Sunday, May 08, 2005

In praise of life imitating art- what's wrong with Kurosawa karaoke?

I was taken with this pretty snobbish article from the St. Paul Pioneer Press: Exhibitionism, voyeurism don't add up to art by Dominic P. Papatola. Though it's thoughtfully trying to deconstruct the way that the arts are becoming a removed, second-hand experience. But wait, aren't the arts by nature a removed, second-hand experience...?

If the dreaded musical karaoke trend won't die away in the West after having infected us from the Far East (note heavy sarcasm), what hope do we have to stave off the fall of our civilization from movie karaoke?

If we're going to get all high and mighty about authenticity and mimicking dialog, remember that Godard himself had dialog later dubbed into Breathless. I could be wrong but if you watch and listen closely to Fellini's La Dolce Vita (especially Anita Ekberg) or Sergio Leone's spaghetti westerns, it doesn't seem that the dialog is coming directly out of the actor's mouthes.

Papatola is traumatized by the thought of Animal House being relived by frat boys nationwide. But what if you had a group of people re-enacting say, The Seven Samarai or The Seventh Seal, in their native languages no less (with sub-titles provided)? Or what if you had an action sequence from a high budget blockbuster re-created in hilariously lo-fi style by some creative types? Or how about an over-the-top dialog scene from a camp classic by John Waters or Ed Wood played out for all its worth? It wouldn't be any worse of a removed artistic experience than most remakes, that's for sure.

This applies just as well to music. As much as they're easily vilified, hundreds, thousands of cover bands are playing a show tonight to paying audiences (my personal favorite is NJ shore staples the Nerds). And then there's the myriad of bands that do their own songs but also do cover versions. And when we see all these groups in videos, you know that they're not singing or playing their own sings live in front of the camera- just like the movie karaoke people, they're just playing along (so to speak).

And why shouldn't other art forms join in? Professional and amateurs could easily do dance karaoke. Aren't readings a form of literary karaoke? And maybe it's not so easy to imagine, but it is possible to have architecture karaoke, I think at least- you'd have to be pretty damn creative but that in itself would be fascinating to see how it could be pulled off.

And with movie karaoke, having would-be actors literally standing between us (the audience) and the film is a great metaphor for the art experience. The reason that we love art/movies/music is the connection we make- it enriches us, helps us understand ourselves, gives us new perspectives. And when it's done in a public space, we can share our obsessions with others as it brings us together. That's true of Fellini's world-weary bohemians or John Belushi spitting food all over preppies. When it comes to turning art into a more participatory medium, I say the more, the merrier.


Anonymous Shaun McLaughlin said...

Don't forget sculpture karaoke.

While in theory, it's a good idea to have more people active in the arts, in practice, you don't want to sit through endless karaoke versions of "I Will Survive."

9:22 AM  
Blogger Scott Soriano said...

Perhaps you don't want to be flogged by another I Will Survive, maybe I don't want to hear I Love Rock n Roll done by another state worker, but what is the big deal. We aren't forced to watch or listen and people are having fun doing it. Movie karaoke is real amateur theater and no more offensive than a bunch of high schoolers doing Beckett or some local theater troop taking on Albee. Sure there is a distinction to be made between pro theater and amateur theater, just as there is between a "real" singer and a karaokeist. But you have to look at them for what they are, in the case of karaoke of any kind, its a way for people to blow off steam, have fun, and maybe discover that they have a knack for something. At the very worst it is bad entertainment; at the best someone finds that they can sing or act and chucks their office job in an attempt to follow their passion. Are you going to argue with that? And to go back to I will Survive, that statement of not wanting to sit through another kareoke version or mine about Freebird are complete absurd when in fact I don't think either one of wants to hear the original versions of those songs either. And, really, given the choice between a kareokeist doing those tired "classics" and hearing the originals one more goddamn time, I'll take the amateur. At least I might get a laugh out of it.

7:37 PM  
Blogger Perfect Sound Forever said...

I admit that I've yelled "Freebird" at my share of concerts before realizing how old hat that is. Then again, Skynyrd's present singer admitted that when his wife dragged him to see a Cher concert, he yelled out for that song.

3:06 PM  

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