Friday, November 06, 2009

Audiences, Surprised and Surprising

As a person who works in a museum, I found last night's episode of Project Runway (which, yes, I watch) pretty intriguing. The designers were sent to the Getty Museum to be inspired by its collection. Their choices - which were, for the most part, things I would probably ignore - were surprising.

One chose an ornate 18th Century bed, another picked a sort of boring painting that interested them because of the diaphanous fabric on one of the figures. Another chose a fountain, and another chose the building itself. It reminded me of how educational it can be to look at a museum through someone else's eyes.

It also for some reason reminded me of the time I saw Brillante Mendoza's film Serbis at the Pusan film festival last year. In the audience in front of me were a group of well-scrubbed American guys and Korean women on some kind of group date. The thing is that Serbis is that it's full of squalor, nudity and explicit sex between people of the same and opposite sexes, sometimes with a goat in the room. In other words, not exactly a date movie.

When it was over I ended up riding the elevator with the group of daters, and I found their reactions fascinating. It had obviously taken them by surprise and made them uncomfortable, so at first there was a lot of nervous laughter and joking, but as they discussed it, they began to see why Mendoza did what he did, and ultimately agreed that the film had to be as raw and shocking as it was, that its explicit nature was integral to the points Mendoza was making about the lives of the Philippines' poor. They created their own educational experience.

Which got me to thinking about Lars Von Trier. I haven't seen any of his movies in years because The Five Obstructions made me despise him. But I wonder if anyone's gone on a date to see Antichrist, and if so, what did they learn?


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