Has cinema transformed entertainment into art?
If one takes a look at the canon of film, the conclusion that film as art is by default a laborious, painstaking experience for the spectator is almost unavoidable. A quick glance at the Top 10 of the 21st Century as compiled by TheyShootPictures is almost a case in point. All of the films range from the nearly plotless “In the Mood for Love” or “Yi Yi” to the incomprehensible poetry of “Mulholland Dr.” or “The Tree of Life”. All of these works do share the traits that help define the medium of film into an art form. However, they also create for the wider audience a false impression that essentially maintains the generic distinction between art film and cinema for entertainment. The debate will focus in understanding whether this dichotomy is a valid one. Through looking back at the origins of film-making, we’d need to understand whether Sontag’s view of describing cinema as “quintessentially modern; distinctively accessible; poetic and mysterious and erotic and moral—all at the same time” (1) has led to the creation of works of art that are quintessentially entertaining. By focusing in detail on Pauline Kael’s seminal essay on “Bonnie and Clyde” (2), the aim is to question whether the medium of film is capable of defending itself as an art-form, and if so what are the criteria that allow it to do so.
(1) Susan Sontag. A Century of Cinema - http://southerncrossreview.org/43/sontag-cinema.htm
(2) Pauline Kael. Onward and Upward with the Arts (New Yorker, pp. 147-171) - http://archives.newyorker.com/?i=1967-10-21#folio=146
(3) Bonnie and Clyde - http://www.youtube.com/movie?v=x-NCTSzBzzU
Ion Martea, film editor for Culture Wars