‘The Exorcist’ is a charmingly repellent movie. It can be expected not just to scare but even to cause nausea in a weak mind. One might think it is unpractical to expect the elite and the intellectual community to appreciate the Exorcist-kind of films. Tarantino’s ‘Pulp Fiction’ is often described as a contemporary classic, but it might be doubted whether it can entertain children and people who accord top priority to the story. Kevin O’Donovan describes it as a ‘second-tier movie’. He attributes his stand to the film being “thematically vacuous” (cinekklesia.com).
If we now look at two other movies – ‘Titanic’ and ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’ – they both dwell on two of the universally favourite themes namely love and humour, humanism being a common emotion in both. The youth certainly enjoy them better, but everyone else equally does too. But these hypothetical notions are at once dispelled by the fact that all the four aforementioned movies were commercially highly successful. All of them received a ‘fresh’ rating on the tomatometer of rottentomatoes.com (The Exorcist: 85%; The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: 98%; Pulp Fiction: 94%; Titanic: 88%).
What it testifies is that a film, be it European or Hollywood, be it a horror film, or a romantic thriller, can stir the audience alike, of course, subject to the filmmaker’s creative potential. That’s what the four films under study did. They could stir the audience; their makers were able to rouse a wide range of emotions in different segments of the audience: men, women, children, teenagers et al.
We are all often tempted to classify films into the two categories namely ‘art films’ and ‘commercial cinema’. The terms may sound good and the discussion may be intellectually interesting, but the fact is that art and business are one and the same thing. There can be no commercial success without aesthetic success. As Richard Maltby stated in Hollywood Cinema, “Titanic would not have won eleven Academy Awards, had it not demonstrated its popularity at the box-office”
We would probably do well not to endeavour to label a film as ‘commercial’ or ‘offbeat’ for, all said and done, there cannot be a film that can be made without an investment. Nor can there be a film that is offered ‘free’ for viewers. The intensity of passion of a film-maker may vary but in the end, every film is bound to be a commercial venture. To think of it in practical terms, any human endeavour that produces wealth must be welcome and anything that seems to ‘waste’ wealth may be discouraged, as long as it does not involve deviation from fundamental moral standards set by the society.