As a founding member of the Independent Directors Committee of the Directors Guild of America (along with Steven Soderbergh, Spike Jonze and Michael Apted), I think Kenneth Turan couldn't be more right ("New Cinema's Heartless Beat," Dec. 2).
But the crisis of postmodernism (detached irony and heartless cynicism) in the cinema doesn't lie collectively with the filmmakers; it is a result of the distribution apparatus and the New York literati, specifically the New York Times.
There are plenty of gifted young filmmakers who explore basic human emotions without pretense or cynical flair--look at Tony Barbieri's "One" or Rob Schmidt's "Saturn."
The problem is that these young directors simply don't get distribution. Why? Because the powerhouse New York Times for the last two decades has generally celebrated those auteurists who take pride in exploring the navel and genitalia over the human heart. As long as film distributors gauge their decisions on what they perceive the New York Times will like, then postmodernism and the shadow of Marcel Duchamp (both now artistic cliches) will continue to dominate American independent film.
After attending film festivals all over the world, I've learned that the real irony in all this is that audiences generally don't care for these kinds of movies. No wonder independent film every year continues to lose money. The whole dynamic is upside down in which a few elitists back East dictate the choices we have in theaters.
Twenty years ago, art critic Hilton Kramer fled the New York Times because he saw this very same crisis dominating the fine-art world--a world in which the human spirit continues to take a back seat to the literati's masturbatory love of sewer culture.
As a young cinephile, I feel Turan and the Calendar section in general could stand to be a little less condescending when it comes to the cinema taste of the young people of Los Angeles.
I find nothing "heartless" about the new art cinema Turan wrote about. "Amelie," a perfectly enchanting film about love and coincidence, did not feel heartless to me. I was completely engaged with the small emotional losses and victories in films like "Bottle Rocket" and "Rushmore."
Our art-house cinema does not have the laurels Turan and his generation have bestowed upon Truffaut, Godard, Rivette, Rohmer or whomever you want to ramble on about. It is rather unfair to compare one generation's art-house cinema to another's, or to assume, dude, that we have no feeling or understanding of them simply because some of us might be attracted to a film like "Requiem for a Dream." Tastes change; some films are not engineered for a critic like Turan to love. He cannot deny that while he was championing "Raging Bull" decades ago, older critics were denouncing it.
Directors mature, they grow and they change along with the world around them. Don't write us off yet; you don't know what sort of tricks we have up our collective sleeves.
Although I applaud Turan for taking the occasional brave position (calling "Traffic" out for failing to take a position on the drug issue, for instance), if he has reached the point where he can lump together films as diverse as "Audition" and "American Psycho" with "Rushmore" and "Waking Life," there is only one conclusion: He is hopelessly out of touch.
Yes, as he writes, when he was younger he was "interested in films outside the Hollywood mainstream." But now he works in that mainstream, so it's not surprising he seems threatened by the few films brave and angry enough to offer something different.