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Film bollocks



The film Stalker (1979) is a bad film—very dull—but it is true. In the film, there’s a room that grants any wish you want but it grants your true wish—so a man thinks that he wants to bring his brother back from the dead, but he only really wants money; and the room grants that. This is truth.


It’s not unconnected to the magical will—to your true will. You think you know what you want, but you don’t really know what you want (not at all). When I mentioned this on Twitter, Yama Pain told me, “You’ve always been aesthetically juvenile, but this takes the cake.” To which I replied: “What you mean is that I’m not pretentious and don’t lie and pretend to like boring Soviet films that go on too long so that other people will say ‘wow he likes long films in Russian, he must be deep and profound’”.


People say they like these films because they think it makes them look “arty” and “profound”—you know, it’s a Russian film where the camera lingers on a tree for 10 minutes; in other words, it’s boring as fuck—later, someone mumbles something into his whiskey (a woman closes the door in the background, as reflected in the long bedroom mirror). In reality, you are bored to death by this bollocks—but everyone says “Tarkovsky, you must watch Tarkovsky”, so you go and watch it and talk about it.


I did this when I was teenager, I watched Solaris (1972) when I was 17—and I said, just like everyone, “Oh, they say it’s the Soviet 2001,” but I was so bored with it I got a migraine; but I pretended to like it, because I was *meant* to like it—because it’s sophisticated, because I watch “foreign films” (not just 2001). The fact is that all films from the USSR are crap, because there was no profit motive—the purpose of a film is to entertain, even Shakespeare is entertainment, and if you lose track of that you’re engaged in didacticism. Soviet films are all didactic and dull.


It’s notable that Christians like Tarkovsky—because it’s Soviet film, because it’s not entertainment (Puritans); it’s a lecture—even if it’s not pro-Soviet, since Tarkovsky wasn’t that keen on the regime, it still doesn’t have the profit motive; so it’s still crap. Christians like Tarkovsky because in The Sacrifice (1986), supposedly set during a nuclear war (that’s supposition, because the filmmaking is so “arty” it’s hard to know what has happened), a church is set on fire. If I remember correctly, someone stares at a tree for 10 minutes—or perhaps some reeds in a river (profound).


Ironically, this illustrates the original point from Stalker. You *think* you want to bring your brother back to life with magic but the magic room knows better and gives you what you really want—to be filthy rich. Confronted with your own vile and base nature, you kill yourself (noble illusions shattered). In the same way, I submit that you wish to see yourself as some “Parisian intellectual” who goes to the “latest Tarkovsky” and then has Martinis and whiskey sours and discusses the “ontic diapasons in Tarkovsky’s late work”—but inside, you’d prefer to watch Blackbeard’s Ghost (1968).


The magic room knows the truth—it sees through your bullshit. You just want to impress people so they think you’re “so smart, sophisticated—he watches 18-hour films in the Russian language”, but that’s just your bullshit; just like the character, Porcupine, has a bullshit story that he cares so much about his dead brother. But the room knows—oh yes, the room knows.


“Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law”. Do you know what that actually means? “Yeah—it means cocaine, and sex parties, and child sacrifice.” Nah. It means that you know, deep down, that you really want to watch Blackbeard’s Ghost—a Disney film where Peter Ustinov, as the eponymous ghost, helps a hapless sports coach whip his gormless college team into shape. That’s what you really want to watch—not this pretentious Russian wank—but then you wouldn’t look “serious” (wouldn’t be “intellectual”, wouldn’t be tugging the old chin).


Why not just cut the bullshit and watch Blackbeard? When you refuse to, you’re only like these puffed up pricks who say “of course, I love living in a multicultural society—the cuisine, the exquisite colourfulness” when they hate it as much as Baz down the transport caf but have too much to lose, as regards social credibility, to say so. And so they live in a situation they find miserable, like voluntary root canal surgery, in the same way they sit through the dull as ditchwater Tarkovsky crap and say “oh wow, yes, very deep” (they don’t even know what happened in it, because it’s so boring to watch you struggle to stay with the plot—which is, in turn, because it’s badly made, like a Lada, and so it’s too dull to pay proper attention to).


Sure, Hollywood has its own defects—but these have grown as it became decadent itself, as the profit motive got lost in “creative accounting” and as the didactic element increased accordingly. There is no message in Blackbeard’s Ghost—except that the mafia is bad and it’s okay to use a ghost to cheat on track and field events so you can win a bet and pay off the mafia-owned mortgage on a rickety inn owned by the daughters of Captain Blackbeard. Deep. Profound.


This is all, in part, a hangover from the Victorian idea that art is a substitute for religion—yes, art and religion are connected but art is not a substitute. All this “reverential” talk about galleries, all this treating Tarkovsky like a saint constitutes nonsense. A film is like a play—first job of a play is to entertain, if it doesn’t do that it’s no good (end of story).




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