Lust For Culture
By Ed Driscoll · July 12, 2006 10:52 AM · Hollywood, Interrupted
Terry Teachout explores the demise of middlebrow culture, using as his starting point this year's DVD release of Kirk Douglas' Lust For Life, in which seminal man-of-action Douglas took a surprisingly passable turn in 1956 playing Vincent van Gogh under Vincente Minnelli's directorship :
The result is a quintessential example -- perhaps the quintessential example -- of the American middlebrow culture of the '40s and '50s, which at its not-infrequent best educated and entertained in like measure without dumbing down beyond recognition the art it popularized. The same impulse that inspired Life magazine to publish Ernest Hemingway's "The Old Man and the Sea" and CBS to telecast Leonard Bernstein's "Young People's Concerts" can be seen at work in "Lust for Life."They're not biopics, but the closest I can think of a positive middlebrow cultural experience in today's Hollywood would be its adaptations of the Lord of the Rings and Narnia books. (I so want to add The Passion, but its endlessly brutal blood and guts gore knocks it out of the middlebrow running.) But as for the two sterling examples of Brit-Lit made celluloid look at some of the grief both productions received. If there are no middlebrow movies, its not because the audience turned their backs, but because there's just not a whole lot of insider slaps on the back when Hollywood makes one, especially on Oscar nights.
Update:Speaking of which, in a post defending the merits of The Searchers after a Slate critic (apparently seeing the film for the first time) ran roughshod over it, Jason Apuzzo of Libertas writes:
Itís basically this: if you really love film, if you view film as something more than just a commodity (Best Tuesday Opening By an R-Rated Comedy Ever!) or as a pretext for bull**** social activism (Watch Syriana, Buy Green Credits!) all we have left to cherish these days - with very few exceptions - are the great films of Hollywoodís past.Tough to argue with that.
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