Ralph Bakshi: Still Railin After All These Years
RB: I’ve always been that kind of pain in the ass. But, you can’t lie to yourself. Art is about freeing yourself and trying to find out what you’re really thinking about and not what they’re thinking about. It’s very difficult to get through your own bullshit, to get to some sort of minor truth occasionally. That’s why Hemingway killed himself. People lose that ability to be honest and stop copying other artists or saying this is mine now that I put it up my blog, I love UPA so much I must be a genius. I’m a great fan of a certain style so I must be great too. It’s kind of sick. I love all those cartoons that they put up on the blog but I don’t try to take those cartoons over. I respect them, I love them, I learn from them and move on. But I don’t try to suck them dry. I certainly don’t think I am as good as any one of them. What I am trying to say is there are animators out there that feel that way with me. A lot of people must have liked my works I guess, even my attitude about not caring what audiences think. The answer is in my Kickstarter [campaign]. Let’s see if I make it.
DS: Sure. Time will tell.
RB: Let’s see if I get the money. I’m very nervous about this. I’ll be very, very disappointed and embarrassed if I don’t make it [raise his targeted dollar amount on Kickstarter]. My enemies will laugh their heads up if I don’t make the cut, but I’m going to take the chance anyhow.
DS: How do you think audiences have changed in the last thirty or forty years?
RB: Critical thinking in the arts, in film and literature is very, very important. I grew up during a time when there were brilliant film critics, brilliant art critics. There were art movements. All that's gone. That entire movement of critical thinking and discussion is dead. I recently saw the latest James Bond film…
RB: A piece of shit. It was the most horrible, stupid, dumb fucking film I've ever see in my life. All these critics are raving it’s the best Bond. Do you believe this old women and James Bond go to this little house somewhere and make a stand against guys with machine guns and helicopters, putting up light bulbs that explode, do you believe the garbage that that film was? People were saying it should have gotten an Academy Award. It's the worst James Bond ever. It’s so stupid. Where is the criticism? And it was such a huge success! There are so many bad films out there that get these huge audience responses, I think everyone is kind of dumbed down, if you want to know the truth. In my day, there were great films. Midnight Cowboy, Taxi Driver, there were things to discuss. Skyfall, I felt the bottom of my mouth drop open. That’s how bad the movie really was. I mean the ignorance of those chases at the end, they made no sense, absolutely no sense.
So one thing is, I don't know what audiences want but I think criticism and discussion have moved away. The great art critics have moved away and disappeared. Look at the art business, the painting business. You got guys like Damien Hurst selling their work, and audiences are jumping all over it, for billions of dollars. That's not really art. It may be theatre, but it’s not art. But because art criticism has disappeared, everything goes, everything is a masterpiece, everyone’s a hit, everyone is a genius for a couple of weeks and then they're gone. So I mourn the lack of criticism and intellectual discussions on music, on art, on films and I think that has made audiences less aware of what they are watching.
DS: I couldn’t agree more.
RB: It has to do with how do we make them happy and stupid. That's what I said in my Kickstarter film. I don't want to make films that make audiences happy and stupid. I say it right to everyone's face so then they can get mad at me and not give me any money.
DS: Right. Truth in advertising. Do you think that part of that lack of critical thinking and lack of discussion is that in the US, people are much more suspect of alternate views on issues they feel passionate about? Here, it sometimes seems every disagreement is a dividing line used to alienate people of dissimilar views. You see it in every area of public discourse, from politics to religion to the economy to the arts.
RB: Right on.
DS: And it seems like criticism is used to draw up lines of division and…
RB: Absolutely, well said, well said…
DS: So consequently, people take a warring stance as opposed to an intellectual stance about discussing their differences of opinion …
RB: You’re absolutely right. Listen, I grew up in a place called Brownsville, in Brooklyn, OK. I am Jewish. The screaming and the yelling on the street corners, about ideas, people just screaming and yelling at you. Then when it was over, they felt good, you shook hands and they left. You always respected the other guy’s opinion. It was all honest, intellectual conversation. Whoever is right, whoever is wrong, I respect you. What you just said is a 100% right. Today, if you aren’t with me you’re against me.
RB: It's crazy. Well, look at our government falling apart because of it. Look at our government, teetering on the brink of disaster because of that reason alone. Obviously we have changed, obviously our country has changed from back when I grew up. Something has happened. Maybe because so many people have poured in. Look I believe in diversity and I believe everyone should get an education. In my day there were things called vocational schools. That's where I went. If you weren't going to college, there was some place that could prepare you for a job. But if you went to college, you better fucking study. Now college has become a place of big business, a huge business where kids are getting ripped off. Schools are bringing them in by the millions, whether they deserve to be there or not. Why? To get their fees, to get their money. The education has become secondary. It’s this big huge business. Kids stagger out of school owing so much money, they are terrified to have a voice. They need a job. They shut up and take a salary. All of this is hugely bad. It's part of the corruption that has settled into our society, along with the bankers, the politicians, the real estate people and of course, the World Bank. All this dishonor and lack of integrity is costing western civilization a lot.
DS: Yeah, it is. One of my brothers and I, we get together and rail on things. It's one of the few things that I really enjoy in life. We sit and curse this, curse that. Not because…
RB: You have to.