I saw Zero for Conduct about a month ago and while I remember thinking it was pretty good, a well-made movie that’s more admirable than enjoyable, I don’t remember much of what happened. I remember some kids running in slow-motion through a plume of feathers in the wake of a pillow fight, they’re wearing night shirts and somebody’s dick flops out, and I remember it had something to do with a bunch of students rebelling against the faculty of their boarding school. What I also know is that I don’t wanna watch it again.
Sometimes if a movie doesn’t do anything for me I tell myself that, meh, I’ll get to the essay later, and then one thing leads to another, I watch a few more movies, and totally forget to write the essay. That’s what happened here. So I don’t have any raw impressions to report.
It seems like movies that clock in at less than an hour don’t leave a very strong impression on me. I really liked Sherlock Jr, the 45-minute Buster Keaton comedy, but I don’t have very strong feelings about it now, a couple months later. I know that I liked it, a lot, but I don’t feel that surge of appreciation that, months later, I still feel for Dr. Mabuse or Blackmail.
Not wanting to just buck-up and sit through the full 40-odd minutes of Zero for Conduct again, so that I can maybe say something pointed about it, prompts me with questions about the Project’s integrity and whether I’m really in this to learn, to study, or if I’m just checking off boxes. The implicit judgment is that it’d be a copout if I just rushed through these movies without giving them the consideration they ostensibly deserve – but is that really such a bad thing, if I breeze through a movie now and then with no penetrating thought? When I was halfway through the seven-hour runtime of Les Vampires, the silent ten-part serial from 1915, let’s be honest, I wasn’t really contemplating it. I just wanted it to end.
If I’m gonna watch a thousand of these movies in relatively quick succession there’s probably little chance that I can guarantee a thorough, personal, incisive response to each one. Also, if something doesn’t ring my bell, why press myself against it over and over rather than just moving on to the next one, something that might introduce me to something cool, broaden my thinking, excite me?
So that’s what I’m doing. Gonna take it easy on Zero for Conduct, even though it’s clearly an estimable movie to be appearing on the List and to’ve received the Criterion treatment, I’m just not that into it.
The fact that you are not up to revisit the movie for the review actually says enough about the movie.
I know myself enough that if I do not keep discipline it all slides. Sticking to the pattern sometimes feels stupid but also rewarding.