From a journalist friend: “I had a conversation tonight at the premiere of On The Basis of Sex with a prominent Academy member who was one of the producers of an Oscar-nominated Best Picture last year. We talked movies and he brought up Roma immediately, which he had recently seen at the Academy. I expected him to say nice things, but instead he emphatically said he HATED it. ‘There was no one I could remotely identify with’, he said. He thought it was beautifully shot but that’s about it. Interesting.”
HE reaction: Was this the same guy who stopped watching All Is Lost after 25 or 30 minutes? Sounds like him.
Put this prominent producer into a time tunnel back to the early ’60s, and he would have emphatically HATED L’Avventura also. Ditto L’Eclisse, La Notte and Red Desert. Obviously these Michelangelo Antonioni films are coming from a much more emotionally neutral or distant place than Cuaron’s film, which clearly cares for its two women leads — Yalitza Aparicio and Marina de Tavira — and pulses with familial affection start to finish.
The problem this producer seems to have is with arthouse films that are essentially meditative in nature, that don’t nudge the viewer toward embracing a certain emotional reaction…films which take their time and allow the viewer to assemble their moods and realms on a bit-by-bit, scene-by-scene, gradual accumulation basis.
There is mild irony in the fact that On The Basis of Sex, which I didn’t care for, is the anti-Roma, in this sense — a film that emphatically goads and prods you into feeling what it wants you to feel.
Critic friend, having read this exchange: “To invoke one of your favorite phrases, I personally think that the whole critical world needs to calm down about Roma. I stand by my positive but tempered review of it. There’s something detached about the film. It’s a cinematic coffee-table book.”