health and/or cognitive issues? And as always, more to the point:
Where do our basic ideas about such matters come from?
If there really was such a thing as the world's greatest film, it's always possible that the world's most boring film might also be the greatest. It could be that the critics in the new Sight & Sound survey got it exactly right this time, correcting their colleagues' past misjudgments.
That said, it's also possible that this new survey helps us see the way certain cosseted elites help drive the public's basic frameworks of understanding, even about such serious topics as the behavior of dangerous, disordered public figures like West and Trump.
There's no such thing as the world's greatest film! Also, it doesn't matter if a few thousand critics are possibly wrong in this, their guild's most recent judgment.
That said, it's possible that our culture's various elites can sometimes say the dumbest things and reach the dumbest judgments. That leads us to a question which actually is important:
Is it possible? Is it possible that our elites really been showing bad judgment in the way they keep urging us to respond to the gong-show public idiocy of people like West and Trump?
Tomorrow: Where to start?
Four minutes, three hours: To experience four minutes (and 29 seconds) of the new greatest film of all time, you can just click this.
Almost surely, you'll be bored to tears. On the brighter side, you'll be getting a three-minute primer in the way to experience art!
Readers, you can thank us later! For now, just click and writhe!