Sep 9, 2012

Nothing breeds success like failure

'Are flops good for the soul? The belly-flop of 1941 at the box-office certainly did wonders for Spielberg. Raiders is a miracle of economy, from it's lean, Lucas-enforced budget to the circularity of the gags — Indy shooting the scimitar wilding Arab, or using one opponent's gun to shoot another — all of which are applied Pythagoras: the shortest route between two points.  It’s remarkable how common the pattern is, not just of good films following bad — which would be statistically unremarkable — but of best film following worst. Persona, arguably Bergman’s best film, follows one of his worst, All These Women. Kubrick’s The Shining follows Barry Lyndon; David Lynch’s Blue Velvet follows Dune; the Coen’s No Country for Old Men follows The Lady Killers; Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler follows The Fountain; and Scorsese’s masterpiece, Raging Bull, follows his biggest box office flop, New York New York. It’s almost as if the flop clears the way for the masterpiece, rather in the way your body sweats out a fever, or a demolition job suddenly opens up the view. Scorsese’s flame-out was exacerbated by drug use, but it’s a useful metaphor for the metabolism of young careers:  the twentysomething director, head-swollen by prizes and plaudits, is tempted into a fatal over-estimation of his powers at precisely the point when the powers-that-be grant him more money than he has been used to. He decides to make his long-nursed dream project, a love letter to the entirety of the movies, and it’s a stinker — of course. He hits bottom, and picks himself up, bloodied but humbled. But now he has nothing to lose, he has nothing to fear, not even failure, and so has the spiritual wherewithal to summon his own truly necessary film — E.T., Blue Velvet, Raging Bull. “One of the things I will always thank the French for was giving me that grand prize at Cannes for Taxi Driver that allowed me to reveal to myself what a total failure I could be,” admitted Scorsese, later.' 
— from my column for The Guardian   


  1. Tom, I tried to find your column on The Guardian to no success.

    And Barry Lyndon is my favorite Kubrick :(

    (the worst is 2001, but don't tell anybody I said that, I'll lose all my "real" movie fan credentials!)

  2. Wow!! It was wonderful article to seen your blog.It will create positive things while i have failure in some things.Thanks for sharing this wonderful article.
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