THE ART OF THE CRITIQUE
I’ve just finished reading a book called “Disgrace” by Nobel Prize winner, J. M. Coetzee, an Australian. The cover shows a scene from a film based on the novel which stars John Malkovich. Curious that I’d never heard of the movie, I looked it up on the internet. The film reviews run the gambit for A to F, but the majority is negative. I’d have to give the book a negative rating, also. Unless one wishes to be exposed to the abject despair of nihilism, then this novel is to be avoided — though I confess Coetzee’s flawless writing does lift the experience a little.
Perhaps I am impertinent to make a recommendation. The value of Art, like beauty, rests with the beholder. Recently, for example, I came across a critique of Susan Boyle’s first music video, “A Perfect Day” with which I disagreed. Boyle is a middle aged matron who belted out a beautiful rendition of a song from “Les Miserables” on aBritish talent show and rose to fame and fortune. When I first heard her sing, I was shattered by the beauty of her voice and played the clip several times.
The critic whose opinion I fault complained her new video was a walk on the “mild side.” According to him, Lou Reed, the song’s creator and artistic director, has abandoned his talent as a rock musician to create a piece of new age clap trap. When I viewed the piece my impression was so different, he and I might have been witnesses to different works.
We agreed on the lyric’s content. The song celebrates the memory of a perfect day shared by two people who are now parted, probably lovers. It’s a simple theme except the grandeur of the setting – Scotland’s Trussochs National Park — provides a portal to a second meaning. As the viewer is moved out of the misty darkness of the forest into vast expanses of a rainbow world, he is invited to contemplate divine rather than physical love. The singer stands on a mountain top with her arms open to the sun and repeats the refrain, “You’re gonna reap what you sew,” a moral message.
Rather than a walk on the “mild side,” Boyle’s video seeks to embrace beauty that is almost beyond comprehension. Simply put, rapture in whatever form it takes is transforming.
I give “A Perfect Day” a thumbs up.