A couple of months ago I mentioned the snob syndrome among the elite big-city film writers. I said “there’s something vaguely arid and ingrown about this culture…a certain tendency to sidestep films with what an elitist would describe as plebian emotionalism.” And now here’s Time‘s Richard Corliss elaborating on this aversion as a prelude to a thumbs-up review of Darren Aronfosky‘s The Fountain.
“Movies critics can’t agree on much, but there’s one assumption most of them hold deeply without ever discussing it. It’s that a film that says life is crap is automa- tically deeper, better, richer, truer than one that says life can be beautiful.
“That’s a 180 from the prevailing notion in classic Hollywood, where optimism was the cardinal belief, at least on-screen. (It was in the front office that the knives came out.) Most movies, whatever their genre, were romances; they aimed for tears and ended with a kiss. But to serious critics then, and to the mass audience now, sentiment is suspect. Feeling is mushy, girly — for fools. To be soft- hearted is to be soft-headed.
“So critics will see a horror film with extreme violence, or (less frequently) an erotic film with extreme sex, and accept these as genre conventions, whether or not they’re grossed out or aroused. But a movie that tries to make them feel is some- how pandering to their basest or noblest emotions and, as they see it, deserves a spanking from any smart reviewer. These days, nothing is as easy to deride as dead-serious romance.”