ambiguity

Culture Warrior

Ambiguity is no stranger to the arthouse film. Over fifty years after a group of daytrippers never found their lost shipmate in Antonioni’s L’Avventura, the ambiguous ending still retains the power to frustrate, confuse, anger, and challenge viewers. Continued controversies over ambiguity in narrative films point to Hollywood’s enduring dominance over the notion that films must be coherent and contain closure. However, the convention of closure can be a maddening limitation for filmmakers who intend to ask questions with no easy answers, or pose problems with no clear solutions (assuming that such answers or solutions exist in the first place). But ambiguity can take on a variety of forms, and with different degrees of effectiveness. Sometimes a film’s ambiguous hole can be more fulfilling and thought-provoking than any convention of linear causality in its place, but at other points ambiguity can become a handicap, or a gap that simply feels like a gap. Here are a few films from the past year that engage in several modes of intended ambiguity.

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Culture Warrior

I know no cinephile whose taste in movies survives completely the decades of aging and growing as a filmgoer. I have little doubt that others like myself look back at films they loved ten or more years ago with different eyes, either with a more informed context, renewed appreciation, or even developing befuddled questions as to why they felt such affection for these films in the first place. I recently found an interesting connection and disparate paths of meaning-making with regard to two films that originally inspired my love and appreciation for cinema, and it is in the respective ways in which these films use ambiguous objects.

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