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Friday, December 30, 2011

Review: Ides of March: A Foucault Look At US Politics

Director:George Clooney
Writers:George Clooney
Grant Heslov
Actors:Ryan Gosling
George Clooney
Marisa Tomei
Evan Rachel Wood
Philip Seymour Hoffman
Paul Giamatti
Max Minghella
Jeffrey Wright
Producers:George Clooney
Leonardo DiCaprio

   This is a subtle, dazzling movie. Clooney's direction is sure, inspired and perfect. The cast couldn't be better and that includes Clooney. The music enhances, it doesn't tell you how you are supposed to feel. I think we can see how the power shift is occurring in Hollywood by looking at the players above. What this film has is integrity, something that is lacking in most major productions in tinseltown.

Clooneyis handsome and idealistically sincere. His idealism is real and it begins to show cracks before we see the break. As his idealism turns into cynicism his facial mask becomes that of a liar.  

Gosling is as always perfectly intense, intensely perfect. Beginning as idealistic very smart press secretary to 

Seymour Hoffman's superior position in charge of Clooney's campaign for the nomination, he is the tough cynical warhorse.  

Tomei is the seductive tough journalist using everything she's got, 

Giamatti could play  smart sleaze in his sleep.

And Evan Rachel Wood ..... well, Dylan says it best:

Just Like a Woman
. . . . . . .
She takes just like a woman,

And she aches just like a woman
   And she wakes just like a woman,   
Yea, but she cries just like a little girl.
You take just like a woman,
And you wake just like a woman
And you make love just like a woman,
But you break just like a little girl.

The secret in this movie is the invisible Foucauldian Grid of power/knowledge. It is the structure of the film, one we cannot see with our eyes. It appears to be just another movie of fatal flaws, fatal mistakes, loss of idealism with the oncoming of cynicism as we see in Gosling's face at the end. 

Just another disappointing lack of integrity in a politician and the people who work for him in his campaign. But it isn't. 

What it is showing us is the impossibility of integrity in a political campaign. While I don't think Clooney believes this, he also probably isn't steeped in Foucault as I am. Caught in the interstices of the Grid, no one can wiggle free. Perhaps it was never possible but it was never so obvious as it is now. So observed as it is now. The hypocrisy is voiced in the dialogue, but the exposure of hypocrisy is not enough. It is only a distraction. It is only Deterrence from the real observed very fine mesh of the grid of power/knowledge.

The system is not at fault. the politicians are not at fault. In fact no one is at fault. The Grid is the structure. Genealogy is the method that exposes it. Foucault expanding on Nietzsche's genius.       

Foucault spent his life giving us the genealogy of power in the way it fuses and is always in a functional relation with knowledge. Power/Knowledge is fused, melded, inseparable. Power is in a functional relation with  Knowledge. Power is not something someone has, a government has, a president has, or a person can have. It does not oppress us from the top down, contrary to our perception, our belief, our unquestioning understanding. Power is not something someone has or does not have, something someone gives you or takes from you. One person can dominate another, but that is not power, and it can shift at any time.

Power/Knowledge is a functional relation and nowhere is it made so crystal clear as in The Ides of March. 

If you want a more traditional review go to Ebert here. Ebert says in his review, The film also raises the question of whether it is possible for any candidate to win and yet remain true to his original values. He's just a whisper away from Foucault, eh. Then come back for a Foucauldian analysis. I’ll wait.

Here’s one of my favorite visuals for the Foucault Grid of Power/Knowledge: Agnes Martin. She painted lots of these grids BTW.
Agnes Martin

An object does not exist until and unless it is observed. - William Burroughs


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