“‘What I want,’ a young Luis Buñuel announced to the audience at an early screening of his first film, Un Chien Andalou (1929), ‘is for you not to like the film … I’d be sorry if it pleased you.’ The film’s opening scene, which culminates in a close-up of a straight-edge razor being drawn through a woman’s eyeball, is often taken as the epitome of cinema’s potential to do violence to its audience…Horror movies frighten us; violent thrillers agitate us; sentimental stories make us cry. Suffering is often part of our enjoyment. Within limits, however: we are not to be so displeased that we are not pleased. Buñuel deliberately went beyond the limits of permissible displeasure. And so, in his own way, does the Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke.”
“Maybe our anointed literary books just have to be earnest ones because earnest ones showcase that soupçon of intelligence. Maybe humor isn’t felt to indicate a genuine commitment to looking smart.” Year in Reading alum Lydia Millet talks with Jenny Offill about humor writing, what books are “anointed” as modern classics, and Millet’s new book, Mermaids in Paradise.