Saturday, January 3, 2009
Why movie critics shouldn't make movies
One of the most common assumptions people have about movie critics is that they're just frustrated wannabes. This view is particularly strong amongst filmmakers themselves. They think we all have a trove of unmade screenplays sitting in our desk drawers, or some truly awful video attempts lying around.
With rare exception, this is not true. Most critics I know are quite content to watch movies for a living instead of make them. Well, those that still have jobs feel this way, anyway.
But over the years, some critics have successfully made the transition behind the camera. The most well-known are the French New Wave boys. Francois Truffaut is probably the best critic-cum-director. (I'm not such a big fan of Goddard.) In America, Rod Lurie ("The Contender") is the best-known example, although his films have been very hit-or-miss over the years.
Personally, I believe the skill set to be a good critic does not jibe with being a good director or screenwriter, and vice-versa.
This was confirmed for me yet again when I watched "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls" the other day, the Russ Meyer flick written by Roger Ebert. It's a non-sequel sequel to "Valley of the Dolls," and essentially acts as a parody of it. After seeing Meyer and Ebert's effort, my feeling was that somebody needs to come along with a movie that makes fun of their movie.
If it's supposed to be funny, it's not. If it's supposed to be titillating, it's not. Mostly I was just happy for it to be over -- though I will admit a couple of the songs were decent, and Meyer is a visually inventive director. Although he seems to be a progenitor of the modern affliction of hyper-fast editing, in which no image is allowed to linger long enough to savor.
Ebert's one of my favorite critics -- watching he and Gene on television, along with reading the critic in my hometown paper, the Orlando Sentinel, is what first got my interested in the craft. I'm glad Ebert gave up his film career 40 years ago to hone what he does best.