Monday, November 20, 2006


What is wrong with most Hollywood films ? Last night Michel Szulc Krzyzanowski saw together with two good friends by chance a film called "Sweet November". Made by Pat O'Connor with Charlize Theron and Keanu Reeves. The basic lines of the story of the film could be maybe interesting. A woman has a terminal form of cancer and tries to have every month a relationship with a different man before to die. Until, of course, she falls truly in love with the guy from November and he with her not knowing she has terminal cancer. What Hollywood does is first of all taking care the film is entertaining. Not disturbing, not provoking, not irritating, not challenging and not shocking. Not too extreme, not too dramatic, not too serious, not too painful and not too emotional. The film could be interesting but the Hollywood formula apllied makes the film uninteresting. It could be emotional but Hollywood makes it sentimental. It could be dramatic but Hollywood makes it melodramatic. It could be fascinating but Hollywood makes it boring.
Besides all this the characters in the film are and live in a most unrealistic way. They live in a beautiful town in beautiful houses and have beautiful cars and seem to have an endless supply of money and don't really need to go to work and are in great harmony with friends and neighbours while it is always sunny and it only rains at extreme sentimental moments. The sex is always great and without condoms in always clean sheets with the curtains open and never a neighbour peeping inside. The characters always have beautiful white teeth which they never need to brush (to avoid they can't dialogue), they always have nice clothes, they always know how to say things, to articulate well. Their nails are always well manicured and the ears cleaned.
In other words: they are totally unreal people living in a totally unreal world living a totally unreal story and this we call Hollywood.
We know that this raping of reality by Hollywood has one reason only: to make money. Without any scruples or moral standards or concern for the psychological well-being or the mental health of the audience.
This attitude to want to make money no matter what was an issue during a lecture Michel Szulc Krzyzanowski gave on November 6 to over 150 students at the KABK: the Royal Art School in The Hague, Holland. He propagated there that in the first place a creative artist must produce from the heart and that the material aspect was also important but always secondary. And that working from the heart could result in great results which would then possibly generate money. At one point a discussion arose with one of the teachers of this school, a photographer called Serge Ligtenberg, who proudly explained he had acquired an assignment giving him a good income for years to come working for a real-estate company. What he had to photograph was not important to him, it was the money what interested him. Money no matter what. The 150 students were confronted with two different visions and the choice is how someone wants to approach life. Is it important to achieve material welfare first followed possibly by emotional welfare or emotional welfare first followed by possibly material welfare ?
This is a crucial difference with not only huge consequences for the individual person, but for the society as a whole as well.
People en masse going after material welfare first, create a society in which materialism, consumism, egoism and unbalance with nature dominate.
It is to this attitude in life, material welfare first, that films from Hollywood like "Sweet November" relate. In that sense they are ways to indoctrinate the audience with a philosophy of consumerism. It is no surprise that when last year negotiations were to open between South Korea and the United States to have a free trade agreement that the Bush administration had as a condition before even to start the talks, that a law in South Korea limiting the presentation of Hollywood films would be cancelled. When the South Korean people heard about this pre-condition of the Bush Administration mass demonstrations took place in the streets of Seoul. They understood that Hollywood films are not only for superficial entertainment and enrich Hollywood people but that they are also vehicles to massage people into consumerism and materialism. Into showing a false world, pretending that it can be achieved by making material welfare the first priority.
People even lightly conscious of life and the world, are not interested to see Hollywood films as only to write about them critically in a blog.
And a teacher like Serge Ligtenberg trying to indoctrinate 150 young students, our hope for the future, into becoming Hollywood-photographers, should be fired today.


Anonymous said...

One fundamental questions comes to mind: Does true art, or creativity, always come from the heart?

Anonymous said...

Hi Michel,

I read your interesting observations in 'Amsterdam-Hollywood' but I don't think you 'll be surprised that I do not agree with your demand that Serge has to be fired, preferably today!
As Serge's colleague (being a photographer and a teacher at the Academy) and as co-organiser of the lecture you are writing about I 'd like to make clear that Serge was only answering my question about the new challenges of today and how a photographer can survive, financially.
He, being a photojournalist, thinks he found one of the answers: he covers the same subject with stills and moving images (picture and filmcamera)and yes, he found a flourishing market for it.
Now, how to survive financially is just a minor item in the four year training of how to become a good and interesting photographer who can survive in the world out there.
And also Serge's teaching programme is, of course , much broader and deeper than only this item.
For students it is interesting to hear different opinions.
They are not easily being indoctrinated, as you put it but they are searching and looking for inspiration and inspirational teachers and examples. And they are mature enough to make their own choices.
Kind regards,
Bert Verhoeff