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"These are the days when the Christian is expected to praise every creed except his own." G.K.Chesterton

"You cannot grow a beard in a moment of passion." G.K.Chesterton

"As you perhaps know, I haven't always been a Christian. I didn't go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that."C. S. Lewis

"I blog, therefore I am." Anon

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

It’ll be on the (Special Edition) DVD

The arrival of the special edition DVD is a bonanza for cineastes. Not only do you get the fully restored, digitally enhanced, director’s cut of the original film but you also get the director’s commentary, the writer’s commentary, the actors’ commentary - unless they’re dead then you get a couple of erudite film historians - but you also get the making of documentary (or documentaries as the case may be), the deleted scenes, the alternate ending, the reminiscences of a whole bunch of people who were or were not involved in the making of the film, bios, production stills, drawing boards, a gag roll, a set of steak knives... You name it, you can get it. It’s movie lover’s heaven...

The only problem with this abundance of goodies is that even the dumbest movie assumes the significance of a major artistic, cultural, social and historical achievement requiring respectful and scholarly veneration and adulation. But someone forgot to tell them it’s only a movie. It’s not the Second Coming - though if you watch the special edition DVD you will know that it was more expensive to stage than the actual second coming will be to implement.

Take Once Upon a Time in the West , for example. It’s a spaghetti western. Great camera work, evocative music, grand locations, a reworking of every western cliche ever devised, all go to make it a pleasant enough time passer - but its still just a spaghetti western. However watching the extras included on the DVD one would think that it ranks up there with the works of William Shakespeare, or that it single-handedly brought about the end of Communism and the fall of the Berlin Wall. So we have Sir Christopher Frayling recounting why Sergio Leone is indeed the William Shakespeare of spaghetti westerns and film director Alex Cox(!) musing about the film's political subtext.

Since when did directing movies qualify as a moral achievement? Since when did acting become a virtuous undertaking? Since when did making any movie end third world poverty, prevent war or reduce crime?

Many of the documentaries on such DVDs are nothing more than puff pieces in which a bunch of privileged and cossetted sybarites fawn over each other, gushing about the profundity of the experience of being in each other's company, how wonderful each other is, and what a privilege it was to work with such and such an icon, and how incredibly gifted he/she is as an actor/director/cameraman/spokesman-for-world-peace or whatever. After a while it becomes numbing watching a bunch of drama queens, spoilt brats and chardonnay socialists raving on about peace, love and understanding and "the work" which in their minds are one and the same thing. Give me a break.

So why are we so obsessed about movies and the making of movies?

The obsessions and predilections of insular and incestuous Hollywood celebrities have become the obsessions and predilections of us all simply because film is such a powerful medium. We all love to watch. Movies are the ultimate form of voyeurism - that's entertainment - but, in the bigger scheme of things they are not that important - though from the Special Edition you would be mistaken for thinking they are the only important thing.

10:11:00 am