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August 1995, Week 3


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Tony Williams <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 17 Aug 1995 14:40:49 CST
text/plain (51 lines)
From: Tony Williams
 I think there is a distunct difference between DEATH WISH and STRAW DOGS.
Despite problems inherent within the representation of violence which usually
result in the director falling into the voyeuristic fascination syndrome he
attempts to avoid (Oliver Stone and NBK), surely Peckinpah's treatment of
violence is both ironic as well as attempting to push the viewer into facing
the very ugly implications of the violence they initially flirt with? The
film is really a critique on the Hoffman character fleeing from campus
disturbances dealing with the Viet Nam War, masquerading as a pacifist but
really harboring dangerous atavistic tendencies within his own persona.
He is really indirectly responsible both for the rape and the bloody
violence. Robert Ardrey's THE TERRITORIAL IMPERATIVE influenced Peckinpah
throughout his career.
  Also Amy also flirts with the guys from her village. Like Hoffman, she also
has some dangerous primeval tendencies within her own persona which emerge
during the rape scene. Jerry Fielding's morbid soundtrack attempts emphasizing
this. But the scene is a representation. It is not intended to be taken as
reality and far from the crude "she really likes it" philosophy. Like
Hoffman, she bears responsibility for her actions and loses control of a
situation she has indirectly provoked. The film is really a treatment of
Ardrey's philosophy and a comment on the human situation which is still
atavistic, violent, and oppressive as various contemporary spectrums ranging
from Bosnia to the capitalist dehumanist practices in the Newt's America and
Thatcher's Britain amply demonstrate.
 Like STRAW DOGS, DEATH WISH is also a Western. But it draws a reductive
division between Paul Kersey and the "scumbags" who become immediately disposab
le others. This is well before the creation of the "street people" in Britain
and America provided an indirect method of removing the victims of society.
Peckinpah's villains are ugly but also vulnerable towards the end of the film
when Hoffman's inherent middle-class viciousness (a trait foreshadowed in
Jack London's THE IRON HEEL continuing with various variants in Malcolm
Bradbury's THE HISTORY MAN to the British T.V. drama THE POLITICIAN'S WIFE)
REALLY comes into prominence.
  Although Peckinpah may not have been conscious of this, STRAW DOGS
deserves much better than to be compared with DEATH WISH or castigated
by movements concerning "political correctness" an academically stalinist
trait which has hindered any serious explorations of the director's work
(I'm not including you among this latter category, Don). But, as Charles
Barr revealed manyy years ago in SCREEN, STRAW DOGS came too close to the
mark in confronting viewers with the brutal implications of violent
tendencies still present today in Bosnia, contracts on America, as well
as indirect viciousness within certain middle-class and academic circles.
   Let the debate continue.
           Tony Williams
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