Acting-Out Politics

Weblog opens discussion about the psychology of Bushmerican style of behavior.

Life Of Petty Calculations vs. An Existentially Spiritual Meaning Of Life That Grants Freedom From Death

Those who see Ikiru as a social statement have their reasons for doing so, though to see it only as statement, is to do it an injustice.
Donald Richie, “The Films of Akira Kurosawa”, Univ. of California Press, 1996, p. 95

Introduction to the film (note to the viewers)

To help the Americans and Europeans of the 21st century to appreciate the film in its full power, it is necessary, it seems, to point out the difference between Japan of the early fifties (with its extensive administrative bureaucracy created by fear of population on part of Japanese authoritarian leadership) and today’s Western post-democracies, where the role of Japanese administrative bureaucracy is played by much more aggressive corporate bureaucracy. Totalitarian countries, like USSR, Nazi Germany or Imperial Japan needed bureaucracy as a protective layer between the ruling decision-making elite and the people. Totalitarian governments are pompously populist in order to successfully recruit people into unconditional belief in the totalitarian ideology (militaristically expansive, with globalist ambitions), while today Western governments’ populism is much more innovative and tricky. One of the tasks of Japanese government was to pretend that it is there to care about people, while in reality it tried to do for people as little as possible. This is one of the main motifs of Kurosawa’s film. After WWII the general situation with the administrative bureaucracy in Japan still kept resemblance with its pre-war orientation – the bureaucratic structures existed in order to freeze and make completely impotent the potential for development of democratic tendencies in the country. Today’s Western leaders, on the other hand, proclaim and started to realize austerity for populations and keep democracy only as ideological fig leaf.

In US before 21st century, administrative bureaucracy was unconditionally dedicated to helping people who needed help. The Federal, State and local structures of public help still continue to exist even today, when neo-conservatives already reduce many programs and intend to destroy Social Security, Medicare and Medicate, public housing, etc. At the same time in US the “private sector” intensifies the development of its own bureaucracy, the task of which is to calculate more effectively corporate profits, to invent new ways of detouring and non-enforcing laws and new “high-tech” strategies of making more money and fooling the people with the propaganda of the wealthy as the heroes and benefactors of the poor. Corporate bureaucrats don’t look exactly like the administrative bureaucracy Kurosawa depicts in “Ikiru”. At this point there is a danger that the American viewers, especially the young, for whom to watch this film could be especially enlightening, may think that Kurosawa’s film is “outdated” and of no interest to them. But bureaucracy takes different forms in a traditionally totalitarian, traditionally democratic and democratic in a process of totalitarization countries. Only democratic bureaucracy that actually does help those who need help is genuinely different from bureaucratic zombies and mummies we see in “Ikiru”. But the private sector bureaucrats that feverishly work (in a robotically efficient manner) for their masters obsessed with power and profits – are in essence, really similar with the bureaucrats described by Kurosawa. While Japanese administrative bureaucrats are barely moving to help people, today’s American private sector bureaucrats are feverishly occupied with inventing ways of developing economy in a direction, which, as we see today, inevitably hurts people (promoting and intellectually justifying austerity for the majority, reducing Social Security and loudly/proudly proclaiming the intention to dismantle it completely). The type of bureaucracy that Kurosawa depicts in the film with excruciating details, proclaims humanistic intentions but doing nothing useful, while today’s private sector bureaucracy is feverishly busy inventing and realizing strategies which are destroying democratic prosperity of the population.

“Busy, always so very busy” – that’s how Kurosawa characterizes the main character before his spiritual transformation as a result of learning about his terminal illness, – “but in fact, Waranabe does absolutely nothing at all – other than protecting his own spot. The best way to protect your place in this world is to do nothing at all. Is this really what life is all about?” This Kurosawa’s characterization “translated” into the floating semantics of today’s American life can be read in the following way – Making money for private self-enrichment while hurting the health of the majority of people is today’s American metaphor of “doing nothing at all”. The Federal bureaucracy in post-WWII Japan is equivalent of the private bureaucracy of profit-making in our country today. In this sense Kurosawa’s “Ikiru/To Live” is a film about American life today. The both types of bureaucracy – in Japan of the 50s and in US today – are doing nothing for the people, but today’s corporate bureaucracy doing much less than nothing – it hurts people actively, creatively, energetically, much more than just not helping them.

Today’s American viewers of “Ikiru” have to take Kurosawa’s endorsement of this one man (the main character Watanabe) fight for the people’s wellbeing by trying to mobilize the inert bureaucratic apparatus to, indeed, help them –as a fight of a rare democratic politicians and humanists today with the neo-conservative attacks on democracy. How one person who has learned about his terminal illness was able to create the meaning of his life is, in essence, the story about all of us today confronting our mortality and in desperate need for meaning of life (something that transcends everyday fight for personal/group financial success) in order to balance our future death with investing in human life. We, today, instead of a meaningful life have overblown money dreams, technical toys/gadgets and megalomaniacal pseudo-patriotism of world domination. Mr. Watanabe (Takashi Shimura) is not only helping future life but organizing the existing structures of society to make it more humane.

But Kurosawa is much more ahead of us today – in his mobilization of the human psychology as involved in fighting for people’s future, because just political motivation is not enough for success. With only political enthusiasm, as “progressive” as it may be, and without being inspired by the psychological energies of human existential spirituality, human hope of building a non-repressive and a just society, according to the film, cannot be realized. In this sense, Watanabe‘s terminal illness is Kurosawa’s metaphor for the necessity to be psychologically mobilized by human spiritual powers in order to be successful against human drive for advantage over others, for inequality and injustice.

Animalistic adaptation to leaders and bosses and to an environment of traditional ways of fighting for survival and success, and mechanical conformism as a way of life can be overcame only through our psychological development – the purely political: technical thinking is not enough. In this sense it is so important that Watanabe couldn’t be able to triumph over his death without the unintentional help and the presence of another human being nearby – of the girl named Toyo whose experiences and the emotional pain play in Watanabe’s life the role of emotional stimulus for his existentially spiritual mutation. The topic of solidarity and mutual help in the film became sublimated and interpreted by Kurosawa as a matter of not just political effectiveness but of spiritual growth as its foundation. Watanabe’s relationship with his married son doesn’t have any communal warmth and a future, like his relations with his colleagues when careerism and hierarchical envy occupies the place of human togetherness.

Kanji Watanab’s “old man” song

Adaptation and conformism as a way of life

Iki
Watanabe is a “senior clerk” – Chief of the Section in a large bureaucratic institution. His whole life he was following the rules and decisions of his superiors. Behind him we see thousands upon thousands of documents – rejected requests for help or assistance. For his obedience Watanabe was, as if, awarded with… little angelic wings – look at the white collars of his shirt.

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Recently Watanabe feels distracted from his work of refusing or transferring people’s requests to other departments by suspiciously painful sensations in his stomach.

Terminal illness as a spiritual help

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Doctor’s interpretation of Watanabe’s test results (everything is okay, eat what you want, don’t worry, etc.) tells him that he is in trouble.

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Like everybody in his situation Watanabe can think only about one thing on the earth.

Nightclub, drinking, dancing, striptease, “girls”, pop-music, noise of forgetfulness

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With the advice of a casual friend Watanabe decides to see what he has never seen before – how human beings happily waste their lives.

A Girl named Toyo and Watanabe’s ordeal

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A girl he barely knew, by chance and without any intentionality spent her time with him.

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Toyo’s emotional vitality, stronger than angel’s wings, unexpectedly was exactly what he needed. Her energy and innocence were somehow deeper than the difference between life and death.

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With Toyo nearby, Watanabe literally forgets, as if, never knew that he is doomed “in maximum six months”.

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In spite of her poverty, Toyo, as if, is obsessed with life.

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Kurosawa “helps” Takashi Shimura (Watanabe) and Miki Odagiri (Toyo) to feel the miraculous closeness between their personages.

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Intensity of Watanabe emotional clinging to Toyo created in the girl intense ambiguous feelings. “Objectively” she felt troubled with this, but “subjectively” she was… attracted exactly to his emotional need and for this reason was afraid of him and herself. Watanabe really had a chance with her, but he didn’t look for this chance. He was a decent person.

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Toyo tells Watanabe about her new job – making children‘s toys. But for him her trivial job was a sign of something else what he wasn’t able to understand yet.

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Watanabe asks young girl what for him to do in his situation of no way out.

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Watanabe – I have less than a year to live. When I found that out… somehow I was drawn to you. Once when I was a child, I almost drowned. It’s just like that feeling. Darkness everywhere, and nothing for me to hold onto… There’s just you.

Toyo
– What help am I?

Watanabe – You – just to look at you makes me feel better. It warms this – this mummy’s heart of mine. And you’re so kind to me. No; that’s not it. You’re so young, so healthy. No; that’s not it either… You are so full of life. And me… I’m jealous of that. If I could be like you for just one day before I died. I will not be able to die unless I can do that. I want to do “something”. Only you can show me. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how. May be you don’t know either, but please… if you can… show me how to be like you!

Toyo – I don’t know…

Kanji Watanabe – How can I be like you?

Toyo – All I do is work – and eat. That’s all.

Kanji Watanabe – Really?

Toyo – Yes, really. I just make toys like this. (She puts a mechanical rabbit on the table). And that is all I do, but I feel as though I am friends with all the children in Japan. Mr. Watanabe, why don’t you do something like that, too?

Kanji – What could I do in the office?

Toyo – Well, that’s true. Then resign and find something else…

Kanji – It is too late… No, it isn’t too late. It isn’t impossible… I can do something if I really want to…

A deed which is equal to… immortality

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Watanabe is on his way to save his life, to save his death – before it’s too late. According to Kurosawa, there is no antagonism between living and dying if we’re honest about our mortality. Self-centeredness, probably, is the result of the unconscious superstition of immortality.

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Mayor of the city and two “senior clerks” are amazed by Watanabe’s insistence on helping the women asking to liberate their community from a sewage pond near their homes, breeding mosquitoes.

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The local “free business” lobby tries hard to get the (taxpayers’) money Watanabe wants for his project of building children‘s playground in place of garbage dump. Private entrepreneurs want public money for building a sushi restaurant in the same location. But a mafia boss hired by the lobbyists feels helpless before Watanabe’s inability to become frightened by his menaces.

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After Watanabe’s death, his colleagues discuss the reasons for his strange success in getting money for people’s project. It is a long scene with many precious details providing analogies with today’s American reality.

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Kurosawa “helps” Watanabe to reach “immortality” in discovering the meaning of his life.

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By using the words of a popular song to frame Watanabe’s deeds and death, Kurosawa makes a semantic bridge between the “immanent” wisdom of “enjoying your life in full” and the existentially transcendent meaning of realizing ourselves through helping others, when the two stop to contradict one another. When immanent energetic resources of human existence are invested into existentially transcendent goals we witness a spiritual transformation.

———————————————————————-

How an ordinary human being who lived like everybody (counting the crumbs of everyday existence), was transformed into an existential philosopher, a kind of a saint, the people’s and life’s hero? This incredible transfiguration turning the twilight into sunrise was created by Watanabe’s psychological encounter with the fact of his terminal illness. Let’s imagine us, Americans, in this situation. We could “fight our illness as our inner terrorist/attacker”, we could try to go anywhere on this planet looking for salvation from the devil-death if our medical establishment couldn’t help. We could give ourselves to cosmic grief. We could imagine resettling on another planet. And we as a society exhaust and poison ourselves by developing technology to be intact for the corruption of the illness and death. How many amongst us, Americans, who found themselves in Watanabe’s situation, could do what he has done – to change the problem of personal survival into that of helping those who need help, until we are still alive?

Watanabe found more courageous and creatively challenging solution to the problem of his personal death – he agreed to die without fear or grudge but simultaneously he overthrows the meaning of death by transforming it into the meaning of the deed which overcomes death’s despotic power over human psyche. He prefers existentially spiritual creativity to the hysterical efforts of trying to postpone death, colored by cosmic despair and sweetened by sentimental consolations.

To be able to conquer his grief of losing his body and his life, Watanabe had to change, without being aware of it, his/ours basic ontological position of being the owner of his life and his body – into being a magician of life – a person capable of transforming life as property into a life as a generous unconditional gift. He had to become capable to pass this gift to other people as a deed equivalent of his own eternity.

Kurosawa thoroughly depicts how instead of falling into believing in mechanical personal immortality Watanabe was able to transform his destiny into an exception which not only not contradicting but is reinforced by his ordinary humanity. We all should take lessons from Kurosawa’s analysis of our universal predicament and from Watanabe’s genius of transforming the decaying human being producing self-consoling phantoms into a treasure of earthly life.

When Disinterestedness Is More Profitable Than Profiteering

For the majority of the people even simplistic formulations about what determines human behavior seems enough to explain their motivations. For example, the commonsensical formulation that being defines consciousness – that our reactions, feelings and even needs are determined by the conditions and organization of our life, that how we live defines our ideas and beliefs rather than the laws of human thinking do – having become the axiom of modern reason. In other words, addressing other people with the arguments that made in terms of their “being” – in terms of their actions in the context of their lives is much more effective than to appeal to them while talking about their “consciousness” – theirideas of what is right and what is wrong, the question of moral truth, decency, etc.

Still, observing how human history is developing, especiallyin the 21st century – how intensely even the democratic West’s wealthy decision-makers fight for profits and domination and use their democratic cultural legacy more as an (idealistic /rhetorical) banner hiding economic calculations and strategic manipulations, we come to understand how reduced to flatness the very dichotomy between being and consciousness is, but at the same time – how it, indeed, corresponds to intellectually poor condition of people’s pop-consciousness. “Consciousness” is the function of being (and especially when it looks domineering over it, as it is so with the fundamentalist religious or fascisized secular ideologies) only for people without any interest towards independent truth, when their lives (including the givens of their psychological complexes) dictate their ideas and feelings which just react on the circumstances and conditions of their life. Be too dependent on your life, like too poor or too rich people, or be formed by a despotic milieu, and you will have too rigid and even extremist ideas. For example, it is meaningless or even dangerous to try to tell the truth about one spouse to another one – they form their ideas about each other based on “being”, not truth, and in a situation of their togetherness being means their dependence on one another based on narcissistic symbiosis of non-differentiation.

If god as an “absolute monarch” of being, or a despotic and belligerent secular ideology have exaggerated power and influence, the reason is that these projections/ constructions prosper on people’s feeling helpless in their socio-cultural being. In democratic conditions of life when prosperity is without consumerism and education is without careerism (when education is for living, for demythologized understanding of conditions of living) there is no chance for development of extremist religious or secular ideologies because with a healthy prosperity and truth-centered education human self-respect and the feeling of one’s social influence grow to a very impressive degree (that registered in growing of middle-class) and then prevent belligerency and intolerance towards the carriers of otherness and credulity towards leaders and bosses.

Austerity is an ingenuous strategy of transforming the masses into crowds susceptible to propaganda and overwhelmed with the militancy and scapegoating passion to search for people “guilty for our problems”. People without a healthy prosperity and humanistic education are intellectually and spiritually devastated, and then extremist ideologies can easily rule over them (by providing them primitive narcissistic compensatory pleasures – the right to hate, idolatrous pride and self-aggrandizing identification with the truth through believing and idolized authoritarian leaders).

Austerity for population is the basic strategy of de-democratizing the democratic countries. It quickly reduces democracy to pre-democracy (with its dominance of irrational beliefs over rationality, credulity towards wealthy decision-makers, militarization of the economy and the bastardization of masses becoming more belligerent, self-sacrificial and pro-war oriented.

If in pre-democracy traditional: rigid and dogmatic – conservative “consciousness”, indeed, dominates being, in the democratic conditions of life consciousness is in a friendly collaboration with being. Democratic being produces friendly forms of consciousness. In a healthy (not deteriorating into totalitarianism) democracy there is no domination of consciousness over being or being over consciousness – the both are influencing one another in free collaboration with one another. When intellectuality and spirituality are not authoritarian categories they don’t dominate being – they are part of it. There is no anymore the metaphysization of spirituality and intellectuality or their reduction into pre-scientific “common sense”. The very thinking becomes ontologized, and, on the other hand, being becomes sublimated and impregnated with disinterested rationality.

Being-consciousness dichotomy becomes dissolved when thinking becomes part of life in a form of humanistic thinking oriented not on technological domination over life but on the survival of humanity as whole in embrace with nature. The implications of this democratic rapport between what previously was being and what previously was metaphysicized consciousness, for pedagogy are very substantial. How from the vantage point of an existentialized consciousness to explain the truth to those who live, as we all do, in being? Consciousness cannot talk from the position of being – it could be pure authoritarianism. At the same time being without consciousness would be like the consumerist obsessions of the type today’s mass culture has been built on. Only in a society without domination – direct, like in traditional totalitarian societies, or accumulated in money, free consciousness will be able to freely embrace free being where genuineness will match refinement and where to live will also mean to think and to love – to have a different identity from those whom you love and to help your beloved to grow as human being.

Meditation As A Strategy Of Uniting/Identifying With A Holistic Environment As A Symbiotic Partner

Everyday

The Lama sat
in bed
with bamboo
backscratcher
his false teeth
in a big
glass of water
on the sunny
windowsill.

By Allen Ginsberg (Aug/’92)

Lama is a title for teacher in Tibetan Buddhism. The name is similar to the Sanskrit term “guru”.
Wikipedia

According to the logic of the poem’s images there are at least three kinds of distancing by spiritual effort from the illusory/fallen world for a human being who is lama. The first is signified in the poem by using the “bed” for a sitting (the decaying body can envelop itself with the bed as a consolation and protection from and at the same time preparation for mortality). The second is signified by the use of “bamboo backscratcher” (when the body itching with desires can pacify itself without violating the taboos). And the third is signified by “glass of water” with “the sunny windowsill” at its disposal. The problem here is that these three or four layers strategies of distancing between Lama and his physical death are at the same time the wall between Lama’s spiritual dedication and his spiritual self-realization.

Death (and preparation for it) seems to be the magic key for reaching the spiritual alternative to earthly misery. But how much this alternative is really alternative to the symbiosis with the tools for reaching alienation from everyday life?

According to the poem, it seems that it is not only death ahead what separates us from the kingdom of spirituality. It is deadness incarnated into (dead) artifacts and our dead need to use them. It is, first of all, the dentures which meditate under the sun while experiencing it through double or even triple mediation – of the window, of the glass and of the water inside it. It is not even Lama himself who is meditating. Technology does the meditation instead of him.

Well, what is the Lama doing every morning besides that he is awakening and taking the sitting position in the bed? He is alienating-through-appropriating the “fallen/illusory” world through using its artifacts (the bamboo backscratcher in his rhythmically moving hand and dentures taking a sun bath in a big glass of water) in order to connect himself with transcendent spirituality, even if only by eliminating the obstacles for achieving it (the itch of the back or the need to chew). By doing this he will eventually join the transcendent symbiotically, by identification, by uniting with/melting into it.

The “False teeth in a big glass of water on the sunny windowsill” is it seems the model of a dedicated meditation for Ginsberg’s poetic Lama. But isn’t becoming a part of non-being as an alternative to being just changing the symbiotic environment without transcending symbiotic relations? From “immanent transcendence” from the itch into scratch and from hunger into chewing in the nimbus of the taste inside the mouth we are moving to “transcendent transcendence” where we will settle out as we settled in during our life time. Is Spirituality for Lama a symbiotic partner as it is the case in our earthly existence with almost everything we come to assemble our togetherness – with our cell-phones and chat-partners, our cars, clothes, our spouses, our referent group, things we buy, our dreams, beliefs and ideals? Don’t we settle in the spirit as we do in life, as Ginsberg’s lama does in the bed, as Ginsberg’s lama’s dentures do in glass on the windowsill?

Is then the Ginsberg’s image of the meditating dentures simultaneously sublime and ironic image of our after-death future in spirit? May be, the “false teeth in a big glass of water on the sunny windowsill” is an ultimate parody on our idea of post-mortal spirituality even when it means “meditation” somewhere between incarnations.

Allen Ginsberg in his youth
Allen Ginsberg in his youth

Allen Ginsberg
Allen Ginsberg

Allen Ginsberg (1926 – 1997)
Allen Ginsberg (1926 – 1997)

“Contempt” is the first part of Godard’s religious trilogy, followed by “Hail, Mary” (1985) and “Woe Is Me” (1993). While “Contempt” examines the psychological mechanism of relations between humans and gods of pagan “design” – the human humans (people with the psychology of god-worshippers) and the human gods (people with the psychology of unconscious identification with gods), “Hail, Mary” analyzes the psychological roots of the Christian cult of Saint Mary, and “Woe is Me” – the return of the pagan gods into post-Christian modernity in a form of technological constructions, tools and toys dominating people’s life in the Western democracies.

In his analysis of religious psychology Godard separates the people from religious (in a narrow sense) practices and metaphorizes these practices by personal and social relations between people in order to make their religious essence more articulate and vivid for the perception of the viewers. Religious psychology does not necessarily create loyalty to despotic dogmas (many atheists are very religious by psychology). In “Contempt” Godard shows how religious feelings show itself in private relations between Paul (Michel Piccoli), a modest writer of detective stories but educated person with an exceptional existentially spiritual taste, and his wife Camille (Brigitte Bardot), a monumental beauty, and in social relations between Paul (identifying with Homer and Odysseus) and the mighty Hollywood producer Jeremiah Prokosch (the new incarnation of Poseidon/Neptune), played by Jack Polance in the only intellectually serious performance of his whole career. The both “gods” – Camille and Prokosch are depicted with tender and subtle caricaturishness, while Paul’s destiny Godard generalizes as that of all of us, the humanity‘s.

Godard deconstructs the relations between humans and gods as known in history – as sociomorphic relations between human beings as such (personified by Paul) and the human gods (personified by Camille and Prokosch). On the level of the plot the film describes the disagreements between Paul (the author of the screenplay), Fritz Lang (the director) who plays himself, and Prokosch (the producer) – all trying together to make a film based on Homer’s “Odyssey”. But Godard’s scholarly intentions in the film are not limited to symbolizing a certain type of relations between human beings into relations between humans (human humans) and gods (human gods).

The second important scientific contribution of Godard in “Contempt” is his classification of the types of bonds human beings are inclined to establish between themselves and our historical past, and themselves and any work of art they perceive and react on. Here Prokosch personifies the type of perception of a past which is based on our projection into the historical past of our self-aggrandizement (our megalomaniacal need). For him Ancient Greece is a kind of Olympus in comparison with today’s life. This is, essentially, a conservative position based on authoritarian/totalitarian behavioral habits including our proneness for religious or secular cult of ancestors.

The second position is represented by Fritz Lang who tends to “objectively” study the human past without the need for any identification with it. This position is that of the many liberal scholars – it’s the accumulation of a kind of an archival knowledge about the past without any worshipful or critical emotions.

The third position is represented by Paul who sees in people of the previous epochs our existential brothers. He learns from the past and from the arts and understood that people who lived before us made their own attempts to resolve their problems with gods as idealized models (theologized, from the Olympus, or living on the Olympus of the tops of the social hierarchy), as we today trying to with the human gods of our own times. Existential identification with our ancient ancestors is simultaneously brotherly and critical.

The same three positions – projection of our self-aggrandizement (or its negative version), “objective” position of “neutral/truthful” representation, and existential identification Godard discerns in our relations with works of art.

“Contempt” occupies not only a unique place in the history of cinema and Western culture in general, but a distinguished place of an exemplary work of art.

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Godard explains the gesture of Poseidon/Neptune that separating the beloveds

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Paul and Camille are still emotionally connected but already distant by the intervention of God/Prokosch

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Paul and Camille feel themselves ripped apart by the psychological abyss

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Paul and Camille/Mermaid are separated by the psychological abyss in Camille’s soul

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The humorous poster of, as if, both films – Godard’s “Contempt” and Lang’s “Odysseus” inside Godard’s film. Lang in agreement with his concept of Odysseus is shown to be in scrupulous rapport with the viewers. Godard is shown as occupied with two projects at once, as the director of “Contempt” and as the assistant of the cameraman in, as if, Lang’s film. And Paul (Michel Piccoli) and Prokosch look at the distance – at Camille’s split destiny, both with the hope of being the one she’ll choose.

Posted on April 27, 2013 –   Jean-Luc Godard’s “Contempt/Le mepris” (1964) – Psychology Of Human Obsession With Super-human by Acting-Out Politics

“Tunes of Glory” is analytical as an intellectual film and it is also intense realistic acting-mediated in the best tradition of British theatre. The leading actors – Alec Guinness and John Mills – make the life of emotions of their characters the main vehicle of directorial analysis, with the help of the plot which is semantically crystallized with the articulateness of architectural motifs.

The film dismisses the commonly held belief that wars logically precede the existence of militaries (that armies exist to protect countries from enemies). The opposite is true – that armies “invent” wars to justify its existence. The main point (story) of the film is fight between two colonels for the commanding position in the Scottish battalion. The film insists that war is a function of an extremely hierarchical (based on unconditional subordination) structure of the army as a social institution. Fight for a higher place in the social hierarchy as a specific social behavior is, according to the film, a prototype of war-mongering and war-making. Societies with more intense competition for higher positions are more prone to be war-oriented. People for whom career-making is more important than contemplative and spiritual values are more belligerent and pro-conflicts and pro-war oriented.

The director and actors do a psychotherapy with the viewers by making us identify with charismatic characters and their glorious and deeply psychologically rooted fight for superiority, and at the same time they make us come to feel revolted by the inhumanity and immorality of this fight (whatever patriotic and humanistic justification for it our macho-shining heroes use). While experiencing the film we turn against ourselves, against our own unconscious belligerency and taste for winning.

The film analyzes the logical mechanism of tactical-strategic thinking and the psychology of human emotions involved in competition/fight/war. The film also provides the description of the types of women in relation to machoistic values and norms, and classification of the positions towards violence among servicemen.

While watching this film I, who long ago served for three years in a Soviet army as a private and remembered the psychology of Russian “warriors“ in the officer corps, couldn’t believe my eyes and ears. On the screen people talked in English with impeccable British intonational mannerisms, but I was hearing Russian words pronounced with the same emotions, when narcissism of unconscious self-glorification is blended with intolerance for contradictions, toughness in personal clashes and with permanent readiness for war. When I emigrated to the West I was naïve enough to think that I luckily will never meet again this race of military males with their hypertrophied masculinity and pathetic pride. Ronald Neame’s “Tunes of Glory” for me was a masterful negative prophesy of the 21st century of mass totalitarization and militarization of Western democracies.

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A solemn moment – the leading officers of the battalion are greeted with the glorification by the music of the pipes.

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Alec Guinness in the role of Jock Sinclair gave us chance to understand the very soul of universal conservative sensibility, but also the very incompatibility of this human type with life and humanistic development of humankind. We, viewers, understand, although suffer with Sinclair’s daughter, the fact that she couldn’t continue to have relations with her father as he is. Even if you have sympathy for conservatives and empathy for their ways of perceiving the reality, it is only through radical refutation of their ideas you can develop as human being.

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Sinclair’s daughter Morang violated her father’s order never visit the barracks – she waits until her secret beloved – the piper of the battalion, will have a second of break.

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Jock Sinclair, without understanding what exactly motivates him to behave so impatiently, insists on sleeping with his mistress exactly when he feels humiliated with the appearance of the new colonel (situation that automatically makes him second in command). She is refusing him by the same reason he is insisting – with the arriving of the new colonel, Jock is in a weaker position in the battalion. By pressing her to “surrender” he (unconsciously) hopes to restore his self-esteem, but if she will “support” a person in a weak situation she will “lose hers”. For her at this point it’s more pleasure to laugh at him than to love him. To return to Jock she first needs to see how his fight with the new superior will go. She can feel herself in stronger position and be really sexually aroused by exciting Jock to fight to the very end, like in real war. She is exactly the opposite of Jock’s daughter who is trying to persuade her father not to fight but to collaborate with the new commander.

Posted on April 19, 2011 –   Ronald Neame’s “Tunes of Glory” (1960) – The Sunbeams of Military Machismo: The Perverse Beauty of Internalized Militancy by Acting-Out Politics

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