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hi all. I've been in a posting rut. okay let’s bring things up maybe I’ll keep a record of what pop culture-y things I do/did and people can read it and love me more

or less or the same whatever people can do what they like

THIS WEEK:

read:

Batman: Hush. it had its moments, but it was disappointing overall.

Feynman: graphic novel by Ottaviani & Myrick, it’s a comic book biography of physicist and oddball Richard Feynman based on various of his works, including Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman (which I’ve read) and other stuff I haven’t. Feynman, while I’m sure he has a lot of flaws (he was quite the skirt-chaser, and while he seems like he may have been somewhat ahead of his time in some ways in terms of gender stuff — there are sections in the book about his sister’s difficulty breaking into science and his frustration with the idea that women are inferior scientists — he was not exactly one to *not* objectify women, and there are definitely some passages of SYJ,MF which make him sound pretty skeezy in that area), he’s also witty, antiauthoritarian, brilliant, resourceful, a polymath, and, oh yeah — he also goes through long periods of being unable to do any useful research, followed up by coming alive (so to speak) when he is working on a problem that interests him. It’s really relatable to me in a big way, and while I’m obviously not a genius in his league, he’s a much better figure to look up to and maybe even want to emulate a bit than a right bastard like (say) Newton.

TV:

uh, so I’ve been watching The Dick Van Dyke Show on Netflix because it’s something I can comfortably watch while also doing other things, so it’s relaxing. I feel like I should apologize for watching something that’s so gender-regressive and so white-dominated. but, you know, it is also such a template for the American sitcom, and Laura Petrie really *is* a step forward for women (wearing pants!) and, look, I do like it. It’s actually an interesting contrast to something like Mad Men, in that the Petries do seem very much to be on the threshold of social change in some subtle ways — where Rob is *almost* hip but is, well, too nice to get involved in anything too radical, in the sense that he does care what other people think of him a little too much. I am not explaining this well.

I also have been watching a lot of Alfred Hitchcock Presents; my mom and I tend to watch that at dinner (living with mother right now). I do like old American shows. I think that’s cool, but, you know, you might not, certainly there’s lots of reasons to have differences of opinion. Anyway, AHP, in contrast to TDVDS which is all about people at their most functional, is all about people basically all being one step away from murdering each other for, usually, monetary gain (though sometimes for other reasons), and there’s a refreshing lack of pretense in the stories. Hitchcock’s films have this similar sense of playfulness with murder that comes down, I think, to the suspension of moral codes for the duration of the show, which goes a little bit beyond standard cops & robbers stuff and into an acknowledgment that the dark side of human nature really *is* just being barely held into check, but, radically, doing so only barely bothering to affix a warning about it. it’s useful as a release valve in some ways, not so much because people are *actually* this close from murdering each other, but because people are this close from *thinking* about hurting others or doing bad things or whatever, if nothing else, and it’s hard to work that through directly, which is why we have art. haha I’m explaining what art is! I clearly shouldn’t post this, I’m so condescending, but you should know I mean well.

my friend Marc has been showing me Trailer Parks Boys, and we’re into season six. it is nice to actually watch a Canadian show — I should do it more often, but I never get around to it. there is a weird anti-patriotism that a lot of Canadians share, where we love our country but, like, kind of the way some people love their grandparents, which is to say, we don’t want to hang out with them all the time. okay I’m sorry if that was ageist. I don’t think it was, but I’m not really sure. I should erase that. I’m going to keep going though. if I start erasing I won’t stop. anyway, also a release valve, people behaving badly, etc. Lahey, the show’s antagonist, is pretty much my favourite though — so over-the-top, and yet his vendetta against the boys is well justified.

movies:

I rewatched Rebel Without a Cause on Wednesday because it was playing at a local theatre. so many daddy issues that those kids should have been on the Island in LOST. but anyway, I really liked it. I mean, I really liked it the first time, but it was good to see again and I think it’s easier to understand when older. I never actually had a rebellious teenager phase, so, I don’t relate to that part exactly, but the longing for a substitute family and the way such a substitute family will almost necessarily be a bizarre parody of a real one plays right. I forget if the implication of Judy’s Elektra complex was that obvious to younger-me. probably.

that planetarium though. what a great set.

Spoilers:


Plato is building up to being genuinely antisocial, but we don't get much evidence that Jim Stark or Judy are particularly out of the ordinary. In fact, I was surprised by how much of a dork Jim is -- which I think makes him endearing. James Dean, coolest of the cool, etc., is both a RL bisexual and plays Jim as basically emotionally overwhelmed wearing kind of goofy clothes. This contrasts with the actual "cool" kids set typified by Buzz, who are wearing leather jackets and the whole deal. Jim seems really interested when he gets a chance to look at the control panel of the planetarium operator. Notably, Jim only gets targeted by the bullies when he tries unsuccessfully to fit in with them (by calling out "moo" in the planetarium when Taurus is shown).

Jim's fundamental problem basically comes down to his inability to establish his manhood, as should be obvious, and Dean's real life bisexuality (and director Nicholas Ray's, and Sal Mineo's etc.) give that undercurrent to why he wants to suppress his obviously overwhelming "sensitive" side in favour of huge displays of dangerous and potentially deadly initiation rights.

I do find masculinity hard to talk about, because, you know, I feel the pressure to Be A Man and I am not sure what to do with that -- because I'm pretty sure that's Wrong and antifeminist, I guess. But it's also not hard to see why the 50's are such a time for Masculinity in Crisis. World War 2 has a generation in which the male's role is defined very strongly by how well he can kill for his country and not die in the process; it's a genuine Existential Threat. And then there are no external threats -- except for the omnipresent commie scare, and the bomb, and death. The planetarium scene emphasizes that the Earth will come to an end just as it began, in fire!!!, and that's where Plato dies (and there's something cavelike about both the secluded mansion and the planetarium, got to think about whether that has meaning), and in the absence of a war to prove that one has earned the right to survive in the adult world, there is only the knowledge that death is out there, SOMEDAY, but it's placed as some frightening, barely-imaginable event, Out There. It's incomprehensible, inscrutible, and so people start knife fights and play chicken in cars because THEY HAVE TO DEFEAT THE FORCES OF DEATH BY CONFRONTING THEM! CONFRONT YOUR FEARS! but fears are no longer represented by some Other (even one of those yes-you-really-really-really-have-to-defeat-that-Other like the Nazis) but, uh, space. It's not *just* about masculinity, of course, because both men and women are going to die, but, you know, men are the ones who were raised to believe they might fight in wars until wars mostly stopped being hot in the West, and lots of male initiation rights are basically about confronting death head-on and ritually conquering it.

Jim's anger that his father won't stand up to his mother has some misogynistic overtones, and whether we lay them at Jim's feat or at the film's (and Nicholas Ray's) is hard to say. Ray is kind of a feminist filmmaker, except when he isn't, from what I can gather. That said, Jim's father's problem isn't fundamentally that he should punch his wife at some point, but that he's indecisive and completely overwhelmed with fear. And I really painfully relate to that indecision, and to Jim's frustration with that indecision. I dunno. I don't think it's a male/female issue, but...well, there is still a society in which these gender roles exist. I dunno where I'm going with this. Jim ultimately is all right because he has parents who do ultimately love him, even as they frustrate and fail him, and even as they give him no guideline for how to exist. Plato dies because his parents don't love him at all and he's ceased to be able to believe in the love of others, though Jim *almost* saves him. The movie is apparently based on Romeo & Juliet in structure (though that might not be true -- I forget where I read that) and it makes some sense that Plato's death is really mostly a comment on the ills of society rather than his own -- he's shot by the authoritarian cops and he's screwed up because his parents abandoned him; like R&J his death is not exactly about his flaws, or, to the extent that they are, it's about how his flaws develop out of the structure that exists behind him.

I should talk more about Judy but I want to move on and talk about the next movie before I run out of energy!

and also: Persona! oh Bergman. first of all, if I were more talented I would try to find a way to write Frozen/Persona meshing fic — because Elisabet and Alma have a few similarities to Elsa and Anna that need to be explored. I was actually a little shocked there was no Persona fic on ao3 — because, like, it obviously begs to have fic written for it, but of course, it’s not exactly something with a large fandom, at least not the fic-writing kind. oh god though. this time I realized how much Elisabet functions as God for Alma — how the early “conversation” about the meaning of the silence of God maps onto the way Elisabet’s silence allows Alma to use her as confessor and to find solace, and how much her anger at Elisabet has angry-at-God overtones — the loss of faith in many ways.

spoilers:


oh my god though. I mean, what even is this movie.

I mean, um, obviously it comments on itself with the film reels on screen and the burning film and etc. etc., and the way Elisabet's apparent/ostensible quest for true authenticity by remaining silent APPARENTLY (I think I read someone saying something like this after rewatching) has something to do with Bergman's attempt to rediscover the true art of silent cinema. And the fundamental question here is whether it's possible to be authentically oneself while speaking, whether art can possibly be anything more just a lie, whether life is any different from art (and thus not a lie) in that sense, and so on. So, you know, deep, heady stuff, but it's also just so *visceral* and emotional. It's also something like The Shining, a chamber piece where a tiny social unit is cut off from the rest of the world and then gradually dissolves. The separation between Alma and Elisabet blurs and disappears; the separation between dream and reality, art and life, etc. etc. And when something goes wrong, the responses get more and more violent.

I can think of few moments as painful as Alma reading that letter, where her deeply felt confessions and the love story that developed between her and Elisabet is described in words and those words demean it and reveal it to be an experiment. But the deeper issue is that Alma became close to and fell in love with...something. Elisabet's face? Her expressions? Her body? The version of Elisabet's thoughts that Alma believed was there? It reminds me of Joss Whedon's thesis about Hush -- that when we stop talking, we start communicating...the opening period between Alma and Elisabet seems to bring this forth, because it's only through Elisabet's silence that Alma can get close enough to her to bare her soul, and the scene of Elisabet entering Alma's room is as erotic (and erotic specifically because of its silence) as the key silent Willow/Tara sequences (Hush, obviously, though there are many others). And Elisabet's face seems to show real emotion and to show a real connection between souls. Was all that a lie? Was it a "lie" if Elisabet wasn't actually saying anything? Is it actually possible for her face and body to "lie" like that? When people have intimate nonverbal connections (or semiverbal, where Alma forms a one-way verbal relationship with her silent partner), are they all only a matter of projection, or is the non-verbal, "irrational" (but probably very rational, just with a different set of codes and instructions) part of the brain interpreting the "truth"? Do we ever have real relationships, or are they all just something in our head?

And if Elisabet is God, then obviously her son is Ingmar Bergman, because, this is all about God, but God is his parents! See, I'm smart, I know how art movies work, I think I've done all the hard work now EVERYONE CAN GO HOME. But really, oh man. The thing is, the movie being framed by the boy watching the film and putting the women together suggests that he's the powerful one behind all of it, and that's uncomfortable because it reminds us that this is still Bergman's movie, and not Ullman's and Andersson's. I don't actually know whether Bergman had mother issues, and it's not really that relevant for this analysis (though I will probably look it up later anyway); suffice it to say that it makes sense that it makes sense that there is at least some element of doubt in every relationship, and the scariest question at the heart of everything is whether a person is actually loved by one's own parents. And the thing is, from the perspective of the child, if the child's parents don't love them, they are bad parents. There is not much ambiguity -- it is one of the basic requirements. But from the perspective of the parents, what if that love just *isn't there*? What then? Is faking that love and feeding the child a lie and rotting one's own soul the answer? Does the love get made by faking it? Part of the reason, I think, that mothers not loving their children is such a taboo subject to even bring up is that it's actually pretty much irresolvable: the kid *needs* and *deserves* to be loved, in a fundamental way, and it's also a fundamental and obvious right of a person not to be *forced* to love a person that they don't intrinsically love. There is no resolution to this conundrum except the declaration that mothers just automatically, "biologically," axiomatically love their children, which is actually not always going to be true. And that is also disturbing for the beloved, because if *every* child is axiomatically beloved by their parent, does the parent's love actually mean anything special to and about the child? What is it that makes love real?

"What if you are a parent who doesn't love your child?" is one of those questions, like "What if you are really a bad person deep down -- in the sense of, genuinely not having moral feeling" that twists my stomach in knots when I really think about it, because on some level, we can't actually help what we feel, or the kind of person we are, even though we can obviously work at it like at everything else. But if a person really is incapable of love, then...well, what do they do, in a world that basically demands that they love other people in order to be good?

"No, I'm not like you!" Alma storms out and goes back to her conventional life. No more abyss-staring. Well, at least not until the next Bergman movie she watches.

Date: 2014-07-13 09:50 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] norwie2010.livejournal.com
Uh, is this the 21st century stuff you're writing about? ;-)

(More later, medicine is making me sleepy.)

Date: 2014-07-13 10:03 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] local-max.livejournal.com
haaaaaaaaaaah okay so there may be some of the blind leading the blind here :)

Date: 2014-07-13 01:25 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ceciliaj.livejournal.com
Richard Feynman is one of my sobriety inspirations :)

Date: 2014-07-13 02:18 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] local-max.livejournal.com
:D I should have mentioned that. I did make a note of that while reading. And I love how he just noted that he'd rather have the experience of sobriety, and then stuck to that. Which, you know, I think he seems like an addictive-personality type in a thrill-seeking way, but it's still there about making a choice of one's activities, interests and passions.

Date: 2014-07-13 07:35 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sunclouds33.livejournal.com
I love that you compare Alfred Hitchcock Presents with The Dick Van Dyke show. Because man, heavy, dark art like AHP and The Twilight Zone was aired right alongside TDVDS and Leave it to Beaver. And all of the same three or four channels of the 1950s and 1960s. It's not like there was an HBO or preemo cable channel leading the way or something. AHP ran from 1955 to 1965; The Twilight Zone rant from 1959 to 1964.

It works with the schizophrenia of the late 1950s/early 1960s. There was a pretty specific model for the ideal family home across all of the sitcoms, with IMO The Honeymooners as the main outlier in de-glamorizing marriage but that was int the earlier 1950s. However, noir had already done well in Hollywood in the 1940s, the world was at war, and people were paranoid about crime and war. It ensured a space for darkness on TV far removed from the 1950s stereotype.

It is a interesting artistic choice that AHP and the Twilight Zone introduces its stories of horror and weirdness through the deep-voiced, gravitas-laden same man. However, in both cases, it really doesn't feel the obvious straight answer of "Back in the backward 1950s, we needed some big man to make these wacky stories accessible." They both feel like a deconstruction- APS literally. Hitchcock undermines his gravitas constantly by being such a quirky whack-job in his segments. I was born a long time after so I don't exactly how it felt to be in the 1950s- but it does feel like both shows are aware that Americans and Britons have been getting big scary news from a deep-voiced narrator. (Invaded Europe! Developed a bomb that could destroy entire countries! Half of Europe is under slavery even after fighting a war to save it.). The world is used to that mode of storytellling- but yet, kind of tired of it and looking for it to be undermined a bit.

Date: 2014-07-13 11:13 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] local-max.livejournal.com
Yeah, a LOT of the appeal of Alfred Hitchcock Presents is that Hitchcock is such a dry, droll host who deconstructs what we just watch. In early episodes especially, right after the villain *usually* gets away with it, he gives one line describing how they were caught and killed, in a half-hearted barely-serious tone which I gather was done to dodge censor demands that the villains couldn't actually get away with it. And he makes fun of commercials at every turn. Part of the revolutionary recognition is that making fun of commercials doesn't actually significantly alter their effectiveness, for an already-cynical set -- everyone knows commercials are annoying, and making fun of it actually increases people's willingness to sit through it, in a weird way. So Hitchcock has his cake and eats it too by being cool and witty, AND being a corporate shill, which is kind of how his movies often are ("society sucks but what are you gonna do"). I think he gets away with this hypocrisy by never pretending not to be a hypocrite.

But yeah, I mean, AHP is dark even for today. It's a kind of dark that only *could* exist at its time, maybe -- because it's kind of assumed that none of this bad stuff ever happens to good people, and so presenting all these horrible sociopaths often without comment or even (much) judgment, besides good humour, is probably more acceptable than today where everyone kind of knows that most people root for the murdering antiheroes and so the creators feel some responsibility to remind viewers that they're not actually good guys. Well, that might not be it -- but it's close to it.

AHP and The Twilight Zone are very close. I gather that The Fugitive and shows like that were good -- but AHP and TTZ are genre exercise anthologies, and we're also in a pretty post-anthology age. They're basically series of short films -- variable in quality (The Twilight Zone more so than AHP, IMO -- its highs are better and its lows worse, which is not uncommon with sci-fi/fantasy) but linked by a point of view, which comes down to "people are crappy and let's laugh about it" (AHP) or "the world could be a better place than it is and we have problems no one is talking about" (The Twilight Zone). And the scary-voiced and also sarcastic host definitely serves a similar function. Serling is sarcastic, but he does seem kind of *genuinely* self-serious -- which is good, because he's making real arguments about society and how it can be changed. Hitchcock may be doing that in AHP, but most of it is more "this is the seedy underbelly of society, but what can you do, isn't television a ridiculous medium you guys." I think both are very valuable both as social documents and on points of view for ways people of conscious can respond to a conformist time -- earnestly try to fix it, or allow oneself to see the worst of the world through gallows humour and let that humour be an end into itself.

The Dick Van Dyke show always feels like it's almost transgressive but not quite. Buddy Sorell (apparently based on Mel Brooks) is an openly Jewish character and that feels like a big deal. There's some masculinity-in-crisis stuff because Rob is nice when he's supposed to be aggressive lots of the time. Laura wears pants and has no fear of Rob, unless she does something *actually* wrong -- but of course the price paid for that is that we don't see the toll housework takes on her. One episode after dealing with a misogynist (IIRC) ends with Rob saying he's not gonna do the dishes because it's woman's work, and he's gonna do man's work -- take out the garbage!, where he's clearly joking about the idea that there is any hard gender distinction at all. Other episodes are very "masculinity in crisis" and usually end in some sort of compromise -- like, Rob is worried that Laura is going to take a job and doesn't know what that says about him as the man of the family, and it's resolved when Laura decides not to take the job because she's so tired, thus avoiding having him actually come down on the side of the past or the future. I think that what it is is that the show is moderately progressive for its time, focusing on a somewhat hip family who are happy and have basically all their needs met.
Edited Date: 2014-07-13 11:21 pm (UTC)

Date: 2014-07-14 01:03 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] beer-good-foamy.livejournal.com
PERSONA! \o/

So glad you got to watch that. I've seen it... let's say a few times, and I'm still not sure what to make of it - it just throws up so many possible interpretations. (I mean, just the title, the way both the beginning and the ending draws attention to its own artifice, the fact that Liv Ullmann's character is an actress who can't act... the entire movie is layers upon layers of meta for the characters and the viewers to lose themselves in.) I think you got the name of Bibi Andersson's character wrong; her name is Alma, which may or may not be very significant since it's Latin for "soul"... Does Elisabet reject her true, "higher" self in order to be allowed back into human society? Does she heal by refusing care? Is living a lie, behind a mask, a necessity to function in a society where people burn themselves alive?

Bergman did indeed have mother issues, if fairly benign ones, and motherhood is a recurring theme in many of his films... but then again he had issues with just about everybody. He consistently referred to his issues as his "demons" and his actresses as his "muses" who let him exorcise them. Which, along with the fact that Bergman and Ullmann were in a relationship and the movie is shot at Bergman's home, just adds to the hall-of-mirrors effect of Persona. Then again, it's always tempting to interpret films as autobiographical, but if they didn't resonate with anyone other than the director we wouldn't bother, would we?

"What if you are a parent who doesn't love your child?" is one of those questions, like "What if you are really a bad person deep down -- in the sense of, genuinely not having moral feeling" that twists my stomach in knots when I really think about it, because on some level, we can't actually help what we feel, or the kind of person we are, even though we can obviously work at it like at everything else. But if a person really is incapable of love, then...well, what do they do, in a world that basically demands that they love other people in order to be good?

Yep. Also, IIRC, Ullmann's character is playing Electra at the beginning. A play about children who murder their mother and adopted father to avenge the death of their true father (Bergman might have capitalized that F).

...I really need to rewatch it again. A few years ago I got to see it on stage, a very starkly lit, bare stage where the audience was separated from the actors by a sheet of glass. Whenever the stage went dark, the audience were left staring at their own reflection.

Date: 2014-07-14 01:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] local-max.livejournal.com
I was hoping you'd see this! (Also on the other end of the high-low art continuum, you watch Trailer Park Boys, right? You've brought up the "I am the liquor" moment before.)

LOL. It's amazing how you can read subtitles of a character's name for an ENTIRE MOVIE and misread it for that time. Which is itself evidence of how much projection goes on, I guess! (It reminds me of when I read The Chrysalids in high school and misread the main character's surname, Strorm, as Storm for the entire thing, wrote several essays for the class with Storm, and neither I nor anyone noticed it until a friend proofread my last essay. Um. I am really a very good speller, too.)

I have seen Persona before -- I rented it and watched it twice that week, back in the days when I rented things. It's been a number of years, and I certainly don't claim to have gotten it on a first viewing.

I know that not every time someone self-immolates has to be a quotation of Persona rather than a reference to the actual, era-defining event, but I do think that Sally Draper watching the monk's self-immolation may be a deliberate reference to Alma doing the same -- especially since Sally is only a few years younger than Alma, and faces much the same questions of whether to reject or accept conventionality. I don't know to what extent we can view Alma's feelings for/about Elisabet as reflecting her own upbringing, but Sally's relationship with her parents goes through some of the same cycles as Alma's with Elisabet -- her eventual hatred for Betty, ex-model who gives it up for a conventional home life, is fundamentally because Betty seems (at times) to be as incapable of loving her children as Elisabet (and it's a variant of the same name!), and both Betty and especially Don make *effort* to turn themselves into beautiful blank slates for people to project relationships onto, which leads to cycles of love and disappointment. IIRC (and maybe sunclouds33 or some other Mad Men fan can jump in on this one), Sally watches the monk's self-immolation after yelling at her parents for their seeming lack of feeling after her grandfather's death. No one is talking about the horrors of the world, or about the possibility that love that is *supposed* to happen *isn't* happening, and it's only these extreme acts of violence that show "the truth" (which, you know, isn't the whole truth of human existence either, but, etc.). (MAD MEN starring Kiernan Shipka.)

Good point about starting with Electra.

That stage production sounds great and eerie.

Date: 2014-07-14 03:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] beer-good-foamy.livejournal.com
Also on the other end of the high-low art continuum, you watch Trailer Park Boys, right? You've brought up the "I am the liquor" moment before.

I've watched some of it - a friend of mine is a HUGE fan and speaks almost exclusively in TPB quotes after a certain amount of beer. I'm not quite as big a fan, but I like it and am slowly working my way through it on Netflix.

And speaking of high-low art and Netflix, yesterday I watched the Calvin and Hobbes documentary Dear Mr. Watterson, which is kind of nice. And reading your post, it struck me that that's one of the aspects I always liked about C&H: the fact that his parents, in a very un-comic-strip-like manner, are allowed to be honestly, completely sick of having to be parents to this little psychopath. ("All I know is I offered to buy us a dachshund instead!") Calvin, of course, escapes into imagined worlds and made-up personas.

The Mad Men comparison is a brilliant one. I'd forgotten that scene with Sally. Of course, there's also the artistic/autobioraphical angle on that scene in Persona; Bergman was expected to put out deep, beautiful movies at what today would be considered an insane pace (Persona was something like his 35th film in 20 years, and he wasn't known for phoning it in) and he kept doing it even though every movie took a LOT out of him - as in, he repeatedly had to check himself into hospital for acute depression. He was burning himself out; Persona was his lifeline.

That stage production sounds great and eerie.

It was, but it still didn't work as well as the movie. Speaking of the low-high art divide, part of the problem is that it treats the TEXT, the actual words on the pages of the script, as the work. Which I suppose a stage adaptation must, but... It annoys me for the same reason I hate it when people want to give Bob Dylan or Leonard Cohen the Nobel Prize, arguing that their lyrics transcend mere "pop lyrics" to become LITERATURETM. Just like Dylan writes to sing, Bergman wrote to film. A huge part of what makes Persona work, IMO, is how he takes this deeply personal-yet-universal philosophizin' and then films it like a beautiful movie - while telling us it's just a movie. There's so much luscious ambiguity just in the camera work and in Andersson's and Ullmann's acting that just looks pretentious when you spell it out. The play was a brave adaptation, but it removed the layer where it's "just" a story about a nurse treating an actress on a beautiful but lonely island - it demanded that the viewers analyse it, rather than invite them to. It took itself as high art, and forgot that Bergman was a popular film maker in his day. (Shakespeare gets this all the time, of course; it's serious art, so god forbid anyone would have fun with it.) Paradox: Remove the "entertaining", "popular" veil of fiction and fictional characters, and the underlying deep thoughts become more abstract and impersonal, not less.
Edited Date: 2014-07-14 04:04 pm (UTC)

Date: 2014-07-18 11:58 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] local-max.livejournal.com
Yeah, my friend is a *big* Trailer Park Boys fan, and I enjoy it but I'm definitely not able to quote Ricky malapropisms at a drop of a hat. I can amend "shit-" to words though. I don't know if you've seen Lahey telling Bubbles that he who gazes into the shit-abyss finds the shit-abyss gazes also, but... (BUBBLES: Shit-abyss! I don't like the sound of that! :(") Of course, I'm showing him The Simpsons, which makes me think he's got the better end of the deal.

I saw that doc on Netflix but didn't watch it. OTOH, I watched a documentary on the history of the Ninja Turtles. I don't know what lesson there is here.

I do find the life/art balance pretty interesting. I don't know if you've seen The Pervert's Guide to Cinema -- Zizek is a pop philosopher who has a reputation for not actually being much of a thinker, and that might be true about his actual, y'know, philosophy. Still, I find him an entertaining and illuminating critic of movies. One of the big revelations was when talking about David Lynch -- Lost Highway, I think (which I regret to say I haven't seen -- my Lynch is so weak alas), is that the reality/dream structure looks something like this: reality is so painful and uncomfortable that the character "escapes" into dreams; until dreams become so uncomfortable that the character must "escape" into reality. It's complicated with Lynch of course because dreams and reality are not so easily separable, and plus I haven't seen the movie.

But I think I get his point, which also applies to Persona very well (and BtVS for that matter, and lots and lots of art). "Dreams," or "art," or even "play," are a release valve for the desires that are necessarily, or seem necessarily, suppressed most of the time, and it can be freeing for that reason. However, that's also where horror lives -- and enough time spent in the dream world and it not only is "bad" in the sense that one is "missing" one's "real life," but it becomes actively painful and destructive. In Persona, as in The Shining, the ordinary world is escaped and isolation slowly creeps in. This is also a feature and, I think, some of the appeal of apocalypse narratives. Once socialization is no longer an issue, it is possible to be free to do whatever one wants -- but we are notoriously bad at figuring out our own desires in *true* isolation.

...

Date: 2014-07-21 09:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] beer-good-foamy.livejournal.com
Pretty much agreed!

I don't know if you've seen The Pervert's Guide to Cinema

Not yet, but if he talks about Lynch and dreams, I have to.

After thinking about this post, I read Bergman's autobiography. Quite interesting, and it's admirably focused on the ideas and emotions that actually went into his work. He uses the phrase "truthlessness" to describe the world - the inseparability of identities and realitis, and how it's fucked him up as a person while allowing him to create - and notes that his upbringing

was based around concepts like sin, confession, punishment, forgiveness and grace, concrete factors in the children's and the parents' relationships to each other and to god [sic]. (...) I think I got off easiest by turning myself into a liar. I created an outer persona who had very little to do with my real self. Since I was unable to separate my creation and my person, the damage had consequences well into my life and creativity as an adult. Sometimes I must console myself with the knowledge that he who lives a lie loves the truth.

He also remarks that he'd love to be able to write dreams the way Tarkovsky and Fellini could; Film as dreams, film as music. No other art form can like film bypass our daylight consciousness, straight into our feelings, deep into the twilight rooms of the soul. A tiny misery in our optic nerve, a shock effect: 24 illuminated frames per second, inbetween darkness that the optic nerve doesn't register.

(He also describes an epiphany that makes me wonder if Joss has read him, as it sounds quite familiar to a certain Angel quote:

I have struggled all my life with a tormented and joyless relationship with God. Faith and lack of faith, punishment, grace and rejection, all were real to me, all were imperative. My prayers stank of anguish, entreaty, trust, loathing and despair. God spoke, God said nothing. Do not turn from me Thy face.
I underwent an operation, a minor one, but I had to be anesthetized and, due to an error, was given too much anesthetic. Six hours of my life vanished. I don't remember any dreams; time ceased to exist, six hours, six micro-seconds—or eternity. The lost hours of that operation provided me with a calming message. You were born without purpose, you live without meaning, living is its own meaning. When you die, you are extinguished. From being you will be transformed to non-being. A god does not necessarily dwell among our increasingly capricious atoms. This insight has brought with it a certain security that has resolutely eliminated anguish and tumult, though on the other hand I have never denied my second (or first) life, that of the spirit.
)

said outright that her affair on the beach and subsequent abortion really happened rather than pretending that it didn't

Out of curiosity, did the cut you saw mention the ages of the boys in question? Apparently that bit has been excised from some exported cuts... That she makes a point of noting that they're underage adds both to the creepiness of it, and the feeling of narrative violence, as she's the one telling the story. (And to the interpretation that the entire movie is at least partly the dream of a young boy/insecure adult.)

And really, we need that; we need that "order" to keep us from genuinely "going with the flow" into doing things we regret, and dreams might reveal something about us we don't like...

Yup yup.

Date: 2014-07-21 09:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] beer-good-foamy.livejournal.com
I do remember in my reading about the movie right after I watched it that someone mentioned Bergman's playing around with silent cinema

In the book, he says his last (failed) attempt at a feature film was a silent movie, and admires early silent movie directors. And there's definitely something to silent cinema that enhances the dreamlike nature of film; the feel that the senses are telling us different things - we're seeing one thing, but not hearing what we expect to hear - but also simply that we're seeing something real that we know is not. The first trick any director learns: you can edit reality. (There are several scenes like that in both "Hush" (Tara banging on the wrong door) and "Restless" - and in "The Body", which creates a dreamlike feel by making it NOT conform to the TV clichés we expect, by forcing us to not "go with the flow".) Truthlessness: We can only know what we perceive with our senses, but we cannot know that the stories we piece together from conflicting impressions and conflicting preconceptions are "real". But that knowledge, in itself, is useful - even if it's double-edged. :)

ETA: Also, speaking of documentaries on Netflix, I can really recommend the series The Story Of Film - An Odyssey (despite the somewhat silly title) if you haven't already seen it. Basically goes over the entire history of film from the 1890s until today, looking both at the technical aspects and the stories that could be told at different times. The first words in the opening narrations go something like "At the end of the 1800s, a new art form appeared, showing us moving images. They looked like our dreams."
Edited Date: 2014-07-21 09:48 pm (UTC)

Date: 2014-07-25 05:25 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] local-max.livejournal.com
Yeah, in The Pervert's Guide to Cinema, Zizek talks for a while about how sound also seems to have a kind of subconscious impact, while talking about Hitler for a while and then talking about Chaplin and The Great Dictator -- and how Chaplin chooses to use some of the same musical cues when his character is giving a genuine, uplifting, inspirational, brotherhood-of-men-against-fascism message as when the Hynkel character speaks. Zizek interprets it as a kind of concession to the fact that there is some degree of...manipulation?, in sound and speech, that it is hard to avoid using, and which is *very* dangerous in the wrong hands.

Actually, the mention of sound and "going with the flow" weirdly makes me think of the Master's four-note repetitive battle cry in DW. I think we like to believe that we're more rational than we are -- and the idea that he's driven insane by a repetition of a war drumbeat, at least in part, is pretty powerful, in how much sound/silence conditions us in a way that we can't quite control. Which, of course, visuals do too -- but there is something different about the way that functions.

The Body especially uses the silence *very* well as a kind of powerlessness -- when there is a big melodramatic scoring, Buffy and Angel can leap through to their old script at a moment's notice (which even happens *immediately afterward* "Forever"), and it doesn't look ridiculous to them even though it does to a "The Zeppo" Xander who doesn't really hear their cues. But in "The Body," Joyce is dead and they are totally off script; there is no set of emotional cues that can make sense of what happened, and even anger is mostly cut off from them, much as Xander tries to manufacture it. Which is not to say that it is *wrong* to use dramatic scoring :), because when representing emotions that are familiar, it helps enhance those emotions or gesture to them, or at least give some kind of comfort that what is happening *is* emotionally comprehensible. Visuals without music or sound have an unsettling effect, that we (or the characters) don't even entirely know what kind of thing is happening. There's a similar eerie, uncomfortable silence when, for instance, Willow and Tara's argument in "Tough Love" happens, and the score doesn't come in until Tara hits the big button when she says "frightens" -- which, I think, gets at the way "unscripted," off-the-usual-range-of-discussion arguments happen. Until a big emotional button is pushed, they don't even entirely know what kind of conversation they're having, and then suddenly they do.

The Film Odyssey series sounds up my alley. I will make an effort to check it out.
Edited Date: 2014-07-25 05:26 pm (UTC)

Date: 2014-07-25 05:14 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] local-max.livejournal.com
Your description of Bergman's autobiography sounds really fascinating. The Bergman I've seen, at this point in time, is:

Seventh Seal (2 viewings I think)
Persona (2-3 viewings)
Wild Strawberries
Smiles of a Summer Night
Autumn Sonata

Passion of Anna is on Netflix (I think it's possible that title is what got into my head) so it's easily accessible.

was based around concepts like sin, confession, punishment, forgiveness and grace, concrete factors in the children's and the parents' relationships to each other and to god [sic]. (...) I think I got off easiest by turning myself into a liar. I created an outer persona who had very little to do with my real self. Since I was unable to separate my creation and my person, the damage had consequences well into my life and creativity as an adult. Sometimes I must console myself with the knowledge that he who lives a lie loves the truth.

That is very fascinating, and I think is part of what is attractive about Persona especially, which I think I'd say is probably my favourite (Smiles of a Summer Night wins on pure entertainment value). Perhaps unsurprisingly, I find the question of the authenticity of different personas people craft very interesting. There's a good biography of Peter Sellers I read once, aptly titled Mr. Strangelove, which discusses how much Sellers lacked, or believed he lacked, a genuine sense of self, which is part of what led to the ability to meld into such different personas so completely, almost on a dime. Reportedly he found something of a kindred spirit in Alec Guinness (interacting on, e.g., The Ladykillers), who also viewed himself at least to a degree as something of an empty shell who could completely be filled by whatever role he was playing.

Not that I should expect to have the answers, but I'm never quite clear on how much this is truly a spectrum of behaviour, with people like Bergman (and some of his characters) on an extreme end and "the average person" on another, in terms of how authentic they are, and how much the self they present to the world is a "lie." Certainly I've had a friend of mine smugly proclaim that one should never wear a mask!, as if there is "being one's authentic self" and "wearing a mask to pretend" as completely discrete, separate actions. I'm not clear, either, on how much people's behaviour self-modification is unconscious and how much is deliberate. Definitely I do think that there are people who are more functionally able to do this, and are more at peace with the contradictions of "being oneself" and "being what one should be to get along with others"; I think it's the oddballs, and those with a lot of introspection, and *maybe* the more messed up people who notice the contradiction more.

Out of curiosity, did the cut you saw mention the ages of the boys in question? Apparently that bit has been excised from some exported cuts... That she makes a point of noting that they're underage adds both to the creepiness of it, and the feeling of narrative violence, as she's the one telling the story. (And to the interpretation that the entire movie is at least partly the dream of a young boy/insecure adult.)

IIRC, they were just described as young. I definitely got that they were younger than Alma and her friend, but that was more because of the way the dynamic was described -- I didn't realize they were actually *underage*, which definitely increases the creepiness by a large margin, and as you say hits the dream messages in a big way.

Date: 2014-07-18 11:59 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] local-max.livejournal.com
It's hard to tell to what extent Alma really does develop a romantic/sexual crush on Elisabet -- Elisabet certainly describes it that way in her letter. But if nothing else, she certainly forms an attachment to her in which she's able to admit things that she normally keeps locked away, and Elisabet's (literally) tacit (not necessarily literal) approval allows her the courage to name the unnameable. But once she's named it -- said outright that her affair on the beach and subsequent abortion really happened rather than pretending that it didn't -- she can't actually live with it, partly because the spell of Elisabet's appeal is broken, partly because actually living with the possibility that she doesn't believe in her actual (traditional, heterosexual) love anymore and she doesn't have any alternate plan, especially once it becomes clear that the bond that she formed with Elisabet was at least partly false. The time Alma spends with Elisabet, where Elisabet is silent, has the contours of a dream -- because the usual "logical" rules that organize society (which are partly verbal) break down, and so repressed desires and actions that would normally be unthinkable come bursting forth. And it's not long after her confessional and the hint of HGOGA that betrayal, anger, and violence enter, not because non-normative feelings automatically lead to violence, but because, well, "order" has a lot of functions, and some of them are important ones. Elisabet is saved from having scalding hot water thrown on her by screaming "No, don't!" and briefly restoring the verbal order -- and the fact that *this* is able to break Alma's rage attack when nothing else could, I think, suggests how central Bergman believes verbal communication is to our identification of logical, orderly reality as opposed to dreams. And really, we need that; we need that "order" to keep us from genuinely "going with the flow" into doing things we regret, and dreams might reveal something about us we don't like. This is part of the lesson of Buffy's tryst with Spike in s6, and Willow's increasing power -- having secret desires is fine, but once we understand them we have to own them and control them, and that is not easy. Defaulting to giving that Executive Control back to society is the coward's way out, maybe, but it's also maybe the only way for us to handle it, especially if we, like Alma, realize that maybe we genuinely don't want to be "good" in the way that we feel we have to be, but know that we can't handle *not* being that way.

I do remember in my reading about the movie right after I watched it that someone mentioned Bergman's playing around with silent cinema -- and I think that's a big part of it. I mean, why is "Hush" so dreamlike? Why is it that dream-Riley's bond with Adam comes down to giving things names? The left-brain/right-brain divide is not really an accurate description of the brain, but there is definitely *something* about the way the verbal world matches up with our everyday, "logical" experience and the non-visual correlates with "dreams" and emotions. Which is not to say that our everyday "logical" experience really is purely logical; when people lie, we can't help but believe them a little bit, even if we "know" that they are lying, and so it's not as if this is truly logical. OK, that is definitely rambling now.

I do think, aside from my initially getting her name wrong :), I have a better handle on Alma -- partly because she's the pilgrim and traveler to Elisabet's experiment already in progress, and she's "obviously" the POV character. Elisabet's desire to escape from the duties of motherhood, "imposed" on her by society and yet also really made of her own choices, is all about escaping into fantasy, which is a way of rediscovering deeper desires, maybe. Or maybe not -- she just lets herself bleed into Alma's world. If Alma is spirit, then Elisabet in "observing" Alma maybe for a moment gets a chance to stop being selfish -- to be something important to someone else without it being just another role that Elisabet makes up. But of course, it's...rather partial.

...

Date: 2014-07-18 12:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] local-max.livejournal.com
That paradox is a big deal. It's interesting how that works. It might be that lots of us (...okay, lots of me) are lazy and don't want to do hard work without being "entertained" in the process. But I think it's not quite as simple as that. It might have something to do with the order/chaos // reality/dreams // verbal/visual material at the heart of it: fundamentally, while they're happening our dreams are rarely boring (even if they're boring to describe later on, if we remember them). The part of us that needs stories in order to understand other parts of us are going to listen best if they do appeal to us on some sort of instinctive and emotional level, as well as the higher-reasoning level.

Which comes down to some of the same things, here: the idea that Bob Dylan's music is irrelevant is the same as saying that Bergman's visuals are basically irrelevant. Which, no. They're only irrelevant if the words themselves are all that matters, and it's pretty central to Persona that words *aren't* all that matters.

(Sorry for the length of the response! Turned out I had a lot to say.)

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