Criticisms I Have Heard of the Film
1. not impressed w/ the visual style – not that beautiful
Everyone’s entitled to their opinion. You could also not be impressed with Poussin’s ‘The holy family on the steps’ but I’ve got twenty million says you’re wrong.
2. not impressed w/ tone – too overbearing/overpowering
Everyone’s entitled to their opinion. Yours is wrong.
3. can’t identify w/ characters
4. Too self-indulgent, too referential both to film and the Greeks. I hate Greeks.
You probably also hated Eliot’s Wasteland, I presume?
5. overly dramatic, overly intense, pretentious
I hate when people make these statements without justification as if there is something inherently wrong with being dramatic, intense, or pretentious. It’s merely a question of whether it works or not.
6. The Greek statues were corny looking pieces of junk, and he spends way too much time staring at them.
Some have criticized the corny-looking Greek statues. They were corny looking compared to the best Greek art. But that’s on purpose. The periodic tracking shots of them are meant to allow one to reflect on the film as it relates to The Odyssey (or whatever themes you discern) as well as one’s own life. It’s important they not be fine Greek statues, because one isn’t supposed to look at them and think, “God damn, that’s a great bust” or “is that a Michelangelo?” One isn’t supposed to stare AT them, but through them, while the wheels turn (in your heart first—then more in your head later). I think it’s rare (although Wong Kar-Wai among other great “pausers” do it all the time) to be able to do this meditation-thinking during the primary viewing experience, rather than simply having the entire plot thrust upon oneself en block, ravishment by ravishment, allowing reflection only after it’s all over. Which would just be entertainment.
Perhaps the most clearly articulated argument against the film would come from Tolstoy:
“As to the fourth method—that of interesting—it also is frequently confounded with art. One often hears it said, not only of a poem, a novel, or a picture, but even of a musical work, that it is interesting. What does this mean? To speak of an interesting work of art means either that we receive from a work of art information new to us, or that the work is not fully intelligible and that little by little, and with effort, we arrive at its meaning and experience a certain pleasure in this process of guessing it. In neither case has the interest anything in common with artistic impression. Art aims at infecting people with feeling experienced by the artist. But the mental effort necessary to enable the spectator, listener, or reader to assimilate the new information contained in the work, or to guess the puzzles propounded, by distracting him hinders the infection. And therefore the interestingness of a work not only has nothing to do with its excellence as a work of art, but rather hinders than assists artistic impression.”
Lang says The Odyssey is great because it cannot be broken down and deconstructed, but simply “is what it is,” take it or leave it. But this film obviously can be interpreted and dissected all day. Hardly a take it or leave it proposition. Thus, if you believe Tolstoy and Lang, then by definition this film is not great art. But damn what a glorious failure it is. See, eight pages later and I still can’t decide!