Films With the “Arete” Stuff

My response to a particular film is personal and intimate.

I have little interest in theory or cant when it comes to the arts.  I have no academic credentials and attended exactly one college-level course on film history.  I’m barely conversant with the terminology, the various “movements” and schools of thought and uninterested in somber, clinical dissections.  I’ll leave that kind of writing to Andre Bazin and the folks at Cahiers Du Cinema (and God bless ’em).

When it comes to reviewing anything, a book, movie or CD, I put great stock in the words of Charles Baudelaire:

“I sincerely believe that the best criticism is that which is amusing and poetic; not the cold, algebraic kind which, under the pretext of explaining everything, displays neither hate nor love…Thus the best account of a painting can well be a sonnet or an elegy…”

Over the past couple of decades, I’ve amassed an odd, mixed bag collection of movies, most of them still in the VHS format—God help me when the last VCR rolls off the assembly line.  A number of these films have slipped into obscurity and it’s part of the mandate of this blog to draw your attention to some gems that might have passed under your radar.   It’s easy for that to happen; after all, the local video store has scaled back on the older stuff to make more room for 50  copies of the latest comic book adaptation.   Every time I take a quick swing through the “New Release” section of my local video store I come away feeling queasy.  I have seen the future of cinema and it is loud, stupid, vulgar and superficial.

But maybe after you read something here—an appreciation of “Ride the High Country”, a profile on Val Lewton or a mini-essay on why “Brazil” is one of the ten best films ever made—you’ll be encouraged to seek out a title that turns out to be one of the profound cinematic experiences of your life.  Nothing would thrill me more.

This site is dedicated to memory and legacy of mavericks and geniuses, visionaries and dreamers:

Orson Welles and Carl Theodor Dreyer and Henri-Georges Clouzot and Stanley Kubrick.  Jacques Tati and Luis Bunuel.  Sam Peckinpah and Chris Marker.  King Vidor and Erich von Stroheim and Vittorio Storaro.  Ray Harryhausen…

The auteurs who astonish us even with their failures, the spectacular results of their self-immolation.

…and let me also add a tip o’ the hat to the film buffs who still remember and revere them.  Nighthawks, insomniacs, devotees of the late-late show.  The lonely ones, rapt faces lit by an intermittent, flickering glow.

Spellbound by Ingrid Bergman’s incandescent beauty, thrilled and astonished by the “man of a thousand faces”.  Brando cursing his dead wife in “Last Tango in Paris”.  Gregg Toland’s peerless gaze.  The blood-drenched finale of “The Wild Bunch” and the gorgeous, Panavision panorama of Monument Valley…

Moving images, seen by the light of a magic lantern, attuned to our inner eye.

Still, dead pictures, persistence of vision insisting we perceive them as real.

And we are happy to be tricked (eager, willing accomplices to the deceit)…

About Cliff Burns

I'm a literary writer, specializing in slipstream/ alternative/surreal/science fiction. My influences include Philip K. Dick, Harlan Ellison, Samuel Beckett, Jorge Luis Borges, David Cronenberg, Rene Magritte, any artist who defies convention and busts open genres, attacking the status quo.
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4 Responses to Films With the “Arete” Stuff

  1. carrie says:

    Hi Cliff,
    So good to hear from you. I haven’t visited the blogger world in quite some time. I love your new blog! And I CANNOT wait to see So Dark THe Night! The book was awesome!!! Regards to you and your family. Break a leg!

  2. Rojse says:

    Will be interested to see what you do with this classic cinema-themed blog, Cliff. I’m interested in expanding my under-developed taste in film. Admittedly, I do occasionally enjoy films with good special effects if I think the story is enjoyable, there is a depressing majority that are unconvincing and stupid, and I would like to see what else is out there.

    I’d also add myself down as another person wanting to get a hold of a physical copy of “So Dark The Night”.

    • Cliff Burns says:

      Part of the reason why I decided to go through the process of bringing So Dark the Night out as a book, an actual physical book, was the numerous requests I received from readers like you. I think you’ll love what we’ve done with So Dark the Night so stay tuned, I’ll let you know as soon as folks can start placing orders. End of April looks more and more likely. Thanks for dropping a few words on to the new blog. May it help you identify and find fine motion pictures.

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