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May 1992


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 26 May 1992 11:20:08 EDT
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>I am interested in any thoughts you might have
> about synaesthetic cinema and Altmans "The Player"
> Does anyone have comments on the signifigab of the
> multiple reflected images?
I think *The Player* is brilliant.  There are many devices that
not only alienate us from the work in the sense that we become
aware of its artifice but these devices turn in on themselves in
so many ways that the film comes to be, in large part, about how
we attempt to construct our lives out of art and how we try to
construct art out of our lives.  Having "stars" function as
brand names, as real people in the narrative Hollywood, as
characters in the movie, and even as characters in a movie within
a movie, and also having non-stars in similar roles, makes us
wonder about the ontology of the star.  Similarly, the dense reference
both to other films (and genres) and to earlier parts within the
film both questions and conflates standard ontological (life/art,
real/fictional, now/then) distinctions.
>One of the most significant symbols in _The Player_ is the abundance of
> the color blue. I don't know if this involves your question, but it is
> fasinating. Most of the scenes involve at least one blue object: The
> paint on the walls of the backlot offices, Most of the primary characters'
> eyes, the costumes, the clock in the offices, June's paintings. Since
> blue is associated with coolness (June did mention an _Icelandic_ heritage)
> and a lot of activity in the film industry is presumably "cold-blooded,"
> the prsence of the color could be interepreted as a statement of a
> attitude in the industry.
> As far as symbolism goes, I think _The Player_ is probably the first film
> I've seen in a while that effectively makes a statement through the use
> of symbolism.
I think that noticing the blue is helpful, but I think the coolness
here is in large measure a virtue.  (Spoilers ahead!!!)  The "ice queen,"
as the dead writer had called her, turns out to be pregnant in the last
shot.  She is a painter who neither watches movies nor sells her art
but rather paints because it is "what I do."  Blue is also, of course,
at least usually, the color of water.  We see water in the poolside
party that frightens Mill; in the hideaway that his lawyer is nonetheless
able to find him at; and in June's paintings.  Yet the murder occurs in
transmission-oil stained (that is, pink) water and opens the way for
June and Mill to marry: the last shot shows them through pink flowers.
The blue, then, is balanced by the pink, and I think we are to see
that both are part of art, as are life and death, but at one level
they only become productive in someone who absents herself from the
commerce of art, while at another (she is carrying Mill's child)
the commerce of art is what supports the amercantile attitude toward
art, and at the deepest level *The Player* shows these sets of apparent
oppositions (also boy/girl for blue/pink, of course) coexisting in
a work that is both artistic and commercial.  As I said, I think it's
a brilliant film--or at least it supports a lot of enjoyable reflection
by its viewers (which was, of course, Dewey's prime criterion for
artistic excellence).
Eric Rabkin                [log in to unmask]
Department of English      [log in to unmask]
University of Michigan     office: 313-764-2553
Ann Arbor MI 48109-1045    dept  : 313-764-6330