A few days ago, an old friend who would like to remain anonymous left a comment on a post I published last March. The post was about a possible replacement for Stanley Kauffmann, who has been the film critic at The New Republic since 1958 - the year of my birth. Kauffmann is 94 years old and is still the resident film critic at that venerable magazine.
I noticed how Kauffmann was no longer writing about mainstream film releases, opting instead (or so it seemed to me) to restrict his energies to films that mattered. My friend, who has always shown a preference for the popular - popular films, popular fiction, popular music - over the particular, believes that this preference has something to do with quality. Since more people read Stephen King than Flaubert, he once suggested, King must be the better writer.
My friend's comment was too good to leave at the bottom of my barrel. Unlike him, however, I find it a sad commentary on the condition of everything that is unpopular.
"I don't think that most people know enough about film history or have seen enough examples of what you call film art to actually give a damn about them from a serious standpoint. If you were to tell them that you knew of films that were as good as Hemingway or Faulkner, they would either not believe you or they would shun them because they hated Hemingway and Falkner on the last occasion when they were forced to read them in high school. Deep down in places they don't like to talk about, most people simply don't want films to be works of art. It would spoil all the fun they're having watching Avatar and Spiderman. Sorry, but most people would rather eat a Big Mac than filet mignon."