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November 30, 2005

"The Passenger"

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Of the major post-World War II film directors, Michelangelo Antonioni was never one of my favorites. I found his films gorgeous and impressive, but I also found them slow, pretentious, and affected. Watching Antonioni's films, I alternated between dozing off, getting the giggles, and feeling hypnotized by so much austere beauty.

So the question arises: What was I doing at Manhattan's wonderful Landmark Sunshine art-cinema-plex the other night watching the rerelease of Antonioni's 1975 "The Passenger"? And what accounts for the way I spent the film's two-hour running-time feeling so very blissed-out?

Nostalgia and curiosity certainly had a lot to do with it. When the film -- which stars Jack Nicholson and Maria ("Last Tango") Schneider -- was originally released, I was a college kid who had only recently grown interested in movies. Well, not just interested: I was deep in a head-over-heels-in-love phase. Lordy, what a lot of arty and funky filmmaking was around at the time. I tumbled for the work of many of the Europeans -- Eric Rohmer, Francois Truffaut, Godard, Bertolucci -- as well as many of the Americans who were inspired by Euro-filmmaking: Peckinpah, Altman, Coppola ...

So, although Antonioni was never one of my faves, watching "The Passenger" 30 years after it was initially released was like remembering what it was to fall in love for the first time. There's no disputing that Antonioni was one of the giants of the post-World-War-II art scene. Older than most of the filmmakers whose generation he was part of, Antonioni grew up in the '20s and '30s in Emilia-Romagna, and was already in his 60s by the time he made "The Passenger." He studied economics in college; he spent time painting, working on scripts, and making documentaries.


Maria, Jack: Where are they going, man?I mean, really going?

By the early 1950s, when he began making his own feature films, Antonioni had a developed point of view and an already well-developed style. Although his work grew out of neo-realism, his style always tended towards the architectural, the painterly, and the abstract.

Right from the outset, his films were enigmatic, high-art mood pieces. The subject Antonioni focused on was the alienation -- "ennui" and "anomie" were words much in use in those days -- some people were feeling in the post-war world. What this generally translated to onscreen was unhappy marriages; failures of communication; mysteries that were never solved; and spiritually void people moving through concrete and industrial wastelands, or through landscapes that mirrored their confusion and barrenness. And, often, a sense of romantic/erotic yearning.

With three films in the early 1960s -- "L'Avventura," "L'Eclisse," and "La Notte" -- Antonioni's reputation was set. He became as widely recognized a master as Fellini, Rossellini, Visconti, and De Sica. He may have become even more influential than any of them, and remains a major influence today; among his fans are Robert Altman, Wong Kar-Wai, Steven Soderbergh, Alexander Payne, Jeremy Podeswa, and Atom Egoyan. With 1964's "Red Desert," Antonioni made innovative use of color, and with the swingin'-London-set, 1966 "BlowUp" he became a world-wide celeb, turned-to regularly for his opinions on the state of the world. Here's a very long q&a that gives a taste of how some of the era's artists were looked to as oracles.

"The Passenger" came from this stretch -- a period when Antonioni was touring the world, making statements, and being widely accepted as one of the world's Very Deepest artists. Although his 1970 American youth-movement film "Zabriskie Point" had been an embarassment, he still had the juju. And with Jack Nicholson's participation, he was still able to raise the money for the arty "The Passenger." (In most of the rest of the world, the film is known as "Profession: Reporter.")

From a script that Antonioni wrote with Mark Peploe and Cinema Studies godfather Peter Wollen, "The Passenger" is in the genre of the nonthrilling thriller. Its Graham Greene-esque suspense plot is on the theme of identity. Jack Nicholson is a played-out American reporter in North Africa who pretends to die so that he can renew himself by taking on the identity of a dead man.

As Nicholson moves around Europe making the appointments that are entered in the dead man's datebook, he begins to understand that the man whose identity he has taken on was a professional gun-runner, caught up in black-market trade with sub-Saharan rebels. Maria Schneider, a carefree hippie with an interest in architecture, finds Nicholson's ploy intriguing enough to join him for a while. Meanwhile, people from the reporter's own real background -- including his wife (Jenny Runacre) -- start to wonder if he has really died.

But the film is a suspense film in only the loftiest sense. It doesn't concern a mere narrative mystery; it's a film about The Mystery of It All -- an arty metaphysical tone poem on the theme of deracination. Modern European people are spiritually vacant. They quest for identity because they have no such thing. They're restless and dynamic. They may have big cars and pressing appointments to keep, but they're out of touch with basic, root things. We build cities and machines, and we hurry places. But all our restless searching finally defeats us. We run around excitedly in self-important circles. Meanwhile, the deeper world looks at us in amazement, pity, and revulsion.

Do you hate the radical-chic point of view? God knows that I can. Trust-fund hippie-tourist defeatism seems to me a poisonous thing in many ways, as well as a life-strategy that plays out well for only one in a billion. (Antonioni included, perhaps.) But what if we don't take it as a prescription for life, let alone a political program? What if we take it instead as nothing more than an art-work's starting-off point?

Attitude shades into style ... And I gotta admit that I often find moneyed-hippie style not just attractive but sexy, and even moving. In "The Passenger," Antonioni gives the Euro-hippie-tourist point of view extraordinary audiovisual form. Where a typical suspense film moves towards climax, "The Passenger" moves towards entropy. There's a plot; there's even a resolution. But watching the film isn't about driving towards a solution and a climax. It's about watching things come apart. One straight-ahead direction turns -- you don't even notice how -- into 14 meandering paths: We're too cut-off from basic things to have the will to persevere.

Antonioni's camera turns everything -- whether a hotel room or a desert -- into a landscape. The people in these landscapes are seldom the center of what we're looking at. Instead, they're mere elements in a complex, slow-moving choreography, exploring the visual compositions like insects living out tragic fates. The camera often pans over the main characters as though they simply weren't there, or might have been elsewhere. Action takes place in the corner of the frame, or even around the corner. The screen seems to dissolve before us.

The film is as bewitching in an audio sense as it is in a visual sense. Always an inspired experimenter with sound, Antonioni was known for recording thousands of sound samples for each of his films, and for creating soundscapes that were like audio collages. The track of "The Passenger" is one of his beauties. There are only one or two touches of semi-conventional music in the film. Instead of the usual sweetened-and-heightened naturalism, we're given a kind of minimalistic, process-oriented burble. Incidental noises and environmental sounds -- car bumps, foot scrapes, sniffs, newspaper-page rattles -- are as strongly present in the film's audio universe as lines of dialog are. The randomness and straggliness merge in some impossible-to-define, non-coming-together kind of way. There's finally nothing to grasp, and that's the semi-sorta point.

When I first saw "The Passenger," it wasn't that I didn't react to it. I was very struck by the film's visual and aural beauty. Antonioni's earlier movies were stylized and formal -- everything clicks into place. "The Passenger" is a much looser experience, far more searching and open than his earlier films were. The mood reminded me -- in a pleasant way -- of loafing around reading Claude Levi-Strauss, Paul Bowles, and Roland Barthes, and of talking about philosophy and anthropology while drinking mint tea and hoping to get laid. The film casts a strong spell, assuming of course that you're susceptible to it in the first place. It conveys the opium-like pleasures of letting your mind unravel. And hoping to get laid, of course.

But I was put off by the film's narcissistic pretentiousness. Perhaps -- middle-class-kid-discovering-art that I was -- I felt a little class wariness towards it. In any case, I decided that "The Passenger" simply wasn't going to be one of the films that I'd permit myself to love. I wasn't going to allow it to happen. Some clunker lines of dialogue and some over-obvious visual moves gave me handy excuses to dismiss the film. Besides: Antonioni set the foreground drama against a background of traditional art, traditional religion, and traditional populations. And wasn't this ... well, romantic, or offensive, or something?

Deliberate aimlessness? Or aimless deliberateness?

Seeing the film in 2005, the film's artiness didn't bug me a bit. My mind may have registered "pretentious!" more than a few times. But -- perhaps I'm more forgiving or just dumber than I once was -- my main reaction was: Why not sink into some glazed-and-stoned, desert-highbrow rhythms? Why not enjoy, and even be moved by, drifty, stylish lassitude? Besides, I was finding that, a second or two after registering "pretentious," I often gasped and thought, "But now, that move is sheer genius!" Talent comes in all kinds of forms and shapes, after all, including "pretentious poseur."

Antonioni's courtly pace and exquisite eye play off well against Nicholson too. In 1975, Nicholson was still thin and hungry. I didn't buy him as a reporter, but his informality and his insolence help the film a lot; the film would be completely off in lala-land without him. And, to his credit, he's less domineering and less "on" than he usually is. He seems happy to let the camera be the star and for the director to set the pace; he seems willing to let the camera catch him before and after his impulses arise and play out. Despite being saddled with many of the film's most cryptic and loaded lines, Maria Schneider is very effective too. She convincingly embodies a kind of hippie girl who was much around in those days: earthy but flighty, sexy in a completely solipsistic way, willing to play both elusive muse and alluring enigma.

Antonioni and his work were often celebrated as difficult and cerebral, and when he was looked-to for pronouncements he was expected to say something substantial. Watching "The Passenger" this time around, I found myself wondering: Did Antonioni ever really have anything on his mind? Did he ever really have "something to say"? Perhaps he was more like a great fashion designer -- an aesthete with a lot of drive and talent who simply liked making the stylish and melancholy things he made.

Small personal note: the movieworld that I fell in love with circa 1970 was at that point already coming to an end. It isn't inaccurate to think of one huge movie-history cycle that began in 1945 with neorealism and came to an end circa 1976, when "Jaws" and "Star Wars" hit. (The era initiated by those two movies seems to be coming to a close as we speak.)

What an amazing aesthetic adventure that 1945-1975 stretch in movie history was. Born into it, I simply took it for granted. Fellini? Kazan? Bergman? Kubrick? They were simply what the movies were, alongside the inevitable trash. Although nowadays I sometimes look back and wonder, "What was that all about?", it also seems to me that the era's movies really were everything you could hope for from an art form.

I grew interested in movies in 1969 and left college in 1977. Yet here are just some of the films that were released during that very short stretch:

  • "Dirty Harry," "Chinatown," "The Conformist," "Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice," "La Femme Infidele," "Z," "M*A*S*H," "Cries and Whispers," "Hospital," "The Honeymoon Killers," "Fellini's Satyricon," "Women in Love," "Burn!", "Invesitgation of a Citizen Above Suspicion," "Andrei Rublev," "Claire's Knee," "McCabe & Mrs. Miller," "Last Tango in Paris," "Klute," "The Last Picture Show," "Murmur of the Heart," "Billy Jack," "The Garden of the Finzi Contini," "Cabaret," "The Godfather," "The Sorrow and the Pity."

That's quite a lineup.

Seeing "The Passenger" now, I registered -- and registered in my soul -- in a way I couldn't as a kid that I was watching an amazing film from one of art history's extraordinary periods. That element of "the era" does somehow count. You can feel it; it's part of the film's gestalt. And art-fervor is conpicuous by its absence today. It's part of what's missing from movies. Although good movies continue to come along, they aren't part of anything; they're just kind of out there, amidst the usual dreadfulness. Even the foreign, indie, and Sundance scenes seem primarily about careers, technologies, and concepts, not that this is always and everywhere a bad thing.

In any case: Older film buffs might want to make an exception of "The Passenger" and go to the trouble of seeing it at a theater. (You can check out here if the film will be playing in your neighborhood.) The print isn't nearly as gemlike as I was hoping it would be. But the film is one of those drug-like artworks whose potency is magnified many times over by being seen on a big screen. Younger film-buff wannabes should certainly give Antonioni a try. No need to love his work, of course. But "L'Avventura" and "The Passenger" represent a real movie-history pinnacle. This was done, and it counts, and it has been a reference point for the artform ever since. And, yes, it is important to sit through the whole thing, slow though it is. Do as Jack did, and sink into a completely different time-sense than the one you're used to. Who says that dozing off at a movie is a sign that the movie is a bad one? Besides, it's a key part of an arts education to learn that "slow" is as much a rhythm as "fast" is, and can sometimes be far more eloquent.

* In 1985, Antonioni suffered a severe stroke that left him lame, and in command of only a few dozen words. Nonetheless, in 1995 -- with Wim Winders' help -- he made the full-scale film "Beyond the Clouds." It's no one's idea of a Major Statement, but I found the film very enjoyable anyway: sexy, arty, and very beautiful, as well as essential viewing for Sophie Marceau fans. Antonioni is 93 now, and although he has made some short movies since "Beyond the Clouds," he's said to be living in a wheelchair and to be almost wholly unable to speak.

* The re-release of "The Passenger" that is now in theaters is seven or eight minutes longer than the version that was released in the States back in '75. The DVD that will be issued early next year will include those minutes -- so no great loss if you wait for the DVD.

* The LATimes' excellent Patrick Goldstein interviews Jack Nicholson (who owns the movie) here. Fascinating to learn how art-movie-crazed Jack and his buds once were.

* I thought that Michael Wilmington's review of the film's re-release was just about perfect -- meaning that I agree with him down the line.

* I learned from this book that "The Passenger"'s legendary, Michael Snow-inspired, 7-minute long penultimate shot took 11 days for the crew to prepare. God knows that it's a complicated and amazing shot. Still, 11 days? What were they smoking?

* There aren't an enormous number of Antonioni resources on the web, but here's a good small tribute site.

* Maria Schneider has led what sounds like a sad adult life, with an entire decade gone to drug addiction. She seems to have pulled herself together, though. "Last Tango" now strikes her as "'70s kitsch," but she seems proud of "The Passenger." Here's one interview with her; here's another. Roger Ebert interviewed her back in cheerier times.

* I see that the Landmark Sunshine theater, where I saw the film, is going digital.

* Hey, look what I turned up: a q&a with Daria Halprin, the hot hippie chick who starred in Antonioni's "Zabriskie Point." Wow, could people ever be spacey back in those days.



UPDATE: David Thomson's review of Bernardo Bertolucci 1971 "The Conformist" -- another amazing film from that same era -- is a treat.

posted by Michael at November 30, 2005


Your comments are interesting.

A few more movies from '70-'76 to add to your list: "Carnal Knowledge", "Shampoo", "Five Easy Pieces", "Sunday Bloody Sunday", "The Demon Seed", "Serpico", "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest", "Sounder", "All the President's Men", "Annie Hall", "Being There", "Julia", "Bananas", "American Graffiti", "The French Connection" and that movie where Dustin Hoffman plays an Indian.

The blissed-out hippie thing certainly ran its course. Maybe the cocaine and rape busts of the various players took some of the rose off the glasses, huh? I'm not sure the outcome was ever terribly realistically presented. Blissed-out hippies became "The Big Liebowsky" and Jeff Spiccoli finally! (Or maybe, more positively, Obe Wan Kenobi). Ennui and anomie became a big downer finally, opening the door for Indiana Jones! Or else too many hippies had figured out they actually had to work, because they weren't moneyed, and didn't want to watch other people run around without jobs! The "me" generation, after all!

Posted by: annette on November 30, 2005 04:54 PM

"Today we have cheap, smart indie movies, but it's not the same thing. Antonioni didn't feel that he needed to get every single point across right away. Today we're just slaves to melodrama."" ...Nicholson in the interview

I have been watching "Dogville" repeatedly recently but I can't deny Nicholson has a point.
Schneider said the "style" of Last Tango was kitsch by which I presume she means the visual style etc. Antonioni could depict despair with beauty and bright colors.
Nicholson was outrageous in the mid-70s. I am not a huge fan of "Chinatown" or "Cuckoo's Nest" and prefer "Easy Pieces" and "King of Marvin Gardens".
There is a short scene in "Last Tycoon" where he leaves DeNiro in the dust. It is like they decided to reverse styles and Bob went big and loud while Jack underacted. Umm, Jack could underact quite nicely.
Thank you for this.

Posted by: bob mcmanus on November 30, 2005 09:06 PM

Thanks for the trip back into our misspent (well, maybe not entirely missent) youths. I was a tad surprised to read no reference to the other "genius" of the era, Godard--not that his absence invalidates any of your points.

Oddly, you touched on a cultural-historical point that has been puzzling me recently: what was all that about "alienation" among the post WW-II European culterati? (I'll grant that I've got some kind of mental block about that term; I keep going back to Marxist dictionaries and reading the definition and find that six months later I can't remember it anymore.) As I very dimly recall, alienation was supposed to be a result of the reification of human relationships caused by capitalism. By which I think is meant the idea that capitalism replaces natural human-to-human relationships with "false-consciousness" notions about property, ownership, labor, technology and markets. Ultimately, this mentally replaces the ordinary human purposes in our environment with interactions between "things"--converting people to one more type of machine (a capital machine, a laboring machine, a consuming machine). In Kantian terms--although all this comes from Hegel (what was the relationship between those two again?)--people go from being an end to a purely economic means.

I suppose that would account for the privileged people wandering adrift through industrial landscapes in Antonioni movies--to show, I suppose, that the beneficiaries of the system felt as object-like and inhuman as the workers.

But all this feels like an extemely odd--and in many respects, oddly reactionary--reaction to the prosperity of the post-War era. It almost seems as if Antonioni and his ilk had a sort of nostolgic yearning for ancien regime Europe (as long as they could play artist and hang out with the aristocrats.) It might have been as good a taking-off place as any to make art from, but on a personal level I find Antonioni's attitudes patronizing and offensive. I'm the grand-child of people who were more or less contemporary with Antonioni and who at great personal sacrifice fled his notions of "the good old days".

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on December 1, 2005 08:54 AM

Friedrich, I hope I'm not dragging the comments too far from the featured flick, but a French concept that was kicking around (in the 40s anyway) was the Absurd. Camus was into it a lot, and probably others, though it has been several years since I read about this and it's kinda fuzzy to me now. Matter of fact I don't know the degree to which Marxism and its antecedents influenced it, though the Absurd fits the Existentialist vapours in the Paris of that era.

As you can tell, I speaking with near-ignorance here (not even having seen the movie), but might not "the Absurd" work as well as "Alienation" when characterizing postwar Europe's intellectual mindset? ... A world-weary shrug rather than bitter hostility, if you will.

Posted by: Donald Pittenger on December 1, 2005 09:45 AM

Now I really am off the subject of the movie, but Americans just aren't big fans of "world-weary" are we? It's tedious after awhile. It really appears that there is an intrinsic aspect to the folks like FvB's grandparents who got off their duffs, stopped being so damn world weary, and decided to try to make the world different. It's always been somehwat "sophisticated" to be world weary---Garbo vonting to be alone---but, ultimately, its a drag. (I've spent some time in world-weary these last few months. Not a good choice for a life philospohy). And I think it feels like a pose to Americans, a defense, a way to not get in the fray. Europeans were not world-weary when they thought they could conquer the world! They were rather energetic about that.

And yes, the "art" that came out of world weariness may have been more nuanced---but, maybe just different. Certainly there is an aspect of the "world weary" to Polanski and "Chinatown", and I don't argue that Polanski can be quite moving. But so can Scorsese---thoroughly American and not world-weary. I've seldom seen a more touching moment than at the end of "The Age of Innocence", when Newland Archer is remembering the Countess and says, ironically, "Lovely? Well, she was...different." And yet, to an American, everybody thinks he made a mistake.

For alienation to be the response to "everyone being turned into a machine"---just lets the machines win, no? Just another way to be inhuman.

Posted by: annette on December 1, 2005 11:35 AM

Annette 1 -- That is an amazing list of movies, isn't it? At the time I spent a lot of time and energy bitching about 'em. How callow I was -- kind of like a spoiled kid complaining about being forced by his parents to drive a Lexus instead of a BMW. I think the fact that 99% of us do have to work for a living after all did come as a shock to a lot of people circa the mid-'70s, don't you? I'm still reeling from the discovery myself.

Bob -- Nicholson's an amazing actor, isn't he? Just when I get fed up with him, he comes up with something new, or at least refreshes his act somehow. And he's been doing it for decades. Whatever drug he's on, I want some of it.

FvB, Donald -- So true. As for the concept of "alienation," I doubt I have any grasp on its depth and subtlety. Dim-wittedly, I take it to mean that as economies grow more complex, people often find themselves doing jobs and chores that feel completely disconnected from the final product. Ie., my paper-shuffling could be for any industry. I think there's something to that, don't you? A lot of people go home at the end of the day wanting to sink their hands into something tangible or more direct than what they spend their time on at work -- gardening, carpentry, cooking. Adam Smith made a similar point about how routine work and mass production can leave a person feeling stupid and glazed-over, so I take it that alienation, at least in that sense, isn't just a Marxist concept. But I think you're right that a lot of the post-war Euro addiction to alienation (and to Donald's notion of "the absurd") reflected an attachment to an old world, to a fantasy of aristocracy, etc. As well as an addiction to -- why not? -- the world-weary posture generally. After all, it's a sexy and attractive posture, at least if you're reponsive to it. My own hunch is that, with a few exceptions (radicals who committed suicide, etc), the Euros never really took the idea or posture as earnestly as we do. I think we often make the mistake of taking Old-World people as though they're making some kind of Deep and True point, when in fact what they're often doing is enjoying a certain style of sexy carrying-on. We expect philosophers to be trying to make sense of things and get at the truth. It seems to me that 9/10ths of Continental philosophizing is about generating sexy and flirtatious cafe chatter. So, FWIW, I don't take it seriously as attempts at truth. But I do try to enjoy it as sexiness and flirtatiousness. (And, to some extent, to take it seriously as such -- I have a lot of respect for sex, style, and flirtation. But certainly not as philosophy, let alone life-advice!)

Annette 2 -- That's a great point. Do you think we have trouble with world-weary carrying on because we dislike it? Or mistrust it? Or feel a little outclassed by it? Or just generally feel too damn dynamic to be bothered with such a lame-o defeatist attitude? Actually, I doubt that many Euros really are so damn world-weary. They did do a mighty impressive job of re-building their countries after WWII, after all. I think they just like and enjoy the pose. Me, I don't see why we shouldn't spend some of the day being dynamic and some of our time having fun with world-weariness. But I suppose I'm just an incredibly sophisticated and nuanced person, eh?

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on December 1, 2005 12:32 PM

Come to think of it, Antonioni himself must have been quite a dynamo. Or at least had his dynamic side, or times. You don't get to be a major film director by leaning against a wall, smoking and looking stylish.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on December 1, 2005 01:03 PM


You write:

A lot of people go home at the end of the day wanting to sink their hands into something tangible or more direct than what they spend their time on at work -- gardening, carpentry, cooking. Adam Smith made a similar point about how routine work and mass production can leave a person feeling stupid and glazed-over, so I take it that alienation, at least in that sense, isn't just a Marxist concept.

Yeah, routine repetitive mechanized work is a bummer if the alternative is writing economics or taking part in philosophical debates all day long. On the other hand, I doubt the average 19th century European peasant after a day of exhausting toil as a farmer, carpenter or cook would have remarked, "Well, it's back-breaking work, and I don't get remotely enough to eat let alone build up any financial security and most of my children died in childhood, but at least I don't feel alienated!" I mean, let's remember Maslow's hierarchy here.

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on December 1, 2005 01:16 PM

FvB's comment is funny, but aren't we always comparing everything to what we think or thought we can/could have, though? I mean, if you were from the class that could debate economics all day, and then find yourself shuffling papers, it would in fact be alienating. When people have enough to eat, they don't walk around 24/7 "just being grateful" they have enough to eat, you know? The people Antonioni is depicting aren't straight out of the peasant fields...they are moneyed, remember. They aren't existing at the bottom of the pyramid. And we always forget about the levels of the pyramid we've passed by. It's human nature, not European. But I think MB's point about it being a pose is true. But I think its more than being sexy---it also seems like pure defense from a group who wasn't "running the show" anymore---very classic. "Oh...who'd want to run that stupid old show? Really!"

Posted by: annette on December 1, 2005 01:52 PM

FvB -- I could be mistaken, but I get the impression that you think Antonioni should be making serious, historically-informed political and philosophical points. I doubt he'd be, or was ever, capable of that. Honestly, I doubt that even at his peak he could reason his way out of a paper bag, though he could probably conduct himself very, very winningly over dinner and drinks.

I think what he was really doing -- and what his work was about -- was expressing a mood. (And, probably, peddling a fantasy.) But, hey, that's what a lot of art does, no? If I limited my enjoyment of art just to those artists and artworks whose points-of-view I agree with or can endorse, I wouldn't be a very happy art-goer. Putting it all in context, or carrying on the necessary historical-political arguments ... Well, maybe that's for us, maybe it's not for the artist. At least not always.

But it's a really good topic for a blog-posting, no? The question (more or less): "To what degree does your enjoyment of a work of art depend on how much you agree with or can endorse the work's point of view?" Eager to see you write such a thing!

In my case I'd say semi-sorta. If I dig a work's p-o-v, I'll certainly cut it more slack than if I don't. And if I find a work's p-o-v genuinely offensive, I can shut down entirely. And if a work's p-o-v is entirely dreary and/or predictable, I'll start to glaze over. But I generally try to be pretty opportunistic where pleasure is concerned. I'll take it where I can find it. Where would you place yourself on such a sliding scale?

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on December 1, 2005 02:03 PM


I'll have to get back to you on the notion of how my respect (or lack of respect) for a work's philosophical underpinnings affects my pleasure in it. I'm guessing, on a first approximation, that this is more important to me than to you, but I may be wrong about that.

I have another question, though, that popped up as I thought about this post: Why is there no Antonioni of the political right? (Can you think of one?--I'm drawing a blank here.) Why did a generation of European artists bother to school themselves (however superficially) in left-wing political-economic theory? Was it just the soup they were floating in? Is there a necessary or causitive connection, at least since the French Revolution, between artists and the political left?

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on December 1, 2005 02:44 PM

Why is there no Antonioni of the political right?

The political Right lacks imagination.

Posted by: David Duke-Astin on December 5, 2005 05:10 PM

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