Monday, 9 June 2014

An insatiable search for novelty

From an article by Richard Metzger:
I won’t beat around the bush about Nancy Kates’ new documentary Regarding Susan Sontag because I loved every minute of it. For one, I’ve always been fascinated by Sontag herself, but beyond that, this is a very fine film, made with great flair, economy and emotion. There’s not a single wasted frame. It’s the Susan Sontag movie that needed to be made.

Susan Sontag was a “social critic,” film-maker, novelist and political activist, although she is mostly referred to as an “intellectual,” a sort of rock star writer who emerged in the early 60s pontificating on a dizzying variety of subjects that no one had ever really thought of taking seriously before her. Sontag offered the readers of her essays opinions on “camp,” the hidden cultural meanings behind low budget sci-fi films, photography as an unlikely impediment to understanding history, Pop art, wars, the cinema of Jean-Luc Godard and much, much more. There was seemingly nothing that didn’t fascinate her and this unceasing, insatiable search for novelty and new experiences is what fuelled Sontag’s life on practically every level, including her personal relationships, which often didn’t run very smoothly.

Although she often came across as brash, even imperious in her interviews, Sontag was someone who privately felt that she was a bit of an underachiever, always writing about artists and culture, but not taken as seriously as an artist herself for her own films and novels. Gore Vidal famously trashed her talents writing fiction, which apparently wounded Sontag deeply.

Obviously it was Sontag’s right to have held this rather morose opinion of her life’s work, but it seems so cosmically unfair considering the literary gifts she left behind her. “Susan Sontag’s brilliance”—in a nice turn of phrase I’m pulling straight out of the press release—“gave form to the intangible.” No minor achievement, it is for this that she will be best remembered.
Remarkably, the documentary Regarding Susan Sontag receives its world première at the "DocFest" at (of all places) the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield (a venue most famous for hosting the World Snooker Championship) tomorrow (Tuesday 10th June 2014)...

And here is a trailer for the film:

It is fifty years since Susan Sontag published her fantabulosa essay Notes on Camp - read it in full here.

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