Acting-Out Politics

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

Notes On Pop-Cultural Situation, When Social Reality Is “All That Exists”

Indeed, how could recent Hollywood cinema not be socio-morphically oriented – dedicated to showing exclusively social situations (without philosophical, moral, mystical and intellectual complications), as soon as money in cinema-business can come only from the horizontal others – from viewers of the movies and their producers who are in need to multiply their money invested in movies as merchandize?

The basic reason for socio-morphic acting in Hollywood movies (even “great” directors like Lumet, Huston or Kazan couldn’t avoid encouraging over-acting – over-certainty and over-expressiveness on the part of the stars, even in their exceptional films like “Long Day’s Journey Into Night”, “The Night of Iguana” and “Streetcar Named Desire” correspondingly, when everything what’s happening inside the souls of the characters is supposed to be exclamatory – over-emphasized through swelled interaction between them and swollen emotional code), is the proudly proclaimed commercial nature of the movie-medium in socio-economic action which demands populist “intensification”.

The problem with movie stars’ socio-morphic acting is the result of observing of primate of social relations in Hollywood movies by viewers. Especially drastic results in the influence of the Hollywood socio-morphism on the public can be noticed in the younger generations which learns from a pop-culture that the social world is not one among the others layer of reality but the only and ultimate reality, that all life is decided here – in between you and the other people, that human life can only be realized in and through social relations as such. Instead of listening to the depth of their own souls, the younger people plan their future professions by learning what professions are well paid today. They learn from the immediacy of experience with others, empirically – they don’t read and don’t dream disinterestedly. They emotionally copy others like monkeys other monkeys. They don’t listen the great silence, they don’t have contact with great uncertainty. Their minds don’t know freedom from their impulsive reactions. Their intuition doesn’t know nothingness. They never meet people who could show them the appearance of being from non-being and non-being from freedom.

The baby starts to notice the world from its mother-the world, and only later it learns that the mother is not the only inhabitant of reality, that many other people are there, outside the baby-mother dyad. They noticed and frightened by the fact that mother-the world sometimes can disappear. But even much more important than the discovery of other adults and other children is the discovery of many aspects of reality which let the child feel free, that it is up to him/her to breach the reality, to step into it, that reality is not a socio-morphic despotism that projects itself into the human being and occupy it like an irresistible demonic intruder. It is here the psychological harm of Hollywood’s representation of reality as belonging to human interests, as being at the disposal of humans, is the strongest. The young unconsciously learn from the very form of Hollywood movies that reality as such is just the periphery of the human perception (without getting that this “periphery” addresses them as its own periphery), that it, on the one side, is just seeking human attention but on the other, as if, intervenes into it with the mountains of visual and emotional pleasures. In other words, socio-morphic reality pretends to be the space for human action while in reality it has already transformed human being into the space for its own action. This asymmetrical combination of the passive socio-morphic reality into the active emotional manipulator is the very heart of Hollywood representation of reality. Hollywood keeps viewers in illusion that it is them who are active (through identification with movie-stars) while in reality viewers are just like insects inhabiting the chairs of the movie-theater or sofas of their living rooms penetrated by TV screens.

Recent Hollywood movies show reality as it is seen by the global conquerors.
Expressing/promoting (unintentionally but not disinterestedly) an irrationally-utilitarian ideology of emotional intervention into the world by human acting-out on the wings of super-stars, the film-makers teach viewers the calculative/manipulative logic (how to conquer/appropriate the intra-filmic world and then reality-world), and here is an amazing similarity between Hollywood and the Soviet propaganda driven movies. In USSR the world existed for one purpose only – to be converted to the Communist religion, and people had to learn from movies and movie-stars capable to achieve this conversion, like American viewers learn from the movie-stars how to project themselves into objective reality and how to emotionally and intellectually, by the very projection of their existential posture, convert the reality-world into, to quote Bush Jr.’s famous patter, “fre-om/d-mocracy”.

But can we draw a straight line between a certain aspect of Hollywood style (the alleged socio-morphism of pop-aesthetic representation) and concrete political leader? While Hollywood in a certain circumstances, for example during war, made propaganda movies, its habitual style is, basically, yes, commercial and entertainment oriented, and far from being comparable with Soviet cine-propaganda.

Isn’t appropriation of the world – by Soviet ideology and, on the other hand, by the practical ideology of appropriating the world – psychologically a similar approach, self-projecting, acting-out, consumerist, conquering? If child is not learning – contemplation, reverie, sharing the world with the world and instead, and only taught how to occupy it with self-projections and consumerist intentions, he/she will grow into a global conqueror, greed itself-in-action. Hollywood commercial style nurtures in viewers consumerist and intervention-oriented approach to reality of the visual and material world and does it as innocently as animation cartoon. It teaches how in their perception to intrude into the screen-world as they will intrude into the big world with the same arrogance (in relation to reality) and the same passivity (in relation to the technology which arms their confidence, be it cine-camera or high-tech weapon systems).

Beautified Life Versus Life’s Spiritual Body (Dr. Gachet and Van Gogh)

Maurice Pialat (in the center), and Jacques Dutronc (Vincent Van Gogh) at Cannes Film Festival (1991)

44th Cannes Film Festival 1991: The Team Of Film Van Gogh By Maurice Pialat. Le 44ème Festival de CANNES se déroule du 9 au 20 mai 1991 : Jacques DUTRONC cigare aux lèvres entre Maurice PIALAT et Alexandra LONDON. (Photo by Jean-Claude Deutsch/Jacques Lange/Paris Match via Getty Images)
Pialat, Dutronc (in the center) and Alexandra London at Cannes Film Festival (1991)

The usual approach to van Gogh is to view him as a mixture of a genius and mentally ill (in different proportions, depending on who expresses the opinion). But Maurice Pialat depicts van Gogh as a human being – who is burdened by everyday life, drinking, hopeful, despaired, humorous, joking and fearful, pursued by the circumstances, trying to avoid destiny and looking at its face, VG in love, in sex, in fury, in lucidity, in confusion. VG (Jacques Dutronc) is simultaneously like everybody and the social other, he is common and unique, opaque and unconcealed. And he is strong in following his stubborn talent or following the meaning of his life inseparable from it. His pictorial talent is represented without sentimental fetishization – as an extension of his personality into a concrete area of creative self-realization. The director underlines the working process of van Gogh’s creativity by inferring his vision from the unique strokes of his brush as its material substance.

Pialat defines van Gogh as a person with an appearance of a workman, by his heavy and slow waddle, by simple manners, by chariness of words, especially in comparison with Dr, Gachet’s elegant mannerisms or Theo’s impersonal mimics and dosed intonations. Pialat’s accent in the film is the incompatibility of creative power in art and adherence of the artist to the ideology of beauty. To discover/create new aesthetics the artist has to be able to overcome the existing criteria of beauty with the safety and security that go with it. To be an aesthete in the area of art is another word for being a comfortable conformist. New is always seems ugly. Aesthetics cannot be created by an aesthete. Sophistication can’t be result of the very orientation on sophistication. Beauty can be created only if it is not perceived as beauty. In this relation we today are not in an easier situation than in the times of van Gogh’s suicide. For a really creative person to become successful contradicts his creative dedication, and great art can be more mortal than it could be imagined.

Dr. Gachet is simultaneously a physician and an aesthete, while VG is depicted in the film as a paradoxical combination of a worker and creator of art. Already in the very beginning of the film when van Gogh is stepping out of the train and walking in the direction of the inn we notice his pantomimic as indication of his closeness to earth, his being as if submerged into life and nature and the fact that physical work is habitual to him. By contrast the pantomimic of Dr. Gachet (Gerard Sety) suggests a lack of rootedness in life and alienation from nature that are compensated by his easy-goingness, pointedly elegant manners and beauty-fetishism. While Gachet is, as if, trying to control the stubborn matter through medical knowledge and beautify what is possible, VG is trying to find a new, spiritualized body for life in a new spiritualized matter created by his painting method.

The human world as it is, as if, belongs to Gachet – aestheticism is going together with indifference towards other people, with posture of control and air of inequality, with death and wars, while van Gogh is depicted as the opposite of the fallen angel – as angel who didn’t ascended yet.

The acting of even episodic characters is a result of learned spontaneity, of deep psychological research. There are no just intuitive sketchy silhouettes of personages. Instead, the viewers are overwhelmed by the actors’ exact delivery of the reactions of the personages. Jacques Dutronc and Alexandra London (VG and Marguerite), Jacques Dutronc and Elsa Zylberstein (VG and Kathy), Gerard Sety and Alexandra London (Dr. Gachet and his daughter Marguerite), Jacques Dutronc and Bernard Le Coq (VG and Theo) and Bernard Le Coq and Corinne Bourdou (Theo and his wife Jo) are not just extraordinary performers but sorcerers of psychological incarnation into the characters. Their achievements are result of a new school of acting where scientific research of the human soul going together with a mastery of psychological concentration.

Vincent contemplates his inevitable suicide

Van Gogh in the field (1)

Van Gogh in the field (2)

Van Gogh at Dr. Gachet’s place is finishing painting of Marguerite in the garden

Van Gogh is paying to his mistress Kathy, the prostitute (Elsa Zylberstein)

Vincent and Marguerite’s rare moment of simple human happiness together

Vincent and Marguerite in love and in nature

After love with Vincent, Marguerite Gachet is not just washing herself from the soil and dust, but cleaning her body from the “moral dirt” she, as if, exposed herself to, according to her father’s frame of reference

Dr. Gachet looks at the copies of his portrait by Vincent, but avoids buying. So, he is getting one copy free, as a gift.

Vincent after shooting himself

Vincent before dying

Posted on May 23, 2015 –   Maurice Pialat’s “Van Gogh” (1991) – Humanity of the Genius (Van Gogh as the Non-conformist Human Nature Able To Create A New, Spiritualized Body For Life Of A New Spiritualized Matter Discovered By His Painting Method) by Acting-Out Politics

Gustav Klimt’s Painting “Gold Fish” (1901 – 1902) Can Be Put In A Semantically Oppositional Association With Hopper’s “Night Windows”

Edward Hopper, “Night Windows”, 1928

Big apartment building of a solid construction and heavy arhitectural style which were dominant in the American urban settings before and right after WWII, attracts our eyes to three windows emphasizign different aspects of human life, in, probably, a rented apartment. In the right window we see either a kitchen or a bathroom, but metaphorically – a controlled hell in miniature, inevitable as a “technological” support of everyday human life in civilization. The middle window shows the backside of a headless woman occupied with cooking or washing. But it is the exhibitionistic effect of woman’s posture makes the middle window not just arousing the interest in the possible witnesses of the scene but semantically important (for understanding of the painter’s intentionality). What we, basically, see in all the three windows addresses the humanity of the woman living inside them. The window on the left is the only one that is opened. Should we call it a hygienic window?

Hopper makes sure that the opened window suggests a hygienic purpose not in the usual sense of ventilating the room with the cool air from the dark New York street. By the movement of the short curtain we understand that here we have a deal rather with the issue of letting extra-air out of the room. Here is the humorous punctum of the painting – woman’s protruded backside is associated with the next – opened window letting the woman’s air travelled through the room – out.

Three windows through which we see life inside cover three modality of living – controlled hell of the work supporting life or preparing for life, innocent exhibitionistic moment of shy showism, and always urgent hygienic efforts inevitable in everyday life. There are no paintings on the walls inside, not even bad ones, there are no photographs, even trivial ones. The walls are emptily naked, probably, painted, without even standard wall-paper.

On the other hand, Gustav Klimt has painted a magnificent woman’s back-and-buttocks, not less solid (although in another sense) than the American architectural style was before and after WWII, but – impecably and beautifully – as only rich and dense feminine flesh can be as a goal in itself. Hopper in his naughtily humorous mood made the woman’s rear prosaically, matter-of-factly covered by cargo (utilitarian) langere, noticeable through the two windows – one for a masked voyerism and the other for hygienic release.

Look at Klimt’s gold fish – this body cannot be even touched by man’s hand, only by human forehead or by cheek dreaming about laying on it its lips. We feel gold fish’s intelligence stepping back not only from the soft power of her body but from the interaction between it and the gaze confused by the mixture of shyness and daring, by diffused desire and possessive respect.

Gustav Klimt, Gold Fish, 1901 - 1902
Gustav Klimt, Gold Fish, 1901 – 1902

Some viewers will not find much difference between Klimt’s and Hopper’s ideas (like for many there is not much a difference between the two butts – of a weapon or a woman’s rump), but for some it will be a question of incompatibility between elevation of the beauty of feminine flesh and its prosaic – functional, reductionist perception. But, of course, it is not Edward Hopper who is in polemics with Gustav Klimt, it is the American reality according to Hopper, a reality in which preparation for life and arrangement of life are more important than life itself. No doubt, in this “genre” of preparation for/ arrangement of life American culture has achieved miracles – look at the beauty- and the fashion-industries. But the natural feminine body with its immanent shining as a goal in itself, without any sex-appeal and ad-connotation, without any seductive or teasing intention, without any business and money-making or calculating/manipulating interest, body minus enterpreneurship, body as a disinterested body of human disinterestedness is not rooted deeply in American soil.

Edward Hopper, “Conference at Night”, 1949
Edward Hopper, “Conference at Night”, 1949

The office looks like in a process of being established – tables are just put in, there is no chairs yet, but judging by the size and heaviness of the large books for documentation and keeping records there is a lot of expectation about this office, a lot of pragmatic dreams projected here. After WWII heavy-dense and agitating air of success was everywhere in the country, success in business and in career-making, through private entrepreneurship or administrative or scientific work. Hopper, probably, was critical about the flowering optimism of instrumental/functional atmosphere of those years.

All three protagonists of the painting have a common feature – their noses are a little like bewks of a predatory birds. Are the beaked human noses a feature invented by Hopper for characterizing the post-war American atmosphere of business excitement? Another humorous point is the funny nearness of the sitting man’s right hand to the woman’s bust and the geometrical similarity of the very direction of this hand with the surface of woman’s breasts, as if, he is encouraging her to raise them higher up. There is no sexual hint here on the part of the painter, of course, but rather a laughter at sublimation of human emotions into a non-sexual goals of building careers and making social success together.

Edward Hopper, “Room in New-York”, 1932
Edward Hopper, “Room in New-York”, 1932

The point of the “Room in New-York”, it seems, is not the fact that the man and woman each are occupied with his and her own interest and aren’t paying attention to one another – you cannot be romantically focused all the time. But what is unusual and interesting in the painting – it is the approximateness, non-discernability of their faces. The protagonists, certainly, belong to the same race, although it is not possible to describe with certainty their facial features. They are like… aliens from Hollywood movies. We can not empirically identify their faces as belonging to concrete – unique human beings. Is Hopper here expressing his opinion about mass men, people with standardized reactions and tastes, formed by mass culture of standardized entertainment?

Spirituality As A Disinterested Living

What is the position of the saint in the world teeming with the most complicated, the most sophisticated forms of evil?
Thomas S. Molner, “Bernanos: Hos Political Thought and Philosophy”

The spiritual man is not a strictly religious phenomenon: he is, rather, a man with a positive life whose being is heavy with the weight of God in him. He may be a simple peasant, a public figure, a young girl or a priest; in each case his life is centered on an Existence that is infinitely higher than his own.
Thomas S, Molner, Ibid.

What wonder, that one can give what one doesn’t possess! Oh, miracle of our empty hands!
Cure de Ambricourt (Priest of Ambricourt)

Make order. Make order all day long. Make order while thinking that disorder will take over the following day, because it is precisely within order, unfortunately, that the night will blow away yesterday’s work.
Cure de Torcy (Priest of Torcy)

Robert Bresson is not a Catholic, is not an agnostic, not a believer and not a non-believer but a deeply and irredeemably spiritual man

The way of the priest

The small town’s prosaic main street is the only road the country priest can use to visit his parishioners of various ages, and sometimes he oversteps his conventional duties by adding psycho-therapeutic accents to his advices

The intentionally ambiguous composition of this still emphasizes the ambiguity of the main character’s psycho-social situation. Is the young priest represented by Bresson “behind bars” because he is outside of the regular human life (outside the prison of the fallen world) or because this outside is a kind of solitary confinement that isolates him from the plenitude and exuberance of the created world? The painful split in the very essence of our hero’s destiny is his burden of simultaneously belonging to Christ and to the human kingdom. But Bresson’s “little vicar’s” situation is unique because he writes a diary – he has the need to report not only to God but to other human beings.

This shot refers to the silent confrontation of the film’s protagonist with his raging illness and nearing death. The vicar’s task is how not to become obsessed with the inevitable –how still to keep perspective on life and on other people.

To deal with parishioners means to permanently question your ideas about them in order to serve them better not only as a consoler but as the one who is obliged to say the painful truths.

Casual meeting with a young man exposed to the experience of military service during the war, opens vicar to the fact that many priests die on the front line, but is his coming death different, and if it is, how? Composition of this shot suggests that the young man, as if, represents the whole world, while the priest occupies only its corner, but Bresson stimulates the viewers to decide whether the geographical aspect of the world is so decisive for defining the meaning of life.

How not to die indifferent to life, how to die while still caring about the world of the living – disinterestedly, regardless of one’s personal situation – these feelings tormented the young Curé, also were awakening him for life of death.

The diary of the life’s soul

It is incredible to see that the vicar of the local church is not appealing to god (is not praying enough) – he internalized god’s expectations, but he appeals to human beings, he looks for their attention and appreciation – through his diary.

The priest of Ambricourt doesn’t (analytically) understand what he is writing – his life knows this and shares it with future readers of the diary. His diary then is an image of the soul of his life.

His hand processes confessions of his life filtering them only by the grammar, without any self-censorship. Diary becomes a sacred mediation between human souls amidst the soul of Creation

The Count and Miss Louise

The Count – one of the parishioners who, if to consider his influence on other people, can be called something like chief parishioner, hires Miss Louise as governess for his daughter. But he is still a healthy and an energetic man not alien to beautiful and engulfing romantic games.

Indeed, why should he sacrifice his natural desire to sincerely love a beautiful woman?

Miss Louise is young, attractive and lonely, and, of course, is ready to respond to the Count’s feelings with plumage of noble intentions

Country priest and Chantal, the count’s daughter

But such is the condition of this world – the most natural and normal desires meet obstacles, sometimes very thorny ones.

In this case the obstacle is the very existence of the count’s daughter, Chantal who perceives her father and her governess’ mutuality as intrusion of animosity into her world

The situation is banal enough, but not to the eyes of Christ. Our priest delicately tries to stop the process of growing jealousy, resentment and vengefulness in Chantal’s soul.

This is by no means an easy task – to reason a teenage girl, especially because the priest is too genuine of a believer to use dogmatic clichés about what’s happening in the human soul. For him right words are not what can influence life.


But how to curb the energies of hate in Chantal, in her father and in his mistress? How to stop Thanatos at work? Wars are Monsters that are not stoppable. Wars roll onto the point of maximum destruction.

Vicar is shuffling and axing through his internal world trying to find a solution

Vicar over-exhausts himself, and his body collapses right on the street full of puddles and mud

Through physical pain and fear the priest gets the power to persevere

Vicar’s illness became a magic cloak that made him endure

Priest of Torcy – a mentor, a tough friend and an admirer of the young priest

Vicar of Torcy (Adrien Borel), priest of a neighboring, much bigger church, is a rare friend who tells the truth (what he really thinks), but with a sincere desire to help his young colleague by non-biased analysis of his shortcomings and by realistic recommendations.

Vicar of Torcy criticizes the young priest but understands the godly origin of his inspiration. The presence of the bottle of wine between them and the filled glass is teasingly (intentionally) misleads viewers in order to emphasize that the obvious, visible reality contradicts its essential truth.

The composition of this shot emphasizes, as if, the contrast in the positions of the two priests, while in reality it addresses the unity between them – the elder priest is encouraging the main character to continue, to leap ahead in spite of all the difficulties and not to lose confidence in his ways.


After severely scolding the young priest vicar of Torcy asks him for his blessing

The young vicar (Claude Laydu) lets his hand make the gesture of… blessing, almost without his mind’s participation in the sacred ritual


The countess, who is grieving for years over the death of her small son, was the most difficult case our vicar met on his path. How to relieve her soul from the incredible burden of resentful feelings against injustice God allowed to happen to her innocent child?


Seraphita (the girl attending the catechism classes at the church) is a combination of spiritual nature and pagan (impish) impulses

BressCountyPriest1 Seraphita is capable of sincerest compassion and chaste curiosity, but also childish playfulness at seduction and provocation.

It is Seraphita who nursed the priest when he lost consciousness on the street, and she cleaned him up from his vomit (his stomach cancer was reaching the final stage)

Seraphita confessed that she lied about the priest to different people and suffers about it. She is a child and for this reason carries the moral ambiguity inside which is not supposed to be matter-of-factly and punitively repressed, that could make her sinful impulses entrenched and revengeful.


Like Kenji Mizoguchi in his “Sansho the Bailiff” (1954) used the joined (two-leitmotifs) narrative – the story of a concrete family – its destruction and its re-unification, which is simultaneously the story of the realization of father’s moral principle in the world through the heroic spiritual effort of the family members, Bresson earlier – in “Diary of a Country Priest” (1951) uses the same principle of joint semantics, when he combines the depiction of the priest’s everyday work of trying to help the people to keep peace in spite of their proclivity to pursue their greedy and quarrelsome survival, and the story of his untimely dying without bitterness and angry feelings. As a result, it is difficult to say, what Bresson’s film’s main focus – the priest’s spiritual work or the story of his personal life, illness and death.

While God and the place He occupies in the life of the parishioners, naturally, dominates religious dedications and the functions of a country priest as much as his personal feelings and thoughts, his private desire, the imperative of his soul is to write a diary – to appeal to another human beings, to explain himself without really understanding what it is about himself he wants to explain. His writing style is laconic and ascetic – all the sentiments, as if, are left to the blotting paper: Bresson shows this blotting paper again and again even before we witness the country priest making notes in his diary.

As a country priest the main protagonist of the film tries to mediate between god and human beings, but as a human being he is trying to accept his imminent death not because he doesn’t want his worries about it to intervene into his obligations but because any trepidations and vibrations about losing life wouldn’t for him be on the level of his ties with Creation, of his belonging to life and death.

For our young vicar there is no contradiction between his personal dedication to his vocation and his writing a secular document. It is two sides of what the hero of the film is really dedicated to – not to God outside human beings, not to human beings outside God (independently from their mortality), but the very relationships between human life and Creation. He wants to help these relationships, to help to prevent alienation of human beings from God, the possible misunderstanding of God by humans with catastrophic result of degraded human condition.

The semantically joined narration (concentration on the human and over-human) is already announced in the title of the film where the “country priest” shares place with the “diary”. The film starts with an introduction of the fact that the priest writes diary: “I don’t think I’m doing anything wrong in writing down daily, with absolute frankness about the simplest and most insignificant secrets of a life actually lacking any trace of mystery.” The opening of the first page of the diary starts with the blotting paper covering the hand-written text. It seems that what the blotting paper is to the text of the diary, the diary itself is to the priestly obligations of the priest and to his worries about his illness and coming death. As the priest hints in the beginning, “the simplest and the most insignificant things” are the most real and “complicated” (but not mysterious) attributes of human life beyond “mythological mysteries”. It is human spirituality itself without solemn and pompous mythologization. It is spirituality without pride, without psychologically defensive aggrandizement.

On a certain paradoxical level, in other words, the diary is motivated by humanized/ secularized faith, like the country priest’s personal mortality is inseparable from his work to repair human-god relationships.

People like to keep God simultaneously – on the periphery of their soul – at the distance: in the realm of readymade religious rituals and standard prayers, in the secure periodicity of expected sermons, and too close, in a symbiotic connection with themselves which provides security – immediacy of benevolent response. People treat God like they treat other human beings – without spiritual creativity, at once in an alienated way and with over-familiarity. They transform God into an authority to intimately whisper to his ears their requests for favors and for ultimate grand reward. They transform God into a kind of a Commander-in-Chief who explains his despotism by his love for his creatures, as they themselves explain their own parental despotism by their love for their children. And they transform Christ into some kind of a seducer seducing us into obedience through His unconditional love. But the young priest has a different picture of God-man relationships – personal, responsible, creative, serious, intense, and unique, without egoistic expectations, formal arrangement and sentimental evacuations. He wants people to be capable of engaging God in a spiritual mutual love which can transform their life into a sublime dedication to moral ideals.

Most of the people in the local parish take the priest’s “idealism” as a burden on them and even violence against them – they don’t have time and energy for this “excess of expectations”, they have their everyday life to be occupied with. They need God because they believe that God will help them in their everyday survival and rivalry with their neighbors. Like evil flees their gossip bites the priest’s disinterested dedication to his work. Still, there are some people who are able to appreciate the exceptionality of a priest who is dying of cancer amidst the bliss of his faith.

Several exceptional deeds in the midst of a hell of an exploitation of Christ by the nominal Christians, which were able to open the hearts of the spiritually sensitive people to Christ are the apotheosis of the country priest’s life where material asceticism unifies with spiritual plenitude.

The conventional ritualistic prayers to God is defined by the logic of the film’s images as an alternative to much more difficult frankness with other people (the essence of the vicar’s diary) as a contact with god’s image inside them.

Bruno Forestier and Veronica Dreyer are very young, almost teenagers, in spite of their impressive appearance. Bruno is elegantly masculine, Veronica – intelligently feminine. And they are very seriously politically involved. Veronica is humanistically oriented and genuinely dedicated to her noble cause – helping those who are trying to liberate themselves from the oppressors (here, Algerians fighting for liberation from Imperial France). Bruno’s situation is much more complicated and sometimes ambiguous. There is no question that Bruno is dedicated to high culture (to knowing and understanding serious art, philosophy and music) with exceptional intensity. But his intellectual dedication, instead of being rooted in reality and finding way to people’s lives – not only staying Bruno’s personal interest, but, in a climate of domination of politico-economic aspirations over life, it became his attempts to escape the feverishly prosaic world full of repressive and manipulative energies. It became a kind of a psychological trick of distracting himself from the unbearable truth about the society which is seducing people into consumerist and entertainment addiction instead of stimulating their thinking about what’s going on.

Bruno is trapped by the right-wing organization working against Algerian liberation, and in spite of his impulsive and often childish attempts to liberate himself, is forced to become a hit-man and follow orders. Bruno is, probably, not the typical man among the right-wing secret agents, but it makes his collaboration even more tragic. While Veronica, because of her youthful idealism and a lack of understanding that nice ideas about liberation and her taste for freedom and her support of national self-determination are not identical with militant fight for realization of all that and even can come to contradict the very spirit of liberation, collaborated with the agents working for Algeria’s independence, Bruno as enemy of Veronica’s organization was captured and tortured by her comrades-in-arms. Bruno heroically survived torture without surrendering to the enemy any worthy information, but Veronica was captured by Bruno’s associates, tortured and murdered. Pretty hopeless results for human love, and that says something important about condition of young people doomed to be outsmarted by the adult functionaries of political and economic powers.

Scenes of Bruno’s torture in the film are shown without sensationalism but with truthfulness that makes it not easy to witness. Waterboarding of Bruno and the end of Veronica emphasize how fragile the young people are in comparison with professionally trained in manipulation functionaries of organized politics. The film is a warning – how successfully even the culturally educated and even with noblest hearts young people are manipulated by the political functionaries because youthful humanism (personified by Veronica) and genuine artistic proclivities (personified by Bruno) cannot match the practicality of political militancy of those who organize and carry out belligerent political fight.

Godard’s film is futuristically oriented, for example, it shows sessions of torture as habitual and matter-of-factly practices as if it takes place in the 21st century – in the 60s nobody could imagine that torturing could be done with a halo of pride around the torturers’ heads. By this film Godard warned people about what will come, and his prophesy of a coming barbarization of humanity is proved to be true. The systemic abuse of the young people – their transformation into (conservative) agents of repressive powers and by this shattering of their spiritual and intellectual potentials is another horrifying prophesy of Godard’s “The Little Soldier” which today is in a process of being confirmed by life. Young people today have to watch this film instead (of attending) rock-concerts or spectacular sport-events.

The tremendous, confident, shining and driving an expensive car, Bruno Forestier entered Switzerland. On the backseat, over the movie-camera we see Jean-Luc Godard.

Playing philosophical ping-pong with himself distracts Bruno from cultural destruction around

For pure thinking (in philosophy and in technical science) Bruno may be right, but not in understanding life

Michel Subor and Anna Karina in Jean-Luc GodardÕs LE PETIT SOLDAT (1963). Courtesy: Rialto Pictures/Studiocanal
Composition of this still suggests that Veronica in relationship with Bruno is for him like an ephemeral butterfly in between him and his self-introspective reflection of himself

Veronica is saying “no” to Bruno

Veronica, trapped by Bruno’s artistic “pressure” looking like confession in love, saying “yes” to him

Laszlo – the senior secret agent, working for the Algerian liberation, lights his cigarette right before using fire to torture Bruno

“Enhanced interrogation technique”, to use the 21st century vocabulary, is applied to Bruno in the early 60s

The Reflective Strategy Of Assimilating The Viewers (of the Painting) Into The Painting

Giovanni Battista Moroni, “A Gentleman in Adoration before the Baptism of Christ” (1555 – 1560)
Giovanni Battista Moroni, “A Gentleman in Adoration before the Baptism of Christ” (1555–1560)

Moroni’s bold division of the intra-painting space suggests not only the ontological difference between secular realm where Moroni’s “gentleman” is located, and sacred realm where baptism of Christ by the John the Baptist takes place, but their unity, that is made even more articulate by their difference. The secular and the sacred realms of the painting are like the two-flower plant near the lower margin of the canvass, where the smaller flower points at the secular area, while the bigger one to the opposite direction where spirit itself becomes humanized.

In spite of being separated from the sacred event by the thick stone wall and the waters of the river and despite the fact that the direction of “gentleman’s” gaze doesn’t geometrically correspond to the exact location of the area we expect him to look at – at Christ and John the Baptist (he looks rather at the future results of this exceptional event), the secular area can be considered as congruent with the sacred because the hands of the observer of baptism (in praying position) transcends the symbolic separation of the two realms by protruding into the sacred one.

There are no traces of piety on the secular observer’s (gentleman in adoration) face – just stubborn concentration and a sadness and torment (from knowing the historical destiny of the both – Christ and John the Baptist). What does it mean – to pray to the baptism of Christ? For what purpose such prayer can exist? Is secular observer praying for the success of this sacred meeting of Christ and John the Baptist for the future of humanity? Baptism of Christ must have a particular meaning. Indeed, what can the god-son get from being baptized by a human being – John the Baptist? If to consider that we look at the scene of baptism through the gaze of the “gentleman in adoration”, Christ is baptized into humanity – into human destiny and human ordeals. God is baptized into human condition – physical fragility, physical pain, human need for psychological support, human despair and doubt in his mission. The facial expression of the observer in adoration is not “iconic”, the spiritual pain he feels is expressed by the contained stress in the lower part of his face – he identifies with Christ’s earthly destiny, but also – and here is the point of the painting about secular spirituality – he identifies with Christ after John’s baptizing, with Christ’s human sacredness, with godly nature of human being’s potentials. In other words, we see in Moroni’s painting not just the combination of the sacred and secular areas (the left and the right segments of the canvass) but their unification inside the sacred realm, where secular element is not only related to the holy element but is as equal in its spiritual importance. This reinforcement of secular reality inside the very sacred reality complicates the composition of Moroni’s painting and makes the unity of the sacred and secular exclamatory and historically futuristic. We don’t see the traditional situation when somebody is praying to the holy apparition, but instead a person who is praying to the sacred unity of the sacred and secular realities.

The observer in the painting personifies us, the viewers of the painting. And he especially represents the democratic viewers today because of their tendency to be spiritually more secular, not spiritual in a idolatrous, otherworldly, superhuman – conservative sense. Our representative (“gentleman”) in the painting identifies with Christ not as the child of God as bearer/possessor of exceptional ties with his Heavenly Father, but with his heavenly earthly nature. He identifies with him being baptized into humanity – with him as with the carrier of the sacredness of being human in a spiritual way.

For Moroni it is not enough just to think about Christ’s ordeals as that of a human being (not to use God’s power to protect oneself from the evil human deeds and human vulnerability). It seems, he wanted to represent in his gentleman-human witness of Christ‘s baptism those who are able to learn from Christ to respect themselves as human beings regardless of their belief or disbelief in Christ as Godly Son of God. This perspective is contrary to the habitual – conservative one, when people identify with Gods’ power and even try to emulate it with high-tech weaponry and super-wealth. Moroni’s painting orients the viewers on a world where god becomes human, where god accepts human condition and becomes an example of noble humility in dealings with other people and with the natural environment.

Over Christ in the scene of baptism we see an angelic cloud which, as if, is pointing not at Christ (as it could be in traditional – conservative, based on idolatry, tradition), but to the importance of baptism of supreme spiritual value into the condition of human life. It is, as if, through Christ God-Creator is blessing his own potentially human nature into which God’s nature incarnates itself through Christ’s earthly destiny. And we understand – the praying gesture of the secular observer is repeating the praying gesture of Christ. “Gentleman”-observer learns from Christ-who-became-a-human-being, a new – human pray, pray for humans who became the victims of evil committed by humans – that of betrayal, deception, cruelty, enslavement in all its forms, humiliation, torture and murder. If in traditional – metaphysical belief in god, humans are not supposed to sin because it contradicts god’s commandments, in the new perspective emphasized by Moroni’s painting, a human being has to refrain from sin for the sake of not violating our godly-earthly nature. In his “A Gentleman in Adoration before the Baptism of Christ” Moroni registers how praying to the super-human agency is becoming the existential hope/task of investing human spiritual energies into earthly lot of human beings.

The river which the baptized Christ will cross, doesn’t only separate the scene of baptism from gentleman in adoration/human observer and viewers of Moroni’s painting but at the same time connects it with them – one sleeve of the river, as if, leads towards us, people living outside art. After being baptized Christ has already turned to us and will move in our direction – to the world where we all live for (already) more than five, more than twenty centuries.

The archaic scenery/landscape behind the scene of baptism through the meaning of a new baptism is opened to the future, where Moroni’s protagonist and we, the viewers of the painting wait with the desire to understand more our past and future. The meaningful symbolic composition of the painting and the solid Renaissance sacred humanism of the painter is an incredible – trans-historical achievement of Giovanni Battista Moroni.

To pray to John the Baptist’s baptism of Christ means to pray to our internal god’s inspiration and power to keep our spiritual courage, perseverance and endurance in resisting human evil.

Moroni, Giovanni
Giovanni Battista Moroni, “A Gentleman in Adoration before the Baptism of Christ” (1555–1560)

A Metaphorically Mythologizing And Intellectually Demythologizing Art (the Art of Cathartic Imagination)

Our borderline cases carry around with them experiences of unthinkable anxiety, which are failures of communication at the stage of absolute dependence.
D. W. Winnicott, “Babies and their Mothers”, Free Association Books, 1988, p. 109

You can drive the devil out of your garden but you will find him again in the garden of your son. In psychoanalytic terms, one could say that it is the split-off and unintegrated parts of his parents that have been introjected by the child
Alice Miller, “The Drama of the Gifted Child (How Narcissistic Parents Form and Deform the Emotional Lives of their Talented Children), Basic Books, 1981, p. 27

Oedipus’ unconscious anger is most likely fuelled not by just the king’s position as a depriving and constraining overlord, but also as a potentially nurturant figure, who had painfully rejected his attachment needs. Anger is a natural response of the child to a threat to the attachment relationship, when the expectation of safety near attachment figure is jeopardized.
Judith Trowell (Ed.), “The Importance of Fathers” (A Psychoanalytic Re-evaluation), Brunner- Routledge, 2002, p. 47

Psychoanalytic theory uses concepts such as repression, denial, disavowal and projection to describe the manifold ways in which bygone thoughts, feelings, memories and fantasies have disappeared from consciousness… We are all relatively unconscious of childhood mortifications, with their quota of infantile rage, or of the envious and often murderous feelings that the child hidden within us still entertains toward those who were nearest and dearest to us in childhood. These primitive impulses all have a number of potential outlets in adult life.
Joyce McDougall, “Theaters of the Body”, W. W. Norton, 1989, p. 51

… The crucial acts of primal scene, this theater of origin…
Erik L. Santner, “The Royal Remains (People’s Two Bodies and Endgames of

In his “Totem of Blessed Subjectivity” Brauner represents the primal scene (the mysterious sexual coitus between parents) as it can be seen/imagined by the over-powerful mythological “layer” of the child’s psyche. By following the law of condensation/displacement of information under which the human and especially infantile psyche functions, Brauner’s painting imitates the child’s unconscious imagination which mixes its impressions about intercourse between parents with the enigma of child-birth.

Does Brauner’s painting reflect his possible intention to create a special deck of cards which could symbolize the child’s relations with his/her parental couple? Was this game meant to be contesting comparison of destinies of relations between infants and the parental might? Or, was Brauner just trying to use his embellished stylization of card game subculture to illustrate the problems between baby/child and parental king/queen couple?

Victor Brauner’s “Totem of Blessed Subjectivity” (1948)
V. Brauner, “Totem of Blessed Subjectivity”, 1948 (1)

By Looking at this painting we, step by step, can discern what is so important for every human being – the primordial figures of everybody’s life, the parental couple. But why to demythologize in front of adults (to transform what for them is sacred into what is horrifying, even if it indeed, corresponds to the child’s unconscious ideas) – our parents, their love, their emotional and physical unity and our bonds with them – the point of birth of a future life? Sometimes for some of us in our childhood and adulthood, relations with our parents are not what we could dream of having. They are full of frustrations and anger. But we are made of these relations, we cannot separate ourselves from it, we cannot magically “forget” our ontogenetic beginnings. We, human beings have to know the truth about ourselves and our parents – not to repeat parental mistakes and understand better our own children. It is a matter of our respect for our parents based on repression and superstition vs. our reverie for truth about parents and us. Besides the “organic” distortions of reality on part of infantile “thinking”, many people are abused or/and neglected by their parents. There is a strong need in us to love our parents, but also a lot of bitter feelings of injustice connected with their mistreatment of us in our infancy and later on. Brauner’s painting is a result of his intellectual courage to elaborate a topic that many try to avoid, because they try to avoid emotional pain and because they feel guilty in front of their parents for being too critical when they really prefer to be grateful.

Brauner follows our human unconscious rooted in our childish feelings of anger at our parents which coexist with our love for them. Let’s look again at the painting. The mother’s womb here is represented as located in between the father’s and mother’s bodies during their physical embrace. The baby has a prenatal memory and easily “imagines” something like a womb and itself inside it – in a bliss of primordial safety and plenitude. But baby doesn’t know that the womb is inside mother’s body. Babies intuit that their very existence is tied not only to the mother and father but to the parental couple’s physical unity. Brauner represents this imagined (by baby’s unconscious) togetherness in which the parents are mysteriously and absurdly combined.

So, a proto-womb is located in the painting in between the father and mother’s bodies. It (we can call it the embryo-womb) is, as if, ripped off by the power of the parents’ ontological might creating an opening for the baby’s birth (the infant’s mind exaggerates the sado-masochistic aspects of human birth, because it is prone to interpret what is psychologically painful/stressful as a result of sadistic intent on part of some evil energies). In this phase of human life father and mother’s might is equal to the law of life.

But even later on fathers tend to unconsciously play the archetypal king with their children, and the mothers – the archetypal queen. For parents it takes a lot of psychological maturity to abandon this unconscious posture and be ready to be in the perception of their children just human beings, mortal, fallible and sometimes helpless. Often child abuse and neglect is a result of parental inability to throw away in front of their children this solemn mask of superhuman status because they prefer the feeling of being super-wise figures disappointed in the imperfections of their too human (too animalistic) children. By faking of super-human pose, parents, in a way, are irrationally trying to protect themselves from their children’s expectations and demands.

Brauner represents child’s perception of parental gaze as one-eyed – a narrow, one-sided: mono-vision of their child’s reality that is a characteristic feature of widespread parental psychopathology when father and mother judge their children instead of caring about them. This strictly hierarchical perception of their children Brauner connects with a tendency of mother and father to disagree with one another (in the painting each looks at the opposite direction). Such a moralistic and quarrelling mother and father have frontal gazes even we see them in profile because they always see the world frontally – confrontationally, they didn’t get the relativistic plurality of human vision that comes with humility and curiosity. Brauner’s representation of parents in profile expresses the fact that babies/children often feel that they don’t have enough contact with them (parents always rush somewhere else, to their adult life). So, we see the parents’ frontal eyes on their profiles – a paradox which frames especially the father’s gaze into a negative, sinister, aggressive.

Victor Brauner’s “Totem of Blessed Subjectivity” (1948)
V. Brauner, “Totem of Blessed Subjectivity”, 1948 (2)

Brauner interprets giving birth as a violent act of parental god-like “glory“. Father hurts the baby-womb – with his crown. But the mother, as if, hurts the baby’s primordial existence inside the womb – with the crown of her very being, while preparing for giving birth. The baby has the feeling that mother’s relation to him/her is more somatic than the father’s – she rips the womb with her very body. That’s how baby’s psyche (helped by the painter’s imagination) perceives birth regardless of using/not-using modern technology, especially if relationships with parents in later life are not completely benign in child’s perception. The father’s crown is his earthly weapon (his background in the painting is the earth), but the mother’s crown as belonging to her body is provided to her by the heaven (her background) with all the connotation of heavenly glory. Contrary to the human mythological tradition that makes man a creature of heaven and woman that of the earth, feelings of the child, according to Brauner, is rather that father’s power is earthy while mother’s – heavenly. The father’s power of masculinity is perceived by the child’s unconscious as the part of this world, while the primal pleasures connected with mother are so intense and at the same time so relaxing that they are perceived as the opposite of this world as the abode of reality principle which demands from babies and children the ability to postpone and dose satisfactions.

Fatherly power is completely of earthly nature – it is power of Cesar. The baby empirically knows that mother has two hands for holding and touching him/her, two hands like two breasts which she is generously squeezing for the sake of the child (as it is shown in the painting). One breast is that of her fertile “sainthood” (which she squeezes by her milky-gray hand echoing of the sleepy blue of the heavenly background) and the other is of a fleshy pink color. The former breast is impregnated with light – with milk of the iconic aspect of physical fertility of maternal breast, the holiness of the very function of motherhood, but the latter one is symbolizing the libidinous/sensual aspect of the feeding the earthly/heavenly baby. Although in real life the father also has two hands, like mother, Brauner here risks with a metaphorical generalization. He makes the father, as if, one-handed, not only because of his relative distance from the baby’s body in comparison with the mother, but because of the importance (for the child’s unconscious) of the psychologically archetypal motif that instead of two feeding and satisfying breasts the father has penis/phallus which he is “monstrously” holding in the painting like the mother her breasts. Brauner represents here hands-breasts and hand-penis/phallus as Deluzian machine-like aggregate.

Mother’s leafy green hair is, it seems, a humorous modification of the halo motif (the heavenly nature of woman demands earthly embellishments), and so is the humorously yellowish upper part of the father’s face/head keeping the aggressive crown. Mother’s mouth is full of belligerent teeth which are not for eating – it is to frighten, as an echo of her bodily cutting crown (this predatory mouth is a sign, it seems, of mother’s emotional withdrawal from her baby which he/she is afraid more than anything else – Brauner makes mother’s teeth grimace the opposite of her celebrated iconic smile). This mother’s grimace is rather otherworldly than predatory, but father’s mouth is as earthly as the green coloration of the lower part of his face and the dark background of his worldly conquering ambitions. His carnivorous grimace looks intimidating not without connection with how the eyes of two parents are depicted (mother’s pupil and iris are of the size of the whole eye, while father’s are smaller and that makes him, as if, more predatorily concentrated). While the mother’s legs are as pink as her earthly hand keeping her sensual breast – she being of heavenly nature, walks the earth, the father’s legs are of bright and optimistically “ideological” sky-like color – as if he is walking on the sky (he is earthly conqueror with a heavenly ambition). His gaze is purely predatory and menacing, while mother’s is frightened and thoughtfully sad. That’s how Brauner balances the psychological natures of heavenly and earthly elements of the mother and father’s supernatural powers in baby’s perception.

This nightmarish vision of the parental couple during coitus and in relation to the baby’s birth has the right to exist in art as frightening images in the unconscious of children and adults. “Blessed subjectivity” is Brauner’s ironic title for the newborn, the future subject of human life with its bliss and despairs. But why the painter chose to represent father and mother as a totemic animal with four legs? It is the very exact metaphor indirectly referring to psychological maturation of a child – the slow outgrowing of ambivalence the child feels towards his/her parents. Brauner suggests that the symbolic: the psychological killing of the totemic animal (the baby and child’s archaic phantasy of the parental couple in coitus which hurts the child by throwing him/her out of its mutual bliss through the birth) is a necessity for making a child to be able to discover the humanity of his parents who then deserve to be loved by their child. This archaic phantasy expressing defensive aggression of the child against the overwhelmingly powerful primordial parents stimulates his/her unconscious to “slaughter” the parental couple together with this phantasy and makes him/her able to perceive parents more realistically and positively.

This totemic animal – the father-king keeping the mother-queen standing on his feet and by this prohibiting her from confronting his earthly power (he relegates her to the realm of the obvious sacred – keeping her out of earth in the sacred area of primordial motherly functions of giving birth and nursling/nursing of the baby) – should, according to Brauner, be slaughtered if humankind wants to live in democracy and not in totalitarianism. For Brauner, the absence/lack of equality between man and woman (father and mother) in families with conservative sensibility condemns new generations to give themselves to archaic fears and phobias accumulated in their unconscious.

Because in Western tradition the reverential approach to the theme of parenthood dominates in the mythology of parent-child relationship, Brauner’s intuition finds a very resourceful stylistic solution to oppose the “natural” colors of the painting which reflect a positive – worshipping interpretation of the topic, and the content of the painting expressing itself through the frightening and alerting semantic and stylistic details. The pastel colors of the painting contradict its aggressive lines and shapes. This incompatibility between the “reliable” colors and aggressive forms refers to the incompatibility between (unconditional) worshipping parents and the unpleasant truth about the real relationships between parents and their children full of the examples of child abuse and neglect, and blind vengeful feelings on part of children (on top of archaic imagery dominating their unconscious).

Brauner’s “Totem of Blessed Subjectivity” depicts not the condition of the adults who were grown up from the abused and neglected children, but their unconscious position towards their parents. By this painting Brauner, as if, lends his talent to the unconscious of these people who are, to a various degree, all of us.

Victor Brauner’s “Totem of Blessed Subjectivity” (1948)
V. Brauner, “Totem of Blessed Subjectivity”, 1948 (3)

Sublimation As A Projection Of A Shamelessly Stubborn Humanness

My dear Maurice, your film is astonishing, totally astonishing; far beyond the cinematic horizon covered up until now by our wretched gaze.
Jean-Luc Godard

[For many] Maurice Pialat is the guy who made this weird movie about Van Gogh, the one where he doesn’t cut off his ear
Kent Jones, “Lightning in a Bottle: Maurice Pialat Profile”, Film Comment”

The critical mauling VG received from the press for his contribution to the 1890 Brussels exhibition of Les XX may have exacerbated the crisis that led to his death. One critic wrote: “he crushes tubes of color between ill-balanced, clumsily drawn lines.”
Laura Gascoigne, “Vincent At Work”, Apollo, March 2015, p. 202 – 203

In 1890, Theo van Gogh was searching for a home for his brother after Vincent was released from an Asylum at Saint-Remy. Upon recommendation of Camille Pissaro (a former patient of Dr. Gachet), who told Theo of Gachet’s interest in working with artists, Theo sent Vincent to Gachet’s home in Avers.

Merleau-Ponty characterized Freud as, above all, a philosopher of the flesh. The notion of the “flesh” refers to substantial pressures, the semiotic and somatic stresses of “creaturely life”. The “creaturely” refers to an exposure… not simply to the fragility or precariousness of the mortal, finite lives, but rather to ultimate lack of foundation for the historical forms of life that distinguish human community… We could say that the precariousness, the fragility – the “nudity” – of biological life becomes potentiated, amplified by way of exposure to the radical contingency of the forms of life that constitutes the space of meaning… Creatureliness is thus a dimension not so much of biological as of ontological vulnerability, a vulnerability that permeates human being as that being whose essence is to exist in forms of life that, in turn, are contingent, fragile, susceptible to breakdown.
Eric L. Santner, “The Royal Remains (The People’s Two Bodies and the Endgames of Sovereignty)”, Un. of Chicago Pr., 2011, p. 4 – 6

Pialat and Van Gogh

Pialat is trying to determine Jacques Dutronc’s readiness to be Vincent

Pialat is discussing a scene with Jacques Dutronc and Alexandra London (Marguerite Gachet)

Pialat is imagining Van Gogh’s feelings vis-à-vis nature

Pialat is preparing a scene at Dr. Gachet’s place

Vincent and his work

Van Gogh and the painterly flesh of the sky

Van Gogh and the blue color

Van Gogh is scrubbing the clouds off the sky or, conversely, putting them there
Van Gogh is scrubbing the clouds off the sky or conversely putting them there as windows to the unknown

Van Gogh’s gaze is asking for, demanding or questioning the answers from earth and sky

Van Gogh’s gaze is quarreling with and, may be, even accusing the alive matter of life

Vincent and Theo

Vincent and his brother Theo who made Vincent’s being a body of his art, and also was a skillful player in art-market games

Vincent and his human environment

Here Pialat compares two human gazes – one is of a specialist directed at the patient, and other is of a human being directed at another human being. It is not necessarily the difference between a gaze at a human body (of Dr. Gachet), and that at human face (of (VG at Dr. Gachet). But it is the difference between the gaze of a person in a “superior” position, and that – from soul to soul (of one human being at another).

Vincent (who usually claims that he doesn’t drink because of his “illness”) is invited for a glass of wine

Vincent between Dr. Gachet (Gerard Sety) and Gachet’s daughter Marguerite (Alexandra London) – everybody here is jolly positive and friendly, but a terrible silent drama is already in motion behind the curtain of appearance.

Van Gogh and his everyday companions (who became famous in whole world after his death as subjects of his paintings)

The “village idiot” demands from Van Gogh to make his portrait – he, as if, wants to find who he is.

Van Gogh looks at his model, but the model looks for his image outside the world of the living men. What he has lost is his metaphysical essence.

Vincent and Cathy/“Carmen”

Vincent’s girlfriend (Elsa Zylberstein) is a prostitute but she doesn’t take money from him

Vincent and Marguerite Gachet

Vincent and Marguerite when everything between them is in the future including the impossibility to stabilize socially their togetherness

We see here Vincent and Marguerite Gachet – together and, as if, already separated by destiny. In spite of being in love with him Marguerite feels that her future is apart from his, while he sees no other future for himself than down, under the earth.

Marguerite is amazed by the power of the vitality in this bizarre man so different from anybody she has ever known

Marguerite sometimes is ready to give her life for Vincent, but his destiny wants him alone, without her.

Marguerite wants to protect him, to help him, but his life has been decided by another forces far away from the powers of her love.

The last moments together are as strong as powerless, as devoted as futile

Marguerite is in panic that Vincent already belongs somewhere else (at this moment he made a lethal decision she knows nothing about)

De-existentialization of culture through wit, fun and aestheticism

The luncheon at Gachet’s place is filled by amusing and talented artistic improvisations

During the party the host – Dr. Gachet starts to worry more and more about his daughter Marguerite’s involvement with van Gogh who is practically a pauper

Theo and Vincent are preparing a triumphal and shocking number

Dr. Gachet is shocked, smashed and indignant about the vulgar joke but is trying not to show it

Van Gogh’s last tormented attempt or final frustration

Sometimes Vincent cannot tolerate his despair for being an unsuccessful painter, a burden on his brother, a shameful impostor in the realm of art.

Here we see Vincent who had lost himself and started to accuse Theo (Bernard Le Coq) for not really trying to sell his canvasses. In between them, in the middle we see Theo’s wife Johanna who recently gave birth

But Theo knows how art market works. He knows the psychology of the consumers. His position is a realistic one – for his success, Vincent needs some big-big event to happen. But what can that be? – Is it Vincent’s death? Of course, nothing like this is explicitly said. Real events take place lower than the threshold of words and verbalization.

Theo and his wife

Theo got a wife and a newborn child – they are now his priority. Of course, he intends to continue to support his brother, but…

Theo’s family life makes him worried about the future, and even Vincent knows that Theo and Jo have scandals because of his existence

Is it only dirty water that the spouses throw away? Whom are they throwing out together with used water?

The last celebration (at the brothel)

Vincent left for Paris for the last celebration of life. Marguerite came after him, although he didn’t want her to

Vincent didn’t want Marguerite to see him at the brothel – his destiny of the one who never had the chance to marry because of his poverty.

The biggest scene in the film is a representation of a popular (during this time) “dance macabre”, in a stylized form – the celebration of military service and the brave readiness to die for a noble cause. In Pialat’s interpretation – what motherland is for the soldier, the art is for van Gogh. Here we see Vincent and Marguerite (on the right), for her this dance symbolizes initiation into the tragic human adulthood – into the adult world as it exists. We see also Theo (on the left in a second raw).

Vincent and Marguerite last time together as a part of humanity celebrating a courageous death artistically aggrandized by the dance

The final act of celebration of life and death – Vincent, Marguerite and Theo – in the center

Vincent’s despair pushing him to rational assessment of his options

Already for some time Vincent has been preparing himself for death

Again and again Van Gogh contemplates the inevitable. It is a tragic courage to accept the real world as it is – says the cynical and indifferent wisdom helping life to remain cruel and inhumane.


Pialat’s “Van Gogh” is the only film about Vincent which has the power to break through the pompous curtains of cliché covering our perception of this exceptional artist. The film provides us with a chance of a real encounter with van Gogh’s life. We don’t see VG in a make-up of an inspired genius irradiating metaphysical light; we don’t see him crazy or eccentric by the calling of the soul. We see VG who looks like everybody else, who is doomed to meet despair, who wants to live but whose life, like everybody else’s, is locked in the trap of survival or social success. We see VG as the one who belongs to his life (as everybody else – to their), VG pushed to the corner by the circumstances, as every viewer knows what it means.

We see VG laughing, joking, lost amidst existential crossroads, confused and puzzled, indignant and desperate. We see him drinking while he says he doesn’t (he invented that he has epilepsy because of his shame for not being a successful painter, for being a loser). In the film, his relationship with his art is hidden inside his soul – he is silent about it – he doesn’t like to emphasize how he is different from others, to make the point that he is the chosen in comparison with others. For Pialat’s VG any social dancing around his art would be an unforgivable vanity. VG of Pialat and of Jacques Dutronc doesn’t look like an artist. It is for this reason we, the viewers, can think that he is a real artist.

We will remember how he walks – as a person who walks big distances with his painting equipment in search of perspectives. He developed a special manner of walking – his body, as if, is balancing by each step the heaviness of his craft. And he walks as a person who has no place to rush to – who is always there, in front of his landscapes, with other people. VG was a homeless – he was at home everywhere – he was with his eyes, his soul, his response to the world, his art.

For van Gogh his success was important as it is for anybody else. But the point of success for VG is not like for us, Americans who understand this word as a persistent pursuit of success with lucky result. For us today social success is different phenomenon than it was for VG. Yes, he needed it and the absence of it was destroying him, but he wasn’t looking for it. He created independently of the possibility or impossibility of success. VG did nothing to get it. He didn’t try to be successful – he didn’t try to make his paintings in a way that could make them successful – that could excite the art consumers to buy them from the art dealers, and excite specialists in art and art salon journalists to praise and promote them.

Today’s American concept of success is based on grasping what consumers want and on the ability of the creators to imitate what consumers could accept. VG, on the other hand, wanted success of his work that had nothing to do with what the public could like to possess, to look at, to appropriate physically or mentally, to identify with. VG’s paintings were not at all his attempts to satisfy the public or culture’s tastes. They were emanations of hia soul, of his moods, of his capricious imaginary added to what he saw – they were outside and beyond somebody else’s tastes and interests. He wanted to be successful without doing anything to achieve this success. He wanted to be successful as he is in his unique creative individuality – without any attempts to adapt to the public‘s desires, without any wish to conform to cultural or psychological expectations. He was interested in the moments of his unity with the world which he was registering in his canvasses.

In this sense VG has a strong democratic sensibility – he was a creative individualist, he believed in his particular response to the impressions he got from nature and from his models. VG is a carrier of democratic individualism – he wanted to be taken in his stubborn uniqueness. Here lies the very difference between a person like VG and Dr. Gachet (Gerard Sety), who was an aesthete and himself an amateur painter with conventional taste. VG wasn’t motivated by aesthetic qualities of the painting, he did something else – his artistic sensitivity wasn’t about ”beauty“ at all. It was rather about genuineness, about otherness, independence of the world.

For Dr. Gachet being a physician and being an aesthete is two sides of the same philosophical position towards the reality – an alienated investigative approach to the matter of the world on the one hand, and the attempt to elevate and even fetishize the beautiful and pleasant side of life. The principle of VG’s perception of reality is different – to try to find a new, spiritualized body for life in a new spiritualized matter created by his painting method. Gachet’s stance in front of reality – to control through medical knowledge its stubborn/obstinate matter and beautify what deserves beautification. It is a posture towards life from, as if, outside of life. VG’s ontological position towards the reality – is from inside it. He intuitively shared his Being with nature and other people-his models.

For Gachet VG himself represents the material substance of life which is “naturally” crude and without the redeeming value of beauty, a kind of dark “vulgar stubbornness”. But what he takes as a lack of harmony, beauty and grace in Vincent’s personality is exactly the spiritual part of VG’s identity – the absence of philistine appeal to another people for the sake of reaching a psychological comfort in smooth relations with them. VG is depicted by Pialat and Dutronc as the very personification of otherness. He can be perceived as a strange, opaque, bizarre, even sinister figure. The otherness of his personality echoes by the specificity of his art. He himself is under a tremendous burden of his talent and his destiny. If he couldn’t be like this he couldn’t have a chance to develop his unique vision.

Art for Gachet (like for majority of people) is a part of a pleasant pastime. And art whose code of beauty is not immediately available seems to him superfluous. He satisfies his need in other people in celebrations of different sorts when various people come together to enjoy life. Gachet can invite VG for the dinner or to invite Theo with the family “for summer”, but refuses to offer his help to VG in spite of Vincent’s desperate situation, although he has a unique opportunity to do so. The result is – VG’s suicide and self-tormenting suffering of Gachet’s daughter.

The culmination of psycho-social motif of festive celebration of life as a model of human solidarity (instead of attention of people to one another) with inevitably tragic feeling of doom of this kind of togetherness is depicted in the biggest scene of the film – the scene in Parisian brothel with atmosphere impregnated by apocalyptic tonality of the general gaiety. Two scenes anticipate this brothel type of human togetherness – it is lunch at Gachet and the concert and dance at the riverside.

Another van Gogh’s symbolic encounter with meaning which can help us to define the specificity of his position in life is the situation with the guy who keeps asking VG to make his portrait. The “village idiot” personifies the metaphysical sensibility – the feeling that the essence of the human being lies not in life but in another world, which he, according to his delirium, hopes to recognize in his portrait. Underdeveloped (not humanized/dehumanized) life creates the need for psychological compensation in the form of yearning for the foggy imaginary alternative.

Vincent, by immanent stubbornness of his personality refuses to stop living and to adapt to survival/success, to stop to be human being and to become a seeker of material and psychological reward. This ultimate conflict of human civilization is reflected here – between spiritually creative life and material survival. De-existentialized high-culture dedicated to “other world” is distracting people from life and by this perpetuates the inhumane condition of human existence. This leaves life itself not attended/under-attended by human intelligence. And life as it is, indifferent and cruel is the reason why van Gogh was left with the option of taking his own life. Gachet could easily save van Gogh’s life. But in this world it is impossible for him to allow Vincent and Marguerite to live together in happiness and by this help him to continue with his work. Instead, Gachet is retreated to traditional moralistic position of “protecting” his daughter against “this beggar and bum”. If he would help his daughter and Vincent it in the eyes of the society could mean to emasculate himself, to be seen as a weak person who cannot protect his daughter’s honor. Gachet didn’t like Vincent’s art, he didn’t sympathize with him personally – he found him rude and vulgar. Who in this situation could help the person with an artistic ambition and without any social success who in addition – refuses to try to please potential buyers of art through a reasonably attractive style?

Vincent understood that if he has any chance at all to become a successful painter – it will be only his suicide in the nimbus of sexy gossip and scandal that can attract the attention of a wide public and create mass sales of his paintings. Art must be dressed and made-up like a whore, even if it is a chased art, even if it is and especially so an art created by the genius.

Posted on July 5, 2015 –   “Van Gogh” (1991) by Maurice Pialat by Acting-Out Politics

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