Acting-Out Politics

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

“Teenage Blood Has Power to Restore Youth” (Article in “New Scientist Weekly”), New Scientist, Nov, 19, 2016

“Blood plasma from young people has rejuvenated old mice, boosting their memory, cognition and physical activity. The method shows promise for use in people… Earlier research found that injecting old mice with plasma – the liquid part of blood – from young mice can invigorate the brain and muscle… After receiving two human plasma injections a week, for three weeks, the middle age mice ran around like young mice. Their memories seemed to improve, and they were much better at remembering the route around the maze than untreated mice.

Young human plasma improves cognition… The blood of young people must have something in it that’s important for keeping them young… some factors in young blood might be responsible for these benefits. Anti-aging treatment [can benefit from it].”
(New Scientist, 19 November 2016, p. 10)

Observing the perspectives of our country’s development in the 21st century and juxtaposing it with the discovery of the human blood plasma’s value for prolonging life of the aging, we can deduce how much free space in time the successes of anti-aging treatment by the blood of the young will open for the members of financial elite.

It can be only imagined how young people from the poor segments of the population will be desperately happy to sell their blood for the sake of longevity of 1–2%. Blood banks will become as commercially savvy as commercial banks. The necessity to separate plasma from blood on the mass scale may start a growing industry with millionaires and billionaires on top. May be, intensification of blood trade inside US will raise GDP to unseen heights. Interesting, how availability of multinational blood plasma will intensify international trade and what will be the price difference, for example, between the plasma of white and colored youth. And, of course, numerous other questions will pop up, which will be successfully answered by the honorable practitioners of anti-aging blood industry in our promising future.

According to the literally thinking movie-critics (who survive on advertising movies to the consumers), the main character of the film is a “wandering criminal”, “a smalltime thief”, “a young hoodlum”, etc., and this characterizations are pettily true (for these people to be “right” is be literally, tautologically right). Of course, Michel Poiccard is also what they say he is, but something in him made Truffaut write a story about him, made Godard create a movie dedicated to his predicaments, and Godard and Truffaut are not Quentin Tarantino. Something in Michel makes Patricia Franchini, the American girl, working hard for her future in the realm of journalism, in France, let him to live in her tiny hotel room, be in love with him, betray him to police because of her love, and after he was murdered by police, make an oath of loyalty to his memory.

Something in Michel’s character is much more existentially “polyphonic” than it’s possible for a petty criminal. For example, in spite of the obvious absence of liberal arts education background in his past, he is much more refined, than Patricia’s friend – the licensed journalist. Michel is modest. With Patricia he is sensitive and acts with genuine humility. He doesn’t put up the macho defenses of either overconfidence or indifference. In spite of the shadow of independence he desperately needs Patricia’s love – for him it’s not enough to be sexually successful with her. It is, as if, his future and more, his identity depends on their love. It looks that Michel has a dream not just about a great love with Patricia outside France, but about alternative life outside the competitive and consumerist seductions and addiction to entertainment. Whatever he is, he is internally other for our stressful and chaotic environment. For Godard, he is, it seems, the personification of fundamental otherness, which in him exist on the level of almost unconscious sensibility, not yet fully incarnated neither in his personality, nor in his thinking. Can it be, that Michel Poiccard is the personification of a still embryonic genuinely democratic potential of our pompous and corrupted (by megalomania and cruelty) democracy?

Michel is an image of human potential for an alternative life. For what kind of alternative? It seems that it’s not completely specified even for Michel himself. We observe him in love with Patricia and see, that he is free from the need to manipulate her even unconsciously (as is the case in many “proper” spouses) to make her do and feel what he wants. We see how “democratically” he met her confession about betraying him to the police, without any narcissistic shock, not only without anger-and-fury at her, but without a trace of panic and losing himself in desperate situation. And he didn’t lose himself by trying to resist police – he didn’t try to shoot at the policeman or really run away. He slowly followed his final path towards freedom – until his death from the police bullet to his spine.

Michel’s last communication with the world took place when lying on the ground while dying, he, unable to speak, reproduced his mimic formula of conformism which only Patricia has understood. With Patricia Michel was confident but without any bravado. In a way, he is a big child, but a wunderkind. He is like an existentially spiritual potential in democracy, which in 21st century, when people are in a process of being reduced into rivals/fighters with others for financial success, has even less chances to develop.

“Breathless” belongs to the rarest kind of films which communicate not so much by its content, but through its form (by semantic tonalities and by narrative and visual metaphors) and address viewers’ mental sensations and non-circumstantial experiences-oriented intuitions. Such bizarre films’ communications are pedagogical, not authoritarian or seductive or provoking. In comparison with them the images of Hollywood-made or any entertaining movies are, in essence, slogans, authoritarian suggestions. Michel, on the other hand, can open himself to the soul of the viewers only through not-obvious (and non-habitual), because the realm of the obvious in perception is built on accepting propaganda and advertisement as truth and is congruent with viewers’ tendency to react in conformist way (in a conformist or blindly anti-conformist manner). To accept the obvious means not to think but to compulsively appropriate – things, ideas, emotions, or to refuse/destroy them without understanding. It means to live by blindly loving and equally blindly hating, with symbiotic immediacy.

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Michel’s (Jean-Paul Belmondo) childishly arrogant posture vis-a-vie Paris and its inhabitants and tourists.

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Godard filming a scene between Patricia and Michel in her tiny hotel room.

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Godard pushes Raoul Coutard (with his camera) on wheeled chair during shooting a scene

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Godard celebrates his first film with Jean Seberg (Patricia Franchini)

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Godard in “Breathless” impersonates/examines the very potential for secret informing in French citizens

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The tree in the depth we see at the distance between Patricia and “her friend” (who is helping her with her career) is the image of the very importance of social success in modern life. This makes the tree not only a tree of knowledge, but tree of life.

Emil Nolde’s “Masken III (1920) – Mask-Hands – A New Mask In Nolde’s Pantheon of Masks (These Condensed Images of Human Destiny)

Robotic Manipulation Of National And/Or Behavioral Minorities According To The New – Impersonalized Spirit Of Tam-Tam-Times

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Emil Nolde, “Masken III”, 1920

In “Masken III” we encounter three masks (which are easily identifiable as masks). All three, it seems, signify the three groups of population classified according to their place in the social hierarchy and/or degree of influence in socio-economic affairs during Nolde’s times in Germany and, surprisingly, in US today, after the Congressional and Presidential Election of 2016.

The mask in lower left corner of the canvass represents, it seems, the national and behavioral minorities. This mask is without any facial expression – without internality. It is not expressing the essence of the face, as Nolde’s masks usually are. The face which is normally coded by the mask, is blocked, eliminated – this is exactly what it means to belong to the minority group in a society of inequality – to wear face like mask. The human face in the depth of the mask is blocked from the perception as the unwelcome otherness.

Above the first mask we see the other two (both with facial expressions) signifying two main categories of the population by how they treat the minorities of their countries. The mask in the center is yellow and the one next above it is green with the red hair and beard. The yellow mask-face is expressing kindness and pity towards, as if, the empty mask (of the dark-pink color metaphorizing the accumulation of shame by those who are treated as inferiors). The yellow mask’s expression is love and compassion, yet simultaneously, condescension. This kind of love is blended with inequality – it asserts the equality of love together with inequality of patronage. Look at the mask-face of this lover of the inferior people (the middle mask-face), it… kisses the representative of the refused minority, kisses tenderly and softly. On the other hand, the red-green mask-face with opened teeth cannot hide its fierce-and-furious expression. The green-red man behind this mask obviously hates the minorities of his home country. His slightly opened mouth cannot be taken for a smile because of the deep vertical wrinkles over his nose, reinforced by the aggressive configuration of his eyebrows.

The two universal positions towards the national-behavioral minorities taken by the two dominant groups of the population, we in US can define as conservative and liberal. People with liberal-democratic sensibility are prone to defend the hated minorities from people with conservative sensibility, by asserting the equal right to be treated fairly, justly, as equals. Depicting the two contrasting positions (liberal and conservative) towards the minorities in historical perspective, Nolde added to liberal “humanism” Madonna-like compassion and to conservative intolerance – stern and pompous pagan militancy. “Masken III” contrasts the both, liberal and conservative positions with neo-modern-post-modern posture towards minorities which recently has developed in the West as a result of the cultural mutation in Western countries. It is this new posture, it seems, that inspired Nolde to add mask-hands into his pantheon of masks-faces as an aesthetic tools (of understanding societal life) at the disposal of his talent. It is this new position is the main point of the painting.

This new kind of a mask in Nolde’s pantheon of masks doesn’t look like a mask. It looks like two hands in gloves. Yes, these hands in antiseptic gloves is, indeed, a mask corresponding to a new, changing position of treating the national and/or behavioral minorities. “Traditional” masks are masks-faces. They are the essence of human facial expressions – of the life of human soul. But this new mask – a mask-hands, is the essence of human manipulative mind.

Masks for Nolde were the expression of the human internal world, but in future, according to him (which we today are occupying with such bombastic noise), masks already don’t express human internal world. Today, the human beings are manipulating the environment including other human beings. Today, human interaction is in a much lesser degree exchange of human emotions and minds or confrontation of human individualities. It is rather instrumental contact – between rivals or between allies, between bosses and employees, consumers and sellers, consumers and producers manipulating consumers in order to stimulate their consumption, between entertainers and the entertained, and between achievements of various achievers, etc. Today we permanently measure and calculate our success in society and with each other. This high degree of calculation in what we are doing creates a psychological situation that our manipulating hands (in the gloves of effectiveness) moved by our calculating minds (our proto-hands) occupy the place of human soul – the naïve, often disinterested, passionate and now more and more superfluous as an instrument of our growing domination over the world. Like mask-face reflects human soul, mask-hands reflect our manipulative – handling position towards the world including other people. Mask-hands point at the soul which has transformed into manipulating hands-tools operating with technology and soft-wares in order to dominate.

Today, the masks of the inhabitants of the 21st century are masks of manipulative hands – of their mental prototypes inside our minds. Hands in the hygienic gloves is a metaphor of a functional, manipulative position of what before was the human soul, towards the world.

The problem of national/behavioral minorities is one of the basic problems in human societies, as it was in Germany of 20s and even much more so in Western societies of the 21st century. The point here is the question of new strategies of handling the minorities, besides two traditional one – liberal and conservative. The new position which Nolde depicts in his painting is that of a perfected manipulation. The fourth type of mask reflects the recent over-development of a technical reason at the price of losing humanness. Fight for domination is more effective when it is done not with hate as such but with hate’s derivative – robotic indifference of coldly and methodically planned repressive and eliminative behavior.

Existentialist Sensitivity vs A Life Consisting of Obsessions, Seductions, Career Rivalries and Fight for Financial Advantage

1960 film about a wandering criminal (Jean-Paul Belmondo) and his American girlfriend (Jean Seberg)…
Wikipedia

A small-time thief steals a car and impulsively murders a motorcycle policeman. Wanted by the authorities, he reunites with a hip American Journalism student and attempts to persuade her to run away with him to Italy.
IMDb

Michel is a young hoodlum who meets up with American student Patricia, an aspiring journalist. Patricia agreed to hide him… The authorities close in, she betrays him.
New wave film.com

You cannot carry out fundamental change without a certain amount of madness. In this case, it comes from nonconformity, the courage to turn your back on the old formulas. The courage to invent the future.
Thomas Sancara, President of Burkina-Faso (Thomas Sancara was assassinated on Oct. 15, 1987)

Michel is not an existentialist philosopher and is not in any way a specialist in this philosophy or a follower of it as a doctrine. He is a spontaneous, visceral existentialist. His existentialism is not conscious, it is emotional, tactile. As his existential project it is in him all in unknown future. It is not born yet. It has to be consciously, verbally, mentally and creatively elaborated. But it never will get a life
V.E.

Michel is a proto-existentialist, an embryo of an existentialist man or, may be, existentialist baby-orphan.
V.E.

Summary of the film

Part 1. Michel is acting out the survivalist lessons of everyday life
Part 2. How to awaken people’s existentialist sensitivity and disappear into existential alternative of the factual world?
Part 3. The corner of two confused souls and two overburdened by symbolic connotations human bodies
Part 4. Patricia’s repentance and Michel’s prophetic verdict on people’s conventional future


A Bout de Souffle 1960 Breathless English Subtitles


Patricia and her journalist-friend helping her career

JLG makes his first feature-length film

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Godard (in the center), Raoul Coutard (with camera) and Jean-Paul Belmondo (Michel Poiccard lying on the road) are shooting the finale of the film

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Godard is discussing with Jean Seberg and Jean-Paul Belmondo their characters’ motivations

Michel’s critical posture toward the society

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Michel’s mimic formula of people’s conformism in WWII democratic society

Michel, the bastard of existentialist sensitivity (which nobody except Godard and, maybe, Truffaut know how it could fly into his soul), doesn’t feel that he belongs to a country of existentialist philosophers and writers – to a democracy of individual self-assertion, competitive ambitions and traditions of humanistic phraseology

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For Michel, an amateur anarchist, the craft of out-maneuvering and out-fooling his fellow humans is too degrading and boring. Here, we see him looking at the world, as if, he is an alien amidst a pseudo-pragmatic and chaotic environment.

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Michel’s particular gesture of, as if, zipping up his mouth is a sign of refusing to talk in the way personal communication is understood in this society – platitudes about personal achievements, sharing career-and-success dreams and plans, and laughing together at other people different “from us”.

Patricia Franchini – a tough little butterfly in a big world

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Patricia, conventionally respectful and a bit frightened by a world where she is doomed to try to achieve and secure her success, enters the complex of shops, restaurants and movie theater – a kingdom where you feel immediately belonging to the magic power of the dominant way of life.

Michel and Patricia or Patricia and Michel?

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Patricia loved what she felt as Michel’s power of character, and she loved the aura of mysteriousness around it, but she knew that this power doesn’t correspond to the society in which she planned to live and succeed in. She learned to love Michel’s dedication to an unknown alternative to the reality they both known – another life perceivable only as a big volume of sensed and felt “something else”. But the stronger she loved him the stronger became his desire to meet this alternative together with her, to discover this not yet existing world together with her.

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More and more Patricia’s love was able to make his existentialist dream, which was defined only by his sensations and feelings – stronger in Michel’s soul, and it made him more depended on her existence. He began to feel that without Patricia’s love he is just a bum mixed up in petty crimes. It is Patricia who made him to feel his dream as a beautiful future world with alternative sensibility, a world of their progeny which will be better and wiser human beings than people they both saw around them. With Patricia’s love Michel now felt himself not just as the carrier of an unknown future (about which he himself didn’t really know much about), but as a master of spiritual resistance to the bankrupt routine values.

Love and making love

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Love dreams to have a physical particularization, to conquer the flesh, teach it sublimation and refinement, while making love needs love for justification and intensification

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Godard’s lovers in “Breathless” want “equality” and harmony between love and making love. They want love to be like making love and love-making – like love

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Here we see a moment when Michel becomes part of Patricia’s body, when part becomes equivalent of the whole, when body becomes face

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This (Michel’s) gaze is not only directed at Patricia, without whom the realization of his dream is impossible. But it is also Michel’s gaze at the viewers, at the people in general – he needs them to understand him and her, to understand their dream, which he himself doesn’t know how to explain or even depict.

Heroes and role-models of today’s world, antagonistic to the very spirit of Michel’s existence

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Superstar of fame and wealth (played by Jean-Pierre Melville)

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Police Inspector Vital (played by Daniel Boulanger)

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Inspector Vital is obviously taking pleasure from having power over life and death.

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Wounded Michel Poiccard is not trying to run away from the police or resist. Betrayed by desperate Patricia (whose love for him was forcing her to make too radical change in her life and priorities), whom he gave the chance to abandon him, Michel is running somewhere in the direction of his uncertain existentialist dream.

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Michel’s last communication – his mimic critical formula of people’s (Patricia’s) conformism – greed to consume pleasures provided by society in exchange for obedience; the polite and happy smile trying to persuade those around that a smiling person is loyal to habitual life, and seriousness in trying to make career and success for my own pleasures and to please the decision-makers and their bodyguards.

____________

From the first shots of the film we see Paris around the “blobs” of Michel Poiccard’s close-ups and the feverish geometry of his attempts to steal a car or money through a combined strategy of speed, cheerfulness, resourcefulness and violence – competence he borrowed from this city by observing people’s tireless efforts and through the entertaining media and generic ideology of personal success and capability. Modern city doesn’t exist without its inhabitants’ self-aggrandizing prowess, when the bragging haves and the proudly desperate have-nots narcissistically compete – who will out-smart, out-appropriate and out-consume whom. Modern cities don’t exist without the heights of fights, teeth of theft, violins of violence, mania of money, dance of guns, pearls of girls, solace of sales, peaches of riches and malice of the police.

These introductory close-ups of Michel (transforming Paris into a background) simultaneously interrupt Paris (show his discontinuity from it, connect him with it (show his congruence with it) and hint at how important the twisted icon of his face is for the viewers to brood about this character’s identity and personality. Here, Godard, as if, suggests the topics for the viewers’ mental focus – Paris and Michel Poiccard, Michel Poiccard and Paris or Michel Poiccard as or for or vs. Paris.

From the first urbanistic action-episodes Michel acts, as if, “automatically”, in a trance. Look at his proud postures and almost contemptuous grimace when he observes the world while calculating his opportunities to succeed and be, at least for a while, on top. He, as if, all the time emphasizes his separateness from a world which he, as if, has been inserted into not by his own will. His actions of theft or moments of violence are, as if, part of the videogames he temporary felt belonging to. These action-moments, as though, didn’t belong to his personality and are activated by some autonomous fragments of his soul. And yet, when you look at the screen it feels that all these criminal street pantomimes somehow belong to his personality. In this sense it is impossible to deny the ambiguity of Michel as the hero of the film.

Godard’s point here is, it seems, that in the modern society a film hero cannot be completely positive – when movies represent a hero as such then the art is lying, and therefore it is not real art – it is just (commercial) entertainment or/and ideological propaganda. The lesson about moral ambiguity of post-modern hero Godard created in “Breathless” he repeated in “Le petit soldat” (1962), “Band of Outsiders” (1964), “Perrot le fou” (1965) and, of course, “Made in U.S.A.” (1965) with Anna Karina as Paula Nelson. Godard again and again tells us that we, today’s people, are immoral even when we deserve some respect and even admiration, that we have to forget the vicious illusion that it is adequate for us to be represented as moral and decent people (because in our essence we – the children of Western democratic post-WWII boom, can be, for the most part, only poseurs of positivity, not role-models, but role-muddles).

The moral ambiguity of the main characters whose immorality has to be redeemed through them being victimized or sacrificed, makes this self- or circumstantial sacrifice the only way for Godard’s positive heroes to be finally considered as role-models. It is this type of a semantic twist-knot that explains the role of Patricia Franchini in Michel’s victimization, meaning not so much her unintentional and “approximate” participation in his murder, but her love for Michel. It is, as if, her love to a substantial degree is responsible for him being murdered by the police and to a much more substantial degree makes him a hero of a very spirit of democratic times. Public consciousness accepts Michel as a democratic hero only through his sacrifice – (sacrifice is a common denominator of totalitarian and democratic cultures – both cultures of wars).

It is, as though, “Breathless”, on the one side is suggesting that Michel is a rare and a tremendous person, and on the other, that he is dirtied by the reality and poisoned by infantile bravado and megalomaniacal idealism. It is this that leads to the film’s semantically structural solution that Michel has to be redeemed through being victimized. It is, as if, Patricia’s love for him is determined by her feeling of his existential spirituality (in a form of existentialist dream) as a secular variant of his life after his death stamped by her over-pompous oath.

But why does Michel need Patricia? Why is he pursuing her? Why doesn’t he go to Italy on his own or with somebody else? Is it because without her he will waste the meaning of his trip and then from a Parisian petty criminal he will just become an Italian one? May be, it is exactly togetherness with Patricia helped him to feel his dream of alternative way of life as a real and vitally important. May be, he doesn’t want her to become a careerist pursuing life of intellectual technician of professional knowledge and verbal entertainer. He needed her trust, her belief in his dream, for the sake of himself and herself.

Michel and Patricia’s love for each other is their belief in an alternative existential sensibility. Their love is not nucleus of their relationship and stimulus of their revolutionary dream, but conversely, this nucleus is their humanistic dream (on the level of their feelings). Michel’s alternative (existentialist) sensibility when applied privately – to loving Patricia, and understood by her as his love for her – becomes psychologically a revolutionary dream. Can it be that this turned-over “construction” of their love makes this couple a genuinely revolutionary (revolutionary in an authentic sense, when “radicalism” is that of the very psychological sensitivity, not ideological dogma).

The issue of revolutionary dream (in a sense of a revolutionary inspiration, not in a doctrinal sense) becomes in Michel/Patricia relationship the very genuineness, the very depth of their love. In philistine couples, on the other hand, the content of their dream is determined by the tautological content of their love. A genuine revolutionary dream (for example, a humanistically democratic dream) is a very difficult to approach and to nurture – it is always “not from this world”, like genuine love. Both resist verification and naïve – symbiotic belief. This kind of dream Patricia wasn’t able to completely psychologically co-create/incarnate for herself and for Michel, she still needed proof, still needed to put him through ordeal. In comparison with Michel she carried in her soul a heavy load of philistinism (consisting of conformism, indifference to otherness and materialistic dream). For this reason she was able to keep getting help with her career from her friend – licensed journalist – she was able to swallow the “refined vulgarity” of this “establishment democrat”. With Michel she couldn’t resist putting him through the ordeal of having to prove his love. Of course, he passed the ordeal only too well. His death at the hands of the police became the proof Patricia is left with – the proof of his love at the price of his life. The revolutionary dream flew out of their love as a butterfly – from chrysalis and became a matter of (immaterial) pathos, while their love became Michel’s fresh corpse.


Clip from the film

Pierre – the main character of the film is a rare type of a screen hero. He is a scholar – his thinking and sensitivity belong to the area of humanistic sciences (the liberal arts). Commercial (entertaining) movies (the most of cinematic artifacts), on the other hand, are designed as pop-goods and oriented on typical tastes nurtured in people by consumerist culture and formed by human desire to get from the moving images instant gratification. Mass movies are based on the characters which are similar with the majority of the viewers/consumers who need to see on the screen first – themselves, and second – as psychologically embellished, although not in too obvious way (they need to think of themselves as the good guys and they like to feel upright indignation and righteous hate for the bad ones).

It is not surprising that Pierre (Jean Desailly), with all his years of experience, successful career and intellectual confidence, fell – not for a young and pretty stewardess (Francoise Dorleac), although Nicole is “young and pretty”, but for her “soul’s soft skin” – a combination of words which will not make much sense for many people. The best they could do it’s to think that they’re either dealing here with science fiction or comedy. With Nicole all Pierre’s views on love were shaken. But what Pierre didn’t consider is that he was part of a mighty, despotic and ideologically jealous social institution named marriage. No, marriage is not an obstacle for having affairs with pretty stewardesses and in our liberal times it can be easily exchanged for divorce settlements, compromise constructions of marital relationships, naked money, etc. But Pierre’s wife Franca who is his peer and friend and the mother of their daughter, was able to understand the irresistibility of Nicole as an “existential metaphor” of human soul’s “soft skin”, and in her jealousy, instead of focusing on the obvious – on her husband’s amorous choice’s youthfulness and beauty, she turned to the absolute – ontological rivalry with Nicole.

Franca became the protector of the social institution of marriage and “wedlock love”, (which both became in her eyes monumental and sacred), and the poor soft skinned soul, Nicole – became in Franca’s mind a talisman of the devil. At this point Truffaut’s narrative is transformed into a detective story.

“The Soft Skin” is a film about how existential spirituality can assert itself inside the very eroticism, and how creative human love can be.

But the detective resolution of the narration is problematized or even undermined by the exceptional symbolism of “soft skin”, which makes the film to transcend itself. Even with its Hitchcockian overtones “The Soft Skin” is, unexpectedly, the most (existentially) spiritual of Francois Truffaut‘s films.


Punishment for marital and amorous betrayal

Posted on 10/20/’16 – Francois Truffaut’s “The Soft Skin” (1964) – Marriage As A Mutually Appropriated Human Relationship VS “Soft Skin” Of The Human Soul by Acting-Out Politics


“Heart of Glass” by Werner Herzog (1976) – (Full film)


“Ontological rivalry” between two beer buddies.

The film depicts life in German provincial semi-town-semi-village in a slow transition from 18h to 19th century, and it is this depiction if to consider its anthropological authenticity and scrupulous attention to details. But it is, conversely, the historical scope of the film, its applicability to various epochs including our own – the beginning of 21st century, that makes it a unique achievement of cinematic art as an aesthetic and cognitive contribution to human culture and our understanding of the world and human life.

Especially important in Herzog’s analysis of the condition of human beings in relation to their ability to think about the world and themselves in it, are two topics. The first one is the difference between the mixture of everyday common(non)sense and technical (applied) thinking about the problems (which Herzog examines in relation to ordinary/regular human beings personified by the two peasants and drinking buddies – Ascherl and Wudy), and, on the other hand, the very human ability to think about life holistically, that the director studying by focusing on the “intellectuals” of the local community – the owner of the ruby glass producing factory (an aesthete and worshipper of the ruby glass) and the shepherd-seer Hias. The second topic is that of the overwhelming difficulties these two exceptional characters of the film have to face in order to enrich their own and the local people’s lives with spiritual meaning in order to try to overcome the blind despotic impulses of rivaling and dominating behavior. Herzog describes our “intellectuals’” sometimes ambiguous or even crudely fallacious attempts to distract human souls from fear-and-hate as admirable and tragic human efforts to overcome the limitations of our human nature. The director gives us chance to witness how fight with archaic prejudices and superstitions creates new, sometimes not less prejudicial and superstitious attempts to comprehend human life (when tiny pieces of genuine knowledge are born together with new illusions).

Humans have the ability to define the “essence” (or the “heart”) of different things, which is a masked imitation of human heart, based on our introjection/identification with this essence by the fragment of our psyche, which created/invented it in the first place through unconscious projection on the wings of imagination. The heart of the ruby glass (of this magnificent, beautiful artifact) is the creation of a creative human heart which with god-like generosity likes to baptize various things with human essence, following the glorious sin of anthropomorphism. The problem here is that the heart of glass is glassy, and it means that the human heart defining the essence of the ruby glass’ heart is also becoming, as if, made of glass (through projection and then introjection and identification with it). It becomes de-existentialized/dehumanized. Heart of the ruby glass could be alright as a mechanical sublime object, but the human heart symbiotically tied to it psychologically, is a victim of the ruby glass’ beauty – it becomes glassy, it is losing its existential sensitivity. It is the price of having a deal with things, working with them and especially inventing them. Human psyche is intimately connected with the human environment. We cannot avoid partial identification with the world we interact with, and especially with our own artifacts we use. The danger of robotization of the human soul has become, for example, very actual today as a result of internalization/identification with computer systems and smart gadgets.

But it doesn’t matter how unbearable – aggressive, stupid, smart in a stupid way and fanatical the personages of the “Heart of Glass” are – Herzog’s art transforms the impossible people into those whom we perceive through the magic glasses of sublimated vision. With Herzog’s help we still understand these people’s humongous shortcomings (similar to that many of us today carry inside), but we are not irritated with them, and our scapegoating reflex kept locked. Herzog‘s aesthetic analysis of human beings not only helps our minds to get rid of our blissful blindness toward our own history and our own present life, but also “cleans” us, while we’re experiencing the film, from indignation and disgust, righteous hate and contempt – it transforms our negative emotions into intellectual sensitivity. Herzog’s art in “Heart of Glass” is democratic – it creates in us a democratic instead of hateful reaction on other people. While commercial (entertaining) and ideologically propagandist movies through polarization of positive and negative characters stimulate human antagonistic feelings and closing the possibility for change, directors like Werner Herzog open the perspective for understanding as such and, therefore, gives us the chance for participating in the change through opening the gates, which hate always closes.

Posted on Sep, 18 2016 –   Werner Herzog’s “Heart of Glass” (1976) – Apocalypse In Fragments of Life That Is, As If, Hypnotized By the Historical Process – Anthropological Etude On Human Superstitions And Prejudices by Acting-Out Politics

Emil Nolde’s “Masks II, 1920 – Totalitarian and Post-totalitarian Populations and Their, Correspondingly, Traditionally Totalitarian and Neo-totalitarian Leaders

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Emil Nolde, “Masks II”, 1920

Look at the exclamatory mask in the very center of Nolde’s canvass – with grey face, dark internality, predatory mouth and bloody eyelids encircling greedy eyes which are searching for dissimilar others to victimize them, and with teeth hurt by the human flesh. Pay attention to the color of this mask-face’s teeth – the same as the flesh of the two peripheral masks (one on the extreme left and the other on the extreme right of the canvass) representing, it seems, the human masses, population “ruled” by the grey – traditionally-totalitarian, and the purple-red – neo-totalitarian, leaders.

Four masks which we see in the painting, grouped by Nolde into two “pairs”. The masks of the left pair are in frontal visual relations with the viewers, while the masks of the right pair are represented in profile, as if, their users don’t want to be recognized for what they really are and prefer to keep their enigmatic nature. The two left masks-faces (grey and yellow) have a widely opened holes for eyes, as if the darkness (of immoral intention, as in grey mask, or suffering, as in yellow one) is their very gaze, while in the two masks-faces on the right of the canvass the eyes are, as if, closed, and their facial expressions, as if, is controlled and enigmatic, as it happens with people who try to hide their real thoughts. The mouths of the masks on the left are opened with artificial smiles (in yellow mask this is forced smile, as if the person was intimidated, while in a grey mask the smile is shining and showy). We are shocked by the drastic absence in the grey mask-face of many teeth. The two masks on the right of a canvass (which are turned away from the people) are not only with closed eyes, but with closed mouths as well.

The grey and melancholically red-blue (blended into purplish) masks are dominating over their yellow counterparts by imposing themselves on them. It seems important that if dominating masks are of different colors, dominated ones are both yellow (we have a deal here with different types of domination). In the left “couple” the grey mask impresses us with its thick and healthy beard, while the yellow (barbarically turned upside down) mask-face has a disastrously few and thin – wispy hair, mockingly put “in line” with the grey mask’s beard. By the contrast, the protagonists symbolized by the masks to the right part of the canvass are, as if, hygienically cultivated – they are without any discernable hair or any beard. As we see, similarity between the “two mask couples” is not symmetrical. The left two masks are not only different in color (like masks located to the right of the canvass), but are different in their type of vertical position (one – the grey, corresponds to the “normal” position of human body, while another – the yellow, refers to the body which is violently mistreated), and also left masks are different in the types of smiles (fake in the grey mask-face and forced in the yellow one). Besides, on the left yellow mask-face we see the projection of greyness from the grey one in the form of grey blotches and spots, while it is not the case with the yellow mask positioned on the right side, which is just slightly shadowed by the purplish leader.

The left couple then points at traditional totalitarian leader and sadistically manipulated by him traditional totalitarian population that forced to smile while suffering from deprivations, fears and physical abuse. On the other hand, the right couple of masks refers to a post-traditional totalitarian society, where leaders are much more sophisticated oppressors. They follow ruling principle of consumerist prosperity, filling people with goods which make masses satisfied like kids are happy with toys, and forgetful about more “adult” concept of freedom than freedom to eat not healthy food and consume cheap and psychologically degrading entertainment (the facial expression of silent stupefied satisfaction in the yellow mask to the right of canvass is impressive).

The gray mask representing the traditional totalitarian leader (with his opened and lacking teeth mouth) promising a future tense happiness (look at the bravado cheerfulness of his facial expression) – reminds the masses that the price of this future happiness is material deprivation in present life. No such contradictions can be detected in relations between the post-traditional totalitarian leader (with his Mephistophelian mask-face) and mass society of consumerism. Of course, the facial expression of this post-traditionally totalitarian leader is tricky – he, obviously, doesn’t share with the masses what he really thinks, but people are noticeably happy, and their nose (so long that there is not enough place for it on the canvass) is always ready to be moved in any direction by robotic fingers of the rulers (according to the proverb about being led by the nose) into a paradise, here not communist by the technocratic.

Traditional repression is based on deprivation (metaphorized by the broken-and-missing teeth of the traditionally-totalitarian leader’s mask – the feature signifying people’s everyday life made by him austere and miserable), but the post-traditional repression is based on immediate seduction of the people by material pseudo-prosperity. More exactly, even traditional repression, as Nolde shows us, has a smiling face – with promise of happiness, and in this sense, it also is based on seduction, but on suspended – “spiritual” one, future oriented, not material one in actual sense (material happiness is promised, but not in present tense, as in post-traditional repressive society). The similar color of the marginally left mask and the marginally right one identifies the populations of the two types of political system. If in the mask symbolizing the traditional totalitarian masses the yellow color is marked by greyness characterizing traditional totalitarian system, the mask to the right, representing the prosperous crowd, carry on its yellow surface only a shadow of the post-traditional leader.

The tyrant and the obedient population of the left masks-couple echoes the Mephistophelian post-traditional totalitarian leader and the happy consumer of the right one. In the left mask-couple people know that they are not happy, but in the right one they think that they are happy at the price of freedom of self-determination, the inability to make any productive choices outside the financially calculated ones. In both situations you cannot find yourself outside the opportunities provided by decision-makers.

Still, the centrality of a tt-leader (traditionally-totalitarian leader) on the canvass tells us that traditional totalitarianism still keeps a dominant role over post-traditional. Today, this fact is confirmed by the success of Drum-Trumpet in 2016 American Presidential election, by the growing popularity of conservative and neo-conservative political parties in Europe, with right-wing ideas, and by the new wars which are in a process of being prepared by an overwhelming American military spending roughly equal to that of the all other countries of the world put together. Emil Nolde’s intuition again proved to be prophetic. Bizarre and “fuzzy” images sometimes are smarter than ideas and concepts, and intuitive visions can be more truthful than scientific predictions.

Love Formed By The Social Materiality Of Marriage Is A Psychological Defense, It’s Not A Disinterested Experience

Truffaut on the set of “Soft Skin”

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Truffaut is psychologically involving Francoise Dorleac (playing the role of Nicole) to be in tune with this character’s unique style of reacting on the world.

Marriage as love and social institution where both need protection

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Husband and wife, Pierre and Franca are not just enjoying the hunting season. They are, as if, permanently on guard, even when they are not conscious about it. What are the heroes of Truffaut’s film guarding? Their marital relations, of course, and its soul – their love.

Seven shots of a wife’s archetypal existential pantomime of defending her love and marriage (the malady and melody of intra-marital calculation to save marriage and love)

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When Franca became worried, jealous and suspicious (she knows that the Demon often takes the appearance of a little boy named Amour/Eros), she began to act archetypally to protect her dignity, love, marriage and family

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Franca started to torment Pierre with her suspicions and interrogations

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The wife started to demand truth, “whatever it is”, she became “righteousness personified”, she became the fighter for human decency.

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Playing on her husband’s guilty feelings Franca kept returning him to her grief in the hope that he will leave the un-say-able truth behind and then they’ll return to the blissfully blossoming past

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Eventually Franca becomes not only furious at her husband but desperately and powerlessly violent. They both felt as victims. They both felt like unjustly punished children.

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The wife even started to try to seduce her husband, who continued to hide the truth – he loved his wife for many years, and still wasn’t indifferent towards her emotionally and sexually.

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Again and again and in vain Franca tried to resurrect the romantic years of their youth – she already didn’t want to return to the years of happy loyalty, now she wants much more – beautiful youthful excesses of passion

[Viewers are invited to analyze the previous seven stills from the film, while focusing not only on the psychology of spouses but on the compositions of shots rich in symbolic details, for example, on the symbolism of “jumping mirror” or the role of marital bed in Franca’s growing suspicion about Pierre’s disloyalty]

Human soul’s soft skin

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Nicole’s gaze was like a tranquil well – no winds, no currents, not even reflections

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It‘s of no surprise that Nicole fell in love with Pierre, a charming, interesting, witty and caring man

Mystery of the soul’s soft skin

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Pierre didn’t understand yet, that Nicole’s soft skin was that of her soul, not of her body. He felt with her like being in another world, gentle, soft, without any planning or need for achievements. How could a young pretty stewardess who surely has had experienced love affairs, have this aura?

Is it possible to appropriate and possess the soft skin of another person’s soul, to be its loving and caring patron?

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Pierre wanted to buy an apartment for Nicole, to her own name – a place where they could be alone – out of this world

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Nicole listened unable to feel any response. She loved Pierre and appreciated his dedication, but… she wanted just to live love. It looked that she felt completely alien to his project – to build their life, organize their living, to transform life into settlement, into placing a saddle on love…

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Nicole wanted to return Pierre to life and to love, without attempts to prove her anything, without being occupied with securing/building their future.

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Pierre’s obsessive enthusiasm over their future was robbing Nicole of what she knew – living like loving.

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At this point Pierre found himself beyond choice between the lovely young woman and his wife with whom he shared years and their daughter. For the first time this famous publisher and lecturer with a successful career, and confident and an energetic problem-solver confronts the impossibility to live as he used to.

The punishment for transgressing the logic of marital love for the sake of mystique of “soft skin”

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An abandoned wife Franca feels herself on a mission to save her love and marriage

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A betrayed and abandoned wife’s last attempt not to allow the betrayal of amorous and marital relations to take place.

Jean-Luc Godard and Francois Truffaut

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Jean-Luc Godard and Francois Truffaut. Pay attention to Jean-Luc’s fascinated but a bit condescending smile as a part of his friendly togetherness with Francois.
___________________________

Superficial reaction on “Soft Skin” is its perception as an aromatic romance, an awful-waffle love story. We are prone to mix love with strong-string ties between two human beings to the degree of being obsessed with erotic possessiveness (“you are mine”, – saying typical beloved in the decisive moments of forgetting about the world, “and I am yours”; “Tonight I will be yours”, “right now we are one”, etc.). We love the feeling that the other person (“my” beloved) belongs… not to “me”, of course, but to our love, our togetherness or/and to our formal/informal pact or marriage. The possessor of a wife (like possessor of a husband) is not a husband or wife correspondingly (to feel that they are and that this is ok to feel like that could be crudely non-democratic – an authoritarian prejudice, we are more refined than that), the possessor of our spouse is our relationship itself – our love and our marriage, our earthly and our sublime cave-castle, our marital and amorous sacred bonds.

To blend love and possession, as we habitually do in our perception of love is to be fascinated by the power of love. We are prone to perceive possessiveness (hiding behind love as body behind the shining clothes) as love. We habitually consider jealousy and the desire to avenge for amorous betrayal as motivated (“inspired”) by love. In “Soft Skin” we see love, stabilized and fundamentalized by marriage (bonds between Franca and Pierre), and we also see love which is much more sublime than possessive love (the one between Nicole and Pierre – phenomenon based on another model of human ties – that of spiritual relationship which incorporates Eros).

Conflict between “marriage-d” love or possessive love without marriage on the one hand, and a love inspired by unhardened skin of the human soul (the “soft skin” as the basic metaphor of the film) which Pierre feels as though, personified in Nicole is the very semantic structure of the film.

The semantic nuance complicating this structure is the fact that for Franca, Pierre’s wife, her husband’s betrayal is a much more justified target for revenge than her husband’s beloved. In a way, this is psychological sophistication – the feeling that the new beloved of “my” beloved is not “guilty” for the betrayal. In Truffaut’s film the focus of revenge is this betrayal itself. It is like a treason during war – punishment focuses on the person who has committed treason. So, betraying the marital (amorous) ties is considered by Franca’s unconscious as a much stronger “sin” than the autonomous, “out of wed-lock” sexual desire. There is no evidence for the presence in Franca a competitive emotion toward the much younger woman, who is “objectively” more attractive than most women of Franca’s age. So, what is determining Franca’s indignation and hate? Is it mysterious something that the film defines as “soft skin” (Franca saw Nicole’s photos)? May be, Franca senses in Nicole this mysterious quality (not Nicole’s prettiness at all), which makes her mad with fury to the point of readiness to reduce whole situation to a tragic collapse of rationality.

The main point of the film, it seems, is the beauty and nobility of the phenomenon of Nicole’s “soft skin” as existentially-spiritual value, opposite of a world of hard careerism (indiscriminate profit-making by neocons), and soft careerism (by people with liberal sensibility). Nicole is so different not only from Pierre’s wife Franca and Pierre himself but from their world. The character and the social posture of Pierre is fundamentally important for understanding of “soft skin” as a basic metaphor of the film. His amorous sensitivity for this feature of Nicole already makes him an exceptional person. He is in love with “soft skin”, with the not hardened human heart, with softness of uncalculating mind, with human soul as a spiritual alternative to our greedy and possessive pseudo-rational civilization. That’s why Truffaut’s Pierre is rare event, even in the European cinema, not to mention American movies. He is a liberal scholar. His drive for success is fierce, but it’s not comparable with the neo-conservative drive to conquer the world through financial seduction, bribery and through military control pompously named liberation. Pierre’s love for Nicole is that of a scholarly person with cultivated taste for human otherness. Without this he couldn’t be amazed with the strange character of a pretty stewardess. His love for Nicole is no way a typical reaction of an elder man on irresistible girl in her early twenty. That’s exactly why Franca felt that she cannot allow him to continue. She is as rude in her settlement in her husband’s social success, as he himself in his confidence in his professional competence. But in spite of all this, Pierre is a person with undeniable democratic sensibility, while Franca is personification of anti-democratic – megalomaniacal side of democracy, its conservative: anti-spiritual and anti-humility side.

Pierre and Nicole’s love is a challenge to the complacency of secular democracy which is turning away from spiritually-humanistic goals and instead dedicating itself to strengthening its economic and military power over the globe.

Truffaut’s film starts as a personal drama and ends as a personal tragedy, but through the detective stylization of urbanistic and interiors’ camera angles, we come to feel that it is our very way of life itself that is mobilized in front of our eyes against even tiny whirlpool of otherness in the souls of two human beings.

Posted on 11/10/’16 –   “The Soft Skin” (1964) By Francois Truffaut by Acting-Out Politics

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