“Art is an inherently amoral and ruthless enterprise, however much we may want to believe otherwise.”

This is a quote from Andrew O’Hehir‘s 12.29 Salon analysis of the Zero Dark Thirty shitstorm. Many of us go to films hoping to be blown away or mesmerized or emotionally melted down, period. We just want the movie to work. We’re not uninterested in its political leanings, or oblivious to same, but most of us, I think, are willing to process this as connected-but-separate dish.

Others want their movies above all to stand on the right side. They want their art to be moral and compassionate. In exactly the same way, I feel, that the Soviet bureaucrats of the 1930s wanted their art to celebrate the glorious wheat farmers of the Ukraine. The Stalinists who’ve ripped Zero Dark Thirty for allegedly being pro-torture are cut from the exact same cloth.

I will bow down to any film that kicks ass. Okay, I won’t bow down to a brilliantly made film that advances an evil agenda, but if the film is as obviously well made as, say, Leni Reifenstahl‘s Triumph of the Will, I will at least have mixed feelings about condemning it. But a film that is morally ambiguous or indistinct will never anger or alienate me. And I don’t care what kind of politics it espouses. I am just as much a fool for Tony Scott‘s Man on Fire, one of the most rousing rightwing thrillers ever made, as I am for Oliver Stone‘s W. or Nixon.