I like to watch art movies. While I don’t only attend art house movie theaters, it’s definitely worthwhile to me to sprinkle some such movies into my regular viewing. I’m more than entertained with a lot of Hollywood properties, but it is a fact that most of those movies do not offer surprises that you’ve never seen on screen before.
Some movies-as-art that I’ve watched in the past few months are A Ghost Story, Annette, and The Power of the Dog. The former two are certainly different from any movies I’ve ever watched before. The latter doesn’t feel all that unique on the surface, but offers a depth of experience that keeps giving long after the credits roll.
A big hangup folks have with movie art is one I think we each have with at least some of the art out there: they don’t understand and the art makes them feel stupid. What is the most common response to something that makes you feel stupid? Call the thing the thing it makes you feel: Stupid!
The lesson I try to take with me from my enjoyment of art movies is that I rarely understand the layers being presented while I watch the movie, and I rarely figure out the layers on my own after the movie is completed. The best I usually do is to have a sense that, hey, something was going on there and I bet this or that meant a thing. If I viewed the movie with someone else, we then get to discuss what just happened, trying to puzzle it out for ourselves. We eventually hit the Internet to read the thoughts of others, background on the movie, and so on.
The meaning of movie art is not a thing I understand immediately, but a thing that provides a depth of experience factory farmed movies don’t quite satisfy. It’s like admitting that, yes, a Big Mac (or Filet o’ Fish) is tasty, but it doesn’t offer the same experience as a restaurant with an intentional menu of deep flavors. Sometimes I want that easy hit of dopamine, but I do enjoy mixing in meals with more layers of flavor. If I can’t quite describe what that flavor is, part of the fun is sorting it out with the people around me.