There are two types of great writing: philosophical and artistic. Philosophical writing tends to emphasize content over style, exploring truth in more direct terms, while artistic writing emphasizes style over content, being more ornate and linguistically aesthetic, and exploring truth in a completely different way. The two types often blend together for maximum precision and beauty. Both, done well, can be magnificent. Nonfiction tends to exhibit the former, and fiction the latter, although the more straightforward style can be found in fiction, and deft artfulness can surely be found in much nonfiction.
All methods of human expression are puny and imprecise.
Film is a fine medium, but honestly, most movies -- and by most I mean almost all of them -- are not very good. I don't know whether it's an institutional lack of rigor, or the desire to please crowds and make money (by appealing to a low common denominator), or what, but it seems, to me, as if the medium is almost wasted. I would very much like to see more better directors, but alas, I do have some inkling that the politics of the industry are extremely nasty and undesirable. A young, bright filmmaker who could be very good might not even get a chance -- or if given one not want to take it. I don't think filmmaking is in a very good place.
Aleister Crowley contended that the two best writings in the English language are those of Shakespeare and the Bible.
All of our intellectual enterprises, philosophy, art, music, science, literature, film, etc. are quite wonderful and, for some, make life worth living. But I'm not sure any of it really matters in a cosmically meaningful sense. One could dump it all and not change much in the way of man's legacy.
A well-executed aphorism is one of the most effective vehicles of meaning the written word can convey.
To look at a Monet is to gaze at genius.
Art tells us what we know and what we don't know we know (cf. Burroughs). It makes a statement, and if that statement resonates with truth, the artist has probably done something.
Kubrick directed his movies in an evolutionary way. He didn't so much have fixed, created ideas for what he wanted, but relied on circumstance for selection of the ideas of others based upon what came up, and developed a production in this way toward a finished product. He was something like a master conductor -- making executive decisions, but not precisely controlling that which he decided upon. He was more of a great craftsman than full of original ideas. And that's fine; he was one of the greatest filmmakers ever to live. He understood how to get what he wanted in a film.
Books aren't as real as films, but they do convey information at a much higher and richer resolution.
Great art is an ingenious device -- one which proves its merits to you from within itself through the symbolic and often allegorical message its architect has created. Coming away from mediocre art is an unremarkable experience, but taking in great art leaves one feeling moved and edified. Great art proves its own point, the raising of which, ipso facto, is justified and necessary with regard to an understanding of the truth.
As Jim Morrison and Stanley Kubrick pointed out, film may well be the best artistic medium for conveying and in turn generating vivid emotional states in the audience. Writing is still the best medium for communicating information in general, but it cannot match motion pictures for the immersion the moviegoer experiences, the emotional response, and the investment and absorption in what is happening on the screen. (If, of course, the movie is any good)!
Poe once said that any phenomenon, anything, can be addressed through language. It strikes me that this is a minority opinion. I'm not sure whether I agree or not. I think I might.
Perhaps the lack of popularity of an idea or artwork can be a positive indicator of its true value? Do people always make much money off of the really good stuff?
With Nabokov, every sentence is a universe.
Well, the Hollywood studio system has pretty well made it so that a Stanley Kubrick will never happen again. After Strangelove and 2001, Warner Bros. basically told Kubrick he could do what he wanted -- which he did all the way through Eyes Wide Shut. Other directors of his ilk have gotten so disgusted with the studio system that they've just given up -- David Lynch springs to mind. A movie like A Clockwork Orange or 2001 could not get made today. No studio would put up the money for a questionable artistic movie that challenges and engages audiences on more than a superficial level. I'm sure whoever is reading this has noticed that the quality of movies has declined sharply; I can't even remember the last time I saw any need to see a movie at the theater. It's just all comic-book flicks and stupid comedies now. It's garbage. Movies like Taxi Driver, Barry Lyndon, any David Lynch movie, Chinatown, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, and even The Godfather, etc., etc. would very likely not get made today if they were pitched through the normal channels. There are many up-and-coming filmmakers that are just not going to get a first or second chance. The state of film as an art form is terribly brutalized right now. Kubrick's arrangement with Warner Bros. is unheard of in today's movie scene. When he died, so did that type of arrangement.
The Thin Red Line is all about the essence of reality, the eternal touching the temporary, good to be found among horror, the psychological intensity of battle, and promise in death. It is very nuanced, subtle, beautiful and yet true to the narrative of the war, which was ambiguous for everyone involved. Also the directing is phenomenal; it's simply a great movie. In Saving Private Ryan, Spielberg does not have the same light touch or the artistic skill that Malick does here, and other than the D-Day sequence which was extraordinary, I feel that the war effects in TRL measure up just fine to the bulk of those in SPR. There are really not many advantages to be found in Spielberg's vision over Malick's, and it's typical of the Academy to have awarded the former with several Oscars, and the superior latter with none.
Being an artist or a writer, even a good one, is a terrible and essentially impossible way to make a living, especially in today's hypercompetitive market. There's simply no money in it.
It has its drawbacks, but all in all, it's not too bad being an unemployable poet.
I think great art more or less speaks for itself. I can see that there is merit in seeing a painting or reading a poem with the meaning the artist or poet put into it, but I also see the merit in letting people interpret a given work however they see fit. It seems to me that the best stuff is more often than not open to interpretation. If someone were to read something I wrote and interpret it in a novel way -- in other words with a meaning I hadn't intended -- I would certainly have no problem with that, and would even encourage it.
How many people are there out there -- dozens, hundreds, thousands? -- who could direct a movie as well as Orson Welles, but will never, ever, be behind a camera? It's interesting to think about.
The collective arts and sciences of man are ultimately not worth much, in the cosmic scheme of things. We are so preoccupied by how important we feel our creations are; in reality, they are essentially worthless.
As far as my writing is concerned, I see most of it as pretty good, some of it as very good, and a portion of it as great. And I am contended with that.
My writing is not, probably, what one would call philosophically rigorous, but on the other hand, it is possibly more so than that sort of philosophy most scientists attach to things. Moreover, it's too mystical to be considered legitimately scientific, and too scientific to be considered legitimately mystical. I'm in a sort of limbo in the middle of everything.
Acting is a fine craft, but to very many people it seems to be the most important thing. I'm not sure why a facsimile of human behavior should be so important, other than the obvious reason that actors are very charismatic and people want a piece of them. There is such a thing as being "just an actor."
The writing profession has never been a less lucrative one. There are more writers per capita, and fewer positions per capita, than at any point in the history of the world. And most of the really good stuff doesn't make a lot of money.
Eyes Wide Shut is a cruel piece in a way, as it is almost meant to trick the people who don't understand it.
Bringing Out the Dead is a unique movie that details the life of a NYC ambulance medic who works graveyards and is hopelessly burned out. Nicholas Cage, as is often the case, is excellent as the medic who hasn't saved anyone in months, and has had it completely go to his head. He feels that the souls of departed victims watch over him as he fails to bring them back, sees the face of a former failed rescue victim on anyone and everyone, and hears voices from patients living and dead. One is led to think he is a little (or a lot) crazy, but I'm not so sure. When the line between life and death is so blurred, perhaps a little insanity is normal and healthy. Death is everywhere in this movie, and it almost becomes ho-hum, but Scorsese wants us to get inside the head of Cage's character, and he does a marvelous job of bringing this about. Some fast cuts, speeded up sequences, lighting that could not have been more perfect, and some delightfully unique shots illustrate the narrative throughout. In the final scene we come to realize that all we have in this life is each other, but when the cord is broken, or when one cannot make peace with death, maybe we cannot even have that for long. It's a reminder that life and death are right there together, intimately tied, and that it's hard not to get a little out of balance when we are unfortunate enough to be quite close to it.
I have no idea how I create what I create. It just happens. I squeeze, and out it comes. It's a total mystery.
"Excellent" and "profitable" are often not synonymous.
I often feel guilty watching a movie. A veritable army of people worked for over a year making it, slaving for thousands of man-hours, and here I am sitting in a chair, doing nothing, and it's over in two hours. As Kubrick noted, the filming of a movie is done in the worst possible artistic environment of any medium, and that only adds to my feeling. I would add to this that the medium of film has got to provide the worst return on investment of any artistic form. Filming a movie gives the filmmaker the greatest difficulty of perhaps any profession, notwithstanding the fact that a few of them make multiple millions. To slave for two years and have some critic dismiss your creation in three paragraphs has got to be infinitely frustrating. That said, many of us love the movies. But the ratio of result to effort is absurdly miniscule.
In my opinion, the best directing I have seen has come from Orson Welles, Stanley Kubrick, Francis Ford Coppola and John Huston. I don't think I have overstated.
The only -- and I mean only -- problem I have with the careers of both Welles and Kubrick, the two great giants of cinema, is that they generated such relatively little output. Welles was perpetually at loggerheads with the studios, and Kubrick only gave us eight movies in forty years. Their work was so good that it's a shame there's not more of it. A selfish sentiment, to be sure. But a widely held one, too. It must be stressed that, based on their respective lexicons, this is not really a criticism, but more of a lament.
Any good film must weave together both style and content; one without the other doesn't work. Any good filmmaker must, at every step of his creative process, create an interdependent and mutually buttressing harmony between form and content, or style and content. A film like Pulp Fiction may seem pretty good, but it is really nothing more than witty, snappy dialogue, and one can see that the movie has absolutely no sophistication when it comes to content. Nothing interesting really happens. A man like Stanley Kubrick was simply a master of being attentive to both, and the necessity of creating a fusion of both. This configuration and the skill in being able so artfully to craft it is one of the major reasons his career was so special.
One thing I would point out is that poetry and especially music are more intensely subjective than either film or prose. Poetry is sort of ephemeral, drawing out deep and complex emotions, or even salient philosophical subjects, but in a less direct way. And music is just pure subjectivity, in terms of how our minds interpret it.