9 January 2001 | John-405
Remember when art films weren't "independent films"?
Remember when art films weren't directed by teenagers for teenagers? Remember when they didn't have anything to do with pop culture. Remember when there was actually something as an adult culture?
Neither do I. But there must be some old people out there who do.
"Independent films", a new genre that has replaced what used to be called "art films", are not worthy of their name. They're, on the whole, hip, mass-marketed screwball comedies, "chick flicks", novelty films, etc. Little other than budget separates an "independent film" from a slick, cynical Hollywood marketing effort. In fact, many independent films are slick, cynical Hollywood marketing efforts.
Seeing Judy Berlin is what it used to be like seeing art films. The very fact that nothing in it is designed to shock or surprise you will shock and surprise you. The very fact that nothing in it was test-screened for maximal emotional manipulation will maximally emotionally manipulate you. The fact that no surprising plot twists were inserted to make you want to go see it again will so surprise you that you will want to see it again.
This is not necessarily an endorsement. But I want to stress that this is a film that will not remind you of any other film. It will not be die hard on an anything. It doesn't count Gilligan's Island and My Favorite Martian among its influences, but Checkhov, Camus and Bergman--the sorts of things you've been taught to think are pretentious and stodgy. It is something new--even dare I say it, experimental. Gasp! Avant garde. It wasn't made to make the most money possible. There will be no toy tie-in available with your happy meal.
Whatever you think of this film, cherish it as a kind of throwback, a one-in-a-million, the last dodo bird yet living.