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July 1994


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
"Edward R. O'Neill" <[log in to unmask]>
Sun, 31 Jul 1994 19:06:00 PDT
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
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I'm following up on Allan Siegel's post of late which points out the
economic rationale behind large expenditures of cash on-screen (that is,
in highly visible ways of which the audience is made aware by the
media as a publicity machine.  While I agree that large expenditures
are apparently justified by larger profits, I also think there's more
to it than this economic rationality.  I think there must be some
strange pleasure in seeing on-screen spectacles of the sheer profligate
waste of large amounts of capital.  For me Cliffhanger is the perfect
movie here, since the $100 million *within* the narrative is the same
sum reportedly spent to make the film:  this $100 million is systematically
destroyed throughout the film, rather than being recovered.  There's a
strange thrill here which is foreshadowed in Kubrick's The Killing with
its wasteful ending.
  Here I am basically trying to follow a line of thought developed first
by French anthropologist Marcel Mauss and then by Georges Bataille, a
line of thought in which expenditure, waste and loss are more important
than the exchange and recovery of economic value, and our current
emphasis on the accumulation of capital keeps within it the shadow
of a loss rather than a profit.  Mauss refers to a cultural effer-
vescence around the profligate expenditure of value, an effervescence
which includes theatrical and artistic spectacles.  When production
companies teeter on the edge of bankruptcy in order to achieve a
potential profit, the economic rationale is no longer very rational.
Further, I am trying to think about the audience interest in wit-
nessing such grandiose spectacles--which itself stands in need of
explanation (i.e., we cannot take for granted that audiences like to
see money spent--"I get my $7.50 worth.")
  Does this seem like a significant factor worth accounting for to
others, as well?
--Edward R. O'Neill, UCLA