Wednesday, 20 August 2008


A good evening ended on a depressing note as I found myself up to my elbows in idiots over at the Internet Movie Database. I had gone there to find the name of an actor who had impressed me in a film I’d just finished. The actor’s name was Chiwetel Ejiofor and the film was ‘Redbelt’, the newest directorial feature by David Mamet and, I thought, one of his best.

Ostensibly, the film is about martial arts but on a more significant level it’s about art. It’s about the purity of a craft and how the commercial world too readily distends the strict limits of craft in order to make it more accessible to a larger audience. It’s how the swollen obscenities of WWF and cage fighting have replaced the traditional martial arts but the same concepts might be applied to any discipline. I suppose that's why I was attracted to the theme but I was also relishing some great Mamet dialogue (‘There's no one here but the fighters’ gave me a real shiver). However, the depressing part of this whole experience came when I foolishly began to read the comments appended to the ‘Redbelt’ page over there at the IMDB. Accusations that the film is 'slow', 'a mess', 'pointless', and 'full of plot holes' left me wondering why people, that great body of barely uninformed opinion, must always be so vocal when being so ignorant.

Now, I know this sounds arrogant of me. Who am I to say that they don’t understand film? But criticism is a craft and the great fallacy of ‘user created content’ is the assumption that anybody can create good content. It’s quite evidently wrong and for every two dozen ill informed reviews there are one or two worth reading. No great film has ever been made based on the opinion of an audience (as was demonstrated by ‘Snakes on a Plane’) and the Internet Movie Database project probably fails for the same reason. There are too many people who walk this world wearing their pretensions like a vulgar suit. I dislike the cut of their jackets, the garish clash of tie and sequinned cuffs. More disturbing is the way that people given a chance to criticise indulge themselves with an enthusiasm that wouldn’t go amiss in some Revolutionary mob. The lust to destroy what others set up is latent within us all but the true critic has tamed that unwholesome part of themselves. I wish that other people would do the same and approach art – whether it a film, novel, poetry, painting, play, or even blog – in a more gracious manner. Do we really need another fifteen year old American high school student giving Mamet advice on how to structure a plot?

This, I suppose, is one of my more unstructured posts. I’m tired and not looking forward to two days in Manchester, which start in less than six hours. But it is a way for me to say that I hugely enjoyed ‘Redbelt’ and recommend it to anybody who appreciates great screenwriting.


Lola said...

"... the Internet Movie Database project probably fails..." I have to disagree.

IMDb is brilliant, and the vast majority of its content fails in no way whatever. Linking films, directors, actors, producers etc. through one easy to use interface is just what the Internet seems designed for. Of course it's not perfect, the odd error slips through. Just don't read the viewer comments if you don't like what viewers write!

Good luck for the Manchester ordeal...

Dick Madeley said...

Lola, of course you're right. I love the IMDB for those reasons too. It's just that I don't wholly subscribe to the notion of user generated content. I can ignore the comments and often I do. It's just so disappointing when I do read them. There are so many people that resemble the Comic Book Guy from 'The Simpsons', it's quite shocking.

Manchester was a grind. A real hellish grind.

Stephen said...

Chiwetel Ejiofor is an excellent actor. I first saw him in the film 'Serenity', which was a spin off from Joss Whedon's Sci fi series 'Firefly'. He played the villain in that but had a dignity rare in modern baddies.
I didn't know 'Redbelt' was out yet in the UK, Mamet is a great writer whose writing I admire a great deal.

lee said...

hehe - Snakes on a Plane. My daft mother was so put out with that movie that she rang up her pay tv provider to complain about it as she had paid extra to watch it. I said to her: What did you expect from the title of it. The silly woman.

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