I was talking to Alston the other day. She's one of the few people who I can bitch about the paucity of art in movies who will understand my disgust. Following one of my rants, she mentioned a piece she'd seen by video artist Bill Viola. From her description, I assumed she was talking about The Greeting. I saw this piece several years back in the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. It's stunning in its simplicity. It is done in a single take with just a one camera set-up. It's been a while since I saw this, but I'm guessing the piece lasts five minutes. It's in ultra slow motion. The real time of the action probably was about 15 seconds. There are two women talking in front of a neoclassical back drop. A breeze is moving their dresses. A third woman enters and they all greet one another. The emotional dynamic changes. The newcomer whispers in the ear of her friend, and the other woman is now excluded. There is high drama in this tiny sliver of time, which is played out in glacial-mode. Make no mistake, it's high epic, but in miniature. Like Joel Barlow's brilliant faux epic poem of 1792 entitled “The Hasty Pudding,” a 370 line poem about making and eating corn mush.
Joel Barlow was playing it for grins (much as as Robby Burns' “Ode to a Haggis”), but Viola wants a more serious appreciation of his work. I'll give it to him. I find his work beautiful and moving. And when Peter Greenaway (one of my all time favorite directors) says, of Viola: “Bill Viola is worth ten Scorseses,” I couldn't agree more. True art will always trump hackery, no matter how clever that hack might be.
There are two films on my need-to-buy list. I have only seen little clips. Sadly, they aren't in major distribution. So I can't rent them. And they probably won't get screened here in San Antonio. But from what I can make of what little info I have, they are the real deal, clearly worth many Scorseses. I'm talking about Cory McAbee's “The American Astronaut,” and Todd Rohal's “The Guatemalan Handshake.”
There is so much great art bubbling up from all over the place, why are we even talking about the mainstream shit? Sue Corcoran has completed a second feature, and still we find ourselves talking about the Oscars?
I haven't watched the Academy Awards more than four times in my life. It's no way to look at films, good or bad. It's like choosing the greatest novels of the year, but you can only pull titles from the catalogue of Scholastic Books.