Acting-Out Politics

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

Realized Dystopia – Consumerist/Entertainment Society And Its Settlers, Fighters And Sufferers

At a press conference at a Venice Film Festival in 1963, Resnais said that his film depicted “the malaise of a so-called happy society”

One of the topic of the film is the Algerian war. In 1960, Resnais had been one of the signatories of the Manifesto of the 121, in which a group of the intellectuals had declared opposition to the French government’s military policy in Algeria.

The film was for the most part very badly received by both the press and the public. Resnais observed later that it had been the most expensive film to make and the one which had drawn perhaps the smallest audiences.

“The film’s stature increases with a second viewing” (The Times – London). This recognition that “Muriel” benefits from, or required multiple viewings was something upon which a number of commentators have agreed. Wikipedia

… The violent explosiveness of prosaic life in Resnais’ astonishing film
Leo Bersani and Ulysse Dutoit – “Art of Impoverishment: Beckett, Rothko, Resnais”, Harvard, 1993, p. 194

So, we have a thriller, but a thriller where the enigma is the intention of the film itself… The dreamlike quality, the sense of anxiety, the muted sense of terror… grow out of an accumulation of everyday details taken to the point of exasperation. In the final shots it becomes almost physically unbearable – you actually long for some catastrophe to set you free. The final tracking shot fulfills that expectation.
“Cahiers du cinema 1960 – 1968: New Wave, New Cinema….” Harvard, 1986, p. 73

Images of healthy urbanistic intensity, of casino, of endless restaurants, cafes and bars, the swarming streets and squares, the windows of different shops playfully pressing us to come inside, the shots of the exteriors of the buildings, the spectacular view on the sea-port, the cross-roads, the street counters full of goods, in front of stores, the views of the railway-station, news-stands full of colorful magazines and post-cards, etc. The quantity of episodic characters in the film is overwhelming. People appear and disappear with the speed of cut vegetables moving out of automatic food processor. Everybody is busy, excited, goal-oriented. The film has nearly one thousand cuts. “Muriel” is concretely a matter of comings and goings, small talk, dead time, quickly eaten meals, aimless strolls, missed opportunities, compulsive entertainments, conversations with blunt ends, doors, open spaces, half-forgotten and mis-remembered pasts. James Monaco, “Alain Resnais”, Oxford, 1979, p. 86 – 87

“Muriel” is a refined work of art dedicated to kitsch as a way of life. It is a solemn song about prosaic life’s sneeze during snooze, it’s a gift of tragic love for people trapped in cheap prosperity.

Identification with power is basic pleasure for powerless – cheap prosperity is a “generous” “democratic” compromise between factual powerlessness of the demos and luxurious power of the wealthy. If the powerful ones act against the powerless, the powerless, through their identification with the powerful, act (together with the powerful) against themselves. Mass-consumerism is for poor the one of forms of identifying with the power (the way for the poor to imitate the rich and feel themselves like their role-models).

Resnais’ film is about degradation of human beings through mass-cultural orientation on consumerist prosperity and entertainment, which kidnap the very potential of human soul for maturation and refinement and throw it to the dump of the history.

The film suggests between the lines – “between images” that people’s internal world in the atmosphere of cozy-easy and petty-pretty pleasures doesn’t have a chance to develop. Extra-survivalist/succeedist self is not able to develop existentially spiritual sensibility, and people cannot psychologically grow. In 20th century, for example, international strains and wars provoked in populations extra-hate, surplus-fear and self-sacrifices with psychotic background, like post-WWII mass-entertainment and profit-worship practically emptied human existentially spiritual and humanistically-intellectual resources.

The past is returning in the life of the heroes of Resnais’ film because historical process became frozen by the virtuoso repressive strategies of mass consumerism and mass entertainment and pseudo-presence of artificial ways of life started to destroy the real present tense of human existence, which, if life would be liberated and free, could move the past into the future. The meaning of life (which is not tautological – identical with building material prosperity and insatiable consumption of things and entertaining images without any otherness and existential spirituality), is being suffocated because the decision-makers want to be in charge of the existing society forever and they’re trying to shut up/down the human minds and hearts with artificial pleasures. In 21st century, socio-cultural situation is changing. Even cheap prosperity for the masses is considered by bill/mills (billionaires/millionaires) as “too expensive” – and the slogan of the day is the austerity for the majority of the population. But this recent transition from “mass-prosperity society”, depicted in “Muriel”, to “austerity” society doesn’t make Resnais’ film outdated. Hot wars with external enemies always start with the politico-economic war of the rich decision-makers at home – with the people of their own country. Transition of “democracy” from “prosperity” to “austerity” has very peculiar psychological connotations. “Muriel, or the Time of Return” can help us to understand better the specificity of our times.

The Muse of a frozen – the not-realizable love, who is lost in an atmosphere of a “messy” (not focused) and chaotic mass-cultural emotions

Helene Aughain moves through life without noticing what the most people concentrate on – financial prosperity, reliable jobs, careers, self-enrichment – everything that is located on the surface of life. In profound and detailed performance of Delphine Seyrig Helene is moved mainly by the memories of her ambiguous amorous relationship taken place long ago, in her youth. She is a person gifted with existentially spiritual sensitivity and yet she is awkwardly trying to adapt to the world around her. She lives in a kind of fog. But she irradiates a certain charm, which, as if, from faraway places and some other times.

Helene is an intelligent and a beautiful woman. Her soul is so delicate that her eyes are always sad, if, of course, she is not listening to the stories of Roland de Smoke, her financial patron and amorous presence (Claude Sainval).

Helene is worried about her step-son, who continued to live with her after the death of his father – Helene’s husband. She is right to be afraid, that after serving in the French army during Algerian war Bernard has difficulties of adapting to society. With all her sensitivity Helene tragically doesn’t understand what torments Bernard, and all her efforts to help him aren’t effective. Bernard has her gentle emotional support, but this is not enough. Feelings awakened by participation in war are too extreme to be tamed by the touch of Helene’s kindness.

Helene sells antique furniture from her apartment. Here we see one of her customers. This person is not particularly vulgar – she is like every philistine (her vulgarity is completely innocent). She lives by her consumerist naiveté, like the hungry eat and the thirsty drink.

Customer’s chat makes Helene’s face, as if, disappear behind her smoking, but the exchange of commercial information is sacred, and Helene is trying to endure

The consumerist paradise created by the efforts of the financial demiurges and mass-worshippers of cheap prosperity

Window-shoppers are, as if, the shadows of the shining mannequins advertising themselves

The store windows advertising as consumer society’s museums oriented on providing dense pleasures to the worshippers of goods

Mosaic aesthetics of chopped cheap prosperity

Prosperous life looks easy and funny like caricatures

Bernard (to the right, in profile – Jean-Baptiste Thierree) is horrified how much time Helene’s lover – Alfonse (Jean-Pierre Kerien) spends chatting and joking about nothing in bars and cafes

Freedom of choice for consumers encourages “recreational” use of drugs and obsession with gambling. At the casinos the poor and the rich can observe their common human nature and enjoy their “democratic” equality.

Aggressive advance of mass prosperity – survival dressed up in pop-dream about becoming a millionaire. Democracy makes mass prosperity look powerful and power – be more and more prosperous.

Helene and Alfonse – outworn “romantic” couple of a not-realizable life together (an incompatibility of the amorous sufferer and amorous settler)

Helene and Alfonse are as self-centered on their relations, as passively belong to the world around and as naïve as they were when they were young. But they have grown more indifferent and close-minded, more “conserved”, as canned food.

Alfonse “tactlessly” compares Helene to a crystal

Mutuality without air. Alfonse is ready to return as if their affair just starts for the first time, as if before he didn’t traumatized hopes in Helene’s soul

Lovers of all ages are prone to passionately accuse one another of not-loving enough

Helene with generous sincerity (she was and is always sincerely generous) believes Alfonse’s lie that Francoise is his niece (not his girlfriend), and she invites them both to stay in her place.

Helene is ready to give herself to the emotional waves from her past, but… the past is not the present even although the present is predatorily ready to engulf it.

Helene is still grateful to the smallest signs of Alfonse’s attention. Helene and Alfonse are a tragic match of a sincere need to believe and sincere lies – between sufferer of love and settler in love.

But Helene’s intelligence cannot allow her to idealize her life. If the present is a mirage, the past is another mirage which can be even stickier. That’s why time of the past returns into the present and there is no development toward the future. Time returns when present is not moving – is not becoming, transforming. Only the present living into future can change the past.

Helene’s psychological martyrdom

To be burdened by love is an experience arising from being unconsciously critical of one’s own love. Helene feels the unreality of her relationship with Alfonse and, for that matter, with Roland de Smoke. But Helene’s amorous suffering is a frozen flower – it is dead but its deadness is, as if, alive.

Helene feels trapped in a soulless life in a society where people live to satisfy themselves by consuming technological gadgets, furniture, cartoons, services, etc., and her grief about “disappearing” love makes her so admirable.

Helene is helpless to ease Bernard’s guilty feelings for not being able to help Muriel, when she was raped, tortured and killed by the French soldiers of the same unit Bernard was belonging to. Bernard even couldn’t share with his step-mother the incident tormenting him so much, as army usually hides similar truths from civilian society in order not to hurt loud prestige of wars.

Suffering made Helene to become even more obsessed with her past – trying to save her love in front of herself she started to confuse dates and events of her past and her present in a bizarre and morbid way. Present and past become mixed, but this time – in a directly hallucinatory – psychotic way.

The superfluous White Knight locked between his moral indignation and his guilty conscience

Bernard (in the center – Jean-Baptiste Thierree) could be a real hero of post-war democracy, if this democracy couldn’t be distorted by mass-cultural orientation on consuming entertainment, not on facts and truth. In this atmosphere people’s psychological growth not only cannot be successful, but it cannot even take place. Bernard is an exceptionally genuine person who doesn’t allow himself to get rid of truth (because it’s unpleasant) and start to be occupied with self-promotion. He cannot forget about war while everybody around him pretends that war didn’t happen. Bernard becomes like a broken tree or a flower thrown to the ground.

Bernard tries to cheer himself up, but for him with his guilty feelings there is no place in today’s society. In spite of his care for his girlfriend, she is doomed to be just a pan between his psychological burdens and busy societal life.

No, Bernard is not from the breed of conquerors of their country through social success and financial power. He is saying good-bye, because he is resisting to be conquered by a life that goes on breeding innocent conformists. The war proved to him that too many people who got opportunity to abuse others will always use this chance with a predatory pleasure. Bernard faces the impossible choice – to be an absurd fighter for the truth or leave to nowhere.

By re-watching a French propaganda documentary about Algerian war Bernard reminds himself about the real war of aggression he went through, and its aftermath – a happily deserved consumerist life. He remembers how his comrades in arms were innocently killing and torturing the Algerians. The psychological mechanism of subduing personal shame out of existential necessity or social pressure is as universal as the human body’s eliminative function.

Human beings-functionaries – those who are doomed to act predictably – like robots

Ernest’s (Jean Champion) mass-cultural (political populism’s) sugary compassionate and cheering face

Ernest unexpectedly performs the song attending people’s basic/childish emotional needs – typical amusing music.

Mass-culture’s serious face – when private business becomes pierced by bankruptcy

Alfonse (Jean-Pierre Kerien – on the left) and Ernest, his brother in law – are quarrelling because Alfonse run away from his wife’s bankrupt business, but Ernest demands his return to his wife, who is Ernest’s sister. Alfonse and Ernest are mass-cultural entrepreneurship’s underarms. The only way for them is to start new business.

Human beings/functionaries of the system are doomed to act like mechanical devises. Even moments of their ephemeral compassion are robotic.

Sufferers, settlers and fighters of mass society

The owner of the female goat (Jean Daste) is a settler on the margin of mass prosperity. He has one task in life – to succeed in his modest survival. Is he subdued by his humiliation or by his psychotic obsession? In mass-cultural society the difference between the two becomes murky.

Robert (Philippe Laudenbach) is not only a phantom from Bernard’s past, when they both served in French military in Algeria…

…Robert is ready to eliminate the witnesses of war crime (torture, rape and murder of the Algerian woman, Muriel, Arabic civilian), if ranked authorities will change their mind and decide to press charges against him, and then Bernard is amidst potential witnesses.

The neighbor, with whom Bernard shared some of his encounters with immoral behavior during the war, addresses the abyss inside the human soul

In spite of the reflexes of philistinism you are doomed to develop if you live in a consumerist society, Helene sometimes is horrified with what has happened to her soul, so disinterested, open and gentle when she was young, before the sticky presence/absence of Alfonse in her life.

Here, we see one of the enigmatic photos in Bernard’s archive. Is it he himself whose face is blackened out of shame that he wasn’t able to protect Muriel against sadistic rape?

Alfonse is a “professional” settler in women’s love (he is living on women’s memories), and he is ready to prosper in any country under any rulers. His existential task is to live – to survive and try to be happy under any regime.

Francoise (Nita Klein) joyfully confesses to Bernard that she is not Alfonse’s niece as he lied to Helene, but his girlfriend. To make this confession is very pleasant for her – she looks in a strong position in comparison with a “foolishly” simpleminded Helene. Francoise knows that a person like Bernard would never trouble Helene, his step-mother, with this kind of information, and she revenges his lover (Alfonse). At the same time she respects Helene very much.

Marie-Do (Bernard’s girlfriend) is, emotionally, still a child. She loves to laugh by trivial reasons, and then she makes Bernard laugh too

But with Bernard’s war experiences and spasms of guilt for being an occupant of the Third World country, he cannot forget what life is even when he is with Marie-Do. Compare their facial expressions after making love.

Bernard is continuing to “collect evidence” against a society that is growing its flesh on the juices it sucks from other nations.

Because the military authorities refuse to prosecute Robert as “he deserves”, Bernard decides to take the matter into his own hands. He recognizes that element of scapegoating is part of his decision – it should not be up to private person to kill a man whatever he did. But he cannot agree that the biggest criminals can walk free because the (corrupt) decision-makers don’t want to endanger their social positions.

Ontological Disappearance of human beings because they cannot live in a society they themselves have created

Ontological disappearance is a form of suicide, when people kill their own souls or their own way of life. It is an apocalyptic event created not by a punishing god but by people themselves finally feeling that they are suffocated by their own way of life in a society they participated in creating. “Muriel or Time Returns” is a depiction of an ontological – essential suicide of human beings, culminated in the final segment of the film, when Simone, Alfonse’s wife is coming to take him back home, but finds Helene’s apartment empty – without a single soul.

With all the mosaic of, as if pluralistically – shattered social organism, which, as if, has lost its macro-dimension and instead over-activated the micro-activities of individual pimples-cells’ feverish agitation, with all the over-bright colors mass culture has mobilized to excite the inhabitants of the mass-consumerist society, what Resnais shows us in his film is misery and privation looking like exuberant cheerfulness or businesslike confidence, and resulting despair, noisy or silent, maniacal or depressive, conscious in some people or unconscious in others. It is deprivation and loss in the depth of the very abundance and prosperity. It is a world of superficial satisfaction and comforts while human soul is hungry and thirsty. “The film forces people to face up to their own experience with the same horror that can suddenly grab them in relation to the world outside – the monstrous reality in which they live… Essentially, Resnais’ intention is to open their eyes. He wants to tell them: take a look at yourself, this is what you really are. (“Cahiers de Cinema 1960 – 1968: New Wave, New Cinema, Reevaluating Hollywood”, Harvard, 1986, p. 68.)

But what is so bad about modern prosperity and technology, about boom in construction of new apartment buildings, material comforts of life, about plenitude of food and entertainment, etc.? Why all of this intensifies psychological worries, emotional dissatisfaction, emptiness and loneliness, and insensitivity, indifference and vulgarity? In the moment when “Muriel…” hit the screens, “In November of 1963, France Soir and Europe 1 carried out a survey (‘what is a Frenchman?’). And everyone approached just gave the optimistic, comfortable, peaceful version of their lives. There was no despairing response, no tragic reaction. “Muriel” is indispensable complement to that survey; it’s the shadowy, desperate side, people plunged in total dereliction and feeling completely [and happily] lost.” (Cahiers de cinema, Ibid, p. 72 – 73.) Resnais’ film is exploration of what is psychologically wrong with the modern prosperity and with hypnosis it puts the minds and souls of its inhabitants. The point here is not that something is lacking in cheap prosperity and the vulgar need to be entertained, but rather that something much more important tends to atrophy when easier – simplified and standardized pleasures are put right under our noses. What is drying up – our existentially spiritual motivations, humility, disinterested thinking about life, the need for humanistic education teaching us to develop semantic and aesthetic sensitivity by the price of sacrificing our primitive narcissism, and the taste for holistic (instead of consumerist) perception of the world. When all of this is sacrificed for our everyday psychological and material comforts we cannot be rationally critical of the political decisions made in our names, we cannot resist the wars which decision-makers prefer because they are not capable for wise diplomacy. Cheap prosperity makes from people philistines and conformists. It is much more effective than despotic autocrats in rapidly transforming people into totalitarian masses.

If Helene Aughain (Delphine Seyrig) presses the amorous illusion of her love for Alfonse to her chest like a little girl – flower, in society oriented on stimulating not so much genuine amorous sensitivity but rather virtue of pursuing self-advantage and success, Ernest (Jean Champion in an exceptional performance) – a personage with a much less screen time, although with more versatile semantic functions – is something like a “demon” of mass-cultural reason. Ernest is the agent of domesticity, family values and economic motivation, came to Helene’s apartment to fetch Alfonse and return him to his wife Simone and their “bankrupt restaurant”. This meek everyday-life person turns out to have multiple “personas”. After behaving at first as a detective searching for Alfonse, he, during a party at Helene’s place started, as if, to personify mass culture’s artistic potentials – he suddenly starts to sing, act and entertain her guests. By making Ernest the representative of pop-entertainment Resnais emphasizes its prosaic orientation masked by exaggerated sentimentality. Finally, Ernest is “miraculously” transformed into a prosecutor and judge, when he publicly accuses Alfonse in immorality, lies and sins. By juxtaposing Ernest’s accusing monologue with the camera shots of new apartment buildings (cut in a manner that makes them look like “advancing fortresses”, Resnais underlines the aggressive, even belligerent, even militaristic aspect of today’s urban development (mass-prosperity countries develop more and more militantly globalist posture in the world).

The film shows that in an environment of permanent selling/buying, wining/losing and money-making people are not able to realize themselves in existentially spiritual – meaningful activities and for this reason to develop as (holistic) personalities. So, they are not able to psychologically age, they only become worn out. People’s holistic development is impossible. “Muriel…” introduces the characters personifying perfect: archetypal philistines – it is, first of all, Alfonse, the licensed liar, whose wit is so lit and fit, that to listen to him is much more pleasant and preferable than to hear truth, Roland de Smoke – a real estate developer with gift for funny stories, and Claudie, eternal shadow of Helene, a Helene without soul. Consumerism and global financial adventures and wars, making career success and achieving financial self-enrichment are different strategies to avoid living and participation in making the society more morally decent and just place populated by people cultivated by humanistic education.

People like Alfonse will settle in any place and in any society, democratic or totalitarian. His tendency to escape from and return back to his wife Simone or/and to Helene is a recurrent feature of his amorous life. The question how to live more morally and existentially spiritually and how to treat other people more justly and kindly is absent from the lives of mass-cultural majority especially in 21st century – people prefer to settle in technical professions, occupations and tasks. They return to societal aspects of life only when they have become direct victims of austerity policies. And they don’t understand how regressive and dangerous their innocent indifference toward their own psychological resources is, especially today, the times of extreme contrast between the intensity of people’ consumerist desires and need for the entertainment on the one hand and a growing pauperization as a result of dogmatic austerity policies.

Escapism (withdrawal of cathexis from the issue of social care about people or from the psychological quality of our personal relations) is, as if, a sign, that the apocalypse of ontological disappearance is closer and closer. At the end of Renais’ film the characters disappear – abandon their common place of living. It already is happening: more primitive people (with neoconservative and neo-liberal sensibilities) psychologically desert from the society into war- and profit-making. The psychologically more sophisticated people (with democratic sensibility) practically desert societal life for the world of technical science or mass-cultural (entertaining) art. The both solutions are apocalyptic since both groups ignore the social space. Resnais’ film is a prophesy of the final – apocalyptic ontological disappearance, when people do not necessarily disappear physically, but mutate into a condition with, may be, only traces of human race (like today we already with difficulty recognize some creatures as people – politicians-extremists, calculating-manipulating billionaires, professional militaries with “killological” preparation (aim-shot-aim-shot creatures), some policemen, robbers and murderers, gun-fanatics, pop-music idols, athletes of extreme sports, religious fanatics, aggrandized narcissists, etc.

*Personal note to the readers about perception of Resnais’ “Muriel, or Time of Return”

I arrived to US ten years after the screening of “Muriel, Or the Time of Return” in France. I had already seen the film in Moscow and I was completely fascinated and blissfully shocked, yet at the same time puzzled and confused. I was admiring the film’s formal virtuosity (that of montage, rhythm and surprise), but disoriented by what I then understood as Resnais’ criticism of consumerist society and its cheap and artificial prosperity and how it’s shattering and fragmenting human holistic intelligence (I already had read some American fiction-writers (critical realists) and sociologists with psychoanalytic background). But, I guess, I couldn’t connect Resnais’ cinematic language with the film’s meaning.

Then in Moscow some of my friends and acquaintances from a tiny exotic circle of “intellectual aesthetes” (cine-philes) “had a problem” with Godard and Resnais’ films, because living in the Soviet Union‘s atmosphere of musty orthodoxy they couldn’t believe that – how these extraordinary film-directors depicted Western life could be the truth and not their idiosyncratic exaggeration about Western democracies. They felt that Resnais in “Muriel…” is exaggerating and quite nearsighted in spite of his artistic greatness. To live under crude Soviet propaganda made us prone automatically react against what the film was suggesting, while automatic reaction, although not necessary completely wrong, is not attentive to nuances and, therefore, it falls between lie and truth. In other words, some of these people who “got a problem” with Godard and Resnais’ depiction of life in the West, could be quite happy to live like the heroes of “Muriel…”

But facing Renais’ film I felt myself, as if in front of a pool of fog. Indeed, can European democracy be standing on clay legs? In my perception, the aesthetic message of the film was much more articulate than its semantic “connotation”. I thought that Resnais shows how people live but without explaining why. How Resnais organized the film became stronger in me than what he was saying “through and by form”.

Throughout the forty or more following years I have been returning to “Muriel…” as its personage Bernard to his memories connected with Muriel – to his service in the army during Franco-Algerian war, or as Helene – to her past before and during the WWII. Only step by step my mental understanding of the film became inseparable from my emotional perception of it. By living in US for all these years I was noticing how this country is changing – how elements of genuine democracy were losing power and how mass culture, money worship and plebeian need to be entertained became stronger with each year. Today it is much clearer to me not only as to why so many film-enthusiasts try to avoid taking on “Muriel…” in its entirety and prefer to concentrate on its very form, but also why so many people cannot resist mass culture and fake prosperity and become robotic profit-makers and property appropriators like Roland de Smoke, and the runners from life to comfort like Alfonse Noyard. But the beauty and charm of Helene (Delphine Seyrig) is with me for all these years, in spite of her philistine reflexes and simplemindedness, and her conformist fears making her incapable of saving Bernard from being devastated by his traumatic moral disappointment.

Finally I came to understand that what in my youth I considered as disproportion in “Muriel…” between formal effects and semantic layers – doesn’t exist, that “extra-form” was not a goal in itself but it was carrying with itself an “extra-meaning”, which I with help of some film-specialists, began slowly assimilate, internalize and develop as my own interpretative vignettes about the film.

“Muriel, or Time Returns” is one of the most towering among “intellectual/philosophical” films, the film that leaves those who has missed watching and experiencing it and didn’t get a chance to return to it after watching – to continue to live without the cognitive potentials, which this film could awaken in them.

Duras’ “Baxter, Vera Baxter” is a film in which physical motions of the characters are intentionally reduced (Duras denies the importance of physical actions – the very aesthetic mechanism of pop-movies, for serious cinema), and their place is occupied by the protagonists’ contemplations about what’s going on with their lives. Stylistically speaking, the film’s meaning is triggered by the characters’ “thinking perception” of their destinies and by analogies between them and human behavior in different historical periods. We see how in front of our very attention the cognitive and intellectual aspects of living gradually dissolve the standardized or typical life and become a spiritual concentration, a journey into existential sublime.

What happens in the main characters’ lives (not only in Vera Baxter’s, who is in front of us almost all the time, or her husband’s, whom we never see, but in souls of those who are connected with them) is not “dramatized” and is not perceived by human emotions. Instead, the meaning of human destinies we are allowed to follow is the object of personages’ holistic (not common sense and not technical) minds focused on the whys this or that can happen with human beings. Duras’ film polemically contradicts the permanent visual sliding of the images in movie as motion picture, when movements flow into one another with entertaining effect on the human perception. For Duras pop-movies are “illusionistic mystification” based on our need to be amused. The more “moving movements” we consume, the more “acting actions” we glue to – the deeper we‘re structured by the very suspension of our intellectual needs (especially our desire to understand – to overcome passive and conformist – consumerist approach to reality). The quicker we swallow the crowded impressions – the more pleasure we appropriate, while holistic (not standardized) thinking is a pure loss of pleasure.

“Baxter, Vera Baxter” is not a pleasurable watch, but it’s an overwhelming and a difficult delight. Like the sensitive gigolo (Gerard Depardieu), to whom Vera’s (Claudine Gabay) husband has “sold” his wife, fell in love with her, we, the viewers, unexpectedly and catastrophically are falling in love with her in a special – sublimated and spiritual way. We become obsessed with her – with her pain and despair which Duras transforms into an irresistible passion for life, for meaning of life, for being part of the living universe, a tiny part which can somehow make a difference in the order of things.

Of course, for this transformation of torment into freshness of life, Vera had to meet “the other woman” (Delphine Seyrig personifying Duras-like character), a person who is simultaneously compassionate, reflective and historically competent about our species’ condition of men and destiny of women. According to Duras, disinterested and without any pomp, help among human beings is the beginning of the answer. Has the intelligent mediator between Jean Baxter’s money and Vera’s future (Depardieu) become really ashamed for his role or did he just play the ill conscience so as to anonymously slide out with the money, as though nothing had happened? It’s a fifty-fifty question, like as it is with many money decisions of many moneyed men concerning women. But the point of the film is that Vera becomes irresistible as a woman because of her existential spirituality which unexpectedly surfaced out of her torments connected with abrupt losing her family – the “ordeal” which her desperate husband (surrounded by beautiful young women and suffering from losing the ability to love another human beings) has imposed on her.

Jean’s suffering is morbid and widespread condition in post-modern societies, connected with separation of sex from love as a symptom of general psychological degradation – separation of sexual drive as a consumerist consolation from shattered, fragmented love as previously holistic feeling.

Vera is like an awkward superfluous object marginalized by the interior – space for embracing/protecting the philistine’s happiness

After being abandoned by her husband, Vera is, as if, curious in a new way about the world not as container (as womb-like structure fabricated by the efforts of technology), but as an alternative to the interior as a place of philistine happiness.

Vera feels the sea in front of her in the very moment when it, as if, withdraws from the land appropriated by human settlements.

For the first time in her life Vera feels the desire to go through walls and windows out of the house – leave, breakaway from domestic life. Reflections become more real than comfort inside the interior.

The man (Gerard Depardieu) who got money from Vera’s husband doesn’t know what to do – to follow his love for Vera, mixed with shame, or to withdraw and disappear with the million, burying his shame into the emptiness of silence.

“The other woman” (Delphine Seyrig) is trying to help Vera to overcome the past and open herself to the unknown. She knows that the official steps based on the rights provided by democracy (like alimony and child support), will not help the human soul, but only the needs of the human ego, and make sense only in parallel with psychological maturity, but not instead of it. Woman is supposed to win over herself and over the humiliating and traumatizing situations – spiritually, like men should in their own tormenting moments in their destinies.

Posted on March/22/2017 –   Marguerite Duras’s “Baxter, Vera Baxter” (1977) – When the Director’s Intra-filmic Contemplation Becomes Her Film’s Style It Dissolves Action Into Compassion For Her Characters And Plot Into a Sensuous Journey by Acting-Out Politics

Children As The Ultimate Value of The Human Race, Because They, At Least “Theoretically”, Carry The Probability/Possibility Of A More Humane And Decent Society

The Magi came to Jerusalem because they had seen an extraordinary star that they believed was a sign of a birth of the Savior in the land of Judea. They came to Jerusalem expecting to see him. When Herod heard the Magi were looking for the Messiah, he was troubled. All Jerusalem was worried because of people’s knowledge that Herod was a cruel man who didn’t hesitate to kill anyone who was a threat to him. Wikipedia

Emil Nolde, “Adoration/Unbetung, 1922

A Still from Pier Paolo Pasolini‘s film “The Gospel According to St. Matthew” (1964), where we see how one of the Magi in awe is holding baby Jesus

The dense/deep blue color of Mary and the closest Magus’ clothing emphasizes that Adoration of the baby Jesus is a heavenly event – and earthly because it’s heavenly. The pink-orange color of the faces of Mary, Jesus and the Magus who is asking Mary‘s permission to hold the baby, is the reflection/as if repercussion of the bright pink-orange color of the children who want to adore the newborn. The pale, as if tired-green color of the “blanket” for covering/warming the baby, is echoed by the tiny splotches of the same tired-green color on the sky and also present in the eyes of some of the children, reminding us about the cosmic tragedy of Christ’s future murder.

The face of the magus in the middle is slightly sad because his elder associate is honored with the right to hold the enfant ahead of him. But the African magus on the left of the canvass cannot believe his eyes – how is it that the newborn Messiah is white, why is he not black “as he is supposed to be”?

The miracle of the painting is the quantity of small children excitedly impatient to adore the baby Jesus. They are spontaneously, naturally, organically identifying with the wonder of the infant-Messiah. They feel that they are so close to him, so similar – close to God. And, as if, to celebrate their love for Jesus, Nolde makes them populate the sky of his painting! Indeed, there is no sky higher than the children!

The pathos of the painting, it seems, is in proclaiming that all children are sacred, all children are god’s, and they should be treated as a sacred reality, but in a Christian way – without any idolatry. By depicting children as the inhabitants of heaven (occupying in the painting the place of the heaven), Nolde, as if, starts with a goodhearted cliché that children are “angels”, but he continues with the question of their… identity with baby-Jesus. Only dogmatic authoritarians (who use our human pagan nature as a chance to mask their fear of and indifference toward children with the posture of caring about them through “strictness” and even more – to mask the indifference of human societies toward human beings), will dare to forbid the children this identification with the new-born Jesus.

Nolde’s painting teaching us aesthetic sensitivity provides us with the energy for growing the courage to live without rivalry, profits and wars – to get the ability to live with other people without competing for global domination and instead – to learn to enjoy global cooperation, mutuality of hearts and reciprocity of minds.

As King Herod “was troubled” by the birth of Jesus, our leadership today “is troubled” by the existence of independent thinking in American public and countries which want to collaborate with us (and with one another) as “equal partners” in international affairs and in friendly exchange of peaceful projects instead of being obedient to somebody’s despotic will.

Only those who don’t know how to interact with the otherness of children (or adults) and who only know how to monitor others through direct or indirect commands and calculative manipulations will feel that in Nolde’s “Adoration” children look like imps from hell. This rigid/frigid people (be they neocons or neoliberals) will tend to perceive in the painting the areas of bright-yellow behind the children as a heat/fire from hell. It is not surprising that this type of people’s children (many of whom were corporeally punished or/and psychologically repressed or humiliated in their childhood) become adults occupied mainly either with guns and money or with money and guns. For them human otherness/difference means being an enemy deserving only one thing – to be crushed. These haters of other’s independence can have a peaceful relations only with those who either share their ideas or will allow them to dominate and to define others’ destiny. Many of these servants of money-masters will be ready to die for their leaders (for the interests of fossil-fuel tyrannosauruses, Wall Street grasshoppers or starry generals) instead of building a more humane, educated and smarter multinational world.

Film clip – Pasolini‘s “The Gospel According to St. Matthew” (1964)

Lives and Life Sacrificed To the Myth Of A Glorious War Which Covers Up The Wartime Profits Of The Generals And Entrepreneurs

War started as a war of religion, but became a war for supremacy and gain… In war, terrible things happen which have nothing to do with victory. Killing civilians, prisoners and the wounded does not contribute to victory. Sparing their lives is good for all sides. If I spare the lives of captured enemy soldiers and the enemy spares the lives of my own soldiers who are captured, everybody wins… When two states have a quarrel, they should go to an international court and accept its judgment peacefully… The only completely moral army is the army that does not fight.
Uri Avnery, March 17, 2017

In “Life and Nothing But” Tavernier examines the emotional hurdles that separate history from truth…
Philip French

Real soldier is the one who doesn’t kill – who is on the side of the killed. Real courage is to be in war without touching a weapon, to meet war face to face, not trigger-to-trigger, to know war without protecting oneself from it, to feel war’s cowardly and for this reason – belligerent heart. Real understanding of war is to carry in your heart cosmic life as opposite of war’s cosmic destruction of life

Poster of Tavernier’s film – major Dellaplane’s gaze at a world at war

Philippe Noiret in the role of the hero of “Life And Nothing But” – a military man without killing

Bertrand Tavernier on the set of “Life and Nothing but/La vie at rien d’autre”

Tavernier is discussing with Philippe Noiret the psychological origins of Dellaplane’s position towards the war

Pay attention to the facial expression of the soldier in the foreground of the shot – he is wounded, but what is killed is his soul, and it will be difficult to resurrect it. It’s much easier to provide a maimed soldier with artificial limbs, than to heal his soul. Neither armies, nor the so called peaceful life in modern societies occupied with competition and entertainment and preparation for new wars, are equipped to do it.

Everyday life of war, when it’s not “lubricated” by stimulating hate and exciting killings

Dellaplane is a senior officer whose obligations don’t include killing or organizing killings of the enemies – unconsciously the most pleasurable part of jingoistic war-making.

Dellaplane feels indebted to the victims of war – he feels that he must help to the killed soldiers and their dear ones as much as he can.

The major whose main duties are to be in charge of identification of the corpses of French soldiers, considers himself a worker of war, not a killer in war.

Major Dellaplane and Irene de Curtil, two heroic followers of symmetrical moral ideals

Irene is trying to find her husband who is missing in action as hundreds of thousands of young people, but for her the truth about war(s) will remain for quite some time beyond her knowledge and scope of her emotional life.

Dellaplane is trying to get Irene understand that today’s wars are not about “defending our country” against an enemy (as official propaganda on both sides has it and suggests it to the young servicemen), but about cynical profiteers on both sides making a mutually profitable business deals while low rank servicemen of countries at war are killing each other.

Major Dellaplane and the French top militarizes and some segments of political -establishment

The General and the Minister are planning solemn rituals meant to press in the souls of the suffering soldiers the buttons of patriotic/flagriotic fervor

The general detests Dellaplane (Philippe Noiret) for having “essential”, not “official” concept of war.

The “sacred ritual” of preparation for an even more sacred propagandistic whole country event glorifying war and heroic deaths.

Dellaplane and Irene as an alternative – beyond-wars amorous couple, not touched by jingoistic bravado and pop-megalomania and economy of greed of pro-war societies

What Dellaplane is as a man, Irene (Sabine Azema) is as a woman – both are guardians of humane values, carriers of courage to stand against making profit at the expense of life, and people with the ability to love in the kingdom of hate, greed and destruction.


When we are intent to watch a war movie, we are not prepared for anything like Tavernier’s film. We are used to propaganda and commercial movies for mass consumption, which imply that war means clashing of armies, killing enemies and, unfortunately, also sometimes being killed and wounded – for the sake of our country (war is war and those who hate us are always somewhere in the world sitting behind the rocks and trees with machineguns). We‘re used to watching on the screen, under the drum rhythms of our own heartbeats, the acts of heroism on the part of our soldiers and caricaturized representation of our enemies. And we become more righteous in our always justified hate and more self-aggrandized in our always justified belligerence. We become braggarts of our military power and loud proclaimers of our best-ness in comparison with our “miserable and contemptible enemies”.

“Life And Nothing But”, on the other hand, withdraws from showing battles, fights, resourceful killings and heroic self-sacrifices. Here we don’t see faces mobilized for the battle, that share with the viewers their solemn awareness of the possibility of being killed and their courageous readiness for the final act of “glorious” self-sacrifice for the sake of “our country, the best in the world”. But Tavernier doesn’t want the viewers’ easy and pleasant identification with the heroes – he doesn’t want us to become more jingoistically belligerent and wallow in the consciousness of “our” power amidst destruction. He wants us to concentrate on an unbearably destructive consequences of war and be willing to question the adequacy of war as a means to resolve disagreements between sides. Tavernier shows war not in its preparation nor in the phase of its realization – its acting out, but through its destructive results, its dead end. He shows “our side” suffering the terrifying consequences of the war which “we won and are happy about our victory”. The director concentrates on the dark side of the good and lucky resolution of one of the most destructive wars in the history of humankind. French won, but 350 000 of French soldiers are missing in action. So, we, the viewers concentrate on the suffering connected with “our soldiers” being killed and missing in action – not even identified as human beings. In other words, we see war in the film as grief about the fallen ones, as sublimated and redeeming experience.

War as a grief, as a sacred experience is personified by the systematic efforts and hard work of the main character in the film, major Dellaplane (in Philippe Noiret’s incredible, without the usual assortment of pop-emotions, performance). He is the hero of the war not as a destruction and self-aggrandizement (masked by jingoism and feeling of “our superior power”), but as grief and compassion – for dead and their families which are continuing to hold on to the belief that their loved ones in uniform are still, by some miracle, alive. Delaplane’s job is to identify the corpses of French soldiers missing in action. He is, according to the film, an example of a completely moral soldier, whose duty is not to kill as many on the enemy side as possible – to be a better killer than the enemy, but to attend the fallen lives of our soldiers by accumulating exact knowledge of their lives during the war and their deaths and by this to pay immortal tribute to the killed.

Major Dellaplane is painfully dedicated to his work of saving the dead soldiers from anonymity – of immortalizing their destiny by finding their corpses and delivering “them” to their relatives. He is doing this so holistically, that his sincerity contradicts the position of French army’s leadership and the politicians who wanted to “summarize” all “unknown” soldiers into one generic corpse which they plan to symbolically immortalize through all country solemn military funeral ceremony – a pompous burial under the Arc de Triompfe.

Major Dellaplane as he is represented by Philippe Noiret is an ultimate personification of completely moral soldier. His ascetic dedication to the task of saving the killed servicemen in honorable immortality of their exact names makes him emotionally isolated and alone, but the exceptional person especially needs and deserves the exceptional personal relationships.

His acquaintance with the distraught woman who like many women in this period was trying to find her disappeared husband, alive or dead, among the missing in action, wasn’t an easy relationship. Irene de Curtil (Sabine Azema, after playing extraordinary female characters in number of Alain Resnais’ films like “Love Unto Death” – L’Amour a Mort, 1984), is the daughter-in-law of an influential French politician who, according to Dellaplane, was involved in secret financial dealings with a German businessmen while his son was in the frontlines during the war. Dellaplane’s information about Irene’s Father-in-law was shocking but reliable and it didn’t create incompatibility between them. Conversely, it opened Irene’s eyes. The incredible power of Irene Curtil’s character allowed her to make the difficult first step to breach the alienation between two exceptional people, produced by the hell of war times and its inhumane effects on the human souls recoiling in horror and despair amidst the ritualistic cheer of victory and forgetfulness. Relationship between these two unusual human beings is not a sentimental one nor symbiotic (offering to cure two people with a warm bodily embrace in the nest-hole of personal happiness in a devastated and devastating world). It will take some time before they will allow themselves deserved happiness – they both know too much of war and people who plunge into psychological regression in order to survive hard times and are able to fall in love easily and blissfully. It’s in the hands of Irene and Dellaplane to overcome the war.

“Democratic” Deconstruction Of A Pompous Western Mythological Legacy

God-Sun is mightier than manhood. Can manhood be mightier than God-Sun?

Francis Picabia – “Apollo and His Messengers”, 1935

Picabia’s Apollo is like hidden semantics becoming discernible despite the tradition of windstorms of light enveloping Apollo’s human body, which we need to see glorified – a body transformed into a shining knot of a blinding power. Indeed, transforming the human body into eternal vitality of a blasting light of immortality is the innocent vice of human immaturity, playing with reality in order to feel reassured. Picabia’s Apollo, on the other hand, instead of being the sun-beaming god is… a black or brown – not just earthly, but earthy. He looks like soil, he is from caves and mud, not from clouds. Isn’t the painter “attacking here our sacred cultural monuments? And now he is hiding his intentions behind the murky colors of his painting”.

Let’s look at the painting more objectively. Apollo looks tired. He is sitting resting in his carriage which is visually mixed with the dark rocks behind. He is in the company of his horses. He has dark curly hairs. He doesn’t have any interest towards the world. His gaze is lazy and only pettily alert, perhaps spotting some human females. The tiny winged horse in the upper left part of the canvass is a humorous tribute to the traditional mythic Apollo, but something like 99% of the painting’s space belong to a severe demythologization of the classic Apollo myths.

Demythologization as an anti-traditional aesthetic strategy which Picabia puts to use in his “Apollo and His Messengers” is, it seems, of three types. The first type is the simplest but not less daring than others. It is a physically deflated version of a previously deliriously aggrandized Apollonian glory. It’s the tiny “naturalistic” representation of one of Apollo’s mythological horses, which looks at us with A surprise – it cannot yet digest what her banishment from the center to periphery of the world: from the main representational space, can mean. The horse, probably feels like the 1% of the Americans today – the richest minority when they give themselves to the fear that one day the majority will be able to restore democracy in the country.

The second strategy of demythologization Picabia uses here is that of drastic reduction of mythological parameters of Apollo to insultingly realistic frame of reference. Yes, Apollo is represented as not white-skinned. First, it is the reference to the fact that we all ultimately came from Africa, it means, that we all genetically mixed regardless of we like it or not. But the second reason is from the area of aesthetic truth – the sun of our perception is not white, it is rather yellow and even orange with strong darkening skin power. To have a relation to the real world, even as god, means to have a relation to reality which is not directly metaphysical – white, but always “dirtied” by the spots of darkening – the traces of living on earth.

Picabia deprives us of the image of Apollo’s flower with penetrating power of the sunbeam, with petals pinker than rose’s magic. More, he allows himself to laugh at us – he hints at its presence on Apollo’s body in distorted way – in intentionally wrongly identified area: Apollo’s pearl becomes a trivial part of the banal flesh. The painter, probably, had a fun of imagining how some of viewers worriedly looking for it in the painting. He makes Apollo a kind of castrated – he knows that such representation will create in many of us phobic worries. Identification with traditional figure of Apollo makes us all feel like a great womanizers beyond our ordinariness, unconscious guilt, tiredness or wilting age.

The third aesthetic strategy of Picabia in his “Apollo…” is hyperbolic emptying of representation, like, for example, in depicting always ready heavenly horses – the sign of Apollo’s movement from place to place, from the flesh to the fresher flesh to inseminate life and earth and resurrect human hopes. Heavenly horses in the painting are as brown-dark as Apollo himself, and they are dark because they are transparent to the landscape. They are just a dynamic aspect of a monumental world. They are, as if, the rocky sounds of Apollo’s carriage mixed with the visual idea of Apollo’s horses creating one holistic visual-audial image parodying today’s flying super-technology.

With his left hand Apollo keeps the wooden leverage by which he is directing his horses with a habitual gesture of the working man whose destiny is to follow his job description which has been assigned to him by the order of things. As a worker Picabia’s Apollo is quite an obedient creature – he is not putting the “wheel” of his moving aggregate down even in the moment of his rest – he is always ready to fly up-and-ahead again, but he is not hiding his boredom and even sadness. He is real. Here he is creation of the art, not of mythology, of the truth, not pleasing illusions.

With his disrespectful deconstruction of Apollo’s myth Picabia takes away from us a lot of pleasure (which provided us with self-aggrandizing excuse through unconscious identification with god.) As an artist Picabia is putting under a radical doubt the very value of human gesture of mythologizing reality, be it done in obviously mythological art and/or in political ideology. For eons we, humans, have only lived under, by, through and with myths. They help us survive psychologically and physically, but they also have made us what we are – matter-of-factly cruel, belligerent and indifferent. Our unconscious, semi-conscious or cynically conscious identification with Gods has radically destroyed our potential for having humility in front of other people and the world at large. Our fixation on gods made us feel ourselves as a kind of semi-gods. We unconsciously mixing gods with billionaires and generals. People like Francis Picabia are those who are trying to save us from ourselves by pointing towards a necessary transition from human self-aggrandizement towards humility more congruent with our life with other humans and nature.

Of course, to prevent the possibility of democratic humanization of humankind, inseparable from giving ourselves to humility, sobriety and rationality, we, seduced and corrupted by megalomaniacal profit-worshippers – invent new gods – with manifold heads of multifarious technological inventions for playing and fighting, for self-entertaining and killing.

Profit-makers Are Using Tax-Payers’ Money (In the Form of Governmental Tax Cuts, Subsidies and Endless Loopholes), but don’t Want to Give Back to The Taxpayers Anything At All

Economists are prone to represent even the question of helping those who need help as an economic issue, not as matter of the ethic of social behavior. When compulsive wealth-worshippers look around they see not the world and another people, but their not-yet-materialized profits: mountains, valleys and rivers of perfumed profits as their future.

For profit-centered people the situation that when you’re borrowing from those who are much poorer than you (regular taxpayers) it is completely different thing than when you borrow from those who are richer, is outside of their attention. It is a curious paradox of today’s “rich” societies that indirect but actual borrowing from the poor (through the mediation of federal tax system) is not considered borrowing. The fed-power covers-up the misery of the wealthy debtors by the solemnity of the government ritual. Democratic government transforms the fact of borrowing from the poor into its own gift to the rich. This tricky operation completely eliminates the possible ethical connotation of what became the fact of limitless borrowing by the rich (through government) from the poor (regular taxpayers).

Why profit-makers never contemplate about the ethical side of their financial relations with the poor? Why do they automatically accept that the best thing the poor can do is to give part of their hard-earned money to the profit-makers? And the fact that the government didn’t ask the taxpayers’ permission to give their money to the profit-makers cannot excuse the matter-of-fatness with which the wealthy don’t feel that it would be just ethical to, at least, partially return the money which made them rich, through investing it in regular people’s life instead of pushing for austerity for the majority. Why those who pay taxes (the part of which will go to the pockets of wealthy profit-makers) should be object of austerity measures – reductions in food supply and public services?

Regular people don’t demand from the government not to use their tax money for “helping” the rich. Aren’t profit-makers of today the psychological heirs of monarchs who fought for the crown with the same crazed passion like profit-worshippers of 21st century for their profits? Of course, those with the “right” beliefs, religious or secular, are consumed by a similar megalomania. The very fact that a person can believe that his religious belief or secular political or ideological construct is more truthful than the beliefs of others, confirms their psychological similarity with our profit-makers – a specific arrogance of superiority over others which then can lead to their repression if they didn’t recognize me/us as the natural leaders. It is here we discover the messianic pretention and “metaphysical” right for leading the world of Soviet Communist ideology, “superiority” of Arian race and American “exceptionalism” and “greatness”. It is somewhere here we can locate the psychology of the one-percenters and their yearning for an unlimited profit-making.

Belief in god very often, unfortunately, is the function of a desperate need to be saved by god – so, belief then can be the honest payment and sincere gratitude for being saved. This crude exchange of favors is, it seems, the very mechanism of pop-religious believing. But to believe in the unlimited/ultimate profit-making is equally necessary to have a need for salvation through unlimited wealth. For worshippers of profit to be wealth-successful is the path to salvation from a dangerous world. It is not so much that belief in god is a “spiritual ideology” in comparison with secular ideologies, but that wealth-ideology transforms money into a kind of “spiritual” substance – symbolic supreme value which, as if, transcends the secular frame of reference. “Secular” ideologies (“Communism”, “Arian superiority”, “American exceptionalism”) historically are a sociological mediation between god-ideology and money-ideology as the images of human salvation. Money as the supreme value is a kind of image-tool – a combination of archetypal image (god, according to Jung) and sublime (idolized) technological tool of salvation through financial self-aggrandizement.

The reason profit-makers are looking for money-power instead of direct power is the perfected technical thinking as a result of technical-scientific prowess of modern civilization – the path to wealth becomes cognitively easier because of the appearance of soft-wares helping to smoothly violate laws restricting illegal ways of money- appropriation. Sophisticated soft-wares provide strategies as how to violate these laws not in the letter. This smart differentiation between violations of laws in letter – laws as such, and violation as ethically ambiguous operations is really a revolutionary innovation of modern financial thinking. This revolution opens unimaginable horizons in human thinking concerning ethics and legal obstacles to “untied” financial success. What yesterday was considered as a combination of illegal and immoral behavior today became legal and, maybe-ethically ambiguous-and-maybe-not at all.

People give their tax-money to the money-makers through democratic government, but m-makers now don’t want to share even a tiny part of their profit-money they made on people’s taxes.

Obsessively prone to compulsive profit-making individuals feel themselves less vulnerable vis-à-vis the people and the world. If you believe that you are under god’s protection or at least “associated” with god you feel yourself bigger and stronger, with a euphorically heightened arrogance as a result. The need to aggrandize yourself (and, therefore, feel more confident) is a result of infantile fixation on a childish image of power as an unlimited magic. Idolatrous profit-makers’ concept of power didn’t grow together with them growing up. It remained underdeveloped, on a pre-rational level. They use adult – rational professional knowledge to serve their pre-rational – infantile desire to be super-strong/super-smart/super-rich. Children with a technically advanced scientific thinking is more and more widespread type of an adult human being even in today’s so called democratic societies – that is itself a factor inviting apocalyptic consequences. Compulsive profit-makers come, mainly, from traditional conservative families, many of which used with children corporeal punishment, where fathers often not only took despotically authoritarian posture but were prone to play with children gods, while mothers – a-symbiotic unreachability (Barbara Bush is almost a text-book example of such mother).

The Admirable Magnificence Of Human A Soul

A female in a state of undress invites us into…the deep perspective space seen through a sequence of doors… The garments this enigmatic female figure wears are a marvel of invention. One consists of a bundle of gnarled roots, while the other is of wrinkled violet velvet with gold hems and lace cuffs.
Tim Martin, “Essential Surrealists”, Parragon, 1999, p. 123

The woman’s ruffled purpled brocade jacket, opened to reveal her bare chest, tops a skirt of long, green tendrils, which, upon scrutiny, assume the form of human bodies.
Ann Temkin, Philadelphia Museum of Art, 125th Anniversary, 2002, p. 132

Dorothea’s feet are bare and her breasts exposed in a rebellious manner, reflecting the oppositional forces of conformity and fantasy.
Michael Robinson, “Surrealism”, 2006, p. 194

Dorothea Tanning, “Birthday”, 1942

The beautiful woman we see in Tanning’s “Birthday” is too independent from the viewers’ presence to be considered as unconditionally attractive. Indeed, can an attractive woman not to try to attract, be indifferent to being assessed according to the scale attractive-non-attractive? And can a not-attractive woman be still considered beautiful? In other words, can beauty without the smallest appeal be impressive without being perceived as intimidating?

Is the heroine of Tanning’s painting intimidating? Her beauty is, as if, wrapped in her own being. She looks at the world, which, as if for her at this moment doesn’t include viewers and, may be, artist too. But isn’t the beauty of her face can be felt as less beautiful because of the disinterestedness of her attention to the world? Her gaze, as though pushes the world away in the very moment of noticing it. We feel that she is neglecting us not because she has a neglectful position towards people, but because we, the viewers, aren’t important when we’re focusing on her our attention. At this point her very presence in front of us has already forced us to forget about her attractiveness-non-attractiveness and start to operate with something like reliability/non-reliability of her beauty as such. If her face seems less beautiful because she allows herself to pass us with her attention and, therefore, is perceived by us even more intimidating, her breasts, somehow, seem a little less breastly because of her indifference to or at least independence from our gazes. Of course, by daring to qualify the protagonist’s breasts as “less breastly”, I am not implying that they‘re less beautiful. But they are completely belong to themselves, not even to her. They are too… alive to be at the service of the gaze or males or children. They’re too sensitive as to have a functional application. They’re, as if, in any moment can change.

These breasts, certainly, don’t belong to men’s intentionality in spite of their arousing power. But they also don’t belong to motherhood and even less to the mirror. They, like her body, don’t belong even to her in the habitual sense when we say “my body” or “my legs”, etc. Her body, as if, didn’t get the full feeling of being hers, because her existential attention was never concentrated on possessive feelings toward her limbs or other parts of her body. Her body is like her gaze – it belongs to the world only in a certain moments – her body belongs to her life, but not to her.

But who is that amazing, simultaneously frightening and irresistible little creature in front of the not-understandable woman of Tanning’s painting? They both look at the same direction – at the world ahead. The creature looks a little like a Lemur but it is with magnificent wings. The protagonist’s life is like this strange winged creature which looks, as if it came (flew away) from the caves or dens. It is Dorothea Tanning’s image of this woman’s life from her childhood to her adult life. It is a metaphor of a holistic essence of her very vitality. As we see, a little monster symbolizing the protagonist’s life is far from looking anything like her. Why this beautiful woman’s vitality can be locked into this particular, even demonic creature, frightening in its air of aggressive alertness? Something about beauty and, may be, even attractiveness need to be like this inside to protect themselves in the factual world.

From her childhood the life/vitality of the woman in the painting was intimidated by the world, and she came up with a solution represented by the interior with numerous opened doors bathing in the currents of fresh air. Interior of her spacious apartment mediates between her life and the external world. Of course, this interior is not for domestic comfort and interior design – of furniture and draperies, like it is for the majority of people. The heroine of the painting is not a person who closes the doors, but who prefers to open them – for herself, her life and the world. And she doesn’t need makeup as her apartment doesn’t need furniture decorations. She has her art, and as an artist she is barefooted in her place, in her life and in the world.

The painting is dedicated to the introspective experience the protagonist has during her own birthday – the time of contemplation about her personality, particularity and development up to the age marketed by her birthday. Obviously, this essential date doesn’t include bouts of gluttony or a time of dissolving human personalities into a maze of emotional familiarity with other people – relatives, friends and acquaintances (spontaneous creation of collective identity with emotional non-differentiation when one person starts the sentence and another finishes it, and everybody is equally happy, as if, it’s one collective birthday).

But, of course, birthday can be any new day, new encounter with the world, our own life, our own particularity, a day with new ordeals, which we can celebrate together with Dorothea Tanning and her incredible protagonist looking at us with her curious and stubbornly independent gaze.

Sensuous Contemplativeness as Feminine Spirituality

When masculinity becomes spiritual it is distancing itself from or abandoning life.
When femininity becomes spirituality it creates alternative life.
When contemplation about life becomes sensuous it is feminine spirituality.
Sensuous agape becomes a celebration of new forms of life.
Duras’ “Baxter, Vera Baxter” is a film-contemplation about the sensuously contemplative Eros.


Nature we’re anonymous part of (before we imagined consoling theological reference), as nature itself anonymous to itself, can’t care about us. For this reason it’s natural that humans “spontaneously” don’t care about nature – nature doesn’t care about itself. It just lives and dies quite indifferent to both conditions whatever happens to it. In our human perception nature is irresistible in its monumentality, it’s authoritative, rather than seductive (until we’re not adulterating it with the incontinence of our projections). Those among us who “care” about nature do it because they “technically” understood that if nature becomes “disturbed” it’s bad for our own survival (quite egoistic and “beyond ethic” reasoning). Nature is indifferent to us as most of us to nature. This morally neutral nature is the environment of frustrated human happiness and the background of our suffering including melancholic grief of Vera Baxter. Like the human womb is not a mother, nature is not even a womb. It can destroy or protect you without any intention to do either. May be, nature is artificial, (robotic) womb, that of the creation. Vera Baxter has to solve her problems herself, with friendly human help, which she is very lucky to deserve.


Interiors help us against nature’s indifference as a protective projection of our naive animalistic narcissism and as an extension of ourselves, a kind of our psychological exoskeleton – a reflection of our suffocating rivalry with another humans. Something monstrous is with the interiors of our settling places – with their pompous artificiality they are also a form of nature created by us, puppies of creation according to our ambition to imitate the Creator and to rule over the world.


Vera Baxter (Claudine Gabay) “was abandoned” by her husband, but he is not a monster created by human proclivity for scapegoating. He is struck by the widespread human illness – lost the ability to love: to, psychologically combine and unite – amity, Amour, Eros, Agape and disinterestedness. There are numerous reasons why this materially successful person got this affliction typical in the so called prosperity societies offering sparkling compensations for the loss of the capacity for loving. Among them – sex, beauty, consumerist comforts, social status and respect, domineering and successful self-image, etc., anything you get as a tail if you have “many-money”. But Jean is suffering not less than his wife. He belongs to the rare creatures who are prone to suffer without love. People like Jean are martyrs of wealth, and they’re stuck in their golden caves forever. Several Duras’ films depict and describe this type of people. Today, it is even impossible to imagine, that only several decades ago these people could exist. Was it democracy that created these exotic creatures? Post-democracy cannot afford them – it made them mutate and disappear.

Vera Baxter’s husband is a rich businessman – no, he is much more emotionally developed – Vera characterizes him as not-a-rich person, but the one who has a lot of money. He is not robotized by money – he feels that he is hurt by losing the psychological border between himself and money. Money is a monarch – it cannot tolerate the slightest disagreements.

So, which is it, compensation or insult – the fact that Vera’s husband “sold her”? To be a desired object is woman’s meta-historical destiny. Woman’s voluntary participation in this deal is not eliminating or even softening its meaning. Desire comes with the need to control – Jean just outsourced the whole problem: money will take care of it. It’s great lesson of barbering bribery – be it legally illegal or illegally legal.

Depression of non-belonging and melancholy of self-contemplation

“Vera Baxter loue une villa a Thionville-sur-mer Venue avec son amant, elle decide par la suite de se terrer dance la villa. Elle se confie a une femme et lui raconte la maniere don’t son mari Jean a paye un homme afin que celui-ci devienne son amant…” (Allocine)

Vera Baxter, abandoned and alone, feeling her soul forgotten and her body refused and thrown away, allows herself ephemeral moments of chaste exhibitionism, as if her nudity is able by pure magic of its presence in front of herself to find worlds which can need her.

Vera’s body, as if offers itself to the walls and the ceiling and the trees and clouds behind the windows. And her bodily solitude offers strange cure. Her exhibitionism is pure, spiritual and unexpectedly satisfying, as though to offer her body to nobody and to nothing – is the offer which is always accepted although without being answered.

Gerard Depardieu plays the individual who received from Vera’s husband money for helping her to go through period of amorous solitude. Something in Vera – her disinterestedness vis-à-vis the world, has impressed the sensitive gigolo who fell in love with her. He started to empathize with her predicament and felt self-reproachful for his shameful participation.

Being liberated without becoming corrupted by the freedom of exposing yourself to corruption

Vera is very lucky to meet the disinterested attention of a person, who by chance learned about her situation and is psychologically willing and able to help. Delphine Seyrig plays Duras-like character who sees the feminine destiny in the historical perspective and appreciate the uniqueness of a woman like Vera whom she found locked in suicidal danger.

Just the observation of how these two exceptional female characters interact creates in us, viewers need to define ourselves away from traditional structures of mutuality (when two or more persons use one another for mutual benefit).

How to encourage Vera’s freedom to decide her destiny without guilt and also without being symbiotically appropriated in her body and soul

To be alone

Here we see the mistress of Vera Baxter’s husband right at a time when he has abandoned his wife. In modern life of enhanced calculation nobody really wins – it’s what the face of this young attractive and intelligent woman tells us. As the other characters in the film she tries to understand the essence of her predicament. Today happy looking are only those whose ability to see beyond the surface of life is reduced – people with programmed – standardized soul.

To be helped to be free

Delphine Seyrig as the “other woman” is able to help Vera Baxter (Claudine Gabay) to feel the beauty of her own creative destiny outside mass-cultural clichés and rumbling social hierarchy.


How for a screen-writer and film-director to address and describe a human being in her purity – in the not-corrupt segment of her/his soul? The very desires to survive socially and physically and encircle ourselves with entertainment fences are rooted in fear of violent death and punishment for disobedience and impregnated with greedily hysterical search for saving beliefs and supporting ideologies. The necessity to permanently maneuver in circumstances and calculate advantages makes it possible for people to tolerate life by turning off their human/holistic intelligence (mental sensitivity of heart inside the mind) and becoming unreachable for the meaning of facts of life. Instead, the intelligence which is allowed for human beings by the very structure of today’s life is to develop technical – calculative and manipulative reason, which makes them robotized – without breathing soul and mind. It’s this human condition which entertaining art industry is only too happy to exploit. Duras as human being and a serious artist is creating a cinema incompatible with (mass cultural) entertainment. “Baxter, Vera Baxter” is a current of pristine air to the spiritual slums of everyday life.

Vera Baxter (Claudine Gabay) is a seemingly regular person, with a typical feminine destiny of falling in precipice of love, being structured by marriage, giving her soul, body and aspiration to motherhood and becoming abandoned by her husband. After processing and absorbing the romantic idea of love in her adolescence and youth, Vera is made by life to feel love as sex and distraction from everyday routine. But something in her is crystallized as exceptional – it’s the sublime sensitivity of her soul which helps her to take life without permanent fight for appropriating – status, property, entertainment, social success, and for dominating the circumstances. Vera Baxter is a contemplative type of a person – she takes her predicament: losing all she had, as a challenge to contemplate, to think, to feel what’s happened and why. Vera’s proneness to internalize the external world rather than compulsively act on it includes her ability not to be afraid of suffering, to be able to step down to a depressive mood – to the river, and up to the cloud of silence. Be in the river or on the cloud for too long is a deadly danger, but Vera is lucky – she got il une inconnue – the “unknown person” (Delphine Seyrig), who became determined to help her in her destiny.

L’inconnue is a person who understands Vera’s predicament – to lose everything what love for a man (and man’s love) can provide – the children, social status, self-respect, material prosperity, identity, personality, areas of mastery. She thinks that in order to be able to love man less conventionally (less symbiotically and socio-morphically) and be capable to raise emotionally and mentally healthier children woman needs more independence not so much from the man she loves but from his love.

But Duras is not representing the problems between a husband and wife as that between two human beings or as a problem of marriage as a social institution. The very organization of life in society becomes in the film something like a third player the destiny of human love depends on. Vera’s husband, Jean is a rich man who is traumatized by his psychological situation – by the necessity to make profit in a profane way, by neglecting the human need to be disinterested in relation to the world – to love intellectual, aesthetic and mystical bonds to creation, and even before this neglecting the issues of equality, justice, fairness and human compassion. This “forgetfulness” is equal to the betrayal of human existentially spiritual nature, and the first calamitous result of the narrowness of human focus on pursuing personal success is a breakdown of the ability for a sublime (non-symbiotic) intimate love. Jean has lost Vera internally – he has lost the ability to love her because he cannot anymore love another human being. In Jean’s universe of profit-making the other is an indifferent object – positive, negative or neutral for your intentions.

Duras indirectly but insistently emphasizes that Eros and Agape are close relatives, that one without the other both are lost in the world. Vera and Jean are co-victims of this lost tie between two ways of love. When Eros and Agape became separated the Lust (lascivious Greed) quickly inserts itself into the equation of life (what we are witnessing today in mass-cultural separation of love and sex). An economy based on obsession with profit is organic part of mass-cultural degradation of human sensibility.

Here is how the plot of the film proceeds – Jean Baxter pays a million to a young man, a highly sensitive and intelligent person (Gerard Depardieu), to take his wife off his hands. But this person fell in love with Vera and by this betrayed his “payoff”. This opened an unexpected chapter in this business transaction between the husband and transitionary figure – a space of independence from received money opens – not only for the receiver, but for Vera, who could be existentially lost in an abyss between two hills, if not for the appearance of a stranger, the “another woman” (the prototype of Duras herself), who came with a gift of disinterested help. Of course, this help doesn’t mean a lesbian relationship, as many will likely believe or suspect. Amazing thing we have a deal here, is, it seems, the disinterested and transcending sexuality relations (although without any phobic panic about lesbianism). Mass culture has taught us, Americans, about primacy of sex and primacy of survival through social competition – mass-cultural myths, following the agenda of tiny minority – 2% of the population – people of deep cultural deprivation and serious psychological underdevelopment.

The style of the film reflects the fact that Duras considers human beings as human nature in history – she includes human history (concrete historical references) and spiritual experiences in human behavior, for example, she depicts human being not as a fallen-factual, but as a pre- or post-fallen.

Duras’ film addresses the human being not through amusing, entertaining and/or violent situations, but through a very particular – aesthetically spiritual rapport with a segment of the human soul not corrupted by mass-culture which has managed to create in us a fundamental need to feel our better-ness, best-ness, greatness and exceptionalism in comparison with others.

Posted on May/5/2017 –   “Baxter, Vera Baxter” by Marguerite Duras (1977) by Acting-Out Politics

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