Thursday, October 30, 2008

Read & Discuss: Dark Is the New Black

A couple of lines of Aubade will make Christian Bale's Batman whimper with fear, or it would if he's got any sense.

This short editorial on the topic of dark things in entertainment media echoes some of my own sentiments about the accessorized faux-noir that's all the rage with the kids today. It's a little dismissive, and almost but not totally lacking depth, but I do wonder if anyone else has been thinking about this. I certainly have. Most recently, I thought about it when I realized that the plot of the latest James Bond "thriller" revolves around Mr. Bond brooding a lot.


James-fucking-Bond. Brooding?


Rufus said...

I have noticed it, but it's more of an aesthetic than a philosophical stance, isn't it? I had to laugh at the Ingmar Bergman line because it's hard to imagine a genuinely bleak movie playing- instead it's like the usual kiddie matinee with the trappings of brooding added.

It's weird- when I rented Faces, a genuinely pessimistic and dark film, all I could think was that there's no way this movie could be made for American cinemas today- not even in the independent film world. It's just aimed squarely at middle aged married people, who can relate to its pessimism. And not to 15-year old boys, who like the trappings of a dark aesthetic.

Maybe the problem is that all the movies that are green-lit now are aimed at 15-year old boys, but moviemakers and moviegoers are yearning for more substance with their fluff. A lot of people are pessimistic and scared lately- maybe the movies are reflecting that?

Holly said...

It's hard to say, isn't it? I guess it's like violence in film... the idea that fake bleakness for entertainment purposes is better than the real bleakness of the world? Makes it easier to watch the news? If we make bleakness lightweight and sexy, it is easier to live with it on a daily basis?

Or, maybe people are just over that need for the true bleak of navel-gazing?

But, yeah, I can see the dictates of marketing and distro having a lot more to do with it than any society-wide developmental phase.

I watched an American film yesterday on the TV, didn't catch the title, but the film was about this guy who falls for a married girl, and works very hard to win her heart, and then ends up without her. I'd peg it somewhere about the 1979-1981 era. That was it: He met her, he fell in love, ultimately she rejected him, the end. That would just not be possible to screen in front of an audience these days. There was no sex, no violence, no reciprocation, no happy ending. How do you even write a snappy tagline for a film like that? Nothing even blew up, for chrissake.

Rufus said...

I think there's a sort of easy bleakness and a hard bleakness.

The easy bleakness is just to say "everything's fucked! Let's watch it all burn, man!" That's very popular with teenagers.

But, the hard bleakness is just confronting how difficult it can be to have a meaningful life, or a happy marriage, or to make ethical choices. In a way, dealing with "adult themes" is harder because there are no easy answers. "Everything's fucked" is any easy answer.

When I watch the darker Ingmar Bergman movies, like The Passion of Anna, or Through a Glass Darkly, what strikes me is that I can't really resolve them- there are problems that humans deal with that are probably too big for humans to deal with.

And the real world problems tend to be that way. I can't solve them, that's for sure. So, maybe there's something reassuring about heroes who are struggling with those sorts of problems who can resolve them by blowing stuff up.

But, for me, some of those old, sort of boring, but psychologically-penetrating films (see: just about everything in The Criterion Collection) are a lot more mindblowing- even though they take longer to be fully absorbed.

It's like something someone once said about a writer I like- his work is like LSD- you have to wait to absorb it before it takes effect.

Holly said...

To be fair, there are still some real bleak films in the current era (not bleak lite) like Dancer in the Dark and The Doom Generation.

Rufus said...

That's true. You know, actually, I think the bleakest modern film I can think of is Seven, or Se7en, or however they write that. And that was a Hollywood picture. Irreversible was also bleak- in fact, I advise that no one ever watch it!

The Doom Generation actually made me mad, so that's a point in its favor. With Lars von Trier, I used to think he was saying in his films that people are horrible. After his last few movies though I really just think he's saying that Americans are horrible.

Holly said...

van Trier may just be saying that America can't possibly be the thing on the pedestal it's been put on, which is true. Unfortunately, he may have depressed himself out of any capacity for professional development at this point.