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July 1994


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Donald Larsson <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Fri, 29 Jul 1994 09:04:47 -0600
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Edward O'Neill writes:
"Is this radically
different from previous modes of cinema viewing?  After all, looking
at joke-y references would seem to pull the spectator outside the
empathic identification with the characters and the forward-moving
aspect of the narrative.  Have action-adventure films become so
relentlessly violent and spectacular to compensate for an ironic
attitude in the viewers, in which deaths don't  matter and characters
are nothing but  a collection of one-liners to be ironically
appreciated by a distanced audience?"
Good point!  Of course, the motivations may differ wildly.  In one respect,
this sounds like the best version of Brecht's "alienation effect."  In
another regard, it sounds like Walter Benjamin commenting on the "false
aura" of the star system--except now money has replaced the aura of the
star.  Neither of the Bs would probably be terribly surprised by the triumph
of the cash nexus.
All this calls into question (as other netters have done before) about the
effects of any attempt to modernize and thus politicize a viewing population.
Case in point: I haven't watched THE SIMPSONS much until recently, but find
it interestingly crammed with off-the-wall allusions that are quite critical
of mass culture.  (Last night's show featured a birthday party where the
family could think of no songs except from commercials, and they all started
dancing to "I feel like chicken tonight!"  The show ended with a senior
citizen parody of THE GRADUATE).  This is very funny stuff, but even for
those who get it, does it do anything other than reinforce their contempt for
mass culture?  For those who don't get it, is it anything more than stuff
that gets in the way of Bart's one-liners?
20 years ago, Pauline Kael complained that the new generation of film-school
grads who were starting to direct might make movies that were about nothing
 more than their experience of other movies.  I've had lots of quarrels with
Kael over the years, but on this point she seems prophetic!
(And then there's the early French New Wave.  Truffaut and Godard were
cross-referencing like mad.  How, if at all, is that different?  What's
their influence on all those film-school grads?)
More grist for the net, I hope.
--Don Larsson, Mankato State U., MN