I confess I have a problem that no self-respecting university educated man or woman should admit to. Most art house films bore me. Even many of the ones I profess to like I watch as if I’m doing something good for myself like eating broccoli.
I have no such problem with literary novels. My enjoyment of these is genuine and heartfelt, so why not 99 percent of art house films?
Well for a start I think many art house films take the medium away from its core strengths – the ability to tell a story through powerful imagery and simple carefully chosen dialogue.
In the art house world these ingredients are replaced by quirky characters and dialogue that seemed aimed to share some in-joke that only the film makers know about, along with the misguided notion that slow pacing somehow equals greater depth. It doesn’t – it just equals greater slowness.
In fact, that is the key to what I don’t like about art house. Its filmmakers behave as if cinema is an intellectual medium like the novel, which I believe, is not the case.
Film quite literally lacks depth and any attempt to give it this depth becomes merely self-conscious and mannered. Can you really blame the average French cinema goer for not wanting to see the latest Jean Luc Godard effort over say Lawrence of Arabia?
Of course some supposedly art house films don’t do this but at that point I’d argue that the only thing that makes them art house is usually that they’re in another language. In their essence they’re just a more tasteful version of Hollywood fare.
In the end I’m reminded of Preston Sturges classic ‘Sullivan’s travels’ in which he makes the point that where as many actors want to make message films to tell the truth about real life and its hardships, those people living real life want to escape that drudgery and want to be entertained or have a good laugh. To often art house cinema does neither.