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March 1995, Week 3


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David Smith <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 16 Mar 1995 15:35:59 CST
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----------------------------Original message----------------------------
Tony Williams wrote:
>  Bound up with this question is a tendency to regard directors as people
>who should be above falling into the dangerous political currents of their
>era and thinking more about the implications of their work. Unfortunately,
>many directors (and stars) are as fallible as the majority are in a particular
>historical era in making the "wrong" choice. Basically, it is so easy to be
>correct in hindsight less difficult at certain times to really evaluate the
>implications of the material used in any creative process.
I think it is incumbent upon artists who dabble in pop culture political
statements to exercise unusually high political acumen and responsibility.
That is because they are in a position to set an example, good or bad, to
populations. Otherwise they should leave this whole area alone. Having said
that, Fritz Lang was no Leni Reifenstahl or for that matter Albert Speer.
I do not think all film directors past and present are artists, or particularly
astute thinkers, so I certainly do not hold them to such standards. I believe
we need to be able to look critically at "masterpieces" and "classics" in
the context of social and political circumstances, to determine the role of
pop culture in fomenting unfortunate turns of history. I am an adherant of
Chomsky's unflattering theories about the roles of mass media and intellec-
tuals in the overall scheme of things.
Fritz Lang was a real film pioneer and, given the primitive technical means at
his disposal, worked miracles. I just screened his SIEGFRIED, which had some
hilarious scenes (both intentionally and not), and is an interesting
backdrop to
the political exploitation of myths of blood and iron that, in part, helped
the Nazis to power. It is interesting to compare the opening scene to the
caricatures of early Weimar-era German culture published by George Grosz in
the same year as SIEGFRIED's release (1923).
This is not to villify German culture or history (though it certainly had
its moments).
The reasons are quite clearly traceable in hindsight, and I feel certain
may be drawn to current social, political and economic conditions in
America and,
to a less extreme degree perhaps, parts of Europe. This is my motivation
for studying
the Weimar republic and for applying what may strike some as unfairly
critical stand-
ards to its cultural products. So much was, and is, at stake.
David Smith
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