Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Comfortable old friends

Sometimes artists and their quirks are comfortably familiar.

I love Brian Wilson.

Pet Sounds and SMiLE, obviously, but All Summer Long and Love You almost as much.

Somewhere down the line comes something like Imagination, his 1998 solo album. It has its moments, some pleasant and even catchy pop songs and even one very moving song, "Lay Down Burden", that I would definitely place on any substantial career retrospective I were to make for him. But even its low points are pleasant to my ear. It's like spending time with an old friend.

For most of his career, I'd place John Carpenter in that same grouping. Sure, there's a couple of missteps, for me Christine and Village of the Damned. I find Vampires and Ghosts of Mars are lesser works, but are like Imagination, pleasant amusements.

Cigarette Burns, his first season episode of Masters of Horror. My review is here. In hindsight, the wonderful ideas and things that were handled well haunted further, though. It was almost like he had turned a corner, become hungry again. He wanted to be an artist, challenging me, no longer content provide me with comfortable fare, like Brian Wilson finally putting together SMiLE.

And then came Pro-Life, which I basically reviewed here. With this, it seems clear that the hunger in Cigarette Burns came from writers Drew McWeeny and Scott Swan, who frankly seem to lack anything like the talent or discipline that Carpenter showed in his early work.

Carpenter is lazily willing to let all lapses of logic go. He shows no interest in creating the kind of visuals that stand out in even the least of his earlier work. Frankly, if anyone tells you that Pro-Life is better than being crapped on by an elephant, they're being incredibly kind.

Perhaps sometimes it's best to let old friends go. I know plenty of people who are not only willing but eager at some point to do just that.

I'm not eager at all nor am I ready.

John Carpenter has given me hours of entertainment and frankly more inspiration than I could repay.

But I really feel less comfortable with our "friendship" than I did before.


Jeremy Richey said...

I gave "Imagination" a spin again just recently. Wilson's solo stuff can be extremely frustrating at times but even his weaker efforts still contain something special.
As far as Carpenter goes, I really got the impression from hearing him talk last month that he has been a bit burned out with filmmaking for awhile. I also got the impression that we won't be seeing many films from him in the future.
I feel the same way you do about not being able to repay just how much he has given. I'd like to see him pull out at least one more great film but if not I will resign myself to that period from the mid seventies to the mid eighties when he was unstoppable.
Thanks for the interesting post.

Neil Sarver said...

There's something quirkily wonderful about the Wilson solo albums that I can't resist. Frankly, Love You, which is apparently basically a solo album itself, is kind of a perfect example of this. It's the kind of thing that hardly anyone is going to "get" or appreciate if they don't love him in a very real kind of way, but the rewards for those who do are remarkable in many ways.

It's too bad to hear that about Carpenter. I'd also like to see him manage something else at some point.

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