Arno Widmann Denounces Trash

My enthusiasm for Antonioni exists, but has clear and well-defined borders. The reason? I’ve actually met people here in Europe very much like the people who populate his early films — self-involved aristocrats and bohemians with no visible means of support.

The mere fact that they’re the sort of people who populated Antonioni’s universe doesn’t meant they’re worthy of being filmed. As the Pet Shop Boys once put it, "We were never feeling bored / ‘Cause we were never being boring." The inert half-humans in Antonioni’s European films look so gorgeously, langorously bored because they are boring. And it’s pretty hard to make an interesting film about boring people, although Antonioni came as close as anyone. When he left Europe, though, he was capable of making some truly stunning films ("Red Desert"; "The Passenger.")

But now to German Arno Widmann. Widmann read the New York Times’ massive obituary of the Italian director, and had a few thoughts on ennui-laced Europeans and chirpy, superficial Americans. The piece ends, as so many things you read in European newspapers do, with a denunciation of pop culture:

The New York Times entitled its obituary of Italian film director Michelangelo Antonioni – whose literary works are unfortunately little-known – with the words: "A Chronicler of Alienated Europeans in a Flimsy New World." The title underscores the hopelessness of Old Europe’s position. Even before the article began, it made clear how small and thoroughly passé the Old Europe – and one of its most astute representatives – look in the new world of the present.

***

But when nothing is questioned any more, when only laughter counts, when people over 60 watch film-versions of Rosamunde Pilcher romances and anyone younger watches comedy, the time has come to seek once more the earnestness we’re making fun of. When everything had to be tone-in-tone, when a tight-fitting suit and teased hair were the ne plus ultra of the feminine aesthetic, it was good to throw a little dirt on the cream-coloured costumes. But nowadays when trash rules, we feel a longing for the clear, full-screen beauty of the young Monica Vitti.

13 thoughts on “Arno Widmann Denounces Trash

  1. From the linked article:The New York Times entitled its obituary of Italian film director […]Entitled?? Sounds like dictionary English to me, I haven’t seen this word in this context before. On my planet we say “titled”. Maybe he should go out and live in the real world for a while before he writes condescending pieces on anyone.P.S.: Googling for “entitled” I found this cute Onion piece which reminds me of, erm, people eager to dictate what anyone may think or not. Take note: Your attitude is now officially satirical.

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  2. P.P.S.: What’s with the bold highlighting of terms in the text? The other dimwit linked to the other day, the one that couldn’t cope with not getting anywhere with his failed English, had a similar shtik. Sort of like the Bild Zeitung which uses the same style to pound their basic message into their simpleton readers’ heads. Makes you wonder what those blog writers think of their target audience’s IQ.

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  3. I think the Onion makes an excellent point, Martin. Positive measures should be taken to filter the 38% who are not entitled to hold an opinion from the voting populace. A poll test would be an excellent measure.

    Consider the 2004 election which Kerrey lost 51-49. Had a poll test been administered to remove the 38% from the body politic Kerry would have won a landslide 49-13! In 2000 there would have been no ‘chads’ controversy – Gore would have won 50-12!

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  4. The bold-face highlighting is an idiosyncrasy of “Sign and Sight,” a website that (among other things) provides synopses of the feuilleton pages of many German dailies, such as the one that was linked and excerpted here. It’s not a “blog” except in the broadest sense, and as far as I can see it’s not in the business of “writing condescending pieces” either.

    The original article is here.

    The summary was translated by John Lambert, who “was born in Ottawa in 1960 and grew up in Vancouver. He studied Asian studies and philosophy and has worked as journalist, actor, literary translator and ski instructor.”

    All this was very easy to find out, requiring no use of Google.

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  5. “And it’s pretty hard to make an interesting film about boring people”

    By and large, that is what “The Life Of Others” was all about, terribly boring people watching other boring people living their boring lives in the most boring country on earth, the GDR.

    In this regard, I feel rather European in that I personally prefer the few interesting films about boring people to the mass of boring films about interesting people.

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  6. Still quoting PSB(love that!):

    …”And we were never holding back or worried that
    Time would come to an end”…

    Is this death of directors like Ingmar Bergman and Antonioni one more sign that the “boring people” are disappering from the european “fauna”?

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  7. @DonIt isn’t even clear to me whether you are ridiculing the Onion or joining the Onion in ridiculing those people that like to dictate opinions (and by extension, voter eligibility). In your favor I am assuming the latter, but hey, we’re on a blog here of someone that in all seriousness endorses exactly what you jokingly suggested.

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  8. @SebastianI am sensing that you are trying to contradict me, but being born in Ottawa doesn’t prevent anyone from being detached from the real world, the usage of “entitled” is still a sign of said detachment and accusing someone of not recognizing some ostensibly required earnestness is still condescending.That leaves still leaves the question why the blog web site with daily postings exhibits the same shtik idiosyncrasy as the Bild Zeitung.

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  9. @martin:

    I am sensing that you are trying to contradict me, but being born in Ottawa doesn’t prevent anyone from being detached from the real world, the usage of “entitled” is still a sign of said detachment and accusing someone of not recognizing some ostensibly required earnestness is still condescending.

    Well, he’s very likely a native speaker, so he can probably judge how it sounds just like you can. Other than that – I find the idea that someone who occasionally writes in an unusual or “dictionary-like” style doesn’t live “in the real world” or is “detached” a bit silly.

    As for the bold-face, I assume it’s supposed to be helpful for people who skim over the articles looking for interesting subjects or persons. That’s just my speculation, though. It would be sad if writers eschewed ways to make their writings more accessible in order not to look like they consider their readers stupid. My vast intellectual capacities, for example, may have better applications than reading feuilleton pages 😉

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  10. @martin,

    Irony, martin? Moi? Mon Diue! Non, c’est incroyable!

    The fact is that allowing people like myself the franchise is a pollution of true democracy, ‘democracy’ being defined as rule by Democrats. Anyone not self-identified as a ‘Democrat’ should not be allowed to pollute the ‘Democratic’ process by voting.

    As an intermediate step I have advocated the use of ‘exit polls’ in determining election results in lieu of the outdated practice of counting. The science of statistical sampling is so far advanced that it can more accurately reflect the will of the people than any mere actual count can possibly do.

    Consider the drawbacks of voting compared with scientific sampling. Counting heads of those holding the US franchise excludes the righteous opinions of so many people. Felons & ex-felons (in some states), children, illegal immigrants, Europeans – all are arbitrarily excluded.

    By contrast a scientific sample can be designed to include the opinions of all thse deserving people – whilst filtering out the unjust influence of knuckle-dragging subhuman scum such as myself!

    What’s not to like? 😉

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  11. “chirpy, superficial Americans.”

    I resemble that remark!. Chirpy, chimpy – what is the difference? Merely a couple of letters and I cannot spell anyways….

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  12. > But nowadays when trash rules, we feel a longing for the clear, full-screen beauty of the young Monica Vitti

    Amen. I agree that we can do without Widmann’s poo-pooing, and Antonioni did really make a fuss of the importance of being boring, but his very good idea of having la Vitti being the mainstay of his languid obsessions makes it all up …to some old farts at least. btw: it’s little know that Vitti had an immense comical talent, that unfortunately didn’t find a congenial director to realise. It explains however, here popularity in Italy’s light hearted TV shows of the 70ies and 80ies. Silly all of them, but I’d watch them again till the eyeballs pop just to enjoy la Monica.

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  13. See? I made it, again, using the M or I word not even once. But I truly wonder if I should add Martin to that list of little things that are truly uncomfortable to your buttocks, if you know what I mean.

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