In a recent article outlining what movies were the “talk of the festival” at Cannes this year, the Los Angeles Times mentioned Woody Allen’s comedy Midnight In Paris.
Reading this is strange as film festivals of such stature don’t normally give much credibility to comedies. Still, the post didn’t suggest that Allen’s new film would be up for the sought-after Palme D’Or. Even though it’s a Woody Allen film, it is still, at the end of the day, a comedy, which means it shouldn’t be taken as seriously a foreign drama. Right?
It’s not an absolute rule, but certainly there is a bias towards the dramatic when considering the “art of cinema.” Voters at the Cannes Film Festival or the Academy Awards are clearly less inclined to ever award a pure comedy top honors. Even at the most recent Academy Awards, The Kids Are All Right, was up for best picture, but, with several dramatic elements throughout the film, it isn’t a straight comedy. Films that are “laugh out loud funny” are, in a way, looked down upon in regards to their artistic merit, though they are just as difficult, if not more so, to create.
With a comedic film, one has to inspire laughter, an actual physical response, from an audience. That’s a clear standard, though still subjective, which one can judge a comedy by. With a drama, the filmmakers have greater license to explore the life of the characters, the world of the story, and go off on tangents that really don’t accomplish anything other than a moment of existential reflection. There doesn’t have to be sobs or gasps or crying from an audience to necessarily indicate the quality of a drama. This difference is hardly, if ever, acknowledged.
No matter how much Paul Feig and Judd Apatow’s Bridesmaids or the upcoming, highly anticipated Hangover: Part II will make people laugh, they will not be taken as seriously as any period piece released this fall. Will this dynamic ever change? Has there not been a comedy released worthy of such distinction? Is laughing just too vulgar to be included in the arts?
Give your thoughts in the comments below.