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Atlas Shrugged, Part I: A Cinematic Go-Cart

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You are standing in a gallery with another critic before two paintings hung side by side, one by William-Adolphe Bouguereau and one by Pablo Picasso. Let us say they are Bouguereau’s Idylle (1851), and Picasso’s La Vie (1903). You both agree that the Bouguereau is a fine painting, depicting two lovers in a classical setting, the young man seated on the ground, looking up with adoration at the young woman. His hands clasp her legs possessively; she glances down at him in worship. Their glances are obviously fixed on each other. Everything in the painting works because the colors, the anatomy, the composition, the theme are integrated. You can enjoy the painting, even be inspired by it, and want to own it, without having to analyze it. Your introspection gives it a “10.” You accept it as a completed entity, without the necessity of dissecting its attributes. You explain in detail these virtues to the other critic, but he merely grunts in agreement.

The Picasso painting is a “Blue Period” monochrome that initially is repulsive, and on inspection is depressing. Aside from the annoying blue, the figures in it are anatomically impossible, none of figures or the four groups is thematically connected to any of the others, and the malevolence of the picture telegraphs itself from across the gallery. The whole work seems to be an arbitrary jumble of random figures that just happen to be on the same canvas. The composition is erratic and happenstance. Its theme is the futility of existence. The figures could just as well be inanimate objects or a menagerie of zoo animals. It doesn’t matter.

You state that La Vie is not merely bad, incompetently done art; it was perhaps deliberately intended to be such. The other critic defends the painting with some emotion, claiming that while there are flaws in the anatomy and composition, and other lapses and errors one might object to on mere technical grounds, they aren’t important, and so one really had no justification to judge the painting so negatively. The figures are recognizable, and there seems to be a theme, though he cannot quite put his finger on it, but denies it is the futility of existence. And how would we know that Picasso was an incompetent artist with nothing of value to say? Besides, he says, if this painting were by chance seen by someone uneducated in art, he might move on to appreciate the Bouguereau.

You walk away, shaking your head. You don’t know what else to say to the other critic, but you sense that whatever else you said, would be taken as offensive.

That is the situation I find myself in regarding John Aglialoro’s film, “Atlas Shrugged, Part I.”

The rebranding of that movie as a defensible work of art by writers who form an ad hoc but wishful consensus to give a disastrous cinematic rendition of Ayn Rand’s monumental novel, Atlas Shrugged, a passing mark has produced some curious reviews. That rebranding calls into question not only the critical skills of those writers, but their understanding of and dedication to reason and Romantic art. The latest of these defenses is C.A. Wolski’s review of the movie in the Spring edition of The Objective Standard.

This rebuttal is by no means exhaustive. Readers of this blog know what I think of the movie. There are numerous assertions in Wolski’s article that need correction, and this rebuttal will focus only on the most flagrantly egregious ones. But while I wish the movie to fade into the periphery of my concerns – there are, after all, more pressing battles to fight – my esteem for Rand’s novel is too high and too personal to allow his article to stand unanswered.

I could have begun instead with a comparison of the Atlas movie with another that I used in my previous commentary, “Judgment at Nuremberg.” But I decided that a comparison of two paintings and two judgments of them would more simply dramatize the issue. Comparing “Judgment at Nuremberg” with the Atlas movie would be like using a flamethrower to extinguish a nest of termites. Hardly fair.

Where to start? It would be appropriate to begin with Wolski’s companion article in The Objective Standard, “Atlas Shrugged’s Long Journey to the Silver Screen,” which is an account of all the attempts to produce a feasible script of the novel, including Rand’s own attempts. In that respect, it is an informative article. But, in a boxed sidebar in the article, “Adapting Atlas: Ayn Rand’s Own Approach,” Wolski writes that Rand made changes in the novel’s dialogue and events, and omitted and created new material. For example, he notes:

Rand also introduces the idea of extensive television news coverage—absent in the novel—reporting on the country’s rejection of Rearden Metal and visually depicting the collapse of industry. Where necessary, she wrote new dialogue that presented the theme more overtly, for instance changing the opening by adding new lines that explained the meaning of the giant calendar and that featured the bum telling Eddie, who expresses unease about it, “your days are numbered.”

Wolski cites other changes Rand made in especially her last script. He feels it necessary to crack the knuckles of those who would object to such changes by suggesting that even “purists” would not like the changes she made. But the sidebar’s function is an obvious attempt to excuse Aglialoro’s butchered version of the story by insinuating that the “text” is not sacred, and that Rand “did not hesitate to change or add details, incidents, and characters to dramatically and visually illustrate the theme of the novel.” In between the lines one can read, “See? Even Rand did this, that, and the other to her own story, so there’s no reason to score Aglialoro for all the changes he made, etc….” Its purpose is to fend off or answer fundamental criticism of Aglialoro’s script by equating his errors with her changes.

But Aglialoro is not Rand, and Atlas Shrugged was not his work to improve on. His and Brian Patrick O’Toole’s script simply assembled body parts from the novel (and perhaps even from Rand’s own script) to patch together a Frankenstein-like creature. Or, if you will, they ripped planks from the novel to fashion a creaky cinematic go-cart, held together by glue, equipped with discarded lawnmower wheels, with no motor, and a Bobble Head of Rand as a hood ornament, with “Atlas Shrugged” painted on the sides should no one recognize the Bobble Head.

Wolski’s featured review is basically an example of that rare literary form, an encomium-cum-apology. It is an overture to the “Long Journey” article. Effusive praise is tempered with extraneous reservations and qualifications, extraneous because he sanctions the movie.

Atlas Shrugged: Part I
, the first in a planned trilogy, should, for the most part, please the novel’s patient fans. Fortuitously following a blueprint similar to one outlined by Rand in the 1970s (see “Adapting Atlas: Ayn Rand’s Own Approach,” p. 38), the film covers the first third of the story.

“Adapting Atlas: Ayn Rand’s Own Approach” is a boxed sidebar within the second article. The “blueprint,” however, was possibly pilfered from Rand’s script or others’ scripts. And throughout the article Wolski feels obliged to repeatedly assure readers that viewers will be pleased “for the most part,” and that, “generally speaking,” the movie is true to the novel. Those who are not pleased can be dismissed as impractical and unrealistic.

The film substantially delivers these parts. Each plot point is there, as is much of Rand’s dialogue sans most of the overt expressions of her philosophic viewpoint, which first-time feature director Paul Johansson does his best to illustrate instead through the actions of the characters and the events of the plot. For the most part, the script stays true to the novel while updating it in ways that do not blunt the power of Rand’s theme—no small feat.

The film delivers those parts but in a severely damaged condition. Not all the plot points from the novel are there, either, because many of those points lie in either characterization and/or dialogue. Most of Rand’s dialogue is missing, not “watered down” as Wolski asserts later in his article, and the characterizations of what characters do survive the transition from the novel are so tamely naturalistic that no plot points can be attributed to them. No, the movie does not stay “true” to the novel, and it is “updated” in ways that do not merely “blunt” the power of Rand’s theme (the role of the mind in man’s existence, which Wolski does not mention), but smashes it to pieces. No small feat, indeed.

Screenwriters John Aglialoro (who also produced the film) and Brian Patrick O’Toole solve the problem admirably by setting the film five years in the future, at a time when the Middle East is in crisis and America is on the brink of economic and social collapse. With truck and air transport crippled due to Middle East oil shortages, the burden of shipping and transportation returns to rail lines. The opening montage quickly and ingeniously establishes this new context—which is radically different than [sic] that of the novel—and provides those familiar with the source material with an indication of the script’s narrative efficiency.

Aglialoro and O’Toole solved the problem of staying “true” to the novel by lifting Rand’s story out of its essential timeliness and timelessness by setting it in the near future, and thereby not being “true.” Gone is the cigarette-themed subplot (Hollywood is now anti-smoking) and in come the cell phones, the Middle East, and other recognizable “now” elements. The opening montage is something which, according to Wolski in his “Long Journey” article, Rand wrote herself, or rather incorporated in one of her scripts, the role of television news.

If there was any ingenuity, it was Rand’s, not Aglialoro’s or O’Toole’s. Wolski writes that “those familiar with the source material” will appreciate the script’s “narrative efficiency.” What “efficiency”? Is the term a euphemism for “economy”? I am intimately familiar with the novel (a.k.a. “source material”) and I was completely baffled, not only by the banal characterizations and liberties taken with the story, but also by the illogical sequence of events in the movie.

A brief word about the movie’s casting: Wolski praises some actors for their performances, and frowns on others. But, it would be unfair to fault most of the cast of “Atlas Shrugged, Part I” for their skewed or under-performances. They were given roles they did not comprehend and apparently given little time to absorb them. Not that it would have mattered had they the time; the script is a mess. One wonders if any of them had even read the novel. Taylor Schilling is no Barbara Stanwyck, and Grant Bowler is no William Holden. Stanwyck and Holden would have made a far more effective and credible Dagny Taggart and Hank Rearden, even if they had not completely absorbed the characters. Very few television-trained actors – and that is what most of the cast seems to be – successfully make the transition from formula-driven TV scripts, directors, and sets to the big screen, regardless of the quality of the film. Invariably, they bring their television-honed skills and habits with them, and not to their profit.

The same may be said about directors. One of the original formats for a production of Atlas Shrugged was a TV miniseries. Such a production would have required the producer, director and screenwriter to think "outside the box" of formulaic TV production. Paul Johannsson, TV director, did not. I agree with Wolski when he describes Johansson’s portrayal of John Galt as “ham-fisted” and that his scenes look tacked on. But he does not mention that introducing Galt in the beginning destroyed the mystery present in the novel but not in the movie. Rand once related the maxim about stage plays that if one introduces a gun in the first act, it had better go off by the third. In the movie, the gun goes off in the very beginning, the trigger pulled by the “antagonist” who announces his reasons.

I do not know if Johansson was assigned the role of Galt by Aglialoro, or if he insisted on the part aside from directing the movie. But someone, at some time, insisted that, like Gus Webb in The Fountainhead, he had a right to express his own “individuality” on Rand’s work. That seems to have been the standard operating procedure throughout the whole movie.

Of course, there are successful exceptions to the rule that novels cannot be faithfully transferred to the small screen, too many to cite here. A production of Atlas Shrugged could work in the television medium. It could work – if the skill and talent existed in Hollywood.

Although some fans of the novel might balk at such departures from the text, they serve to quickly establish the primary storyline of the film: Great producers, such as Mulligan, are disappearing for no apparent reason when the country is most in need of their ability. Apart from these substantial alterations, Aglialoro and O’Toole generally stick with the overall arc of the first part of the novel, paring away its narrative scope and streamlining the story to its essence.

Yes, the “primary storyline” is established – on crutches, after a hit-and-run – but if Galt is introduced in the beginning persuading producers to quit and vanish, where is the “no apparent reason”? It is made “apparent” in the beginning. Scratch the suspense so skillfully created by Rand in the novel. And that suspense is just one element of the “primary storyline” that was efficiently hacked away by Aglialoro and O’Toole. Their paring knife was an ax.

(Speaking of “streamlining,” I strongly suspected that I would not like this movie when I first saw the “Part I” poster, before I saw the trailers and the movie itself. When there are so many great renderings of Atlas holding up the world available, why did whoever was responsible for the artwork decide that some faceless, androgynous, elastic human figure in yellow, holding up what looks like a congealed drop of butterscotch pudding, would be a great logo for the movie? One of the blogs that carried my first review of the movie used an interesting illustration which might have better suited the movie. But the chosen poster for it is a perfect signature for the movie and the esthetics of those who made it.)

Less attention is given to subplots and to the development of secondary characters. For instance, Francisco d’Anconia (Jsu Garcia) comes across as a complete lout in
Part I
because the film lacks those great moments in which Rand provides intriguing clues that he may be more than he at first appears. The script also excises all of the flashbacks found in the novel, so we do not learn about the childhood relationship between Dagny, Francisco, and Dagny’s assistant, Eddie Willers.

I agree with Wolski that “lout” best describes the movie’s Francisco d’Anconia. However, in the novel, he is not a “secondary” character, but a crucial, integrated ingredient in the story. His relationships with Dagny and later with Hank Rearden are plot points lopped off because, while the screenwriters did not know what to do with him or them, they dared not “excise” him from the story. But if Aglialoro and O’Toole regarded him as “secondary,” why introduce the lout at all? Qua the movie’s careening storyline, he contributes nothing to it, except to bewilder anyone not familiar with the novel, who will be futilely “intrigued.” His introduction simply clutters up an unkempt script that boasts no continuity. And it would be pointless to dwell here on the novel’s portrayal of Francisco and the movie’s. If Rand were able to see what Aglialoro and O’Toole did to just Francisco, she would subject them to a tongue-lashing that would leave them cowering and whimpering in a corner.

Particular praise should go to stars Taylor Schilling (Dagny) and Grant Bowler (Rearden). The film is a showcase for them, and they execute their parts almost perfectly….But the film really sings when Bowler and Schilling share the screen. Their relationships—both business and, later, romantic—are intense and believable. They interact with easy give-and-take, and have a powerful chemistry that is exploited to good effect. In the scene in which they discover the abandoned static electricity motor, their reaction is highly charged—almost romantic. These are characters who love technology, discovery, and production, and when they find the motor together their joy is palpable.

This assertion is plain make-believe. The relationship of the movie’s Rearden and Dagny is of the banal soap-opera level, and plods along with no rhyme or reason. They “interact” easily because there is no conflict between them or in themselves that could be said to be “palpable” and which could have made their scenes together “sing.” What Taylor Schilling and Grant Bowler are truly ‘showcasing” are the unchallenging limits of their TV-honed acting abilities. This is no fault of their own, as I mention above. Roark, in The Fountainhead, acknowledges his error in placing too great a burden on Keating’s shoulders for him to guarantee the integrity of the design of Cortlandt Homes. Schilling, Bowler, and some of the other actors in the movie, were similarly over-burdened. It is Aglialoro’s fault for casting them in those roles.

Wolski complains in his article that in many spots the movie lacks “dramatic energy.” However, the whole movie lacks it because no attempt was made to infuse it with the power of a moral conflict, which its makers either “pared” from the story or did not grasp enough to even inadvertently suggest it. There is no philosophical undercurrent present in the movie as there is in the novel, and the few anti-government and “this is mine” statements uttered by the Dagny, Rearden and other characters hove to a libertarian mantra.

So lacking in “dramatic energy” is the movie that one correspondent remarked to me, about the bracelet/necklace exchange scene between Lillian and Dagny, that she thought “Dagny was going to point out that her diamond necklace matched Lillian's earrings.” Me? I had expected some intense acting between the actresses, of a caliber that would have left me rooting for Dagny. Instead, they may as well have been discussing fashion accessories. That scene could have been effective, even without much of a context having been established, and a viewer might have been intrigued why Dagny insisted on the trade. In the movie, Rearden intervenes as though he were dousing a minor spat, and Dagny walks off with no “dramatic energy” being exchanged between her and Rearden – as happens in the novel – and so there is no plausible basis established for their ensuing romance.

Finally, and incredibly, Wolski writes:

But
Atlas Shrugged: Part I
is
not
the novel and it does not pretend to be. It
is
a fairly competently made, credible adaptation of one of the most complex novels ever written. Even with its flaws, the film is enjoyable and has wonderful moments, including some in which it captures the power of the novel—such as the party during which Dagny gets the Rearden Metal bracelet….Those unfamiliar with the story will probably enjoy the movie as well and may find their curiosity sufficiently piqued to read the book. If so, they will be even more richly rewarded.

Those who are “sufficiently piqued” by the movie to read the novel should, once they are deep into it, ask themselves: What in hell did they do to the story?

Wolski, however, claims that the movie is not the novel. But, it certainly does pretend to be. If it is not the novel, then what is the movie? Why the title? Is it a “pretend” title? In connection with what? Another novel that also bears the title, Atlas Shrugged? One wonders about such sleights-of-mind that could discuss how a movie is like and is not like a novel, then state that the movie is not the novel, and then conclude this was a “fairly competently made, credible adaptation.” Of what? What, then, was the subject of the review? Does Wolski expect others to also perceive and blank out at the same time? If so, that is not a prescription for sanity or honesty.

What was the review about? It was about a cinematic go-cart being promoted as a powerful vehicle for “change,” except that it lacks the energy of a motor. Or, one could say it was about an esthetics-starved and conflict-deficient hybrid car that looks suspiciously like a child’s “Big Wheel.”

5200276-5008023294660286181?l=ruleofreas

Cross-posted from Metablog

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"...none of figures or the four groups is thematically connected to any of the others...The whole work seems to be an arbitrary jumble of random figures that just happen to be on the same canvas. The composition is erratic and happenstance..."

Allow me to put on my Luc Travers hat and try to help people to begin to imagine ways in which the figures in the Picasso painting might be seen as being thematically connected.

First, let's give names to the characters in the painting. Let's call the female on the left "Patrecia," let's call the male "Nathaniel," let's call the female on the right "Ayn," and let's call the infant "NBI." Then let's imagine that the drawings behind "Patrecia," "Nathaniel" and "Ayn" are unfinished essays on the psychology of romantic love, and on how age differences might present an insuperable barrier to an affair between two people, and also some notes on strategies for producing a stage adaptation of The Fountainhead.

Now, 'put yourself into' the imaginary world of the painting. What might the characters be thinking and feeling? What would you think and feel if you were them?

J

Edited by Jonathan13

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First, let's give names to the characters in the painting. Let's call the female on the left "Patrecia," let's call the male "Nathaniel," let's call the female on the right "Ayn," and let's call the infant "NBI." Then let's imagine that the drawings behind "Patrecia," "Nathaniel" and "Ayn" are unfinished essays on the psychology of romantic love, and on how age differences might present an insuperable barrier to an affair between two people, and also some notes on strategies for producing a stage adaptation of The Fountainhead.

No-no-no, from right to left we’re looking at Medea, Jason, and Glauce. Glauce is naked because Medea hasn’t given her the poisoned dress yet. Some scholars believe that the dress is just out of view, and Glauce is looking at it. The “drawings” in the background are not drawings at all, they are the Furies, and they look depressed because they know big time tragedy is coming. The title, La Vie, means “Life”, making explicit that this work is the definitive statement of the artist’s sense of life. This painting is as anti-reason and trashy as anything in Euripides. QED.

picasso_lavie1903.jpg477px-Rembrandt_-_Jeremiah_lamenting.jpg

The Rembrandt is closer to how I felt about the movie.

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This painting is as anti-reason and trashy as anything in Euripides. QED.

Speaking of "trashy," I think Bouguereau's work, which the original post on this thread provided as an example of great art, is close enough to Maxfield Parrish's -- actually, it's even cuter/stickier/sweeter than Parrish's -- that Rand probably would have thought of it as "trash," as she did of Parrish's (see Ayn Rand Answers—the Best of her Q&A). I think she probably would have called Bouguereau's work "false romanticism" or something like that.

J

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Speaking of "trashy," I think Bouguereau's work, which the original post on this thread provided as an example of great art,

Too bad the essay leads off with such a false step. Bouguereau uses soft focus and babies with cupid wings incessantly. His paintings are similar to the crap Mallory was playing with to try to make some money, but Roark got so angry upon seeing one he smashed it. I think Roark's attitude is not far from what would be Rand's if she were confronted with a Bouguereau.

The analogy of Atlas Shrugged: Part 1 to a Picasso does not work any better. Picasso knew what he was doing. Actually, the Picasso is easy to understand, one man and two women is a love triangle or the non-triangular simple abandonment of the old chick for the new chick. It is a domestic trope but illustrated with the style and forced poses that remind me of some religious iconography (a Byzantine mosaic style, to be particular).

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Too bad the essay leads off with such a false step.

Indeed. When someone who is writing about a film, which is a visual medium, begins by revealing that he has saccharin tastes in the visual arts, as well as an apparent inability to comprehend very obvious visual cues, I immediately have to question in which ways his judgments of the film may have been tainted by his tastes and limitations. I have to assume that there is a good possibility that he missed or misunderstood a lot of visual information in the film.

It's like beginning to read a partially-deaf person's long rant about a piece of music. I'd have to ask myself, "Do I have any reason to continue reading? The reviewer inadvertently admits to being unable to hear anything from the string or woodwinds sections, and only bits and pieces of the brass and percussion, so what value could I possibly get out of his passionate denunciations of the piece, other than as a study in his peculiarities and deficiencies?"

J

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Bouguereau uses soft focus and babies with cupid wings incessantly. His paintings are similar to the crap Mallory was playing with to try to make some money, but Roark got so angry upon seeing one he smashed it. I think Roark's attitude is not far from what would be Rand's if she were confronted with a Bouguereau.
At risk of taking this further off topic, this week the "Objectivist's Art of the Day" blog has been posting two paintings by Bouguereau every day, one that the blogger likes, and one that he dislikes. Check it out here, and go backward through the week. Edited by softwareNerd

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At risk of taking this further off topic...

"Further"? In what way has anything on this thread been "off topic"? The original post opens with the topic of comparing a painting by Bouguereau to one by Picasso, and contains statements which reveal the difficulty that its author has in understanding very obvious visual content. Discussing those topics is quite "on topic."

J

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"Further"? In what way has anything on this thread been "off topic"? The original post opens with the topic of comparing a painting by Bouguereau to one by Picasso, and contains statements which reveal the difficulty that its author has in understanding very obvious visual content. Discussing those topics is quite "on topic."

J

I agree here. The essay is about the movie, but the thread can just as legitimately be about the essay itself as the movie.

Critics are not above criticism.

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For those who didn't follow the link in the initial post to the image which Cline thinks is "interesting," and which he believes might have made for a better movie poster than that which was used, here it is again.

This is the preference of a person whose essay tries to imply that he knows something about color and visual composition, that his tastes in the visual arts are cultivated and worthy of consideration, and that he is using objective standards when denouncing "incompetently done art"!!!

What might he suggest for a poster to promote, say, The Poseidon Adventure? Perhaps a horrible, amateur Photoshop mashup of an image of a bronze sculpture of Poseidon behind an image of an upturned ship behind an image of Paul Gallico? Pure aesthetic genius, that is, mixing a blunt, literal reification of the metaphor contained in the movie's title with visual subject matter which typifies what might be seen in the movie, and then topping it off with a picture of the author upon whose novel the movie is based! Brilliant! And so very tasteful!

J

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Speaking of "trashy," I think Bouguereau's work, which the original post on this thread provided as an example of great art, is close enough to Maxfield Parrish's -- actually, it's even cuter/stickier/sweeter than Parrish's -- that Rand probably would have thought of it as "trash," as she did of Parrish's (see Ayn Rand Answers—the Best of her Q&A). I think she probably would have called Bouguereau's work "false romanticism" or something like that.

J

A sample of Parrish's "trash":

maxfieldparrish-mountainecstasy.jpg

I'm not a big fan of Parrish, but I think we can take Rand's response as an example of her occasional tendency toward hyperbole. The painting does represent a kind of false, ethereal romanticism, but would you really classify this as no better than, say, a paint splash by Jackson Pollock?

If Parrish is "trash," Bouguereau is excrement.

William_Bouguereau_BOW023.jpg

Since Cline obviously regards himself as some sort of supreme guardian of Ayn Rand's philosophical domain, one would think he might know more about her standards of what constitutes great art.

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If Parrish is "trash," Bouguereau is excrement.

Wings. Non-sexual platonic love. The male is looking devotedly at the female while she is indulging in some eyes-closed revelry (i.e. it depicts white-knighting). It is bad.

edit: If the male were more buff the painting could work as cover art for a romance novel, i.e. girl porn.

Edited by Grames

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If Parrish is "trash," Bouguereau is excrement.

Since Cline obviously regards himself as some sort of supreme guardian of Ayn Rand's philosophical domain, one would think he might know more about her standards of what constitutes great art.

If Parrish is trash, and Bouguereau is excrement, then Capuletti, who was a favorite of Rand's (and still appears to be a favorite of many of her followers), is, by any objective standard, student-grade whatever-is-73-times-worse-than-excrement.

J

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If Parrish is trash, and Bouguereau is excrement, then Capuletti, who was a favorite of Rand's (and still appears to be a favorite of many of her followers), is, by any objective standard, student-grade whatever-is-73-times-worse-than-excrement.

J

No.

Capuletti%20A%20Mairena.jpg

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No.

Capuletti%20A%20Mairena.jpg

Heh.

Notice that I didn't say that if Parrish is trash, and Bouguereau is excrement, then Capuletti is, by Grames's subjective tastes, student-grade whatever-is-73-times-worse-than-excrement. And I didn't say that Capuletti is a significantly lesser artist according to the subjective opinions of any of Rand's other fans or followers who don't really know much of anything about the technical aspects of visual art.

No, what I said was that if Parrish is trash, and Bouguereau is excrement, then Capuletti is, by any objective standard, student-grade whatever-is-73-times-worse-than-excrement.

I've seen college freshmen who can draw better than the Capuletti example that you posted. I know several amateur artists who live within a few miles of me, and who take drawing and painting classes at the local community arts center, who can create better art.

Parrish and Bouguereau at their worst were far better than Capuletti was at his best. Rand's praise of Capuletti was misguided. I mean, I'm glad that she enjoyed his work, and that she found it meaningful. That's great. But just because she liked his work doesn't mean that it was good. It isn't the "tour de force" of "disciplined power," "virtuoso technique" and "sheer perfection of workmanship" that she claimed it to be. It's student-grade work, and if you can't tell that it is, then I can only conclude that you have very little technical knowledge of drawing and painting, and that you're perhaps easily swayed by other's uninformed opinions and subjective judgments.

J

Edited by Jonathan13

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No-no-no, from right to left we’re looking at Medea, Jason, and Glauce.

In case any doubters remain, watch at 1:30 to see Glauce under the influence of the poisoned dress, then zap to the last minute to see Jason confront Medea. The only way you can convince me Picasso’s painting isn’t based on this film is by pointing out that he painted it about 50 years before it was made.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4SEslkm-epU

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In case any doubters remain, watch at 1:30 to see Glauce under the influence of the poisoned dress, then zap to the last minute to see Jason confront Medea. The only way you can convince me Picasso’s painting isn’t based on this film is by pointing out that he painted it about 50 years before it was made.

When judging art objectively, one is not to take into account any "outside considerations," such as when a painting was painted, so it looks as though there is no refuting your interpretation.

J

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When judging art objectively, one is not to take into account any "outside considerations," such as when a painting was painted, so it looks as though there is no refuting your interpretation.

J

But the very existence of that film is itself an outside consideration to be disregarded, so the interpretation is not objective.

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But the very existence of that film is itself an outside consideration to be disregarded, so the interpretation is not objective.

At what point, then, and by what standard, does an image's likeness to a person or other entity become an "outside consideration"? If Ninth sees the characters from the Picasso painting as resembling historical or fictional characters with whom he is familiar, how is that any different from someone seeing a painting of a red spherical object as resembling an apple? Why is it an "outside consideration" for Ninth to recognize that the figures in a painting look like Glauce, Jason and Medea, but it's not an "outside consideration" for someone else to recognize that the figures in a different painting look like Atlas, Prometheus, Icarus or Cupid? Or like Lincoln, Aristotle, Edison or Rand, etc.?

J

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At what point, then, and by what standard, does an image's likeness to a person or other entity become an "outside consideration"? If Ninth sees the characters from the Picasso painting as resembling historical or fictional characters with whom he is familiar, how is that any different from someone seeing a painting of a red spherical object as resembling an apple?

For an objective aesthetic judgment it cannot be assumed that the viewer knows the same faces as the artist. What is depicted in a painting should be identified conceptually as types, not as symbols or as named individuals.

Why is it an "outside consideration" for Ninth to recognize that the figures in a painting look like Glauce, Jason and Medea, but it's not an "outside consideration" for someone else to recognize that the figures in a different painting look like Atlas, Prometheus, Icarus or Cupid? Or like Lincoln, Aristotle, Edison or Rand, etc.?

Those are all examples of using outside considerations.

I only mentioned Cupids in a post above because I couldn't remember the word "cherub". Since cherubs don't exist they do not make sense taken literally and their only function is symbolism; they import by reference more meaning than can be conveyed in a single scene (or at least more than the artist felt he could convey without the symbol).

An emotional reaction to the total work include all of its external context. This is one reason why people can like things that are aesthetically bad, they value the things referenced or symbolized. ("Look, Dagny Taggart! Hank Rearden! The John Galt Line is finished! Awesome sauce!")

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An artist has two jobs - first to have the inspiration and insight to depict reality according to his (insightful) value system, and second, to depict it with a level of skill that demonstrates (maybe) innate ability and (definitely) a hell of a lot of work on technique and skill. (Michelangelo's comment on his "genius" is instructive)

The Picasso arguably scores points on the first, but fails on the second. The "trash" from Bouguereau arguably fails on the first, but certainly succeeds on the second.

The problem with the comparison to Atlas Shrugged, Part I, is that the value system through which reality is depicted is Rand's, while the level of technique and skill is Aglioloro's.

Does the film succeed in depicting reality in a new, fresh, interesting, relevant way? Absolutely! Does it do so with technical skill, technique and coherence? A resounding "NO!"

Is it art? Is it "good?" Only as much as you give credit for merely recognizing the artistic value of Rand's vision.

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For an objective aesthetic judgment it cannot be assumed that the viewer knows the same faces as the artist.

Why not? The population generally has common knowledge of certain people, events and things. If it can't be assumed that the viewer knows certain famous faces, then it also can't be assumed that he knows any entity, or type of entity, that the artist depicts. Therefore all representations -- all references to things in reality -- rely on "outside considerations" by your standards.

What is depicted in a painting should be identified conceptually as types, not as symbols or as named individuals.

Do your rules apply only to the depiction of people, or must other entities, such as, say, places, also be "types" rather than symbols or named individual places? Is it verboten, for example, for a painter to include a fictional version of Jesus, Aristotle or Genghis Khan, but it's acceptable that Rand included real places, such as America, Russia, New York City, etc., rather than inventing imaginary types of places?

Those are all examples of using outside considerations.

I only mentioned Cupids in a post above because I couldn't remember the word "cherub". Since cherubs don't exist they do not make sense taken literally and their only function is symbolism; they import by reference more meaning than can be conveyed in a single scene (or at least more than the artist felt he could convey without the symbol).

Everything in a representational artwork imports meaning by reference. That's what representation means. Therefore everything in a representational artwork conveys meaning via "outside considerations" by your standards, no?

J

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An artist has two jobs - first to have the inspiration and insight to depict reality according to his (insightful) value system, and second, to depict it with a level of skill that demonstrates (maybe) innate ability and (definitely) a hell of a lot of work on technique and skill. (Michelangelo's comment on his "genius" is instructive)

The Picasso arguably scores points on the first, but fails on the second.

I disagree. I think that Picasso was just going in a new direction that you don't (and possibly can't) appreciate. He was a Howard Roark, in effect, who questioned and challenged the traditional ways of doing things.

The "trash" from Bouguereau arguably fails on the first, but certainly succeeds on the second.

I don't see any grounds for concluding that Bouguereau's work doesn't depict what was important or valuable to him. Perhaps you meant that he failed to paint what is important to you? If so, then, no, that wasn't his job.

The problem with the comparison to Atlas Shrugged, Part I, is that the value system through which reality is depicted is Rand's, while the level of technique and skill is Aglioloro's.

Does the film succeed in depicting reality in a new, fresh, interesting, relevant way? Absolutely! Does it do so with technical skill, technique and coherence? A resounding "NO!"

You're talking about film as if you have some actual knowledge of the subject. You sound as if you're trying to present yourself as an authority. So, what are your qualifications to judge the technical merits of a film?

J

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I disagree. I think that Picasso was just going in a new direction that you don't (and possibly can't) appreciate. He was a Howard Roark, in effect, who questioned and challenged the traditional ways of doing things.

I know this is quite OT but I want to thank you for illustrating the reason I am uneasy with The Fountainhead (and the reason why I think many otherwise "Progressive" educators actually like to teach this book and will do so even without ARI helping them out). It's far too easy for trashy "artists" to point to it and proclaim that they are really Howard Roark, being beaten down by the system. They can justify being different for the sake of being different, which of course we should understand as counterfeit individualism. Of course there are places in the book where Ayn Rand makes it clear that being Howard Roark is not about being different, unconventional, and proud of it for that reason alone, but those are easily glossed over (particularly by those who are already receptive to the incorrect interpretation) and the book can be taught as being an invitation for being arrogant about one's counterfeit individualism.

Any artist, no matter how bad, can be pointed to as a "Howard Roark." One's assertion of such does not meet the standard of showing that an artist actually _is_ a Howard Roark.

Thus far I've sed nothing about Picasso but I'll say this to you. If he's a Howard Roark, prove it. Don't just assert it. If you can't prove it, you are throwing out arbitrary statements.

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I disagree. I think that Picasso was just going in a new direction that you don't (and possibly can't) appreciate. He was a Howard Roark, in effect, who questioned and challenged the traditional ways of doing things.

I don't think anyone is arguing that their own tastes are any relevant indicator to objective judgment of art. It's one thing to say objective standards provided are no good, it's another to say that because someone is using bad standards it means they are in actuality using subjective judgment based on emotion.

What is depicted in a painting should be identified conceptually as types, not as symbols or as named individuals.

Can you clarify this point, Grames? Why shouldn't what is depicted in a painting be identified conceptually as types? Don't symbols do that anyway? Since art is representational, how are symbols not a very important feature of art? I would think symbols are necessary. If art is the concretization of abstractions, just as words are, then art is symbolic in the same way words are symbolic. If anything, saying what is depicted in a painting should be identified conceptually as types would suggest more abstract art is better (Cubism especially) because that is generalizing movement and form to conceptual types rather than exact particulars. (Aside: that's what I like about some Cubist works - unless literally everything depicted is hard to distinguish and I cannot perceptually figure out what is going on.) Although, I don't quite understand what you mean by "types" anyway.

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