20 March 2009

I'm a little fuzzy on why Armond White does not care for Hunger.

(# of sentences/phrases trimmed from the original review in what follows: not as many as you might think.)

"Hunger, the first film by British fine artist Steve McQueen..."

"...really a series of startling kinetic-art panels."

"There hasn't been a cinema/art project this outrageous since Peter Greenaway confused big-screen and art-gallery media in The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover (1987)."

"McQueen-the-artiste gives himself the luxury of detachment..."

"...he looks at cruelty (prisoner degeneracy, antagonistic authority) and makes gestures at spirtuality, all with an art-major's moral indifference."

"You could use art-major terms like 'transgressive' and 'body-conscious' to justify McQueen's aesthetic..."

"But the fact remains: Hunger is tough to watch. It merely rewards one's art-snobbery and can only be excused as a series of art postures."

"If McQueen is to be praised as a genuine moviemaker, it can only be in the art school terms that critics denied to [Mel] Gibson's [The] Passion [of the Christ]."

"Instead of professing faith, McQueen plays art-school games."

"It's what art students understand as jouissance (combining sexual and spiritual pleasure). This does nothing to enhance one's understanding of the Irish troubles."

"McQueen offers the transformation of spirituality into Art, whereas Mel Gibson [stop laughing—md'a] did the extraordinary, Dreyer-like opposite."

"Hunger resembles Carlos Reygadas' sub-Dreyer Stellet Licht—a self congratulatory [all together now!—md'a] art project."

"Also, when I was six years old the Rhode Island School of Design killed my cat."


Anonymous said...

Somewhere I bet there's a rough draft of this review that just ends with "arty arty art art."

Steve C. said...

You got art in my cinema! You got cinema in my art! WAAAAAH!

Victor said...

um ... what if you loved both THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST and HUNGER ... just hypothetically speaking, of course.

Seriously ... that is why Armond is so difficult to want to agree with, even when you do (and in this case, I don't). He sets up these dichotomies, constantly using Film X to berate Film Y, without (from appearances) ever considering whether there might be room at the inn for both X and Y.

Victor said...

or to put it another way ... HUNGER clearly has a lot in common with THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST and White is on solid ground in saying the latter film was kneejerkedly dismissed by secularist critics with theological knowledge that cannot even be charted. But White has to kneejerk in the opposite direction. The unjust rejection of Gibson's film becomes mere occasion for payback against innocent bystander McQueen, rather than an occasion to draw attention to the wronged Gibson.

If White didn't like HUNGER, then he didn't like HUNGER and that's fine with me, per se. But the sneering against "art" results in a lack of engagement with the provocative and interesting point White has -- the ways HUNGER does in fact draw on Passion-art iconography (isn't that saying something about The Troubles far more interesting than the type of chronological reportage that HUNGER lacks, thank God),

msic said...

This review was the worst case of Armond's bullshit grandstanding in quite some time, and that's saying something. When I first read it, I wrote about half of a line-by-line deconstruction of its idiotic premises, but deleted it, because I just couldn't bring myself to do it. (Plus I veer between wanting to see the man's idiocy pilloried and believing we should all just ignore him.)

First of all, Victor's right, although I haven't seen the Gibson. White might've been in a unique position to draw parallels between McQueen's justifiably project and a less critically reputable one, and this couldn't been productive. (Cue Belushi voice...) But nooooooooo!

Also, isn't seeing how both the strikers and the guards are constrained by the same cycle of violence humanist, as White allegedly wants cinema to be? Lambasting it as snobby art-school elitism is, well, just an ad hominem attack on McQueen.

msic said...

Um, sorry. Here's how the botched sentence in graf 2 should read, although I suspect one could infer it:

"White might've been in a unique position to draw parallels between McQueen's justifiably lauded project and a less critically reputable one, and this could've been productive."

md'a said...

I'm so used to Armond's nutty compare-and-contrast exercises that I don't even blink anymore. But I was reading this particular review on the subway—I generally have to be trapped underground to bother with New York Press since otherwise the entire Internet is at my iDisposal—and couldn't stop laughing at the spectacle of him saying the same retarded thing over and over and over and over.

Nictate said...

Heelarious. I'm reminded of the art teacher in GHOST WORLD.