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February 1994


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James Michael Loter <[log in to unmask]>
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James Michael Loter <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 21 Feb 1994 11:27:13 -0600
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On Sun, 20 Feb 1994, Alison McKee wrote:
> I have read the postings on *The Piano* with interest and find myself caught
> among the various interpretations of Holly Hunter's silence . . . I prefer to
> view it as resistant and thus look upon the ending, with Hunter learning
> to speak, as (disturbingly) recuperative.  Also, I'm not at all convinced that
> the Keitel figure is a vast improvement upon her finger-chopping husband, for
> reasons already covered by others in previous postings.
> But do I prefer her dead in the ending that Jim proposed?
> While I see that Ada's death might have provided a stronger critique
of the
> male-dominated world and forms of exchange which her silence (in part)
> protests, it would also mean one more woman dead at the hands of patriarchy
> -- not necessarily my idea of any form of "highest joy."
> (Why I have trouble with Jim's proposed ending when I admired the self-imposed
> exit of the protagonists as an ending to *Thelma and Louise* I couldn't say!)
the predominance of representations of patriarchy's dominance over women
cannot be measured by a simple body count. i think that's what Thelma and
Louise questions--and why you admire the ending.  yes, patriarchy drove T
& L "over the brink" (quite literally), back into the womb, into the void
(outside of ideology can only be death), etc. however you want to phrase
it.  faced with the choice Ada is given by the film--either fetished
object (slave literally bought by Sam Neill) or guilty object (prostitued
however repentantly by Harvey Keitel) she is left in somewhat of a
lacanian pickle. the womb of the water (which "gave birth" to her--via
some unruly male "mid-wives" who owned the boat--by dumping her
summarily onto the beachhead of NZ) is returned to by her own Will.  the
typical patriarchal representation of woman (guilty object/fetish) is thus
played out, but with a twist--she escapes from the bind that is her
lot and sinks into the silence, pleasure and comfort of a space outside
of oppression.
at least, it would have been but for the actual ending; and not meaning
to use criticism to just say how i would have filmed the script
differently if i had a shred of talent, i'll stop complaining here.
*Vertigo* is probably best for illustrating the same principles.  Judy
DOES die at the end and the whole making-guilty/fetishizing principles
on which patriarchy is founded are made perverse in the process.  it's
not simply that i like tragic endings--it's just that when dealing with a
tragic topic (such as a woman having limited options in a society
designed to force her into conforming to them) i feel it is important to
represent the whole tragic process in all its real but usually-
masked perversities instead of proposing a humanistic/utopian cure for
it.  for all her brilliance, Jane Campion is a Romantic at heart.