22 Apr 2015
Talented individuals with psychologically deeply rooted and rich and multifaceted personalities not only have social ambitions and professional dreams, but moral and intellectual ideals demanding realization. And this last factor makes them even more vulnerable to militant political organizations.
“Le petit soldat/The Little Soldier” (film trailer)
Bruno and Veronica spending time together
Godard and Bruno
Godard observes Bruno (Michel Subor) not like a detective, but like an elder brother, like before he observed Michel Poiccard in “Breathless”. Bruno is as much of a “modern” type of a Western hero as is Michel, but he is much more of an “intellectual” and he is culturally educated. He is more admirable than Michel but also much more disappointing. Godard wants to get at the bottom of Bruno’s failure as a human being. Is this failure that of the very revolutionary aspirations of the Western youth?
Bruno is a young man with a developed internal world and his own will able to act according to his personal intentionality, not according to orders and expectations of his political bosses. But the issue is – is to be culturally educated and a decent person enough to resist the grip of a repressive and militant organization and ideology with, indeed, impressive power over even so called democratic societies?
The “little soldier“-Bruno looks at the viewers without asking for advice or help nor condescending pity. His gaze is already acknowledging that he is trapped (like the majority of people kept by the throat by the necessity to succeed in the world belonging to masters-decision-makers), but somehow we feel in his eyes a mute appeal of somebody who is victim of the socio-political manipulation.
Bruno is psychologically yearning for freedom to resist the conventional society, but he is controlled by very developed manipulative strategies modern societies are equipped with. We live not in traditional or ideological monarchies, but under a political establishment with a mighty arsenal of seducing, corrupting and intimidating tools. And now it is much more difficult, than in older times, to resist, if you want to avoid personal martyrdom.
While driving in the car of his dreams, recruited not only as an informer, but as a political ”hit-man” Bruno mobilizes his cultural erudition shifting his focus from the poets to painters, from philosophers to scholars – to forget what he is hired to do in Switzerland.
Veronica and Bruno
His feeling of resistance against being manipulated and exploited for the sake of somebody else’s interests Bruno perceives not existentially, but “philosophically”, as if, it is a problem of human individual and his particular destiny, and not that of people’s socio-cultural life in general.
Bruno’s “great” ambition to be able to face any danger and to go through whatever ordeal corresponds to the elegancy of how he formulates to himself the difficulties which pursuing him and how he assesses his capacity to resist the pressures on him by the circumstances.
Sometimes both, Bruno and Veronica, feel that they are equally trapped by their corresponding political affiliations (although Veronica has chosen hers herself), but they see it as a problem of their individual self-realization, not as objective condition, and they somehow feel ashamed to share it with one another. They are like a brother and sister separated by a politico-ideological divide. And they unconsciously try to mask this fact of being existential siblings by eroticizing their mutual attraction.
“God, Veronica was beautiful”; but Bruno’s rush to appropriate her erotically, as understandable as it may be, tells us about his narcissistic immaturity which can express itself in other situations as well. It is, as if, with an attractive girl, it is natural to try to immediately establish erotic ties while detouring other existentially important issues, some of them much deeper than amorous sentiments.
Bruno is a person who is prone to declare to others the nobility of his relations with love. No, he doesn’t expect applauds, but he, as if, needs to remind himself of his tremendously dignified position in love relations as though he has a compulsion of reminding himself who he is, as if, he is not sure about it. Is he unconsciously trying to balance his self-reflective intelligence with his socio-political conformism? If so, private behavior very often compensates a person for his/her conformist social life.
Bruno likes to think about complicated philosophical and psychological questions without taking into consideration that the answers cannot be as limited to the general context of the certain area discussed as questions, but may demands invoking the facts which a person prefers to be silent about.
Veronica becomes a girl again when she thinks about her socio-political ideals – she is too youthful to comprehend that militant political fight destroys not only these sublime moral ideals but personal decency of those who join militant political organizations. There is an incompatibility between moral ideals and militaristic political praxis which noble young people don’t think through.
Right and Left Wing Functionaries and Secret Agents
Composition of the shot suggests that those who hide behind the Hitler poster are not necessarily neo-fascists, but people pursuing other political agendas by using Nazi tactics (which became universalized) in their political fight.
A New Face of Western Civilization
Already in the 1960s Godard predicted that not only torture will become legal and a routine practice, but that it will become a normal thing to depict, to show and to discuss publicly, and to feel heroic and “optimistic” about using torture.
Godard’s Bruno and Veronica, like Romeo and Juliette, belong to the opposite sides fighting one another. Of course, in Bruno and Veronica’s case the antagonistic sides are not “two families”, but the right- and left-wing political structures under opposite ideological banners. The extreme right and extreme left world-views differ in content but are similar in its psychological and behavioral code. Godard makes us to observe the loyalists of both sides giving us the opportunity to collect our own impressions about their psychological similarity. But what is even more impressive in the film than the comparison between secret agents of the two clans, one fighting against Algeria‘s independence and the other – for its independence, it is how our amorous couple – Bruno and Veronica became what they are: one joined the fighters against Algeria’s liberation from France and the other – for it.
Bruno is trapped into becoming a secret agent by the right-wing blackmail, but Veronica joined the left-wing organization voluntary, with a trembling idealistic dedication. Bruno’s moral ideals are not fascist in any way – they are rather based on the values of individual nobility and narcissistic belief that he will be able to maintain his personal decency in any circumstances and outsmart all the attempts to use him for immoral goals. Veronica’s moral ideals, on the other hand, are humanistic – to try to help those who are trying to liberate themselves from domination. Veronica’s political idealism is rooted in the concept of historical development, while Bruno has the self-consciousness of an intellectual and appeared in the area of politics by chance – his real interest is spiritual development in secular terms: through education in arts and philosophy, through sharpening his aesthetic and cognitive sensitivity. Veronica’s dedications are divided on personal relationships (here Bruno was a direct and lucky beneficiary) and socio-political level of life. Bruno’s self-image is connected with his personal courage, readiness to face ordeals and the necessity to achieve better understanding of art and life. The catastrophic naiveté of Veronica is projection of her moral ideals into political fight without understanding that the nature of political fight is different from the area of having moral ideals – that during the fight moral ideals will become unrecognizable – they will transform into ideological dreams swearing with propaganda while political fight will become dirtier and dirtier by the excuse of necessity and inevitability. In other words, moral ideals will become a banner stuff, and political fight – destruction, murders and torture, propagandist disinformation and manipulation for the sake of achieving victory. Bruno’s connection with the right-wing defenders of the traditional power, wealth and further wealth-making is ambiguous from the beginning (the right-wingers trapped him after his refutation to enlist during Algerian war). Eventually, after doomed attempts of resisting, he did what they wanted – he killed the target they wanted to eliminate. But it was not the worst thing Bruno did under the pressure – he betrayed the woman he thought he loved –Veronica, not intentionally, of course, but by putting his alertness – understanding of what’s going on – down (he let his bosses to outsmart him, he underestimated the high professionalism of their meanness, he misperceived the circumstances they created).
How was it possible for Bruno, amateurish but sharp mind and observant gaze, let these primitive guardians of the status quo – Jacques and Paul, to outplay him and kill his love? One of the reasons, it seems, is the very direction of his intelligence. People who try to realize themselves through symbolic culture can be awkward and vulnerable in real life. Bruno’s intelligence followed traditional concept of mental development as a process between the individual and secular spirituality coded in arts and philosophy. This traditional concept of what it means to become more intellectually developed doesn’t include sociological, socio-psychological and economic analysis of societal life and analysis of historical process – matters too prosaic to be considered important. While Veronica projected her political idealism into a noble socio-political goal without thinking much, for Bruno socio-political reality doesn’t exist at all as serious matter. His creative unconscious doesn’t give a damn about political reality. By being under-attentive to it he allowed the possibility of Veronica being caught – he just didn’t consider that something like this might happen. But there is something else – can it be that, may be, he wasn’t worried enough about Veronica?
But he loved Veronica – he was fascinated by her, he dreamed about their love. Subjectively, he was in love with Veronica, but objectively… The difference between subjective and objective aspects of love is the issue of the ability to objectify love, to invest it in factual reality. It’s a matter of being interested in the environment love creates and in how love proves itself. A person like Bruno is not interested in love in this extraspective sense. He can be erotically inspired. He can be genuinely charming. As a personality he is expressive and multifaceted. His gift is to impress, not to care about another person. He wasn’t attentive enough to Veronica – he didn’t know how. He is too much of a soldier. He deserved to be cared for, but he cannot reciprocate care.
Bruno is no doubt erotically involved with Veronica. For woman it is an honor to be loved by Bruno Forestier. But it is not the experience. He shared with Veronica his impressive (for young man) ideas, associations, images. But he is ontologically closed. He is a monad isolated from the world including Veronica. His love is an instrument for being loved. There is no path from him back to the world.
Like Bruno is super-masculine, although in a sublimated form, Veronica is super-feminine, and these features are part of their fascination with each other, and this doesn’t help their “survival together” in barbaric environment they found themselves in – they are so fit together, that they, as if, swallow one another’s presence instead of paying attention to the world around them. They are “melting” from each other instead of helping one another to be more alert. If Bruno could be more sensitive and more caring, and Veronica – more operationally analytical and less relying on his mind and decisions, they could find a way to get rid of their political loyalties on time and wouldn’t become objects of a successful manipulation and victims of political cruelty and Machiavellianism.
Bruno and Veronica both are unbelievably naïve to play with real politics, with catastrophic consequences. Until people like them look for meaning of life in personal development (Bruno) and international justice (Veronica), people like Laszlo (torturer of Bruno) and Jacques and Paul (manipulators of Bruno and murderers of Veronica) get unprecedented competence in how to trick, mislead, manipulate, torture and murder. In the same way, there is an incomparable difference between military recruiters’ competence in propaganda and manipulation and the enlisted youth opened to life as mouth to air, or between higher ranking military specialists and regular military personnel, or between scholars of humanistic sciences and specialists in knowledge of how to manipulate, kill and destroy life. Humanistic sciences/liberal arts are more and more pure idealism while propagandists of exploitation and hate have practical knowledge of how to lie and mislead and get rid of millions of people they consider superfluous for their civilization of wealthy elite.
Intellectuals are “romantic” about intellectuality, idealistic about disinterested knowledge and understanding, about a life as purified by cognitive sublimation. But while they pursue their difficult cognitive projects, neocons train themselves in barbaric practices of propaganda, in technological mass murders, in exploitation and in practical economy of profit-making beyond limits.
Godard’s film is a grave warning. We ought to rush to understand it better. “Le petit soldat” is a film about systemic abuse of the young people, taking from them their right to study about the functioning of human societies inside historical processes, about manipulating the young ones by transforming them into self-sacrificial servants of the financial and political elite. These existential and cultural molesters of the young souls know how to use particularities of young age to get them to act according to the needs of their masters while keeping a happy consciousness of being individualistic, free and hedonistic in a consumerist and narcissistic sense. If such exceptional young people like Bruno and Veronica were with such an ease fooled by their bosses what kind of a destiny can we expect for the youth of 21st century, when the contrast in the competence between those who are open to the world and those who use others for their needs has become so much more acute than it was in the second part of the 20th century.
Today, the political and administrative organization of societal life is much more structured to keep the next generations under control while making them think that they are free. Godard’s Bruno and Veronica are the tragic prophecies of the post-democratic martyrdom of youth. This film stands together with Robert Bresson‘s “Mouchette” – 1967, and “Devil, Probably” – 1977, Pier Paolo Pasolini’s “Oedipus Rex” (1967) and “Salo” (1976), Liliana Cavani’s “I Cannibali/The Year of the Cannibals” (1970) and Michelangelo Antonioni’s “Zabriskie Point” (1970) and “Blow Up” (1966).
10 Apr 2015
For millennia pantheism was understood superstitiously – like stones and leaves with anthropomorphic souls, and for millennia after spiritual emanation itself was understood as taking place very far from our life – somewhere above the sky. Spirituality attributed to humans during their earthly life was sensitivity towards what is above and beyond. French impressionists including Manet made an attempt not only to return civilization to nature, but to feel both – the human beings and nature as a part of the very phenomenon of spirituality. They felt spirituality as simultaneously natural and sublime. In the second part of the 19th century the European culture rediscovered nature and human being as such as a spiritual abode. Secular culture was able to return to the pantheistic sensibility in a de-theologized way, to recover it inside human perception and understanding, within societal and historical life. “Interior at Arcachon” depicts not just harmony between civilization (human beings, society and historical process) and nature (the earthly universe) but human reverie for nature as a precondition of human inspiration as spirituality.
Authoritarian/totalitarian power can be immediately recognized by its proclivity to transform people into servants and working robots, into passive and passionate followers of commands and orders. It takes away from the people the very possibility of freedom for independent inspiration of spiritual creativity. Instead it encircles people with war-training, with sells and consumption. In addition, today’s totalitarian societies try to enslave nature through the manipulative power of its ruling elites armed with high-tech technology.
Christianity attempted to ontologically centralize humanness, liberate it from the hierarchy of social power through a direct – mystical and ethical rapport with Christ, to state that not rich and powerful but every human being can be inspired by Christ. This humanistically oriented ontological baptism of human being as such was shattered by the Christian Church’ dogmatic thinking (which reinforced authoritarian – socially vertical and totalitarian – socially horizontal: oriented on standardization of human worldview, social atmosphere in order to subdue human creative intuition with the power of despotic centralized doctrine).
Secular spirituality (as depicted in Manet’s painting) is oriented to correct the socio-morphization of Christianity by the Church by trying to ontologically re-centralize the human being in embrace with nature in God-created universe. Manet’s “Interior at Arcachon” may be seen in the context of the history of human spirituality inside life. We see, here, the un-problematized unity between the secular interior and the inspiring intensity of nature. Manet makes nature the main motif of the interior as space and design, its very center.
Through the wide open window the nature enters the room to participate in human life. Compositionally, it is invited at the table. It gives its light to the sitting woman’s face, and it gives its support to the young man’s head (it organizes his profile orienting it into the future of his intellectual concentration). The table which the landscape sees and settles at is not dining one – it is the one for artistic and intellectual pursuits, for secularly spiritual concentration (SSC) which in this painting has an applied aspect – it has to be registered/elaborated on the paper through linguistic creativity. SSC has to be not only a matter of unity of the human soul with the universe but to become an aspect of human language and thinking. Mystical moment is only the beginning of spiritual experience Manet represented here as taking place in two human beings, may be, a mother and her son. According to the painting, without nature’s participation in human secular spirituality, creativity through writing is impossible.
The light of inspiration that is entering the room creates a strange atmosphere inside the interior. So much light makes the two human figures, things and colors uncertain, unsure of their visual identity. The forms, as though, are signaling about their existence but simultaneously enveloping themselves with the mysterious light. The atmosphere in the room is rather magic, alchemical. The usual “impressionistic” explanation of “atmospherization” of nature in painters-impressionists (transformation of nature into human visual impressions) doesn’t seem to be applicable anymore. It is not the creative posture of the human gaze that is responsible for a kind of dissolution of contours and colors. The point here is, rather, what exactly makes the impressionist sight so magic. Manet’s “Interior at Arcachon” seems to provides an answer. It is not the impressions of certain painters, and it’s not a particular painting style invented by them, and it’s not the specificity of their painterly talent, but rather their ability to see the world and people bathing in “internal/external” – mystical light (which is a metaphorization by the effects of real/natural light on the human visual perception). In other words, it is not the natural light that makes a sensitive gaze to create impressionistic art, but a certain kind of spiritual sensitivity of an artist-impressionist to the aura of mystical light inside the spiritual world (the belief that the matter has a subtle ability to respond to the light with light).
Both, the elder woman and younger man are writing, but if the woman’s act of writing is lit by the sun, more yellow on her face and whiter on the paper, the light on the young man is igniting his imagination. He takes inspiration right from the air, while she – from the landscape. The mystical light ignites her face and her paper – her soul, but in him it ignites inspiration itself! Are we here dealing with the difference between writing prose and writing poetry? It looks that the young guy writes poetry while the woman – prose. But their dependence on the mystical life of the very centrality of the world in human aspirations is especially precious today, when instrumental and anti-spiritual approach to the world became an ideology of power and greed, and as a result nature and civilization are both equally in danger.
There is no contradiction between nature and civilization if both are impregnated by the mystical light of creation (making matter and spirit made of one substance). But woe on those who want to dominate the life of the world and profit on it – who thinks that will of money-hooked profit-makers can become the law of the universal life. The union between spiritual (disinterestedly contemplating) human will and the will of the universe is the spiritual law of life, and we better make the human creativity to be in tune with the mystical light of creation instead of exploiting and destroying nature. Technical science has to be redeemed by secularly spiritual inspiration which Manet depicts in “Interior at Arcachon”.
06 Apr 2015
One of the most striking features of Bunuel’s film is the drastic contrast between its smooth, seamless and elegant, even graceful form and the violence of its content. We see several murders, one of them with agonizing death, two attempted murders, walking corpses with bleeding holes (made by the entered bullets) in the heads, a scene of physical torture, we see people who behave unattractively, clashes of false pride, serious quarrel without serious reasons, the life of petty calculations and disrespect for human nobility. But nothing, it seems, spoils our refined aesthetic pleasure from watching this film which is like a soft air unnoticeably streams into our perception regardless of its content and of the fact that identification of the viewers with the characters is blocked or devaluated by the director.
The major characters of the film are charming but coarse, they behave discretely but as persons they are quite impudent, each in his/her own way. Their souls are not too refined, their emotions are rather ordinary, they are often tactless and some of them are permanently engaged in petty power games. But they are, no doubt, charming. They are not always discreet, but their charm is. Bourgeoisie had charm during the mid-20th century, when democracy (discreetness) was used by it as aesthetic cover for imperial drives and obsession with profit by any price.
Bourgeois charm was a specific ontological appeal of these people. The bourgeoisie then produced charm as a fish – certain sounds or luminescence. Its charm was like birds’ plumage, or like specific coloration of skin and fur or a particular odor in animals. In his “Mythologies” (Hill and Wang, 1986, p. 141) Roland Barthes notes that bourgeois has a tendency to flight from the name “bourgeois” and that this flight is the bourgeois ideology itself, “the process through which the bourgeoisie transforms the reality of the world into an image of the world, history into nature”. The “discreet charm” is just another route of this bourgeois flight from its own essence (by thinking and suggesting that there is nothing specifically bourgeois in the bourgeois, that a bourgeois is just a paradigmatic representative of humankind and that his/her way of life is just a result of natural state of things).
The bourgeois charm is the direct expression of this tendency to create appearance (as bad artists’ intuition – appealing form of the work of art), to name this appearance as the essence and then try to register it in public consciousness as an expression of natural state of affair. In Bunuel’s terms, bourgeoisie wanted to register itself in history as a group of charming people who are full of charming plans and who have achieved through their activities in the world not just charming but charmingly admirable results. The production of bourgeois charm is a discreet bourgeois strategy to mask the ruthlessness of their dreams and actions as charming discreetness through which bourgeoisie tried to attract and seduce the world and was and is amazingly successful in this enterprise.
May be, the most striking feature of the film is demonstratively “objective”, distant, without a shade of compassion or empathy, even arrogantly scientific scrupulosity with which Bunuel investigates the bourgeoisie as a specific anthropological sub-specie. Bunuel’s film is a representation without plot (bourgeoisie, according to him, doesn’t have any “plot” – any responsible scenario for humanity). The film is a pure research, and in this sense it can be extremely offensive for the bourgeoisie. But the bourgeois viewers have reacted on the film positively – charm of discreetness is what they were or wanted to be during the times reflected in the film.
Bunuel imitates “the discreet charm of the bourgeoisie” with discreet charm of his cinematic style – impeccable, aloof, elegantly ironic, emotionally neutral, abstractly beautiful, not imposing but involving viewers bit by bit by charming them unnoticeably into being silently fascinated. And this style is ultimately responsible for the success of the film. By using his artistic charms to say the truth about the bourgeoisie Bunuel simultaneously pleases and fools it. He has “out-discreeted” and “out-charmed” the bourgeoisie. And he did it to nail it down. For the sake of his cinema, Bunuel becomes an artistic and philosophical bourgeois (discreet one) who is on the side of the truth against the bourgeois comme il faut hiding behind every bourgeois.
The realities of war, military life and the tragic destiny of militaries are a substantial part of the film. Three psychological aspects of being a military in bourgeois world are represented in the film: to be a killer (the story of the lieutenant Hubert de Rochcahin), to be killed (the story about the dream of the young sergeant about being dead), and to be dedicated to the fetishism of military honor (the presence of the colonel in the film and the story of his petty quarrel with Rafael Acosta, the ambassador of Latin American country). Bunuel insists that apart from being a killer, killed and the aggrandized through association with narcissistic tradition of belonging to the military force – nothing else exists in being a military except suffering of servicemen and their families.
Discreet charm of bourgeoisie is a historical phenomenon. Today, bourgeoisie has lost its discreteness, charm and its connection with protecting their country of origins. Today, the goal of the military structure is to protect the interests of the 1-2-3 % percent of population and agree with austerity for the 97%. Today, wealthy decision-makers don’t need discreteness or charm – money as a weapon and weapon itself deployed for the sake of making more profit do the job of conquering the world better. But Bunuel in his film provides the etiology of the present condition of bourgeoisie – we today have to know its previous condition to understand it better in order to try to handle it more effectively. Without Bunuel’s “The Discreet Charm of Bourgeoisie” we will not be on the level of this necessary and urgent task. Bunuel’s film must be part of a curriculum of History studies in every high school.
Rafael-the ambassador talks here about the “mutinous students” who loves to “protest and demonstrate” “instead of studying”, but he cannot resist a dose of universal right-wing “philosophizing”. By this Rafael deserves an extra-glass of dry martini from Thevenot and creates in ladies extra-admiration, which, as we see, is not unconditional.
How Colonel of the French Army quarreled with Rafael-the ambassador
The colonel giving a party at his place remembers that at the Senechal‘s the ambassador took a critical stance against the use of drugs in the military, and now he wants to respond by reminding the South American that Europe will always be in charge whatever it does.
It is funny that Rafael’s response follows a mutinous tradition of the previous colonies against the colonel’s of colonizing empires – he, a wealthy collaborator with the West, betrayer of the interests of his people for the sake of personal advantage suddenly, in this situation behaves like a parody on Southern revolutionary he never was. He is a part of the West’s puppet government.
From the story of Lieutenant Hubert de Rochahin
To the table, where our three ladies – Simone Thevenot, Alice Senechal and Florence were preparing to have a good time, approached a melancholic lieutenant asking for their permission to share with them his personal story.
Lieutenants story was about how his step-father sent him to a military college and by this decided the course of his whole life. Here, we see the lieutenants mother and father killed by his stepfather whom Hubert in his boyhood has poisoned by the suggestion of the ghost of his mother. In this shot, we see the lieutenants mother and father in the apotheosis of their revenge through their son and the villain himself lying on the bed before joining his rivals in a better world.
While the sad lieutenant was opening to the ladies about how he poisoned his stepfather, the waiter approaches the table to inform the women that their order cannot be fulfilled because the restaurant is out of coffee and tea. Bunuel expects the viewers to grasp how something like this can happen.
04 Apr 2015
Is Hans Epp, the the hero of Fassbinder’s film, a kind of a “saint” or just psychologically traumatized (by his mother and later by other people and circumstances) “neurotic” with psychotic complications? He tries not to be nasty with other people – for example, he is not competing with others for a higher place in the social hierarchy or even for a job, while competition is accepted and encouraged in democratic societies not only as a necessity but as a noble and healthy behavior. When he was just starting his working career he wanted to become a mechanic, but his mother disapproved the “misery” of his interests, and then as a sign of protest he enlisted in Foreign Legion and almost was killed. Many people will say that Hans is too sensitive. The majority of people pick up profession by the necessity and calculation, not by “romantic” choice, and if they really dream about this or that occupation – it is because it is well paying and promises prosperous life. People basically agree with the social dictates of this kind – they, for example, from early school age have in mind a certain future profession which will be generously rewarding, or they already learned to love what they know will guarantee a decent income and social status. But Hans was resisting this innocent conformism – he implied that he is good enough to have a modest job, although his mother considered him the shame of the family, while the father of woman he loved since his youth called him something like a “lazy ass” and made his daughter refuse his marriage proposal. Hans’ stubbornness is very close to naiveté, to being too childlike. How is it possible to be proud for being poor, for being on the bottom? He is too much an idealist in practical life, and this means that he can be an exemplary victim in social survival and in personal relationships.
Hans, as if, eliminates himself from realistic assessment of human life. But can he, in the depth of his personality be a dangerous heretics positioned against the foundation of our civilization that needs in people some degree of predatoriness and competitive muscles as a necessity for its economic growth and political energy? Hans, as if, was trying to stay at the bottom. But to exclude himself from the rivalry for social position and and personal happiness is a very risky thing to do – you can be easily abused by somebody’s self-assertion. Here is Hans’ destiny. The film analyses how concrete circumstances, other people and his general impressions from human life – step by step led Hans to suicide.
“The Merchant…” it seems, can be related to another unique film about suicide, which does not blame the “victim” and rather sees the reason for suicide in the established ways of human societal life and conventional human relations. May be, Fassbinder was even inspired by Louis Malle’s “Fire Within” (1963). The important difference is that Alain Leroy is a well read intellectual while Hans Epp is from a pretentious but a low middle class background. May be, it’s possible to say that “The Merchant of Four Seasons” is positioned in relation to “Fire Within” as Pasolini’s “Accatone” (1961) to the number of Antonioni’s films about life of the wealthy elite. Like Pasolini depicts heroes of Roman underclass as not less intelligent than Antonioni rich Milanese, Fassbinder’s Hans can be even more emotionally sensitive than many humanistically educated and intellectually trained detached observers of life.
Fassbinder’s film is constructed in an emotionally ascetic manner, but this very asceticism is poetic, almost melodious. Actions and scenes follow one another as painful arguments. Montage makes the film a semantic music which involves the audiences more and more than closer we are to the end. It is a teary thinking in visual images, not just visual representation of certain ideas and problems.
In Hans‘ archetypal memory he always was following his mother trying to get her attention, but she never turned to him. It is, as if,he was, somehow, reminding her of a past about which she didn’t want to be reminded.
Hans’ last visit to his grosse liebe (big love) wasn’t intended to be sad, but he couldn’t concentrate on love. He was just sitting in her bedroom, as if in a stupor. We see her suffering after he left without making love. Hans’ silence was a way to say goodbye. She got it.
Hans, Irmgard and Renate – the family meant (by the husband and wife’s unconscious intentionality) to be sublime (as it’s badly depicted by the religious painting in a background), but it is shattered amidst the fallen world by human emotional immaturity.
Suffering (while Hans was hospitalized recovering after heart attack) and being afraid for his life and for her own’s “female destiny”, Irmgard is passing by the clothing store and looking at men in the moving cars.
Each time when Hans‘ sister Anna (the family’s “intellectual”) felt an impulse to, somehow, help Hans, something happened that prevented it, interrupted her desire – either her chronic busyness, or too many ideas clushing in her head, or, like we see here, a small accident making her fall down.
Posted on Feb 21, 2015 – Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s “Merchant of Four Seasons” (1971) – When A Child Is Too Severely (Ontologically Negatively) Judged By Mother, And Later By The Society by Acting-Out Politics
03 Apr 2015
Zushio and his younger sister Anju remembered their parents well – they are always with them, when you put the surrounding life aside. Father – the governor, was as if a bit stern, but in reality emotionally available (children always felt, that he is with them, interested in them). The mother was with them, and at the same time she was, as if, somewhere else from where she always came back to their questions. She was beautifully patient with them. Zushio remembered the father’s motto: Without mercy, man is like a beast. Even if you are hard on yourself, be merciful to others. Men are created equal. Everyone is entitled to their happiness.”
Zushio and Anju were still small when father, for his moral idealism, was punished for being “too kind to the peasants, too lenient, not harsh”. He lost his position and was banished from the area he governed. It meant that his wife and two children lost everything as well, and had to move on foot through the big territory to the mother’s family. On their way they were kidnapped and sold into slavery. The mother and her children were forcefully separated and lost contact.
The film depicts the life of enslaved Zushio and Anju in the working camp, life of their mother sold to a brothel, children’s forgetfulness under pressure of everyday survival and disappearance of the very contact with the concept of meaning of life, and, when they became grownups amid a life of mechanical work, their miraculous communication through the channels of memory and spiritual passion with their mother, and, finally, their self-liberation from a world of anonymous work and servitude with the help of father’s motto and mother’s love.
Mizoguchi’s description of life in the concentration camp of work for survival and profit for the camp’s CEO Sancho is far from being historically naturalistic and rather expresses the director’s concept of slaving for bigger or smaller remuneration – without disinterested investment of human soul and creative freedom which human beings need as an inalienable right reflecting their spiritual need to live with dignity. Mizoguchi is not trying to emphasize “how terrible the living conditions were many centuries ago in comparison with benevolent present times” – he represents the working camp as a surprisingly “modern” institution dedicated to making profit on bad working conditions. When Anju and Zushio, under the influence of their mother’s song delivered to them by the magic power of human creative desire, decided to run away from the camp and fight for the liberation of the workers from slavery, we in the audience are excited not for the human past but for today’s fight of American labor for their right to have Unions, decent salaries and better working conditions.
The film is marked by the director’s pedagogical intentionality as a semiologist – Mizoguchi is teaching the viewers not to take what is visible and obvious as the essential – not to take the surface semantic structure as the meaning of what’s happening. The film is full of sharp examples when the director “traps” us in the visual images which he constructs as if they are carrying their meaning on their surface. But real meaning will be the opposite of what is easily noticeable. The film, in this sense, is a semantic map for looking at the surface of the images that is opposite of what is hidden behind them as their real meaning. This makes Mizoguchi’s film especially a valuable pedagogic tool for training the viewers to intensify their thinking in the same moment they feel that they already got it. In its semantic control over its intentionally self-contradictory and self-correcting (in the perception of viewers) images, “Sansho the Bailiff” is the cultural opposite of entertaining/commercial movie-making.
On their way through the country the mother and children were passing through a field of swaying reeds, which are as if, crying about the future awaiting our heroes and, moved by the wind, as if, saying farewell. The scene communicates a premonition of the coming inhuman ordeals.
About ten years passed – Anju and Zushio became grownups amid the conditions of work for survival – without a meaning of life. Emanation of mother’s being reached them – her song about them was as if carried through winds and waves into Anju‘s perception.
Zushio was able successfully run away from the working camp and delivered petition about the sweat-shops of Sansho. The goddess of mercy, Kwannon which the guards found on Zushio’s neck, impressed the prime-minister, who motivated by the tradition of transference of wisdom from father to son, decided to appoint him as the governor of the same province where our hero spent years as a slave worker. But the prime-minister forbade Zushio to intervene with Sansho’s prosperous business establishment. Here we see Zushio on his way to his new post paying a visit to the burial site of his father.
Zushio violates the prime-minister’s order and shutting down Sansho’s business based on inhumane treatment of the human beings. Here he is watching how Sansho’s working camp is being burned down by the liberated workers.
After liberating the slave-workers Zushio immediately resigned – he felt that his mission in life is completed, and he went looking for his mother and found her crippled and blind. Father’s motto was realized in life. The son and mother both feel that their family was saved under the sun of meaning, in spite of a very high price for this achievement.
02 Apr 2015
“Confessions of Police Captain to the District Attorney” is a political drama representing itself to the viewers as a detective story about the Sicilian Mafia in action, but step by step it transcends this genre and becomes a criticism of society which not only tolerates but encourages corruption of the state officials as a resourceful way for them to enrich themselves. For the (wealthy) businessmen who make their fortune on the tax-payers and on their despotic domination over the labor to offer state officials money is as normal as for the administrators and politicians to accept it with gratitude. Everybody knows that this is happening and yet everyone takes it as inevitable state of things. Is the film describing Sicily of 70s in the 20th century or US in 21st century?
Only three persons in the film are shown to have problem with the existence of under-legalized, legalized and over-legalized corruption described in the film – a labor activist – a sort of a lonely wolf trying to awaken the working people to the awareness of how enslaved they’re by their bosses’ greed (he is very quickly eliminated), the police captain Bonavia (the American actor Martin Balsam in one of the best performances of his career) who became so disheartened in his fight with the invincibility of the wealthy profit-makers who rule the economic life in the country, that he decided to take justice into his own hand, and the District Attorney (Franco Nero) who is passionately dedicated to justice, but is very naive in how he perceives the functioning of the legal system – he fetishizes the Law without understanding that laws are easily detoured if to use the money-routes.
The conflict between the District Attorney and the Police Captain eventually opens the eyes of the honest but with dogmatically streamlined thinking Jurist, but at the cost of Bonavia’s life. May be, his death (his murder in the prison by the hands of poor worshipers/servants of the rich money-maker) will awaken the young Attorney to the understanding that corruption violates the Law without directly/demonstratively violating it, but by competently detouring it.
Damiani shows how the pompous machinery of a democratic juridical system is easily put out of function by the wealthy entrepreneurs who are not (ideologically) challenging it but just neutralizing it for their benefit, and this is how life of the population becomes more and more degraded as a result. He also shows that economic pauperization of the majority takes place in parallel with encouraging freedoms in the realm of private lives (sexual license, drugs, pornography, self-absorption, etc.), with stimulation of cheap consumerism and superstar-worshiping – instead of mass education for better understanding of life.
While being limited by the narrow frames of detective story genre, Damiani’s film is one of the first which described how administrators, politicians and jurists collaborate with the money-makers and neglect genuine interests of the population at large. One of the final episode of the film is – criminals who are “working for wealthy masters” and serving their reduced prison time, are enjoying in the jail an entertaining movie with mindless laughter, while the wounded captain Bonavia is dying squeezed amongst them.
The District Attorney (on the left – Franco Nero) is not a real idealist – he is idealist of dogma, believer in the letter of the Law, while the police detective is a person with understandng of the reality. Bonavia (Martin Balsam) is a genuine moral idealist, an honest fighter against immorality armed with criminality. The composition of the shot emphasizes the stable position of the young attorney, but risky position of the police investigator (represented, as if, at a edge of a cliff).
May be, the death of the real moral idealist, an honest and decent person will make the young District Attorney more sceptical about the social functioning of the democratic legal system, and for this reason – more demanding of it. By showing uncomfortable posture of Franco Nero-District Attorney, who, as if, turning away from his own habitual way of looking at reality and is trying to see something new, the shot suggests that he, may be, indeed, starts to understand things in a less orthodox way.
01 Apr 2015
In 1933 in Spain a right-wing coalition government was formed. Miro wrote, “We are living through a terrible drama, everything in Spain is terrifying in a way you could not imagine”. He undertook a series of violent sexually charged “savage paintings” dated October 1934 and singly entitled “Man”, “Woman” or “Person”. It reflected the beginning of the Spanish Civil War and the subsequent fascist dictatorship.
How is it possible not even to represent but to imagine woman being so monstrous? Isn’t the image of woman first of all associated with love and tenderness, with loveliness and attractiveness? But the violent stabilization of fascist dictatorship in Spain changed all of this for Miro. Popularity of fascism in Spain and in many other European countries in the thirties was and is shocking. The point was not only the wealthy who had financed the Franco’s movement and weapons for his troops, but the passionate participation of the many Spanish poor in repressive policies of Franco’s government. The socio-political reasons for this is rather simple – the poor are tired of being at the bottom – by starting to serve the fascist commanders: to humiliate, abuse and kill people they get the feeling of triumphing over destiny. From nobodies they became a power. But weren’t fascists in history, mainly, men? Why to bring women into this, why target women – why is Miro so intolerant to Spanish women? Can it be that he is unconsciously trying to scapegoat women, to put on women responsibility for fascism?
The woman in painting above is screaming, and she is also laughing – her laughter is like shouting. It is laughter of the witches. She is mocking those whom she hates. Through her laughter she enjoys triumph over those she is laughing at. She is very intense and noisy. Her laughter is hellish but of the size of the whole world. My god, she looks happy: she is cheerful. But whom is she mocking? – The victims of fascism?
Being herself the incompatible unity between mocking and happiness, insulting and being cheerful, she hates and she loves simultaneously. She is a woman, she loves her children, but her very love, somehow, taught them how to hate. Her love grows hate in her off-springs, nurtures hate in their souls. Her love is a vehicle of hate. Her motherly task must be not easy – it’s much more psychologically difficult than the position of fascist fathers who teach their children to murder and who train them from childhood how to kill. And it is the mothers of fascists who teach children how not to forget love (for one another, for the very similarity between them) when they hate those who are not like them and are outside of their comradeship. Fascist love for themselves is another side of fascist hate for dissimilar others. With love for their unity/identity fascists can hate more intensely. Love as the other side of hate is like a combination of smile and grimace of hate in Miro’s woman, a unity of hating and happiness. It is like an embrace of cheerfulness and murder. The very ability to be happy haters which characterizes the fascists is a result of the emotional blend of love and hate which fascist mothers’ ambiguous love taught them. This monstrous combination is an essence of the pedagogy of the mothers of fascists.
Even twenty, even ten years ago I couldn’t understand Miro’s magnificent paintings of horrifying women he did in the mid-1930s. It was difficult to find in my own experience anything I could compare them with. But in the 21st century I saw in TV-news number of right-wing women’s screaming/mocking at their political enemies, and their happy predatoriness became for me the ultimate associations with Miro’s mutated/mutilated females.
The bodies of Miro’s women are painted with earthly and heavenly colors. On the one hand, we see green, orange, soiled-red, yellow and brownish-black, but on the other – whitish blue. It is, as if, Miro warns us not to make the traditional mistake of the macho-mind in identifying women with earth, nature, physiology, matter – all the opposites of “masculine psyche’s attributes – spirit, mind, metaphysical dedications”, etc. But women-fascists are idealistic in a de-existential – generally very traditional way. Catholic Church in Spain was among the most loyal socio-political structures supporting Franco. Mothers of fascists were against equality and prosperity for all, and they in the name of God and Christ were against humanistic development in their country.
The square-like form we see under the fascist woman’s gigantic mouth is her laryngeal protrusion bigger than in men‘s because of her emotional passion in shouting hate (in men hate is more instrumental). Her hands – women’s maternal hands for keeping/holding babies, here exist for political gesticulation – for expressing dogmatism and contempt. The black opening in the bottom of her body is her vaginal tract united by Miro with her anal orifice. And the big soiled-dark-red cave in the middle of her body is, it seems her tireless voluminous womb. Her right eye is that for seeing the earthly objects of interests, and the left is for heavenly ones.
This rendezvous (arranged by Miro) with a mother of a fascists makes us shaken but clarify the historical perspectives.
Is Miro’s second woman praying for global victory of fascism? She is a rodent but an artificial one, like a robber toy. – Toy for whom? – For fascist ideologists dreaming about conquering the world while believing in their country’s exceptionalism? She is a toy but the one who can produce fascist children. That’s why her vagina is horizontal: making her capable of simultaneously serving/using several males – to produce as many fascists as possible – to provide as many soldiers for the fascist armies if “we want” to dominate the world to see ourselves served and worshipped by slaves of the planet.
In 1938 Fascism in Spain won. Celebration is everywhere. Hitler, Mussolini and Franco – are the pelvis bones of the fascist Europe. The mothers of fascists are jubilantly dancing. Too many people are killed, arrested and prisoned, too many – intimidated and muted. But the mothers of fascists are satisfied. Here is one of them. Her mouth predatorily, but generously smiles. Her arms participate in the dance – the fingers of her left hand are like a chirping bird, the right hand plays with the darkened sun like with decorative handkerchief. Her jaw, after feasting on the civil war has swelled; her breasts are full of juice for the future generations of fascists. Her hairs are dancing and playing with the air. The dense sky is her resonating background. She is playing with the sun as fascist Eve with the seducing apple.
Is fascist celebration still a human celebration? Judged by regular human gaze it may seem so. But Miro lends us a special – artistic: truthful eyes. And what we see with these eyes is different. Yes, fascist celebrations are human, but they are also inhuman, and this inhumanity is much more difficult to notice than the pure, one-sided, “biological” humanity. But why is it necessary to borrow extra-eyes from artists like Miro whose truths are as tormenting?
In his “Opera Singer” painting Miro points out that even when fascist periods of history incarnate into life in front of our eyes, our art and habitual forms of understanding of the reality are, as if, incapable of noticing what’s really happening. We continue to live until man-made disasters swallow us like a whale – plankton. We try to adapt to wars, murders and total violence as much as possible. We allow incompetent or/and evil people to rule over us because we are intellectually lazy and corrupted by obvious seductions like petti vanities and consumerism. We don’t know how to take the historical process into our own hands. We are passive and easily suggestible – we are at the mercy of the wealthy demagogues seducing us into obedience through stupid electronic trinkets.
Look at Miro’s “opera singer” with the program notes in her hand and the mouth twisted by the beautiful lie of her vocalisms. Miro teaches us the anti-fascist sensitivity towards fascism and by this helps us to develop the ability to recognize and be alerted by fascism even when it comes enveloped in “neutral” terms.
17 Mar 2015
You cannot hate the stupid, avaricious people in “The District Charm…”; their dreams are too funny; they are endowed with a reluctantly charming dimension…
Bunuel plays cinema as Bach plays organ
In one of his interviews Bunuel makes a distinction between a bourgeois proper, as he is supposed to be (comme il faut), and a bourgeois discreet. As example of this last type he gives himself.
(Jose de la Colina and tomas Perez Turrent, “Objects of Desire [Conversations with Louis Bunuel]”, Marsilio Press, 1992, p. 209
A note for the 21st century viewers
According to the images of “The Discreet Charm…” the absolute monarchy of bourgeoisie is very difficult to achieve – financial moguls are too impatient and too anarchic: they rush to wealth as a person with food poisoning to the latrine. It’s not surprising that many of them are successful – latrines are generous. But the recent developments – unprecedented intensification of corporate domination’s controlling power over American population and globally, tells us that corporate decision-makers are successful in beating with baseball bats to death the idea that bourgeoisie will not be able to unconditionally dominate the world. If they could know who Bunuel was and is they would consider him as something like the very devil of the evil or the very evil of the devil.
Of course, the bourgeoisie today is not what it was when Bunuel observed it. They completely got rid of their discreet charm. As a matter of fact, they got rid of any charm. They don’t need it anymore – extra-money as a seducing, bribing and a commanding tool does a better job of providing extra-profit. As there was a narrow but a gap between the Soviet leading “socialists” fed on the revolution and Stalin‘s security apparatus of 30-50s, there is some mutation between Bunuel’s bourgeoisie and the corporate grabbers and goof-makers of today. It is not that the bourgeois’ of the far or recent past didn’t do those things, but, Bunuel said it – they tried to do it with discreet charm. The difference is not huge, but we see it today in the corporate chain wars and the financial collapses (as a form of making money on the losses by having the public pay), in the austerity for everybody else and in neocon meanness and brutality which are much more radical than before.
Let’s watch how Bunuel proves that bourgeoisie will be defeated not by the “prols”, “terrorists” or “commies” but by their own freakishness, and how he proves that the bourgeois’ spirit will survive defeats as a corporate ghost to continue forever its attempts to dominate/to doom the world. But will Bunuel’s diagnosis really apply to bourgeoisie’s today’s revolting mutants? Their mutation which we know too well in the beginning of the 21st century, started right in the film. It is the difference between Senechals and the Bishop Dufour, between Thevenot’s wife and Raphael-the Ambassador and between Thevenot’s wife and her younger sister. But it is also the difference between realistic scenes and nightmares of the characters, and between realistic- and night-dreams scenes on the one hand and symbolic sequences of the characters’ destiny on the other (when, for example, they are all walking on the same road in opposite directions), as if, written by Bunuel for their eternity.
Wealthy individuals’ charming hospitality and generosity
Francois Thevenot (in the middle – Paul Frankeur), who has invested so much of his life in Don Rafael to tie him through future marriage with his sister in law Florence (on the left – Bulle Ogier), keeps the arrogant ambassador on the hook by discreetly reminding him who is really high society here.
Charming Francois Thevenot’s pantomime with cash and cocain/Francois Thevenot’s charming pantomime with cash and cocaine/Charming Francois’ Thevenot’s equally charming pantomime with cash and cocaine
Charmingly cheerful Henri and Alice Senechals
Gardening Bishop Mgr. Dufour
Senechals are confused – they suspect pranks, jokes and tricks. And then the Bishop reappears in front of them in authentic gardening outfit. But which one is his real garb – the Bishop’s or the gardener’s?
Of course, the Bishop had very peculiar motivation to combine “bishoping” with gardening, or is it rather the gardener had a special reasons to become a Bishop? It looks that the gardener and Bishop are two identities of Mr. Dufour which somehow fit together.
Simone Thevenot and the Ambassador of Miranda Rafael Acosta
Look at Don Rafael! With what an admiring dedication and dedicated admiration he stares at Delphine Seyrig whom Bunuel for this scene asked just to read from the restaurant menu, and she does it with an incredible – melodic and streamlined French adored by foreigners
Wealthy in the nomadic Hell of their own making
A charmingly exuberant party
As a result of the scandalous exchange between the colonel and the ambassador the colonel was fatally punished by Don Rafael for his blasphemy – the honor of his country was proudly protected by its ambassador.
Justified and irrational and irrationally justified fears
But when the Ambassador started to shoot from the embassy window, Senechal thought that he is dreaming, but it was reality, or was it? Bunuel emphasizes here a paradoxical type of reality, which is ontologically speaking – real, but is not real in its meaning (the kind we in the 21st century experience every day).
Alas, the inevitable burdens
Those involved in business tied to war are fond of dreams, stories and imaginary situations. Here we see how the army sergeant gets colonel’s permission to recite his night-dream before unit will leave for the business of war.
The use of drugs during wars is well known as an official policy, but as weapon drugs today are much stronger and much more dangerous than it was in Bunuel’s times. Ambassador Acosta (in the background) obviously is not endorsing the use of dope for the officers and soldiers. The crooks are often demonstratively righteous towards the sins of others.
Torture that is “a no-brainer“
This particular shot was left out of the final version of the film, but, may be, this is my own night-dream, a non-bourgeois one (about not seeing/not consuming something: here, the torture), but as soon as this photo exists, this scene is a reality.
Terrorism as an archetype carried out by the psyche of the wealthy
The Ambassador was able to save his own life by timely jumping under the table with several pieces of lamb. During the extermination of his friends by the machinegunners he needed to urgently reinforce his vitality with additional meat.
May be, terrorists became afraid of Fernando Rey’s facial expression – may be, they felt that they‘re dealing not already with a human being but with a kind of supernatural – super-cunning creature – “salamander of the destiny, basilisk of success” (Vladimir Nabokov), semi-devil/semi-robot?
Charming fear of being ghosts
… can be anybody’s nightmare amongst the heroes of Bunuel’s film, but it is a permanent fear of the people who, because of their obsessive occupation with trying to super-protect themselves by their super-wealth from life, have lost their humanity.
The psychological condition of the wealthy and trying to become wealthy people at the time Bunuel reflecting upon in his film, today, in the 21st century, has radically, although not essentially, changed. Bunuel’s bourgeoisies are still human. Of course, they are obsessed with wealth but in a human psychological context – it felt pleasant and even necessary not to be vulnerable to everyday life and to be able confidently “preside” over their human needs and dependencies. But today – while much more people in comparison with the 60s-70s yearn to be super-wealthy, those who reached super-wealth and those who are near this goal are… mutated into becoming something like an appendix to their feverish technical calculations of how to become wealthier. The career-wealthy (C-W) today had to became not only meticulous specialists in how to become Super-Wealthy (S-W), but their technical knowledge and instrumental self-mobilization for this purpose became such a large segment of their personalities, took so much concentration, so much control over their humanity, that it is practically occupying the psychological space of their whole personality. It is, as if a robot was occupying the human body and soul with its instrumental calculations and functions.
In other words, a human being with S-W complex and S-W day- and night-dreams has been transformed into a robot with the technical task of becoming C-W, and you cannot laugh at a robot, like Bunuel could do at his wealthy protagonists. Robots are beyond humor and irony: robot is a thing made oriented on becoming more of a thing – bigger, stronger, harder, more efficient, mechanical and more indifferent, more rigid and simultaneously more innovatively oriented in its calculations.
Still, “The Discreet Charm of Bourgeoisie” (DCB) is superlatively valuable – it shows the historical roots of today’s corporate monarchy, its etiology. And this film represents a psychologically healthy way of looking at C-W – without submissiveness and servility and, on the other hand, without boiling resentment. Today in US the worshiping C-W becomes a widespread position amidst population, but C-W need compassion and understanding of their psychological misery, and Bunuel’s empathic humor and relaxed sarcasm is much more adequate to C-Ws particular psychological weakness. What in the protagonists of DCB were their discernible human deficits, for today‘s wealthy became their damnation. Let’s, together with Bunuel, indulge in recognizing the humanity of his characters in comparison with the monstrous present condition of C-W (career-wealthy) today.
According to Bunuel’s film, already few decades ago the entrepreneurial imagination had difficulties in differentiating between fantasy and reality, between dreams and their realization in life, between day- and night-dreaming and real life. Bunuel not only addresses this non-differentiation as a cognitive defect, but stylizes it by transforming it into the very stylistic principle of the DCB. Sliding along the narrative trajectories we move from the night-dream of one character through short island of reality to the night-dream of the other and see that C-W connect with one another and with life not realistically, but by the logic of their dreams and nightmares. They build their social relations by the trajectories of their wishful thinking, and they become irrationally infuriated at any intervention of reality.
Apologists of the inability to differentiate between fantasy and reality (mainly, C-W making money on this non-differentiation by the consumers), defend their right to make profit on keeping the human mind (that of human psychological wholeness) in an underdeveloped condition. The protagonists of DCB are not too smart even by (pre-scientific) common sense criterion. But today’s neo-cons try to compensate for their emotional primitivism by the technical-scientific knowledge systematically developed by today’s system under their pressure at the cost of reducing humanistic sciences and education. Technical-scientific brain operations have a robotic qualities. But robots don’t have humanity (they don’t understand death) and can (unintentionally) endanger human species through robotization of thinking.
Several motivations are discernible in Bunuel’s charming bourgeois protagonists whom he called “cockroaches” in one of his interviews. To understand these motivations we must remember that they are not 21st century neo-con robots of profit-making/profit-mining. They are, as if, adopted children of democracy. They are a kind of hybrids of democrats and conservatives – conservative in substance (which in Don Rafael is ready to engulf him and, as in the scene of quarrel with colonel, does it quite successfully) and liberal in rituals of civility and manneristic verbalizations. They are people of power and manners.
First of all, the heroes of the film are motivated by a gravitational attraction to the milieu of people of the same kind (Rafael Acosta is attaching himself to Thevenots and Senechals and they to him like microorganisms of the same colony). Of course, the tendency towards adhesion to one’s own kind and the phobia of otherness is a universal feature, but several decades ago the bourgeois were still human, while in the 21st century that which was the bourgeois sub-specie of humanity has turned into a peculiar neocon-robotism. What used to be attachment to the identical/similar has become the position of eliminating otherness and keeping its remnants under the strictest control through austerity and mass-cultural disorientation.
The second feature of the main characters in DCB is their permanent calculation of profit and advantage – not only with enemies or using people they are indifferent to, but no less using friends and lovers. The third feature is that their manipulation of people doesn’t contradict sincere genuineness of their emotional ties. They can fool others with cheerful friendliness. And yet their other feature which came to be not without the influence of their “liberal”, hedonistic side is orientation on pleasant emotions, use of smiles and compliments with people to create a pleasant atmosphere and to enjoy it.
The protagonists of DCB glue to each other as a privileged social class over subordinate people. They stick together above the reality of the poor. Thevenots, Senechals and the Ambassador act like a unit – again, a universal tendency in human history. The bishop glues to them, and as does the colonel who presides over his own “colony” of militaries. Policemen are another “microbial colony” sticking together not only physically but psychologically – a feature congruent with today‘s climate of heightened antagonism between “keepers of order” (including mercenaries and private contractors) and the “public”.
One more feature of the bourgeois heroes of the DCB is their immature entrepreneurial acting out (like crude drug dealing leading to the arrest, albeit temporal, of all of them). These people are too impulsive, not rational and disciplined enough. It is not surprising that from this kind of people came today’s Meat Romneys and hiders of profits from taxation – offshore, in foreign banks. Financial crashes and economic busts created by these people is a loud warning (unfortunately, amidst deaf ears).
Some of C-W of the last century watched Bunuel’s DCB and the only thing they understood in the film was that Bunuel’s bourgeoisie cannot have dinner in peace – so, for all these years they tried hard to prove that they are able to have the best dinners ever and in more comfortable arrangements than anybody else. They hire (for taxpayers’ money, of course) private armies. They use the American and European armies to defend their profits and comforts. But they are even more laughable than before in their spiritual poverty and psychological misery, in their money gluttony and apoplectic strength of their power. Bunuel’s “The Discreet Charm of Bourgeoisie” will be always ahead of them. DCB’s frustrating dinners were just a metaphor for C-W illusion that money will save them – liberate them from the otherness of the world which will continue to mock at their sweaty efforts to conquer and dominate the stubborn life. Like the heroes’ of DCB their destiny is to walk forward and back on the highways of Hell, which are made especially for them (Communists and Fascists use there other arrangements).
Posted on April 6 2015 – “The Discreet Charm of Bourgeoisie” (1972) by Luis Bunuel by Acting-Out Politics