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October 19, 2010

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bill

I have to ask what I'm afraid is an entirely pedestrian question, which is this: Is the unrated DEMONLOVER vastly different from the R rated version? Because the latter is the one I accidentally bought (and haven't watched, since noticing my mistake).

Glenn Kenny

You know, I'm not sure of the difference here, precisely. I DO know that Assayas' preferred cut is the shorter one he made after Cannes, from which he actually removed some of the graphic content, after genuinely feeling that he'd gone further with it initially than he needed/wanted to. And as the DVD I have advertises itself as the "unrated director's cut," this could be a double-game of marketing—that it is in fact his own version with less sex & violence, and that it's only unrated because Palm was too cheap to resubmit this cut to the MPAA—it costs $5,000 a pop, apparently. So it's not entirely improbable that the R-rated version is actually MORE explicit. But I don't know at the moment. Strange.

bill

Well, yes...that is strange. I suppose my follow up would be, given all that, would it be fair to assume that I can watch the version I have and feel comfortable that I'm watching THE movie? I mean, because, God only knows, and all that?

Veal

THE SOCIAL NETWORK didn't get twins right either...narf!

Clint Holloway

Hey Glenn, I was there last night too (not to sound creepy, but I was right in front of you and your Lovely Wife at the concession stand and was admittedly a little starstruck). There was one thing that, despite all of the times I've watched it, I'm still trying to figure out the meaning to .

Even though the movie maintains a very cool and serious feel throughout, there are many details Assayas incorporates that, while not always described as 'comic relief', contrast the aforementioned 'feel' with an extra layer of goofiness or weirdness. I'm talking about scenes like Elise playing videogames naked, spilling beer on herself, shoe-shopping with Elaine, or randomly freaking out and yelling 'drop me off here'! While the whole movie has a very frenetic, disassociated structure (heck, the last half could pretty much be interpreted as random clips from the subconscious) these always stuck out to me. What do you think Assayas' intention was for putting them in?

Also, while the print was extremely pleasing visually, the scene with Diane and Elise in the car after the parking lot incident was incredibly grainy, the two actresses looking like nothing but pixels at several points. Have you noticed this with past prints of the movie?

Just wanted to reiterate how cool it was to see you there. As an aspiring film theorist/critic, it's cool to see someone who still takes film seriously.

Lex

Does she show her feet?

Clint II

Hey, I'm a Clint who was also there and noticed Glenn in the audience. Weird...

To answer your question, other Clint, that scene in the car is supposed to be very pixelated.

Really loved having Mr. Assayas with us last night. Great Q&A, with a funny shot taken at Star Wars near the end there...

cmasonwells

"These arguments, and more importantly, the industry that commissions these arguments, are essentially anti-critical in that they're not about engaging what's actually in the frame or on the screen. They're about cherry-picking certain content modules and complaining about what they don't accomplish relative to a particular set of considerations that are ultimately arbitrary."

This is why I read you, Glenn. Thank you for this.

bp

I think demonlover is very generous to the viewer. That is if the viewer loves Connie Nielsen, as i confess i do deeply.

to your bigger point, yes much current criticism is seemingly based on trend, fashion, and marketing rather than filmmaking. the key i think is your phrase 'the industry that commissions it'. i could give eff-all about modality and oeuvre and intertextual blather. give me directorial intent, and execution - acting, frames, design, cutting - and leave it there. increasingly harder to find.

Lance McCallion

My second favorite Assayas film quite easily, after the masterwork that is Irma Vep. Structurally the entire film is uneasy, and I feel a lot of your insights in this short piece and those from Assayas himself put a lot of my more visceral reactions to it in better context. I also felt during that conversation as the Japanese restaurant highlighted here there was some sort of barely-noticeable shift in the visual style of the film. Maybe something with the compositions or a filter, but it felt very slight, to correlate to the shift in narrative that occurs around that scene.

Richard Brody

Movies reveal ideas and evoke emotions, and ideas and emotions aren't there on the screen, and if we can't discuss ideas and emotions in relation to movies, the discussion will not only be boring but will be untrue to the experience of making and watching movies. The real problem is bad ideas and facile responses; the correct response to them is good ideas and fine responses, not the reduction of criticism to description.

Glenn Kenny

@ Richard: Who said anything about not discussing emotions or ideas? Far be it from me, at any rate, to challenge Samuel Fuller's very definition of cinema! But it's within "demonlover"'s frames that its ideas exist, more so, really, than in its characters as such, who really are in a sense automatons. And purposefully so, speaking of ideas. I'm not talking about merely describing but actually paying attention to what's in the frame, how it's constructed. And I insist that such practice is in fact different from saying, "I had lunch with Mark Zuckerberg once, and he's not REALLY like that" or in objecting to a stereotype of young Asian women that isn't even an actual stereotype but maybe something you extrapolated from watching one too many episodes of that Kimora Lee Simmons reality show while eating pot brownies. Totally different thing!

edo

Glenn, to extend our exchange from a few threads back, I often find myself just as frustrated as you do when I read these glancing criticisms of THE SOCIAL NETWORK. However, I do think that it's important not to dismiss them out of hand. If a Harvard friend said to me, "I hate it. It completely misrepresents the culture I know and love," I'd feel somewhat uncomfortable just saying, "hey, man, get over it." Similarly, if a female friend thought her sex was being misrepresented, it would probably be something of a condescending, dick move for me to call her viewpoint silly and irrelevant.

I think the answer to these criticisms is to meet them on their own playing field, and to cede the necessary ground. It is, for instance, true that THE SOCIAL NETWORK projects an idea of ivy-league privilege that's outdated by over half a century (the final clubs have seen Jewish members, and presidents, for decades). Is that a problem? Certainly, it becomes a problem if one opts to praise this film on the strength of its ethnic and class commentary, and many critics have (cf. Scott Foundas in FC). For me, THE SOCIAL NETWORK just doesn't work on this score. The undercurrent of WASP-Jew rivalry never amounts to much more than that, an undercurrent. It is one of many themes Sorkin's script name checks without developing a coherent stance toward, an that's par-for-the-course in his kind of savvy topical writing. But here's where we can, and should, argue that the film has bigger, or at least a different species of fish to fry...

cmasonwells

I remember this one from the old blog, GK -- as valid now as ever:

"'Cinema is a matter of what's in the frame and what's out.' Thus spoke Martin Scorsese, in as terse and true a definition as you could hope for."

Glenn Kenny

Edo writes: "However, I do think that it's important not to dismiss them out of hand. If a Harvard friend said to me, "I hate it. It completely misrepresents the culture I know and love," I'd feel somewhat uncomfortable just saying, 'hey, man, get over it.' Similarly, if a female friend thought her sex was being misrepresented, it would probably be something of a condescending, dick move for me to call her viewpoint silly and irrelevant." I don't mean to sound condescending myself here when I say that these sentiments speak well of Edo as a person. But I think a distinction has to be made between sentiments expressed in the context Edo describes. HE speaks of friends describing specific misgivings; fine. As far as I know, Nathan Heller is not your friend. (He isn't mine, either, and the likelihood of his becoming one is remote.) He's writing in "Slate," and presumably being paid to write in "Slate," that "The Social Network"'s depiction of Harvard is inaccurate to the extent that it invalidates the film. (The sense in which it supposedly invalidates the film, incidentally, is one that I think is also irrelevant, but I'll put that aside for the sake of this argument.) He's also lording it over the reader to a certain extent: I went to Harvard, bet you didn't, I know what plays. That's a completely different thing than confiding some personal discomfort. SImilarly, Rebecca Davis O'Brien gives the game away immediately in her "Daily Beast" piece and its invocation of "killjoy feminists." It's like, "I know, I know, but I'm WORKING FOR TINA BROWN HERE! And it's 300 bucks!" (I know that 'cause that's what I got for my Sasha Grey profile there. I'm told it's at the high end for freelance!) So I think that's a distinction worth taking into account. More later...

edo

Glenn, I think that is an important distinction, and it raises an issue I realized I should have addressed only after I had posted my comment. Still, I don't think it forces me to hedge too much. As I see it, the problem is that neither Nathan Heller nor Rebecca Davis O'Brien nor Jose Antonio Vargas nor Andrew Clark nor Lawrence Lessig is a film critic. These fellows are topical bloggers, writing about business, tech, law, and, in Heller's case, vaguely about culture (yes, I think that's bullshit too). If a film takes on these issues, and THE SOCIAL NETWORK does them all, it's leaving itself open to cherry-picking, in a big way. And if Heller and O'Brien fail to attend the subtleties of representation, it's because they are themselves used to understanding films uncritically. We can call it "anti-critical", or whatever we like. It is certainly a myopic and indifferent attitude toward films as interventions in cultural discourse, but, in that respect, these folks are not so different from the friend who comes to me with a personal grievance. In the end, the only way to answer these criticisms no matter where they come from is through acknowledgement and rebuttal.

Besides, as I hinted at earlier, I often feel that many film critics are so singlemindedly interested in cinema that they do injustice to the issues a film raises. Once again, this film has been praised as a social commentary. It's a film that apparently has profound things to say about class and ethnicity in America. If you believe that, you sort of have to believe that its depiction of Harvard is an astute one, and that if it does tell some lies about the institution, it hopefully does so in the interest of telling a greater truth about the American social landscape. I'm not sure it does...

To be clear, I think THE SOCIAL NETWORK is a truly great film, easily the best film I've seen this year. I've seen it twice, and I intend to see it at least twice more in a theater.

Glenn Kenny

@edo: Agreed, agreed, agreed. But you do understand that maintaining my persona requires me to be somewhat disagreeable on certain issues.

Heller is certainly no film critic; I just saw the piece he wrote on "Breathless" and, oh, boy! And yet, he may write on film again. What a world.

bill

Not being familiar with the gentleman, I just checked out Nathan Heller's Twitter page, and I'm telling you, that thing is literally horrifying. Literally, as in I shat myself out of fear while reading it.

Glenn Kenny

Why, Bill, why? Why do you do this to me? It's like when I used to open a can of Progresso tuna in front of my late lamented feline The Pinkster. [Sigh] So against my better judgement I followed you to the Bad Place, and yeah...I particularly like the tweet about his almost-happiness at Eataly; it's as if he wants to REDUCE HIS OWN SELF to a cultural stereotype! Well, let him. That reminds me, I should pitch Slate on a piece about how I knew Batali when he was at Rutgers (actually true)...

Kent Jones

Whenever someone says "I have a personal experience of this or that place/event/institution, and it's not the way I remember it," everything gets muddy. If you DO have a personal experience of anything, you're obviously going to have issues with its fictional depiction. Because ultimately, your responsibility is to the movie rather than to a 1000% on the nose realization of the actual events. In the case of THE SOCIAL NETWORK, I look at the depiction of Harvard (recreated at Johns Hopkins and Milton, I guess), remember my own very limited experience of the place, remember the crummy Mezrich book, remember the still-extant old boys' network, and think: sure, looks good, feels right. Race? The co-defendant with the twins, and their best pal and business partner, is Divya Narendra. The Jewish kids aren't excluded because they're Jewish, but because they're not part of the "network." The film is about exclusivity and resentment. I may or may not disagree with Edo on this point, but I think it handles both about as adroitly as I can imagine. Exclusivity comes in all shapes and permutations. Someone is always trying to smash it. As for the old boys' network and the Porcellian Club, I don't think anything's vanished, just taken a different shape. For instance, it's entirely possible that George Bush would have made it as far as he did without being a member of Skull and Bones. But it certainly helped.

bill

Don't forget about his killer chopsticks skills!

I can't tell if he's kidding about the folk about or not. God, I hope so...OR DO I?? If it existed, my god, how perfect would that be?

Kent Jones

Too many alternating uses of the word "your" - when I wrote "your responsibility," I was switching from people who've had personal experience of a given subject to filmmakers. Lazy...

edo

Kent, it's just that in making it about exclusivity Sorkin writes in moments like the one where Zuckerberg asks Eduardo for the e-mail addresses of the Phoenix members, because they "know people." That's just ridiculous. The idea that the campus social structure is a pyramid with the final clubs on top really is fifty years outdated. It's not that they've vanished, but Heller is correct when he says that the clubs are more "curios" than anything else now. David Brooks had a short, but good piece addressing this in the Times. As for Bush, that's a different generation...

As for the Divya Narendra character, they were kind of stuck with him weren't they? They could've written him out, but that would've been sort of silly and would have prompted questions. The point is Sorkin does suggest that the fact that Eduardo and Mark are Jewish has something to do with their exclusion. When Eduardo is punched by the Phoenix, it's called a "diversity thing." Like I said, none of this ever emreges as a coherent theme, but it's there enough to stroke people's nerves. In the film, as Brook put it, it's as if both the present-day Harvard and the Harvard of old existed in the same chamber.

Now, Fincher's sense of setting and atmosphere is what sells it, because as a recreation of Harvard, or any contemporary college campus, I find it dead-on accurate. The sense of isolation is what rings the most true. The feeling of just hanging out on a cold winter night outside of a lame party, sipping beer and dreaming out loud. Perfect.

edo

To elaborate a tiny bit, I just feel like the whole final club motivation is artificial. Why do you (Sorkin) need to give Zuckerberg that desire? Because it intensifies his opposition to the Winklevii and establishes the central theme of exclusivity, and later resentment. Also, by making Harvard a much more socially stratified world than it is in reality, it sets up the premise that Facebook was modeled after just that kind of stratification, that Facebook's hook was its exclusivity. It works for the film, but it also plays on age-old fears about a conspiracy of American power and privilege. If there was a Thom Andersen of Boston, he'd be royally pissed. This is the very kind of rote importation of worn-out stereotypes that he rails against in LOS ANGELES PLAYS ITSELF.

In truth, social networking was more about keeping in touch with friends and following up after meeting a girl/guy at a party. It was a way of not having to remember someone's phone number or e-mail address. The initial exclusivity of it was more an economic, logistical problem. They started small, and grew the company gradually. It had less to do with making it seem like the party everyone had to join. I joined as I graduated high school, because it seemed like a good way of keeping in touch with people I would likely never see again otherwise.

The upshot is that the film fails if you read it as a commentary on the persistence of class/ethnic divisions, but if you take the exclusivity theme as something more generalized, which I think ultimately it is, and recognize the final club device as just that a device, then you should be fine and ready for the ride THE SOCIAL NETWORK takes you on. This is a film that says some very profound things about my generation, but that has nothing to do with final clubs.

PaulJBis

A couple of tangential points here: Eduardo is described as brazilian in the movie, IIRC, not jewish. As for the exclusivity thing, I don't know about Facebook, but the premier spanish social networking site, Tuenti, certainly limited access (and still does) as a way to generate "buzz" and interest.

Incidentally, and I know this should be in another thread, but if we're discussing "The social network" on the "demonlover" thread, what the hell: I'm still surprised that Facebook didn't object to them using their logo, name, etc. all over the movie. Did they have to get clearance on that? "Hi, we're making this movie that trashes your boss, and we need permission to use your logo and name..."

edo

Eduardo Saverin is indeed described as Jewish. He is a member of the Jewish frat and speaks himself about why asian girls like to date jewish boys like him.

Facebook is now, and has been for a while, open to anyone with an e-mail address.

PaulJBis

Oops! It's true. I had completely forgotten about that scene. (About Facebook, I was referring to their motivation during their early years, back when they were only restricted to .edu addresses).

Kent Jones

Edo, I just don't think the movie is playing a race/class card. The point about the Jewish fraternity is not that it's Jewish, but that it's so easy to get into. Eduardo Saverin, who is indeed Jewish/Brazilian in the film, gets punched by an exclusive fraternity, and the supposedly easy-to-write-out Narendra is the best friend of the twins. The social structure of 50 years ago is gone at Harvard, and in this movie. Which is not at all about race and class, and very much about exclusivity and resentment. And which, contrary to Paul, does not trash Mark Zuckerberg but makes him into a fascinating, complex figure.

I read Heller's ruminations, and they seemed only slightly less worthless than the linked piece by the guy who takes us through the film's "factual inaccuracies." I'm really glad that Heller had such a swell time at Harvard.

MB

I agree that soft sociology posing as criticism gets in the way of looking at The Social Network, a fascinatingly constructed film, but I don't think you can just dismiss claims that it's "'sexist' or some such thing." That's not a tangent but the point. (Being missed.) What is actually "in the frame or on the screen" is a terrific depiction, even in its structure and spacial relationships, of sexism. Or lack of sexual opportunity. Or how one creates the other, insidiously and structurally.

Glenn Kenny

@ MB, I would be delighted to read a well-argued, example-laden piece on the film from the ground you lay out here. The point I insist on is that the opportunistic, faux-careerist dribble that appeared in The Daily Beast bore zero relation to such a potential essay.

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