23 May, 2007

All That's Left For Men Is Meaningless Gibber

I saw a film today called 'The Ice Harvest'. Despite an all-star cast, it wasn't great. It has been described as a 'neo-noir' comedy but to say it was 'black' would have been an understatement – 'bleak' maybe! (Is bleak the new black?) Anyway one of the characters at one point says (something like); 'In this country today, all that's left for men is money and pussy.' (The dialogue in films is so hard-bitten these days, don't you think? Maybe it's because Americans admire people who talk tough – or maybe it's just that all American writers are trying to be Ernest Hemingway.) The line was so incongruous in the mouth of the character who spoke it that it really stood out and I started thinking about what on Earth the writers (Richard Russo and Robert Benton) could have meant by it.

Obviously there is the idea here that men are somehow degraded or diminished by our society. This seems like a reasonable statement. I have known a lot of men who feel that society has taken important things away from them, that they cannot be 'real' men, that their dignity has been stripped from them. Some say these things with sad resignation, some with anger. Some feel that society owes them something in return for what it has taken. I have little sympathy with them. They have a dog-like view of the world. They want to push and shove and snarl to find their proper place in the pack. They are frustrated that pushing and shoving and snarling are almost worthless skills when it comes to being top dog. Men with no fangs and narrow shoulders can get the power and the mates by exercising other abilities the complainers don't necessarily possess or value. It just isn't fair.

But this takes us nowhere. In any human society, no matter how it is structured, all that is there for men is 'money and pussy' ('power and mates' – translating from American-filmese). What else is there? (Well, things like knowledge, culture, art, love, and so on but these are all too girly for the great majority of men to care about at all.) To say that power and mates are all there is for men today is just an empty statement. It's all there ever was! It's all there ever will be! It is the very nature of the universe in which we live. Men struggle to acquire power. Power gives access to mates. So what was the guy in the film complaining about?

I dunno.

After pondering this stupid line for an hour or so, I've come to the conclusion it is just one more empty statement. Like so much that is said that sounds profound and meaningful, it is neither.

And I should have known better than to expect to learn anything – or even to hear anything interesting – from a film. It is just not a medium that lends itself to intelligent content. God knows, it's hard enough to find even a book that has anything sensible to say. So I hereby renew my long-standing resolution to look for and to expect nothing at all from films (and novels) except mindless entertainment.


Bex said...

As a former film student, I feel the need to defend film-as-an-art-form!

OK, so they're not a good vehicle for social commentary. But they can be beautiful in the same way that photographs and songs can be. Different sorts of art have different 'talents'.

~ Daughter.

graywave said...

And what is the presentation of beauty but more mindless entertainment?

Besides, I don't suppose it is absolutely impossible for a film to say something intelligent and worthwhile, it's just that they never do and, over the past few decades, they have moved farther and farther away from it.

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