Acting-Out Politics

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

When Monopoly Crushes Free Market, Using The Weakness Of Human Solidarity

We have to accept the lesson of humiliation, we should start from this lesson, and build on it
Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi, (July 16th 2015)

The story told in this film is set in a small fishing village on the east coast of Sicily not far from Catania. It focuses on a typical destiny of Valastros family. We see the fishermen trying to revolt who are thrown by the system of economic injustice back into their everyday hardship, the dayworkers, bricklayers, young girls with their traditional dreams of marrying one day and by marital magic saved from inhumane living conditions, and we observe those who resourcefully and righteously exploit others.

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Luchino Visconti during shooting “La Terra trema/The Earth Trembles”

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Luchino Visconti is behind the camera (second from the left). To the right are the two main characters of the film, Ntoni and his younger brother Cola

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Ntoni’s sister is helping him get ready for the fishing boat calling to the sea. In the background, to the right, is Ntoni’s mother with the youngest daughters.

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Living room interior of a typical fisherman family’s house

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Ntoni’s little success as a small business owner makes it possible for him to plan his wedding with Nedda. Ntoni looks at Nedda, but she – at future marriage.

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Ntoni’s sisters dream about a better future

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Men of the family, including children able to work, returned home after a fishing trip

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The women and girls of Valastros family are worried as to why their boat hasn’t return yet in spite of a coming stormy night

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After losing their boat and almost all fishing equipment to the storm the fishermen of Valastros family who when they started their own business, stopped working for the middlemen-wholesalers, found themselves without income

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Ntoni had to sell whatever was left of his boat, but in spite of desperate situation was resisting to ask for a job from the same people he earlier rebelled against pursuing his dream of having his own business

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Ntoni in between his younger brothers who, together with him, suffer from abysmal poverty that has solidly settled in their life. Appreciate the intensity of the youngest brother’s gaze at Ntoni, silently suggesting that the time came to ask for job from their enemy, not as acceptance of their defeat but opening up a new space for the fight for their dignity.

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Ntoni (with his younger brother) had to come to the same wholesalers with whom he always fought for a decent, a just wage. He lost one battle, but he knows that there will be many hard battles ahead. He returns to work for those who exploit the fishermen but it doesn’t mean his surrender. He overcame his impulsive pride and is ready to continue to work, to live and to fight for human dignity. We see Ntoni on the left, the leader of wholesalers – to the right, and Visconti, with his arm on the camera, preparing to shoot the decisive scene.

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Visconti’s film depicts the human proclivity to exploit other humans by analyzing the situation of Sicilian fishermen living and working under a humiliating conditions of being exploited by the fish wholesalers-middlemen who fix the prices for fish and keep the fishermen in extreme poverty and hopelessness. When the main character of the film, Ntoni, made an attempt to start to sell his catch of anchovies himself – to detour the middlemen, his project to succeed as a small businessman clashes with the established corporate way of making business.

Exploitation of workers – people on the bottom of the production chain of goods, is not only a matter of exploiters’ economic calculation but intense psychological humiliation for the victims. The basic producer/deliverer of goods is locked in a situation of being either an idiot or a slave. The exploited person is either an idiot and doesn’t understand that he is fooled by those who exploit him and laugh at him, or he understands that he is treated like a retarded and accepts whole situation because he is a slave in essence and for him it is natural to live by appealing to the mercy of his masters. But for the mentally normal person (with intuitive sense for justice and injustice) it is inhuman, impossible, a maddening choice breaking the very spine of one’s humanity. A human soul cannot agree to pretend that it is unable to understand the basic instances of injustice. It is natural and normal to rebel in this situation. But rebellion is either precluded or subdued, and human being is humiliated to a suicidal degree. That is the circumstances Ntoni and his uncle, mother, brothers and sisters are trapped in, when after the fiasco of their dream of becoming small businessmen operating in free market, and their further pauperization as a result, they look at the necessity to appeal to those very people who habitually exploit them and other fishermen – to beg these people to take them back into humiliating dependence on exploiters.

In this situation to accept defeat not as a constellation of personal circumstances but as the unjust economic status quo, is an incredible victory over sentimental perception of reality and over pride as a psychological defense against the truth. Ntoni is able to overcome himself and again become a worker for masters-wholesalers not because he thinks that he was wrong but exactly because he knows that he is right. With his return to being as if-idiot and as if-slave he opens a new round of future fight for changing the way economic reality is made to function. And his younger brothers learned from him the wise – rational approach in their fight for fairness. Success of such a sublime fight requires a psychological maturity – it has to be purified from impulsive reactions rooted in pride, righteousness and intolerance.

For one of Ntoni’s brothers, Cola, it is already too late – in despair he runs away from their unbearable situation to start a new life somewhere else – on the usual: conformist conditions demanding from human being adaptation and obedience compensated by moral tricks and professional frauds. It is at this juncture that the exploited open themselves to corruption leading to the anthropological mutation of the poor into mindless consumerists and worshippers of the wealthy.

At the end of the film we see the triumphant wholesalers’ “celebration of new boats” (the equivalent of today’s media events glorifying the rich decision-makers as benefactors), enlargement of wholesalers’ “production facilities” for the sake of “being able to employ more people” (like today’s American conservatives’ idea of “people’s right to work” which means to work without the right for decent salary, better working conditions and without unions that can help to achieve justice).

Visconti emphasizes that the fishermen talk exclusively about their work and their limited and elusive money, much like today’s Americans – under the hammer of austerity, after all those years of prosperity that were available to them during democratic times. The role of amorous life in such an oppressing living conditions, according to the director, becomes purely compensatory. The appearance of a girl – her looks, is not important, also like her particular character/personality. She is perceived as a whole, as a generalization, as light is for twilight, as sky is for soil. She is perceived by the guys like a piece of eroticized imagination among all the dark and hard things constituting the reality. As the fishermen’s saying has it: “A man exists to be caught by a girl, just as fishes of the sea are made for those who catch them.” Appreciate the fishermen’s gallantry here – they lend their, fishermen identity to the girls while for themselves they borrow the identity of the fish.

Marriage for the poor fishermen is the only way to get the feeling that they are rooted in life, that they are somebodies – for them participation in marriage gives them a standing in society – the chance to respect themselves. In other words, love in this conditions doesn’t have an independent value. It is in the shadow on marital prestige.

The Sun, A Manly Man, Two Mirrors, A Smart Bird With A Sense Of Humor, Two Shadows And Four Planets

http://www.actingoutpolitics.com/joan-miros-personage-and-bird-in-front-of-the-sun-1963-a-playful-joke-from-the-master/miropersonageb1963/
Joan Miro, “Personage and Bird in Front of the Sun”, 1963

The sun and the bird have “invaded” the interior (in the spirit of Boris Pasternak’s theme of nature and “civilization”), where the personage dominated the space with his eroticized self-centrality. He was alone in the room. He was with himself. He was with himself through the mirror (looking at himself in the mirror). Miro made numerous paintings with women and mirrors, women and birds, women and sun. But sometimes he transforms women into (more enigmatic) personages. Here we have a painting where Miro depicts the personage-man playfully and frivolously enjoying himself in the mirror. But painterly speaking, the mirror is looking at him – the green color is looking at the blue color, and by this it lets the blue configuration see itself in the green not without narcissistic pride.

But the sun itself intervenes between the personage and his reflection. It, as if, made a subliminal photo of the man’s whole figure and projected it behind him. The sun made the personage’s tall Don-Quixote figure into Sancho Panza. But why is the shadow of the personage white? May be, because it is not just a regular shadow but the one from Miro’s painting and for this reason it is not identical with itself but showing the meaning of the figure. The whiteness of the shadow is prophetic – enlightening. It shows the essence of the human being. Personage of the painting only looks like Don Quixote (with his secularly spiritual concerns about life, but in reality it is just Sancho Panza – person without sublime motivations. Behind all the haughty image of ourselves we see the mediocre human being. Personage was just visually celebrating himself in front of the mirror – how he (well, synecdochically speaking) looks (seen from outside).

In the upper left corner of the painting we see a bird who offers the personage a small round mirror, in which the protagonist of the painting (male figure) will be able to see, this time – his face. By this gesture the bird reminds the personage about his “inappropriate” (wasteful) self-admiration in front of the mirror standing on the floor, and silently but insistently remind him about “the proper ways”. The bird is witty – it addresses the man-personage without any tasteless moralism.

Like in other Miro’s paintings, the cosmic world is part of human life. Like Sancho Panza shadow of Don Quixote-like figure of the personage is with red heart, the face of the personage is also a kind of a planet, and so is the round mirror which the bird offers him.

The bird’s shadow (behind the personage’s head), is, as if, holding Sancho Panza shadow of the personage, as a puppeteer. This is, it seems, Miro’s accent on conformism of the male-personage’s personality. So, the sun and the bird, as if, unite in their pedagogical task of trying to awaken the personage’s self-consciousness.

Life is the only chance for the hero of Bresson’s film to meet other human beings and god within the same environment. It is not surprising that they come to us together – they are two halves of the very equation of life. In the very face of the country priest (Claude Laydu) we see his equal dedication to god and to human beings, his non-sentimental and non-authoritarian loving respect for god and equally serious (without vignettes of vanity) loving respect for human beings in their spiritual potentials. In the soul of our country priest both dedications found balance and became one. The chaste acting of Claude Laydu connects them together in a single emotional symphony.

The more the country priest cares about god the more he cares about his fellow men (in their fallen condition and openness to alternative). So, one of his main tasks is to help people to understand god better. In their consumerist innocence people imply that god’s task is to serve their ancient and unchanging pagan habits which they identify with “their human nature” and with “their right” to project their narcissism into the world. By trying to “defend” Christ against people’s blind greed and despotism the country priest simultaneously tries to mediate between people and protect them from their angered irritability. To defend Christ from people and people from each other (from their righteousness and self-aggrandizement) became for the priest semantically identical task.

By trying to soften and dissolve the “incompatibility” between the Count’s young mistress Miss Louise and his daughter Chantal, the priest finally succeed by taking to himself the role of scapegoat, by making it obvious for all the tree persons involved (without verbalizing it, of course), that the ultimate reason for intolerance and animosity in Chantal’s soul is the count’s position of self-indulgence in his desire to transform his flame of love (for Miss Louise) into a bombastic plans for a conventional marriage with power-games inseparable from it, and that he uses both, miss Louise and Chantal, as pawns in his game of self-pleasing. It is a lack of humility in the father created the fire which began to burn not only the beautiful young woman, but the adolescent girl (who deserves to be free to invest her soul in a much more disinterested areas than possession of family status).

Even more psychologically intricate and difficult task the priest opened himself to, is the situation with the old Countess who learned from the priest in spite of his much younger age that the untimely death of her son wasn’t intention of god but rather his inability to prevent such tragedy, that god suffered for what happened not less than she. There are situations when to continue to live can be determined by the fruitless aggressive energies (when human being whose soul is impregnated with negative vitality lives only to revenge and by this to triumph over others) – the priest was able to liberate the countess from this burden.

Consumers of mass media images today are bombarded by the expressive vanity of the characters of Hollywood- and TV soap entertainment, where emotional and physical aggression, foolishness, sentimentality and self-indulgence are blended in an over-tasty cocktails of entertainment rooted in righteous psychological immaturity. For many viewers in the 21st century watching a “Diary of a Country Priest” can be like entering a pure, cool spring in a resort on some another planet. Even just to look at and to hear the young priest and vicar’s of Torcy (Adrien Borel) conversations is a purifying experience. The film deserved to be rescreened for the American audience of today.

Chaste acting by Claude Laydu when no vain emotions are involved and when human reactions on the world come from spiritual potential of the human soul, stay with viewers.

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Robert Bresson (1901 – 1999)

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The country priest’s equally intense dedication to god and human beings encourages him to think about existential frame inside which both appear together

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The country priest is embracing the monstrous tree symbolizing for him his rapidly nearing death

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The young priest looks at the common stem of life and death, while his mentor and a tough friend, priest of Torcy is dedicated to help him in his daily work and his destiny

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The country priest talks to Miss Louise, the Count’s mistress and his daughter’s governess, whom the Count plans to marry in spite of the psychological whirlwind this decision produces in his family.

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The young priest feels overwhelmed by Countess’ suffering, while being critical of her position towards Christ (her “mistreatment” of Christ). Pay attention to the composition of this shot and explain it in terms of interaction between the priest and the countess.

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While making an entry in his diary, the country priest is looking directly into the world he is a part of. But his diary is not a purely secular document. It is rather a spontaneous attempt at combining of both – humanness and spirituality, existential limitedness and spiritual unlimited-ness, of living and sublimation of vitality, of will and humility.

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Is the priest, looking into the interior of the house, sad because of how heavily human beings settle in the world and forgetting the Creation, or is it because he doesn’t belong inside and is an outsider, homeless and has nothing except a giant memory?

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The young priest never felt himself as one with his own body, as a biological and psychological substance. He is an event – he is on the way to elsewhere, he personifies “creatureliness, a dimension of ontological vulnerability that permeates human being whose essence is to exist in forms of life that are contingent, fragile, and susceptible to breakdown.” (Eric Santner, “The Royal Remains (The People’s Two Bodies and the Endgames of Sovereignty)”, Univ. of Chicago press, 2011)

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The country priest and Seraphita, the impish angel, both look at light – not from the sky, not from the earth, but from the human awkward creative efforts

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The country priest didn’t just lose consciousness because he is very ill but during a vertiginous spell he bids farewell to earth.

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And while lying in the mud he also bids farewell to the sky. By being by spiritual type an equal existential combination of earthliness and sky-ness he, with his death, is going to lose both, in the bliss of forever.

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Robert Bresson

Posted on June 22, 2015-  Robert Bresson’s “Diary of A Country Priest” – 1951 (Based On Georges Bernanos’ Novel) – Participation In Experiencing Life Rather Than Encountering It, As If, From Outside by Acting-Out Politics

Mocking And Humiliating Others Is One Of The Strongest Pleasures Provided To People By Human Nature

Power is not only what oppresses, what is oppressive, it’s also what depresses: whenever I’m depressed, there is power at work somewhere.
Roland Barthes, “The grain of Voice”, 1977, p. 269

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Marcel Janco, “Two Guns to the Head”, 1940**

It is not enough pleasure for these two happy sons of bitches to play at mock execution with a frightened and desperate man – it is not enough, to use Barthes’ terminology, to oppress. They need to achieve more – they want the captured one to wish to kill himself. Indeed, won’t it be extra fun if homicide and suicide could happen simultaneously, like a duet? – And even better – be indistinguishable? So, interrogators-torturers encourage the imprisoned to get the desire to kill himself to make his agony more entertaining and satisfying for them.

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Marcel Janco, “Two Nazi Soldiers Mistreating Jews”, 1942

Human buttocks are ennobled by human social nature – by social interaction. They stopped to be just for individual-physiological purposes, they are adapted to social function by the efforts of those who want to reinforce the borderline between the higher level of social hierarchy and its lower level. Human buttocks got a social function: to satisfy those who are above in the social hierarchy. These resourceful people – entrepreneurial in their ability to satisfy their needs are free to get pleasure by kicking the buttocks of those who are lower in social power.

Marcel Janco’s drawing depicts the situation of physical insults of the subjugated civilians. But isn’t being fired by the autonomous will of the employers – by their shining sovereignty is kind of being kicked in the ass? Isn’t the fact that a guy like Donald Dump (individual dressed in banknotes and embellished by mass money-worship) can fire you at any moment while your kids may not have enough to eat, another kick in the ass? In the 21st century the quantity of people in a situation of being chronically unemployed without having done anything wrong is rapidly growing, as so is the quantity of enthusiasts and fans of ass-kicking. In our time of exuberant commercialism some entrepreneurial minds may even invent something like – to pay the chronically unemployed and/or homeless volunteers, shall we say – a small change per kick, or creative business idea of beauty-contest for the most original and impressive pattern of bruise left on the buttocks after being kicked. We already see that the 21st century culture renews itself according to commercial perspective with maniacal energy.

Marcel Janco, “Jews Forced To Wash Windows”, 1941
Marcel Janco, “Jews Forced To Wash Windows”, 1941

Sometimes the necessity to adapt to unbearable situations stimulates the human mind to create the reasons for enduring. For example, to think about slave work as a way to save your life can create the reason to control one’s despair. Marcel Janco depicts, mainly, situations between Nazis jailers and the Jewish concentration camp prisoners. But the situation in the 21st century “develops” with more and more innovations, and Janco’s work is relevant today not less than it was in the middle of the 20s century.

Marcel Janco (1895 – 1984)
Marcel Janco (1895 – 1984)

*Marcel Janco is too talented of an artist to stimulate only historical interest. His drawings about physical mistreatment of helpless people are becoming more and more actual as the human history is moving into the future. The violence against the civilians grows. The desire to abuse and humiliate those who are considered “not like us”, takes more versatile forms. Not only exploitation of others becomes more profitable but destruction of life becomes a more high-tech occupation. Our task in relation to the memory of Marcel Janco is to make his powerful drawings available to everyone living today to help them to understand the reality of intolerance and violence in the 21st century.

** The title in 2015 can be – “Interrogation With Torture”

*** The title in 2015 can be – “Bachelor’s Degree In Butt-kicking”

**** The title in 2015 can be “Slave Labor Is Good For Economy And For Hygiene Of The Social Space”

When Money Has Become Separated From Production, Economy And Common Sense

“Disney CEO Robert Iger raked in 46.5 million last year, which comes to $248.00 – a minute (assuming Iger put in a 60-hour week)”
Robert Reich

“Many people barricade themselves within their ignorance of a number of matters, not wanting to have to know – they have a ‘passion for ignorance’, as one of my teachers, Lacan, put it.”
(Alain Badiou, Clement Petitjean interview with Alain Badiou, April, 14, 2014)

They are newcomers, although their ancestors are almost as ancient as human history. They are a legion even though they are a minority. They are a minority which is a legion because those who worship them are today’s majority. Moneysturbators are the lit elite of 21st century – those who shine in the artificial light of human civilization’s golden coins.

Moneysturbators are in a process of dumping the social goals for which money is a tool and servant – production of material goods, generating work, providing for life and its meaning, the existence of the economy itself as inevitable part of human and societal life and a mercantile ingredient of human mutuality. They are giving up production and economy as masturbators – amorous and sexual objects. They made money-making – moneysturbation a goal in itself, like masturbators – manual manipulation of their sexual organs while liberating themselves from the amorous and sexual presence of the other human beings. Money-making now is placed between moneysturbator and the technique of moneysturbating. It is, as if, the goal of erection was production of more and more erections, or goal of ejaculation was multiplication of ejaculations. Moneysturbation is the ultimate goal of maneysturbators’ life – to reproduce money ad infinitum and ad nauseam. They are tautologically hooked on money-making for the sake of continuing to be hooked on money-making.

Moneysturbation is the ultimate drug created for human race, although until 21st century it wasn’t so obvious. Like masturbation was always a kind of a fleeting hygienic procedure, or a kind of warming up before the “real action” or self-training for future, moneysturbation was a kind of an additional “money-cream” in the midst of real economic achievements, but today it has turned into a solipsistic activity, something isolated from the world and other people, something which takes competition autistically – as an ultimate and only inspiration in life.

In fairytale legacy of humankind we all remember the motif that in a certain lucky for us situations it is possible to take with us only as much gold as we can carry with ourselves. Isn’t after a certain point to become wealthier becomes an angrily solipsistic moneysturbatory fantasy, pure excess which we never be able to use productively, except for money-worship, being worshiped and being permanently afraid for losing our money to our quickly multiplying enemies? It is desire to control, not to possess in an existential sense – as much wealth and power as impossible, transforms the moneymakers into moneysturbators. Of course, in the 21st century corporations became “human beings” (by the miraculous alchemy of moneysturbatory money-stirring), as a matter of fact – super-human beings from animation cartoons, and can control archipelagos and planets of oily/coaly money, but who cares about super-humans except American generations raised up on Hollywood/(TV) cartoons? Vanity becomes the order of the day and creates clashes, hate, wars and victims (and one of them is meaning of human life). Giant corporate robots have super-inflated money-sturbatory inspiration, and its pollen rooting itself in human souls is flowering as human obsession with possessing super-wealth and super-power. Corporations are not killed during wars, like real human beings – they become stronger and fatter/richer.

It’s a problem of human imagination that has gone berserk and not of the real human needs. Imagination is a part of our unconscious which is demoniacally rooted – it has a narcissistic absolutism and an anarchic self-fixation. It like its own aggrandized – moneysturbatory, corporatized version. It is in a way like human technical intelligence which in the 21st century got autonomy from human destiny and became servant of the 1% of the population. Today human imagination is obsessively/compulsively constructed and yearns to be completely liberated from human condition.

If you believe that you are wealthy only if you are super- and stupor-wealthy, if only super-stupor-wealth – wealth without limits can make you feel protected and invulnerable, then – even wealth of God will not make moneysturbatatory person satisfied/pacified – really feeling invulnerable to the existence of enemies and “powers of nature” resisting his domination. Our imagination as such (if it’s not controlled by psychological wholeness), can never be satisfied/ pacified. The only way to handle the enemies is through a diplomatic intelligence and cultural and economic collaboration. We have to be able (without permanent panic) to live with “dangerous” otherness, without the vain hope that it can be eradicated from the equation of life. Even (moneysturbatory) imagination cannot provide the moneysturbator with what is beyond the very condition of life. The rational “negotiation” with the reality – a long and a difficult – a permanent task is the only reliable way – to try again and again to “negotiate” with the otherness of the world. Only a democratic negotiation – respectful treatment of the reality, concessions and compromises are an effective way not to harm reality beyond repair. For people capable of having to deal with real objects (other people and nature) it is enough security that we can get through respectful treatment of otherness. It is the same kind of security which made us capable to survive during the Cold War epoch when both sides – US and Russia refrained from narcissistic excesses in conduct in exchange for real – achieved by tough negotiations, security. Today, we have to learn from the past – previous but wiser times.

Today, it seems that for the new – moneysturbatory generation of a minority elite in US, negotiation and balance of power – democratic intelligence, is out of sight, not accessible as a resource capable to prevent mutual destruction. Growing psychological immaturity of American moneysturbatory wealthy and their neocon political servants forces them to look for confrontations and risk global survival. They don’t know anymore how to negotiate – they know only how to demand and command. The 1% believes that they as a super-privileged minority will survive the world super-nuclear war on medical super-technology. They believe that their money will protect them from nuclear destruction.

Let’s not forget that the unconscious is beyond time, its impulses are outside of the historical process. And so is the unconscious’ child – imagination, when it’s not controlled by the psychological maturity. Imagination itself is not able to learn – only the mind of the human wholeness can. Imagination as such implies that it’s beyond danger because it is beyond mortality. It is beyond the concept of risk because it doesn’t have the consciousness of mortality. It is, like technical thinking itself is outside the fragility of life. Imagination is the real engine of wars. On its own it inflames in us the feeling of the unlimited, winged freedom to act out (without thinking about consequences of our actions). Not psychologically mature human beings (who are under the power of moneysturbatory obsessions) can easily be not only genocidal but lifo- and eartho-cidal.

Today’s American (neo-conservative) leadership is behaviorally as childishly narcissistic and moved by imagination as the Soviet communist leadership was in their absolutist ideology.

Woman As A Personification of A (Universal) Human Being – Fassbinder’s Philosophical Parody On Socio-morphism Of Woman’s Emancipation

…eroticism is a ghastly maze where the lost ones must tremble. This is the only way to come close to the truth of eroticism: to tremble.
Georges Bataille, “The Tears of Eros”, City Lights Bks., 1992, p. 69

MC: There are more and more women who refuse any longer to let men victimize them.
RWF: Women who let themselves be oppressed often are more beautiful than women who fight back.
MC: You think so? That’s right, because they are probably more gentle. Because when you have to fight back you get tense…
RWF: But that would be the greatest masochistic fulfillment , not being able to take care of oneself anymore… Most men simply cannot oppress women as perfectly as women would like them to.
MC: Oppression means that it happens to you involuntary, conformity means that you do it voluntary.
RWF: That’s even more terrible.
MC: One can base a life together on a certain degree of conformity… I am a person who has to live relatively alone.
RWF: Either to live and be lonely or to let yourself be oppressed and be happy, that the choice a woman has…
MC: Nonetheless it is possible today to live in a different way with a man.
RWF: For that to be true, men would have to be emancipated. Do you know any emancipated man?
From “R.W.Fassbinder is talking about oppression with Margit Carstensen.” In “West German Filmmakers on Film…”, p. 109 – 111.

… [Story of Adam and Eve] – that barbarous narrative of debt, torture and revenge of which culture is the blood-stained fruit.
Terry Eagleton, “The Idea of Culture”, Blackwell Pr., 2000, p. 108

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Fassbinder (the second from the left) as an unidentified character in his own film, Hannah Schygulla – Karin (on the right) and Margit Carstensen – Petra (in the center)

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Fassbinder (in the center) works (assisted by Harry Baer – on the right) with Margit Carstensen on the set of “The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant”

The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant

Nicolas Poussin’s Painting

Stylized exposition

Scene 1. Preamble/Warming up for daily battles
Scene 2. Corrupting seduction
Scene 3. Revenge/Getting even
Scene 4. Agony of deafening defeat
Scene 5. Transfiguration (Petra maneuvers into democraticity)
Scene 6. Resolution/Dissolution (an offer which cannot be met)

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Nicolas Poussin, “Midas and Bacchus/Dionysus”, 1630

Poussin’s painting has a fundamental semantic importance for “The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant” – it is used by Fassbinder as historical-cultural rooting of his concept of Petra-Karin relationship as an archetype of Western civilization. The viewers are encouraged to locate Midas and Dionysus in the painting which Fassbinder has wall-sized in Petra’s stylized bedroom and by this makes it part of the semantic development of the film. By becoming a constituent part of the film’s plot and meaning through the director’s resourceful montage of its fragments with visual accents of the characters’ relations, the painting functions as analytical tool for RWF’s characterization of today’s behavioral proclivities. For example, Bush Jr. and his political cohort’s invasion of Iraq can be understood as acting-out by these people of their unconscious Midas-Dionysus’s complex. The film emphasizes the foundational role of the myth of Midas-Bacchus, which inspired Poussin’s painting, in forming the Western psyche.

Stylized exposition

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We see two cats awakening for the day. One of them – on top of the stairs, is occupying much higher place in the social hierarchy of Petra’s household. The other, at the bottom, has a dream, and she is dedicated to its realization. What can a cat dream about in Fassbinder’s film? Ideologically speaking – about equality, but existentially speaking – about being accepted and loved by the cat above. Of course, cats are metaphorical and signify the two main characters – Petra von Kant and her assistant and maid Marlene (Irm Hermann)

Preamble/Warming up for erotic and social battles

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For a person who, by Fassbinder’s directorial insistence, personifies King Midas from Nicolas Poussin‘s painting, to return to the world after a night of non-being is not an easy task. She has several missions to accomplish in the world and doesn’t like to be targeted by Apollo’s arrows. May be, she is a vampire of sorts?

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Petra’s morning starts elegiacally – with innocent and modest self-image

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After a long night Petra recovers the upright posture of Dionysus from Nicolas Poussin’s painting

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The appearance of Baroness Sidonie von Grasenabb (Katrin Schaake) with a morning visit to Petra made Marlene feel abandoned, ignored and not needed

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Baroness Sidonie was not alone – soon her protégé Karin arrived who “by chance” was looking for a fancy employment. Acquaintance of Petra and Karin starts with a little shaking up of early morning.

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Petra is curious about Karin’s curiosity towards her

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Petra describes to Sidonie the ordeal of her so promising but failed marriage which included intense and ambitious romance based on love inspiring the husband and wife to transcend the limits of perfection. Petra explains to Sidonie what amour, romance, marriage and divorce taught her about human life and mysteries of human togetherness.

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Is Petra talking to Sidonie about heterosexual love and marriage like one mannequin to another (which we see in this shot, together with two miniature dolls of little girls in the upper part of the shot)? Do Petra and Sidonie’s ideas about love and marriage come from the dreams of the little girls they were once? We tend to be spontaneously calculative/manipulative in the very sincerity of our amorous feelings, calculative because of our emotional greed and manipulative because of chronic hunger for amorous mutuality. Petra’s mind reflects her ontological deprivation and her hysterical dream about emotional plenitude (rooted in symbiotic relations of mutual identification trying to create a primordial unity between two people).

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One of the miracles of the film is how Petra from a woman after a night sleep gradually transforms in front of our eyes into an incredibly beautiful female specimen – the more her psycho-socio-cultural contemplations are found its verbalizations.

Seduction and counter-seduction

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Petra is ready for a decisive – recruiting, encounter with Karin, and she activates Marlene to rush to answer the doorbell and open the way to the future

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Karin is dressed as an Amazon-warrior, Petra – as armed not only with money but also with smashing glamor

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Dionysus is pointing at Petra as his “representative” in the narrative world of the film

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The most effective strategy of conquering is the one that doesn’t look like a “strategy” and is based on what looks like generosity, humanism, care, sharing resources for living, sharing life and love. It looks like love and it is love. It is not a matter of faking love – it is love as a part of the package of its realistic realization in the objective conditions of human life.

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While Petra orders Marlene to bring out the Champagne Dionysus points at Petra and Karin’s future

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Petra and Karin – spirit and nature – one body: two heads

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Dionysus on the wall, as if, following the development of Petra-Karin mutuality and business negotiations (love happens not only between two hearts or two souls, but between two human beings in a real – socio-economic environment, outside of which love is just a fruitless and fatal idealism) – and again points at Petra, as if, marking her success with Karin, which paves the road for Karin’s success which will follow

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Dionysus now points at Karin, for the first time, which is also Petra’s success.

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Petra is sharing with Karin her philosophy of life, while desperate for job and success Karin is ready for everything even without Petra’s shining wisdoms.

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According to the composition of this shot – a place for Karin in Petra’s life has opened (marked by the “naked” mannequin)

Revenge/getting even/getting equal

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Through a calculated pantomime and staged effects Karin tries to recover her human dignity not without some vengeful intentions. But would it be just to blame her? Of course, Karin’s existential sensitivity is less and less relevant in today’s life where people go to their “pragmatic” goals like tanks. For the 21st century both heroines of Fassbinder’s film are too delicate and sensitive. May be, it’s good for us to learn from them?

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Petra tries to reassure Karin in her love but a fissure of inequality in their togetherness makes it difficult. To seem subdued Petra as if eliminates herself that is emphasized by the composition of the shot.

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Karin develops a narration (which covers up a real problem) – her “organic” heterosexuality. She cannot address the real reason of her sexual betrayal – it could be too humiliating and dangerous for her future career opportunities

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This shot represents Karin as the apparition of a supernatural power of naturalness which can suddenly come not only to her face but to the surface of her very being – in her laughter, positive, wholehearted, ontologically overfilled, tranquil. This Karin’s somatic and effortless laughter makes Petra laugh in response – instinctively, spontaneously, forgetting everything.

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But Petra’s need to be reassured in Karin’s love becomes even stronger. Karin’s laughter of innocence transcends type of love based on individual amorous greed which transforms love into mother’s breast and kiss into appropriation

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Mannequins in Petra’s exotic house, where her bedroom occupies a central place, are awaken to human suffering.

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Petra, as if, being crucified on her bed – her love for Karin becomes one long and unending torture. Her bed with the three crowns signifying the two lovers and witness of their amorous joy – here Petra, Karin and Marlene, is transformed into the Cross of Crucifixion

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After a sudden call from Karin’s husband, and her impulsive decision to meet him, Petra felt, as if, a heavy bar has fallen on her

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Petra is humiliatingly begging Karin not to leave, but human unconscious is overfilled with instinctive strategies directed at finding ways to win by any price. Self-humiliation is one of the blind attempts to win in an impossible situations – to keep the object that slides way, inside the area of possession and passive control

The agony of a deafening defeat

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The next phase of amorous battle where eroticism is mixed with passion to dominate, starts already not between Petra and Karin, but inside Petra’s own life. The amorous duel of two symbiotic objects continues inside each player.

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Petra response to Sidonie (who just explained to Petra’s mother that Petra is crazy about Karin): “I am not crazy about her, I love (Ich liebe) her, I love her as I’ve never loved anything before. Her little finger is worth more than all of you together”.

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On her birthday Petra accepts presents from relatives and friends, but she is waiting just for one person to appear

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Dionysus points at the “plebs” – the painting’s metaphor, according to Fassbinder’s interpretation, of Sidonie, Petra’s mother and all the conformists reduced to gossiping voyeurs instead of risking to have their own games

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Sidonie’s present to Petra for her birthday is a doll with a striking resemblance to Karin

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Petra is hurt but simultaneously excited by Sidonie’s attempt to mock her passion – love is always ambiguous, and hope is the other side of despair. Those who are struck down by love can resurrect with surprising ease

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Dionysus points not at Petra but at her agony in front of her mother and daughter (Eva Mattes) whom we see in front of us, staring at Petra in disbelief

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Mother’s fall can be her daughter’s awakening. But to make mother’s suffering a lesson for her child she has to forget about her respectful image

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A child can even cling to a mother more if she feels that mother is not perfect, like the child herself. More, identification with a “sinful” mother can be the way for the child to develop an understanding of human life. And here, as an inspiration of empathy in Gabriele, Petra as a mother can succeed, in spite of all her “shortcomings”

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As soon as being loved is perceived in Western culture as ontological victory over life, not being loved is considered as ultimate defeat. Petra as personification of king Midas is crushed under the feet of philistines

Transfiguration – Petra’s “mutation” into psychological democratism

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Petra proposes to Marlene a “democratic” relationship based on equality and mutual respect. But what happened to Petra? Where is her royal shining? Where is her beauty, vitality, irresistibility? The ability to charm and fascinate? All of this seems irrelevant and superfluous in a new – decent human love. Petra’s transformation is, obviously, not in tune with modernity and post-modernity. Shining beauty is a weapon, and humankind cannot live without the power of Dionysian seductions and Apollonian arrows.

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Marlene is also transformed – from the one who admires and worships to the one who serves as an alienated administrator and nurse. Pay attention to the flower in Petra’s right hand – all that is left from her “greatest love” for Karin

The offer which cannot be met

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Marlene is leaving Petra. Without passionate fights of loving, without amorous dominating or being dominated, sadism and masochism of love she cannot continue

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Marlene is taking with herself a gun and Petra’s doll – symbol of Karin, the object of worship and domination, love and being dominated. Petra is left to her solitude.

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In “The Bitter Tears…” Fassbinder represents to the audience the Western tradition of love in intimate relations as an expression of Western spirit of aggressive individualism and its dream of being dissolved in a borderless togetherness. To the analytical distance from the events of the plot and characters’ emotional psychodrama, dense visual symbolism and psychological intensity of representation (including comic stylization), Fassbinder adds a certain eidetic density, a kind of fixation on visual images as an absolute point of reference, a fixation that parodies materialistic/consumerist streak in Western sensibility.

The supreme importance of personal love in Western cultural tradition is emphasized the fact that all the events in the film take place in one room – the bedroom of the main character. Physical love is the ultimate locus where the theology of personal spiritual realization, philosophy of personal splendor, psychology of emotional settlement in the soul of the beloved (and of the emotional enveloping by the beloved of the erotically dominant lover), and sociology of individual irresistibility in front of the other can be realized. Possession of another person’s body and soul in intimacy is the ultimate proof of successful self-assertion of a Western individual. In “The Tears…” personal love (demythologized from “romantic” idealization) is one of the essential games of Western civilization, the very pearl of its shell, the very blood of its sweat, the very steeple of its dome. Because domination over others is in our species the most basic drive, the mutuality of intimate love is irradiated by the music of emotional battle.

In the focus of personal love’s exaltation of Hegel dialectics of master and slave, personal value of a concrete individual in his/her relation to the other comes into light. That’s why each step of Petra and Karin towards or away from each other is described by Fassbinder with such a scrupulous precision – he depicts them not only as persons in concrete circumstances, but as individuals in their absolute self-assertion and self-realization. Such relationship is a dangerous experience, with cosmic jealousy and feeling of metaphysical loss. Fassbinder unfolds in front of us all this meta-historical drama in which self-aggrandizement and fight for domination are intellectualized and psycho-dramatized.

In agreement with the Western cultural tradition, “masculine”, actively seducing role (which is personified by Petra), symbolizes the value of the spirit over the flesh, culture over nature, phallic might over the impotence of amorous receptivity, social status over its absence, financial prowess over being poor. If Petra is an aesthete, Karin symbolizes nature, flesh which is supposed to be conquered by the Spirit, femininity which is supposed to be filled up by the emanation of the master. Their affair is composed of so many determinants that it is itself a work of art which two persons involved create together. Fassbinder simultaneously admires and debunks “a dance-like ritual of seduction and melodramatic intimacy”, “Petra and Karin’s mutual seduction through sex, theatrics and economics” (T. Corrigan, “New German Film: The Displaced Image”, Univ. of Texas, 1983, p. 50) – the beautiful amorous pantomime of Western courteous love in which Spirit mystically falls into the flesh. He is enjoying its sublime dedication and very critical of its hypocritical cowardice. Petra is as beautiful as aesthetics, as irresistible as spirit, as intelligent as a philosophy, as admirable as a White Knight, as adorable as a courageous woman trying to overcome the historical limitations of womanhood. And Karin is as natural as femininity itself, and as attractive as a young woman in need for help and protection without sacrificing her dignity.

Fassbinder’s classification of concrete love relations which we observe in the film, consists, it seems, of three kinds of love, two are widespread, and the third kind can only come to reality in future, if at all. The first type of love is the one which Petra and Marlene have. It’s psychologically a sado-masochistic relationship when one person is naturally dominating and ontologically is the shining center of adoration and admiration, while the other is accepting this domination as a precious gift and quite happy to be the object of a patronizing generosity – to serve and worship (like people in front of a monarch, like soldiers in front of a four star general, like the public in front of movie and/or pop-music stars, or many American poor in front of millionaires and adolescents in front of NFL players). The second type of love depicted in the film is the one Petra and Karin have. It is a relationship of inequality (in social, financial and professional power) when the weaker side disagrees to be dominated and manipulated and fights for autonomy (sometimes using revenge and counter-manipulation). The third type of love is sketched as a hypothetical one which could be realized, for example, if Marlene was not afraid of entering a mutually responsible relations which Petra offers her at the end of the film. The fact that Marlene is running away is telling us, that, according to Fassbinder, many women want to play men’s role in social and personal relations and that’ how they understand cultural development inside democracies – in a regressive, not progressive way.

Traditional Eros, with its possessive and dominating passions is engraved in the very spiritual archetypes of Western culture. Petra seduces as a Spirit, she shines and blinds as a Spirit, and her jealousy is so ultimate and so grandiose that it is the Spirit itself in her that is jealous and indignant about Karin’s “evil resistance”. And Petra’s suffering is so cosmic that it is the Soul’s monumental grief about the innate deceitfulness of evil nature. “What is spirit? – Fire, flame, burning, conflagration… Spirit is what inflames itself, setting itself on fire… Spirit catches fire and gives fire… Spirit gives soul” (Jacques Derrida, “Of Spirit [Heidegger and the Question]”, Un. of Chicago, 1989, p. 83 – 84) In this description of Spirit and Soul we immediately recognize Petra’s style of amorous self-inflammation and seducing frenzy of beauty and sophistication. Her spirit is forcing her soul to fall for Karin. “…the soul is on the way towards the earth… the soul seeks the earth… The soul is strange because it does not yet inhabit the earth.” (Jacques Derrida, Ibid, p. 88) Spiritual movement towards earth is also a fall. But a democratic recovery of Petra’s soul is possible at the end of the film.

Margit Carstensen’s incredible intonational versatility (in pronouncing Marlene’s name when she is calling her) – the intonational richness connected with giving the servant endless commands, orders and instructions refers to the multiplicity of Master’s needs to be satisfied. In Petra’s voice calling out for Marlene’s helping presence we hear all the tradition of slavery and perceive the masculine Eros ready to cool itself in the feminine receptivity’s masochistic generosity. But what about Petra’s arsenal of seductiveness? How, indeed, is she expecting to conquer Karin besides being financially generous (not too much) and promising her career and fame? The first scene of the film where Petra is awaken by Marlene and starts to beautify/canonize herself is a representation of the very beauty of the Spirit that mobilizes itself for strengthening of its seductive power. Petra’s artificial but so natural beauty shines, to borrow the phrase from Akira Kurosawa’s “Sanjuro”, as a drawn sword. “In the question of style there is always the weight or examen of some pointed object. At times this object may be only a quill or a stylus. But it could just as easily be a stiletto, or even a rapier. Such objects might be used in a vicious attack against what philosophy appeals to in the name of matter or matrix , an attack whose thrust could not but leave its mark, could not but inscribe there some imprint or form. But they might also be used as protection against the threat of such an attack, in order to keep it at a distance, to repel it… to meet the sea’s attack and cleave its hostile surface… the style might be compared to that rocky point, also called an eperon, on which the waves break at the harbor’s entrance… the style uses its spur (eperon) as a means of protection against the terrifying, blinding, mortal threat… style protects the presence, the content, the thing itself, meaning, truth [from becoming] deflowered in the unveiling of the difference.” (Jacques Derrida, “Spurs”, The Univ. of Chicago Press, 1978, p. 37 – 39.) Petra’s stylized beauty is this protective weapon against a potential or actual resistance on part of nature/Karin, expression of Petra’s desire to disarm Karin’s exercises in autonomy by making her blinded by her amorous admiration/adoration of Petra. This strategy is already not completely masculine, and Petra is already not only Apollo, but exactly Dionysus (as Fassbinder makes it by using Poussin’s painting) who “…is mainly a god of women… Dionysus is man and woman in one person.” (James Hillman, “The Myth of Analysis [Three Essays in Archetypal Psychology]”, Harper, 1972, p. 258) Petra carries the archetype of a productive mother; she is an artist-creator of beauty of soul and the very soul of beauty.

The intensity of Petra’s suffering because of Karin’s alleged “unfaithfulness” is a symptom of her spiritual androgynous-ness (metaphorically personifying democracy in comparison with hyper-masculinity of Western tradition) that finds expression in her lesbian desire. “Hysterical symptom is expression of both a masculine and a feminine unconscious sexual phantasy.” (James Hillman, Ibid, p. 261) But Petra‘s alcoholically induced paroxysm of suffering (in the fourth scene) plus her destructive behavior are not just “disease and insanity… it is the madness of ritualistic enthusiasm… We cannot subdue hysteria… unless we first recognize the God in the syndrome and see hysteria as a manifestation of His imagination.” (James Hillman, Ibid, p. 273) Petra’s “excessive” reaction on Karin leaving her is a work of art, as her love for Karin is. For this reason this reaction is able to give birth – to Petra’s psychological, moral and spiritual transformation. “For artistic creation has, in the course of its development, changed from a means of a furtherance of the culture of a community into a means for construction of personality.” (Otto Rank, “Art and Artist”, Agathon Press, 1975, p. 425) Petra’s art as a designer of women’s apparel even before her encounter with Karin played a central part of her personal life. Now she started to perceive it as “unsatisfactory substitute for real life”. (Otto Rank, Ibid, p. 428)

At the end of the film Petra has outgrown her profession as a tool to stimulate her personal life (and her personal life as a tool to inspire her professional creativity). Now she can love without her profession, and for this reason she can achieve a much higher level spiritually and professionally. Petra is ready for love without ontological rivalry, without conquering/dominating. That means that she is stepping away from the Western spiritual tradition. She becomes congruent with democracy. In the 21st century she as a film presence and personification of a human being becomes barely compatible with Western life.

The triangle of Petra-Karin-Marlene defines the traditional love as always being a matter of three ingredients – two lovers and a witness: the viewer, the audience, the referent group, the judging and gossiping community, the gaze, Argus. It is in front of the audience the ontological clash between the beloveds unfolds. Traditional (sado-masochistic in its symbiotic de-individualization) love is socio-morphic. It is essentially, by its social nature, conformist. It is always a performance, even when and especially when it is completely sincere and spontaneous.

“The Bitter Tears…” is Fassbinder’s “Last Year In Marienbad” transferred from rich (in symbolic connotations) locations to no less symbolically constructed modern interior divided into four areas – the functional: the place for professional activity, intimate (the bed for making love), cultural perspective – settling in traditions and wisdom (the giant picture reproducing Nicolas Poussin’s painting “Midas and Bacchus” – 1628 – 1629), and subsidiary (the maid and worker Marlene’s kingdom).

We see Petra in her psychological glory and her humiliation (when her bed embellished with three metal crowns) was removed and Petra lives on the carpet (looking like clouds to ironically emphasize the greatness of her torments), and at the very end of the film, in her humility and humanity. Petra, like Hermann in (Fassbinder’s) “Despair” and like Querelle (in his “Querelle”), is able to outlive the glories and horrors of traditional life and narcissistic ways of feeling about the world (a fundamental, according to Fassbinder, human sin-and-vice).

In the very beginning of the film Fassbinder makes an analogy between Petra and Marlene on the one hand and the two cats living in Petra’s house, on the other. Later he makes an analogy between Petra and Karin – and the two perfect uncovered female mannequins in different (in various moments of the film) poses including that of making love. The problem, registered by this symbolism is that between cat-ness (animal vitality) and mannequin-ness (being just a material support for artificiality – civilization) – in historical life there is not enough cultural space for a human psychological and spiritual development. In the factual world of Petra von Kant, Karin Timm and Marlene this development can only start on the basis of narcissistic frustration and mourning as a result of disappointment in cat-ness, mannequin-ness and incessant competition and rivalry. Petra was able to survive her narcissistic blow – her shattered aggrandized self-image, and is ready to start to live in a new way – beyond amorous symbiosis and its another side – fight for domination, in real relationships based on equality.

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. Transformation of a passive socio-morphic reality into active emotional manipulator is at 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.

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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)

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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.

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Vincent contemplates his inevitable suicide

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Van Gogh in the field (1)

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Van Gogh in the field (2)

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

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

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

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Vincent and Marguerite in love and in nature

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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

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

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Vincent after shooting himself

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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

Posted on July 6 2010 –   Vincent Van Gogh’s Suicide Self-Portraits – Painting into the Death  by Acting-Out Politics

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