I don’t claim to be a film expert, but I can’t understand the Western world’s obsession with Hollywood. When you’ve seen half a dozen of their mass produced products you’ve seen them all.
Acting? You must be kidding! There seems to be a total lack of dedication to any kind of craft in most Hollywood flicks. Then there’s the merchandising, the Oscars, the ego stroking combined with the not so subtle subtext of backstabbing and falsehood. It’s not big, it’s not clever and it’s not art. It’s just a machine churning out (not so cheap) entertainment for the huddled masses.
World cinema is the way to go. Did I say ‘World cinema’? Where else are films made? I got into ‘foreign’ films by accident after I decided to borrow a few from my local library. French films are all about relationships: something the French have elevated to a high art. They seem to have a huge amount of categories for this crazy little thing called love. Ever seen ‘Claire’s Knee’? A man becomes obsessed with touching a girl’s knee, and this – for him – is the only kind of contact he craves. When he finally does so, it’s rather touching… Pun intended.
I finally got bored with French flicks, so I tried Spanish films. They’re actually not much different from the French ones because they also obsess about relationships, but with a strong dose of surrealism thrown into the stew for good measure. The erotic charge in some of those films is immense: ‘Sex and Lucia’ is a classic example. It’s not an ‘adult film’ because it’s beautifully shot and it has an almost dream-like quality about it. And it tells a story using a kind of symbolic language which you gradually unravel as you think about the film.
Hollywood simply steals ideas from this huge catalogue of talent and recycles it for the peanut munching morons who actually think Keanu Reeves can act. I respect Al Pacino, and despite my rather acid tones I don’t dislike all American films: just the target marketed ones with coke ads printed all over them. If you want a good independent US film try watching ‘Wristcutters’. Then try finding someone who’s actually seen it; you’ll probably have a long search.
Japanese and Chinese films are also rewarding to watch. Yes, you have to read the subtitles, but it’s a small price to pay for quality. ‘Warm Water under a Red Bridge’ is highly original (many Japanese films appear to draw on folk tales and mythology: this one is no exception) and even a Chinese martial arts flick is vastly superior to Hollywood dross.
How about watching Drunken Master 1 & 2? The acting is terrible, but the fight scenes are pure unadulterated genius. The list goes on, and I can’t capture the essence of truly wonderful cinema in this post. All you have to do is look for them and keep an open mind. Hollywood won’t: its third eye is closed.
Here are some verses from a song called ‘The Hollywood Sign’ by Dory Previn:
You know the Hollywood sign
that stands in the Hollywood hills?
I don’t think the Christ of the Andes
ever blessed so many ills.
The Hollywood sign seems to smile
like it’s constantly saying “cheese”.
I doubt if the Statue of Liberty
ever welcomed more refugees.
Give me your poor,
your tired, your pimps.
Your carhops, your cowboys
your midgets, your chimps.
Give me your freaks,
your whores, your harlots,
your flunkies, your junkies.
Give me your starlets.