Saw a western starring Ed Harris and it was a disappointment. Expected something pretty good after Harris’s bio of Jackson Pollock, an accurate portrayal of Pollock’s career, including a scheduled six month layoff during production to facilitate a forty pound weight gain so he could finish the movie as the artist after his successes and excesses -- a major personal effort to be true to his subject. His western, however, didn’t reflect the real world as it is or ever was. It was, as one reviewer noted, a movie about movies, and not about real life at all.
In the movie the hero lawman swaggered around all invincible, clubbing down miscreants and shooting up the town, occasionally staring off to muse about the meaning of it all, and it would all have made perfect sense to someone who’s watched a lot of movies, seen a lot of TV, but might seem contrived and artificial to a person with a modicum of historical sense and a little more grit in their carry-on. Movies based not on life as lived but on movies previously seen tend to instill unreal expectations, to project artificial role models, and some would claim they add to the confusion.
Art about art is what we should want according to experts, but inspiration degenerates after many derivations like those old xerox copies. The source, so said Picasso, is always nature and that’s idealistic, but what he really should have said was everyone’s direct perception of the world -- it’s almost the same thing and closer to what he meant really. How closely it’s rendered or how far it’s stretched is the art part, and we revere individual artists for how they say it, even though partly it comes from us -- how we see it with them. It’s this life we’re interested in, most of us, and the world around us, and some art helps us see it better, almost always the art closest to the source.