Mohsin Khan compares foreign arthouse to eating cornflakesForeign art-house cinéma: it makes you think of cultured ideas and high-brow creativity. The reality? Boredom, immaturity, wanton shock, and two minutes of cleverness stuck in an epilogue for the critics.
Take Tarvosky’s Solaris. It has a ten minute long scene, shot from the back of a car, as it goes down a road. There’s no dialogue, no emotions seen, nothing besides a Soviet bloke with a muppet haircut driving. There’s not even a traffic light changing colours. Whatever purpose the scene served, three minutes would have been enough. Or thirty seconds. The director said it was deliberately boring. If I want to be bored, I can eat some cornflakes. Evoking the existential feeling of ennui is showing me nothing new.
Nor is showing me random out-of-focus penises on a street corner in the first five minutes. French films love doing that. We’re not talking about a naked person in a bathroom doing something useful like peeing or changing clothes or having an orgy. We’re talking penises in public during daytime. For no reason. Why? I never see men walking around unzipped in Paris, so why do I see it in their films? Still think French films are high-brow? Lowest-weird-denominator, more like. What they forget is that gratuitous shocking cannot stand on its own – there has to be some meaning behind it.
Then you have the pompous narrators. Art-house loves blokes who jump in randomly, talk for twenty minutes while staring at the sky, and then return you to the film. Film is not an audiobook – what happened to show, not tell? And the dialogue in art-house films is freaky. Even with the translation. “I bless the day I was made immune to you and all your kind” (Anatomie de l’Enfer) – Who, in the 21st Century, talks to a stranger like that? Who?
Oh, and they love water. Maybe it’s because foreigners don’t live on an island, but when you see your fiftieth ocean “metaphor”, it gets a bit tiresome. There’s only so much you can see in an iceberg. Unless you crash into it.
Foreign films also have names for buildings and companies that sound like something out of Monty Python. Can you imagine a gay nightclub seriously calling itself “Club Rectum” (from the otherwise-perfect Irréversible)? With a patron named ‘le Tenia’ (the tapeworm. Now there’s a name that GCSE French missed)? It’s just like a tute essay: art-house just “blags” from nothing!