So, I realized something that has been troubling me for along time. I have these two films that I would say (as often people say,) that "I love to hate." But actually when it comes to these films, "I hate to love." Or more accurately, "I hate to appreciate." I hate the skill, I hate the beauty, I hate the precise storytelling and I have the vision:
The Godfather and Goodfellas.
The argument is as follows. This is not anti-mafia or anti-rebellion or anti-Italian or anything of that nature although one cannot help point out the racism and misogyny in the material themselves. This is a generational zeitgeist type of conflicting experience, born of many years of feeling alien to the arcs of these screen icons. And the catalyst that brings it together is Citizen Kane.
Most of the time when I talk to people about Citizen Kane the response is always the same. "Yes, I understand that Citizen Kane is one of the greatest films ever made, yes it established film as an art form and the director as the auteur and yes in the context of the space-time-period it is an amazing film, BUT, I hate watching it, it's boring, it's ridiculous, it's self indulgent, it's sexist, it's Orson Welles sucking his own dick . . " Brilliant, point taken. Because when I look back on The Godfather and Goodfellas, it is the same syndrome of lost innocence. I saw Godfather as a child and was mesmerized by the tension in the hospital scene when they are coming to kill his father, when he has to kill the police chief in family restaurant, it is all stunning in composition and my first viewing of Goodfellas was exciting, blood pumping and it felt like art and as art should be. Bucket of water later, I started to feel in the cracks in this veneer, the annoyance in its commonplace ritual. The sad fact that these films are self indulgent misogynist bullshit rises to the surface. They are wank rag garbage. They are what led to Favreau's Swingers which led to Favreau's fucking Iron Man, a movie about a billionaire that comes to terms with the fact that he is awesome. These are films in the guise of male bashing ergo male worship. It's phallus inversion proving that your are just as big on the inside as on the outside. They are not critiques of any power structures, they are excuses for power structures. And the obvious male apologetics can be seen if you break down how each film has almost exactly the same plot.
In Citizen Kane, a poor innocent boy is taken from the warmth of his home into massive wealth and power which corrupts him. In Godfather Michal Corleone is taken from the outsider status of war hero loving boyfriend to revenge crazed maniac and murderer, and in Goodfellas the boy Henry Hill is drafted into a crime family and destroyed by epic hubris. One can make various arguments about whether this protagonists where willing recipients of their power or forced to bare a burden, such is the argument of all white males. What is important is that these are beloved characters of Christ-like falling, they are not anti-heroes no more than any male is a anti-hero for being male. It is White Man's Burden. It is the sad tale told in the hearts of the rich and powerful that they are in fact the victim, they are society's lynch pins and load bearing walls and nobody understands their business. And in each film, the love of a woman is seen as a downfall, a hurdle to be overcome, a point of weakness in the hearts of this vikings.
The recent death of Chantel Akerman reminded me of what innocence and art and filmmaking was suppose to be. I saw Je Tu Il Elle long before I tried to make films. It was one of those inspiring moments, you could see the medium for all it offered and an artist vision with morality and feeling and purpose. I would claim this film rivals and overcomes the three, and could easily replace all of them in any museum to film art.