I never thought I'd be defending a big Hollywood film, from DreamWorks no less, but I felt that Rosenbaum's review of The Ring [October 18] exemplifies why a lot of readers dislike the provocateur critic. First off, let me say that I found the story silly, yet I found the imagery in the film as haunting and disturbing as any in the history of horror film, and some of its images rank alongside Bela Lugosi's hand opening his coffin in Dracula and the shadow of Nosferatu creeping up the stairs in the silent classic. It is the imagery that captures the imagination of nightmares and childhood fears of monsters in the closet. But of course that is what Mr. Rosenbaum finds weak in the film. He calls the film "moodless." Of course in his eyes, what does the audience know about mood and effective imagery? We wouldn't know an arresting image from a painting of dogs playing poker. He's a scholar. We're idiots.
He goes on to ridicule the director for being ambitious with his images. Aka pretentious. But what is symbolic imagery in film anyway? To Mr. Rosenbaum, a shot of a tree on a hilltop in an Iranian movie is a profound and philosophical image. A similar image in The Ring of a tree on a hilltop, which I found haunting and beautiful, to the same critic is empty and pretentious. What do you call it when the pretentious film critics accuse filmmakers of being pretentious? I enjoy an art film as much as anyone (yes, a lot of regular joes enjoy watching good films as much as we love our football), but it seems that Mr. Rosenbaum has lost the simple pleasure of curling up with a bucket of popcorn and losing himself in the wonder, magic, and occasional nightmares that the cinema can provide.
Jonathan Rosenbaum replies:
For the record, there are plenty of Iranian films I don't like, including ones with trees on hilltops, and plenty of American horror films I do like, as my reviews show. And though I criticized the direction of The Ring and what I took to be its absence of mood (which for me is mainly related to pacing) and its excessive underlining of clues, I said nothing in my review about its audience or its imagery--"symbolic" and "ambitious" are Mr. Arnoldo's terms, not mine. It's true, however, that the film's publicists failed to offer buckets of popcorn at the press show.