Karina Longworth has a really excellent profile of Kevin Smith running in the new LA Weekly. She went to Denver for the local stop of the Red State tour and talked to the filmmaker afterwards; what’s interesting is how little insight she comes away with. I don’t mean that as a slam on Longworth, who writes a great piece, but rather as an indication of the weird, unknowable place Smith is in.
What if Smith’s claim that he’s quitting filmmaking to “talk, talk, talk,” is, in fact, all talk? After his self-admitted “Barnum-ism” at Sundance, how can we trust that anything he does is anything but a publicity stunt?
We can’t. Like it or not, in the post–reality TV social-media world where Smith lives, a product and its promotion are virtually indistinguishable — it’s all entertainment. To fret about that disappearing line is to admit to not getting it. And while Red State represents a creative 180 for Smith as a director, more than that, it may be a test perpetuated by Smith the marketer, to measure exactly how far outside of the usual comfort zone he can convince his faithful to travel.
It’s post-Red State that the real test for Smith comes. I don’t think he’s going to break even on this tour, as was his stated goal. That said, he claims to make more money from speaking engagements than from making movies. And he definitely sounds like he’s more than sick of the film world.
“I didn’t get into this [business] to just stay in as long as I could,” he says backstage. “I got into it to make Clerks and Dogma, and I did that a long time ago. When your job is to be creative, burn that candle at both ends, empty that tank, and sometimes there’s not much left. And you take your beatings over the years and it’s, like, ‘I get it, I’m not a good filmmaker.’ And that makes the exit even easier.”
There’s an interesting discussion I’ve had with some people recently: who is to blame for Kevin Smith? Smith has never been anything but upfront about his goals and his talents, but for a while everybody seemed to just think he was being self-deprecating, and that the guy behind Clerks and Chasing Amy would grow and become an interesting filmmaker. He never did (although Longworth is very kind to Red State, comparing it to an excellent first film. Which would be great if it weren’t Smith’s 10th film), and now he’s saying ‘I told you so,’ while people are essentially fuming at him for never being what he told us he couldn’t be.