Here’s a link to an interesting article on the current state of Hollywood. I basically agree with most of what it says, but not having grown up in the late 60s to early 70s (the last “Golden Age” period that everyone agrees on) I couldn’t comment on the interface between the cultural and political climate and the films produced in that period; one of the more important aspects of film criticism, in my opinion.
Film writer David Thomson, the interviewee in this article, says at one point:
The trouble these days is that the kind of film we used to be proudest of–the film that met a general standard of seriousness, intelligence, and sociopolitical awareness–has been all but lost. And anyone in Hollywood today will tell you that. You take Chinatown to a studio today and they’re probably not going to make it.
Of course, not every great film of that period was motivated by political dissent. But a lot of films of that time tapped into a sense of growing paranoia and disillusionment about the government of the time. Conversely, today we have probably more access to independant (in both origin and outlook) films than ever before, but almost none of them seem to tell us anything about the society we live in.
Film may be an art form more concerned with entertainment than with its older counterparts, but that’s no reason why the classic films full of comment on the way we live our lives have no modern equivalent. There’s an approximation of sorts in the new wave of documentaries, such as The Corporation, most of which were made possible by the popular success of Michael Moore’s Farenheit 9/11. But fiction, whether blockbuster or indie, remains stranded in a realm of cute fantasy.
This is not to say that cinema is in an unstoppable downward spiral. The last two films I saw at the CFF were highly political films, in the sense of being concerned both about the state of government and how people live their lives. John Sayles’ Silver City and Paul Haggis’ Crash are exciting, challenging films which spell the way forward for socially conscious film-making. Let’s hope there are enough people willing to take that road.