Art Critic Claims ‘Revenge of the Sith’ is “The Greatest Work of Art” In the Past 30 Years
Famed author, critic and professor Camille Paglia has unexpectedly called George Lucas the world’s “greatest living artist” saying the finale of ‘Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith’ as having more “inherent artistic value, emotional power, and global impact” than any other work of art in the last 30 years. Uh…WHUT?
We’re going to have to talk about this.
Paglia’s comments come from an interview with Vice magazine (via BleedingCool), in which she publicizes her latest book, ‘Glittering Images’. She makes an incredible amount of interesting points about the state of the modern art world, not to mention art education in America, but what will surely stand out for most is the part where Vice, prompted by a chapter in Paglia’s book dedicated to Lucas, asks if she really thinks ‘Revenge of the Sith’ is the greatest work of art, in any medium, created in the last 30 years.
Yes, the long finale of ’Revenge of the Sith’ has more inherent artistic value, emotional power, and global impact than anything by the artists you name. It’s because the art world has flat-lined and become an echo chamber of received opinion and toxic over-praise. It’s like the emperor’s new clothes—people are too intimidated to admit what they secretly think or what they might think with their blinders off.
That thinking may not be uncommon for a small sect of prequel-worshipping ‘Star Wars’ geeks, of course, but this coming from an admired writer such as Paglia is an eyebrow-raiser and a head-scratcher. (Oh, and she also totally disses ‘The Sopranos’ in the interview as well.)
BleedingCool, fascinated by this development, bought Paglia’s book so the rest of us don’t have to and delved further into her ‘Revenge of the Sith’ love (seems apparent that she’ll be first in line for that ‘Sith’ re-release in October). Here’s a choice sample:
The thesis of my final chapter – that film director and digital pioneer George Lucas is the world’s greatest living artist – emerged over the five-year process of writing this book. Nothing I saw in the visual arts of the past thirty years was as daring, beautiful and emotionally compelling as the spectacular volcano-planet climax of Lucas’s Revenge of the Sith.
Okay, okay, we know you cherish that finale. What about Lucas himself?
Lucas was the digital visionary who prophesied and helped shape a host of advances, such as computer-generated imagery; computerized film editing, sound mixing and virtual set design; high-definition cinematography; fiber-optic transmission of dailies; digital movie duplication and distribution; theater and home-entertainment stereo surround sound; and refinements in video-game graphics, interactivity, and music.
That can’t be argued, surely. But what Paglia really wants to talk about is that ‘Revenge of the Sith’ finale some more!
Lucas called this fierce fight [at the climax of Sith] between Anakin Skywalker and his Jedi master Obi-Wan Kenobi “the turning point of the whole series.” Fire provides the sublime elemental poetry here, as water did on the storm-swept planet of Kamino in the prior film, Attack of the Clones. Lucas said he long had a mental color image of the Sith finale, “monochromatic in its red and blackness.” The seething reds and yellows of the great lava river and waterfalls (based on Niagara Falls) flood the eye. It is a vision of hell. As in Dante, there is an allegorical level: “I have the high ground,” declares Obi-Wan when he springs to the top of a black sandy slope. Hell, as in Marlow, Milton and Blake, is a psychological state – Anakin’s self-destructive surrender to possessive love and jealous hate.
Raise your hand if you had those same exact thoughts during that sequence.
Of course, Paglia has a right to her own opinion, as does everyone else, and Lucas has never made it a secret that his inspirations for ‘Star Wars’ range far and wide, from Joseph Campbell to Akira Kurosawa and beyond. But this just seems to us like fodder for controversy; are we really expected to believe that Paglia had a transcendental experience while watching a ‘Star Wars’ prequel? Or is she just prodding the art and film world, figuring this a perfect way to provoke conversation and debate?
Finally, what do you think? Does Ms. Paglia have a point when it comes to ‘Revenge of the Sith’ and George Lucas?