Reject-oriented antilogy (Shaviro)
I'm disappointed that Steven Shaviro's scholarly take on the debate beats around the bush.
- He wrongly conflates CCC with Modern Cinema (Antonioni, Jancso, Tarkovsky), then blames CCC for not looking enough LIKE Modern Cinema (daring, provocative, extremist, posthuman?).
- Then he blames CCC for looking TOO MUCH like Modern predecessors!
- He uses uncontroversial big names from the consensual canon of film history, the highest masters, and then blames today's filmmakers for not being as good.
- He can only conceive art cinema if it is daring, provocative, original, insightful, refreshing, inventive... short of that it's not even worth considering.
- He calls "routine", "strictly by the number", what auteurists refer to as a stylistic signature (which explains the recurrence!)
- He calls "default international style" what is an unorganised transnational aesthetic convergence.
- I don't even know what is the "slow norm", the "slow paradigm", so I can't comment.
- He shares with us the auteurs he likes and the ones he doesn't like, the films he prefers and the ones he thinks are inferior... and equates his stylistic hierarchies with the fact that such or such style deserves to exist or not.
- Takashi Miike is more inventive than all CCC combined... so what?
- There are important contemporary directors who have nothing whatsoever to do with Contemplative Cinema... so what?
- Being nostalgic and regressive is a "bad thing".
- CCC can only seduce nostalgic, classicist, old-line cinephiles (like me?)
- CCC is a way of saying No to mainstream Hollywood’s current fast-edit, post-continuity, highly digital style.
Where to start? There is no theoretical matter to respond to there... What is there to say?
He just says he doesn't LIKE this kind of style and that he WISHES that today's cinema would address socio-culturo-political issues of technology and newer media to feel contemporary. But he doesn't prove that CCC is bad cinema, nor that it's an invalid artistic interpretation of the world we live in.
1. If "Modern Cinema" (whatever this vague umbrella term refers to) was a seamless continuous history, I would agree. But the world has changed quite a bit since the 60ies, so it's easy to understand that the reaction of art to a NEW distinct kind of modernity has evolved too.
If you're going to expect Tsai Ming-liang to provide the exact content/style that Antonioni used to deliver, if you want Tarr to BE Jancsó, if you hope Reygadas to measure up to Tarkovsky... you could be waiting for a long time, cause it is not gonna happen. It's not meant to happen.
CCC is different precisely because it doesn't try to mimic older modernists, but develop a brand new style!
2. Forget about the Modernity references, because the films you see today aren't directly comparable to Antonioni or Tarkovsky. CCC is not wordy, not intellectual, not spiritual, not narrator-centric... no wonders it's nothing like the 60ies!
3. Not being as good as the highest masters doesn't mean that the film/auteur/movement is not legit. You're just subjectively evaluating their inferiority. In principle, new trends can emerge and strive without being greater than everything that has been done before. (not that I agree with his allegation that CCC is inferior!)
4. I would expect reasonable scholars to be able to take into considerations more than a single one possible aesthetic iteration to translate on the screen(s) what contemporaneity has brought upon us. He's being partial like an artist who develops the same style over and over. While the critic ought not take positions, but identify the many ways artists find to express their reactions to the same socio-politico-cultural conditions we live in.
Let me remind here, for the record, that during the period of the (Silent) Hollywood Golden Age (which was not shy of art film gems, later reappraised by artfilm critics), Surrealism coexisted with Soviet Montage, Caligarism and Réalisme Poétique, even though cinema culture wasn't any less international than today (territories and political borders were less permeable alright). In 1960, there were various expressions of the "anti-Hollywood" art scene : not only the Modern Cinema of Antonioni, but Italian Neorealism, La Nouvelle Vague, L'International Situationiste, New American Cinema. All very different aesthetics, very different formal responses to the same global climate of the Cold War...
What I'm saying is that Shaviro assumes that there can be only one alternative to Hollywood, and if CCC (which he insists to call "slow cinema") doesn't endorse the new technologies then it must be wrong, therefore slowness shall be excommunicated from art-cinema... we've seen enough of that. The artfilm aesthetic that is "right" is something else, something that "looks right", films where we can identify easily the signs of our modernity, something like Takashi Miike or Bong Joon-ho... OK. That is his partial hypothesis. It's what HE wants the "response to Hollywood" to be. But it doesn't prevent artists to find other ways, despite your preferences.
I don't know why he looks for a unique "international style" that would format all artfilm makers...
5. 6. 7. null
8. (see 3.) again a confusion between hierarchy and ontology
9. 10. It's not because you're going to find someone more "inventive" that it'll preclude CCC any invention at all. Nobody is suggesting that CCC is THE ONLY possible way for contemporary art cinema... at least I wouldn't say such thing.
If all you want, like Nick James, is to disparage these films, be honest, don't pretend you're making important statements about the existence of this trend.
11. This is a personal point of view. I don't think you're going to redefine Art History based on this slim assumption.
12. First, Modernity is not Classic... it's what follows Classicism by definition!
Nostalgic? Maybe, any cinephile who loves cinema history enough to watch films that are not current must be somehow nostalgic and "regressive". All depends if you imply a derogatory meaning to it. Are you looking down on cinephiles as a whole? I don't follow...
Again you're trying to force a point of view, it's not very scholarly.
Am I anti-new-technology? Not at all. I'm interested in the new images coming up. But on this blog we only discuss a very specific area of cinema which has little to do with this stuff.
Since I disagree about the conflation of CCC with Modernity, I'm going to disagree that CCC is being nostalgic or regressive. You realize that you'll have to prove that Hollywood's narrative is more progressive than art cinema?
13. I'm afraid he didn't go read the article (about Matthew Flanagan's Aesthetic of Slow) I linked in my post, because I already addressed this misconception at length. If you had to use a disclaimer to avoid being dragged in a rhetorical debate (what a scary thought for a scholar who prefers the hit-and-run tactic!), at least read what initiated it. Thanks.
In fact, he's replying to Flanagan there, when he opposes CCC to Hollywood. I never did such thing. Apparently I need to repeat this every time I write about CCC, and start all over as if nothing happened. If Shaviro talks about "the aesthetic of slow" and "slow films vs fast films" I have nothing to say, because this is simply not what CCC is and does.
The late (and still woefully underappreciated) Edward Yang abandoned the Antonioniesque stylings and slownesses of his earlier films for something more like a Renoiresque social realism with ensemble casts (I still think that Confucian Confusion and Mahjong are two of the greatest films of the 1990s, together constituting the postmodern equivalent of Rules of the Game).
What are you talking about??? So channeling Antonioni is "bad" but channeling Renoir makes it "OK"? it's not being unoriginal anymore? Is it still inventive and refreshing to simulate the older style of Renoir??? So I guess Antonioni stands for Modern, and an imitation of La Règle du Jeu (1939!) which is a precursor of Modernity, is Post-Modern??? Sorry, you lost me.
Shaviro disagrees that CCC is the most important aesthetic movement in our present cinema, but it's not a question of canonical hierarchy here. I'd be happy if this trend was at the very least understood for what it is (and not totally fantasised and perverted by people who fail to get immersed in contemplation). I don't care if everyone thinks it's a small, weak, short-lived movement, I don't care what intentions you give its filmmakers, I don't care if you think it is irrelevant to today's technological world. The point is to identify its very coherence, its own nature and not mistake it for something it is not, thus blame it for what it doesn't try to achieve.