Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Fragment on Indie Film

At Ruthless Culture, Jonathan McCalmont has offered a review of Red State, the latest film from Kevin Smith. The title, "Nothing to Say and No Idea of How to Say It," just about sums up McCalmont's take on the movie. It also offers a cogent summation of Smith's career, which has consisted primarily of Kevin Smith making movies about nothing other than . . . Kevin Smith.

Moviemakers making movies about themselves are certainly nothing new but nonetheless seems to me to have comprised far too much of the cinematic output of the last two decades, and especially the output of independent films since the 1990s. The result is that in a staggering number of films, we have movies about frustrated creative types (particularly frustrated Hollywood types), and hapless slackers who do not even aspire to creative careers. In relating the small number of stories told about them time and time again, in repeating the same scenes over and over again (like the hero getting thrown out of the apartment he shares with his girlfriend after the inevitable fight over his aimlessness), we are subjected to the filmmakers wallowing in their exaggerated idea of their coolness, edginess, wit and command of their craft, as well as their not-very-interesting "big thinks" on capital "R" Relationships. There is, too, the celebration of dialogue for its own sake, and references to other films as an end in themselves (the careers of Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer are merely the logical end result of this turn), and in general, the exaltation of the superficial as genius.

Consequently, it is not only the case that Kevin Smith is an overrated filmmaker (or at least, formerly overrated), but along with the other overrated '90s-vintage kings of the independent film scene (like Richard Linklater, and Quentin Tarantino, a strong candidate for the title of "most overrated filmmaker of all time"), did enormous damage, which inevitably spilled over into mainstream moviemaking, and television, and just about everything else.

I can only hope that contemporary culture will recover in time.

New and Noteworthy (Most Absurd SF Film of All Time, Kevin Smith's Last Film?, Genre Fiction for 2011)
New and Noteworthy: Items From the Hiatus #4 (Terry Gilliam, E-Book Sales, Kevin Smith and the Critics, Hinman on SyFy)

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