Wednesday, December 10, 2008

On Citing One's Sources

So one would think, working at the same paper and all, that Manohla Dargis could have at least acknowledged the intellectual debt she owed to A.O Scott in her recent review of The Reader.

Here's how that piece ends:

Although the commercial imperatives that drive a movie like this one are understandable — the novel was a best seller and an Oprah’s Book Club selection, for starters — you have to wonder who, exactly, wants or perhaps needs to see another movie about the Holocaust that embalms its horrors with artfully spilled tears and asks us to pity a death-camp guard. You could argue that the film isn’t really about the Holocaust, but about the generation that grew up in its shadow, which is what the book insists. But the film is neither about the Holocaust nor about those Germans who grappled with its legacy: it’s about making the audience feel good about a historical catastrophe that grows fainter with each new tasteful interpolation.

To anyone who read Scott's fine piece - Never Forget. You're Reminded - from November 21st, this would seem quite familiar.

“Schindler’s List” undoubtedly gave rise to a new pedagogical and commemorative impulse. It also, however, helped to domesticate the Holocaust by making it a fixture of American middlebrow popular culture. Which I don’t mean entirely as a criticism, since that culture is better than a lot of the alternatives. But Hollywood trades in optimism, redemption and healing, and its rendering of even the most appalling realities inevitably converts their dire facts into its own shiny currency.


More often the reality of mass death gives way to yet another affirmation of life, and even faithfully rendered true stories are bent into conformity with familiar patterns, themes and conventions: forbidden love; noble sacrifice; victory against the odds. The Holocaust is more accessible than ever, and more entertaining.


For American audiences a Holocaust movie is now more or less equivalent to a western or a combat picture or a sword-and-sandals epic — part of a genre that has less to do with history than with the perceived expectations of moviegoers. This may be the only, or at least the most widely available, way of keeping the past alive in memory, but it is also a kind of forgetting.

Dargis Review
Scott Piece

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