Jun 3, 2011

Why boredom is still a bad thing

In a recent article extolling the virtues of the slow and boring, Manohla Dargis cites a scene in Chantal Akerman’s 1975 film “Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles” in which a housewife makes a meatloaf in real time.
"It’s a tedious task that as neither a fan of meatloaf or cooking, I find difficult to watch. Which is the point: During the film’s 201 minutes Ms. Akerman puts you in that tomb of a home with Jeanne, makes you hear the wet squish-squish of the meat between her fingers, makes you feel the tedium of a colorless existence that you can’t literally share but become intimate with (you endure, like Jeanne) until the film’s punctuating shock of violence. It makes you think."
No. That is false. It did not make her think. She found it tedious. But afterwards, then she got to thinking about the tedium and decided it was okay since the character was bored, too. It is just this kind of falsified reaction — an initial spasm of boredom, converted in retrospect into something fancier-sounding, like "it makes you think" — that causes people to distrust critics. While watching The Tree Of Life I had many opportunities to ponder the following: the wobbliness of my seat, the likelihood that it would be repaired in the next six months, the economics that determined how often the cinema could employ someone to tighten the screws in its seats, the role of the studios in lowering the profits of the cinemas, and so on and so forth until the entirety of God's creation stood before me in all its dense brocade. Dargis seems to have had similar thoughts about meat-loafs while watching the Akerman film. The difference between us is that she chalks up her checked-out thought stream as the movie's victory. I see it as a sign that my mind is wandering. One thinks only while watching a drama that is not working. "Ideas" are chloroform.

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