After watching Spring Breakers (2012) the other night, I was forced to ask myself a question: if a movie is artistic, is it good? It is a wonderful example of a film that succeeds at being a wonderful art piece, while failing at many important aspects such as plot and character development. So I sat there through the movie, and for a while afterwards, asking myself how much this artistic side could carry it?
For anyone who’s wondering what I even mean by “artistic,” I don’t have a dictionary definition, but I can give my best description nonetheless. I view “artistic” films as films that exist for another reason than to tell a story in the movie. For example, to make a statement, to highlight something, to be a visual masterpiece, or something of the like. Rather than have a super concrete plot, the film Spring Breakers was brilliantly shot, visually appealing and interesting, and a cool view into this other side of the world that isn’t talked about often.
A lot of lower-budget films seem to be similar in these respects, where they make amazing use of their artistic visions, and low resources to make a great piece of art, but not necessarily a story. I think it’s often a result of a smaller idea that doesn’t necessarily have a super flushed out script to go along with it. This isn’t a knock against these indie films either, because a small-town, nobody filmmaker who has a vision should pursue it. And I know most people don’t have the money to hire a fantastic writer, or the talent to write a fantastic film by themselves.
So how should it be weighed in terms of its quality as a film? Well, in my opinion, the artistic aspect of a film is important, and can make it good, but not without anything else. I recently rated Spring Breakers at a 6/10, because it had nothing to really go with it. Besides everything I just mentioned, and a fantastic performance from James Franco, there wasn’t a lot of substance there. Even the statements they attempted to make weren’t as clear to me as they were for others. Nothing seemed to have a solid point in terms of a story. But I was still able to rate it at a 6 because of one solid performance, and these other aspects, so I think it can carry a movie a long way.
Some of the more amazing indie films that have come out recently, and received fantastic reviews have been incredibly artistic. Moonlight (2016), for example, is outstanding at all of these more “artistic” aspects, especially at making a societal statement, and letting us enter these lesser-known realms. And it won the academy award for best picture that year (deservedly so). It’s probably one of the most impressive movies I’ve ever seen. So while I think Spring Breakers is a movie that is incredibly artistic, but not necessarily great, I think if you can pair these great pieces together with a wonderful script/some wonderful storytelling, you could make a masterpiece.
All in all, I think film being used as a media for simple art, rather than a good motion-picture is perfectly fine, and can still make a great product. Certain films that delve into necessary issues, without even including a particularly great script or great actors can be fantastic. Tangerine (2015) is an example of this. They didn’t even have professional recording equipment or actors, and it worked almost flawlessly. So while it doesn’t make a perfect film on its own, I think how artistic a movie is can be weighed heavily, and can make a piece worthwhile. I personally think more substance should be present if it’s going to be above average, but a film doesn’t need to be a blockbuster to be of quality. And in the end, it’s just an opinion.