Sex, suicide, torture: are arthouse movies genuinely so sophisticated? | Catherine Shoard

Sex, Suicide, Torture: Are Arthouse Movies Genuinely So Sophisticated? | Catherine Shoard

Despite their image, many of todays highbrow movies are merely the cinematic equivalent of exploding fireworks

Sex, Suicide, Torture: Are Arthouse Movies Genuinely So Sophisticated? | Catherine Shoard

North Korea is not a regime whose selections one is generally eager to endorse. Yet my compassions were with that country at the start of the year, when its New Years Eve firework showing was universally pooh-poohed. Whats with all the flash, cackled other nations. You call that a spectacle, scoffed Sydney, merrily illuminating the fuse on 4m-worth of sparklers.

Fireworks can, obviously, be spectacular. Their culture origins in seventh-century China, where they were intended to scare off evil spirits, are to be respected. And yet an understated showing Pyongyang ran for sporadic bangs with synth soundtrack is not something to dismiss. Rather, one goggles at the hubris elsewhere, where millions in public funds are sent up in smoke; this at a time of spiralling homelessness, massive spending cuts and instructions that we all mug up on first aid lest we fall victim to rather more malevolent blasts.

Everyone already knows that fireworks are fantastically dangerous( this 31 December there was a fatality in Hawaii, there were mass casualties in Malaysia, and rocket assaults in Hamburg and Malm ); that they are enormously polluting( in Munich, revellers bathed in an atmosphere that had 26 times more sooty particulates than the EUs recommended safe limit ); and that they frighten animals, children, the frail and indeed anyone who isnt lucky enough to be able to sit unblinking through an endless loading of explosions.

But fireworks are also, Id argue shock value aside quite boring. At least if they dont carry special spiritual import for you, or if youre over the age of two, or after the first 10 seconds or so. Rather, they seem to be a throwback to a time when suns in the sky were a significant distraction. When a night of bonfire tales was the nearest you could get to bingeing on a box defined. Before amusement had, for better or worse, evolved. Thats why Ive never been especially desperate to find a display through to its climax. Theres merely so many oohs you can manage before “youre starting” thinking about your shopping.

We live in an age uncertain about its level of primitivism. Liberals bemoan a resurfacing of basic intolerance. The world is going backwards, they fret. Kneejerk anxieties have quashed reasoned debate. Yet liberals are people too and, as such, just as susceptible to the primal pulls. They too embrace fireworks one thing going for them is their egalitarianism.

And when it comes to more contemporary forms of amusement, they too are animals at heart. The likes of The Girl on the Train and the fictions of Katie Price are belittled as litter, but in fact this seasons most acclaimed arthouse movies also rely on some fairly tabloid drives.

JACKIE - Sex, Suicide, Torture: Are Arthouse Movies Genuinely So Sophisticated? | Catherine Shoard
Natalie Portman in Jackie, a movie whose chief sell has a lot to do with watching someone wash famous brains off their frock. Photo: Twentieth Century Fox

Take Jackie, Pablo Larrans biopic of the first lady in the aftermath of JFKs assassination. It is a brilliant, moving examination of sorrow and national fairytales, with a central performance by Natalie Portman that will win her the Oscar. It is another movie whose chief sell has a lot to do with watching someone wash famous brains off their frock.

Likewise, Sundance sensation Christine offers an intriguing look at the machinations of a regional news outfit in 1974, with an intense central turn by Rebecca Hall as a woman combating mental illness. Its hooking, though similarly that of a documentary released on the same subject last year is that its about a real-life newsreader who committed suicide live their lives air.

Much of the publicity, as well as buzz, around Silence, Martin Scorseses latest movie, boils down to the extreme weight loss of its superstars and actually yucky forms of torture suffered by their characters. Even Moonlight, Barry Jenkins drama about a bullied gay man at three stages of his life which has been universally championed by right-thinking cineastes cant fully duck accusations of titillation. It is beautifully played and shot, highly sensitive, politically and emotionally incisive; but its success does also come down to the audiences investment in the sexual activity, or absence thereof, enjoyed by its protagonist.

Brutality is as key an ingredient of high culture as low. More, even. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story might have been the biggest movie of last year, but not a drop-off of actual blood is insured, much less a snog. Being preoccupied by sexuality or demise does not make art any lesser , nor the person or persons watching it any baser. What does degrade though are those claiming sophistication while still lapping up big bangs and soaps about the sex hangups of a really ripped fella with a rackety mum.

North Korea did not wholly opt out of devoting the crowd some kneejerk thrills, of course. It only pandered this desire in a much more modest style and, in doing so, exposed the ravening appetite across the rest of the world, as well as some strange double standards about what constitutes entertainment or worthwhile utilize of the public purse.

So, hooray for those low-key explosions a few nights back. Unless of course North Korea is just saving its big gun for later in the year.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Sex, Suicide, Torture: Are Arthouse Movies Genuinely So Sophisticated? | Catherine Shoard
Sex, Suicide, Torture: Are Arthouse Movies Genuinely So Sophisticated? | Catherine Shoard
Sex, Suicide, Torture: Are Arthouse Movies Genuinely So Sophisticated? | Catherine Shoard
Sex, Suicide, Torture: Are Arthouse Movies Genuinely So Sophisticated? | Catherine Shoard
Sex, Suicide, Torture: Are Arthouse Movies Genuinely So Sophisticated? | Catherine Shoard

Sex, Suicide, Torture: Are Arthouse Movies Genuinely So Sophisticated? | Catherine Shoard

Sex, Suicide, Torture: Are Arthouse Movies Genuinely So Sophisticated? | Catherine Shoard

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