Published on February 22nd, 2011 | by Lisa McInerney7
There was great rejoicing in my house recently when, on a few days off from work, I decreed that we would watch lots of movies.
Possibly Himself thought that this would be his great opportunity to catch up on the latest big-name blockbusters; I didn’t think to ask. Then again, neither did he. Perhaps he didn’t qualify my definition of “movie” because he already knows what an off-centre thinker I am when it comes to visual entertainment. Either or, our recent popcorn session was spent over Black Swan, Winter’s Bone, and the like, films you need a coffee and a pompous chat after. Oh, and Afterschool. I’d been desperate to watch Afterschool for quite some time.
We had a very loud sort of pompous chat after, because Himself took an immediate dislike to it. He found it disjointed, overblown, too stylised, and ultimately unfulfilling. Pretentious, I think was a term spat more than once. On the other hand, I loved it, and defended it passionately. I thought that the hand-held camera, long, static landscape shots, super-off-kilter-close-ups, and cameraphone sequences all factored into the sense of isolation and fragmented identity of our protagonist. I thought his zombie-like reactions to the machinations of his “superiors” very telling, and very realistic. I probably ranted on quite a bit about it, now that I think of it. The film finished up around midnight, and Himself was in a catatonic state on the floor when I next looked at the clock and realised it was February.
Anyway, it made me think – what makes a film definitively pretentious? Is it the empty triumph of style over substance? Is it the director’s champagne ideas on his lemonade budget? Or is it (more often than not, I fear) a lack of open-mindedness for unconventional storytelling on the viewer’s part? Is it simply that those who complain that a movie is pretentious are those that didn’t quite get what the director was after? Is it, on that note, the director’s responsibility to make sure his message gets across to his audience, whether they’re already on his wavelength or not?
“Pretentious” films – that is, artier, indier flicks that my companions have found less than impressive – I’ve argued on behalf of include Irreversible, Mean Creek and Brick. Those I’ve argued against include Martyrs, The Squid and The Whale, and .. oh, gosh, I might just have to add in Black Swan here, because I’ve had a good think about it since watching it and wonder if its entire merit is based on the performances of its four main actors? Anyway, I’m of the opinion that whether or not one finds a film pretentious probably hugely depends on whether or not one was in the mood for it in the first place. And taking into account that opinion is subjective no matter how informed it is, are there any movies out there we can safely call “a steaming pile of pretentious shite” without fear of recrimination from … well, the likes of me?
Over to you, then. What’s the most “pretentious” movie you’ve seen?