John, here you can see what all the Collapse people are doing. The common denominator is horror and sci-fi, although there is all sorts of talk of ontology. I’ve had dealings enough with them, what with having had to meet one of the most ridiculous of them, who apparently takes pictures of deformed animals and humans for new horror speculation. Reza Negarestani seems to be the most prolific and popular, although Robin has put some of Michel Houllebecq’s ‘poems’ in the last one. Wow! First translation into English of Houllebecq’s poems! Houllebecq maybe most famous of this crew, for the dreadful novels ‘Platform’ and ‘Whatever’. They’ve been gradually constellating over the years. In the blurbs for Negarestani’s Cyclonopedia (or whatever it’s called, anything to keep these clubbish sensations going) you’ll find everybody from Shaviro to China Mieville, great favourite of ‘lenin’ Richard Seymour and sometimes writes posts there, is considered leftist enough to Nick Land, super neocon–but too bad, I won’t be needing his book on Shanghai now. They had 2 Concept Horror parties by now, it seems. One was in Falmouth, Cornwall, where I think Robin now must live. He moves around England fairly frequently, having started at Penzance, then tried London for less than a year (while writing a pastoral blog called ‘London Belongs to Me’), then Oxford (‘cheaper’), and now, I assume, Falmouth.
Christian and I went to Falmouth in 1987 and had duckling with one of those lead-pencil Bordeaux at a beautiful restaurant overlooking one of their coves.
All of this kind of literature (or whatever they call it) is very addictive to the connoisseurs of it. It seems to revolve mostly around Lovecraft, and it is interesting that so much cyber-punkism is involved with sci-fi like this–k-punk was one of the originals of Hyperstition, although they have their internecine wars (which are of a curiously insubstantial nature, which might provide a subject for me–the personalities are strangely underdeveloped and often even much psychic imagining is indulged in quite openly, i.e., they can’t even remember who their fights were with because all of a sudden they need to get back to the essentially anti-social nature of what they’re doing.) Arpege even did an interview and, I think, another write-up of China Mieville back when she was still with Long Sunday, but that’s an anomaly. Thus far, she has only explained this phenomenon to me (of sci-fi and cyber-punkism)as a ‘specific demographic’, but that gets into matters of class where she fears to tread, knowing that there is only so far you can go in several directions at the same time.
So it was worth the wait. I had to paste your whole write-up of ‘Day of Cine-Musique’ into an email and send it to Nick, but he never responded, so presumably didn’t like it. I imagine I would be interested in the layout of his Shanghai guidebook, but not enough to shell out under the circumstances.
Anyway, sorry this is off-topic, but I’m just in no mood for the sci-fi nerd clubs at the moment. You can dispense with me as you like, but the Serb will not.
Comment by Patrick J. Mullins — 5 July 2008 @ 8:47 am
What happened apparently is that a rift opened up in the fourth dimension, such that anyone who passed through it died and was reborn as himself 70 seconds in the past (or was it the future?). The rift is an unintended byproduct of alternative energy generation, but it also seems to be exacerbated by the murderous and suicidal tendencies of American life. Not to worry though: the party never ends even after we’ve all been pulled through the apocalyptic vortex. This alt energy is called Fluid Karma, which can also be injected as a hallucinogenic drug which seems further to stimulate suicidal ideation and party spirit. So, paradoxically, human destructiveness is the source of human renewal, in an endless series of nearly-identical parallel universes that collapse one into the next for all time or until the beer runs out.
I’ll pick up a China Mieville book at the library to see what the fuss is about. I’m not a huge science fiction or cyberpunk fan, nor have I read any Lovecraftian stuff since high school I don’t think. These are apparently unmistakable signs of curmudgeonly lack of imagination on my part, inasmuch as I veer toward excellence of imagination and writing, regardless of whether they are enlisted in the service of the fantastic and the horrific or of the subtle and the mundane.
egardless of whether they are enlisted in the service of the fantastic and the horrific or of the subtle and the mundane.
Oh yes, it is easy to locate those two extremes, isn’t it? Especially so for the ‘fantastic and horrible’ specialists, who don’t know a thing about the subtle, although they are certainly habituees of the mundane in every possibly way. Nor are the writers of the ‘horrible’ necessarily the writers of the ‘fantastic/horrible’, and I have not found that I feel curmudgeonly myself at not having any serious interest in the ‘fantastic/horrible’ genres. Best to just cut to the chase and read the real science of super-nerd Ray Kurzweil, who says the hard nerd-stuff and knows Bill Gates, Bill Clinton, and recently–even Barbara Walters seemed to be interested in learning how to live forever (at least for 20 minutes or so; as a television sensibility, she’s got the brains to know that sometimes a commercial break really helps.)
Comment by Patrick J. Mullins — 5 July 2008 @ 3:22 pm
n fact hick the only reason I have not decided to parody your ass until you’re ashamed to show up in the blawgosphere is that I respect your talent,
Is that called ‘crudesse oblige’, Fatso? Because I’d love to waste your time, to paraphrase Angie Dickinson in ‘Ocean’s 11’. Last night I listed 17 disparaging things you’d called me, and that was all I could think of in 5 minutes. You’re pushy and mean like all obese people.
You NEVER parody yourself, and have no sense of humour about yourself. You never apologize, no matter how offensive you are, and even I do that. You pretend to have far more guts than you have, but you are a chickenshit, and cowered at Arpege’s threat like that pitiful old Fat Serb dressed in drag to get in the boat with the other women in Barbara Stanwyck’s ‘Titanic’. Furthermore, you are a crude and disgusting person trying to ruin John’s thread on Christian’s paintings, and at bottom are corrupt and have no integrity, while trying to posture as someone who ‘quits jobs because of ethical reasons’. Add to this, when you ruin the threads you don’t like when John and I discuss movies as we wish, you are now being paid back by me in ruining your vulgar sci-fi numbers. You also cannot remember very well the sequence of things, and even though you are younger than I am, I have decided you are now much to old to be treated as if ‘a young person’. Some of us know why you can quit jobs, and we have thus far managed not to parody that. So you just fucking watch your step. Part of our Western prejudice against Eastern bloc countries is that we don’t think you have enough modern appliances to produce the Total Spoiled Brat such as is prevalent in America and Britain and France. But you have proved that there is a such thing as the Serbian Spoiled Brat.
Yes, I pasted them:
So now abideth hick, old fart, failed pulp novelist, snob, senile narcissist, artsy woman, Queen Jonquille, Princesse de la Pallet, Cole Porter Bottom, gutless, Paris Hilton Ass-wipe, Karl Malden, MY parody correspondent, MY ex-parody correspondent, MY suspended parody correspondent., ‘darling’, ‘it’s like we’re married’. .these 17 [this is about half of what you’ve called me…]
but the greatest of these is Fat Serb.
Comment by Patrick J. Mullins — 5 July 2008 @ 9:11 pm
Dejan you said this on Pinocchio Theory several months ago, presumably before you’d seen the movie:
“Would you say that the highly disjointed and schizophrenic satire of the film resembles the Cultural Parody Center in tone? If so, that is DELIBERATE.”
Having now seen the movie, do you still think this is true? There are satirical notes sounded in Southland Tales, and it is rather indiscriminate in tone. The militarized right wing catches a bit of the usual shit, but then there’s the neomarxists — a conspiracy of dykes fronted by porn starlets whose only mission seems to be blackmail and murder without discernible political agenda. But the most destructive force in the movie is also the one that presumably will also save the world: the mad scientist and posse who presumably have found a source of perpetually renewable energy, achieved at the cost of throwing the earth into self-destruction. Is this part of the Parodycenter’s mission: through nihilistic self-destruction the world will be delivered into a new beginning through the multiplicity of immanent rhizomes shooting themselves through the catastrophe? So world renewal can come only by releasing the aimless forces of chaos and violence? Or is all this to be deemed satirical and parodic in meaning, and that there’s some other message trying to find its way through the mayhem?
As I said I have to rewatch the movie in order to provide a deeper analysis, but before that I am doing a major clean-up of the site so as to delete the hick’s aimless comments on her narcissistic ego; it’s time I started using my talent for something more productive than filling the hick’s endless leisure hours in between watching musicals as a distant echo of her not-so-glorious musical career, only to get a snob’s scorn and gay insults in return for my entertainment and endless contract terminations making it impossible to ever create something great out of the endeavor, like a revolutionary blawg, a book or a film. I’ll let her float in LA with the rest of the airheads.
I think the film is parodic in its very form, disturbing the sense of consistency/linearity that Halliwud narratives purport to provide (but Shaviro already pointed this out) and it does this very subtly, playfully; its disjointed and anarchic method reminds me a lot of Dusan Makavejev’s film MYSTERIES OF ORGANISM which you haven’t seen I guess; the film by its form acts as its neoMarxists; and second of all because throughout the parodic exaggeration you can sense a deep sense of loss, disappointment, tragedy (especially the Timberlake video clip – musical and ”Horniness is not a crime”), Jodianne once remarked very accurately that really great parody is in fact dead serious, or that talking about serious things in a funny way is the essence of parodic art. This kind of parody is in stark contrast with the dr. Zizek-style dialectic PoMo parody.
As two different characters in Southland Tales said, “I’m a pimp, and pimps don’t commit suicide.” I suspect Kelly was talking about himself. All these suicidal gestures captured in the screengrabs, and not a single person followed through. The sadistic gesture, on the other hand, found plenty of traction.
i will give you more thoughts later, but I noticed first of all that the film follows a very similar pattern to what already transpired in DONNIE DARKO – there’s the forces of cognitive-behavioral-control society as embodied by Patrick Swayze against intelligent and sensitive nerdy kids on the verge of lunacy, and capitalism has become a schizophrenic Moebius loop. The new element is the imperious Miranda Richardson, one of the best actresses alive, as the Collective Capitalist Beehive Mother controlling the world from her Snow Queen castle. That part was amazing in itself.
There were at least a couple of citations to other influences. Southland is a district of LA, as is Inland Empire. Rebekah Del Rio sings the National Anthem partly in Spanish, reprising her pivotal lip-synch moment of Roy Orbison’s Llorando in Mulholland Drive. Some character says “flow my tears,” which cites Philip Dick’s novel Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said. The main character in Dick’s book is Jason Taverner; the doubled policeman in Southland Tales is named Roland/Ronald Taverner. And as you point out, Donnie Darko is already there at the brink of the end of the world contemplating suicide. In that movie Donnie does let himself get killed in order to save the world, whereas nobody makes the self-sacrificial gesture in Southland.
This is the precise geographical definition of Southland, which is the same as the Greater Los Angeles Area, but not the same as the Los Angeles Metro Area. And it includes Inland Empire and Ventura areas (different directions from DT Los Angeles), but NOT San Diego, which makes it a very tedious bit of nomenclature, since San Diego and Imperial Counties are, of course, very much Southern California. Some of these place names seem to have a mythology already built into them, which may go with some of the Southern California ethos–esp. do Inland Empire and Southland have these, as they are both hyped-up terms and, in the case of Southland, somewhat inaccurate (the wiki entry says its used mainly in local media, and I think I’ve heard it in weather reports when there).
Here’s an even earlier ‘Flow My Tears’:
“Flow my tears is a lute song (specifically, an “ayre”) by the accomplished lutenist and composer John Dowland. Flow my tears is Dowland’s most famous ayre, and became his signature song, literally as well as metaphorically: he would occasionally sign his name “Jo. Dolandi de Lachrimae”. Like others of Dowland’s lute songs, Flow my tears’ form and style are based on a dance, in this case the pavan. It was first published in The Second Booke of Songs or Ayres of 2, 4. and 5. parts (London, 1600).”
Perhaps Dick was thinking of this? although there must be thousands of allusions since 1600 (and maybe even before Dowland.) I did a presentation on this song at Juilliard in my Music History class.
Comment by Patrick J. Mullins — 7 July 2008 @ 11:55 am
Remarkably, on the second page I flipped to in Dick’s book, page 101, I read this:
Moodily, General Buckman opened the third drawer of the large desk and placed a tape-reel in the small transport he kept there. Dowland aires for four voices… he stood listening to one which he enjoyed very much, among all the songs in Dowland’s lute books.
…For now left and forlorn
I sit, I sigh, I weep, I faint, I die
In deadly pain and endless misery
The first man, Buckman mused, to write a piece of abstract music. He removed the tape, put in the lute one, and stood listening to the “Lachrimae Antiquae Pavan.” From this, he said to himself, came, at last, the final Beethoven Quartets. And everything else. Except for Wagner.
es, almost too much so. I had just now thought in the steamy streets that there was, however, one ‘strong music’ that Wagner never surpasses in the purely musical sense, and that is J.S. Bach. He nevertheless does put in theatrical musical drama form, what nobody else has ever been able to do: He does present the gods in their conflict with humanity. In Die Walkure, it is very much likely ‘being there’ when Fricka refuses to budge from her position of Protector of Marriage, and Wotan has to concede that love be damned, he’s the one that was unfaithful not only with a mortal to produce the Volsungs Siegmunde and his bride-sister Sieglinde, but also with Erde, with whom he produced Brunnhilde. And now Brunnhilde becomes victim to Fricka and Wotan in disobeying him (although Wotan manages to kill Siegmund anyway), and Sieglinde is then protected with their startling offspring Siegfried–who is of the best possible constitution, and has NONE of the usual lamentable deformities of incest! In short, Siegfried would not be a subject for the Collapse crew, but he IS the only one worthy of marrying Brunnhilde, whose consolation by her father is to protect her new lost-goddess status with a ring of flame (in his merciless anger, he had wanted to practically give her the rights and privileges of a charwoman) until the man fearless of his spear is able to walk through the flame and claim her. Of course, Brunnhilde is more than pleased when Siegfried proves to be a worthy compensation to loss of goddess fame.
Also an interesting subtlety in there is that Wotan’s spear is nevertheless more powerful still than even Nothung, and his spear shatters Nothung, which is like a Norse Excalibur, I guess. When Siegmund first visits Sieglinde in Hunging’s home, Nothung is thrust deeply into the World Ash Tree, and no man has been able to pull it out.
So that’s part of the way Wagner adds on something to what Bach, Beethoven, Haydn and Mozart had prepared him for, not to mention some reinforcements from Schumann and Liszt, who were also great powers. But Wagner knew how to think in these heroic, heraldic structures more of the time. So that in ‘Parsifal’, Gurnemanz sings of the way the emphasis comes to be greater on space than time among the Christian monks there (wounded Amfortas and old Titurel). And ‘Lohengrin’, which comes much earlier in the oeuvre, is about Parsifal’s son, which may figure into something of what is meant by this greater spatial emphasis: One goes back in time (although you would never know this if you got to know ‘Parsifal’ before Lohengrin–he does not yet exist), and there finds at the origin of the ‘capture’ of the Grail something which has intensified since the composition of ‘Lohengrin’, even though that is about a later time, the marriage of Elsa and Parsifal’s son. And, of course, in ‘Lohengrin’ one finds the opening Bridal March for weddings, dispelled after tying the knot by the gaiety of Mendelssohn’s Midsummer Night’s Dream. I remember as a child much preferring the finale of the wedding, and am relieved that this has been reversed when I recently saw Lohengrin with Domingo on that superb DVD.
Comment by Patrick J. Mullins — 7 July 2008 @ 3:34 pm
Apparently Philip Dick hosted a classical radio show for awhile, so he wasn’t just aping something he might have overheard. Dick’s gnosticism is very different from Wagner’s of course, being paranoiac and hallucinogenic rather than heroic. I’m sure one could attribute fascistic reactionary tendencies to Tolkein’s heroic trilogy, and I believe he was consciously trying to invent a mythic legend for England, perhaps with the intention of counteracting the Aryan mythos in majesty. Evangelicals like to see in the Tolkein story a Judeo-Christian “legend before the Fall,” an era of honor and might to which they would like to return. Nonetheless… it shouldn’t be difficult to appreciate magnificent works like Wagner’s and pretty good ones like Tolkein’s without having to apologize or demur — not that I’m a Nazi but…
Nonetheless… it shouldn’t be difficult to appreciate magnificent works like Wagner’s and pretty good ones like Tolkein’s without having to apologize or demur — not that I’m a Nazi but…
Well, that has nothing to do with it anyway. It’s not the ‘Nazism’ of Wagner as opposed to the ‘lighter heroics’, and so forth, of Tolkien, but rather the far greater difficulty of the former. You will find that the leftist blogosphere is NOT of this opinion–they find it quite convenient to dismiss Wagner’s Nazism, and nearly all of them know Tolkien by heart. I wonder why.
In the event, my own ill-concealed snobbism may now venture not to boast, but to reason why, I happen to know a lot about Wagner and nothing at all about Tolkien. This is not, however, at all about snobbism, even if it exists. I know lots about many very ‘low’ things. But the point here is that it’s very easy to have read something about Wagner’s Nazism without knowing even the wiki entry for Tannhauser, but not very easy to hide from your frat pals how much you enjoyed the latest installment/merchandising of Tolkien, while leaving out any dangerous Fascist symbology it may bear in itself. I wouldn’t know, but this has inspired to bone up on the Wiki version of The Lord of the Rings. It should be more expedient than seeing if Cliff’s Notes for Tolkien exist.
One of the things the leftist blogosphere has specialized in is an attempt to get into high-toned and trendy philosophy and theory without ever leaving the peanut gallery. They have all wasted precious ‘Communist protest march and organizing meetings for the dictatorship of the proles’ by reading enormous amounts of Derrida and Deleuze, and now even Meillassoux–without even bothering to learn Leontyne Price’s Tosca, much less having ever heard of leitmotifs of Valhalla or Siegfried. Almost everybody knows ‘The Ride of the Valkyries’, Wagner’s most extravagant bow to Minsky’s Runway and Fire Island Show-Tune Fairies (who love to get stoned and listen to Birgit doing Isolde as well, jerking off to it, etc., including tales of cum plopping from the balcony down to the decolletage of Marguerite Dumas types in the parterre boxes), and that, of course, is an example of something amazingly popular being just as great as everybody thinks it is. There are few greater pagan sounds than the Hojotohe!!!s of Brunnhilde, and it was somebody else, of course, who coined the phrase ‘barbaric yawp’, and he wasn’t bad either.
Comment by Patrick J. Mullins — 7 July 2008 @ 5:46 pm
Another code in the leftist blogosphere is to identify works such as Wagner’s (especially his, of course) with wealth and the now-favoured most-condemning term ‘neoliberalism’. While they know that all sorts of shitshack stuff is a matter of improperly diverted funds, the ‘class thing’ of high art is much, much worse. Obama has a hard enough time without having to admit he likes classical music and opera (I don’t know whether he does or not), but John Richards’s favourite musical being ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ while supposedly ‘not liking opera’ is the necessary attitude to take to get votes. And Hillary taught Obama some of this in the lunchpail districts.
Until you and I started just going ahead and talking about what we felt like, which is quite forbidden and leaves one open to all sorts of attacks as ‘bourgeois neoliberal’, the most outrageous references to the higher performing arts made in the Marxist regions was that of Arpege appearing at the Palais Garnier and having to defend ideological impurity as being a viable stance: Given that Marxism is predicated on the sacrosanctness of impurity in whatever form you might find it, this works very well for practitioners who might otherwise want to become aide workers–if they hadn’t the ideological cujones, however impure, to remember that UN aide workers always descend from a corrupt imperialist organization (nevermind that I know somebody who worked for them in Rwanda and saved lives while the Marxists were jerking off), as does the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders refuse to adamnatly protest their sponsors. This would be better done sitting at home and composing Brechtian wisecracks for the consumption of other Thunderbird-wine drinkers. The ‘cool pose’ we’ve discussed regarding some of these crows, who out of deep conviction, refuse the logical step of helping the Peace Corps with such projects as agriculture in Uganda and stemming of AIDS epidemics among indigenous prostitutes there, consists quite logically to them as discussing year after year the importance of not using the word ‘prostitute’, because it is derived from capitalist exploitation. As such, they can’t throw back beers galore. You will never see a single one of these blogs discussing the extraordinary work Jimmy Carter has done in Africa, in his work against that horrific Guinea worm.
I mean-what does reducing the number of cases of Guinea Worm from 3.5 million to 10,000 have to do with Marxism? Well, nothing specifically, and in actual practice, apparently even less in terms of ‘glorious Marxist humanitarianism’ than even making sure someone is banned from a Marxist blog for making a sexist of Islamophobic remark (after closing the blog, one may then do fucking, one supposes.)
I fucking HATE Marxism.
Comment by Patrick J. Mullins — 7 July 2008 @ 6:07 pm
Well anyhow, Tolkein’s books of fantasy opened a genre that didn’t really exist before. I read all three to my daughter as bedtime stories when she was little and she didn’t even fall asleep during all the slow trudging through middle earth that they cut from the movies as being too boring. They’re not great writing, and neither was Philip Dick a great writer, but they both brought something to the table.
In his second preface to The Birth of Tragedy, fifteen years after he wrote the first preface in honor of Wagner, Nietzsche asks:
Is it possible to assume — in the face of all the up-to-date notions on that subject, in defiance of all the known prejudices of our democratic age — that the great optimist-rationalist-utilitarian victory, together with democracy, its political contemporary, was at bottom nothing other than a symptom of declining strength, approaching senility, somatic exhaustion — it, not its opposite, pessimism? Could it be that Epicurus was an optimist — precisely because he suffered?
Tragedy is possible only in the wake of grand passions and ambitions that have failed. Without the grandness all you get is disappointment. Is it better to fail grandly than to succeed modestly? And is it possible to sustain the grandness of tragic failure, even to anticipate its inevitability, without succumbing to resentment, ironic detachment, pissiness, etc.? Thinking along these lines, I doubt whether immanent rhizomes flowing unchecked through its human channels can possibly generate tragic results. Tragedy depends on mighty force meeting mighty resistance, whereas the aimless vectors of immanence merely carom off, change course and carry on when they hit an obstacle — like being one with the Tao I suppose. Do I believe what I’m saying here? If I believe it do I live it? To sustain oneself in a vital pessimism requires something like heroic fortitude. Still, I’d far rather be the hero who prevails. But I think the myths tell us that the difference between heroic victory and defeat depends less on the fortitude of the hero and far more on fate and chance. Still, you can’t win if you don’t buy a ticket.
Nietzsche turned on Wagner eventually, accusing him of being nothing more than a German Romantic and not a real Greek. I don’t know how much of this was based on personal antagonisms, and how much he thought Wagner should have gone even farther than he did. Nietzsche starts talking to himself then — aren’t you just an old romantic yourself with all this nostalgia for a bygone age? And he admits that maybe that’s where it will all wind up. But he says he wants to add some laughter to the pessimism, to avert “the usual romantic finale: rupture, collapse, return, and prostration before an old faith, an old God.”
Returning to Southland Tales briefly, the premise relied on ideas in Dick’s Flow My Tears book, including people seemingly going out of existence and one person’s drug-induced hallucinations disrupting the lives of others. In Dick’s book the disappeared character is a pop and TV star; in Kelly’s movie the TV star disappears and a pop star (Justin Timberlake) plays the narrator. Dick makes connections with the Biblical Book of Acts; Timberlake repeatedly quotes from the Book of Revelations. There’s a pervasive right-wing police surveillance presence in both. The drug-taker who disappears Dick’s character is a lesbian. I don’t recall if she was neo-Marxist, but I think she was something like that — a sixties radical who went underground. All in all, Southland Tales owes much more to Dick than to Lynch story-wise, and more to Lynch in the disjointed narrative style a la Inland Empire.
The scattered narrative doesn’t so much blur one reality into another in Lynchian style; rather, it’s more the sense of a densely-populated present, with the movie catching glimpses of only tangentially-related events occurring within a larger reality. The intermittent video feeds from TV news channels supports this idea: the screen is filled with interviews, running lines of text, side images, ads, etc. which provide too much stimulation to process fully. So the narrative filmmaking technique is pastiche: multiple windows briefly opened on a reality too big to capture in a single narrative arc. The strands weave together only loosely and never in a way the viewer can fully understand. So I think instead of Lynch’s surreal unconscious stream, Kelly is an externalized unconscious bombarded by images but processed by drug-distorted subjectivity. So I see some merits in this approach.
I’ll probably watch Southland Tales. It sounds interesting enough. Actually, I was joking about my snobbism, even though most people think I am for some reason, because I really should have known at least a bare minimum about Lord of the Rings, and years ago had a friend who thought it was ‘adorable’. And I now do now the bare bones of it, having read wiki last night.
“— that the great optimist-rationalist-utilitarian victory, together with democracy, its political contemporary, was at bottom nothing other than a symptom of declining strength,”
This is a wonderful excerpt, and as I read it, I realize that I see Communism as Democracy taken to its ultimate dissolution of weakness. It is all about a certain attitude, as one sees the sadist and masochist writ large at the extremes of either. Deleuze’s book on Masochism is excellent, because he gets rid of the ‘sado-masochism’ of sex play, and says that they are two unrelated things. The sadist is actually a criminal at his most extreme and does not look for a ‘willing victim’. He just looks for a victim. As strength-identified, Fascists at their extremes do not call themselves that, but just go about what they do. And while mass murders occur with both Fascist and Communist regimes, Communists always have decided that theirs are ‘inevitable’ as the proles must make their way toward revolution. That these proles are almost always ignorant in the majority is always glossed over. There are not a lot of books about how the White Russians had to be hired to run the bureaucracies of the Soviet, because the peasants didn’t know shit. I’ve long thought that individualism is seen as the cardinal sin, and in communism you also see that everything that is not specifically Marxist is said to be fascist, ultimately. Okay, then fine: In that case, we should even proclaim that Fascism and authoritarianism are at least the lesser of the two evils if that’s all there is (since democracy is also just a form of lukewarm fascism, with Britain and the U.S. ‘nice fascists’ as opposed to those SS guards, etc.) Anyway, I found it interesting to see democracy as the middle-ground which can tilt just as easily into Fascism, of which the Bush administration has given us at least a taste of two, or Communism, which waters everybody down into lower animals, rodents kept in cages–until they do a ‘capitalist revolution’ as in China and decide to have many houses, pampered children and fine food.
“Is it better to fail grandly than to succeed modestly?”
Obviously, all Communists think not, having usually not even succeeded modestly.
“And is it possible to sustain the grandness of tragic failure, even to anticipate its inevitability, without succumbing to resentment, ironic detachment, pissiness, etc.?”
Yes, you wouldn’t need to quite succumb, but just make occasional trips there, as to the loo. And Corinthians again: ‘So abideth resentment, ironic detachment, pissiness, but the greatest of these is ironic detachment’. (‘ironic detachment’ has its merits if you don’t stay in it all the time. Most people I know could use a heavy does of it.) But is grandness only tragic? Insofar as there is death, yes. But there have been those who have lived to the point of beginning to understand death before its complete onset, have realized their potential enough to understand what death is without having to be a ‘happy thanatophobe’ like Derrida.
“But I think the myths tell us that the difference between heroic victory and defeat depends less on the fortitude of the hero and far more on fate and chance.”
Like your ‘buying the ticket’, it is very chicken and egg. Fate and chance therefore have to ‘choose’ a subject if he’s going to be able to last past the first round, because if he doesn’t he might not even get famous for defeat.
“Could it be that Epicurus was an optimist — precisely because he suffered?”
Things like that are when Nietzsche really seems unstable. Whatever suffering Epicurus did, it was surely less than most, given that he was frugal, moderate, and was these things for the very purpose of enjoying life more, and unafraid of death. It just makes you want to say to Friedrich Wilhelm the way a gossip-digger would ‘What’s your PROB-lem?’
Give me the name of the person who hasn’t suffered, whether pessimist or optimist. At some point, he may have just published anything, as witnessed especially by all the privileging of the false, which is worthwhile for a few minutes, but also becomes quickly apparent that it is just a means to put something contrived into effect that will be ultimately swept away (not that there weren’t some interesting points in it, but they were mainly practical–such as beliefs which would lead to longevity, etc. I’m sure we all have our secret versions of these.)
Comment by Patrick J. Mullins — 8 July 2008 @ 9:13 am
This is interesting, because they cannot have consciously attempted to capture the intonation, the very sound of internet culture (cellphone is different), and put it into a film somewhat removed from the internet. All the people working on this film, or at least those directing and determining it, editing it, are using this lexicon, this kind of flattened expressionless sound of the Hewlett-Packard tech-support types. The fights are like internet flame wars and cussings. There are Arpeges in it, etc.
Southland they’ve used mostly thus far is Venice Beach, which is the one beach town I dislike in Los Angeles. Very nauseating and silly. A hair removal clone was on the beach and wasted time on offering up attitude about where Point Dume was when I went there in 2004. It’s before you get to Malibu and much cheaper, but retarded (that’s a very much-used internet chat word, by the way.)
Specifically, the sound is one I noticed when I first used a chat room when I first had regular internet service beginning in 2003, and found it necessary to talk to some of the room people on the phone. Without exception, they spoke without any variation in pitch, already much like robots. One I met in person did change once i met her, but it was very interesting how there was a recognizable sound meant to have no personality in it.
It’s like an evolution from Quentin Tarantino, I guess. Not artistic at all, but keeps one up on the trends, because they’re all interwoven into it: Characters modelled on Paris Hilton, etc. As GWTW is ‘propaganda for the ante-bellum South’, ‘Southland Tales’ is propaganda for the very neo-Marxists and their blogger correlates (probably all of these people are heavy bloggers who have a lot of the’new energy’, and can do ‘radical speeding’ all the time), as well as propaganda for the pop culture they halfway want to repudiate but embrace at the same time, that’s why they make a movie disapproving about various things here–they may disapprove, but they know these things, so in the making of this movie they are attempting to proliferate them. The result is somewhat more interesting than some of the starlet-bimboes they satirize–it’s one notch higher than the culture it parodies and propagandizes in favour of.
I ended up fast-forwarding through the last, stupendously boring 30 minutes or so. I thought the film horrible, and see no reason why it’s so clever to use all that faux-amateur acting, which had been used to much better effect by Russ Meyer in ‘Beyond the Valley of the Dolls’, one of his Bosomania series. There was the Staples Center, Hermosa Beach, incredibly ugly colour, ‘Kiss Me Deadly’ on the first TV, with Cloris Leachman in the first scene. I’ll read the comments tomorrow, I guess people liked this. I thought it was garbage.
Comment by Patrick J. Mullins — 2 August 2008 @ 10:50 pm
Capturing the mood of internet culture — a very apt interpretation, Patrick. I think it was probably intentional, though that’s part of the interpretive difficulty of the internet culture itself: what’s real, what’s intentionally false, what’s naturally hollow — these are elusive questions for which the answers seem permanently beyond one’s grasp. About 15 years ago David Foster Wallace said that contemporary fiction writers often have a tin ear for dialogue in part because they watch too much TV, regarding this posed dialogue as the way people really talk to each other. Whereas in fact real people don’t talk to each other very much at all any more, spending most of their time sitting next to each other watching TV. The internet is a similar phenomenon, and even more so because everybody gets to write their own faux dialogue in conversation with others whose humanity is always suspect. You’ve pointed this out frequently, Patrick — the difficulty of regarding internet characters as real people. But if people learn humanity and their interpersonality from the internet, which is increasingly possible, then the disconnect becomes even more entrenched. I was fascinated and horrified by the article on trolls you linked to. I sound like an old guy making such pronouncements, fearing the loss of authenticity in human relations. Maybe the work becomes, not discovering or recovering one’s authenticity, but creating it and trying to embody one’s own creation. Coming back from the brink.
The grand gestures of the characters in Southland Tales don’t seem psychotic in the usual cinematic sense, rather instead a lot of posing toward no apparent end. Feigning suicide for what? Pimping for whom, and for what possible personal gain? It’s just the pimp’s pose that’s being enacted, the idea of exploitation of others’ bodies and fantasies as an end in itself. The flat affectless acting, especially Boxer’s obviously feigned perplexity and strangely cheerful self=destructiveness, keeps authentic humanity at a double remove.
I’m reading something Sam sent me: “The Spirit of Terrorism,” an essay in which Baudrillard explores “this terrorist imagination which — unknowingly — inhabits us all.” They did it, but we wanted it, is B’s evaluation of the WTC destruction, and Southland Tales embodies this nihilistic impulse explicitly. So too do those trollers in the article you sent — the purported therapeutic value in destroying oneself, everyone else, the world seems like a rationale imposed after the fact and that doesn’t ring true. It’s like Dejan’s posting of official warnings against unsafe sex which actually serve to titillate the imagination, probably also the Joker’s chaotic violence in the new Batman (which I’ve not seen). Are Baudrillard and the filmmakers right in their assertion that the apparently widespread impulse toward destructive cruelty is actually societal suicide, generated by hegemonic power as a kind of unconscious excess that resists the self-control on which its power is based? I.e., is 9/11 Truth true, not literally but unconsciously?
Maybe more accurately to Baudrillard’s point, it’s not that Dick Cheney brought down the WTC, but rather that Al-Qaida becomes spontaneously generated by a hegemonic world order. So the trolls aren’t secret agents of Homeland Security, set loose on the internet in order to provide justification for ever more invasive governmental spying and control over self-expression. Rather, the trolls are the unwitting spawn of a dominant order of control, in which nihilism and order are two sides of the same coin.
Rather, the trolls are the unwitting spawn of a dominant order of control, in which nihilism and order are two sides of the same coin.
That could be true, and all the previous things you said along those lines in these 3 posts are very well-said. In fact, I’ve always wondered why the 9/11 truth people were completely unable to see it this way, given that their description of a literal bomb-planting thing in the WTC is so blatantly preposterous that you need to be on acid to imagine it. What you’ve said is primarily a logical cause-and-effect thing–which I don’t personally feel as much anyway, though, and I doubt you do either. Of course, the old American ‘why do they hate us so much?’ is just silly, because of course they do. I remember a wonderful English teleplay I bought at a used video store because that wonderful actress Jane Asher was in it, as a masseuse for rich ladies. It was called ‘Bright Smiler’, and the rich woman was Janet Suzman. The line was finally said: Suzman says ‘The poor hate the rich. Why shouldn’t they?’ The British are especially good at deciding finally not to waste any more time on such things. That it’s not in our interests to get a terrorist nuke is another matter, and this Nerd Triumph which is ‘Southland Tales’ only achievement is also symptomatic of young people in the first world countries struggling toward creating their lives; in the meantime, it’s a form of ‘cool’ and excitement to dream of destruction, and at this point it seems to ‘go without saying’ that that’s in all cases inevitable.
The troll article was truly a job well done, and maybe that troll with the green hair thing, who also challenged the writer about being a bad journalist made him more than ever determined to be a good one. In this way, he wrote one of several really good articles I saw this weekend in the New York Times. He ‘chose the metropolis’ as I have told you I am doing in all ways I can in the new book. I have even learned how to be patient and only this week have overcome Christian’s block on this one (he never had it with my writing before) by virtue of a Lithuanian dance writer and teacher who explained Danish Bournonville technique to me very patiently about 3 months ago–and she did it so givingly I was stunned. Her taking this kind of time with me for no apparent material gain at all proved to me what a great teacher she must be, and I have to tell her how much benefit it has made me not only in what she was explaining so patiently to me, but in how the method of explaining was something I was able to use to break a habit which usually has meant breakdowns and additional losses of temper. And it all paid off. By yesterday, Christian was finally able to understand the way the books are structured in their weird way and to at last give images of what he’ll paint (we had never had this blockage before, and it was very disturbing after I’d done all that work, and so I was constantly having to fight off rage). This, by the way, is why I haven’t sent you the manuscript yet. This will be a fruitful endeavour as well, but he’s the publisher and co-creator of the actual book, and I have had to spend literally all of my energies choosing the right words to help him enter into something which, before, he had always been able to do himself. But even this kind of endeavour is proof of what I strive for in the text itself–is an extension of this road map for myself out of the worst excesses of the internet while learning how to use it with much more care and discretion. It is also why I wanted your own manuscript to be printed, and how I discovered yesterday that I am preparing my mind for reading it when I finish the book on Edith Evans this week. This way I will have the kind of structure I have made for myself in which to place the reading of your own work. So that, without even starting to read it yet, I have already begun the opening-up toward being able to place the reading of it in a thicker kind of context than it was. This really began when I insisted on a printed copy, that a book was not something I could read with any meaning on the screen (others can, of course, but I can’t, this is all of it the way I have to go for things to have the integrity they need for me–and it doesn’t apply to all online things either, which are now differentiated and I can accept them as being ‘online organisms’ that belong there. These things have to be sorted out.
My first comment last night was written about about an hour, and I’d arrived at that moment when Zora is in the car with the other guy, the one who’d been with Boxer in the racist dialogue earlier. This guy in the back says, in those frightening statements, usually associated with teenage girls these days, that go up and end in an interrogative tone even though they’re not questions. He says ‘you know, I think I’m gonna rollerblade out of here now? Because I don’t wanna be involved in this? at all?’ The degradation of the ‘it’s like, he was just…’ in hyper kids is currently reaching far greater heights of lunacy than it was even 10 years ago. But this movie is poor by almost any standards, and demands that standards be completely suspended. Even the special effects are cheap computer things. But you’re right about the ludicrousness of the ‘pimping’ bullshit, it came out of nowhere for me too. I did managed to find Manohla Dargis’s review from last November in the NYTimes archive, and I don’t know whether she’s like the woman who wants to suck Boxer’s dick or not, but she was pointing out that ‘oh well, being booed at Cannes is not so terrible necessarily…Antonioni [a nd a couple of others were mentioned]] was booed…’ Oh Jesus God! That this one was even allowed to be shown at Cannes is unbelievable laxity, I don’t know how people sat in their seats long enough to boo it, it was apparently even 19 minutes longer, and so I got the same sensation of horror as with Inland Empire that it was going to be at least one more whole hour than I thought it was (and it was, even with the 19 minutes out, which Dargis ‘misses’). ‘Inland Empire’, even if I hated it, was well-made, this isn’t.
The acting is, I think, just amateur acting, because it has two pros, Wallace Shawn and Miranda Richardson, who while disgusting like everything else in the proceedings, are not quite able to do this kind of ‘amateur sound.’ (Dargis even praises Dewayne’s acting!) His pre-amnesia wife is esp. horrible. The Krista girl is not terrible, but the rest of them are, there is no intensity at all, no suspense, when I fast-forwarded the last 30 minutes, I didn’t give a shit if the ‘world ended’ or didn’t. It looked expensive, and may have been, what do you think? All sorts of plot details were fleshed out that didn’t need to be. None of the paranoia was ever convincing, because it seemed he was not telling an apocalyptic story, but doing a camp take-off on old Ed Wood movies or Fright Night movies, etc. This got a lot worse in the last hour, when everything descended to camp. Timberlake’s song ‘I’ve got soul but I’m not a soldier’ was dreadful, and reminded me of the old Douglas Sirk ‘Imitation of Life’ when Susan Kohner, the mixed-race girl, goes off to be a showgirl and we see her in some Vegas-y showgirl number, lifting leg just like these blondes with Timberlake.
I can’t believe such an elaborate mess was made. It’s easily the worst film in terms of craftsmanship that has pretensions to seriousness within memory (Anderson’ films are horrible for another reason–his own atrocious taste, but technically they’re not out of control the way this one becomes.)
Comment by Patrick J. Mullins — 3 August 2008 @ 8:15 am
I would agree with Patricia that the film eventually gets boring. This is due to its talky philosophic format. I had a similar problem with A Scanner Darkly. Moviemaking must be driven by passions, otherwise why not just write a scientific thesis. However Patricia of course exaggerates comparing it to Russ Meyer, who has nothing in common with Linklater’s meditative style, or his somber and sad poetry. I think the flat characters are also not a parody as they would be in Russ Meyer (so that you arrive at the truth via exaggeration), rather, they are flat because everything in the world has become flat due to the collapsing of the Innenwelt and Umwelt into the black hole.
I liked the way Matthias Schwartz was so intrepid, he had the reporter’s pluck to go and live with these little punk criminals and then pull out and refer to them as ‘immature’, which is exactly what they needed to see in print. God, how fucking evil they are. They seem to now be opening up the world of hackers, though, while before these people who spend there whole lives thrilled at stealing people’s credit cards and SS#’s and then don’t even use them (because they don’t know what to spend money on). So Schwartz was doing what I am working on–the temptation has actually made a lot of people go into this insanity all the way, and of course, if he’s employed as a serious writer for the NYTimes, he’s both not going to all of a sudden decide that hanging out with a bunch of punks is more thrilling than a serious job, even if they tell him all the ‘self-evident truths’ such as the ‘death of print culture’, etc., nor is going to believe that have produced a culture or subculture of any real substance. They prove their weakness, though, by wanting the attention his article will give them among their own subculture members. this was very reminiscent of Joan Didion’s early essay ‘Slouching Toward Bethlehem’ in the collection with that same title, in which she went and lived with the hippies of Haight-Ashbury, San Francisco–and they called her ‘media poison’, so she took gin and ups to get through the assignment, but wouldn’t drop acid with them. In this article, they were suspicious of him, but decided to go with it.
Before I forget, the remark of Baudrillard, which I read almost immediately after he published it, is typical of his best kinds of reckless remarks, which are good at making you decide for yourself what you think. He could be very useful if you weren’t too gullible to begin with. So that, yes, some people ‘did want this to happen’ is also only partially true. Many did, but many, like me, didn’t, and I simply wish those fucks Bush and Condi had not had their heads up their asses and heeded the August intelligence. I’m sure Gore would have. Not that I think Bush and Condi wanted this, but that they don’t have big enough sensibilities and brains to want anything noble. Sure, they capitalized on what it meant for them in record time, but the ones of the ‘they did it, but we wanted it’ variety are like Kelly and all his characters, and many of the sci-fi oriented bloggers, plus all of the 9/11 truth types, want both that and some more attacks to happen. And they will–because it’s not nearly often pointed out that the WTC was attacked in 1993, and very seriously, but since the buildings were fixed and there were few casualties, people forgot about it altogether. They’ve forgotten about 9/11 in that sense again, and many sensation-seekers do want another attack. The ‘hacker-troll’ mentality of that article bears witness to that–they do want harm to occur, it is their oxygen. In the meantime, you’ve no idea how strange it is to be reading an article on one of the great actresses of all time, who did Congreve and Shakespeare, was comparable to Ellen Terry and Sybil Thorndike and Mrs. Patrick Campbell–and then see this amazing piece of trash. The main thing that was interesting was the evolved-Valley-girl-speak that all the starlet types used–it was just like the AP stories that pop up about these idiot girls, whether Britney, Paris or Lindsay, and now Amy Winehouse, but ever-so-slightly more subtle. What I can never forgive nere is the amateur acting, which I now do not think was intended as a bow to old porn acting, but rather that these actors cannot act, and that the director has opted for no taste or decent standards at all, and has not had the determination to at least force some energy into these non-actors. It reminded me of an old cheapie ‘Blood Mania’ which used to be shown late-night here on a local channel. When it remains within the genre, it can be amusing–scenes that are very melodramatic and overdone that are never followed up, etc., but when we have something that demands we look at a ‘hot new director’, we don’t need to be fed straight feces. And none of the local things that I, as an Los Angeles aficionado, would normally find charming–KTLA, Santa Monica Pier, shots of the Library Tower (all the shots of DT Los Angeles looked like Xmas, like the hideous lighting that has changed at the top of the Empire State Building for about 20 years now, acc. to holiday), Staples Center–had any resonance. All of it seemed to be imitative of something else, but more Tarantino than Lynch. And God, that ridiculous Asian girl ‘who knew everything’. She kept trying to kiss Boxer, such shit kept coming.
Comment by Patrick J. Mullins — 3 August 2008 @ 8:43 am
they are flat because everything in the world has become flat due to the collapsing of the Innenwelt and Umwelt into the black hole.
not entirely. They are flat because all the personnel in this film live in this kind of sensibility on a permanent basis. It was not meant to be THIS flat on purpose, that was just something that came naturally to this milieu of moviemakers, and they are about the same as the characters in Gibson’s dreadful novel ‘Spook Country’, which, like this, gave me many warnings which are useful to me at knowing horrible people to avoid.
Comment by Patrick J. Mullins — 3 August 2008 @ 8:45 am
Ah yes, Linklater! I had forgotten he’s the one who did ‘Slacker’ way back in 1991, which means I have to see none of his subsequent things. He was already planting the seeds of his public depression back then in that repulsive film, all about people who are so smart they know not to even expend any energy on going anywhere (since there’s nothing there except more…what? more of this ‘flatness’? It’s that they’re flat people, and people are paying them for this shit.
Comment by Patrick J. Mullins — 3 August 2008 @ 9:04 am
Well, the movie has, and certainly you have too, if you really believe such shit.
Patricia the one thing I don’t understand about you is: where exactly does your cockiness come from that you think you really KNOW what you’re talking about. If you can now expound, clearly and in detail, what I wanted to say with my comment, instead of producing some dismissive one-liner, maybe it makes sense to elaborate on the theme. Otherwise yes we already know that you prefer the oldies to new movies, so you don’t have to reiterate that.
Richard Kelly does not at all have the same depressing American nouveaux riche – blaze intellectual attitude you encounter in the X generation (types like Winona Ryder). I don’t even think his origins are in that world. So I have no idea how you came to the comparison.
I was just thinking, I went out yesterday with the optimistic intent of finding some solace in ”the world”, maybe talking to people, and all I saw in the town of Leiden was 2 multiplexes playing BATMAN to unbelievably packed crowds and four different types of hamburger joints. The crowds thereby seemed totally out of control, I guess I felt the same chaotic and infantile energy that Clysmatics describes in the comment on trolls. It made a lot of damn sense that the world has become flat, because living in this marketing spectacle every day sure does pull your guts out. So it’s not at all empty philosophizing.
“who also challenged the writer about being a bad journalist made him more than ever determined to be a good one.”
I think this may be part of the intent behind some of the more aggressively cocksure and contrarian bloggists of my acquaintance (not that they’re trolls or anything). What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger etc. It was in fact a very good article about the trolls, and reading it I get a sense more of these trolls’ malevolence not just as online personae but in the real world. However, they were talking to a journalist, which automatically places an inauthenticity filter between conversational partners.
Clysmatics, if you’re talking about me, the reason I am quitting the Continental blawgosphere parody is that it’s useless, not because I want to be less cocksure and contrarian. The narcissistic types I’m parodying couldn’t give a flying fuck about anything except their adumbrations. If there was one thing Sherbertina was ever right about, then that’s the profile of the Continental blawgers. And with Patricia having turned all prissy on me, I am not enjoying the stalking either anymore. In fact it feels like LABOR without payment.
I will leave some pro-Serbian propaganda dangling in the air for the wider public,because I do think that should be publicized… and I think the Slovenly Alien is quite a good piece of parody writing, but otherwise I’m directing the parody to more lucrative and commercial targets.
In line with this I just polished the PSYCHO II article so that it may be read by wider audiences.
Yes, but I was also offering a possible answer to your question about Patrick’s stated self-assurance. I for one have benefited from the contrarian cocksuredness you and he have offered me.
I look forward to seeing what your blog morphs into. One of the things I find tiring about writing a blog is its chronicity. To draw a line under the Parodycenter’s prior incarnation, to put a frame around it, to have a final curtain call, is to declare it not finished but COMPLETE. Congratulations, Dejan (and I’m not one to offer optimistic feel-good coaching propagandistic cognitive therapy — all the less so for having hung out with you in these discussions).
my interpretation of flatness in S-tales is that once you’ve flattened something out, then a flow can pass through. if the characters had depth, then they’d be having an ”inner core”, which the post-modern era proved false anyhow, and you couldn’t let the Affect flow through them. (I assume the Affect is the Orgone-type energy that the world runs on in the film) But it’s simply a falsity that this results in emptiness, because as you can see in the Justin Timberlake scene there is a sense of existential sorrow creeping behind the flat superficial media and that is where the film situaties its satire of the hypermediated world. I got a similar sense of sadness from Donnie Darko. I tend to link it to Owen Hatherley’s articles last year about the Vervreemdungseffekt. Now Patricia we had all this before in Ingmar Bergman, in Antonioni… and so on. I totally don’t see a link with either Linklater or the X generation school (American Psycho) in that these people are not egghead types involved in narcissism, but seem to be genuinely trying to interrupt or disrupt or challenge the media machine of today. Whether they succeed is another question… I don’t want to go back to the marathon debates on subversive film.
I think the other reason we’re going flat is that character acting moved to animation. WALL-E is the most brilliant character performance of the year, forget all the living actors…maybe Heath Ledger is better in BATMAN, but I doubt it.
There won’t be any significant morphing, I am simply pulling out stuff that is a cryptic reference to (what sadly amounts to three personalities – Lenin, Poetix and Jodi) and refusing to increase their blawg traffic or provide interactive entertainment. Because these parts can only by read by the parody targets anyway, they are of little use to humanity. Yesterday I spent an hour explaining to Lafayette what Jodianne’s Choice is about. I was going to approach Patricia if maybe we could try to apply the shtick we used on the teachers for writing something about Halliwud, something readable, which interests us both from different angles, but somewhere around that time Patricia abandoned me. Otherwise you’re right that punch-counterpunch form of bitchy dialogue is not only entertaining but has the advantage of forcing the interlocutor to defend his views, in which process they become more clear.
but additionally I wanted to say that I am not equating emotional detachment, delibidinization, with this emptying of character. These are not to be equated. I find Linklater and Bret Easton Ellis withdrawn, detached. They do not communicate. But the kind of ”emptiness” on display in Southland Tales is of a different order. I think it’s a stylistic figure meant to open the space for another register, a visceral one. In any case as I look at the film without trying to analyze it, I do feel the presence of something, some kind of a collective force. There is definitely a kind of a lyrical underlayer to the faux-documentary style. It isn’t visible all the time, because a large part of the film is so talky, but it’s there.
Patricia the one thing I don’t understand about you is:
stop calling me Patricia immediately. I have no further patience with you if you don’t stop thinking you can follow me everywhere. If you are going to do it no matter what, you will address me as Patrick. No further response unless you correct this.
Comment by Patrick J. Mullins — 3 August 2008 @ 12:50 pm
“I was just thinking, I went out yesterday with the optimistic intent of finding some solace in ”the world”, maybe talking to people, and all I saw in the town of Leiden was 2 “multiplexes playing BATMAN to unbelievably packed crowds and four different types of hamburger joints. ”
Yes, you look for junk food in the world and that’s what you’ll find. That’s all Kelly is interested in too. And Shaviro’s review of this back in nov., 2007, I skimmed this morning. He’s always interested in seeing a virtue in inferiority, he did that with the Gibson book, and he does it with Southland Tales. I have no interest in reading him further, but that would be a place for you to go and gush all over the place. He’s just got cronies who are into the same kind of drek he is. Triumph of the Fucking Nerds.
“The crowds thereby seemed totally out of control, I guess I felt the same chaotic and infantile energy that Clysmatics describes in the comment on trolls.”
Do you spend all of your time stoned? I doubt the crowd was any more out of control than you always are.
“It made a lot of damn sense that the world has become flat, because living in this marketing spectacle every day sure does pull your guts out. So it’s not at all empty philosophizing.”
You live there and there only because it’s what you choose to do, but blame it on everybody else. And you call this me ‘being prissy with you’. But Shaviro also loves junk food, and endless pitifulness about ‘Comrade Fox’ who has now hurt your feelings.
But this is ALL the fuck I have say about this PIECE OF SHIT movie. And I have nothing against new films if they are any good. I could name some, but I am not in the mood to ‘prove myself’ to the likes of some pain in the ass.
Comment by Patrick J. Mullins — 3 August 2008 @ 1:02 pm
Shaviro is doing his job as a Cultural Studies professor. Certain kinds of movies are more readily adaptable to cultural commentary, regardless of their merit as movies, and so he highlights them. Patrick, I think your prior observation about the dialogue in Southland Tales replicating blog conversations is why it’s culturally critique-able. I found Donnie Darko to be a better movie than Southland Tales in terms of story and acting and emotional impact, but the hystericized characters portrayed via flat acting (non)technique gives Southland Tales resonance especially with immanent rhizomes passing through the world. This is a popular theme with Shaviro, Sinthome, and any number of other people occupying the theorysphere these days. This is the case also for Paprika, which is a pretty good movie but which excels in this rhizomatic irruption and intersection that Deleuze, Whitehead, et al want to explore.
Certain kinds of movies are more readily adaptable to cultural commentary, regardless of their merit as movies, and so he highlights them.
Yes, I know, but he also wants to figure out how they ARE meritorious in the cases I have looked at. And citing his favourite critics, like Amy Taubin and Manohla Dargis. Ms. Taubin is indeed a charlatan from as far back as the early 80s when she was writing drek for the defunct SoHo News, and after John Lennon was shot, she wrote this appalling thing about the memorial service and how ‘I wanted to politicize it! Talk about gun control!’ It was such pretentious ‘downtown art scene’ crap a bunch of us wrote letters, and they published mine and some others. This is a particular kind of clubbish group. I have nothing against them if I have to have nothing to do with them. The Village Voice used to be full of this kind of critic, including Ms. Taubin. He can write what he wants, but I’m through with all these trendy movies that are based on a view of the world that is properly nihilistic without any proof of it. It’s just garden variety leftism, and hasn’t really changed that much since the 70s. They’re all doing careers based on this kind of slant, and that’s why you quickly see a pattern in their tastes. So I am not going to bother with things that have nothing to offer me, and none of these cultural studies movie critics have proved to me anything except that they’re Professional Fanbois.
Comment by Patrick J. Mullins — 3 August 2008 @ 1:26 pm
But I don’t like ”Patrick”, it has no CLASS. ”Patricia” sounds so CLASSY.
You live there and there only because it’s what you choose to do,
You may continue to pretend like you don’t understand what I’m saying. Like Blanche du Bois you solve these problems by a dip in the warm bath, singing ”It’s a Barnum and Bailey world…” Well I can’t hide in nostalgia, I am still relatively young and society wants me to play the game. The whole Western world, not just Holland, is turning into three hamburger joints with five Multiplexes, and then another five Multiplexes hosting three subsidiary hamburger joints. All this surrounded by endless Batmans and Fat Fuck Pandas. Young people GUTTED by the i-pod. WHat you see on the internet right now, IS the way Dutch society is at the moment. If they’re not plugged in at home, people are plugged in their own heads. And I think this naturally generates a wave of aggression, which flows now without direction and control. Like that Zack Snyder movie we blathered on about, the 300 Spartans.
Admittedly with a new job in Nijmegen things might improve; Nijmegen is an old European city, relatively unmodernized, and when I walked there last week seemed really quaint, and kind of friendly.
I looked up Nijmegen on wikipedia — the oldest and warmest city in the Netherlands and home to Eddie and Alex Van Halen. Sweet.
I see that this has been the best box-office year ever, not sure if that’s in USA or worldwide. It continues to be the case that most of the biggest hits are shit movies at least per most critics: image and marketing and escape.
This kind of stuff really looks great in reality http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:PICT1760.JPG. Though I’ve never been to the hick’s homelands in the American south, I imagine that the atmosphere is similar. The city is full of beautiful colonial houses in that slow Southern style.
And by the way, PATRICK, I got a job there working at the central library so as you can see I wasn’t just wasting my time arguing with you.
The picture you showed is the center, and it’s very beautiful, one of the nicest in Europe I’ve seen. But that’s just a few houses, and then immediately underneath the multiplexes, the Israeli falafel joints and a variety of wonderful American cultural import beings: Burger King, McDonald’s and Fish’nChips. I think this last one is from England.
that link doesn’t work, darling, you have to pull your finger out of the electricity socket and put it on the computer keyboard: then you press ONE button at a time, not TWO at the same time. You might want to put your bottle of Southern Comfort aside while you’re doing it, and the bubble bath can wait as well.
Leiden is also fairly old, and it’s famous for being a refugee city. During the various wars with Germans, Brits and the French it served as a kind of a hidden dike, due to its Moebial-type urban organization. I find it continuously fascinting how you can get lost here even on very small territory, because the streets are winding in and out of each other like the spirals from Saul Bass’s opening credits to Vertigo. Two musea are especially good: the Boerhave, where you see the history of Dutch medical academies; this has the atmosphere of Cronenberg movies. And the Museum of Egyptian artifacts, which is so much better than the British museum, where the mummies are heaped on top of each other. This is very neatly organized and sparkling clean.I love the City Hall, it looks like something out of Breughel.
That was the City Hall, darling, which I just praised. But this central part of the city (consisting of the City Hall and a few nice buildings from the 17th century) is literally surrounded by commercial streets and the streets containing the cheap food joints. With all the shops closing round 18, the only part of the city that ever has any life in it is those areas surrounding the Mac. In the past few years the commercial machine made repeated attempts to close down every single European joint and monument *because they can’t plaster a Batman sticker on it, which my partner, then a politician for the social-democrats, managed to combat. Among other things he saved a beautiful old cinema, where they now play independent movies. This is where I usually go for the movies.
…darling. The selection is in the age range 30-50; I did encounter big cock a few times but mostly it’s average. The best cultural product is from Suriname, though you sometimes risk robbery if you go to deep into the bushes. It’s best to ride across the asphalt pathway with a bike.
So Clysmatics looking at the promo material for THE DARK KNIGHT using Colonel Chabert’s method of being-too-much-of-a-lazy-fat-burgeois-cunt-to-go-out-and-see-the-move-myself and looking at the promo material, I sense the presence of this selfsame aggressive Affect, destruction for the sake of destruction, which is unleashed. All the talk of Joker being the anarchist and the force of Chaos that comes from several blawgers supports this impression. You can already feel in the visual design a kind of a death instinct (in Reichian terms). I think this is the Orgone energy in Southland Tales. I have to see the movie, to pontificate some more. Maybe you could do as well and then we can test whether we are able to mount a solid and coherent movie philosophy site.
Maybe this week I’ll go to the multiplex and see for myself, but from the sound of it you might be right about the unleashing idea. Is the Joker a channel for the rhizomic forces of Chaos that flow through him into the world, kind of like the characters in Southland Tales who channel impersonal immanent forces of nihilistic self-destruction, or like Chigurh in No Country being an impersonal agent of violence and mayhem? Or is the Joker more like (my picture of) Daniel Plainview: a willfully powerful and vengeful egoistic force that brooks no resistance? I think fascism can be read into either kind of Joker; at issue is whether fascism is an immanent force flowing through the multitude or the conscious exercise of dominant force.
I don’t know about fascism (it is the Trotskyist thesis, that the film is ”fascist”) but everybody noticed the presence of the Affect, and there is something in the new wave of films (starting around the release of Zack Snyder’s 300) that indicates the workings of an uncontrollable force causing mass hysteria and destruction. Part of it is definitely media hype, but as I told you when I was passing through Leiden center the other day I felt it in the air, in the crowd for the movie tickets. They looked like football hooligans, barely disguised under the facade of burgeois decency. I keep thinking there will be violent outbursts, coming in chaotic fashion, as Southland Tales showed.
Because Clysmatics, if the ”world government” is based on the kind of an ”international justice” where the mighty may not be prosecuted; there is no stable ethical or psychological framework other than the Market; neoliberalism fetishises change and the temporary; and neo-Marxism offers only a lame hope for change; WHAT exactly do young people have nowadays to give them any kind of a direction, except this massive flow?
In M, Lang shows us the populist upsurge of contempt for the pedophile, and they’re prepared to pass judgment and execution precisely because the Peter Lorre character “can’t help it”; i.e., he’s a channel of perversion that flows through him. But he hides in the attic, whereas the jury of his criminal peers convenes his monkey trial in the cellar — as if the pervert is the higher man and the run-of-the-mill opportunistic self-interested criminals are the low-lifes. So, leaving fascism out of it for now, we can see if the Joker is the lightning rod for more widespread forces of violent chaos permeating the socius, or if he is the ubermensch equipped with the triumph of the will.
“WHAT exactly do young people have nowadays to give them any kind of a direction, except this massive flow?”
This is the Hardt & Negri position, but one has to wonder whether the deterritorializing force of the market is well equipped to co-opt the massive flow, which after all is what it thrives on. The flow has to be there as a driving force to be sure, but I think it must also coalesce into some form of organized and conscious resistance. Must this resistance take the form of revolution, or is it more likely to succeed as an underground and insidious force that occupies the same physical space as the market but that establishes an alternate reality in the midst? I tend toward the latter, but both demand individuals and collectives to become conscious and committed agents channeling the flow.
we can see if the Joker is the lightning rod for more widespread forces of violent chaos permeating the socius, or if he is the ubermensch equipped with the triumph of the will.
what is conspicuous is the absence of Eros in the dynamic between Batman and Joker, which on the surface is homoerotic. But Batman seems totally cold, as does Joker. Delibinized you might say. I started writing about this but pulled it down because I want to finish the article properly. This is what gives me the impression of the death instinct at play.
i do appreciate Lang enormously, and I have to see M. I only saw Metropolis a long time ago, and it’s absolutely stunning. I saw the original sketches for it at the Berlin Film Museum and they are from a designer’s perspective still the alpha and omega of futuristic design (WALL-E copies them abundantly).
Must this resistance take the form of revolution, or is it more likely to succeed as an underground and insidious force that occupies the same physical space as the market but that establishes an alternate reality in the midst?
Yeah that’s the challenge. But discussions of this sort, I’ve noticed, tend to dissolve quickly because they are so abstract, so I was thinking maybe it’s best to draw some kind of a model (or analyze the way the model is worked out in a film, for example) that gives some concrete idea of the possibilities for development. The question is in essence how do you build a good dike to keep the flow from spilling over. I am going to think about the way this was handled in Southland Tales.
Saw it today. An entertaining in-your-face spectacle. Fascistic in ethos I’d say: far more ordinary citizens want to join Batman’s vigilante brigade than voluntarily sign up with the “anarchist” Joker, who represents only himself in wreaking pointless and crazy terrorism on Gotham City. And Batman is always in league with the police and the big legitimate money — kind of like a CIA operative who goes outside the law to do what needs to be done. We could go on.
Watching the previews prior to the movie I was struck by how many movies there are which promote this vigilante violence in the name of the people. Is this the rhizomatic populist movement of our time, which the movie industry is only too happy to coopt for money? Or does the movie industry induce this fascistic attitude in the masses. I.e., are the movie execs feeding fascistic appetites or creating theses appetites? I understand that the radical left sees primarily the manipulation of mass tastes to suit their own interests, but I think the urge for purging society of the crazy and evil outsiders is already plenty widespread.
are the movie execs feeding fascistic appetites or creating theses appetites?
i think the movie execs are channeling them in the fascist direction, because these execs also create american policy (movies equals politics at least since the time of spielberg).
but the movie was so poorly directed that i left after half an hour – i didn’t pick up the plot, the actors mostly looked like B category TV soap, and christian bale was too campy (not serious) so that he looked unimpressive next to heath ledger. and the photography is dreadful, kaka brown.
i find it amusing to what extent the lefty philosophi are generating hype on behalf of warner brothers, while the film as a product does not deserve any of it. sherbert created around 460 comments on lenininini.
and with the appearance of this karen in the comment boxes i suddenly could code sherbert in the right genre; she’s one of those 1960s-70s intellectuals who still think that blathering on about the deep underlying social meaning of things makes a difference, but i think the dynamics have shifted towards the workings of the Affect, and this type of a movie works primarily on that principle (energetic) in other words it works precisely because it overrides the narrative, the plot, the dialogue…. like animation, actually, visceral. maybe this is why the ”narrative coating” seemed so inept; maybe this is deliberate.
i noticed this previously in indiana jones, a far more perfidious (and skillful) propaganda film than batman, which is directed like an animation. on the one hand it uses camp, which was previously subversive, and on the other hand it is shot as an endless action sequence almost without a cut. the air is charged with an uncontrollable flow. there is some dialogue, and some plotting, but it is used more like a navigation point in a video game.
The affect generated by Batman is overwhelming, punishing, exhilarating and finally exhausting. If people go to the movies to escape, then Batman must be offering an escape from self-control, tentativeness, niceness, triviality of purpose, and rule-following. Given the young male demographic for this sort of escapism, I’d think that the contemporary workplace renders the workforce particularly amenable to fascistic manipulation.
Heath Ledger’s performance seemed like a melange of Jack Nicholson (who played the Joker once, as I recall), Michael Keaton as Beetlejuice (he played Batman once), and John Malkovich. This sort of bricolage creation of a bad-guy persona worked better in this comic book movie than it did for Daniel Day-Lewis in a self-proclaimedly serious drama.
what depresses me is that for example, a very nice French animation omnibus was made called FEAR OF DARK, which played in Den Haag, in one cinema hall, for like one week, that’s how popular it was, while Batman opened in 4789479 cinemas and will be playing for at least three months. Really thank God for WALL-E, because at least it’s a benign sort of escapism, working less on testosterone and more on ecology (however fake it may be).
Rosemary Harris is May Parker in all 3 Spider-Mans. Originated the role of Elinor of Aquitaine and won a Tony for it before Kate Hepburn did the movie. Is a lovely lady and I met her when we were involved in a benefit for the Phoenix Theater–she did a speech of Lady Teazle. A year later did the best Blanche Dubois i’ve ever seen (esp. that hilarious line ‘there’s aht ‘n’ music–some progress hay-as been made!’
So I got through 30 minutes of this shit, had not known they have used this high-tech gloss look for cities of the sort that used to be just for TV ads (although they may have used them for the first couple of Batman movies, which are loathsome too), it’s a cheap kind of neon cerise/blue/chartreuse family of colours that has been applied to other surfaces besides neon. No relation to the look of the city, although there were a couple of moments when you could tell there were some photos of New York they then played with and discoloured. Real shit, including that girlfriend singing ‘They say that falling in love is won-dah-ful’, Ethel’s great song from ‘
Annie Get Your Gun’. Can’t sing a lick, then complains to ‘Spidey’ that ‘this isn’t about you, this is about me ‘ (her deservedly shit review). Then he flies out the window and saves Gwen. That will be enough for this. Will now watch ‘Sumarun’ with Pola Negri, and listen to Maria Callas do ‘Tosca’. Have found only one recording that’s definitely before her weight loss of 80 lbs., after which she had no end of vocal problems. They all do schlock now, it pays, but Ms. Harris is not a mediocrity like Ms. Streep and Ms. Andrews, so she’s just marking time. You just see these things from a business standpoint at some point, and in my case, may or may not have something to say by writing about it. But I this right here is enough. I’ve come to value the things I refuse to write about as much as the things I do. Exclusion is indeed a wonderful thing, because it sculpts the important things. I won’t mention ‘Spider Man 3’ any further, and this 30 minutes is all I watch as my contribution to the glorious blog debates about ‘The Dark Night’, that literally ALL the socialists went and spent good money on, so they could all stay chic, precisely as Adorno was subversively prescribing.
i’m not pleased with my Potato Salad today, it is too rich with tarragon vinegar. Rich food is very good for me though, and I make it very naturally. This is a highly self-indulgent paragraph, but I consider I’ve earned it since I am the only person who is not worried about ‘buying chic’ so I can talk about the Joker’s Fascism. ‘Spider Man 3’ just goes back to the library after this 30 minutes of total trashiness. And that guy coming out of the sand was some truly pathetic ‘Also Sprach Zarathustra’ moment.
Comment by Patrick J. Mullins — 5 August 2008 @ 9:52 pm
Congratulations Patrick. Though I had been warned, I too succumbed to the allure of the popular fascistic entertainment. The best thing about it was seeing a movie in a theater, which I hadn’t done for many months. The visual and sonic saturation does turn even an ordinary entertainment into a spectacle of massively Debordian proportion. One preview looked promising: Blindness, adapted from a novel by Jose Zaramago. I’ve read two of his books, one excellent, the other banal. I may have to get Blindness now, having been tantalized. Tonight I will finish Perdido Street Station by China Mieville, another golden presence in the weird collapsing world. The guy’s imagination is lush and his crafting of language extravagant, the world he creates is vast and intricate, but after awhile it became hopelessly ensnared in its own plotting machinations. Story needs to serve something beyond itself, and all the alien intricacy and fascination doesn’t lift it ultimately above genre entertainment.
As a child I accompanied my parents to a performance of Gypsy in Chicago, where I actually saw and HEARD the legendary Ethel Merman herself perform. Though the play itself dimmed over time, the sheer power of presence from the old woman stayed with me.
Is Dark Knight excellent within its own adolescent pop genre? I used to read lots of superhero comic books when I was about 8 or 9 years old: mostly they were straight adventure stories devoid of ideas or character development. There was usually some dorky stuff about how this bad guy got his powers or how he contrived his dastardly scheme, but mostly it was straight action and extremely direct stereotypic dialogue. The visual displays of the comic book panels tended to follow convention pretty strictly, so there’s no reason necessarily to critique the very traditional camera work invoked by the filmmakers. On these grounds Dark Knight is true to the genre, combining several comic book installments into one extravaganza. So why should adults expect it to be anything more than that when they go to see it? If I had seen this movie when I was 9 years old I’d have thought it was brilliant.
Oh yes, and I’m totally envious of that. Jack saw her too. But the show itself is one of the few really great American musicals (most think it’s the single greatest), and even the film is very good, distinctly underrated. Ethel was easily the most powerful performer ever to appear in the musical theater and literally opened 20-30 shows over her career, with Mary Martin a close second. Nobody has shows written for them any more, and it’s primarily a tired form, decayed and turning out stage versions of the same kind of ‘climax after climax’ thing I’m sure ‘Mamma Mia’ is full of. There are still a few nice original things that open off-Broadway, like a perfect little new gem based on ‘Anne of Green Gables’ last year, otherwise only the occasional revival is pretty good like ‘110 in the Shade’, but rarely any of the big openings–the new ‘In the Heights’, which is full of salsa, may be an exception–a musical doesn’t need a decent plot even, they’re just supposed to be singing and dancing, like they were even pre-Oklahoma, but the one that was based on Wedekind last year called ‘Spring Awakening’ has a tepid retro-rock score, was praised to the hills, and is worth no further attention.
I don’t like that ‘surround-you-sound’ at the movie houses any more, and the previews are the worst at the hard-sell breathless sounds that are designed to capture you. Not that something might not be good that you saw previewed of course, but the previews are all the same. Have you not noticed this ‘glossy-neon’ look to the cities in this Spider-Man, Batman stuff? Is it computer-generated from the very beginning, all of it? The look is just nauseating to me. And who cares about Tobey Maguire? Cute, cute, cute, and it all evaporates in 20 seconds. The appeal must be for most to continue discussing it endlessly, because Steppling and Arpege are talking about the same issues they were talking about a year and a half ago–is art okay if it’s ideologically incorrect? Arpege says yes, but she only means that temporarily–ever. And yet it really is ALL ideologically incorrect–to somebody. So the point is to get someone deep into the discussion and then throw the whole Marxist plant at their balls.
Comment by Patrick J. Mullins — 6 August 2008 @ 8:18 am
“And yet it really is ALL ideologically incorrect–to somebody.”
As I said, I loved these fascistic superhero comic books when I was a kid. Siegel and Shuster, Bob Kane, Stan Lee — were these guys propagandists for American neoliberalism and imperialism and so on, indoctrinating the kids into the Young Nazis? Was DC Comics an arm of the CIA? This sort of secret plot thinking would have made great material for a comic book if those guys had had more of a PoMo sensibility. But just because the government has proven itself corrupt time and again doesn’t mean that it’s intrinsically corrupt, and that heroes like Superman and Batman don’t have ideals when they go help the cops catch the bad guys. And it’s not such a bad role model to emulate, especially since the heroes rarely actually killed the villains they were chasing. All of it may have been false consciousness subversively planted in impressionable minds by the military-industrial complex, but the comics only cost something like 12¢ and the comic book writers just seem like geeks rather than secret agents.
On the other hand, is the contemporary young adult male demographic’s taste for this boyish genre just an extension of their childhood tastes — rated “I” for immature? Or is there some insidious plot at work to keep the proletariat from rebelling, or at least from finding something more meaningful to do with themselves? I can see its subversiveness, or rather its counter-subversiveness, as well as its entertainment value. To reduce every nuance to a single register gives one the single-mindedness necessary to take action, and I respect that. But what is the action to be taken? To point out the fascism in the genre and the ways in which those who are entertained by such movies are being manipulated? To warn people against seeing the movies? To recognize incipient fascism in the multitude? All that theoretical work is worth doing, but it does seem to result more in the intelligentsia demeaning one another in an acrimonious spirit.
Exactly. And I begin to think that the targets of the intelligentsia are more benefited by the small number of dollars the intelligentsia spends on seeing these things so that they can warn people not to see them, than these warnings are paid heed by all those who need the warnings. They have usually made up their minds that these things are not insidious, and this is why the answer is not ideological, but aesthetic. They are not even talking about the right thing in terms of ‘action,’ although it is all right as analysis, even if I don’t buy it. Whether it’s striving toward an elite taste or allowing the free market to make the decision, the problem is always there in some form: Today’s non-romantic elite is mostly corporate money, so there is constant vacuous shit coming out, but it’s not necessary to keep seeing this stuff to know it’s just pulp. You go if you like it after awhile. Even though I like Michelle Pfeiffer as a movie star (this is not the same way as I like Maria Callas, who was a genius), I still don’t even like her long-ago Batman.
Another problem is deciding that literally everything is dangerous. Somebody decides it is. But the fact that I agree on the musicals and cartoons trash quotient doesn’t mean I am worried about it. Film as a theater thing is over. Movies in cineplexes are not the moviegoing experience they are–even the sale of popcorn looks so ridiculous at a cineplex I usually think it is a mannequin on a poster behind a flat-dimensioned counter. And
you’ve said it right with this: “But just because the government has proven itself corrupt time and again doesn’t mean that it’s intrinsically corrupt, and that heroes like Superman and Batman don’t have ideals when they go help the cops catch the bad guys.”
This is very good, and I wouldn’t have thought to say it quite like that.
Comment by Patrick J. Mullins — 6 August 2008 @ 9:39 am
Movies in cineplexes are not the moviegoing experience they are–
should be ‘were’. Going to the movies used to be a magical experience. Now, even if it’s an art house and not a cineplex, it still is nothing magical. So that the arts go through changes–and it’s not all that simple, because some things last and in superb form–the Royal Shakespeare Company is still great Shakespeare, it’s irrelevant that we are not in the seminal moment with the Globe and the charm of ‘groundlings’.
Generally, it can be said that television and cinema have merged to a great degree. Film has a cheap look and a cheap sound even if it’s expensive. But it’s not necessary to look to film as artistic salvation. That’s why I’m pretty much through with it, or getting close to being through with it, whether in my own writing, or the fact that I don’t even care to see anything in particular on the big screen anymore. It’s all reducible to television and even computer DVD by now: Because the legendary-type lives of the picture people are not even being lived on the scale they were–they’re rich, sure, and have big houses, but there’s no mystery left, and the more intelligent stars even know this. The imagination comes in finding new ways to express, otherwise you really are just in the position of fundraising. So then that of course can be where someone wants to direct their analytical energies, it is like studying conglomerates and business in general, they don’t need to make any bow to art. It doesn’t matter about Disney and Viacom after awhile. There’s still the Fed and now even prime mortgages are going to default. But even the big movie producing is a drop in the bucket when compared to the rest of all business and finance. So that it ought to be patently obvious that, unless one LOVES these Spiderman/Batman things, there isn’t any reason to expect anything out of them except to become Christian Bale, which is not that interesting.
Anyway, maybe Dejan knows why that look of the cities is so garish, like it was in the grand tradition starting with the Rialto and coming up through strip joints on Minsky’s Runway. The incredible difference in photography of Manhattan as in old movies with Susan Hayward like ‘I Can Get it For You Wholesale’ or ‘Love Affair’ (the Boyer/Dunne) and Judy Holliday movies like ‘It Should Happen to You’ or even ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’, which is one of the ultimate ‘romantic New York’ movies, and whose Henry Mancini score is one of the greatest in terms of adding to that romanticism.
But this colour of the buildings I keep harping on probably is a ‘mall colour scheme’. In Manhattan, you already see a great deal of it in Times Square, but probably less here than other places, because the old buildings are still much too numerous for it to be practical to raze them yet. An isolated k-mart doesn’t make much difference, but I imagine most suburbs and commercial districts that are newly thrown up have these extremely Microsoft-looking colours in them, and as early as the 80s the signage started changing into very regularized and characterless fonts–cheaper, and then the globalization look that you see in chain drug stores (to think we ever lamented supermarkets as opposed to several blocks of many individual markets as in Paris). I’ve mentioned the changing lighting (like syrupy Kool-Aid colours) at the top of the Empire State, but the ‘New Times Square’ is our worst place, with horrible videos on the exterior walls of buildings, and giant celeb and movie posters all over the place. The neon is everywhere, so that Times Square as a unique place doesn’t really exist by now. It’s in the same place with at least some (but not nearly all) the same layout, but the style is definitely Las Vegas and Orlando-look more than Great White Way (that’s just plain gone as a sensation.)
Comment by Patrick J. Mullins — 6 August 2008 @ 10:00 am
This is very well-said, even if from Marxists, and captured at the lenin’s tomb hole, where I was looking for ‘Hooray he’s dead’ line that they usually supply there for anyone not so pure as themselves…not that they’d claim to be pure or anything…they just like to bullshit. But this commenter found something good, I’ll use anything good if I can find it.
“although Solzhenitsyn’s politics are even more reactionary than Tolstoy’s his best novels with their searing indictment of the Soviet state-capitalist regime are politically progressive. Politics is never directly a criterion for judging art: good art is not good because it is politically progressive, it is politically progressive because it is good art. And at his best, Solzhenitsyn is very good indeed.”
Comment by Patrick J. Mullins — 6 August 2008 @ 11:09 am
Love Affair has arrived from Netflix so we’ll watch it soon. I read somewhere that Gotham City in the latest Batman movie was shot mostly in Chicago, even though its geography is NYC.
At the very end of the movie, Batman decides to take the blame for the DA’s corruption at the hands of the Joker. Batman says something about how the people need to believe that the system isn’t totally corrupt, so he sacrifices his own public image to preserve that of the DA. But then we see someone applauding Batman as he’s taken into custody, suggesting that the citizenry likes their crimefighting vigilante to operate outside the law a little bit. So if we like we can equate Batman with Blackwater, which “preserves the reputation” of the government and the military while still doing what needs to be done. But the DA didn’t do what needed to be done: he just went overboard in revenge on people who didn’t even do anything wrong — comparable I suppose to goatherds who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time in Afghanistan. So now what’s the politics of Batman taking the rap: that it’s okay to perpetrate collateral damage if you’re already operating a little bit outside the law like Batman does? Or is it that the government really is perpetrating crimes against humanity and that they’re being covered up in order to preserve American credulity in the honor of their anti-terror intrigues? I think this stuff is valid fodder for sociopolitical critique, but at the same time you’ve got the filmmakers at the end of the 21/2 hours needing a premise for pushing Batman deeper underground, more into outlaw status, for the next movie. The premise of Batman covering up for the DA was a pretty darned weak one narratively speaking, regardless of political interpretation.
good art is not good because it is politically progressive, it is politically progressive because it is good art. Hmm, I’m not so sure. If a writer or filmmaker portrays a reactionary ideology with beauty and truth, does it become progressive thereby? Would I have liked Southland Tales better if it portrayed the flow of nihilistic self-destruction more compellingly, or if it had pointed toward a way out of the miasma? Either one would have been an improvement.
darling I think the look n feel of Batman is drawing on the designs of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, but fairly unsuccessfully; I saw those designs up close at the Berliner Filmmuseum, where they keep them, and there’s never been anything so good since. In this last dud THE DARK KNIGHT everything drowns in shabby and shoddy brown palettes, and the movie is excruciatingly badly lit (the graphic design on the posters looks much better).
Indeed I think you noted correctly that it’s all cheap, because the props and the actors looked like something out of a TV police series and this series is supposed to always have some kind of a French pretentious glamor type of thing, with only the most elegant designs and Chanel-type frocks. But I suppose the director wanted to move away from post-modernist baroque (the Tim Burton version) and into some kind of a nitty gritty realism of the socially engaged, On the Waterfront variety, an attempt made ridiculous already by the fact that the comic book material can’t sustain it, so the movie ends up looking like a cheap TV drama that flaunts itself unjustifiedly.
But I was mostly taken aghast and disappointed by the deterioration of Christian Bale, who managed to look cheap and unsexy despite his natural assets and his considerable acting talent. All his muscles are gone into his biceps, so that his torso is overly skinny, and he’s developing some kind of a comic face, like Kamarad Leninino.
I did not really ever get a Romantic vision of New York from my visits, matter of fact I got Fritz Lang’s Metropolis and that is what I loved about the city – the feeling of exciting terror, sort of like cruising in fetish bars, you feel like a beast. Grace Jones used to sing: ”It’s just the Apple stretching and yawning…just morning…New York putting its feet on the floor” I think Batman extrapolates primarily from the futuristic buildings on Wall Street, with their fantasy comic book decorations, but those were the least interesting in New York, for me. After moving to Holland I came to appreciate the Dutch influence, although Amsterdam is by no means a city and remains a village compared to NYC.
In the comment boxes on Leninininini, it’s endlessly amusing as all the players get into character, somewhere mid-way, and start to repeat the stuff they said not one but five years ago, in fact the stuff they were saying in 1968.
The Cobra amuses by putting on her ”decent” act. Not a single comment is vicious, that is until the very climax, when she is suddenly called to the stand by the bemused Karen and the frustrated Dave for trying to insinuate that one can appreciate movies by not watching them, and that any fantasy narrative is automatically fascist because there is a superhero protecting the pipl instead of the pipl taking up the arms themselves and starting a Revolution (Lord only knows WHEN).
All the while you sense an ENORMOUS malevolent presence of vitriol against K-punk, but it never surfaces because if the Cobra allowed her tongue to speak for itself, she would instantly reveal just what a gender-bending abomination of decency she really is. Instead she issues sarcastic commentary, full of energetic time-bombs.
I’m not so sure. If a writer or filmmaker portrays a reactionary ideology with beauty and truth, does it become progressive thereby
Yes. Because they are all either reactionary or radical to the other side. That’s why art has to remain immune, insofar as possible, to ideology. The problem is, therefore, being able to recognize something as a work of art. The Triumph of the Will, is progressive because it is art in spite of its propagating Hitler. How could it be otherwise? You’re still reducing the art into the subdominant, and that’s all right, but it means you’re on the outside of the making of the art and not even participating in the art part per se (I’ve told you before I don’t even think ‘Triumph’ is all that beautiful, but I’ve used it as the most extreme example; unfortunately Socialist Realist Painting has not provided us with a parallel example for Marxism, but surely the apartments full of Propaganda for Dear Leader in North Korea indisputably have.)
Comment by Patrick J. Mullins — 6 August 2008 @ 12:43 pm
The Cobra amuses by putting on her ”decent” act. Not a single comment is vicious, that is until the very climax
Yes, I enjoy this too, because she is at least making the nice period last a little longer, and Steppling is even acting as if she hadn’t seriously insulted him in the past. But I don’t sympathize with him either at this point, it’s like he’s frozen in time, saying exactly what he was saying in the Lynch things a year and a half ago.
John, I knew Batman was in CHI, but I think I vaguely recognized some New York buildings in this repulsive Spiderman shit. But they are very hard to recognize because they may be just computer things of the places, as I think Staples Center and all of DT Los Angeles was in Southland Tales as well–by the way, the colours for the city there are the same, all this loud magenta and green and canary and electric blue and chartreuse horror, as tacky as possible.
I don’t know whether you would have liked ST better if he had had some other messages. My perception of it does demonstrate what I am talking about though, because this is a case of, if you like it, it has to be seeing virtues in the paltry, and this Shaviro seems more than willing to do. Dejan, I had never meant that Russ Meyer used that kind of acting in this best film ‘Beyond the Valley of the Doll’s as parody, because I don’t think he did. His requirement was that they have HUGE TITS, and then act as though they were a normal cross-section of American domestic life. Add this to their lack of even a low-rent acting class for Thespian skills, and you get the kind of acting that comes naturally to porno actors–hardcore and soft–but it was extremely sweet in ‘Beyond the Valley of the Dolls’ (not to be confused with Meyer’s OTHER film, but much less good, ‘Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens’, which was all about Lamar and his inability to fuck women anywhere but in the ass), and one of the women was married to Dick Martin, the comedian who died a couple of months ago. Whereas Kelly, in Southland Tales, has either not known what good acting is, or has purposely allowed them to act like soft-core porn actors, so that they neither seem like convincing actors who can float a scary scenario with skill, nor like real people about to have a serious problem (end of the world, etc.) He just tells them to get out there and ‘be themselves’, I guess. But Southland Tales reminds me in more ways than one of Spider Man–down to having the occasional skilled actor unable to do the bad acting do deeply cherished by Mr. Kelly.
Comment by Patrick J. Mullins — 6 August 2008 @ 12:56 pm
Would I have liked Southland Tales better if it portrayed the flow of nihilistic self-destruction more compellingly, or if it had pointed toward a way out of the miasma?
Okay, I should have looked back and seen your exact question. well, I know I certainly could have stood for it to portray whatever it wanted to portray more compellingly, instead of going for this ‘truth in amateurism’ effect. Ghastly! Whatever I loathe about Inland Empire, they were made to ACT! This film is the worst ‘taken-seriously’ film I have ever seen, and I hope Mr. Kelly will enroll at the Wilfred School of Beauty or just night school for data-entry training at some community college. Since he likes the worst aspects of Los Angeles, I would recommend LA Harbor College, where I once inadvertently went when a drunk bus-driver started speeding up to Compton. I got off fearing death, only to sit at a bus stop with various homeless in Santa Claus outfits.
There’s even one scene in ST where two bimbo girls are walking through Venice, that tacky place, and acting just like this girl a friend and I saw in a hardcore porno who said, in the gentlest funny way ‘Well, I got up today and all I could think about was how I sure would love some young cock.’ In those low venues, such non-acting is amusing, but ST is supposed to be about the end of the world–and what message does it convey to me? Horror that that repulsive worm Wallace Shawn, who I saw acting like an idiot around the corner a year ago at a pay phone, can get any work at all; and horror that a truly fine actress like Miranda Richardson could end up in this–and even so she does such a good Dixie politico bitch, she’s the only thing in the whole movie.
Comment by Patrick J. Mullins — 6 August 2008 @ 1:06 pm
When Boxer is perplexed or stressed out he gets that little pinched skin between his eyes and taps his fingertips together. This reminded me of acting in South Park: Stan conveys distress by pinching that space between the eyes between thumb and forefinger, while Butters shows nervousness by tapping his knuckles together. It’s an homage collage.
Dejan–the ‘New York romantic’ thing is no longer something you can pick up as a visitor for a brief trip, or really even starting to live here for a few years now. It still exists, but there is much less of it. The great periods were all well before I got here throughout the century and continuing in a very lively way through the 70s. It was jazzy and fun and lots of cabarets and bright people. There are still lots of smart people, which I never let myself forget, but it’s differently focussed.
But ‘New York Romantic’ is like a ‘Hidden New York’, to quote the guidebooks, and you rarely ever see the old things in their (now) isolated places, because there isn’t time to find them if you don’t already know what was before, and what used to be a lot more pervasive. The beastly predatory aspect has always been here too, but paradoxically those horrors are part of what give a region or city its ethos. Same true of any European city, but they value old things longer than we do. New York’s advantage is that there is so much that is overbuilt, that there hasn’t been time to get rid of it. Many landmarks, which Chicago has too, of course, but I’ve never spent time there, although I’ve seen it many times with fine views of the skyline from the air.
Comment by Patrick J. Mullins — 6 August 2008 @ 1:23 pm
darling the reason I prefer to agree with Shaviro in this case is that I believe in this affect-less-ness, this emptying, this flattening. It is not only logical, it is simple: you can’t fill an already-full vessel with content. But if the vessel is empty, then anything can pass through.
This isn’t anything new. We’ve had it in the Bertold Brechtian Vervreemdungseffekt. Brecht wanted to grab our attention by exposing the artifice of his instrumentarium.
Where I don’t agree with Shaviro and the rest of the cultural theory folk, and this because I am not only an analyzer but also, a film-maker, whereas they aren’t, is that I feel the emptied character couldn’t exist or have any relevance if it weren’t for diva histrionics. These types of analyses frequently overlook the technicalities of the cinematic process, how it’s made and as you often noted yourself, how it’s always personal regardless of the ”meaning” you try to ascribe it.
In this way I have come to a kind of a Buddhist position on things, mellowed out a bit from that time in my 20s when I thought that avant garde cinema was just FUCKING AWESOME and HALLIWUD was just crap. These days I see that these poles are not really poles, but gradients.
However that is no excuse for your superficial and ungrounded dismissal of SOUTHLAND TALES, nor does it mean that I accept EVERY narcissistic character acting diva act as an alternative to Spinozian affectlessness, darling. In fact I do prefer these subdued performances to any character acting.
Fine, but the quote was “politically progressive.” One would be hard-pressed to stake that claim to Triumph.
See you point, but Marxists don’t really know what ‘politically progressive’ is. If it truly is culturally progressive, it may also be politically progressive, even if doesn’t lead to Raisa Gorbachev talking to Margaret Thatcher. But just because music is not as directly understood as such, doesn’t mean it isn’t possible for great Communist works to come out of Stalinist regimes just because nobody knows it, and so Prokofiev and Shostakovitch both wrote in Stalinist Russia, and I’m SURE, that in the case of the latter, the music is explicitly COMMUNIST, and that it ends up not mattering. In the case of the former, it’s explicitly Russian. And the ballet people displayed Communism and its wonderful fairness and honesty beautifully by informing on each other, just as they’d been taught by the lovely wives of the Politburo.
I guess I think excellence anywhere has some effect on excellence anywhere else. So that the ‘Politically reactionary’ parts of ‘Triumph’ would not lead to The World of the Pleasures of Arpege’, but the technique and gifts of Riefenstahl’s filmmaking, in advancing filmmaking, therefore themselves advancing politics and other domains. But I agree it’s not as good as I thought, and that they are still figuring out a very clever way to concentrate on the politics, while saying you can appreciate art which is reactionary–hence, the bipolar disorders which spontaneously generate in all these Lenin’s Tomb people and Arpege after they’ve given the people a good time, and now it’s time to go back to thinking the gulag wasn’t so bad after all. And if it even existed, it was merely in reaction to Leni Riefenstahl’s films!
Comment by Patrick J. Mullins — 6 August 2008 @ 1:32 pm
However that is no excuse for your superficial and ungrounded dismissal of SOUTHLAND TALES, nor does it mean that I accept EVERY narcissistic character acting diva act as an alternative to Spinozian affectlessness, darling. In fact I do prefer these subdued performances to any character acting.
This is because you don’t know what standards are in good acting any more than Shaviro.
Comment by Patrick J. Mullins — 6 August 2008 @ 1:36 pm
darling i did stay for three months in new york just doing nothing, on a tourist trip, and i walked around it so much that i feel i saw the entire city. i have a pretty good picture, i think, of what it is. i don’t know what your definition of Romantic is, though – if you’re talking musical-romantic, cosy, i’m sure there is plenty of that in NEw York in the jazz bars. But for me the more Romantic is that street feeling, as you would experience in Brooklyn (an extension of the Dutch Breukelen), people huddling together, neighbourly, relaxed, a bit Latin. But I guess the nice of that city is that it combines all these modes and codes and tropes puts them together, so that in the span of a day you can walk in and out of worlds like alice in wonderland.
I believe in this affect-less-ness, this emptying, this flattening. It is not only logical, it is simple: you can’t fill an already-full vessel with content. But if the vessel is empty, then anything can pass through.
I believe for every drop of rain that falls…a flower grooooowwwws…
Who the fuck said you have to use one of the full vessels then? All ST proves is that he thinks there really isn’t anything to do in film, but he got in the wrong profession, so he is stuck doing this tacky ‘product’, and I’ll allow the phrase in this malodorous case. And if ‘something is to pass through the empty vessel’ by this glorious emptying, flattening, and other pretentious ignorance, I at least want to see it in the film at hand, not as a sociopolitical by-product that Kelly has made possible by his Frontier Mentality. He is a fucking moron, has no talent, and here pretentious people are saying ‘he paved the way for a vessel that can now be filled with content’. You ought to be embarassed with such art-gallery press-release talk.
Comment by Patrick J. Mullins — 6 August 2008 @ 1:40 pm
i walked around it so much that i feel i saw the entire city. i have a pretty good picture, i think, of what it is.
That’s all very cute, but you DIDN’T and you DON’T. I can’t believe when you talk like this.
But for me the more Romantic is that street feeling, as you would experience in Brooklyn (an extension of the Dutch Breukelen), people huddling together, neighbourly, relaxed, a bit Latin. But I guess the nice of that city is that it combines all these modes and codes and tropes puts them together, so that in the span of a day you can walk in and out of worlds like alice in wonderland.
Brooklyn has been fashionable for about 20 years in some ways, but that is not what New York is about in terms of talking about a romanticism or anything else cultural other than that which is explicitly provincial Brooklyn, which can be pleasant. The New York Romanticism is about MANHATTAN, for chrissake, and if you understand the walking ‘in and out of worlds like in Alice in Wonderland’, I’ll admit you understand some of it, because that is what I do all the time.
Comment by Patrick J. Mullins — 6 August 2008 @ 1:44 pm
as i repeated many, many, many times before, in southland tales it’s about pushing through the cobweb of media deceptions and lies and getting to the deep hurt, mental and physical, of the american who is being pushed by his government into insane wars, drained of life by corporate digital technollgies, and humiliated by the theft of his civil freedoms. you sense that hurt very well and deeply in the musical video-clip with justin timberlake, whose undertone is melancholic and tragic. if i was an american i would appreciate the film just for attempting something like that instead of BATMAN’s disgusting animatronics, all this sugarcoated candy meant to disguise the true condition of America today. this i tell you not from any marxist perspective, because the film itself is not marxist, rather, i speak from the HUMAN perspective. behind all this flattening is a deep emotion, i think. most movies i see today do not strike me as emotional at all.
don’t you think that miranda richardson has enough clout to decline a role like this – which she would certainly have done if the movie was as bad as you say, darling.
In Pink Flamingos all the actors were constantly screaming at each other, presumably conveying affect but actually transmitting nothing but volume, and that at a pretty constant level. Not unlike the stimulus intensity of the new Batman movie, which rarely dips below deafening. I don’t find the acting in Southland Tales to be flat, which can be very affecting if done well. This just seemed amateurish, like people on a reality TV show who know the cameras are rolling and are self-conscious about it. Not at all a natural feel to the acting, flat or otherwise.
don’t you think that miranda richardson has enough clout to decline a role like this
Actually, I don’t. Clout is not nearly as big a deal as it’s cracked up to be. Rosemary Harris is a MUCH bigger name as a serious actress than Richardson, and she is just doing that shit for the money. By the way, I don’t care if you like ST, I hate the Batman and Spiderman shit just as much.
My point was to look for other means, if such an attempt as this rings so false to many americans, not just me. I hate Spiderman, Batman, and ST all the same, and I don’t see nor care any more about ST. I think it is INCOMPETENT and there are a lot of WELL-INTENTIONED things. I didn’t see a things about ‘american hurt’ and the ‘sadness of being forced into wars’. It’s not even about its own subject matter, it’s about its own unebelievable ineptitude.
Comment by Patrick J. Mullins — 6 August 2008 @ 1:54 pm
Jake Gyllenhal played flat through most of Donnie Darko, and I thought he did a respectable job. He’s not a great actor, but he’s got at least some pathos and some romanticism as overtones which don’t seem forced. The situations in DD were schizoid, so the flat affect made sense. In ST the situations were hysterical: what sort of acting does that call for? Something other than what we got.
This just seemed amateurish, like people on a reality TV show who know the cameras are rolling and are self-conscious about it.
Yes, it’s like that, but I think ‘flatness’ is part of that. But no big deal, we’re hearing the same thing. And it doesn’t work. You HAVE to do characters. And Kelly just shot them acting and talking like slobs. There’s not a moment of crispness anywhere in it, except Richardson’s few moments, and that’s a very small role with little reward to it.
Dejan, the matter of clout is that people NEVER have the clout one would assume they have: Martha Stewart was no longer able to buy her way out of a prison sentence, neither was Paris Hilton. Joan Collins was upset the other day about losing a part to some other dames, saying ‘I don’t have Barbra Streisand’s money, I need to work’. Miranda Richardson is not even as well-known a name as Maggie Gyllenhaal. At this point, Cruise, Kidman, Streep, Redgrave (the only one on a very high leverl), Crowe, a few others do have clout, whether or not you like them. But Ms. Richardson never had a big name, and is known only to movie buffs. She is probably no better known than Laura Dern. The only way I could be wrong about Miranda is if she’s fabulously wealthy, but I doubt she is. She’s not one of the Tony Richardson/V. Redgrave daughters, nor is she related to Ralph Richardson (I had long ago thought she was.)
Comment by Patrick J. Mullins — 6 August 2008 @ 2:02 pm
In ST the situations were hysterical: what sort of acting does that call for? Something other than what we got.
Yes, it seemed a parody of ‘end of the world’ movies, and a homage to old 50s B-movies, like ‘Rodan’ or ‘Queen of Outer Space’. When that ridiculous woman said ‘I wanna suck your cock’ to Boxer, and was then shot, it was Limp City. None of them ever showed serious fear, or even the attempt to show it. It was unspeakable ‘acting.’
Comment by Patrick J. Mullins — 6 August 2008 @ 2:04 pm
Sometimes Arpege is very good. Here’s one at the end of the Batman thread, but the ‘realistic’ now a ‘sort of random concretization of that random curve’ is excellent.
“i mean say you have a nude odalisque, and it becomes more an more abstract, and then just a curve, breaks away from the odalisque, then in postmodernism there the whole odalique is restored, “realistic”, but as if only a sort of random concretisation of that abstract curve. The relations are reversed and frozen.”
It’s one of the best illustrations of the one of the essences of post-modernism I’ve seen, and should be used to view most pop culture products. It probably also accounts for the hyped, fat look of the buildings in these Batman/Spiderman cities–they don’t look like metropolises as any whole ones exist thus far, although some fo the newer ‘tallest buildings in the world’ such as in Kuala Lumpur, as well as some 80s buildings in New York and surely other cities, do have this ‘birthday-party’ look I keep complaining about. And so this kind of thing is also in the new real buildings as well–it is an attempt to recapture dead forms, but it just ends up looking like a highly painted corpse. Almost all the big Broadway shows are exactly this–it’s a BLOATING.
Comment by Patrick J. Mullins — 6 August 2008 @ 2:41 pm
I can then see that the progression after seeing the unexpected ‘random’ PoMo evolution from the ‘abstract curve’ can then be gone beyond, but that the purpose of this hyper-realism was to do this freezing she’s referring to. It was supposed to be a kind of dead end, and it’s pretty clear that it succeeds in being a very effective dead end to many people. Like drinking warm Diet Coke which is even also been opened for about 12 hours. But it still is something you’re familiar with. Something like that anyway. Explains the poverty and stasis in many of the newer objects.
Comment by Patrick J. Mullins — 6 August 2008 @ 2:46 pm
A few months back I posted on The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, a recent Romanian movie. In an interview the director said that he hired professional actors, then told them to pretend they were themselves facing the situations of the characters in the story: an old dying man, a doctor, an ambulance driver, etc. The characters seemed sort of flat because they weren’t histrionic in the usual dramatic sense. But it was very effective I thought: the director called his movie “the anti-ER,” referring to the TV show in which George Clooney played a doctor. ER was actors playing roles; Mr. Lazarescu was actors playing themselves occupying roles. In both cases they were actors doing with professional skill something the director called on them to do.
Part of the postmodern sensibility is the loss of faith in progress. There’s a tendency to equate aesthetic excellence with the ability to document the next societal trend coming along, even if — especially if — that next trend is bad. This seems like an inverted version of the progressive ethos of modernism, an avant-garde focused on decline and collapse. In both instances there’s a linearity to historical time and a desire to be the first one out there on the cutting edge. In such a milieu the fondness for old forms seems like nostalgia, whereas it can just as easily be an attempt to capture excellence regardless of when it appeared. That kind of postmodern is almost indistinguishable from classical culture. I think I like it better.
That kind of postmodern is almost indistinguishable from classical culture.
I don’t believe that’s possible, and that is what Arpege was pointing to–it does appear to be almost the same thing. But it isn’t.
The desire to be on the cutting with the latest technique is also to be on the cutting edge of the next perception of entire fields of depressing things–while saying there is nothing but the depressing things, but the rest is outmoded, but we don’t want the depressing things, but we also must have the new things, even though it’s all terrible, and anything that appears good is impossible.
Some of the postmodern can still be good, but if it is like a hyped-up version of an original, it’s just a form of duplication and has no energy.
Comment by Patrick J. Mullins — 6 August 2008 @ 5:22 pm
“it does appear to be almost the same thing. But it isn’t.”
Yes, I understand. I’m not persuaded that paying close attention to contemporary trends has anything to do with excellence, but on the other hand the contemporary appropriation and co-optation of classical forms turns into something like parody or simulacrum. Of course there’s a place for these sorts of homage, and they’re better than nostalgic kitsch. Classical works aren’t timeless — they make sense in the cultural milieu from which they arose. But they aren’t indistinguishable from their times either. They offer some sort of contrast, whether it points forward or backward or to some oblique angle becomes becomes part of the greatness — the disjuncture from the time of which it is a part.
But they aren’t indistinguishable from their times either. They offer some sort of contrast, whether it points forward or backward or to some oblique angle becomes becomes part of the greatness — the disjuncture from the time of which it is a part.
That’s a complicated way of saying that they are both dependent and independent of their times. If they weren’t also independent of their times, they wouldn’t last, would disappear as ephimeral, or become much smaller as ‘dated’ or ‘period.’ Nobody calls Beethoven works ‘dated’ or ‘period pieces’, although they are organically tied to the times in which they were composed. They do, on the other hand, call Fannie Hurst’s novels ‘dated.’
Comment by Patrick J. Mullins — 6 August 2008 @ 9:49 pm
On post-modernism: Patrick, what you seem to be saying sounds like nostalgia. Even if we establish that the classic values are as grand as they are, what’s the point of repeating them? Like if nowadays we made Anthony Mann, John Huston, Hitchcock, Fellini, and Antonioni masterpieces, what would that accomplish? You have to go further, and beyond, to realms new. Indeed with HISTORIC AWARENESS of the principles and values these classic films have established; I am not saying that history should be mocked and erased as in the horrible Tim Burton BATMANs. But repeating it also doesn’t do it for me. History should be integrated into the new and developed to new heights of delight. Indeed what the Marxists are proposing as retro-futurism, but then not in the sense of retro as plagiarism, rather retro as the discovery of potentials that were underdeveloped before.
Take Cobra’s fetishism of the 18th century. Yes those paintings are great, and few modern paintings can approach them, but what is she actually SAYING? That we go back to the 18th century? Her attacks may be a good resource for criticism, but not much more than that. She doesn’t have a program for the future.
Miranda Richardson is a completely flawless actress. I have not seen a single bad movie with her. She was also imperious as the neurotic housewife Bettina in Absolutely Fabulous, and her comic turn as the Queen in the Black Adder is unforgettable. She switches so easily from comedy to drama. I love her voice, and her accent. It is piercing – hits you right in the eye. This would be, indeed, true character acting. She transforms into all these people but somehow remains herself, singular.
I sincerely doubt she accepted Southland for money. There must have been more lucrative commercial offers.
Example: in the short fifteen minutes of WALL-E that are really brilliant, there is a scene that consists almost entirely of pastiche – the sets and the props are from E.T., Metropolis, Blade Runner and the Empire Strikes Back; the music leans on Bernard Herrmann and John Williams; the robot is an assemblage of ET, the Short Circuit and any number of Gremlins. But then someone thought ingeniously that if we mix that with Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights, there will be a magic spark. And it does happen, if only for fifteen minutes. There’s something truly new, simultaneously disturbing and exhilarating in the resulting nostalgia. A kind of a futuristic Weltschmerz. In this case the film-makers have discovered a brilliant new way to develop the fluidity of movement which Chaplin established with his physical comedy, and apply it to animatronics. So it’s possible to go beyond. One just has to keep trying.
The New York Romanticism is about MANHATTAN, for chrissake, and if you understand the walking ‘in and out of worlds like in Alice in Wonderland’, I’ll admit you understand some of it, because that is what I do all the time.
Yes I know what you mean, you mean that Cole Porter vibe; it’s pleasant enough, although my Serbian origins wouldn’t allow me the privilege to live such a lifestyle. I did have a period of around two years living posh, when I was working at the UN, and in that time at the embassy parties they were always getting to that Cole Porter vibe. I don’t know what to say about it further – if one has the means, why not? In that time in New York I didn’t spend a lot of time in such atmospheres, I spent more time desperately looking for sex in the complex circuit of gay bars, which at the time, in the nineties, were non-existent in Serbia. Though it ended up a massive frustration because AIDS was in its heyday and I couldn’t do much except watch. I remember having a horrible time in one guy’s flat – he was a typical Jewish intellectual who went to a psychoanalyst to cure his homosexuality and he spent a good part of the morning endlessly talking to me about how Serbia is a land of war criminals (this is where I first experienced the amount of propaganda), only because the sex wasn’t that good. I also spent a few weeks with this Russian poet, an emigre from the 1970s, who told me that there is a clear demarcation line between Slavic migrants in New York and the WASP population. I don’t know to what extent this is still true. He was very appreciative of the art market in NYC, though, he told me you can do anything you want.
“So it’s possible to go beyond. One just has to keep trying.”
The search for the going-beyond can lead the critic to overvaluing the attempt. The 15 minutes of going-beyond becomes the exclusive focus of attention of those desperate to see something both different and excellent take shape. You and Shaviro praise Southland Tales for its way of showing the flow of affect. I can see it a little bit (though not as much as you do), and I too want to see possibilities open up. But this 15 minutes of specific going-beyond gets conflated with the enthusiasm for going-beyondness, as if the whole endeavor was great. Maybe it’s necessary to retain the optimism, to commend the innovations even when embedded in otherwise ordinary work so as not to lose heart. But when I read kpunk saying that Ledger’s performance and Nolan’s script “do justice to the freakish,” I see wishful thinking in the service of avant-garde themes that highlights the reviewer’s sensibilities more than the moviemakers’. I’m sounding like the voice of moderation here, being attuned to the going-beyond without losing sight of the more timeless merits (or lack thereof) of the entire package in which it’s embedded.
Regarding appreciation for older movies, I do think some things have been lost along the way, squeezed out by a combination of big money and coarsening popular tastes. Trying to recapture these things, not just through nostalgia or PoMo distortion but embedding them as part of the texture regardless of era, would restore a standard of excellence that needn’t compromise the desire for “going beyond” on the part of the writer, director, actors, cinematographers. I don’t know if there’s enough demand from the bankrollers or the audience. It shouldn’t really cost more money to make something consistently excellent — certainly not on the scale of making something consistently spectacular. So one must wonder whether there’s a preference for the tawdry and shallow, such that people would rather make and watch a comic-book movie than something more substantial.
I was wondering myself what k=punk wanted to say with his article. That Joker as a figure follows the Lacanian adage that since the core of personality is empty, i.e. identity is an illusion, Ledger plays the Joker as if he could be anything, is really nothing new, for he’s been saying it for the past ten years. And then having made that statement, he does not proceed to discuss at all what the sociopolitical meaning is of Batman, while his article started countering Leninini’s premise that Batman is fascist. So the meaning of the statement is that you see, it was a good performance by Ledger. K-punk overvalues these spectacles vastly, but maybe one has to, in order to make any money with that kind of a writing. Anycase my dark Doppelganger will have to work much harder to deserve the kind of an affection I feel for my hero and… you know
I do see your point, but Shaviro is just so brilliant that I don’t mind it if he trips out on things that perhaps do not require as much praise. I do not really have quite as developed a taste as he does for these philosophic movies, all talk and no action, and I really slept through A Scanner Darkly, for example. But what Shaviro spins out of it is always worthier than the film itself, that is to say Shaviro’s writing extends the life of the cultural product and for me, this is exactly what such writing should and must do, if it is to have any value.
“But what Shaviro spins out of it is always worthier than the film itself, that is to say Shaviro’s writing extends the life of the cultural product and for me”
That sounds right. It seemed that kpunk managed to see what you and might have hoped to see in the Batman movie: the Joker as either channel or master-agent of immanent chaotic flows. We didn’t see it; kpunk claims that he did, partly because he makes a reputation off things like the freakish. Now I think something could be said about why the villains are always more compelling than the superheroes, why Batman has to be more boring than the Joker if the movie is going to succeed, why the Batman and the Joker are split halves of the same divided self in a way that Harvey Dent as Two-Face shows more explicitly but less compellingly at the end of the movie…
hy Batman has to be more boring than the Joker if the movie is going to succeed,
that one is easy – I heard that on the various TV projects I worked; the central character has to be blank so that the audience can identify with him (like, Luke Skywalker is totally bland on purpose). The villains are stronger because they have character. It’s another question whether one agrees with this conventional filmmaking (I don’t). But if you wanna sell the product, that’s how they do it.
For me the interesting part is that all Disney villains are gay!!! This lends weight to punk’s hypothesis about freakishness – he’s talking about queerness in fact. The queer one is the one who through parody tells you the truth of the story.
But what I meant is OK that’s a good description of the filmmaking process, of the character; but what’s the purpose? Why are we being shown the Joker? What’s the message? That’s the thing – Batman has no story. John Steppling is rightly complaining against that, I think.
message to Ms Mullins: ALSO in Hollywood film-making, the main character is always FLAT so that the audience can read into him what they want (the Rorschach blotch principle). This is what I meant by the empty vessel before the Queen of Musicals pounced on me in her desperate attempts to make me love her more than I love my hero and cyperpunk icon… you know…(she doesn’t realize I sometimes do it on purpose in order to inspire her insane jealousy)
but it was funny how Dave (on Leninini’s comment boxes) proclaimed, as though announcing the Second Coming of Christ, that k-punk had written a review. Sherbert became visibly nervous, and you could feel the escalation of her nervousness throughout the subsequent comments. She became harsher, more cynical. I think the malevolence between her and k-prank never ended, and is just going to grow over the years. In a sense he is Sherbert’s Doppelganger, and this is what upsets her beyond words.
on the Affect: I was not just talking about the movie. Here, in Holland, every day, whenever I go out into the social world (and in Holland this is mostly at work, with your colleagues), you feel its presence. A kind of a mass hysteria. I don’t know how to describe it yet. I think it’s partly induced by capitalism, I mean marketing, which propels you to be constantly agile and on the run, creating this artificial sort of hysteria. But it could also be a consequence of a dreadful sense of isolation and loneliness (brought on by the technology) which propels people to seek group experience in a panic. This releases the Affect then and it begins to circulate. Things spread like contagion, because everything is networked.
But what Shaviro spins out of it is always worthier than the film itself, that is to say Shaviro’s writing extends the life of the cultural product and for me, this is exactly what such writing should and must do, if it is to have any value
That’s what I did in my book on cine-musique, in a different way. After you’ve learned to do that, you just do informal versions of it as you go on to more solid things. But that is not the same thing as looking at the film or other object as it is, evaluating it–spinning out your own writing from a film should be strictly limited, or it just means you cannot really write anything else. But even when you do this kind of spinning out, you are under no illusions that you are talking about the film itself for the most part, but rather you are making a writing that was suggested by the film.
Comment by Patrick J. Mullins — 7 August 2008 @ 8:22 am
Yes I know what you mean, you mean that Cole Porter vibe;
No, you don’t. That’s only part of it, one of many parts of it. The other part you said, going in and out of worlds that is possible here, refutes that itself, and is also why Baudrillard thought this was one place where life could really be lived in such a way as he thought would be satisfying (I don’t believe it’s restricted to this, but I do know about Manhattan, even if no other place, and ‘Cole Porter vibe’ is a kind of reduction to a convenient handle for yourself, nothing more.)
Comment by Patrick J. Mullins — 7 August 2008 @ 8:26 am
Regarding appreciation for older movies, I do think some things have been lost along the way, squeezed out by a combination of big money and coarsening popular tastes. Trying to recapture these things, not just through nostalgia or PoMo distortion but embedding them as part of the texture regardless of era, would restore a standard of excellence that needn’t compromise the desire for “going beyond” on the part of the writer, director, actors, cinematographers.
Comment by Patrick J. Mullins — 7 August 2008 @ 8:29 am
This is what I meant by the empty vessel before the Queen of Musicals pounced on me in her desperate attempts to make me love her more than I love my hero and cyperpunk icon… you know…(she doesn’t realize I sometimes do it on purpose in order to inspire her insane jealousy)
This is of no interest, and I want John to give you fair warning. I am not interested in your ‘feelings’ and embarassing ‘Modern Romance on the Internet’ about kpunk and Shaviro. I haven’t even reade kpunk on this, and won’t.
I do not find this amusing, and it is the kind of thing that has made me dislike you overtly.
Comment by Patrick J. Mullins — 7 August 2008 @ 8:32 am
I just went to look at the Lenin discussion of Batman but was daunted by the huge numbers of comments, so I’ll have to remain in the dark.
“the central character has to be blank so that the audience can identify with him”
I suppose so, though as I recall you were trying to persuade your employers that the audience could enter the portal directly, without the need of a blank avatar/icon. Batman occupies a place in the structure, regardless of his personality. So too does Joker, as kpunk observes: there’s no need to look for his interiority to let him occupy that role completely. And I think Joker’s queer appeal suggests that the audience identifies with him perhaps as much as they do with Batman.
The most direct interpretation of the Batman/Joker duality, and it’s the one the writer says directly in the script, is that the Joker stands for chaos. Joker says he couldn’t possibly kill Batman and vice versa because they need each other. So the direct structural reading is that Batman stands for order. This of course triggers all the discussions of fascism: the right turn Joker into bin Laden — an apolitical madman — while the left turns Batman into the CIA. Fascistic forces of order need a queer and crazy perpetual terrorist threat to justify their control-freakdom, just like Orwell said in 1984, etc.
Yesterday I wrote a post about normalcy and deviation in the statistical sense, and I think it bears directly on the Batman movie. The coin flip is emblematic of chance in the movie. Harvey Dent is the control freak: he uses a 2-headed coin to cheat chance. The real source of randomness is Joker, or so Joker himself claims. As long as everything goes according to plan everybody’s happy, he says; I don’t plan, he says. Joker is the flipped coin. But, if you flip the random coin enough times a stable pattern emerges: the aggregate results converge on an average. You could regard queerness as deviation from order, but in fact order is defined statistically as the sum of all the vectors of deviation. Order needs chaos not as something to push against but as its essence.
“But even when you do this kind of spinning out, you are under no illusions that you are talking about the film itself for the most part, but rather you are making a writing that was suggested by the film.”
Agree. I wonder why Shaviro and kpunk don’t acknowledge the difference between the cultural product and their riffs on it. Is it because they resist Nietzsche’s maxim that theory is always an idiosyncratically personal statement about the theorist?
Dejan, while you may regard it as your mission to express overtly the unacknowledged repressed Affect that flows through internet discussions, and while you may regard the ire your observations provoke as an indicator that your interventions are striking home and opening up the unconscious to more direct probing, your continuing down this path here is likely to blow up the discussion and turn it into volatile expressions of anger, requiring me to come in and delete swaths of bickering. Patrick understands your position by now, so you don’t need to repeat it further. You may continue to think it though, of course.
I suppose so, though as I recall you were trying to persuade your employers that the audience could enter the portal directly,
That’s different— that was an interactive production, for learning. You have much more freedom on the net to experiment with these new modes of communicating with the audience. The course was quite a success, by the way. Just finished it last week.
his of course triggers all the discussions of fascism: the right turn Joker into bin Laden — an apolitical madman — while the left turns Batman into the CIA. Fascistic forces of order need a queer and crazy perpetual terrorist threat to justify their control-freakdom, just like Orwell said in 1984, etc.
I think k-prank was saying what he usually says, and repeats a lot, namely that this bi-polar interpretation is false because it presents you with a false ”choice”. He was championing the ”neither nor” approach whereby the very indeterminacy or elusiveness of meaning is what makes the cultural product in question socially critical or observant of society’s mores at least. Sort of like the position of the Lacanian therapist, who sits there like the Sphynx presenting you with riddles, and then your solution of them shows who you are – the Roschach blotch test. But you don’t need no fancy notions to figure out that the producers knew if they present these contrasts in the form of Batman and Joker, that will get the audience to bounce back and forth from one interpretation to another, garnering interest and profit.
No, you don’t. That’s only part of it, one of many parts of it.
Darling a city is what it is to different people. Don’t try to put your vision in my butt because it won’t succeed (and besides since you don’t love me, I don’t want you to put things in my butt on principle). For example me being almost 2 meters in height and of a fairly hefty posture, I prefer huge places. Other people read NYC’s hugeness as vulgar and suffocating. Whatever this Romanticism you speak of is, you’ll have to explain it much more vividly for me to understand. So far all I know of your preferred Romanticism is a pleasant sort of jazzy sort of salon kitsch, with good ole Joe the pianist toasting the diva at the bar,and then play it again Sam, which as I said is acceptable as long as not associated with (petit) burgeois privilege, because I intensely abhor that type of salon snobism. In other words let the mood be Casablanca. If there’s deeper meaning in it, you haven’t shared it so how do you expect me to comprehend it?
to blow up the discussion and turn it into volatile expressions of anger
Clysmatics you’re hopelessly straight so you don’t quite dig how it works with queens; these volatile expressions of anger are very much a part of the possession and the enmeshment. But the good thing about the queens is that they’re able to access these filthy registers that would normally get straight people to break relationships, or turn gravely serious, and parody themselves in the process (in this sense queens are quite superior to straight people).
That’s what I did in my book on cine-musique, in a different way.
Yes and I told you that after I have read the book; I told you that I can see much similarity with the modern way of doing things, because in the way your book tries to ”be music” or to ”flow” like music, it becomes a kind of an embodiment – the ”New Flesh” as David Cronenberg would call it. In fact what we did at the Parody Center is very similar, only carried by an interactive medium so you don’t need stylistic devices to accomplish that effect, you get it directly. But when I told you that you started on your boring rant about internet addiction or whatever. Sure internet addiction exists and it’s baaaad I guess, but there’s also a whole other new perspective.
Yes and I told you that after I have read the book; I told you that I can see much similarity with the modern way of doing things, because in the way your book tries to ”be music” or to ”flow” like music, it becomes a kind of an embodiment –
Thank you for not understanding the book, and not listening to John’s warning, which stands precisely as he wrote it.
I told you what you picked up about New York that was authentic, you said crap like “i walked around it so much that i feel i saw the entire city. i have a pretty good picture, i think, of what it is.”
And you don’t even question the idiocy of saying ‘I feel I saw the entire city’. I know light-years more about New York than you will ever know, and even I have not seen the entire city. That’s why your ability to see how one ‘goes into one world after another’ proves there are always more worlds. That doesn’t mean you can’t write about it, but I am sure you don’t know more about New York than I do about Los Angeles, which is easier to write about because is malleable, more congenial, lets you play with it. I lived in Paris for a year and have never been able to write about it. That’s longer than you stayed in New York, but I’d never claim to have had more than an unusually good year of experience there; my experience of it is much less vast.
What is most repellent about your behaviour online is that you refuse to accept that I think it admirable you could see the ‘Alice-in-Wonderland’ aspects of New York, but are not satisfied that you cannot have it both or several more ways–which in fact, even negate that far more sophisticated perception. You are determined to say things to me that you know I don’t want to hear, and you wonder why it makes me despise you. Then you fucking answer this: Why don’t you write all about ‘your darling parody correspondent Jonquille’ on Shaviro’s blog? You don’t, because you don’t have the guts to do it–and by ‘do it’ I mean do it over and over and disrupt everything in the meantime. K-punk doesn’t have comments, so that doesn’t matter. But you respect Shaviro and don’t respect me, and yet think you can explain away everything ‘about the way queens are’ and how it would ‘destroy a friendship’.
Now–we did okay on this thread, but you have not heeded mine and John’s request that you stop this kind of talk that is always about trying to force intimacy on somebody BECAUSE they don’t want it. So get back on track if you can. I didn’t say you couldn’t have a feeling for New York, obviously you did. I did say you haven’t seen that much of it no matter what in three months as a tourist, and you don’t ‘have a pretty good picture of what it is’, and certainly none of the things I patiently tried to explain to you; but you cannot accept that I would obviously know an enormous amount about periods of New York from living in them, and you have to be on some juvenile ‘equal footing’ with me in terms of understanding New York. Well, you’re not, and don’t expect me to respect anything you say if you keep pretending to have credentials you don’t have.
Comment by Patrick J. Mullins — 7 August 2008 @ 4:00 pm
That’s why your ability to see how one ‘goes into one world after another’ proves there are always more worlds.
But darling that’s true of more cities – eg in Amsterdam or in Antwerp in a space much smaller you can traverse parallel dimensions, because there’s the falafel joint place and then there’s the Chinese quarter and then the sex district… so it’s not like I am now fetishizing this fact as if it’s unique to New York. It’s just that due to its size and scope in New York it’s somehow the most thrilling of parallel dimension hoppings I’ve ever experienced. I have this wild adventurous side and New York’s wildness fits well with me. I also love the open access to the Ocean.
I am sorry if I made the impression that i respect Shaviro whereas I don’t respect you. I respect both of you for your uniqueness. For example you have a lot of artistic talent, while Shaviro’s is a very analytical mind.
patiently tried to explain to you; but you cannot accept that I would obviously know an enormous amount about periods of New York from living in them, and you have to be on some juvenile ‘equal footing’
the words ”patiently” and ”juvenile” refer to your patronization, for some reason you constantly want to underline the age difference between us. I find this overly conservative.
“I have this wild adventurous side and New York’s wildness fits well with me. I also love the open access to the Ocean.”
That’s less good, and reminds me of Lana Turner’s diva lit turn ‘The Lady, the Legend and the Truth’, when she says “How I’d love to go dancing at Ciro’s or the Montecito with a dark, handsome man! The town was exciting and fun!”
Thank you for proving that I even overestimated your one insight about New York that was accurate.
Comment by Patrick J. Mullins — 7 August 2008 @ 4:55 pm
I hope this thread doesn’t go to hell now, inasmuch as we’re about to leave for dinner and an outdoor performance of Macbeth put on by the local Shakespeare Festival. Last year they did a fine job with Midsummer Night’s Dream. Rain seems imminent, which could tinge the performance with either melancholy or absurdity.
Oh, I don’t think it will, I haven’t time to make it go to hell. I hope the play is good, but it’s a hard one to carry off. I’ll see if I can find this wonderfully eccentric line Edith Evans said about it, she specialized in Rosalind and other Shakespeare comedy roles (and non-Shakespeare ones), leaving the tragedies mostly to Sybil Thorndike. They were the top ladies of the pre-WWI period, in which there was great London theater.
Comment by Patrick J. Mullins — 7 August 2008 @ 5:09 pm