Beware of any film that’s been described by film geeks as “pure cinema.” What that means, usually, is that the layered, integrated nature of any good film hasn’t been entirely successful on some level, and that it’s weak on narrative or structure or performance or third-act payoff…something. “Pure cinema” = chops, style, chops, style and more chops and style. Nothing puts the fear of God into me like that dweeb-favored, mubi.com term.
I’m writing this because Harry Knowles tweeted today that Martin Scorsese‘s Hugo is “an immaculate work of wonder and a pure shot of cinema.” Holy dogshit, run for the hills! Okay, I don’t mean that entirely. The last 25% of Hugo is actually sublime.
Guys like Sam Fuller and Nicholas Ray were often described as creators of “pure cinema.” Well, Ray and Fuller were excellent filmmakers but that doesn’t mean they hit it out of the park every time. Have you ever seen Park Row? A couple of years ago I took Jett to see Ray’s Bigger Than Life, the James Mason cortisone film, and we both thought it was hell to sit through, especially the third-act meltdown scene.
Another term that scares the living shit out of me is “emotion picture.”