It’s festival season again and one film has stirred up a lot of controversy, Darren Aronofsky’s Mother! Its first screening in Venice was met by boos and jeering – but it was an early-morning screening. The director himself recommends a viewing later in the day. Anyway, I had to go and see what all the fuss was about and as a consequence lost two hours of my life that would have been better spent doing almost anything else. I then stole myself to read Peter Bradshaw’s piece in the Guardian about the film and whether or not it ranks as one of the worst films of the century. Treat yourself here.
I was not surprised to note that this particular film critic considered Mother! To be audacious and crazily brilliant. I’ve seldom shared his views on films at the best of times, but in this case I despair. Well, we are all entitled to our opinion and one critic’s masterpiece is another poor soul’s piece of cinematic garbage. However, the article raises a number of very interesting questions for me. On the one hand in the case of Mother!, a film that critics either love or hate, it reveals to me an innate snobbery about film culture perpetuated by a particular type of film-goer – mostly made up of those who like to attend film festivals in preference to their local multiplex. This cohort seek to denigrate the reactions of Joe Public, believing that they only go to see films in which they know what is going to happen (read Bradshaw’s article); that unless their expectations especially with regard to the cast, are met, then the film is reviled or ignored.
Bradshaw is not alone in making references to other films and directors when talking about Mother! But there is one thing I can agree with him about, namely his presumption that those who don’t like Mother! don’t like the ‘third element’ of the film, its deadpan black comedy in the Lars Von Trier vein. (Now there’s another master who likes to dress like an emperor). How right he is. This story, which had the potential to explore so many themes of love, power, ambition, control, adulation, etc., etc. took itself so seriously that all one could do was laugh at the comedy; not with it. I laughed with derision. When it comes to the art of black humour at least the Scandinavians do it better than pretty much anyone else. Sadly, Aronofsky hasn’t even got past first base on the humour stakes in my view. Perhaps one day this story will be told with subtle panache, comedic wit and lashings of genuine black humour
When I went to see Mother! I was one of just five people in the cinema for an evening screening. I am sure the fact that the bland and one-dimensional Jennifer Lawrence was the draw that ensured the film has got such a wide distribution in the UK. I saw it at me local CineWorld and it would be interesting to see what size audience the art-house independent cinema Watershed in Bristol gets. However, for me an empty cinema told me that the dumb audience was not so dumb. Not even JL was sufficient for them to part with their cash to watch a piece of unmitigated crap. One can despair when Hollywood produces product that people see in their droves but which makes some critics’ toes curl. The debate about public opinion trumping critical analysis and what that means for popular culture will continue so long as there are films to watch and audiences to see them. But I say three cheers to all those who laugh at the emperor’s new clothing, leaving bad films to perform badly, losing their investors lots of money for letting self-indulgent, so-called talent loose on a film set.
So, anyone yet to see Mother!? Trust me, there are better things to do with your life.
Also published on Medium.