The Front


. Irreversible: perspective or opinion?

No more belly buttons”?

Don’t blame indulgent movies - the problem is indulgent critics. V‘lords: Tony McKibbin

pinions are like belly buttons.‘ Barry Norman once said. '\\'e all hayc 0 them.‘ The List eyen has a column exclusiyely for this may purpose:

the column in limit you. But while most critics in the arts haye an opinion 7- an idea explored in this space last fortnight by- .lason llall how many haye a pelts/m‘Iii't'l’

When (iuunliun rey iewer Peter Bradshaw gay e lrrt'i‘t'rsi/rlt' one star. he was ol'l'ering his ‘humble opinion' as he suggested his readers needed the lilm like a ‘lire-extinguisher-shaped hole in the head'. Bradshaw calls his opinion humble and yet he's writing l‘or maybe the most influential lilm slot in the country. And he gives the lilm one star.

Might we suggest that what humbles an opinion isn't the critic's belicl' in his humility. but his ability to see the bigger picture'.’ ll‘ Bradshaw put Ill't'l‘t'l'UT’lt' into context within a broader aesthetic goal. his opinion would haye been humbled by his perspectiye - that saying the lilm was junk or brilliant would have been irreley'ant next to the analytic premise he'd haye set up.

Of course critics might say analytic premises are all Very well tor the academic. but the critic has to work with tight deadlines and tighter copy. But as former Time Out critic Judith Williamson has suggested. short rey'iews can ‘be both tnore informative and more subjectiy'e'. The short reyiew needn't ol'l'er a quick run-through ol‘ the plot and jump to adjectiy'al proclamations: it can just as readily offer a briel. subjectiy'e take on the lihn that suggests what makes it different. Instead of means saying a lilm is good or bad. the critic tries to

say what the lilm seems to be trying to do.

:\s American critic Manny liarber beliey'ed. art evo'ves, the ethic is 'sltpposcd lo 2C1 It) lliL‘ lt'llllt ()l. at situation: that situation is the movie. The critic

should write ‘about the l'ilm in a way remalns commensurate with the way the filmmakers

mind is‘. This means the opinion proy'es as irreley'ant as it would be. say. in a piece of liction. The film isn‘t an object to be judged. but a situation to be explored. .»\s a consequence the critic becomes less interested in his own word-mongering use of superlatiy'es than in trying to work through the artistic sensibility at play.

The good critic keeps tip with the aitl‘orm by constantly second—guessing and trying to work through the problems new art raises. Instead ol‘ the critic's ego

and sense ol' certitude. we have a searching sensibility and a sense ol‘

Vulnerability. But in practice we get an air of assumption oy er an air of enquiry.

It means that though art C\‘0l\'Cs. criticism remains static. and what often happens is that great. exploratory works (say. l)tiinont\ [flirtinunitti (iarrel’s unreleased 1.4' \i'm (14' la .\'uit. Hou's barely shown (rum/bye Soul/i. (him/liver get ignored. while the lilms of aesthetic yesteryear (Shrine Private Ryan. Donnie Dar/m. The Royal 'll'rn’nlmimisl are praised for their immediate accessibility. We're often told how a certain type ot‘ art cinema constantly nayel-ga/es but. we might ask. isn't it belly button criticism rather than radical art that's the real problem?

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10 THE LIST 's'a.’ s‘ .‘ At"

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2 Lucienne Day

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4 The Rules of Attraction Film James van der Beek leaves Dawson '3 Creek behind to play his devilish part in the adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’ novelistic mayhem. See feature. page 18 and Film, page 24. General release.

5 SSP Presents a Comedy Extravaganza

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7 Ghost Recon

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8 Timorous Beasties

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9 James Robertson

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1 0 National Theatre

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