American Writer comments.
Mr. Ganesh basking in all that relished L.A. sunshine– has he missed Andre Bazin’s ‘What Is Cinema’ volumes I and II, or the ‘Cahiers du Cinéma, The 1950sNeo-Realism, Hollywood, New Wave Cahiers du Cinéma, The 1950s’ or the more assessableand readable Films in my Life by François Truffaut? Not to forget the part that Andrew Sarris played in practicing/promoting the French New Wave and the ‘auteur theory’. For one so enamored by all things American, Mr. Ganesh seems out of his depth. The influence of the French New Wave and the ‘auteur theory’, argued for and practiced by critics like Sarris, was about the legitimatizing of the practice of Film Criticism, as essential to the evaluation and ranking of popular entertainment.
Mr. Ganesh grouses about having to waste his ‘L.A. sunshine’ seeing a movie that he is being paid to review.
The grandiose silliness of Dune cost me 155 minutes of LA sunshine. It might be the handsomest thing committed to screen since Lawrence of Arabia. I even detected one smirk in its po face: characters liken fear to a “little death”, which director Denis Villeneuve must know is French slang for orgasm.
Absent from this essay is Mr. Ganesh’s talent for producing beguiling aphorisms!
Back, for just one moment, to Bazin’s ‘What is Cinema’ volume I and its opening essay that mentions the ‘mummy complex’
Mr. Ganesh points to an intellectualising of popular culture. The books mentioned, offer film criticism, that are the successors to Bazin: although some may be attached to Bazin’s concepts, Truffaut transcends Bazin’s ‘gaudy intellectualism’ and is a devotee, an enthusiast, and finally a practitioner of the cinematic art of story telling.
Let me speculate a bit Mr. Ganesh’s travels in L.A.: he never goes further south than Pico and Western, even though there is some great Barbecue down La Brea and/or Crenshaw! Surely Mr. Ganesh stays within the parameters of West L A. ,Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, Pacific Palisades and Malibu, with side trips up to Santa Barbara and Montecito?
If the reader is patient she eventually arrives at the ‘why’ of this ‘intellectualising of popular culture’ :
I can also venture a guess as to why this is happening. In the America of 1990, 24 per cent of men and 18 per cent of women had four years of college education. The numbers are now 37 and 38. The spread of higher education (a British trend, too) is an emancipating force. But no social change is without its perverse consequences. The academic Peter Turchin traces “woke” culture to the rage of a generation of underemployed humanities graduates, for instance.
There is now a large slice of society that has been drilled in a certain kind of conceptual waffle. It has the tools to over-analyse and ultimately overrate what would’ve been enjoyed as Jurassic Park-style fun in the 1990s. It has coincided with the tech-enabled expansion of the media, with its endless space to fill. The very finitude of newspapers and TV culture shows forced critics to be selective in what they took seriously or covered at all. Now, Netflix can count on essayistic treatment of what its latest jabbering emission “means”.
With the bit between his teeth, Mr. Ganesh reaches full gallop: the villain is the over educated masses, the underemployed humanities graduates, per Peter Turchin, with too much time on their hands, and overactive Prefrontal Cortex:- this reads like a toxic amalgam of Jorden Peterson, Steven Pinker and Jonathan Haidt! Not missing the fact that it is pima facie anti-intellectual !
What the patient reader discovers, is that in lieu of those polished aphorisms, they get this shadow, of what was the only compelling thing, of any of Ganesh’s essays, those arresting apercus!
“The mystery of life isn’t a problem to solve,” says someone in Dune, “but a reality to experience.” That wouldn’t make it past the quality-control people at Hallmark Cards. When the original novel came out, it would’ve been taken for what it is: a fine line within its genre, a breather in a dense plot. We are now invited to turn it over in our heads like a Montaigne gem. The point of an ever-smarter society was to popularise the intellectual. It was harder to foresee the intellectualisation of the popular.
This is the Age of Criticism, nothing is beyond its evaluations, and the debates that ensue from disagreement!