“It’s not a film that I like; it’s a film that I love. When I say I don’t like it, it’s that I don’t like the feel of the film. I don’t like its sterility. I like a film with a little more emotional balls, just as a movie, to get involved in. But as a work of art, I love it. It had an had an enormous, enormous impact on me, at a certain point.” — James Cameron speaking about 2001: A Space Odyssey in a 4.26 Toronto Star interview by Peter Howell.
What films do I greatly admire or highly respect, but which I don’t really like on a gut level? Because they lack emotional balls or have rubbed me the wrong way or whatever?
Michelangelo Antonioni‘s The Passenger. It’s a masterful film about being at the end of your rope, about ennui and futility and cul de sac alienation. I adore the final shot, of course, but it delivers a current of lethargy and bitterness that’s fairly unlikable. I tried to re-watch it on Bluray recently and gave up after a half-hour. It’s more than a little boring. But I know it’s a great or near-great film, and I’ll never call it dismissable or a shortfaller.
I recognize that Sergio Leone is a pantheon-level director who elevated ’60s spaghetti westerns by injecting a certain fuck-all nihilism and a degree of psychological complexity, and that his use of dynamic close-ups upped his rep as a kind of visual maestro. He’s a first-rate auteur, but I can’t think of a single one of his films that I actually like.
I worship Barry Lyndon, of course, but I really don’t like what I once called the “dead zone portion” — from the instant that Ryan O’Neal blows pipe smoke into Marisa Berenson‘s face until he shows up for that duel with Leon Vitali.
I’ll never trash Martin Scorsese‘s The King of Comedy — it’s a ballsy capturing of a certain American malaise, about third-raters and loneliness and a bottom-line feeling among millions that fame is the end-all and be-all, and that without it life would be a fairly miserable proposition. But apart from two or three scenes with Jerry Lewis (especially the “so was Hitler!” moment with Robert De Niro and Diahnne Abbott) I’ve never liked it. One serving after another of shamelessness, delusion, bile and idiocy. I remember my first viewing in ’82 and realizing about a half-hour in that it was going to play on this level all the way to the end. But I admire Scorsese for having made it, and I would never call it bad or even flawed. I just don’t care for the taste.
Oh, and 2001 is not my idea of sterile. Dry and dispassionate, yes, but the drollness and dark humor, not to mention the enraged, flipped-out behavior of a certain homicidal computer, are delicious.