Friday, January 03, 2003

Yesterday I thought I'd try and be intellectual and watch Presque Rien (aka Come Undone), a French film (with subtitles) about a blossoming relationship between two young men. Well, it had the impossibly beautiful Stephane Rideau in it, being naked a lot. You can't go wrong can you?

Unfortunately, the film itself was a bit slow-paced and difficult to follow, with a non-linear narrative structure. There were some nice moments, but nothing really gets explained - you never find out why the main character ends up in hospital, why he splits up with Mr Rideau (why indeed?) One problem with gay cinema is that it becomes difficult to forge a balance between giving the audience a homoerotic buzz, and trading that with something which has "artistic intergity". Presque Rien was good at both things, and ultimately, that's what makes it so frustrating to watch.

And after all the fuss in the papers about the documentary Beijing Swings, I thought I'd give being intellectual a second chance and watch it. The phrase "eating dead babies" is drag queen slang for having lipstick on your teeth. But in this documentary, one of the artists took the phrase literally, and actually did eat a dead baby. This was apparently to exploit the gap between the law and morality - cannabilism isn't illegal apparently. So how are intellectuals supposed to respond to that? Should they admire the act as a wonderful piece of performance art that makes people think and pushes back boundaries? Should they be appalled because of the lack of respect the artist has shown towards a human body? Or should they simply be bored, like a sarcastic maths teacher who's seen it all before?

I did find that section of the programme to be upsetting - and ultimately pointless. I can see what the artist was trying to do, but then so what? Why bother, except just to shock people and make an easy name for yourself? It's about as artistic as Jackass, which is at least more honest because it never claims to be anything else. Anyway, artists will never impress me unless they're first able to prove that they can draw a reasonable facsimile of a horse, unaided by photos. And I don't care if that makes me sound like a 75 year old granny from Middle England. Impress me with a horse drawing - then I'll call you an artist!

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