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Thread: Film Popism

  1. #16
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    "all the great russian cinema vertov, eisenstein connects more meaningfully with the total cinema of the blockbuster than it does with the paucity of ambition of art cinema."
    christ matt, have you been reading my PhD proposal?! a large chunk of it is on how the techniques of the blockbuster and of MTV were hijacked from Vertov and Eisenstein, and what happens to them as forms when this transformation occurs. the point is that these were propagandist works, designed to excite, to agitate, to incite and to shock (eg eisenstein wanting to install small electric shocks in the seats). but as omaar points out these techniques are being harnessed to a very diffrerent political project, and this tends to change form as well as content- again see the quote on Star Wars that blunt uses- these things are never neutral.
    the 'great russian cinema' connects meaningfully with a number of currents 'more meaningfully' (ie formally) than with the blockbuster: - with hitchcock (and other brit directors -- thorold dickinson, anthony asquith), with any number of documentary filmmakers, with jean vigo (who employed vertov's bro) and, dialectically, with carne and renoir.

    i don't understand your notion of 'hijack' at all -- i mean, eisenstein was taking from griffiths, from the futurists, from all sorts of people who were less than heroes of the soviet republics! and many of the russian filmmakers beloved in the west were criticised for their avowed americanism.

    as for the political projects -- i don't think you can seriously argue that mtv has a 'political project' in the same way that 'october' does. it obscures extraordinary differences.

  2. #17
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    totally agree on the 70s movie brats as 'film rockism'- interesting in the way the Stones are interesting....but the postpunk comparison is rather tenuous. as a whole it's a movement full of very rockist machismo, swagger and general method acting. there are exceptions to this of course- the conversation, or alan pakula fit more into this schema.

    (lots of this is a question of budget, really)

    but on eisenstein (i'd rather talk about vertov mind you) i think its obscuring a genuine rupture to say 'oh, he took from griffth'- sure, how could you not at that point?- the differences are more interesting than the similarities.
    and perhaps, mtv isn't 'explicitly' a political project but there's a point here about ideological state apparatuses that is surely a bit obvious

    also you have to understand Eisenstein in terms of his (and the rest of the Lef Group, ie Rodchenko, Mayakovsky, Stepanova, Vertov etc) americanism- an enthusiasm for technology, mechanisation and even v dubious stuff like Taylorism, precisely so they could be harnessed to communism. the process is of course two-way...

  3. #18
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    and perhaps, mtv isn't 'explicitly' a political project but there's a point here about ideological state apparatuses that is surely a bit obvious
    seriously?

    also you have to understand Eisenstein in terms of his (and the rest of the Lef Group, ie Rodchenko, Mayakovsky, Stepanova, Vertov etc) americanism- an enthusiasm for technology, mechanisation and even v dubious stuff like Taylorism, precisely so they could be harnessed to communism. the process is of course two-way...
    yes, this is true. but coming down to cases, i don't think 'communism' is a useful term -- it's about as concrete as 'capitalism' here. what *kind* of communism did they want to harness their project? and what ddid this have in common with the actual history of the SU? there are many forms of communism, and not all of them are congruent with the whole cult of unnaturalism bought into (from the futurists, ffs!!!) by this crew. frankly i think these were aesthetes out of their depth with the extraordinary horrors of the russian revolutionary project (*not* a result of the Bad Object stalin, but clearly there in the revolution's imperialism -- at home, where it had to "convert" an ignorant population, and in countries like poland, which it invaded).

    other than saying 20" rims and big tits are what the good life's about, i don't think mtv is a major factor in the day-to-day continuation of captalism.

  4. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by owen
    totally agree on the 70s movie brats as 'film rockism'- interesting in the way the Stones are interesting....but the postpunk comparison is rather tenuous. as a whole it's a movement full of very rockist machismo, swagger and general method acting. there are exceptions to this of course- the conversation, or alan pakula fit more into this schema.
    Surely Pakula doesn't fit into it, he IS it .... Not sure how the macho thing plays out really, since the 70s was a period in which American masculinity was presented as in crisis.... Someone like De Niro may be very male but macho, hardly.... Taxi Driver is not a film in which masuline swagger is celebrated... and, as I've argued before, Apocalypse Now saturates post-punk, it's THE post-punk film... partly that's because it is reflexive about film/ images in the way that post-punk was reflexive about pop...

    What also makes the post-punk comparison compelling is the use of 'arty' techniques in mainstream form.

    Film rockism, I think you have to look further back... to the 40s, with John Ford and maybe film noir too.

    btw I wrote about the Star Wars capitalism relation (and the Apocalypse Now connection) here

  5. #20
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    the 'classical hollywood canon of the '30s, '40s, and '50s does have a strong claim to be the 'rock' in film rockism -- but a lot of the love for it started as a popist move on the part of young (french) critics. for me it's almost *such* an ossified, gone-over thing, that it doesn't exist for me, whereas i was practically weaned on the '70s films.

    in a way, i think the post-punk equivalent in film is the leftwards shift of euro art movies in the late '60s, early '70s--exactly the crisis point in US cinema too.

    my thesis: '68 didn't 'happen' in pop until punk/post-punk, but it happened -- was integrally bound upwith -- immediately in (euro) cinema. 1968-9 is an incredible year in film, and godard's break with commercial cinema is only the most visible sign of that. but in pop this is year-zero of rockism (praps) with, eg, pink floyd giving up on singles, and the blues revival really taking off.

    it was in the late '60s that so many of the iconic figures of post-punk -- brecht, especially -- became hot names in cinema.

  6. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by WOEBOT
    but, fraid to report, I just loved star wars, and i'll quite happily celebrate most blockbusters (independence day, that one with bruce willis blowing up the asteroid) above the wretched hand-wringing of art cinema. ok i'll give you herzog. but he was a visionary of visual extremity. all the great russian cinema vertov, eisenstein connects more meaningfully with the total cinema of the blockbuster than it does with the paucity of ambition of art cinema.
    I think we're perfectly, isomorphically opposed here, in that I'd go for Girls Aloud and Rachel Stevens while despising Independence Day and (you MUST be joking) Armageddon. (BUT I think there's an argument to say that the 'rockist' values of innovation and novelty are better serviced by Xenomania than anything in rock atm.) (I've not even seen any but the first Star Wars film; I almost literally can't watch them, every time I attempt to do so, they repel my attention. Ditto Harry Potter, which I've never managed to make myself sit through). I'm not sure what you mean by art cinema though.... I mean the phrase 'paucity of ambition' could hardly apply to Tarkovsky... or Marker.... or Pasolini... or Bergman... etc.

    Isn't 'ambition' being conflated with 'scale' here... because it seems to me the creative ambitions of blockbusters are very limited.... lots of NOISE and BIG stuff.... but in a setting that is formally conservative and threadbare formulaic....

    I think there's a direct connection between pop malaise and cinema malaise (but mainstream cinema is certainly much worse than mainstream pop) - both have lost connection with their outsides. Mainstream cinema at its best stole precisely from art experimentalism (you can see this in everything from the famous take-up of German expressionism in 30s horror and film noir to Scott's appropriation of Ozu and Tarkovsky in Blade Runner) . MTV is an interesting symptom of this disease. Even up to about six or seven years ago, MTV was explicitly arty; now you're lucky if you find music on it, never mind about art.

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    Quote Originally Posted by henrymiller
    the whole cult of unnaturalism bought into (from the futurists, ffs!!!) .
    pfft, what of it? gramsci always argued that losing the futurists to fascism was one of the italian CP's great mistakes. futurism obviously has a left strain. on the history of the SU- yes, this is a vast subject and one full of all manner of political murkiness, if one that is somewhat off-topic- feel free to (be the first person to!) comment on this thread http://www.dissensus.com/showthread.php?t=2829

    in a way, i think the post-punk equivalent in film is the leftwards shift of euro art movies in the late '60s, early '70s--exactly the crisis point in US cinema too.

    my thesis: '68 didn't 'happen' in pop until punk/post-punk, but it happened -- was integrally bound upwith -- immediately in (euro) cinema. 1968-9 is an incredible year in film, and godard's break with commercial cinema is only the most visible sign of that. but in pop this is year-zero of rockism (praps) with, eg, pink floyd giving up on singles, and the blues revival really taking off.


    all this is OTM

  8. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by henrymiller
    other than saying 20" rims and big tits are what the good life's about, i don't think mtv is a major factor in the day-to-day continuation of captalism.
    seriously?

  9. #24

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    Quote Originally Posted by k-punk
    appropriation of Ozu and Tarkovsky in Blade Runner.....
    could you expand on that?
    also the art/mainstream dichotomy didn't really exist in the 20s (nascent surrealism etc excepted)

  10. #25
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    An incredibly interesting thread, this.

    I think in 20s cinema, they were precisely trying to create an art/mainstream distinction. Certainly the lengthy theories of Eisenstein and many other silent cinema theorists were trying to provide a theoretical basis for cinema as art. That's not to say they didn't like Griffith, far from it, but I think they would have viewed the best art cinema as infinitely better than the worst mainstream cinema.

    Regarding Eisenstein and Griffith, again he took a lot of inspiration from Griffith of course, but he was trying in the vein of futurist poetry to build up cinema from the theoretical first principals (indeed montage and the cinema of attractions were principals that he even thought extended beyond cinema). The fact that the heart of montage is "comparison" means his films were more about crowds than individuals (compare with Bazin's favorite films). That is, his futurist obsession with the "form" of cinema, with art as mechanical reproduction, inclines him towards a detached, social-analytical perspective rather than something that's more of a human/expressive perspective.

  11. #26
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    also the art/mainstream dichotomy didn't really exist in the 20s (nascent surrealism etc excepted)
    it did too! if you read 'close up' or anything in english written in the '20s about german or russian cinema, you will find precisely this dichotomy.

  12. #27
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    Regarding film-rockism, would we say part of the idea of rockism is that the artists themselves think what they're doing is unique, and pushing things forward in some unspecified way? This egotistical conceit seems integral to me. And it seems slightly unfair to say that, say, John Ford was a "rockist" director. He was a director of westerns, as he put it, arguably was rather modest about his work.

    I guess one could say film noir and westerns form a film-rockist canon, but they were only concieved as such in retrospect, when the french got hold of them post war and had a chance to analyse them all in one big go.

  13. #28
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    a case could be made for the early Cahiers du Cinema and their revaluation of Ford, Nick Ray (and why US Hitchcock is as good as UK Hitchcock/US Lang as good as Weimar Lang) etc as an form of Popism (though clearly without the 'scenius-over-auteurism' element) as it was done partly in the face of a more left-leaning and more ostensibly 'arty' french critical establishment (Godard, Truffaut & co's left turn comes pretty much mid-60s)

  14. #29

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    Quote Originally Posted by henrymiller
    it did too! if you read 'close up' or anything in english written in the '20s about german or russian cinema, you will find precisely this dichotomy.
    in the sense that vertov or dozvhenko were still making films for 'popular' consumption, as were the weimar expressionists, even if they were from an avant garde background. the same could be perhaps be said for sirk in the fifties.

  15. #30
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    in the sense that vertov or dozvhenko were still making films for 'popular' consumption, as were the weimar expressionists, even if they were from an avant garde background. the same could be perhaps be said for sirk in the fifties.
    there's nothing remotely avant-garde about sirk -- the whole sirk industry is a big joke being played on us by the '70s.

    but any case large numbers of filmmakers in all industries have avant-garde backgrounds (like sirk). the point is that films have, pretty much since the early '20s, been received as 'art' or 'commerce'. vertov and dovzhenko were nominally making films for popular consumption, but were unsuccessful in this -- and the german expressionists weren't wildly popualr either. the kammerspielen were deliberately made for educated audiences.

    but you'd have to go further and explain what an 'avant-garde background'. what *is* the avant-garde, after the '20s? it's not really clear. so by definition, latter-dar filmmakers don't have one. qed.

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