Acting-Out Politics

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

When It Was Still Possible To Laugh At The Wealthy With A Kind Relaxation – Without Any Sarcastic Strain

You cannot hate the stupid, avaricious people in “The District Charm…”; their dreams are too funny; they are endowed with a reluctantly charming dimension…
Carlos Fuentes

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.

Luis Bunuel works on the set
Bunue directs Delphine Seyrig (Simone Thevenot)

Bunuel is listening to Fernando Rey’s (Rafael Acosta, Ambassador of the fictional Latin American Republic of Miranda) suggestions

Bunuel is showing Delphine Seyrig and Fernando Rey the exact movements of the erotically calculative (the Ambassador’s) and calculatively erotic (Thevenot’s wife’s) games

Wealthy individuals’ charming hospitality and generosity

Henri Senechal’s (Jean-Perre Cassel) night-dream visit to the colonel’s place (in the background, between Henri and his wife, is the Ambassador, himself a master of hateful night-dreaming

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.

Alice Senechal innocently but generously flirts with Rafael, but Simone Thevenot (on the left), it seems, taking it seriously

Henri Senechal offers the ambassador additional pieces of lamb

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

It is the briefcase itself smiling with Francois’ wide face (always carrying enigmatic expression), when both enter the office of the Embassy of the Republic de Miranda

Secretary of the Embassy is gallantly leaving the room

The secretary leaves the ambassador with his business guests

To see disinterested friendship is always pleasant and encouraging

Here, we see a little séance of commercial magic (on which civilization stands) – the multiple transformation of the briefcase, at first, into…

… crispy banknotes, secondly, into an enigmatic leather bag, a kind of a commercial stomach able to vomit the valuable goods, and finally, into…

… precious white powder, when all the items of the exchange magic are scrupulously checked for their magical quality

Charmingly cheerful Henri and Alice Senechals

Cocain from the Republic de Miranda, as we see, is a preambulartory phase of sexual ritual between Henri and his charming wife (Stephane Audran).

Well, not like this… yet

Senechals run to the garden, farther from the maids and guests

That’s how sexually satisfied woman looks upon returning to the world – with the understanding that this world is orgasmically empty, that daylight is prosaic and boring

Gardening Bishop Mgr. Dufour

Gardening Bishop (Julien Bertheau) applies for the job (the gardening jobs await for Bishops)

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

While pursuing chat with Mr. Thevenot, Rafael stimulates himself with physical closeness of Thevenot’s wife while thinking that his game is a secret and daringly transgressive

Simone complains to Raphael about her condition…

… in order to postpone (to cook up better) the inevitable…

… but eventually she herself becomes involved when the time is near for her husband to arrive. Pluralism of causes and effects and the multidirectionality of reasoning are aspects of bourgeois charm.

Wealthy in the nomadic Hell of their own making

The never-ending and always opened paths to self-enrichment

Seductive tautology of money-hunting

The road from profit to more profit

The tireless path of pathos for more and more money

Endless round-trips of wealth-achievers, where meeting cash and separating from it are the same experience (investing includes the feeling of loss framed as hope to gain more)

Tiring but brisk, downing but exciting experience of money-searching

Financial short-circuits as enhancing transformation of living into moving, of being into rushing

The proud routes of the moneyvorous race

A charmingly exuberant party

Florence, Simone’s younger sister, is posing in Napoleon’s or Napoleon hat that barely fits her

While Florence was playing with Napoleon’s hat the Colonel, the host of the party was badmouthing Republic de Miranda

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

The ambassador and Thevenots are always afraid of the SWAT teams

Henri Senechal (Jean-Pierre Cassel) couldn’t believe when he understood that the horrific quarrel between the colonel and ambassador was all his nightmare

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).

All our charming protagonists were arrested for alleged drug trafficking, but who exactly was dreaming it? – The reality itself? Today it’s called – strategic planning.

Alas, the inevitable burdens

Proclaiming openly and proudly the connection between business deals and war-making is a new style, a post-charming behavior.

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“

Of course, a film about international corporation – Thevenots/Senechals/Ambassador Acosta cannot be without torture which is, as we have learned recently, 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.

The torture of the young boy with a hippie appearance includes specifically psychological intimidation: the presence of an old piano with its Gothic connotation and timeless insects

Terrorism as an archetype carried out by the psyche of the wealthy

And as it was already apparent four and half decades ago, the film about “international corporation with diplomatic connection” cannot be without terrorists.

One of the terrorists Bunuel depicts here is ambassador Rafael Acosta’s personal bodyguard.

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.

We are dealing here with Don Rafael’s realistic night-dream about his oral needs during possible terrorist attack.

When terrorists found him under the table with meat something made them stop

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

The fear of being not real, but – protagonists of some historical play…

… 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).

Five Aspects Of Psychological (Not Ideological) Fascism and Its Dangers

The Urchins Down in the Meadow

The urchins down in the meadow
pay no attention to time,
they just throw themselves in rivers
to catch the prize cross.

The urchins down in the meadow
chase after a crazy man,
they throttle him with their hands
and burn his body on the seashore.

Come, daughter of the moon,
daughter of the morning star,
and bestow on these boys
some caresses of heaven.

The urchins down in the meadow
chase after the bourgeois people,
they cut to pieces the heads
of enemies and faithful alike.

The urchins down in the meadow
gather branches of rosemary
to camouflage wellsprings
and catch the girls.

The urchins in the farms
they mock at the priest,
they dress him with all his vestments
and they take him to the marketplace.

Pier Paolo Pasolini

The first aspect – Competition and Absolutization/Metaphysization of Reward for competitive success (as if it is reward from god)

The urchins down in the meadow
pay no attention to time,
they just throw themselves in rivers
to catch the prize cross.

The urchins, meadow, living without historical time, and ignoring physical time – just from one impulse to another, from childish/youthful spontaneity jumping to the river with the dream of winning a prize with a religious connotation – all this seems to be far from fascism, not only ideological, but psychological as well. It is just like plants fighting for soil and sunlight. But the “prize cross“ as a reward for winning over others is a reward as a symbolic resurrection in the area of super-human.

The second aspect – The psychological (not moral) innocence of the murdering the inferior ones

The urchins down in the meadow
chase after a crazy man,
they throttle him with their hands
and burn his body on the seashore.

The murder of the inferior, especially as Pasolini describes it here – without use of any weapon (“they throttle him with their hands”) is psychologically innocent – it is like children killing insects. Killing a crazy man in what they perceive as “naturally” playful becoming rather ruff, way – is as innocent as wrestling between children: the urchins (another reference to not premeditated impulse) don’t feel more than it. And they burn his body as they could burn the corpse of little animal: rat or snake, or step on the worm.

The third aspect – Hate towards civilization, envy of more socially successful people, having a need to feel power over their brain as a power of the more mentally superior people over “weak” brains of the “bourgeois people”

The urchins down in the meadow
chase after the bourgeois people,
they cut to pieces the heads
of enemies and faithful alike.

For the urchins of meadow to “chase after the bourgeois people” is like to play with alive decorative toys: urchins don’t identify these fancy people with humanity they themselves, in their unconscious, represent. And they are curious – as with what kind of creatures they have a deal here (they’re like these anatomists who enjoy dissecting the human brain while thinking that they‘re dissecting the mind). Here we have to differentiate between a “playful hate” the people with fascist psychology feel towards wealthy people who give them money for their rallies and, eventually, murders, and their deep and passionate hate for the enemies. But, as Pasolini’s poem points out, violent hate is diffuse and dynamic emotion. It can very quickly irradiate from one type of objects to the other.

The fourth aspect – Regressive (elementary) aestheticism and gazing, trapping, hunting and catching (the sexual object) sexuality

The urchins down in the meadow
gather branches of rosemary
to camouflage wellsprings
and catch the girls.

To “gather branches of rosemary to camouflage wellsprings” is not just preparing trap for girls – let’s not underestimate the primitive but genuine aestheticism inseparable from this operation. The trap for girls is like embellishing dress – frame for aesthetic object, not just camouflage for an ambush. There is not much soul involved, but regressive sexuality with sadistic connotation is our origins – our ancestors and in many cases – we ourselves are born from it. Courteous love is historically a recent phenomenon, and even this type of love is inseparable today from camouflaging money interests like marriage with wreath. Psychologically fascist sexuality can be addressed successfully only by exposition to culture.

The fifth aspect – the prosaic common sense cognition of the psychologically fascist urchins (which is not touched by serious culture and humanized intellect) should not be underestimated.

The urchins in the farms
they mock at the priest,
they dress him with all his vestments
and they take him to the marketplace.

By mocking the priest, the urchins are not mocking spirituality; they rather just got it that many priests with their vestments have to be not in churches but at the marketplace – for many priests selling their priesthood for salary and personal careers is equal to transforming the church into a marketplace. Of course, the “urchins’” behavior is in fascist style, but their fascism is not ideological but a result of being chronically abandoned by a so called democratic society which spends less and less on humanistic education, leaving the urchins to live without culture and intellect.

In the third stanza Pasolini poetically appeals to the powers of existentially spiritual pedagogy unavailable to the urchins of his poem.

Come, daughter of the moon,
daughter of the morning star,
and bestow on these boys
some caresses of heaven.

The psychological (innocent, immanent, “organic”) fascism is not identical with ideological fascism which tries to establish ideological, administrative and military despotism within the nations and geo-political supremacy over the world. But the point pressed by Pasolini’s poem is that ideological fascism is the consequence of a pedagogical/psychotherapeutical non-attendance of psychologically fascist “urchins”, when serious culture cannot reach the people. If “daughter of moon” – the pedagogy of emotional-imaginary function, and “daughter of the morning star” – pedagogy of civility, of the gentleness of human soul and of refined cognition, cannot reach the very mental substrate of human beings and heal them from psychological fascism – ideological/ political fascism cannot be averted. Ideological/political fascism could never take roots in life if wide humanistic education would be financed and made available in full. Serious culture and humanistic education in general are not just information oriented, they are refined reflexes of behavior which develop only during encounter with sublime poetic, fictional, scholarly and scientific texts and images in works of art and are absent in mass-cultural/entertaining materials that appeal to consumers who need de-sublimated quick satisfaction.

The urchins, the meadow, eternity of living, price cross, seashore, branches of rosemary, wellsprings, catching girls – almost idyllic landscape of everyday life. But there is no place for psychological development, for emotional and intellectual maturation. Any form of the idyllic life with nature (sport, hunting, arms and impulsivity) if not complicated by humanistic education and pedagogic exposition to the human and to nature’s otherness is doomed to apocalyptic breakdown.

The urchins chase after a crazy man, throttle him with their hands and burn his body. They cut to pieces the heads of enemies and faithful alike. They catch girls, mock at the priest. They are torturing and killing “naturally”, as they embrace. They never learned that other people are like them although they may not look similarly. They never learned to synchronize themselves and others in one common focus of serious culture.

Pasolini shows us that human nature is not ”neutral” – we have a rich potential for evil as much as for good. The point is which human potentials in people the political system is interested to develop, what the decision-makers want people to be – violent bigots or those who want to understand the world and a life which they have learned to love enough to be interested to try to know it better.

Pasolini’s poem is an introduction to anti-fascist pedagogy. In this lies its universal and cross-historical importance.

In his “And the Ship Sails On” Federico Fellini concentrates his sarcasm on special moments in history when two histories – that of human societies and the masses, and that of the social elites, cross one another. The time when actions in the film take place is July 1914, after Archduke Franz Ferdinand and Duchess Sophie were killed by a Serbian terrorist, and that brought the world to WWI. The film is dedicated to finding out what the European elite was occupied with during the one of the most horrifying wars in human history.

Fellini depicts the cruise in Mediterranean Sea by an international group of fans of opera art who are grieving the death of a famed opera singer, the carrier of goddess-like voice. We follow this funeral voyage set to disperse the deceased’s ashes, observing and identifying with the elevating beauty of the art of opera singing, but also following Fellini‘s laughter at the extreme megalomania and absurdity of the characters – the professional aristocracy of belle canto cult. The film puts us in cognitive dissonance which Fellini amends with the charm of his artistry as a film-director.

The numerous characters Fellini unwrapping in front of us like Christmas presents or chocolate candies, are perverts in their very human attempts to be super-human. They are exposed in their vanity and debunked in their artificiality in spite of being somehow touching in their awkward attempts to deserve our recognition and admiration.

Fellini’s film provides the viewers simultaneously, with a catharsis and a withdrawal from identification, with a chance to recognize themselves in the characters and step back because of our embarrassing understanding of our similarity with them, self-aggrandized, stupid and beyond meaning (with all their talents and ambitions). Fellini makes us conscious of our own efforts to live, as if, above our life, in pompous spirituality and aesthetic cult.

Fellini makes his sailing Ship
Fellini makes his sailing Ship

You have to make a really ugly effort to produce a vocal beauty

The old music professor drinks sounds from the wine glasses

The grand Duke poses before an admiring public like today’s billionaires before the crowd of poor wealth-worshippers

Posted on Jan 24 2013 –   Federico Fellini’s “And the Ship Sails On” (1983) – A Subtle Comedy about Conventional Tragedy by Acting-Out Politics

Roberto Rossellini
Roberto Rossellini

“Socrates” is in no way just a historical film about the great philosopher of the antiquity and his conflict with some of his fellow Athenians. This film makes endless parallels between how Socrates was treated under Athenian democracy and how intellectuals and humanistic education are perceived in today’s formally democratic societies.

For Rossellini the animosity toward Socrates in ancient Athena is a metaphor of growing animosity toward independent scholarship and critical thinking by today’s totalitarian but also democratic societies that are more and more occupied with power and profit and afraid of autonomous knowledge and education. Rossellini who knew life under Mussolini and in a post-fascist democracy suggests that to be free from totalitarian ideological despotism is not enough to become a genuinely democratic person, that people who live within a democracy but are without humanistic education, are prone to be intolerant to everybody who don’t share their worldview and existential tastes and, therefore, tend to behave like typical totalitarian people. Democratic procedures without democratic mind, soul and heart are like an empty shell, like sails without wind, or like shoes without feet.

The fact that today in US there is less and less money for education, that school teachers and college professors are losing their job, and their profession is less and less respected, colleges are more and more militarized in their research programs, and giant sport events, pop-music and video-games have become children and youth’s main interlocutor during their free time – all this can be a death sentence to democracy. Socrates is killed again and again in history.

Rossellini’s Socrates amidst ancient Athenians

Posted on May 19 2011 –   To Revenge Socrates (For Being “Too Smart”) – Totalitarianism and Formal Democracy’s Attack on The Intellectuals  by Acting-Out Politics

Alain Resnais
Alain Resnais

Alain Resnais contemplates love in Hiroshima
Alain Resnais contemplates love in Hiroshima

“Hiroshima,mon amour” is a film about the possibility and actuality of the impossible love – IL (intimate love between two persons which cannot be realized in numerous forms of conventional relationships). Taking love affair between a French actress and a Japanese architect in Hiroshima ten years after the nuclear bomb, Resnais examines the necessity for those who live after the nuclear holocaust to become new human beings in order to find new ways of living incompatible with the destructive ways of being in the world (with high-tech weaponry, destruction of the environment, and shock therapies and austerity for wide populations).

According to the film, the main protagonists are capable of creating together a new kind of love (which viewers are privileged to see) that can be stronger than human traditional ways of feeling and thinking.

By virtuoso montage and sophisticated semiotic devices Resnais stimulates the viewers to clear for themselves the definition of IL. Closer to the end of the film it becomes clear that IL is not the one that is impossible to realize, but it’s the one in which competent perception of the world meets Eros, spirituality meets human body on equal grounds, and human soul meets the destiny of the humankind. IL is an ordeal that lovers inspired by the challenge, can go through to be on the level of demands and predicaments of a post-nuclear holocaust life.

“Hiroshima…” is not a political film, but the one where political aspect of today’s life is inseparable from our existential concerns, intimate life and cultural interests. The bodily love of the hero and the heroine is shown as, as if, having an alchemical power over life and death. The film shows personal love as a psychotherapeutic process and as a healing of human unconscious. Love for another person becomes love for the body of earth, for earth’s earthly and human flesh and soul.

The heroine of the film (Emmanuelle Riva in a monumentally unique performance) impersonates the frustrated condition of Western psyche in relation to the very function of love, and simultaneously the vital potential for overcoming the amorous trauma. She is one of the first female characters in the world cinema who is liberated from the pop-cinematic “femininity” and a sugary appeal to male perception. In her personality humanness and womanhood are indissoluble.

“Hiroshima, mon amour” is a film of planetary significance, film of human species, film whose relevance for human life grows with each year.

The heroine’s compulsive memory about her forbidden (treasonous) love during WWII

Love in post-war Hiroshima resurrects and re-enacts the awkward love affair of the heroine’s youth

The heroine learns that love is incompatible with rivalry and excludes jealousy

The past love as an ally and twin of the actual one

Amorous experience as a philosophical ordeal

When life is transformed into a moment of loving, when a moment of loving is transformed into life

Posted on May 25 2013 –   Alain Resnais’ “Hiroshima, Mon Amour” (1959) – A Film About A New Type of Love That Must Be Stronger Than Human Destructiveness  by Acting-Out Politics

Fellini in his “Casanova” (1976) was masterfully able to avoid the four hungry traps by which most films about the “Italian adventurer” of 18th century were swallowed and devoured. The first is trivialization and vulgarization of Casanova as a carrier of “hyper-gonadic” sexual desires. The second, is the romanticization of Casanova as a model of amour-hero, as an insatiable heart. The third trap is to ignore Casanova as a human being regardless of his monumental sexual status in history, as a man outside the realms of sex and love. And finally, it is trying to make aesthetically cheap but pocket-full “blockbuster” cashing Casanova’s sexual achievements into today’s currency. Fellini found a way to make a serious film about Casanova – a comic aspect of things, an irony and wit, characterization of the epoch, the analysis of human nature.

According to Fellini, Casanova (besides paying generous tribute to love and sex) was an extraordinary personality and a highly intelligent man, a scholar, of sorts. More, his amorous and sexual affairs were impregnated by his desire to understand the nature of human relations. He didn’t just act out his impulses; he thought about his experiences, he tried to grasp their essence, to study them. No, Fellini doesn’t idolize or even idealize Casanova. As a matter of fact, he is quite humorous and often sarcastic about him, but humor and sarcasm are filled with compassion for what Casanova represents for Fellini – our human nature with its idealistic dreams of materialistically controlling life, with its contradictions between soul and body, with its tricks of imagination, which we take for reality.

Fellini’s Casanova resolves the strain between amour and sex better than anybody else, but he represents us all in the impossibility to completely sublimate sex. Our sexual function has an inerasable rigidity and mechanisity which cannot be completely dissolved in sentiments and orgasmic sensations. Fellini uses two symbols to emphasize this fact – Casanova’s magic box with a moving metallic bird signifying men’s sexual prowess, and the sexual doll signifying the mechanical quality of human sexual act and sexual behavior in general.

Fellini adds to the charm of Casanova’s personality his own artistry, and the result is one of the most colorful films in the history of cinema. Donald Sutherland-Casanova’s nuanced, elegant, always surprising, self-reflective and self-ironic acting (when we already cannot distinguish where is Casanova’s soul and where is Sutherland’s), is a page in the history of cinematic acting. The bright and juicy colors and stylized settings emphasize the destiny of human adventurist creativity, of seriously playful nature of human genius the film celebrates.

Fellini is rehearsing with Donald Sutherland (Giacomo Casanova)
Fellini is rehearsing with Donald Sutherland (Giacomo Casanova)

Fellini (on the left), Donald Sutherland and Michelangelo Antonioni (who pays them a visit) are on the set of “Casanova”
Fellini (on the left), Donald Sutherland and Michelangelo Antonioni (who pays them a visit) are on the set of “Casanova”

Casanova and the pretty sensual “nun”
Casanova and the pretty sensual “nun” are going to entertain the lascivious religious leader and, of course, the international cine-audience, with their sexual proficiency/ efficiency

“Better nun than one” (a modification of “better one than none”) – says the vulgar proverb of vicious wisdom. Casanova, Fellini and Donald Sutherland give us a chance to check its truthfulness.

To transform a pretty nun into an orgasmic woman you have to make an “ugly” (from the point of view of traditional religious ideology) effort

Posted on Dec 14 2013 –   Federico Fellini’s “Casanova” (1976) – Triumph Over Sexual Fetish Or Erotic Ossification Of Emotions? by Acting-Out Politics

Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune

Mifune as the foreground of the forest
Mifune as the foreground of the forest

Mifune with forest as a background
Mifune with forest as a background

General Rokurota Makabe (Toshiro Mifune)
General Rokurota Makabe (Toshiro Mifune)

General Hyoe Tadakoro (Susumu Fujita)
General Hyoe Tadakoro (Susumu Fujita)

Only one of the generals is fighting to kill – the other one is using the fight not in order to kill or wound or humiliate the opponent but to cure him from the militancy complex (from believing that combat is a way to settle human problems). The duel is the biggest episode in “Hidden Fortress” because Kurosawa is staging the fight with a lot of psychological information about what fighters feel and think during the fight. Kurosawa transforms the psychology of the fighter we see analyzed inside the psychology of the fight into the psychology of a peaceful conflict negotiation, and elaborates a concept how to use military force for anti-war purposes.

Posted Sep 5 2009 –   Akira Kurosawa’s “Hidden Fortress” (1958) – Kurosawa’s Instructions to the Heads of States (Episode of a Duel between two Generals)  by Acting-Out Politics

“Fire Within” makes the viewers ask themselves and try to answer – why Alain Leroy, an intelligent, good looking man, successful with women and having friends with connections, thinks about suicide? Is there something wrong with him, and if so, what can it be? He doesn’t look like an eccentric in any way. He talks like an educated and a genuine human being, without affectation and rhetorical effects. Why could he lose the feeling of life’s value? His psychiatrist tries to persuade him to concentrate on bright side of life – the world’s challenges and mysteries, to give himself to the joys of sex and adventure. But Alain contemplates suicide not because something is wrong with him (he is quite able to enjoy life), but because something is wrong with the world. He observes that life makes people too worried, too frustrated and too indifferent or cruel to one another. He feels that the human world is crooked and he tries to understand why, and it is at this point he became disappointed in life as it is offered to us.

Luis Malle gives Alain the floor/screen, gives him the chance to explain to the viewers what the problem is. With never fading curiosity and sometimes amazement we observe Alain’s “philosophical agony” vis-à-vis the human world we all live in. And the director gives more than a fair chance to Alain’s friends to try to persuade him to continue to live. The film is constructed as a kind of Platonic dialogues between a human being and world, through visual images and interpersonal situations. The film is in no way “theoretical”: all the arguments are symbolic and existentially rooted. The film is for the living human beings, not for intellectuals by profession. We as viewers are given chance to see both sides – the individual human being and the world in general. We, as if, have to decide for Alain his choice.

Did Alain die in order to help us continue to live? May be, Malle made this film to reinforce our desire to live if we are able to comprehend Alain’s reasons for wanting to die. Will Alain’s suicide awaken us to a more genuine, less vain living? The actors are emotionally sensitive, intellectually proficient and semantically competent. They play characters caught between life and death, as we all are. “Fire Within” is not only an exquisitely “intellectual” but an existentially “philosophical” film of a rare organic combination of psychological sophistication and common humanity for all those who are living and thinking about life.

Louis Malle (1932 – 1995)

Louis Malle “romantically joking” on the set of the film he is directing

Argument between Alain (Maurice Ronet) and the established intellectual Brancion, for whom to reach existential dead end means to have a weak character

Alain’s suicide is not impulsive and not based on any “mood” – it is a result of a disinterested thinking and giving his friends a fair chance to find persuading arguments for continuation of life

Alain in a tobacco shop, for the last time

Posted on Sep 24 2013 –   Louis Malle’s “Le feu follet/The Fire Within” (1963) – The “King” Who Refused the Kingdom of Life For Its Imperfection by Acting-Out Politics

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