Although this blog never publishes eulogies, I did want to note the passing of America's best film critic, Roger Ebert
. He died of cancer shortly after announcing a "leave of presence" on his website. His last published review, I am a bit sorry to note, was of The Host
, adapted from a Stephanie Meyer novel.
"The end of an era" is a cliche, but what other words fit? When I became a movie buff in the 1970s, film meant
something. In Los Angeles, back then, large crowds showed up to watch rather obscure works made by such masters as Bresson, Tarkovsky, Resnais...
Those days are gone. The audience has lost the ability to fall into trance. Everything has migrated to the teevee, which is often the size of a freakin' phone
, and nobody treats such an image with the necessary reverence. People talktalktalk and surf the net while watching. Not long ago, I read about a new genre of mobile phone app designed to give people something to do while watching television
. Teevee is just another appliance in our home; cinema is a world we visit.
Movies still exist, and they are quite entertaining, quite well-crafted. But the art film as a collective experience
is no longer viable, due to audience hyperactivity. If you insist on surfing the net while watching Kurosawa -- well, don't. Just don't. Instead of insulting a master, you'd be better advised to skip Kurosawa altogether. Film is hypnosis. If viewers have lost the ability to turn themselves off, to die to reality and live within the onscreen experience, then they've lost the ability to see through other eyes and gather memories from other minds.
Even when he wrote about works I'll never see, Ebert always reminded me of the old days when films mattered.