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Kamarck, Edward (ed.) / Arts in society: confrontation between art and technology

Rosenberg, James
Notes and discussion: [report from Edinburgh],   pp. [262 and 263]-274 PDF (14.9 MB)

Page 270

and tossing the final couplet at us with
a spine-chilling mordancy that
gave the whole production an impact
(this was also during the Czechoslovak
crisis) even greater than - albeit
quite different from - what Brecht had
originally intended.
As yet, no Broadway or West End
producer has shown any interest whatever
in transferring this curious plant
to a commercial hothouse, nor are they
apt to, I fear, but in the unlikely
event of its finding its way to America,
I can only urge it as a "must"
for anyone interested in the craft of acting,
the art of the theatre, or the
science of life.
The Film Festival part of the Edinburgh
summer was something of an oddity,
featuring, and being built around,
three "gala" performances of three totally
commercial films: Nobody Runs Forever,
a conventional adventure thriller starring
Rod Taylor; and two films which
had already been seen in the U.S.,
to extremely mixed notices - Wild in the
Streets and Albert Finney's Charlie Bubbles.
The bulk of the Festival, however,
270     was made up of more "festival-type"
material - new and unknown films by
largely new and unknown directors,
many with a strongly Eastern European
tinge. One looked in vain for films
by the big names - Antonioni,
Fellini, Truffaut, Resnais, Kurosawa,
Bufluel, Bergman (although there was one
by the Bergman critic, Jorn Donner)-
or even by some of the younger
generation "old masters," Bellochio,
or Skolimowski, or Lelouch.
In fact, the only big name I recognized
instantly in leafing through my
program was Godard, and one of
the films I made a point of seeing was his
latest release, Weekend (at least, I assume
it is his latest; although, since
Godard has films the way rabbits have
rabbits, it is always hard to
keep up with him.)
To say that this was one of the
major scandals of the summer would
be an understatement. It was, to be sure,
not quite on a par with the Ken
Dewey "Happening" scandal of a few
summers back - for one thing, not so
many people saw it - but a good
many people did feel impelled to boo and
to demonstrate their displeasure
by walking out. It was hard to say
whether the protesters were animated by
aesthetic or political animus primarily,
since, in addition to containing
a number of prolonged and deliberately
tedious harangues against the imperialist
West generally and the U.S.A.
particularly, the film has more genuinely
disgusting and horrifying footage than
any I personally have seen
since Franju's legendary Blood of Beasts -
to which many of its sequences are
heavily indebted. Certainly you would be
wise, as a prospective viewer,
to skip dinner before you go (and
don't plan to eat afterwards, either; this
film should do more for the cause
of vegetarianism than Shaw ever did!)
In other words, it can hardly
be described as a pleasant or enjoyable
evening (to put it as mildly as possible, it is
not the ticket for the man who loved
Sound of Music). Yet that is
the whole point. Like most serious films
and plays today, it aims at being, not
a divertissement, but an experience - and,
as with any powerful or profound
experience, you are apt to emerge
from it shaken, upset, perhaps angry, almost
certainly confused. But this,
I'm sure, troubles Godard not a whit.
Gone is the good old 19th Century view
that art should provide moral uplift
and intellectual enlightenment. Clearly
Godard and his confreres (among
whom I include such figures as Genet,
Truffaut, Pinter, Peter Brook,
etc., etc.) believe that
they are dealing with an
audience of middle-class moral imbeciles
who are so anesthetized against every
free and honest human response
that they can only be roused from their
torpor by the shock tactics
of blasphemy, obscenity, violence, and
calculated lunacy. And who -
reading the headlines everyday-
is to say that they are seriously
mistaken? On the other hand, I think it is
Philistine short-sightedness, indeed,
to try to dismiss Weekend and other works
like it as sheer perverse
obscurantism and charlatanism.
There are, as always in Godard, some "cute"
and overly ingenious touches, but there
is no overlooking the intense moral
earnestness - one might say even,
moral naivete - of the work.

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