I think the general aversion to or hesitation to view foreign films is not simply or only a matter of people saying, "Why can't they do it like we do it?" or being hostile or fill-in-the-blank-negative-or-prejudiced-attitude toward "the "other". I think many people are open and appreciative of other cultures, not afraid or suspicious toward them. But an aversion to watching foreign films can often be influenced by other more mundane aspects--namely, an aversion to reading, and/or an aversion to having to simultaneously read while also trying to enjoy a visual medium. By saying that, I don't mean to communicate the idea that "Lazy, dumb kids these days just don't like to read like us old timers." It's not a generational thing. It's not even necessarily about ones love of reading. I love to read; I love to read widely--fiction and non-fiction, philosophical and theological, old and new, foreign and domestic. However, when it comes to making the choice of watching a movie I know that I will have to put in two types of effort while watching a foreign film: reading the words, and "reading" the movie. It is multitasking, and it is a bit more taxing on the brain, takes more effort, than watching a movie in a language in which one is fluent. I have a wife and five kids, and at the end of the day, I simply don't have the energy or brain space to watch an Igmar Bergman film, as much as I enjoy him. Choosing to watch a foreign film is choosing to have your brain taxed just a little bit more than usual. Another element to this, is that it becomes difficult to fully appreciate the film as a *visual story*-- where I discover nuance and subtext etc. through all kinds of visual cues and clues--when my eyes have to constantly dart between the words and the image. While some of my favorite films are foreign (at least one of them Fellini), I enjoy this experience less than if I can take in the film itself, rather than the mediating words at the bottom of the screen. (I would much rather be able to watch and understand all the dialogue of a Fellini film without subtitles. "Well, why not watch the dubbed version?" C'mon, would you prefer a dubbed Dinero, Day-Lewis, Dench, Streep, or Pacino?) When I watch a film where I must also divert my eyes from the film itself to words, I am not engaged in the same way as I am a film in my native tongue, I am not engaging with the film in its "purity". Again, this doesn't come out of fear or aversion or suspicion of other cultures, but of the process itself of watching and decoding the film. It is easy to assume people are being prejudiced and closed-minded; this is certainly a more interesting theory as it touches the darker parts of our hearts and minds and our culture, and it makes us feel better about ourselves--"They're crazy for not wanting to be as open to and inspired by other cultures like I am"; but I don't think it reflects the whole story.
What Scorsese is addressing in this article is an attitude he saw in a critic that seemed to be promoting an attitude of intolerance toward the "other" or championing a lazy attitude toward things that take effort: a foreign film exploring the nuances of human nature, vs an American action film. One takes quite a bit of effort to enjoy for all that it is mean to to be, while the other takes almost no effort to understand and enjoy for all that it is. I think Scorcese's point, generally, is that it is bad for us as a culture to promote a lazy and suspicious attitude toward whatever taxes our brains more than the minimum. He finds it dangerous coming from a critic, who appears to be validating the choice of the two guys in the beer commercial and criticizing artists who make challenging art.
While I generally agree with Scorcese's letter to the editor, I've not read the article with which Scorsese takes issue, so I don't know how valid his rebuttal is to the article itself. Storytellers' style getting in the way of their storytelling is a real thing. Said in this way, the art critic that Scorsese takes issue with implies that the reward is not worth the effort. That may be the case, or maybe he just doesn't get it. There are some authors, filmmakers, storytellers, artists, who are worth the effort; others are not. We can all recall student films that were challenging (maybe even aped the styles of artists who are genuinely challenging, and genuinely good) and were not worth the effort--because the artist really had nothing worth showing or telling. If I gave you two boxes, both wrapped in beautiful wrapping paper, and you knew that one had 25 layers of wrapping paper to get through to access the prize inside, and the other had one or maybe two layers to unwrap--you might want to know what is inside the box to determine if it is worth the effort. If I didn't tell you what was inside, and all you found inside the box with 25 layers was a trinket that offered only more mystery and had no apparent use or beauty, or if you found in it a dog turd, you might be less inclined to go through the effort of unwrapping future boxes. One might unwrap Pynchon, Warhol, Cage, or Bergman, and say, "That's it? All I got is this ____?" While others might greatly prize what they've unwrapped. Some books, movies, art, are wrapped the same as those with a great prize inside, but the reward is very meager or even insulting to the senses: All style that obscures and challenges, with little or no substance/reward.
Another element to this is in the fact that many people just don't know how to decode film as a language, and therefore they miss many hidden gems, or pass up treasure because they simply can't see it for what it is. But this isn't a result of valuing ignorance or hating the "other"; rather, it is simply ignorance of the language. Or perhaps another analogy is in the color spectrum: there are certain kinds of light that we cannot see with our eyes, but it is there. If you could project a film in ultraviolet light, with sound outside the range the human ear can hear--I would not have the eyes or ears to appreciate what you were exposing me to. People need to be given the eyes and ears to see and hear what films are trying to do. This comes with repeated exposure and education, as well as a corresponding desire to develop the senses to enable one to perceive. Predicating all this is whether or not an individual views film as an art form worth investing in; some people just don't find it an enjoyable form of art; they find enjoyment in other types of art or expression. This may not have to do with cultural prejudice or intolerance.
Kids often have an aversion to vegetables when they're exposed to stereotypes (even promoted unwittingly by their parents) that tell them that veggies are gross and it's okay for kids not to like them. This is a shame, because they're choosing to refuse some great flavors, great meals, and great nutrition. In the same way, it is a shame when people have an aversion to foreign or challenging films simply because of stereotypes like what is promoted in the commercial Scorsese cites; they miss out on some great "meals".
With that said, there are some works of storytelling that are challenging and offer little in the way of meaning or reward at the end, or "inside the box" to keep the analogy going; however, the journey, and the challenge of unwrapping the gift--that is where the delight, reward, and satisfaction comes. In these cases, the artist is making all the challenging layers of wrapping paper and tape, etc. the reward, rather than what one finds inside the box. Stories like this surprise and enchant us, they make us wonder, or provoke strong feelings; and at the end we might say, "I don't know what that meant or what the point of it all was--but I enjoyed the journey!" Whatever the case, if an artist is going to be challenging, he/she ought to be sure that what he/she is offering to others--whether its the wrapping paper, or what's inside the box, or both--could be considered worth the effort.
Thanks, Jason. I appreciate your affable response. I hope nothing came across as demeaning or attacking you as a writer. That certainly isn't how I meant it.
I meant to point one more element that, for me, ties the film up more closely with an optimistic progressive-evolutionary world view is illustrated in the second half of the movie: Here mankind (symbolized by Dave) overcomes its own creation (ie technology, which has in some ways become an equal) that made it initially superior to other creatures. You can't claim to have progressed if your own creation can overcome you. You must be better/stronger/smarter/superior. As HAL tries to kill all those on board the ship, Dave must overcome HAL, kill it, prove his superiority to it, and so he progresses toward this next step in mankind's greatness (achieve ubermensch/star-child status). If mankind would transcend mankind, then he must display a godlike status over his own creation, and not let it be equal to or master over him.
(I realize this long of a response could be interpreted as an angry, vehement rant. It's not. That is not the spirit in which I write this. There is no spite or anger here; just offering a different perspective which I think is more legitimate than what is offered in this article. If you don't agree, that's totally fine.)
When you talk about interpreting the ending of 2001, you're really talking about interpreting the meaning or intent of whole film.
If you read interviews with Kubrick from this time, he is very interested in film as a language. He felt that films up to that point hadn't even scratched the surface of what film could communicate. He hoped that 2001 would scratch a little deeper than anything that had come before it. The way I understand it is this: He felt we could communicate much deeper ideas with film if we tried, but we hadn't been taking advantage of the power of the medium to "speak" in terms that go deeper than what can be verbalized, cannot be encapsulated in "verbal roadmaps".
So when Kubrick is saying that the viewer is free to speculate about the film and that he won't spell things out for people in a verbal way. I don't think Kubrick was making a movie devoid of meaning, an empty box into which people can place their own meaning with no relation to what he intended. Kubrick has a meaning, and I would imagine that he wants people to "get it", but he's not going to explain it in a verbal way. That would be to dishonor his work as an artist. I think he's saying that film should be a non-verbal experience, and the totality of meaning one can find in that experience, if it is crafted rightly, transcends verbal explanation. Ingmar Bergman explained his films in this way, too. Sometimes we cannot quite put an experience into words, and we might only be able to put what we got out of an experience in terms of how it made us feel.
I think it's helpful to try to think about the film from the artist's point of view: Where was his mind at the time? What were his values? What was his world view?
At the time Kubrick made 2001, we hadn't yet landed on the moon. The space program was a very optimistic, aspirational effort in our society. From what I've read Kubrick admired astronauts and the space the space program, thinking of them as some of the ultimate expressions of mankind's greatness as a species. To Kubrick space travel is the perfect expression of mankind beginning to physically and perhaps metaphorically transcend our human-ness. The space program is one more step toward our becoming something evolutionarily greater than mankind.
Kubrick starts the film with the dawn of man, when, in his worldview, we tore ourselves from animal-ness and made the first gesture toward something greater. The dawn of mankind started with the development of the first piece of technology (perhaps using a bone as a weapon). (That famous cut between the bone and the satellite is so great because in an instant you've told the story of mankind, from a technological standpoint.) The film ends when we have achieved something that would reach beyond our human-ness, tear us away from human-ness, and bring us closer to something greater, perhaps moving toward that ultimate greatness (which he describes in that extensive quote about evolutionary possibilities of godlike beings who have transcended physical limitations, etc.).
From what I've understood and judging from his own works, Kubrick was totally into philosophy and thought very deeply himself. So looking at philosophy or philosophers that might have influenced his thinking is helpful, too. I'm not saying he was a nihilist, or is 100% aligned with Nietzsche; I don't know that. However, if you read Nietzsche's Thus Spake Zarathustra, I think you'll find some parallels with some of Kubrick's own thinking about mankind, progress, some of his highest values. Nietzsche praises the men/women who are brave enough and strong enough to shed what has come before us (whether it's "outdated" morals or physical limitations, etc.), and reach for something greater, something greater-than-human. He calls these supermen (ubermensch). He praises those who would be great enough, courageous enough to reach forward, reach for the next step in evolution, for that greater version of what mankind can be.
With Kubrick's admiration for astronauts the space program, you can imagine him thinking of these folks as ubermensches. They are symbols of humans reaching for that great-than-human. (It could be a misinterpretation, but I find it interesting that the spacecraft Dave and the others travel in is basically a picture of a bridge spanning to points (the engine in the back and the fuselage at the front. The spaceship itself is a physical expression of reaching forward into space, into what is beyond.) And I think it's no coincidence that "Thus Spake Zarathustra" is the piece of music that plays during the bone-as-weapon scene and other key places where we witness a significant step in evolution, or see an expression of greatness (reaching the black obelisk at Jupiter, and Dave death and rebirth (mankind's transition into the ubermensch). These mark places where we see mankind (humankind) taking one more step toward the Greater-than-human. The star child at the end is Kubrick's umbermensch. He is floating above earth, having transcended mankind and become something greater.
If you read interviews with Arthur C Clark and Kubrick, you'll see those obelisks are not meaningless. They are "mile-markers", in a way, placed there by these godlike beings (the pinnacle of evolutionary potential). So they visit earth in some way, and they find these beings (the ape-man creatures) with potential for something greater. They place another marker on the moon, the assumption being that if these ape-men evolve enough, they'll be able to reach the moon and find this thing. When that obelisk is found, it sends a signal to the one orbiting Jupiter. If mankind is evolved enough, they should be able to reach that "mile-marker", too. Once Dave reaches that last mile-marker, he is pulled beyond Jupiter, and ostensibly held in this "zoo", an example of mankind, or perhaps the as an example of the first greater-than-human-being.
I agree that the film is a religious film in a sense. Kubrick is worshiping. His music choices communicate a feeling of worship, praise, honor, adoration. Perhaps you could say he is worshiping mankind and its achievements. Or at the very least, he is expressing his wonder at the magnificence of nature and what it has wrought; he is also expressing his admiration for what we are now, and ultimately his hope for what we might become.
This is not my favorite film, but I do admire it a great deal. I think it's a spectacular example of a person expressing his worldview, his greatest values, through the story of where he believes we came from and where he hopes we'll go. I like Kubrick's perspective on film language transcending language, so obviously it would not be in line with Kubrick's view of the film to then think that what I've expressed here encapsulates the film's meaning. It doesn't.
I think the interpretation (or lack thereof) of 2001 proposed in this article kind of does a disservice to the film. The way I read it (and I could be wrong or misunderstanding the main thrust of the article), the author seems to be interpreting 2001 as an empty Sci-fi box in which we are free to place whatever values and ideas we want. I understand what he is saying to be this: we've got these mysterious obelisks that ultimately don't have meaning, and Kubrick is saying that we need to stop trying to understand the meaning, but just create our own meaning, loving those around us. I can't think of any element in the film, visual or otherwise, that expresses this sentiment. (The only thing I can think of that would be fodder for this interpretation is the scene where Dr. Floyd talks to his daughter, and I think he is missing her birthday party (Frank, Dave's astronaut partner, also misses a birthday with family). It's possible you could interpret this scene as saying, "See they're missing their real lives around them in pursuit of the meaning of this obelisk, which they'll never understand. Kubrick is saying that, instead, they really need to spend their lives loving and enjoying the people around them." But I think if one interprets the film like, they eschew the main thrust of everything else in the film.)
It's a free country, and one is free to interpret 2001 that way, and any other piece of art for that matter. But (putting aside dadaism and experimental artists whose sole purpose is either to flout meaning or to say nothing and merely invite interpretation) I believe that that view of 2001 gets us no closer to understanding Kubrick's work (or other artists' works if we view them the same way) and honoring the fact that he (and they) actually meant something when he made it.
There is sort of a double mis-quote at the beginning of this: The original Lessons from the Screenplay says that some think Wes Anderson is a genius "subverting conventional film language while creating his own dialect".
The youtube video here quotes Lessons from the Screenplay as saying that Wes Anderson is a genius who "converts conventional film language into his own dialectic." Misquoted, but still could make sense if you think about it a certain way.
Then this article quotes that "Storytellers" video as saying that Wes Anderson is a genius who "converts conventional film language into his own diabetic". Gotta be an auto-correct mistake. I could be wrong, but I don't think film language is listed as one of the causes of diabetes, ha ha.
Not trying to be Mr. Grammar Police here. This comment is written with a spirit of good-natured ribbing. We all make mistakes. Just had to have a laugh.
I agree. I've accepted the shortcomings and quirks of their other cameras. But it would help general customer trust if they simply cleared the air about the whole issue.
The magenta issue was one of those things that they never really seemed to have admitted being a real issue. (But maybe I missed the press release.) They always blamed the lenses. Maybe I'm unaware of other camera companies having these issues, but I'd like to be shown where other cameras that have had this type of color issue based on which lenses and aperture a customer is using. I could pop any one of my lenses on any other camera I've ever owned (even other BM cameras) and would not have color issues.
When speaking with BM, it was almost like they were telling me, "The camera is fine; it's your lenses that you're choosing and the settings you're shooting. That's what's at fault." If that's the case, they ought to release a warning, and offer a list of suitable lighting situations and compatible lenses--just like they do the SD and C-Fast cards; and they ought to put an official disclaimer: "Camera works well in the following lighting situations with the following lenses. Otherwise we recommend that this camera is not for you." They actually told me, "Looks like this camera is not a good fit for you and your gear. Sorry." Incredible.
I had to repeatedly point out to them that their warranty states that they guarantee that their products will be free of defects; if they have defects BM is legally obligated to provide a refund or a replacement. Standard warranty law demands it, and their own warranty expressly promises that. And there was no way they could say this was anything but a defect. Nobody at BM was saying, "Yes! We finally got that blobby magenta artifact we've been going for and which has been missing from the market all these years!" . . . anyway, it's frustrating thinking about it. Glad I was able to wrestle a refund from them.
Can anyone confirm if Blackmagic has officially resolved its magenta vignetting issues for this Ursa Mini Pro--the sensor issue which appeared in the initial release of the Ursa Mini. I purchased an Ursa Mini after they had supposedly fixed the problem, but mine had the issue very prominently. I had to fight to return the camera. I love the image quality of Blackmagic cameras and especially that of the Ursa Mini sensor (aside from the magenta issue, obviously), but now I'm a bit gun shy with their products.