I don’t often read things about film (mostly because I never watch movies), but there’s this terrific little spat going on between film critics over at New Yorker. Richard Brody claims that you only need five minutes — any five minutes — to determine if a film has resonance. Previous to this, Emily Nussbaum got wind of Brody’s idea and said (in a manner of speaking) that he was full of it. Fight! Fight!!
It’s not really hard to agree partially with either viewpoint, though it does seem that they’re talking by each other a little bit. Brody is talking about the beauty to be perceived in that short time frame, while Nussbaum is worried that the perception is too shallow. That important details will be left out. By the time I saw that they were playing thesaurus tag (auteurism! synecdoche!!), I’d kind of forgotten the point of the argument.
Brody expanded his initial thesis into other areas of art, including music.
Any aria from “The Marriage of Figaro,” a few bars of a solo by Charlie Parker or John Coltrane, one painting by Van Gogh or Rothko, one line sung by Billie Holiday—opening the eyes and ears in their presence may well give an instant contact high.
Part of me wants to disagree with this, but there are just so many examples in my own experience that I know he’s (mostly) right. Countless albums have made a home between my ears after far less than five minutes of listening. About thirty seconds of the Lounge Lizards Live in Tokyo was all it took. It might have even been less time for Pat Metheny’s American Garage. Certainly this rule can’t be applied to every piece of music because there are also plenty of records that didn’t sink in for quite a while.
And yeah, I know that I’m cheating by bringing up Arc Iris as an example. Being a huge fan of The Low Anthem, I was sort of predisposed to like whatever Jocie Adams brought to the table with her new band. But I can tell, at about the 34 second mark of the opening track “Money Gnomes,” that I would have been a fan even if the album had shown up anonymously in my mailbox. The vocal harmonies take flight and I am just done for.
So score one for the Brody’s “near instant beauty” camp. If I can come up with a counterexample — in which I’m fully taken by something in the first few minutes, only to reject it later — I’ll…uhm…well, maybe I’ll give that record another listen.
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