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

Rogers, Ivor A.
Notes and discussion: [extrapolative cinema],   pp. [286]-291 PDF (6.1 MB)

Page 287

III    I                 a    I
The science fiction film has been the
"closet case" of the serious film critic. If
the film is any good, it is seldom
labeled SF, but every film
that violates science, art, truth, and
beauty is invariably mislabeled
SCIENCE FICTION. This situation probably
originated with a producer who,
knowing nothing of science except that he
"didn't understand it," constructed a
pot-bellied syllogism (undistributed
middle) of, "Everything I don't
understand is Science." This mutated to
the point that every film which violated
the canons of belief was labeled
science fiction. The situation has not
been helped by those film
critics who seem to understand
Krafft-Ebing better than the Second Law of
Thermodynamics. Indeed, there even
seems to be a vogue in film
criticism, which for want of a better term
might be labeled the Buck Rogers
Syndrome, that considers any film
containing a space vehicle as fit fare for
". . . children of all ages."
It is far past time to claim respectability for
the science fiction or extrapolative film.
As Susan Sontag pointed out in her
rather uninformed but stimulating article,
"The Imagination of Disaster,"
it is relatively easy to represent visual
catastrophe but quite difficult to provide
an intellectual workout, which is the real
mission and challenge of SF.
Miss Sontag has clearly seen the failings
and inadequacies of the films detailing
the radioactive and hyperthyroid
monsters that have been spawned in
countless special effects laboratories. There
is some question as to whether
or not these films should even be
considered as true SF, but Miss Sontag has
failed to consider the best of the
extrapolative films in her article.
As Carlos Clarens, a far more perceptive
critic of the SF film, has observed,
many recent films have turned
away from the glorification of disaster and
the placid recounting of technological
marvels to a more mature
introspection of man and his deeds. This
is partly due to the fact that important
directors have begun to work in the
genre. (A Western directed by
John Ford, while still in the
Western genre, has more depth and
psychological significance than the average
"B" Western produced by Monogram
or Republic.) With the advent
of directors like Kubrick, Truffaut,
Hitchcock, and Godard into the field we
are assured, if not better SF films,
at least a higher level of craftsmanship.
This influence has even been felt
in television, where we are finally permitted
to see "aliens from outer space" who
are not foam rubber abominations
(The Invaders) and a TV series (Star Trek)
that is willing to discuss serious themes

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