Popular Posts

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Miranda July Don't You Dare Miss Her New Film The Future

Miranda July

Miranda July, the uncategorizable artist who has produced everything from public sculpture to short stories and performance art since the mid-’90s, has finally directed her second feature film.
Her surrealism-tinged “The Future,” which opens Friday, will surely baffle many who know July only from 2005’s odd but realistic “Me and You and Everyone We Know.” Of the new film’s fantastic elements — a man who stops time, a weary moon that needs help moving Earth’s tides — the most challenging is Paw Paw, an orphaned cat who narrates much of the story. Fans aware that July is married to fellow artist/director Mike Mills might note that his recent “Beginners” featured a talking (or at least telepathic) animal. Coincidence?


Ebert's Lovely Review

Friday, July 29, 2011

Reading Bel Ami Through Symbolic Exchange Not Psychology

Click on mediocrechick on my blog list roll for a page of gifs from Bel Ami - lovely
Rob Pattinson is on record as denouncing the character of George Duroy. Passing judgement on him. His girlfans say this is not a good character for their Rob to play. He will alienate some of his fan base. Duroy is this terrible person who sleeps his way through women to climb the social ladder. Actually, he is caught in the Foucauldian grid of power/knowledge/capital of his time.

And robfans just denounce him as being an awful person who takes advantage of women. Really? Like these women are not complicit? That they are not seducing him back? Like they are victims of this rake? Is not he as much seduced as they? To regard his women as helpless victims is to hold them in contempt; to think like this is to hold women in contempt.

What was he supposed to do instead in order to be a good person?

What he had was a particular kind of perceptual intelligence. Not the kind that is part of normality, part of educational advancement. He felt what people were feeling and thinking. He was aware that this "friend" Forestier was not a friend, just a simple acquaintance who decided to help him on a whim, thinking Duroy might be of use to him. Duroy felt the affront but did not expect him to be any different from what he was. Duroy constantly is perceiving his environment and trying to be what is expected of him. He is the son of peasants and has no social graces except what he copies. He was entranced by Madame Forestier, seduced by her. Seduction does not necessarily imply sex. And his manner pleased her.

Madame de Marelle came after him, Madeleine and he arranged their marriage and he was charmed by her but wounded. Madame Walter is entranced with him and so is her daughter. Duroy is handsome, charming, and seeks to please all around him. He knows he has certain advantages but also knows what he does not know. Only toward the end does he begin to will, to produce the results that he wants.

This is a man who lives within the Symbolic Order of Seduction. What is the point of analyzing him psychologically. He is a small squirming insect in a thick web of the world with only a limited amount of wiggle room. When Destiny beckons, he follows.

No I cannot see any reason to castigate him. To heap abuse on his character. Within his world I find him admirable. And de Maupassant is amazing, far better than I had previously thought him to be.

Following Baudrillard in the instructions given to him for his journalism:
Things should be hinted at in such a manner as to allow of any construction being placed on them, refuted in a manner that confirms the rumor, or affirmed in such a way that no one believes them. (BA 120 1910 ed)

The above is the perfect description of the use of signs as masks, neither confirming nor denying but ambiguous enough to be seen either way. And this is how Bel Ami's George Duroy conducts himself socially. The social sphere he inhabits conducts itself according to signs that simulate and dissimulate and Duroy has to learn how to read them. He has to stop blushing, stop insisting on outmoded trinkets of behavior, and allow the world to think him. Given his skills, his background, his acquaintances, his allies, he chooses within a labyrinth of deception and blind alleys and learns how to survive and then to prosper.

free download Bel Ami
Is it worse that Susan marries him than a seventy-two year old title? How do we know he won't love her, be affectionate with her, treat her kindly, cheat on her, but is she not better off with him? Why is he so bad for doing this?

Resonates with Updike's Gertrude and Claudius, the backstory of Hamlet.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Cave of forgotten Dreams - Werner Herzog

Chauvet Cave - Cave of Forgotten Dreams Werner Herzog

 Also a lovely trailer at: http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/reviews/cave-of-forgotten-dreams-u-2251898.html
Herzog’s 3-D is often masterful in representing the way in which the paintings’ shaped surfaces enhance perspective, or in revealing how deep space might be defined by light. (For better or worse, the movie does for Chauvet what Baudrillard complained an on-site replica did for Lascaux—render the real thing false.) Would that the director maintained the cave’s silence, deep enough to hear your heartbeat. Instead, there’s a compulsion to fill the void with philosophical vapors (“Is this the origin of the soul?”) and Ernst Reijseger’s obtrusive New Age choral music. The escalating audio desecration is capped by the filmmaker’s ultimate head-scratcher. Perhaps the mutant crocs will swim to Chauvet: “Looking at the paintings—what will they make of them?”

Actually I saw it in 2-D and it was lovely, although all the reviewers say that this is the film 3-D was invented for rather than all those stupid Hollywood CGI special effects. If I can find it in 3-D I will certainly see it that way.

I am imagining the way it must feel to see the inside of this cave, and all the paintings. And to really feel those 35,000 years.

There are some additions to the paintings that were added 5,000 years later. and one of the artist's hand prints are identifiable throughout because the little finger of his right hand is slightly crooked. So is mine. Genetic? A nice phantasy.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Symbolic Order of Seduction:The Tree of Life - The Order of Production and Exchange: Water For Elephants

Please follow me. - Jean Baudrillard

I'm trying.

I saw The Tree of Life for the second time tonight. Not since Pasolini have I seen such images photographed with such love. The beautiful still face of Jessica Chastain. The no longer pretty boy face of Brad Pitt, but a face with a deep depth  of character, fearless, and the beautiful ravaged face of Sean Penn. Hunter McCracken as Jack the young boy is astonishing. Here are faces of such seductive beauty, such portraits, every one, of pure appearance.



Now consider how Francis Lawrence uses the face of Robert Pattinson as a prop in Water For Elephants. He has said the camera just loves him, and he has put Pattinson in every scene, close up after close up and you can feel Pattinson's uneasiness. Just as Lawrence has constructed a 1930's circus simulacrum as a prop and to pimp it for all its worth, he has used Reese Witherspoon and Waltz as props also. Not to mention Tai the elephant dragged to the city for a premiere to pimp her too. This is what Lawrence knows how to do: use the set and his actors as props. Pattinson's face is the message, the cliched content of the scene is secondary filler.

Terrence Stamp

Here are some Pasolini portraits from Teorema:

For this film go to http://www.netflix.com

Silvano Mangano
Walter Benjamin comments on using props in his seminal essay The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. Robert Pattinson's face has been down this road before in The Haunted Airman along with numerous cigarettes. Or his face has led to effacement. Edward Cullen was a departure whenever Catherine Blabbermouth Hardwicke got out of the way. I suspect Cosmopolis will not travel the cliched path.

The Tree of Life and Philosophy: The Phenomenological Roots of Terrence Malick (co-edited with Vernon W. Cisney)
The aim of this project is to produce a volume of essays on Terrence Malick's 2011 film "The Tree of Life", working to draw out philosophical themes from this important piece of cinema. 

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Review: The Tree of Life Terrence Malick

The Tree of Life fulfills the promise that the technology of film reproduction promised. It cannot be discussed within the dominant discourse of film criticism.  It is a Foucaudian cut in the history of film. This film is a miracle. Time has slowed for us in this film. We inhabit our own lost time or a time we never knew. The experience is the same as reading In Search of Lost Time by Proust.

The dialectic rhetoric does not apply to it. When reviewers discuss it in words that portray it as revered, loved, adored, a prayer, a revelation contrasted with boring, hated, intolerable, and walk-outs, their flat earth thinking is displayed. When they go on to wade into the interpretive psychological swamp of Oedipal relations between the boy and his father, they are done for. 


The film follows the life journey of the eldest son, Jack, through the innocence of childhood to his disillusioned adult years as he tries to reconcile a complicated relationship with his father. Jack finds himself a lost soul in the modern world, seeking answers to the origins and meaning of life while questioning the existence of faith. Through Malick's signature imagery, we see how both brute nature and spiritual grace shape not only our lives as individuals and families, but all life. (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
It sounds good doesn't it? Freud himself lamented against this tendency, in his time, in his essay Wild Analysis. What is revealed is a complete ignorance of Foucault's The Archaeology of Knowledge and The Discourse on Language a long detailed analysis against the futility of psychological, historical and scientific interpretation, Jean Baudrillard's dismantling of it, and Susan Sontag's great essay Against Interpretation shredding it, as only she can.  This is the reason contemporary reviewers are so inept, so complained about, so uninformed, etc etc etc. And also why they are taken to task, disagreed with, praised, and all the other aspects of the dialectics. 

We are no longer in liner time. There is no longer any orderly progression which depends on linear time. We are moving into simulation. When simulation becomes total, we will be in Virtual Reality, which is irreversible. The last World War is being fought before our eyes and ears. It is the war of Speed described by Virilio.

Baudrillard in Fatal Strategies suggests opposing speed with extreme slowness. And Tree of Life is obeying his dictum. We become immersed in a world of slowness. A world of lost time now. A time when there was contemplation, when connections could be made, when cause and effect linkages were perceived, when meaning existed independent of media manipulation, when the dialectic ruled. Values, aesthetics, rules, ritual, the law, were all a part of human behavior in Western societies. We see the beginnings of disintegration in this film. The father cannot live in a post World War II with his values intact and neither can his son in his. This has little to do with Oedipal conflict.

Walter Benjamin's seminal essay The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction (Illuminations pp 217-251) warns us what to expect. Malick has taken notice. He doesn't disappoint.

I saw it in Springfield Missouri at the independent film theatre The Moxie. I am grateful for their presence here in the Ozarks. What was astonishing was the faces of the audience as the lights went on at the end. Every face was bathed in beauty, all 21st century angst removed as if by magic. I saw traces of an unhoped for joy on them.