lunes, 20 de agosto de 2012

On elite taste in film-making

El 20/08/12 16:47, Norman Holland escribió (a la lista Psyart):
> Dear Colleagues,
> A query.  As I review non-Hollywood films for our local Film Club, I am struck by the admiration and awards accorded filmmakers in the style of Raoul Ruiz, Bela Tarr, Andrei Tarkovsky, or David Lynch.  They seem to me to be occupying the place in the pantheon that Bergman, Fellini, or Antonioni occupied in the '60s.  Yet they also seem to me to have almost totally abandoned conventional ideas of story, character, and motivation while providing extraordinary effects in individual shots and scenes.  Bergman famously said of Tarkovsky, that he had developed "a new language, true to the nature of film, as it captures life as a reflection, life as a dream."
> Do you have any explanation for this change in taste?  And how does one set one's mind to enjoy this kind of film?

—My answer:

To my mind, while there are several reasons for the taste of specialised critics, one major reason (THE major reason) for this special taste lies in the very fact that they are specialists, and experts. I mean not that they are given some superior insight because of their professionality and their expertise (that is one reason, but not THE reason)—I mean that their very discursive position requires that they favor extreme styles in film-making, styles which are not appreciated by the general public. Intellectual elites need to be built on intellectual elitis. Some of that elitism may come from a special ability on the part of the critic, that is, being able to perceive an "ordinary" scene from an extraordinary intellectual angle; but it is only to be expected that extraordinary (or aberrant, or experimental, or wide-off-the-beaten-road) ways of filming and telling will be both ignored by the audience and favored by the cognoscenti. Not all of them, of course, there's the same element of attention-managing and reputation-building among the Few and among the Many.  Then, those styles, with their influence magnified by critical lionizing well beyond ordinary expectations, will become fashionable, get taught to the audience, and get to influence and transform the mainstream.

This would have to be complemented with a social theory of taste, for instance along the lines of Pierre Bourdieu's notion of symbolic value. Taste is fundamentally a form of identity-taking, or self-making: one selects the taste of the social group one aligns oneself with, or the social sub-group one aspires to belong to. Therefore, one's favoured objects become symbols of self, symbols of one's desired social and intellectual identity. The things I like, the things I recommend, are an extension of my desired social self; and I expect to earn social kudos not only for what I do, in matters of culture, but above all for what I align with and what I appreciate. This is the material I am made of, this is me.

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