Truth is, I have never been much of an envelope-pusher. When the chips tumble in the wrong direction, I take refuge in genre. And to me, as a fan of classic filmmakers like Howard Hawks and John Ford or modern ones such as Michael Mann, nothing gives me more pleasure than a well-crafted genre piece. It’s a critical weakness, I know. And strangely, I am more forgiving of it with film than I am with literature. I can’t remember the last time I read an airport potboiler, but I’ll defend a film that never breaks convention to the last breath.
The trick is, naturally, smarts. Polanski can make Chinatown or Frantic and give a new spin on Hammett and Hitchcock. Eastwood can update the western with Unforgiven. Tarantino can take a World War II film in a new direction with Inglourious Basterds. It’s like a cover of a pop song. The interpretation is the attraction; the artist filtering the material through his or her own sensibilities. I have probably always found that more interesting than the avant-guardians who are the true pioneers. I won’t succumb to electronic music, splatters on a canvas , or Joycian narratives. But again, that’s my problem.