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Movies for the Ages(?)

Or should I say "Films", since I'm talking about Art? 

A discussion has been going on under the unlikely auspices of one of the 52 Guitars posts, and it's such an interesting topic that I thought I'd give it a post of its own. 

Imagine that you're living 400 years from now, in what will presumably be a very different culture. Do you think any movies from our time would still be rewarding enough to watch and study the way we study the great poets of 400 years ago? If so, which ones? I mean, of course, interest in them as works of art, not historical artifacts.  To put it another way, will movies (and television) become part of the artistic canon? 

I'm not sure what my answer will be. I'll have to think about it some more. It seems a more difficult question to me than it did initially. I'm assuming, of course, that the technology for viewing them still exists in 2414. Still, many ancillary questions come to mind: for instance, is it possible that the culture will not be so very different as all that, that our current level of technology and material well-being is actually a plateau, not a point on an upward slope?

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I can't really say why, but somehow this comes to mind.

The first question asked of this film in 2414:
"What is that strange instrument playing in the background?"
(sadly, accordions will not have been heard for centuries)

heh. But doesn't everybody like tango?

So, Paul, does this make it into the canon?

Star Wars.

Sponge Bob.

Will, did you read the Star Wars discussion in the Week 47 thread?

I would think some of Hitchcock will last.

Not the canon of literature, Mac, but definitely the canon of film. And if Rudolph Valentino, and Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd and Charlie Chaplin, are still worth watching almost a century later (and Marlene Dietrich and Vivien Leigh and George Formby after 70 years), I'm pretty sure they'll still be around after 400.

But perhaps I'm still thinking too much along the lines of "If only we had Ellen Terry and Sarah Bernhardt on film!" (To wish the same of Richard Burbage would just be silly, I suppose.) As Marianne says, a film is a lot of things, not just acting.

(I mean, we do have Sarah Bernhardt and Ellen Terry on film, but not their famous performances, which were slightly too early. Just as we have Gladstone's voice on phonograph, but not his great speeches.)

Shawshank Redemption
Casablanca
Groundhog Day

As much as I enjoy cinema I'm not convinced that it rises to the level of art that literature does. I think it's too technologically-driven, thus too manipulative, and requires too much passivity on the part of the viewer.

Now if people stop reading, which is a distinct possibility, things may change. But in the meantime, I think that film will remain largely what it is now -- popular entertainment with the occasional work transcending the medium's limitations.

I lean that way, Rob, but it's definitely an open question in my mind.

Clarityseeker, I haven't seen Shawshank, but Groundhog Day would be a contender for me. Surely one of the best ever to come out of the American film industry.

To clarify, Paul, I'm using the word "canon" in this context to mean the canon of great art in general. As I think about this, I lean toward the idea that film is a category or medium of its own. It has a lot in common with literature, with drama, and with the visual arts, but isn't defined by any one of those. There's already, as you say, a canon of film, but I'm still undecided as to whether the medium itself will, in the long run, take its place alongside literature, painting, etc.

And re those old films, that's an excellent point. They're pretty far removed from us in culture and technology, and yet many of them do still "work." It's been eight or ten years now, but a while back I watched Buster Keaton's The General, and was absolutely delighted. It's just under 90 years old.

Rob's point resonates with me. Best example of an enduring film might be that one featuring exceptionally developed fundamental themes/motifs (approximately 10 of them) with least amount of technology injected.

I am dying to know the answer to Maclin's question to Will. I was thinking about asking that myself.

I only have a minute, but maybe some of the older films that you can only get from Criterion. Just looking at their website makes me want to go home and watch films on hulu all day.

AMDG

Rob's comment has really got me thinking about reading. All this reading by the masses is a relatively recent phenomenon, and I wonder if it's just that. That is a scary thought.

AMDG

As for aa desert island, I can't think of any film I'd rather have than A Tale of Two Cities.

Even to hazard a guess at which films people centuries hence will still value, we would need to have some idea of what they will value about film. What I look for in a great film is principally what I look for in a great book: character, feeling, atmosphere, beautiful and careful language, an exploration of profound and enduring questions, and so on. But with movies there are many other possible aspects that one could value: the way the camera is used, the visual compositions, the editing, the special effects, the use of sound, and so on. A visually-attuned culture might place more stress on some of those factors than a culture attuned to print.

Given the things that I tend to look for in a film, I tend to think that film doesn't satisfy me as fully as literature does. Given what I am interested in, film, which can only show me the outside of people, isn't nearly as nuanced or probing or interesting as literature, which can show me the inside.

That said, I agree that it would be reasonable to start looking for enduring films among the films that have already endured for almost a century: the classics of the silent era.

Craig, Well said.
Given these insights I would need to scratch my previous recommendations.
The only one which now comes to mind is:
"40 Year-old Virgin"

"All this reading by the masses is a relatively recent phenomenon, and I wonder if it's just that. That is a scary thought."

A friend of mine recently recommended a couple books by Ivan Illich which talk about the change we're undergoing from a "word culture" to a "screen culture" or something along those lines. I think he was writing about this in the 80's, so we've definitely gone further down that road since then.

That film might be as transient as bear baiting, or the Punch and Judy show? It's possible. Or that 400 years hence, all the films of the last 100 years will only be curiosities like the mutoscope: the actors jerking and dancing in two shadowy dimensions, projections on a screen as quaint to see as shadow-puppets behind a screen.

But then again, people might be queuing round the block and paying through the nose to sit through Star Wars in a specially rebuilt Roxy or Odeon the way they do for theatre in the round at "Shakespeare's Globe" in London. ;-)

The Godfather

If so, which ones? I mean, of course, interest in them as works of art, not historical artifacts.

Attempting to guess at that, I'd apply a rule of thumb a contributor to Commentary once suggested for assembling a literature syllabus: study nothing composed in the last 50 years. Allow some time for topical concerns and fads to play themselves out. Also, I tend to doubt there is much of enduring value not recognized as valuable in its own time or near its own time. I understand there was a rediscovery of Jane Austen some decades after her death, but my wager would be that that would be an exception.

The American Film Institute has a list of the '100 greatest films of all time'. Of these, 58 were produced prior to 1965 and I've seen all or part of 27 of them. I guess I do not understand what film buffs find engaging. There are a few on this list that are particularly engaging in various different ways (Lawrence of Arabia, Singin' In the Rain, It's a Wonderful Life, The African Queen, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Best Years of Our Lives, Double Indemnity, West Side Story, The Third Man, and Rebel Without a Cause). However, with a couple of exceptions, I'd guess their future value would be as period pieces (for which fluff can do as well).

I think it may be that it's just popular entertainment and it will nearly all wash away.

My kids keep telling me, and I think I've heard it here, too, that TV these days is better "art" than film. Would "Breaking Bad" or "the Sopranos" survive 400 years?

Which version of A Tale of Two Cities did you have in mind, Robert?

For me, dated hairstyles, makeup, clothing, and acting styles usually make it very hard to get into an old movie, and I think that's probably the case with many other people too. And that will affect their lasting power. I can get over this barrier with some of Hitchcock's movies, especially his Shadow of a Doubt, which I think is mainly due to Teresa Wright's acting, which rings so true, and her look, which is simple and unadorned.

I've been hard at work all day (really, I have) and am only just now reading these comments. To take the immediately preceding one first: that's true for me if you go back much further than the late '30s, and is a big problem with the silents. But I think that's more to do with the technology and the style of acting than the other things. Seems like a lot of that would even out over time--2014 will look as odd as 1944 in 2414.

I meant the version written by Charles Dickens.

Well, I have frittered away most of this evening by letting myself get drawn into a movie. A bad movie: the recent remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still. I had read that it wasn't very good, but was curious. It is awful: a clumsy environmentalist sermon with utterly unconvincing plot and characters.

Anyway, more tomorrow.

For me, dated hairstyles, makeup, clothing, and acting styles usually make it very hard to get into an old movie, and I think that's probably the case with many other people too

Heck, no. That's the interesting part. The story incorporates what would have been palatable manners and idiom in that time period. What's distracting is the scoring of many old films. Scoring improved a great deal after about 1950.

is a big problem with the silents. But I think that's more to do with the technology and the style of acting than the other things.

They're unwatchable for the most part. I really have hardly seen a full silent movie in 20 years. The scripts, the acting, the soundtrack all wretched. Charlie Chaplain's The Kid was an exception and some early Laurel & Hardy, I suspect for the same reason cartoons are engaging.

You should try The General, if you haven't already seen it. When I wrote about it briefly here back in 2007, I called it Dances With Trains.

"The Day The Earth Stood Still"?!?
Holy Crap, Batman, you shall never recapture that lost time.
I have a movie recommendation for you. One which I saw 20 years ago, would love to see again. I would bet dollars-to-doughnuts that you've not seen it:
"War of the Buttons"
I recommend it only so that you might regain any sense of yourself potentially lost in that experience last night.
I guarantee that you will not be disappointed. A refreshing coming of age story told with an Irish twist. Enjoy. And get well soon...

I love The General.

I agree with what RobG said - films don't usually rise to the condition of art, but they do sometimes, and we are entering a postliterate culture. I do not wish to state my evidence but it may be obvious what evidence I have...

Someone mentioned TV shows as "art" - but the problem with them is they go on and on and on. People certainly get hooked, and some say they are the "new books" because watching seasons quickly is like reading chapters. BUT - films transcend TV because they are just 1.5 to 3 hours generally. I do watch some TV shows, but by their nature they are forgettable: highs and lows and some seasons better than others ... too much to remember!

Well, Dickens was serialized in the newspaper.

AMDG

Also, some TV series have an overall arch and have an ending, like a saga. Breaking Bad is an instance. I didn't see it, so I may not know what I'm talking about.

I STILL have yet to actually finish the Brothers K, even though I've tried three times.

If I remember correctly Vince Gilligan conceived Breaking Bad as a sort of TV novel, one with a beginning and end, a certain number of seasons, etc. The better recent TV shows seem to be following that same trend. At their best, I'd say that they are as good as some of the better recent films. But I still think that they have most of the same limitations as movies do.

Breaking Bad and The Wire are both justly compared to novels, and are both at an artistic level comparable to the best movies. They are to a 2-3 hour movie as a novel is to a play, regarding the territory they can cover. One reason they've been so successful and so widely admired is that you get to know the characters to a degree that isn't possible with a single movie.

Lack of that big structure--one long story in BB, five single-season ones, but involving many of the same people, in TW--is what caused some really promising TV shows, like The X-Files, to flounder and collapse.

Babylon Five had a five year arc from the beginning.

AMDG

Just to be clear: I think the original 1951 Day the Earth Stood Still is really good. That's why I was curious about the remake.

Well, it wasn't that X-Files didn't have a long story. It was that it had about three of them and you never knew which story line they would be following. Some of the best ones didn't have anything to do with the story though.

That curiosity about sequels is almost always a bad impulse. Of course, we know that, but for some reason we deceive ourselves into thinking that this time it might be different.

AMDG

"That curiosity about sequels is almost always a bad impulse. Of course, we know that, but for some reason we deceive ourselves into thinking that this time it might be different."

Off the top of my head I can really only think of two that were any good -- Godfather II and French Connection II. Of course Godfather III was utter crap.

Remakes are pretty much the same, I'd say.

Never saw French Connection II, and am not among those who view the Godfather movies as great classics.

I didn't think the X-Files people had a coherent story in mind when they started--I thought they were just kind of improvising as they went along. It certainly looks that way. I'm thinking of the UFO conspiracy story. They had the problem of not knowing from one season to the next whether the show would be renewed, or whether Duchovny and Anderson would play ball.

Oh darn. I meant to say "remakes" and not "sequals."

No, I don't think they had a coherent story in line either, but a few threads emerged and got hopelessly tangled with one another.

AMDG

A real shame, because a lot of it was so good, and had so much potential.

They should have based the whole show on that guy that ate livers.

AMDG

Or Flukeman.

AMDG

That was cruel.

:-)

At least I've accomplished one thing today.

AMDG

Original "Day the earth stood still" was a good movie.
Have no clue about the remake. I watch so few movies. Too busy haranguing Libs, Lefties, Progs, socialists. Only because they deserve it.

Rob,

Just watched Locke. That was one powerful movie.

AMDG

I've been thinking about this question of the long-term view of movies by sort of asking myself "Why might people a few hundred years from now find this interesting?" Then earlier today I turned that question around. I was thinking about Winter Light and thought "Why wouldn't they find this interesting?" And meaningful and rewarding in all the ways that good art can be. When I looked at it that way, it suddenly seemed all but certain that, assuming the technology is available, some movies will become part of the canon.

We all have different opinions about which specific ones will last, but I think I'm pretty much settled now in the opinion that some of them will.

I should watch that.

And any really good comedy based on human nature should have a lasting appeal. Like Groundhog Day.

AMDG

I wanted to reply to Craig's comment 11:37am yesterday: "Given what I am interested in, film, which can only show me the outside of people, isn't nearly as nuanced or probing or interesting as literature, which can show me the inside."

I can half-agree with that, but only half. Seems to me it mainly applies to the novel, which is only one branch of literature, and barely more than 200 years old. A significant amount of literature, including some of the very greatest, is drama, and a film can work at least as well as a play in getting inside the human heart. Epic and lyric poetry prior to the past 200 years or so generally didn't get inside like the novel began to do ca. 1800.

And I certainly agree with Art (5:14pm yesterday) that most of the enormous number of movies will wash away. But that's true in any art, although I think never before have we had such sheer quantity.

And: "Allow some time for topical concerns and fads to play themselves out. Also, I tend to doubt there is much of enduring value not recognized as valuable in its own time or near its own time." Yes, that's good advice. And I think that second sentence is fairly true. The paradigm which big-headed artists love to impose on history is that of the unfairly neglected or reviled genius who receives his due, as do his critics, later on. But it's actually not the rule. Most artists who become classics achieve at least some reasonable amount of recognition in their own time. They may have their critics and downright enemies, and may come to be more highly regarded later, but they generally do ok, at least, in their own time.

I think I must be the only person on Earth that doesn't think Groundhog Day is all that. Maybe because I watched it only after hearing years of praise from all and sundry, and only because of the praise. I'm not much of a Bill Murray fan, to be honest, and that probably has something to do with it as well.

"Just watched Locke. That was one powerful movie."

Yeah, brilliant stuff, one of my favorites of the year. I think Hardy is the best young actor out there right now. Watch him in Locke, then watch him in The Drop, where he plays a Brooklyn bartender, and you'd hardly know it was the same guy. Yet he plays both parts equally well and thoroughly convincingly.

I wouldn't put Groundhog Day in my very top tier, but way above most movies. I can certainly imagine it being of interest in the far future, although a lot of details about Murray's personality--a definite contemporary type--might not register fully in a culture not as well-crafted to produce cynicism as ours.

Janet, I didn't see your comment till after I had posted those three of mine, but yes, you should see Winter Light.

"...might not register fully in a culture..."
Which explains why this exercise is fraught with failure. Attempting to "see" through the eyes of someone who will live and breathe in times where so many variables will be different. Different in ways one cannot be certain of. Hell, Punxsutawney Phil may not even last that long.
However, to swim upstream for a moment; Bill Murray's version of the character in "Groundhog Day" was actually quite apropos for the movie. He was effectively uninspired. A jackass (they've existed all through history). For those who don't connect with the film, that's fine. For me, it was a great story. One of redemption; not confined merely to a second chance. Woven through the theme of, man vs. himself. It was an opportunity to explore and discover the sheer power of love, it's influence, and all that it can offer. Four hundred years forward, the viewer of this movie will most probably be ignorant of Murray's full body of work (great actor? Nope). I imagine that jackasses will always be identifiable.
Love? Yep, an enduring pursuit. Redemption? Perhaps not. Perhaps not one to appreciate 400 years from now with what is seen today; acceleration of secularism experienced in the world. Whew...

I think a good movie uses visuals and acting to get "inside" the characters. It is like painting a portrait that reveals the inner subject. Most movies don't do this. And those that do somewhat are usually also somewhat two-dimensional about it. Getting back to A Tale of Two Cities, how can you develop a character like Sidney Carton in two hours? I think with some really good visuals and acting, you could address some of the complexity. I'm not saying it has ever been done, but it could be.

Film is a very three dimensional, even four dimensional art. It is not strictly linear. Neither are novels. That is partly what sets them apart from a "story." You can craft a sequence of visuals which lift the veil of the exterior of a character. Sometimes this is done heavy-handedly, so that movies tend towards manipulation, but not always.

Now, you are going to ask for an example. I think we get into the complex character of George Baily in It's A Wonderful Life. We don't get equally into the character of Mary Hatch Baily or most of the other characters. If it were a novel--a good novel, we would.

The main reason I'm not a big Star Wars enthusiast is because of the fairly wooden and underdeveloped characters. The acting is uninspiring, to say the least.

I felt the same way about the Harry Potter novels. At least after three novels (which is where I stopped), the characters just didn't seem to have depth and complexity. I know that later in it changes, but I'm not willing to wade through six 700-page novels in order to find that depth.

What about The Lord of the Rings? The book, not the movies. Well, I think Frodo, Sam, Eowyn, and Aragorn are well-drawn. You get some, even a lot interiority. I wouldn't cry when I read them if you didn't. Not so much the rest of the characters.

Oh so much to say and no time!

Re seeing what's going on inside the characters, Locke really works there, although there's a limit to how many movies you could have with that format. ;-) You learn a lot not only about Locke but some of the people he is talking with also. I'm wondering if this is because it is more like a book in that it is all words and does not rely on action and visuals as much as other movies do.

I don't think that Dickens ever works very well as a movie; it has to be a miniseries. And there's another question, is there more of a chance of a miniseries lasting than a movie?

Robert, it's only beginning with book 4 that the Potter books are any good.

Scott,
Which explains why this exercise is fraught with failure. Attempting to "see" through the eyes of someone who will live and breathe in times where so many variables will be different.

Well then, we have to throw out the entire canon, including the Bible.

AMDG

Janet,
I'm not a "throw-the-baby-out-with-the-bathwater" individual. Nor will I apologize for this.
Throw the bible out?
Given that the bible is intertwined with a FAITH component, on such an intimate level; one cannot ascribe to any experience affiliated with movies (not for me, anyway), it is apples and oranges, your suggestion. The bible is not an entertainment source for me. I cannot speak for others. I do not seek it out for such purposes.
Perhaps you do.

Given how expensive they are to make, I'm pretty amazed at the sheer volume of really crappy movies in existence. OTOH I guess it must be very difficult to make a truly excellent movie. There are so many variables.

I meant as part of the canon, not the Canon. I'm just saying that the entire literary canon, even some books that are fairly recent, comes from people in very different circumstances from ourselves. Different circumstances, but with a common humanity which is what makes those books valuable to us.

True Louise, but then every time I go to a used book sale, I think the same thing about books.

AMDG

You make a good point, Mac, about the similarities between film and stage drama or epic poetry. You're right: I was thinking mainly of the differences between film and novels.

I guess my point still stands, though, once my language is more precise. I enjoy novels more than films because of the greater level of detail and specificity re: character that is possible. It is true that we get great characters in drama -- in Shakespeare, preeminently -- but much of that characterization happens not just though actions and speech, but through the special kind of speech called monologue. The cinematic equivalent would be voiceover, which is a rather "literary" device, and is sometimes criticized by cinephiles for that very reason.

But I do think that a really talented filmmaker could use composition, framing, music, camera motion, etc, etc -- all the specifically cinematic elements -- to reveal character and explore big questions and make a masterpiece worthy to sit alongside the great literary classics. I'm just not sure anybody has done it. People sometimes talk about Orsen Welles' films in that way, but personally it doesn't work for me. I would be more inclined to cast a vote for Terrence Malick.

...much of that characterization happens not just though actions and speech, but through the special kind of speech called monologue.

That was pretty much what I was talking about in the comment about Locke

AMDG

"But I do think that a really talented filmmaker could use composition, framing, music, camera motion, etc, etc -- all the specifically cinematic elements -- to reveal character and explore big questions and make a masterpiece worthy to sit alongside the great literary classics. I'm just not sure anybody has done it."

The more I think about this, and listen to what y'all are saying, the more convinced I am that Bergman did it in Winter Light and probably a few others (Wild Strawberries). With that in mind, your mention of the monologue is interesting, because one important part of Winter Light is a long scene (10 minutes, maybe?) in which one of the characters talks directly to the camera, face filling the screen. It works.

"That was pretty much what I was talking about in the comment about Locke."

Yes, and of course in cinema, a good actor can do a lot with facial expression -- you don't always get that with drama because the audience member isn't always close enough to see the actor's face in any detail.

One of my all-time favorite acting performances is that of French actor Aurelien Recoing in L'Emploi Du Temps (English: Time Out). In this film so much is conveyed by his face, and his ability to match his expressions to his words, that you feel like you've really gotten into the heart of the character.

Tom Hardy's got that ability (you see it in both Locke and The Drop) as does Michael Shannon. But Recoing stands as sort of the measure for me.

It is true of course that there are barriers to fully "getting" a work from a very different time and culture, but as Janet says we do it all the time.

It's true that not many people sit down in front of their TV for an evening of Sophocles, or read Homer. And that's got something to do with the cultural distance, and is probably inevitable. But Homer and Sophocles do continue to be rewarding to anyone willing to make the effort. Shakespeare is pretty widely enjoyed, considering how old his work is. Those elemental human stories are timeless (well, not technically, but you know what I mean).

There will, I suppose, come a time when Shakespeare's poetry is not really available to the non-specialist, and will have to be translated for general audiences. Wonder how many of the plays would stand up to that.

There is an older book called Tales from Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Lamb (You can see a PDF here. ) that I have but have not read, but which was recommended to me by people whose opinion I trust. It is an introduction to the stories for children. It might be helpful even for college students at this point. I don't know. I used to just rent videos of the plays (ages me I know) and show them to my kids, and they seemed to pick up the rhythm of the language pretty fast.

I put Winter Light in my queue, so maybe I'll watch it soon. I have a feeling it might be something I have to watch when Bill is doing something else.

Are we going to talk about Broadchurch any time soon?

AMDG

I'm still entirely ignorant of Bergman's films -- oh, I have seen The Seventh Seal, but that's it. I have been putting him off until I feel ready. Maybe I should give Winter Light a chance.

Janet, I once got that book on Shakespeare from the library. The stories were still too advanced for my kids, so I took it back. I'll probably try it again in a few years, but actually I'm not convinced the greatness of Shakespeare is in the stories themselves, so much as in the way he tells them. Tell them another way -- in paraphrase -- and they lose much of their power. Although naturally such re-tellings could be useful bridges to help younger readers transition to the real thing, and I'll probably use them in that way.

Re: Broadchurch.

Spoiler alert!

They get him in the end.

I haven't finished Broadchurch yet, and will ban, and then sue, anyone who posts a real spoiler.

"him" is pretty close, Craig, so watch it. :-)

I had that book (Lamb's Tales (heh)), given to me when I was maybe 10 or so. I didn't read it.

Yeah, I was thinking that was a pretty bad spoiler--reduces the field by half. But then, maybe he meant that in masculine preferred tradition.

AMDG

I started to say earlier, but was interrupted by work . . .

That is the question, Craig. Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous illiteracy until your children are educated enough to understand the real thing or to take against a sea of ignorance by introducing the plays by this book.

AMDG

I keep reading the title of this post as, "Movies for the Aged," and then I'm disappointed because it's not all about me.

AMDG

That's funny, I've been doing that, too. I think it's because of the question mark--sort of gives a glancing impression of being a "d".

Well, just to put everyone's mind at ease: I don't actually know much of anything about Broadchurch. It's a whodunit, and I assume they get him/her/them in the end.

You can craft a sequence of visuals which lift the veil of the exterior of a character. Sometimes this is done heavy-handedly, so that movies tend towards manipulation, but not always.

Now, you are going to ask for an example. I think we get into the complex character of George Baily in It's A Wonderful Life. We don't get equally into the character of Mary Hatch Baily or most of the other characters. If it were a novel--a good novel, we would.

Is it that we get more of a sense of the complex character of George Bailey because of the writing or direction, or are we actually moved by the complexity of James Stewart's own character that he projects, his "star power”? I think maybe most of the movies that have stayed with me might come down to that.

I guess really good acting is a necessary but not sufficient condition for a great movie. Good acting may help save a movie with a bad script, but it can't make the script good.

I don't necessarily agree with Robert's statement that in a good novel we would get more into the character of Mary Bailey. We might, or we might not. Apart from the obvious cases of a first-person narrative, and some characters just being more important than others, there's frequently a central point of view in which we get much more of one character's point of view than others, even when the others are quite important. I just finished reading Pride and Prejudice, and it's a good example. We don't know nearly as much of the inner life of any other character as we do of Elizabeth.

Broadchurch is really good, by the way, Craig.

I guess what I mean by "inner life" is not so much subjectivity, but complexity and motivation. The difference between a two-dimensional and three-dimensional character. I'm probably using the wrong term.

As I've said before, I don't like Donna Reed's portrayal of Mary Hatch. Maybe someone could have done better.

Even in A Tale of Two Cities, Sidney Carton is better developed than the other characters, but there is still a richness in some of them.

This seems relevant to Robert's comment on "inner life," "complexity" and "motivation."

Craig wrote:

The cinematic equivalent [of the monologue] would be voiceover, which is a rather "literary" device, and is sometimes criticized by cinephiles for that very reason.

I've often heard "cinephiles" speak disdainfully of the voiceover, but I don't understand why. I suppose the filmmaker's craft is to show rather than tell what a given character is all about. But given the problem (mentioned by others) movies have of really "getting inside a character's head"--and the vast superiority of the novel in doing this--I would think that some use of voiceover would be valuable tool.

I don't qualify as a cinephile, but I don't see why the voiceover shouldn't be considered a useful tool to have in the bag, though it could certainly be overused.

And I don't really share this reservation hat several of you have mentioned about film not getting into a person's mind. It's true that you don't get to eavesdrop on his thoughts the way you do with a lot of novels, but you get to know him (or her, obviously) in other important ways. For instance, you know what he looks like, and you see everything that can be revealed in the face and in behavior. I wouldn't say that one is better than the other; they're just different media.

"I wouldn't say that one is better than the other; they're just different media."
Which is what I've been trying to say, although I still think the brevity of film makes it more difficult to express as much the depth and complexity. Of course, in some novels too much words drowns out the depth, etc.

You'd have to say fiction is better (in the ways you're talking about) than drama in general, then, not just film. So that question is a little off to one side from the one I originally posed about whether film would become part of the canon, since drama certainly is.

I was about to say that fiction did replace drama over the past couple of centuries, but that's only true if you're talking about the stage.

Broadchurch, like Prime Suspect and The Killing (Denmark), is one of those mysteries that transcends the genre. There's a lot more going on than just the mere finding of the culprit. That's somewhat rare in cinema, because a film has a greater time contraint, and thus usually can't go too far into subplots, multiple characters, etc.

"fiction did replace drama over the past couple of centuries, but that's only true if you're talking about the stage."

I've also heard it said that the novel replaced poetry as the primary connection of "the masses" with the literary. I've often thought of this w/r/t to that old quote by someone-or-other that said "I don't trust a man who doesn't read poetry." I think nowadays I'd have to say that I'm skeptical about folks who don't read fiction.

That's true about Broadchurch. You think it's going to lead you along in the same weary path as most of what you see produced today, and you find that you aren't going there.

AMDG

I'd say the novel replaced narrative poetry, and pop music replaced lyric.

We finished Broadchurch last night, and your recommendations were certainly justified. I'd like to do a post about it, but it would be hard to do without giving too much away for those who haven't seen it. Anyway, having written my guitar post for tomorrow, I'm not going to have much if any free time for the rest of the weekend, so I probably won't have time to.

Glad you liked it, Mac. I thought it was simply top-notch all the way around.

A recent film that manages to transcend the "thriller" genre imo is last year's Prisoners with Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal. It's a tough watch, as it is quite violent at times and involves torture, but it's never exploitative and it's morally and ethically quite serious. There is a mystery at the heart of it, but it does have the more expansive feel of something like Broadchurch, and the moral weight as well. And both Jackman and Gyllenhaal are outstanding.

Janet & Marianne, I just put up a hasty for-discussion Broadchurch post, with loud spoiler warning, and copied your spoiler-y comments to it. In my experience it's pretty impossible not to at least get a glimpse of the entire comment if I read the first sentence, and I don't want to, um, spoil it for people who haven't seen it. So, discussion continued over there.

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