Yet is it possible for a critic to express his disinterestedness in a major filmmaker and not enter into polemics? Can we simply state that these films do not affect us without either impugning a talented artist or goading his supporters into indignant defense?
Talking faux-seriously about juvenilia has become a marvelous way to avoid talking seriously about the serious. The slew of hyperbolic, overheated critical rhetoric that follows in the wake—hell, in advance— of the latest high concept blockbuster is enough to make one gag.
Far worse than just reducing realities to their cinematic containers, however, the patina of seriousness that has been draped over Romero’s oeuvre has largely veiled his true seriousness: that of an entertainer and a storyteller, the qualities which gives his satire its bite.
Stripped of any traits of her former character, d’Orsay’s face becomes enshrined as love goddess solely through the logic-defying action of the cut; the viewer is thrust up against a contextless image purporting to entice their deepest carnal yearnings by sheer virtue of its assertive presence.
The predictable irony of the horror revivalist bandwagon is that the oft-mentioned imperative to “get back to basics”—which typically means evoking some fantasized notion of “the Seventies”—belies the fact that this new breed of would-be fearmongers are actually doing something quite new and complex.
Undeniably, the age of video spawned our current state of being accustomed to having “everything” available to us at all times. Film history (in theory) no longer has to rely on rare screenings or archival digging to advance: previously hidden treasures are spilling out at our feet seemingly every week.
It may seem cynical to interpret a film’s attempt at emotional involvement and narrative intensity—for an astonishingly long amount of screen time without the benefit of action scenes—as good business sense, but the setpiece mentality of the Bond series has always encouraged a compartmentalized appraisal of its virtues.
A virtuoso shot, and one with more than an echo of the famous “unbroken” take craning into Susan Kane’s nightclub a mere two years previous. But Michael Powell’s willfully grandiose gesture carries far more resonance than Welles’s masterful showboating.
If there is certainly a moral onus hovering above its identification and observation of the mechanisms of global power, it cannot be reduced to mere partisanship and self-vindication. If anything, the film is exemplary for giving us no safe place to lay our righteous heads.