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  •  READER COMMENTS

    Reader comments on The Dreamers

    Subject: Re: use spellcheck before you insult the reviewers
    Date: Mar 9, 2006
    Sender: JoshuaPrevious | Next

    Dear Theo -

    I realize that you left your comment almost a year ago, but I just now noticed the question you wrote in German at the end and thought I would send you an answer.

    You asked, essentially, why is it that the most conservative version of a country's culture is the one that travels to foreign countries? That seems like a pretty good question, if true. I don't know whether I agree with it or not.

    There was a good article (on Slate, I think) published around the time of last year's Oscars, talking about the global acceptance of American films. It said that the biggest American films are not set in America -- they're set in a fantasy environment that can be experienced equally easily by audiences anywhere in the world. I think their main example was "Spider-Man."

    And then it made a point about the movie "Sideways" -- that this kind of independent movie is completely different from the blockbuster action movie because it has a specific sense of place and the people in it. And in that way, the article said, "Sideways" is really a foreign film made in America. So maybe the point is, we export two versions of our culture -- one that's pure entertainment, which millions of people see, and one that's grounded in real lives, which thousands of people see.

    One thing I think you can say about conservatism in culture is that mass culture tends not to challenge mass sensibilities, and you could call that conservative. But at the same time, mass culture is not all that we export. There are perhaps two separate film cultures, and our independent film culture fits into a much more open and daring world film culture. Even the five Oscar nominees this year were on the big-budget end of that culture, none of them were conservative, and I thought three of them ("Munich," "Capote," "Good Night and Good Luck") were very meaningful. (I usually find almost all the Oscar nominees stupefying, but this was an unusual year.)

    The rest of your comment tags me as essentially conservative, which really is not correct. The funny thing about running this site is that people tend to angrily lash out at me when I write a negative review of an artistic film. It's as if every "art" film is automatically brilliant and I'm an ignorant jerk if I don't say so. But not every art film is brilliant, by a longshot. Many are just obscure for the sake of seeming brilliant by their incomprehensibility. (That's my opinion, of course, but I'm sticking by it.)

    So the readers write in and say I must be some kind of Hollywood-loving dimwit, because I criticized their favorite movie. (Many accuse me of liking "Maid in Manhattan," which apparently is the gold standard of Hollywood dimwit-ism.) But I think you have to be willing to criticize independent and foreign films when you don't think they're good -- otherwise, what kind of critic are you?

    In this case, I did like "The Dreamers," but I didn't like all aspects of it. I just thought the parts where the young people were flaunting their cinematic sophistication (which was actually the director flaunting his cinematic sophistication) were pretentious. Others may disagree, of course. But those parts of the film reminded me of film critics I sometimes see at screenings who have spent so much of their cushy lives immersed in the film-industry world that they no longer know there's a real world that other people live in. They become incredibly narrow. I've tried to scrupulously avoid becoming that person.

    Really, say you were at a party and met one of these people -- how long would you want to talk to a person whose entire conversation consisted of film references? That would get annoying really fast. Those people have lost their souls. So that's what I disliked about "The Dreamers." I thought their sexual experimentation reflected some engagement with real life, while their film obsession reflected a basic confusion of entertainment with reality. It doesn't matter to me whether their references are to "The Blue Angel" or "Maid in Manhattan."

    So that's my opinion of the film. I don't think it's conservative as such. I think it reflects some basic values about what's important and genuine in life.

    Joshua

    P.S. I found the link to that Slate article: Link



    Previous: use spellcheck before you insult the reviewers | Next: Re: You pretencious son of a bitch

    Respond to this message | Return to original article: The Dreamers



    Response to this comment:
    use spellcheck before you insult the reviewers

    a meta-comment to mr. no-name, who dissed pepe.
    pepe's comment was certainly emotionally loaded, but actually does follow sound argumentative process by offering a plausible hypothesis for the oddly repressed p.o.v. from which joshua tanzer develops most of his critique. pepe uses this as a foreground for his next comment ("you are sick mate") and concludes by offering the richard cline comparison in lieu of a lengthier counter-critique of his own. all-in-all, a concise, functional critique of a critique. check that in americansese, yo! dat meanz pepe's shit is fire on ice, an yo's just stinkt of anglocentrism. as if orthography and grammar have any relevance in internet fora as long as the argument is understandable and sound. "spellcheck?" you say? think there aren't any other people on the web besides the anglo minority? "overintelectual" doesn't even produce a spell-check suggestion! "intelectual" does, but then again, so does "becuase" and you obviously HAVE a spell-checker! elena's comment a bit later has commas dancing all over the place like happy crickets, but does that take away from her argument? no. and kozan doesn't even answer in english! go dnemark! the anglocentric spell-check thang is damn tiring. doesn't have any dialectical value, y'knowwhaddimean??? and just so that this comment doesn't merely have metadialectical value...

    "on the negative effect of artsy-fartsy intellectualism on otherwise 'good' movies"

    there is an odd longing for the conservative lurking beneath joshua tanzer's critique of "The Dreamers". "annoying people...getting out of annoying clothing"? at first i tried to read this neutrally. annoying characters, chracters with flaws, characters who commit hubris can certainly be positive elements in a film. they remind us of how diverse people really are outside of the suburbian monoculture. but as i read on, it became clear this really was meant as a negative description. "...good movie in annyoing movie's clothing"? "If you could skim away all the film-studies crud, you'd have a more intense little film about sexual adventure". there is an intense longing in these statements for a one-dimensional, perfect-world, pleasantvillesque (pre-color), boy-meets-girl, -boy-falls-in-love, -has-crisis, -but-gets-girl-(and a new hummer h2???)in-the-end-and-lives-happily-ever-after movie. everything else, according to tanzer exists only in the intellectuals' "twisted little world". i think everybody has had (or will have) a crazy experience or met (or will meet) a completely whacked-out, but equally mesmerizing person, that jolts you out of the daily rut and fills your life with as much anguish and indecision as happiness (cool!). the film is as much a reminder of such experiences as it that life isn't about collecting comforts and riches, but about living life richly. in this sense "Great Films" DO enrich our lives. that is, if you're not already living life with this kind of intensity and fearlessness in the face of the unexpected or the unconventional. hey, i know people who live lives that would enrich the film industry! perhaps when you grow up in a culture where life and people are hopelessly stereotyped, anything else really would seem "intellectual", "artsy-fartsy European" or "French" and therefore "annoying". but, personally, i don't think so. sure, european society can at times be a catalyst for surprising encounters in contrast to, say, the states. but, in the end, life's only as stereotyped as you want it to be. i think we should be happy that there are films that can be appreciated at the level of the boy-meets-girl story AND AT THE SAME TIME be appreciated at a literary, historical, film-historical and philosophical level. everybody in the audience get's something! the smart ones get something, twice! i mean, hot damn! f**k MY brain! sex is in the loins the heart AND the head!
    in the end, i was happy because it WASN'T yet-another-boy-meets-girl-film (set in los angeles instead of, say... berlin! read "city of angels" vs "himmel ber berlin", heh!)
    und noch ein letztes fr herrn tanzer. ich habe beobachtet, in fllen wie kitchener-waterloo und berlin, und qubec c. und paris, dass es die konservativsten "versionen" einer kultur immer im "ausland" gibt. wie kommt das eigentlich?






    Comment index:

  • You pretencious son of a bitch   from Pepe, Feb 9, 2004
  • Re: You pretencious son of a bitch   from , Feb 23, 2004
  • use spellcheck before you insult the reviewers   from theo (no relation), May 25, 2005
  • » Re: use spellcheck before you insult the reviewers «   from Joshua, Mar 9, 2006
  • Re: You pretencious son of a bitch   from Carmel, Jun 7, 2006
  • Re: You pretencious son of a bitch   from , Jan 8, 2007
  • Re: You pretencious son of a bitch   from Joe, Mar 19, 2007
  • Re: You pretencious son of a bitch   from Joe, Mar 19, 2007
  • cdfiev   from kozan, Nov 24, 2004
  • dreamers   from elena, Jan 12, 2005
  • Re: dreamers   from Angel, Apr 2, 2005
  • TRUE   from SUZAN, Feb 15, 2005
  • [no subject]   from KittyKatMeowz, Jun 19, 2005
  • [no subject]   from abc, Sep 6, 2005
  • Bisexualism   from Bethany, Feb 22, 2006
  • Re: Bisexualism   from apaches, Feb 25, 2006
  • hi   from rene ramirez, Mar 11, 2009
  • Love   from mario ciaparrone, May 29, 2010
  • You pretencious son of a bitch   from Pepe, Feb 9, 2004
  • Re: You pretencious son of a bitch   from , Feb 23, 2004
  • use spellcheck before you insult the reviewers   from theo (no relation), May 25, 2005
  • » Re: use spellcheck before you insult the reviewers «   from Joshua, Mar 9, 2006
  • Re: You pretencious son of a bitch   from Carmel, Jun 7, 2006
  • Re: You pretencious son of a bitch   from , Jan 8, 2007
  • Re: You pretencious son of a bitch   from Joe, Mar 19, 2007
  • Re: You pretencious son of a bitch   from Joe, Mar 19, 2007
  • cdfiev   from kozan, Nov 24, 2004
  • dreamers   from elena, Jan 12, 2005
  • Re: dreamers   from Angel, Apr 2, 2005
  • TRUE   from SUZAN, Feb 15, 2005
  • [no subject]   from KittyKatMeowz, Jun 19, 2005
  • [no subject]   from abc, Sep 6, 2005
  • Bisexualism   from Bethany, Feb 22, 2006
  • Re: Bisexualism   from apaches, Feb 25, 2006
  • hi   from rene ramirez, Mar 11, 2009
  • Love   from mario ciaparrone, May 29, 2010