Which put me in the perfect mindset to read these two things: first, this excellent piece by Emily Stimpson on the failure of certain types of "Catholic" or "Christian" art:
For many Catholics — notably those responsible for backing the film financially and promoting it in Catholic circles — the failure of “There Be Dragons” was particularly disappointing.
Their intentions, after all, had been noble: to make a first-rate film about Opus Dei founder St. Josemaría Escrivá. They’d also gone out of their way to hire a respected director, Roland Joffé, and a professional cast and crew. Once the film was made, they promoted it widely among Catholics, screening pre-release versions at Catholic conferences throughout 2010, and calling in the Catholic public relations firm, The Maximus Group, to pack theaters on opening night.
But it wasn’t enough. Not for Hollywood, which barely noticed the film’s release. And not for Catholics: Few saw it and fewer liked it.
The reason it wasn’t enough? Because the film didn’t tell a good story. As reviewers described it, the production value was high but the script was convoluted and the directing heavy-handed. It didn’t matter how true or Catholic the content was. The way the content was conveyed was less than compelling, so the content was as well. [...]
The list of reasons why Catholic media rarely measures up goes on. There’s the reticence on the part of responsible Christians to make the risky investments that art requires. There’s the shortage of first rate film and communications programs at Catholic universities, the decades of Catholic internecine squabbling which has kept much of the Church’s energies directed inward rather than outward, the distrust of Hollywood and tools of social media, as well as what Vogt and Gan characterize as “false humility” on the part of Catholics.
“It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that the Christian message is powerful and compelling enough to stand on its own, that we don’t have to worry about how we present it,” Vogt said.
“The beauty and power of what we have to say can blind us to the importance of the medium,” seconded Gan.
While I was still nodding vigorously (heck, while I was still shouting "Amen!") at that one, I found this piece by Simcha Fisher discussing Stimpson's essay. Simcha talks about the movie The Treasure of the Sierra Madre and the character Dobbs, and says:
That’s the kind of guy he is: he keeps coming back and coming back. He can’t let go. Contrast this foreshadowing of his fatal flaw with the final scene, in which Dobbs and Curtain laugh hysterically as tens of thousands of dollars worth of gold dust go swirling away on the wind, back to the mountain.
This, my friends, is what we call “detachment”—a fine Christian virtue, and one worth instilling. Can’t teach it any better than that—but of course teaching isn’t what John Huston set out to do. He set out to tell a story.
Can you imagine if a typical earnestly gooey Christian producer wanted to send a message about greed and corruption and detachment? I suppose there have been plenty of these types of movies, probably mostly around Christmas time: “. . And now I’ve learned that what I really wanted most of all was right here, all along.”
This is sort of what Curtin learns, except that director John Huston made sure someone had to get shot before those peach groves and their faithful mistress became available for Curtin to pursue. Because when someone gets shot, it makes a better story; and when you tell a better story, people listen to what you have to say.