Armond White vs. the Ghost Hipsters Part 18: Attack of the Ladies Man

by clarencecarter
June 15, 2005 8:55 AM
1 Comment
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Can he be stopped?

"If I had never seen a film by D.W. Griffith, Antonioni, Ozu, John Ford, Vincente Minnelli or Prince, I might have been impressed by performance artist Miranda July's Cannes award-winning directorial debut, Me and You and Everyone We Know." - Armond White

Where are the ladies, Armond? Or is this list of great directors intended to sit cozily alongside your definitive survey of the eight or nine great female performances given to date that you cobbled together while attacking Charlize Theron in Monster.

Before anyone gets all antsy, realize that I am more than aware that taking Armond's hyperbole too seriously on any level is unnecessary at best, and unhealthy at worst. But in discussing this latest gem with robbiefreeling, we realized that this outrageous statement, while par for the course in most respects, continues a tradition of tossed-off misogyny that runs through his writings, and may have found its apex in his review of Jane Campion's In the Cut: High-minded Campion (director of The Piano and The Portrait of a Lady) has always pandered to low instinct. In the Cut is the latest example of the way she uses sexual paranoia to appeal to the weak-minded sympathies of feminist critics and audiences. Campion especially looks like a con artist in this, her first U.S.-set movie, because our women's struggle has moved far beyond the concerns that her New Zealand background mistakenly takes to be current. In the Cut is stuck replaying the complications of such 70s movies as Looking for Mr. Goodbar and Klute because they easily rub the soft-spots women still have about threatening, attractive men. Campion doesn't examine the peculiar detente that has occurred among post-women's-lib daters (boys and girls freely acknowledging the same physical hunger). This movie drags us back to once-simplified conflicts the same way horror movies repeat the fear of ghosts and goblins. (emphasis added) And just when you think it couldn't get worse (what insider info on the sexual proclivities of Kiwifolk is Armond mining to make this argument?), lo and behold, it does. Feminism has garnered more favor in the mainstream media than has gay rights. This has nothing to do with correct thinking or sensitivity. As Jane Campion's movies demonstrate, it is the result of privileged insensitivity. .... Campion's a standard-bearer for the media's sexual and political status quo, and this has gotten her acclaim from less-than-conscientious critics. Through their own sexual prejudice, they sanction Campion's perversity and ignore Nolot's investigation of gay life because it still wrankles the mainstream–even though he's the finer artist and has made the far superior movie. This misguided tirade stems from the lack of attention paid in the media to Jacques Nolot's queer drama Porn Theater. The Armondster presumes a finite amount of media space available to films (actually not too far from the truth) and argues that in the calculus that dominated the week these films saw release, Porn Theater lost out to In the Cut because women are just more popular and socially acceptable than homosexuals. This kind of logic moves beyond serious debate around the merits of a particular film or filmmaker into a hugely problematic realm. In this line of reasoning, Armondster willfully boils down the complicated reasons why a film like In the Cut gets notice (stars, budget, release patterns) and ignores the fact that much of the coverage of the film was wholly sexist in nature (when it premiered in Toronto, several major papers stoked interest by proffering articles with lascivious headlines that focused near exclusively on Meg Ryan's nude scenes with scant mention of their filmic context), and that it was basically a flop (our society likes movies from women that probe female sexuality only slightly more than the queer version of the same). I'm not going to argue that any part of this state of affairs is right—our world is certainly homophobic, and small films often lose ink to bigger budgeted stuff—but blaming the troubles of one minority group in gaining representation on the success of another is a Rove-ian maneuver that only a true-blue conservative could make with such a straight face (Are you a poor and white? Are fags ruining your life? Vote G.W. Bush!). Of course this is coming from the Bush apologist par excellence who just last week chalked the deaths of 3,000 people on 9/11 up to a mere "communications snafu." Women filmmakers are still largely underrepresented in the filmmaking canon. This is inarguable. And in truth, if we want to get down to brass tacks, it'd probably be easier to pull together a list of successful male filmmakers who were/are queer with storied careers behind them than one for women. Forget whether their films openly featured queer subject matter - let's talk about whether or not their sexuality was known by those who control the flow of production capital, and if they were still allowed to continue working and communicating with audiences. Miranda July shouldn't feel bad, though. Armondster also slammed Lucrecia Martel's The Holy Girl, tossing its quietly beautiful formalism and serious (if muddy) spiritual inquiries off in a mere two paragraphs. Ignore that he's incorrect on several plot elements -- I'm sure that confusing two main characters wouldn't have changed his reading of it at all. And I won't even mention the beating Breillat takes at his hands. He is often pro-Denis, but then, who isn't? If anyone's got other evidence, please send it along. But if being a hipster critic involves making room in my filmmaking world for the vision of female artists, then consider me guilty as charged.
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1 Comment

  • Terrence | July 12, 2005 3:32 AMReply

    "[Breillat is] not a fraud, just an egghead humanist spooked by sex. That's the revelation of the film's final image: an artist/child embrace that could make Ingmar Bergman smile with the joy of recognition."

    I guess he doesn't ABSOLUTELY hate her :)