Sunday, April 17, 2005

It’s just that when some of us cineastes enter a cinema we have sometimes just about made up our minds to enjoy the experience – our antennas a bit weakened, just to delight the sensory system with that stream or burst of audiovisual. We are satisfied after that fix, no matter what it was we were fed. An appetite has been satiated.

This kind of experience is that of the child in the cinema. It is the sensory system that is delighted, not the intellect or the emotional self. We thrill to use our senses because we are programmed by evolution to use them – thus any sensation that does not induce flight from it is delightful.

In this state of semi-somnolence, the intellect can but take its cue from the felt delight and conclude as to the desirability of the total experience. Thus it is that every visit of the child to the cinema is one that he would cherish. Alas, however, it is not so with his adult fellows. The adult, if he deserves to be termed such, would have learnt to discern subtler pleasures in sources other that sensory gratification: contemplation and conversation.

Art aids the former, but is the latter. In his eagerness for experience, the adult seeks the more stimulating conversation – seeks for an intellect of keener comprehension, a mind of deeper emotion. This seeking is what we call criticism. In that this is an endeavour of assaying keenness, it calls for the reciprocation of the same quality in the effort, and therefore is not suited to those grudging of exertion.

Accidents in the history of human civilization have resulted in the substitution of Religion in place of Art for most of us. The pervasiveness of this phenomenon is perhaps attributable to the universality of laziness. Religion, to our relief, answers questions before they are asked; Art keeps beating about the bush. We refuse to accept the inscrutability of our being, preferring instead to cling on to phantom certainties.

…We got lost, didn’t we? What was the question again? Why do we think we enjoyed a bad flick? Oh, just the heat of the afternoon getting to us, or perhaps we find the cool darkness of the cinema a relief from the dross of the daily grind. When our selves are habituated to being smothered by the will of others, the lustre of our souls is dulled. In that gloom the seeker begins to forget….

So there you have it. A simple question, and I beat around the bush. Hey, you asked for it…