. 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?
10 THE LIST 's'a.’ s‘ .‘ At"
Music Scottish Opera prepares for its complete Ring cycle during this year's Edinburgh Festival with Wagner's final, p0isonous segment. See With This Ring. page 6, Festival Theatre. Edinburgh.
2 Lucienne Day
Art She helped create the image of the 19505. set the tone for John Lewis and is still celebrated by Habitat. Now Glasgow is set to warm to the design legend. See feature. page 14. Glasgow School of Art.
3 The White Stripes
Music How can so much horse be made by so few? Jack and Meg's bombastic return. Elephant is a triumph. See Buy it this Fortnight. page 97. XL.
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
Comedy Among those raismg awareness and lifting spirits are Mark Thomas. Jeremy Hardy and Mark Steel. See High Five. page 6 and Comedy. pages 66 and 69. Paw/ion, Glasgow.
6 Massive Attack
Music The current album 100th Window may not have moved the earth but get along and support 3-D now that the heavily-publicised charges have been dropped. See Music, page 42. Carling Academy, Glasgow.
7 Ghost Recon
Games This Xbox classrc IS a meticuloust planned skirmish which y0u may not be able to turn off. See Games. page 103. Ubisoft.
8 Timorous Beasties
Shopping An intriguing and vibrant new exhibition. Guns N Roses, from the Glasgow- based design company. See Shopping, page 105. Lighthouse, Glasgow.
9 James Robertson
Books Merging the slave trade. Enlightenment Edinburgh and modern day Dundee. Joseph Knight proves the File writer is in the premier league. See Books. page 99. Fourth Estate.
1 0 National Theatre
Theatre John Webster's tragic The Duchess of Malﬁ is the NT’s latest incursion north. See feature, page 20. King's Theatre, Edinburgh.