Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Shallow and shallower

Coming back from “Human Capital,” the official Italian entry for the Oscars (and the first one to make me shed real tears in a long time), I looked up a couple of reviews. My verdict? The NYT piece takes to a promising start, but then falls on its face by concluding: “the movie has a third chapter that follows Serena into some messy, rather tedious melodramatic complications and something of a coda that only restates the obvious. It’s all handsomely managed, polished and professional, but the pieces are too neatly manufactured to feel as if anything is truly at stake.” The pitch for the Variety review is similarly clueless: “This slick, stylish fusion of class critique and murder mystery confirms Paolo Virzi as one of Italy's more dynamic directors.” But the title in The Guardian, which still positions itself as socially conscious, is particularly damning – for the critic (“the UK leading film critic,” if the BBC is still to be trusted) rather than for the movie he casually dismisses: “Stylish Yet Shallow Oscar Nominee.” There is much research indicating that our perceptions and ideas reflect to a greater extent how we function mentally and neurosomatically – as opposed to the qualities of external objects and phenomena (an issue I addressed in a recent article, "Out of Touch"; case in point: “the dress”). Which makes me feel for all those movie critics (and others) whom the movie left deeply unmoved. This, of course, in itself must be a sign of the times “Human Capital” sets out to deconstruct – and perhaps the main reason why it has become so hard to imagine a more humane alternative.