Acting-Out Politics

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

Genuine – Exceptional Love Cannot Be Realized According To The Standards Of Amour In The 21st Century

Heaven and earth will pass. My words will not pass.
JLG, Eulogy to Love

State is the very antithesis of the image of a loved one, whose sovereign reason negates that of love.
JLG, Eulogy to Love

“Until now I lived in fear” – said Tristan Bernard, when they came to arrest him, – “From now on, I will live in hope”.
JLG, Eulogy to Love

It is not that will man endure or not, but does he have a right to.
JLG, Eulogy to Love

There can be no resistance without memory or universalism.
JLG, Eulogy to Love

Isn’t it strange how history was replaced by technology?
JLG, Eulogy to Love

There is a service entrance and the main entrance. They use the latter for the apartment of the world and leave us the service entrance, Sir.

JLG, Eulogy to Love

You are unemployed – use your time to think.
JLG, Eulogy to Love

-Why to bother saying or writing that “Titanic” is a global success. Talk about its contents. Talk about things but don’t talk around things. Let’s talk on the basis of things. They confuse existence with life. Is that it?
-I am not a philosopher, but in my opinion, yes. Look at a cell. There’s a nucleus of an atom, as well. It’s the basis of existence. Around it is life. They treat life like a whore which they use to improve their existence. The extraordinary to improve the ordinary.
–That’s right.
–One can enjoy existence, not life.
–Exactly.

JLG, Eulogy to Love


-You said, “American writer”. What “Americans” do you mean? South America?
-The United States, of course.
–Of course. But Brazil’s states are united too. In Brazil they’re called Brazillians. –No, I said the United States of North America.
–The United Mexican States are N. America, and they’re Mexicans. In Canada they’re called Canadians. Which United States do you mean?
-I just said: the United States of the North.
–Well, then, the inhabitants of your united states, whatever they called. See? You don’t have a name. This man signed for a country whose inhabitants have no name. No wonder they need other people’s stories, other people’s legends. You are like us. You are looking for the origin: parents, siblings, cousins. Nothing original about that. But we seek it inside ourselves. Poor you! With no history, you have to seek it elsewhere, in Vietnam, Sarajevo. Okay, but you can do it gently, nicely. –Okay, miss.
–Do you know the origin of Okay? One of your generals, during the Civil War, used it in his report: “O killed.”

JLG, Eulogy to Love

Bertha: “When did the gaze collapse?”
Edgar: “Before TV took precedence.”
Bertha: “Took precedence over what? Current Events?”
Edgar: “Over Life.”
Bertha: “Yes. I feel our gaze has become a program under control. Subsidized… The image, monsieur, the only thing capable of denying nothingness, is also the gaze of nothingness on us.”

JLG, Eulogy to Love

Let feelings bring about events, not the contrary.
Robert Bresson, Notes on Cinematography, quoted in Eulogy to Love.

I am thinking about something. When I think about something, in fact, I’m thinking of something else. You can only think about something if you think of something else. For instance, I see a landscape that is new to me, but it’s new to me because I mentally compare it to another landscape, an older one, all that I knew.
JLG, Eulogy to Love

The main characters read from books, think disinterestedly, discuss life without the need to prove anything, make factual truth-oriented points and generalizations, and try to love (Jean-Luc, Edgar, Bertha and Others).

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By the standards of 21st century culture Edgar is a bizarre, even a morbidly eccentric person. We see him attentively looking at an “empty” book – at white pages without any words, pictures or drawings. What is he looking for there?

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Sometimes from white chaste pages ideas come to him like metaphysical flames – not about how to multiply his investments or how to reinvest his money in trickily promising ways, but ideas with the aura of disinterested – implicit knowledge – about life, human beings, the world, the factual truths.

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Here Edgar is trying to explain his concept of middle-age people as psychologically drastically different from the young people as much as from the elderly.

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Edgar represents in the film Godard – not as a projection of Godard’s directorial personality. Edgar is Godard in a sense that he is also a film-director who is trying to avoid the commercial trap. And he is like Godard because he has his own ideas about life (different from Jean-Luc’s) and his own style of pursuing them. May be, it’s possible to say that Edgar is Godard’s imaginary disciple. In this shot we see how Edgar works with an actress during her audition. He is checking not her ability to mesmerize the audience – to grab the viewers’ attention, he is asking her about her personal reaction on the material her character has to contemplate and react on. These personal reactions will be a test not only for the actress but for the viewers of Godard’s film – will we be able to understand and evaluate Edgar’s way of researching into how during audition actors and their characters establish semantic contact with their existential contexts?

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The young talented actors (talented not in the Hollywood sense of being emotionally contagious to the viewers – able to “hypnotize” the audience to fall into irrational fixation on the star) going through their auditions with Edgar, impressively improvise in the direction of the semantic organism of Edgar’s future film. Look at these chaste and disinterestedly thoughtful beautiful faces so different from that of commercial stars looking like the generic majority of the viewers.

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Edgar/Godard’s actors intuitively grasp problems with love between teenagers when persons’ subjective ideas of their love (how they themselves perceive it) intervene with their (un-reflected) feelings of being in love (when their idea of love becomes a part of their love and organizes love from inside against its very organism and pushes it into impossibility).

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Love between teenagers tends to be over-passionate in a narcissistic way, when (narcissistically colored) self-consciousness inside love relationship tries to lead love in the direction suggested by their idea of concrete love affair, not by its emotional organism.

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Young people’s self-images tend to be exaggerated in their importance while being distorted by their (unconscious) narcissism, and their love is innocently perceived as a function of these self-images.

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Specialist in painting competently diagnoses the ethnicity of the prostitute.

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Bertha, the heroine of the film who in her existential style so different from the motion picture heroines is an exceptionally educated and intellectually oriented person who during nights has to clean passenger trains to make a living for herself and her little son.

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Edgar and Bertha’s love is as intelligent as they themselves are. This shot represents the 21st century environment for disinterested thinking. Our heroes cannot talk only about themselves, and even when they do it is a talk about life and existential world and them inside it. As heroes of Alain Resnais’ “Hiroshima, mon amour”, Edgar and Bertha in order to realize their love for each other have to sacrifice their relationship for the sake of their love which is homeless, belongs under bridge.

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But two years before a stern (black and white) color of the world started to dominate human life according to our beloveds, Edgar was already the same, a bit creepy according to the mass-cultural worldview – reading scholarly books without any career orientation, and disinterestedly thinking, fixated on truth of life which is yet supposed to be discovered by him, what people in the 21st century (too busy “surviving, succeeding, self-asserting and entertaining themselves) do less and less.

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Edgar met Bertha two years before, and we cannot appreciate the difficulties inside their love without being sensitive towards how intensely they need each other, how much they are, indeed, made for one another. Today the more two people love each other the more difficult it is for them to realize their love. It is because today love is psychologically polluted like the physical environment is chemically, and love is very fragile to psychological pollution.

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Usually love makes people isolated from the world, separated from it, as if, by a glass wall through which they can feel themselves… in the world even more. In other words, traditionally, love simultaneously separates people from and unites them with the world (separates because it creates borders of privacy, and unites because what is private is defined by common standards and stereotypes). People are socio-morphic and worldly and private love makes them forget that they are innocently conformist.

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Love needs the world to be able to realize itself in it according to the world’s standards, but it doesn’t want to admit it. Regular love pretends that it is an absolute boss while it is nothing without the social reality. Edgar and Bertha’s love is completely different – it is a part not of the social, but an existential world, and their self-reflection about this love is simultaneously reflection about the existential reality. Even their eroticism, as if, doesn’t belong exclusively to them – it is the world’s, they, as if, are not appropriating it. Their love is honest because it’s no narcissistic. There is no place in them for love as self-assertion – for needing love as giving the beloveds a respectable social status.

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Are many people today able to think disinterestedly – to be dedicated to truth as intensely and almost self-sacrificially as Edgar?

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To accept love with all its trivialities, all its egoism of the two, with all its predatory naiveté, you have to accept the world in all its fallenness. But if the beloveds cannot be these naïve beasts of living, they must somehow differentiate themselves from the world, like Bertha is in this still – she prefers truth to a passive, predatory and conformist living. She transforms herself into a blemish on the bright autumnal life instead of being part of this standard, almost artificial brightness.

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Sea of blood of life is an apocalyptic image, but people try to avoid the warning and menacing images which make us worried, unable to enjoy life as it is, and pursue pleasant philistine vanities which are the very flesh and sense of our lives.

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Sea of blood makes clouds bloody (absorbing the evaporating blood), as people’s thinking absorbs their deeds, as people’s memory – their thinking.

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We prefer to perceive ourselves as though our life was separated from the destiny of our environment – as if the will of the elements is somewhere behind the transparent walls of our aquarium where we, inside it are free and autonomous to go on continue to consume the universe. But oceans are flowing through us, and we are fragile to their heartbeats. And if we don’t know the mysticism of unity with nature and non-being as part of this unity it can assert itself on us from outside spiritual experience – directly, traumatizingly, tragically (because we never had the humility not to push nature according to the caprices of our vanity).

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We, humans, do not respect nature, we abuse it to satisfy our childish impulses, and oceans get closer to our consumerist egos. It will be individuals like Edgar, the “saints” of our times, who will take to themselves the first revengeful blows of insulted and neglected nature. It’s already starting to happen – we are already in the 21st century.

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Love is especially fragile to our degrading psychological environment which is like a poisoned and mad ocean swallowing our rudimentary intelligence. Berta cannot be incarnated into the flesh of earthly love.

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The image of a beloved signifying the image of our love is especially vulnerable to the very impossibility to realize intelligent love (which doesn’t pretend that it’s occupying the center of the universe). As Bergman and Antonioni explained to us in their films, the area of love is especially fragile to human barbarity. With our every violent and despotic gesture directed at the destruction of otherness outside and inside us, we destroy our ability to love and ourselves together with it.

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The last footage of the film is Edgar’s driving to the second part of the film – which Godard showed us the first. We see how our human life – that of our civilization, is shattering in fragments of casual impressions, local tasks, petty interests and delirious scientific and technological efforts to manipulate our environment and ourselves. The part of the film given in color represents the very end of the 20th century, while the stern (black and white) part – the new century of our future when realization of personal love as a spiritual experience of love is almost impossible.

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“Eulogy To Love” is Godard’s prediction that the new century, while being indifferent to amour and even encouraging its common and trivial forms, will be antagonistic to spiritually existential love (between humanistically educated and disinterestedly thinking (oriented on implicit truths) people. Following Antonioni’s (“La Notte”, “L’Avventura”, “L’Eclisse”) and Bergman’s (“Anna’s Passion”, “Shame”, “From the Life of Marionettes”) warnings about how life vulgarized by conformist competition and predatory self-assertion makes it almost impossible for the beloveds with intelligent hearts and souls to realize their love, Godard in his film confirms and radicalizes Antonioni and Bergman’s conclusions in culturological perspective.

In “Eulogy…” Godard allows himself to critically debunk what is not debunkable in cinema as an enterprise – the very cinema audience, the consumers of cinematic visuality. He almost disrespectfully challenges them by putting himself against their taste in arts, their limitations in perception of cinematic form and their inability to create rapport with the semantic flows. He puts his film in a position of Resnais’ “Hiroshima mon amour” (where the hero and the heroine are as far from people with reduced internality, as Bertha and Edgar).

Godard’s Edgar and Bertha’s position towards personal love is as “elitist” as developed human personality is always “elitist” – it builds itself in the midst of adversity of common identity. The unique personality is individualistic and for this reason – democratic. It shares itself with other personalities because it is something that can be shared. It is generous because it has what to offer and with pleasure. It is based on human democratic ability to enjoy the very otherness of other people.

Godard’s film is paradigmatically democratic – individualistic and communally oriented discourse that shares with the audience the sophistication of love between Bertha and Edgar. Conversely, common love is not about sharing personalities, it is about mutual identification between the beloveds who are then narcissistically pleased to recognize and love themselves in the partner and who enjoy being reinforced by their enlarged (“by love”) personality of “two halves”. This amorous mutual identification is a psychological gesture of a totalitarian unification – reinforcement of the common over what is unique in each of the beloveds and the typical over what in them could be exceptional. The difference between the regular (and psychologically based on a common denominator) personal love and, on the other hand, the exceptional and democratically oriented amorous relationship is grown from Rousseau’s differentiation between amour propre and amour de soi.

Godard’s “Eulogy…” is a statement against totalitarianization of the democratic psychological individualism. How naively stupid are all those who label Godard as a “socialist” – Godard is much more democratic than ideological “pro-capitalists” who are psychologically identical with the ideological communist believers. The both types are persons of power by any price, these fighters for “communism” or “free market” – communists are typical men of power and righteously enjoy violating the freedom of others while “free marketers” are typical monopolists, people of absolute control over markets. These people are victims of semantic crumbs which their “thinking” is made of, as all totalitarian people whatever will be scribbled on their icon-banners.

Spiritual insider of wild urbanism

Several times amidst the dark (in black-and-white) city we see Godard’s even darker and barely, although unmistakably recognizable, silhouette. What is Godard, with his old-fashioned hat, doing in the late evening on the street benches? He is doing the impossible, meaningless thing – he is trying to make sense – under the shadows of street lamps and ads – through reading a book or just a piece of paper or notes or imagined text. One time somebody snatches the paper out of Godard’s hand, and he rather fiercely tries to get it back. Godard is without even a small digital camera. If he had it in his hands the meaning of his street presence could be that he is trying to understand the city life and its types, let say, like he did in “Breathless” – like the film director. But to read in the night’s light-and-dark means to try to understand life’s destiny like a human being (before being a director or a writer or even a reader). Indeed, Godard reading in the city’s wandering darkness is not reading at all: he is thinking. We see here the definition of intellectual art – before the artist thinks as an artist he thinks as a human being.

Without this differentiation between human intelligence and technical intelligence there is no intellectual art, and then an artist is only a painter or filmmaker or text-maker. Godard in “Eulogy…” represents himself as a human being, a thinking human being (the words “thinker” or “writer” or “artist” already carry technical, applied aspect of creativity). Edgar and Bertha are both like Godard – they are first of all, thinking human beings (before being thinkers or “philosophers” or “gurus” or “experts”). Their thinking is psychologically humanistic (product of their psychological wholeness including their position towards the world and life, not just their technical/professional, functional minds).

What love of two people like this can be, can it be like the one between Jean-Luc and Anna, like between Jean-Luc and Anne, like between Jean-Luc and Anne-Marie, like between Edgar and Bertha or between “him” and “her”, like in Resnais’ “Hiroshima mon amour”, or between Alain and Sabine?

We cannot choose our historical period. But creative power of human (existential) spirituality of humility and stubbornness is stronger than despotic human destructiveness. Then we, humans, must put ourselves as a link between the past and the future, instead of a disappeared present that is eaten up by demonic powers inside our human nature.

Truth of Art (As Guard Of Meaning) VS. Truth Of Ideological Beliefs (As A Fusion Between Reality And Unreality)

Emil Nolde, “Resurrection”
Emil Nolde, “Resurrection”

The body of Christ had replaced the Temple rituals, just as the words of Jesus had supplanted the Torah.
Reza Aslan, “Zealot (The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth)”, Random House, 2013, p. 173

It was precisely the fervor with which the followers of Jesus believed in his resurrection that transformed this tiny Jewish sect into the largest religion in the world… According to the Law of Moses, Jesus’ crucifixion actually marks him as the accursed of God. “Anyone hung on a tree [that is, crucified] is under God’s curse” (Deuteronomy 21.23) But if Jesus did not actually die – if his death were merely a prelude to his spiritual evolution – then the cross would no longer be a curse or a symbol of failure. It would be transformed into a symbol of victory… The resurrection stories in the gospels were created to do just that: to put flesh and bones upon an already accepted creed; to create narrative out of established belief; and most of all, to count the charges of critics who argued that Jesus’ followers saw nothing more than a ghost or a spirit…
Reza Aslan, Ibid, p. 175 – 176

The Christ of Paul’s creation has utterly subsumed the Jesus of history… The memory of Jesus of Nazareth – Jesus the man, of the revolutionary zealot who walked across Galilee gathering an army of disciples with the goal of establishing the kingdom of God on earth, the magnetic preacher who defied the authority of the Temple priesthood in Jerusalem, the radical Jewish nationalist who challenged the Roman occupation and lost, has been almost completely lost to history.
Reza Aslan, Ibid, p. 215 – 216

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Seeing Christ appeared, handsome and beautiful, amidst white flames, in simultaneously bright and a fairytale-ishly water-colorly tender hues, and noticing simultaneity of this apparition with a miraculously mighty subliminal blow destroying the Jerusalem Temple of the Pharisees and dissipating the soldiers – we feel that Nolde intentionally doesn’t leave any doubts about the ontological status of Christ’s resurrection. According to the artist, resurrection as a phenomenon is a combination of imagination and belief.

The miracle of Christ’s resurrection, according to Nolde’s painting, is psychologically projected; a kind of hallucination, but a psychological complex of those who believe that it’s “objective” reality is not less strong among those who don’t believe that Christ is God-Son, as among those who want to believe in Christ’s godly status. For the second group to believe in Christ is the equivalent of being saved, but the first category believes in super-natural power that may revenge them for their violent stance against Christ as a “megalomaniacal” human being – they are afraid of supernatural retaliation. These disbelievers in Christ as God-Son and supporters of Crucifixion fear that Christ still can be connected with some super-human powers capable of retaliating/punishing sinners. That’s why Nolde paints three soldiers facing Christ’s Resurrection, in a panic – face of the one near the right margin of the painting is transformed into, as if, a skull, the one close to a falling column of the Temple is thrown down by, as if, a giant hand of punishment, and the third is rushing away in horror from the scene, as if he never was here and hoping that nobody will remember his face. In other words, Christ‘s Resurrection smashes the face of one soldier, breaks the body of the other and instantly changes the identity of the third who loses his loyalty to his referent group and to his superiors.

But what lies behind Nolde’s suggestion that Christ’s resurrection is an imaginary experience and based either on fear (in those who have sinned by participating in torture and murder of the one who is helpless), or on a passionate belief (like in members of early Christian sect, looking for meaning of their life that will certify their ultimate salvation)? Nolde made many paintings describing various aspects of Christ’s life, but here he insists that resurrection is an imaginary event psychologically supported by belief.

It is a common understanding amongst Christians that (positive and assertive) belief comes when factual life is incompatible with it; that belief is needed to help people to face the inhumane and unbearable reality. But it is, it seems, a big and, may be, a decisive difference when the norms of reality logically opposes the principles expressed in belief, and when reality is incompatible with, intolerant to the very meaning of belief and full of animosity towards the very principles of living according to belief. We today, in the 21st century, in the age of austerity (as a matter-of-factly idea of neocons planning to destroy prosperity of American population), are especially sensitive to the processes destructive to life. When life itself is under attack, religious belief is perceived as the only chance for salvation in a world turning against life instead of nurturing it.

Beliefs become especially passionate and tend to turn “extreme” and become, as if, instead of life, when conditions of life substantially deteriorate and under the danger of being destroyed. Early Christianity was this kind of period. The times of and around WWI is another example of living in the period of existential collapse. Just because we are living in the 21st century in a time of environmental catastrophe, wars, disasters and neoconservative anti-humanism, we are very empathic towards Nolde’s feelings. When there is no hope for life in objective terms, we unconsciously mobilize our psychological energies including imagination and ability to believe in what is not congruent with reality in order to invoke the spirit of salvation amidst not objectively solvable social and worldly situations we are facing.

In this desperately psychological sense Nolde’s water-color addresses our time and similar periods in human history. Mobilization of our psychological mechanisms during impossible historical epochs is not too helpful – a lot of archaic absurdities come to the surface in a form of illusions of all sorts, but when everything else is taken away it’s the only thing that can help, at least in the short range, even if it’s for too high price. Nolde calls us to another path. He asserts the genius of serious art as a victory not just over reality but over imagination with its tendency to deteriorate into a delirious and utopian ideology in order to dominate reality. Art creates the third way – towards education and maturation of the human soul, towards meaning that is able to stay itself and not collapse into delirium. Art asserts the victory of meaning over despotism of denotation. Art asks for postponement of “a final resolution” but makes possible its hypothetical and circumstantial but real realizations.

Rossllini examines the similarities between Christ’s times two thousand years ago and today’s life in the West and comes to the paradoxical conclusion of a surprising similarity in the structure of the political powers in both historical periods. Following Rossellini’s film we easily discern in Ancient Judea and (by analogy) today in US the political coexistence of the right wing ideologists (in Christ’s times the Judaist clergy demanding his death because of fear of popular revolt and danger of losing their leadership position, and today’s neo-conservatives trying to subdue a growing popular indignation for the irresponsible rich through propaganda, money and police force) and, on the other hand, secular pragmatic power (personified by Pontius Pilate who resembles the American liberal democrats in 21st century with their tendency to yield to American neo-cons like Pontius Pilate bowed to the Judaist clergy).

The appearance of Christ in a certain historical epoch followed a wave of people’s desperate yearning for change in the conditions of life. It is as if Christ came to help people liberate themselves from the despotic rule of the wealthy minority. But by the very logic of his images Rossellini makes it clear that the murder of Christ marks the attempts of the “deciders” to crush people’s dream of liberation. When after Christ’s death theological skies opened as a wide gate into the future and Saint Mary falls to her knees and starts to pray we come to understand that the project of existential Christianity is dead and Christianity as a religious cult is born – it’s as if, social justice can be realized in the area of values/beliefs/hopes but not inside real life.

Rossellini’s “The Messiah” is so amazingly close to our life today when people of the planet are again in a desperate need for change in the conditions of life – when they are protesting against invented wars, financial collapses created by money-elites and “austerity measures” with which the rich minority again keeps robbing the populations. Rossellini’s film helps us to grasp that extraordinary phenomenon of Christ is inseparable from life, suffering and dreams of the people looking for justice and equality. Today Rossellini’s film is even more relevant than at the time it was made in 1975.

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Roberto Rossellini (1906 – 1977)

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Roberto Rossellini is kissed by Anna Magnani

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Poster of Rossellini’s “The Messiah”

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Christ is invited by Pontius Pilate who tries to find a “workable compromise” with him in order to save his life by a “reasonable” price of renouncing or at least softening his “radical” ideas.

Posted Nov 6 2011 –   Roberto Rossellini’s “The Messiah” (1975) – Right Wing Religious Ideologists, Secular Liberal Government and Christ of the People  by Acting-Out Politics

“Au Hazard Balthazar” and “Devil Probably” are films where plot and meaning are highly stylized by the director’s unique manner of uniting/fusing his intellectual and aesthetic maneuvers into one alive cinematic organism.

The donkey “Balthazar” in “Au Hazard” symbolizes not only the human body but the human soul, while the bodies of the young people in “Devil” symbolize the very intelligence of nature as a pantheistically spiritual creation.

In the two films (separated by the period of eleven years), Bresson compares the ignorantly indifferent and the passively cruel position of a modern society (obsessed with wealth and glamour and occupied with philistinism of “success” and competition) towards children and youth. With grace of a seeker for truth and with a sarcasm of moral frustration, Bresson depicts how today’s system of values becomes more and more anti-spiritual, and for this reason more and more anti-human.

Moral radicalism of both films addresses the heart of the viewers with an insistency and intensity of a prophet’s demand, and it could be unbearable to receive, if not visual harmony and the rhythmic beauty of Bresson’s narrations.

These films – two chapters in the history of Western sensibility, is a scandalous verdict on the behavioral anti-Christianity of the so called Christian societies.

Balthazar and Marie (Anne Wiazemsky) and the young people in “Devil Probably” – Charles, Valentin, Edwige, Alberte, Michel and others belong to a chain of victims of human civilization. They refuse to be winners of fight for survival and success on the conditions of factual society demanding from people cruelty and/or indifference to others. These people, including Balthazar who is a metonymy of universal soul and sacredness of the universe’s matter, are for Bresson personification of spirituality of the world.

Bresson’s very style is aesthetics of establishing a community of equality with the world, when appropriation and manipulation of reality through camera “hard work” (through camera as a tool/instrument of cinematic medium) could be too crude and vain approach to the world. Bresson’s aesthetics of gentle hints and hypothetical suggestions makes him master of exceptional cinematic-semantic sensitivity (a person of a unique stance in the history of intellectual cinema).

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Bresson on the set of “Au Hazard Balthazar”

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Gerard wants Marie to be his girlfriend. But for him, a soloist of the church chorus, there is no place in life for tenderness or eroticism. He wants to dominate her as an authority, will and in his bodily needs. He knows that with her he doesn’t have a chance to be loved, but he also knows that she feels isolated – her father is too idealistic and far from life, and people impressed by dirty gossips about her, project on her their suspicion and hate. He knows that Marie will not make noise in response to his demands.

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Marie doesn’t like Gerard and doesn’t hide it, but he doesn’t care about “sentimental” side of things. He needs her, not her love. He, practically, blackmails her with a scandal that will make her reputation in the community even worse, whatever she could say.

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Marie doesn’t have a choice but to surrender. Prejudicial community is a proper environment for rapist and criminal. Justice expects from people objectivity of judgment. Marie is like the donkey Balthazar who tolerates the abuses of its owners. Bresson hints at the limitations of the traditional concept of sainthood.

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Marie cannot believe that Gerard won’t leave her alone as soon as she let him know that she doesn’t love him. She can’t believe that it is possible to be without soul.

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Balthazar with one of its owners – a homeless Arnold, a kind of a dark saint, alcoholic, abuser and a victim

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Balthazar during his spectacular career at the circus interrupts its performance when it notices his previous owner Arnold in the audience. Donkey’s love for Arnold was, obviously, stronger than its glorious future and memory of being kicked and beaten by this drifter and drunk.

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Charles spends the night inside the church listening to what for him is an alternative to living, but art of serious music, like any real (disinterested) art cannot save from life. More, it can make the situation of the soul worse.

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Charles is more and more hopeless inside the human world.

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Edwige and Alberte both are dedicated to Charles…

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… but worldly poison that killing him, makes even their love helpless and fruitless.

Posted Sep 7 2010 –   Robert Bresson’s “Au Hazard Balthazar” (1966) and “Devil probably” (1977) – Balthazar, Marie, Charles, Alberte, Edvige, Valentine…  by Acting-Out Politics

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Werner Herzog

“Stroszek” is a surrealistically stylized saga about the trio of European eccentrics’ awkward attempts to settle into American freedom. The film concentrates mainly on the psychological, not material problems of the emigrants, and, through analysis of their encounters with life provides thoughtful criticism of American viva-survivalism, money-fetishism, a lack of disinterested intellectual energy, excess of consumerist ecstasy, and a drastic disproportion between dominant physical relations with nature and a rudimentary spiritual one.

In “Stroszek” the European refined but infantile narcissism meets the American rational but de-sublimated one with tragic consequences for the main characters whose emotional refinement and “poetic” non-practicality turn against them in an atmosphere of pop-sensibility and fake prosperity. The film analyses two types of socio-political power over people – traditional (direct and obvious) victimizing the main characters in Germany, and the innovative and post-modern – financially and economically manipulative, in USA.

Herzog’s imagery in this film delivers existential meaning with socio-psychological straightforwardness and yet aesthetically independent from it and “fetishistically” enjoying itself with all its beauty. Visual images in “Stroszek” intrigue and astonish us while their meaning makes us bitterly laugh ant think in discomfort. The film forces us to question ourselves as Europeans (by our past), as Americans (by our present and future) and as human beings in general.

Among three persons arrived in the new world – Bruno (Bruno S.) is more talented in his sensitivity for existential wisdom than in his singing, Scheitz (Clemens Scheitz) is prone to react on the system’s indifference towards human beings “romantically” – with his psychological wholeness, not soberly, inside the given situations, and Eva (Eva Mattes), personifies the woman’s soul: emotional sensitivity generously given to children and to the abandoned and deprived. All three are doomed in a new country. Bruno will commit suicide, Mr. Scheitz, the eccentric old man – will be taken to jail, and Eva, under the influence of pop-philosophy of social self-assertion and self-promotion, lost the ability to love life (in Europe she was a prostitute by necessity, and in US she is transformed into a harlot by the ideology of “material independence”, consumerism and entrepreneurship).

Herzog’s surrealistic sarcasm creates expressive and often intentionally horrifying images which never leave your memory, for example, the scene of Bruno’s deadly humiliation by pimps who cannot forgive him for not paying them for being with Eva, or the sexual dance of the Wisconsin farmer inspired by money-worship, or the poetic auction of Eva and Bruno’s mobile home.

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Devastated by being ridiculed and humiliated by pimps, Bruno complained to and asked for advice from a friendly physician…

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… who is trying to help by demonstrating Bruno the optimistic intentions of the Creator who has equipped babies with “supernatural” yearning for survival. It is this meeting that gave Bruno the idea to try to live somewhere else.

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In a day when Bruno is released from the prison where he spent some time for petty violation jail headmaster not only forces him to swear that he’ll never taste alcohol again…

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… but torments him with lecturing about the power of sins over the human will and people’s responsibility to resist the temptation to transgress.

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In an atmosphere of pluralistic careerism Bruno’s girlfriend started to lose her (disinterested) soul and with it love for him (who lived only by Eva’s love and without it started to lose the desire to exist).

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Without Eva to console him and without Herr Scheitz, Bruno has decided to leave life, but not in the American way – by radically changing identity. Where Americans adapt to quickly changing reality, Bruno Stroszek stopped to be, he died a human being.

Posted Jun 19 2011 –   Werner Herzog’s “Stroszek” (1977) – A Surrealistically Comic Parable about European Escapees to American Freedom by Acting-Out Politics

“Nelly and Mr. Arnaud” is a graciously nostalgic film about everyday life that is not boring or burdensome or hyped up by entertainment but lived according to democratic norms of civility, elegance and gracious and generous individualism. We see personal relationships of love and friendship as, simultaneously, dedicated and free, when people care about one another even in situations of separation, decisive disagreements or dead ends.

Sautet goes so admirably far when he depicts personal love as something so different from marriage as spirit is from flesh in traditional (including modern) cultures and even as grace is in relation to control over flesh and soul. In this sublime world of the exceptional Parisians, children of democratic way of life, sometimes the very decision to legitimize love through marriage (when, for example, Nelly’s lover proposes to formalize their ties and she perceives it as his attempt to subdue her freedom while she is in love with him) can be perceived as a miserable attempt to appropriate and possess what is supposed to be free every day and every minute. When Nelly refuses for the sake of their love, he uses the classic blackmail – either-or demand which puts Nelly through a terrible psychological torment of taking responsibility for their separation in spite of her wholehearted desire to be together. What for him is protection of their love, for her it is its destruction. But freedom and elegance win although not without a price. Of course, Sautet is not transforming the film into an anti-ideology of marriage – he just depicts love as inseparable from experience of freedom. It pains us to see how Nelly again and again calls her boyfriend and he doesn’t pick up the receiver while hearing her messages of a not-chained love on his answering machine.

Previous lovers or husbands and wives in the film are forever enamored by one another, and are not just on friendly terms, and they become genuine friends with the new partners of their previous loves, without a crumb of jealousy or envy. Sautet hints that it is communal spirit when “communal” doesn’t contradict the “individual”, what stimulates and refines love by not putting love relations into a box of artificial/false certainty.

We don’t see in this film any frivolity of love, but responsibility of most protagonists for their behavior suggested to them by democratic values, is not too difficult to keep because these people’s passions are free from fanatic obsessions and emotional extremism. They love because they are lovely and loving, not because they feel obliged to follow norms created by previous epochs. They are self-confident and skillful enough to create their own life.

For us living during the times when democracy is retreating into fight for survival (as a result of austerity attacks on human wellbeing) to watch Sautet’s film is a blissfully tormenting experience – we are in a way envious of these people’s happiness for living in a democracy when fight for love was not necessary, like also fight for prosperity. Sautet’s last film is a nostalgic smile through tears addressed to the best times of democratic life as it’s imprinted on people’s private relations.

The actors are able to express psychologically difficult combination of love and freedom, of love and individual grace, of love and individuality inside love, of love and personal dignity.

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Claude Sautet and Michel Serrault (behind him)

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The first meeting of Pierre Arnaud (Michel Serrault) with Nelly (Emanuelle Beart – on the right)

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Monsieur Arnaud disinterestedly offers help to Nelly and, unexpectedly, the job of a literary secretary with an editor’s responsibilities.

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Nelly and her lover who is pressing her to marry him putting their marriage as a condition for continuing their relationship, or else.

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Pierre introducing Nelly, relationship with whom up to this point is purely platonic, to his wife he no longer lives with.

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Like a character in Jean Cocteau‘s “Orpheus” looked unobserved at the sleeping Orpheus, Pierre is indulging in looking at Nelly while she was sleeping.

We, Americans, from childhood are encouraged to love and to emulate (identify with) endless animation and comic strip cartoon characters that as our internal objects (settled in our unconscious, defining our reactions and becoming a part of who we are) influence our behavior even when we are grownups. For children cartoon characters are entertaining, charming and much more interesting than the boringly serious adults. Their very love of cartoons becomes love for the artificial world of a cartoon-childhood which is much more pleasant and easier than the necessity to grow up into adulthood. Results are our emotional nostalgia for cartoon-childhood (our unconscious desire to return to the innocent consumption of cartoon personages) and our proclivity to cartoonize our adult behavior (our psychological attempts to transform “despotic” adulthood into a variant of our childhood communities with toy-creatures).

Infantilization of American adulthood when nominally adult people behave like children is a very dangerous price our country pays today for our childish expectations of what adult life is. Today’s video-games have become extensions of our cartoon-childhood with the results like cartoonish – patriotism, militancy, friendships, economy, concepts of social and personal life and idea of international relations.

Resnais’ film shows us ourselves when we as adults are in a permanent (direct or silent) dialogue with cartoon personages of our childhood and how this fact cripples our adulthood by making us unable to handle the challenges of the real world. The film analyzes through psychological sensibility of the characters how relations between US and Europe today have become the exchange of American and European cartoon-worldviews, with attempts by some French scholars, personified by Christian Gauthier (Gerard Depardieu) to assimilate cartoon-worldview into serious culture by finding its fake intellectual elaborations.

We see how American globalism in cartoon boots fuses with French intellectual sophistication to the cultural detriment for both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. American mass culture loses the truth of its fakery, while French intellectualism itself transforms into animation cartoon.

The film is as funny as animals in cartoon, but our desire to have fun is defined by film’s images as phony, and our laughter debunks itself – becomes impregnated by fake cheerfulness, sentimentality, simplistic expectations and imaginary desires transformed by the inevitable encounters with reality into disappointment, frustration, bravado, behavioral absurdities, and, ultimately, into shame and pain.

“I Want To Go Home” is an impressive intellectual and artistic achievement. I am not sure that we deserve it, meaning our problematized ability to understand it. The film challenges us as products of an artificial mass-culture for children. It demands from us the ability to reconsider our childhood, to be able to therapeutically overcome our need to be entertained that transforms everything into canned-laughter.

Nobody was expecting from Adolph Green, a famous Hollywood composer, such impressive performance as an actor, which suddenly made him equal partner of Gerard Depardieu.

“I Want To Go Home” is a comic anti-comedy, where cartoonish effects of commercial comedy are parodied by the adult – anti-mythological perception of the world. Resnais sarcastically laughs at the childish pseudo-laughter of cartoon-comedy.

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Famous American cartoonist Joe Wellman arrives to the opening of American cartoon exposition, but is not recognized in all his glory by the woman curating the exposition, the fact that gave him psychological trauma and put him in a bitter tantrum.

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Joe Wellman (Adolph Green) loudly “debunks” France as a “crack-pot country” and makes hell for his mistress Lina (Linda Lavin) who wants them to enjoy their trip to Paris.

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Christian Gauthier, a French intellectual who became a specialist in American cartoon culture (to rejuvenate his career almost drowned into academic underwater currents after his famous book on Baudelaire) tries to explain his wealthy mother why he is hooked on” Americans”.

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After decades of struggling in his native country USA for success Joe Wellman found in Christian Gauthier the person who is able to really appreciate Joe’s talent.

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Christian Gauthier is hosting Joe and his mistress not without innocent calculation. Analyze the composition of this shot. Where is Lina looking at and with what facial expression? And how is Joe represented here in relation to Lina and Christian?

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Traumatized, as both an American and a Jew, by a scandal with a American movie-director, another person Christian Gauthier glues to, Joe Wellman appeals to the French country people to help him to find his way to the airport to be able “to go home”. A local skirmish, according to cartoonish logic rooted in our unconscious, became a matter of international misunderstanding.

Posted on Oct 28 2009 –   Alain Resnais’ “I Want to Go Home” (1989) – Cultural Apocalypse by Means of Comedy – Cartoon Patriotism, Cartoon Humanism  by Acting-Out Politics

“Pigpen/Pigsty/La Porcile” is a detailed politico-philosophical statement in visual images about the sad state of what could be a moral evolution of the human specie. The film consists of two parts echoing one another. One depicts the destiny of a group of young cannibals surviving on the periphery of medieval country life, while the other (connected with the first through parallel montage) represents the life of a wealthy family in post-WWII Germany. Pasolini compares the ordeals of the medieval bums mad from hunger, with that of the son of a leading German corporate profit-maker, and his fiancée. His juxtaposition of the two historical periods produces astonishing results. The young leader of the local cannibals and son of the wealthy businessman, appear like brothers, even like twins by destiny.

With unique images Pasolini sculpts the very logic of his medieval and modern young heroes’ intuitive perception of the reality, and explains how cannibalism (in the medieval part of the film), and bestiality of the son of the modern financial magnate come into existence. The director depicts these deviations not as “naturalistic” phenomena for the technicians of psychiatric diagnosis to brood about, but as a result of attempts by these two major characters to make sense of the world that surrounds them – each spontaneously metaphorizes his understanding of the reality, one into his cannibalism and the other into his bestiality. In other words, their perversions are not reflection of their psychology as such or their “genes” but are results of their intellectual function that makes metaphors of their surrounding world and human relations in it (instead of just imitating it/adapting to it) by their very behavior.

Pasolini’s representation of the two types of grand-scale businessmen in modern tale – the more traditional (trying to take into consideration the human and natural environment of their entrepreneurship), and the purely instrumental one (oriented only on profit by any price), is shocking in its clairvoyance – by having predicted what we today observe in Europe and US: morbid growth of profit-making practices neglecting concern for its social and environmental costs and consequences.

Director’s comparison of how differently language was used in the medieval Europe and today is informing and stimulating. Before language was a tool of understanding reality and communicating with others, but today language is used… instead of living while everyday life is instrumentalized by permanent calculation.

The exceptional performances of Pierre Clementi, Jean-Pierre Leaud, Anne Wiazemsky, Ugo Tognazzi, Ninetto Davoli and Alberto Lionello are character-, not circumstance-oriented. This style of acting is not suitable for passive/immediate identification of the audience with the personages that usually gives the viewers a lot of easy, cheap and empty pleasure. The actors of “Pigpen”, on the other hand, discover their characters’ unique reactions even on seemingly trivial situations.

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Although crime is a crime, still, when crimes are result of the lack of necessities for survival, or extreme material or spiritual deprivations, it’s easier to understand them than when they are based on the need for luxury. The leader of a medieval gang of cannibals, whom we see in this shot, was tormented for years by chronic hunger. In the wake of his transgression he discovered a certain solemn pathos of violating the law which covers up indifference of society towards those who find themselves destitute and abandoned. In other words, behind his crime is hidden a political protest.

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The wealthiest among today’s transgressors aren’t those who are deprived of basic necessities of life, but those who commit crimes out of a pathological need for extra-wealth and/or because of their megalomania. Mr. Klotz, whom we see here, is the wealthiest man in Europe…

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… Klotz and his economic rival Mr. Herdhitze made a financial deal which includes sacrificing Mr. Klotz’ son as a condition of merging of their enterprises

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Mr. Klotz’ son Julian is not a cannibal, but his perversion is an unconscious psychological reaction on the moral bestiality of people like his father and his rival/ partner in business.

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Julian meets the girl of his age (from a family comparable in wealth and social standing with Julian’s), but for Julian and Ida it is very difficult to establish emotional rapport with each other – Julian’s horrifying secret stands in between them…

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…as a kind of anti-mission of his life – to prevent him from human happiness because he “doesn’t have a right to it” – his parents’ (and people like them) moral monstrosity creates in Julian the utopian attempt to redeem them by his self-condemnation.

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Julian was sacrificed by his father with the agreement of his mother to save themselves from social scandal and double their wealth empire.

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Julian was killed but his murder was professionally covered up – masked as an accident in the pigsty where Julian was, officially, been eaten by the pigs. The simpleminded (perceiving the world through their imagination) peasants working for Klotz/Herdhitze became the carriers of this absurd story to the people. Pasolini emphasizes how pop-myths are created to cover up the real crimes and make the unbearable life of the poor people less unbearable to make them continue to serve interests of financial elite.

Posted Dec 12 2012 –   Pier Paolo Pasolini’s “Pigpen/Pigsty/Il Porcile” (1969) – Two Tales of “Moral Progress” in Human History as a Study of Cognitive Operation of “Metaphorizing the Essence”  by Acting-Out Politics

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