In his more than generous comments at Mirror Stage on my August 1 Hellboy II post, Andy Horbal concludes this way:

“I remain on the fence about Guillermo del Toro [my link]. I’ve yet to love any one of his films … “

Which got me thinking, yeah, that goes for me too. A lot of things missing from any del Toro film—like those seamless dramatic transitions Andrew Tracy wishes he could find there. Which is a bit like asking for Mies van der Rohe when what’s in front of you is Frank Gehry. Not much invisibility in the joints, where structural members meet, and of course the guy doesn’t know how to do windows. Or Chopin’s lush rubatos, all florid emotionality, except what you’re listening to is one of Bach’s metronomically precise, if convoluted, technical inventions. Which reminds me that Stravinsky didn’t think much of Schumann and Schubert either—as neither in my piano-pounding days did I, all those unendurable repeats. So nothing’s an a priori classic for everyone, and even our most culturally valuable commodities have their own artistic feet of clay, things they can’t or won’t do or can only do badly. Which is why it’s almost gratifying when a certified master takes down a fellow immortal or two. Gives y’all permission to do the same, right? Like “Knight Rupert”—of course it stinks!

But loving isn’t the same as discovering what’s there, in a literally descriptive sense … except maybe in the long run it is, a result of moment-by-moment attention to what otherwise could go right past you. Since how can you train consciousness on something for any length of time without, at a personal level, attaching yourself to whatever that something is? Which in effect implies that the “love” problem solves itself—or at least offers adequate substitution—the moment you become invested. The only way around it is to maintain your “professional” cool, the “objectifying” (as in objet d’art) strategy of pretending to see everything at proscenium remove. Which is death to the notion (or is it just my fantasy?) of empathic cocreation, the most any of us “nonartistes,” the vicarious hangers-on, can ever hope to achieve.

Explaining why this should be so seems a lot harder than simply acknowledging that it is. But the excitement arising from small inflections of the commonplace (e.g., del Toro’s explosions, finding the visual finesse in an otherwise dispensable pulse of light) tends to grow exponentially the more committed and focused you become, at least where movies are concerned. Why worry about ultimate “perfection”—an imaginary Gesamtkunstwerk, our Wagnerian contribution to contemporary aesthetic pathology—when all these extraordinary bits and pieces are around to distract you? Assuming they’re actually distractions at all …