Movies as Discourse Generators
Notes on Recent Films
In this post I discuss Saltburn, How To Have Sex, Anatomy of a Fall, Maestro, and Killers of the Flower Moon.
Saltburn. The poet John Ashbery said, “The worse your art is, the easier it is to talk about it.” Saltburn is very easy to talk about. This is a film that pretends to meaty themes - class, power, sexual obsession - but in truth it doesn’t know what it’s about. Insofar as Saltburn has a guiding purpose it’s to generate discourse. The “shocking” scenes and “big ideas” are just memes and talking points ready-made for social media iteration.
What makes for good discourse doesn’t make for a pleasurable two (felt like three) hours in the cinema. I kept wondering what the point of everything was. Why is it set in the mid-2000s? Why is Keoghan’s body filmed so lasciviously? Is the main character meant to be an ice-cold psychopath or someone so emotionally invested in Felix he gets a weepy hard-on while lying on his grave? Honestly, I wouldn’t waste your time coming up with answers; there is no ‘there’ there. The film’s fundamental aimlessness is most apparent in the last third of the movie, a flatulent and affectless series of twists in search of satisfying resolution. In one of these many final scenes, Richard E. Grant’s character writes out a cheque to make Keoghan go away. I felt that Grant was on the viewer’s side - Whatever it costs, just make the film stop!