Thursday, June 9, 2011

On Boredom

Last week, the New York Times ran a pair of essays by film critics Manohla Dargis and A.O. Scott -- In Defense of the Slow and Boring. As an example of good boredom, Dargis mentions a film in which a woman prepares a meatloaf in real time, so that the audience experiences the boredom of her life. I don't know the movie, and the "defense" hasn't exactly made me rush to put it on the Neflix queue, but reading that description, I thought immediately of the final scene in "Big Night," in which Secondo prepares (and eats) an omelet in real time. Granted, it doesn't take as long to make an omelet as it does a meatloaf, but a scene that runs more than five minutes with barely a word spoken (and none in English) is pretty unusual.

I can understand perfectly why someone might consider that dull, but I find the scene mesmerizing. Yes, showing something happening in real time can be used to deliberately evoke boredom. But in this case, it doesn't do anything like that. Because the scene moves so slowly, every tiny gesture becomes important, and the final gesture -- two brothers putting their arms around each other, potentially such a smarmy, corny ending -- becomes epic.

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