23 Apr 2017
War started as a war of religion, but became a war for supremacy and gain… In war, terrible things happen which have nothing to do with victory. Killing civilians, prisoners and the wounded does not contribute to victory. Sparing their lives is good for all sides. If I spare the lives of captured enemy soldiers and the enemy spares the lives of my own soldiers who are captured, everybody wins… When two states have a quarrel, they should go to an international court and accept its judgment peacefully… The only completely moral army is the army that does not fight.
Uri Avnery, March 17, 2017
In “Life and Nothing But” Tavernier examines the emotional hurdles that separate history from truth…
Real soldier is the one who doesn’t kill – who is on the side of the killed. Real courage is to be in war without touching a weapon, to meet war face to face, not trigger-to-trigger, to know war without protecting oneself from it, to feel war’s cowardly and for this reason – belligerent heart. Real understanding of war is to carry in your heart cosmic life as opposite of war’s cosmic destruction of life
Poster of Tavernier’s film – major Dellaplane’s gaze at a world at war
Bertrand Tavernier on the set of “Life and Nothing but/La vie at rien d’autre”
Pay attention to the facial expression of the soldier in the foreground of the shot – he is wounded, but what is killed is his soul, and it will be difficult to resurrect it. It’s much easier to provide a maimed soldier with artificial limbs, than to heal his soul. Neither armies, nor the so called peaceful life in modern societies occupied with competition and entertainment and preparation for new wars, are equipped to do it.
Everyday life of war, when it’s not “lubricated” by stimulating hate and exciting killings
Major Dellaplane and Irene de Curtil, two heroic followers of symmetrical moral ideals
Irene is trying to find her husband who is missing in action as hundreds of thousands of young people, but for her the truth about war(s) will remain for quite some time beyond her knowledge and scope of her emotional life.
Dellaplane is trying to get Irene understand that today’s wars are not about “defending our country” against an enemy (as official propaganda on both sides has it and suggests it to the young servicemen), but about cynical profiteers on both sides making a mutually profitable business deals while low rank servicemen of countries at war are killing each other.
Major Dellaplane and the French top militarizes and some segments of political -establishment
Dellaplane and Irene as an alternative – beyond-wars amorous couple, not touched by jingoistic bravado and pop-megalomania and economy of greed of pro-war societies
What Dellaplane is as a man, Irene (Sabine Azema) is as a woman – both are guardians of humane values, carriers of courage to stand against making profit at the expense of life, and people with the ability to love in the kingdom of hate, greed and destruction.
When we are intent to watch a war movie, we are not prepared for anything like Tavernier’s film. We are used to propaganda and commercial movies for mass consumption, which imply that war means clashing of armies, killing enemies and, unfortunately, also sometimes being killed and wounded – for the sake of our country (war is war and those who hate us are always somewhere in the world sitting behind the rocks and trees with machineguns). We‘re used to watching on the screen, under the drum rhythms of our own heartbeats, the acts of heroism on the part of our soldiers and caricaturized representation of our enemies. And we become more righteous in our always justified hate and more self-aggrandized in our always justified belligerence. We become braggarts of our military power and loud proclaimers of our best-ness in comparison with our “miserable and contemptible enemies”.
“Life And Nothing But”, on the other hand, withdraws from showing battles, fights, resourceful killings and heroic self-sacrifices. Here we don’t see faces mobilized for the battle, that share with the viewers their solemn awareness of the possibility of being killed and their courageous readiness for the final act of “glorious” self-sacrifice for the sake of “our country, the best in the world”. But Tavernier doesn’t want the viewers’ easy and pleasant identification with the heroes – he doesn’t want us to become more jingoistically belligerent and wallow in the consciousness of “our” power amidst destruction. He wants us to concentrate on an unbearably destructive consequences of war and be willing to question the adequacy of war as a means to resolve disagreements between sides. Tavernier shows war not in its preparation nor in the phase of its realization – its acting out, but through its destructive results, its dead end. He shows “our side” suffering the terrifying consequences of the war which “we won and are happy about our victory”. The director concentrates on the dark side of the good and lucky resolution of one of the most destructive wars in the history of humankind. French won, but 350 000 of French soldiers are missing in action. So, we, the viewers concentrate on the suffering connected with “our soldiers” being killed and missing in action – not even identified as human beings. In other words, we see war in the film as grief about the fallen ones, as sublimated and redeeming experience.
War as a grief, as a sacred experience is personified by the systematic efforts and hard work of the main character in the film, major Dellaplane (in Philippe Noiret’s incredible, without the usual assortment of pop-emotions, performance). He is the hero of the war not as a destruction and self-aggrandizement (masked by jingoism and feeling of “our superior power”), but as grief and compassion – for dead and their families which are continuing to hold on to the belief that their loved ones in uniform are still, by some miracle, alive. Delaplane’s job is to identify the corpses of French soldiers missing in action. He is, according to the film, an example of a completely moral soldier, whose duty is not to kill as many on the enemy side as possible – to be a better killer than the enemy, but to attend the fallen lives of our soldiers by accumulating exact knowledge of their lives during the war and their deaths and by this to pay immortal tribute to the killed.
Major Dellaplane is painfully dedicated to his work of saving the dead soldiers from anonymity – of immortalizing their destiny by finding their corpses and delivering “them” to their relatives. He is doing this so holistically, that his sincerity contradicts the position of French army’s leadership and the politicians who wanted to “summarize” all “unknown” soldiers into one generic corpse which they plan to symbolically immortalize through all country solemn military funeral ceremony – a pompous burial under the Arc de Triompfe.
Major Dellaplane as he is represented by Philippe Noiret is an ultimate personification of completely moral soldier. His ascetic dedication to the task of saving the killed servicemen in honorable immortality of their exact names makes him emotionally isolated and alone, but the exceptional person especially needs and deserves the exceptional personal relationships.
His acquaintance with the distraught woman who like many women in this period was trying to find her disappeared husband, alive or dead, among the missing in action, wasn’t an easy relationship. Irene de Curtil (Sabine Azema, after playing extraordinary female characters in number of Alain Resnais’ films like “Love Unto Death” – L’Amour a Mort, 1984), is the daughter-in-law of an influential French politician who, according to Dellaplane, was involved in secret financial dealings with a German businessmen while his son was in the frontlines during the war. Dellaplane’s information about Irene’s Father-in-law was shocking but reliable and it didn’t create incompatibility between them. Conversely, it opened Irene’s eyes. The incredible power of Irene Curtil’s character allowed her to make the difficult first step to breach the alienation between two exceptional people, produced by the hell of war times and its inhumane effects on the human souls recoiling in horror and despair amidst the ritualistic cheer of victory and forgetfulness. Relationship between these two unusual human beings is not a sentimental one nor symbiotic (offering to cure two people with a warm bodily embrace in the nest-hole of personal happiness in a devastated and devastating world). It will take some time before they will allow themselves deserved happiness – they both know too much of war and people who plunge into psychological regression in order to survive hard times and are able to fall in love easily and blissfully. It’s in the hands of Irene and Dellaplane to overcome the war.
11 Apr 2017
God-Sun is mightier than manhood. Can manhood be mightier than God-Sun?
Picabia’s Apollo is like hidden semantics becoming discernible despite the tradition of windstorms of light enveloping Apollo’s human body, which we need to see glorified – a body transformed into a shining knot of a blinding power. Indeed, transforming the human body into eternal vitality of a blasting light of immortality is the innocent vice of human immaturity, playing with reality in order to feel reassured. Picabia’s Apollo, on the other hand, instead of being the sun-beaming god is… a black or brown – not just earthly, but earthy. He looks like soil, he is from caves and mud, not from clouds. Isn’t the painter “attacking here our sacred cultural monuments? And now he is hiding his intentions behind the murky colors of his painting”.
Let’s look at the painting more objectively. Apollo looks tired. He is sitting resting in his carriage which is visually mixed with the dark rocks behind. He is in the company of his horses. He has dark curly hairs. He doesn’t have any interest towards the world. His gaze is lazy and only pettily alert, perhaps spotting some human females. The tiny winged horse in the upper left part of the canvass is a humorous tribute to the traditional mythic Apollo, but something like 99% of the painting’s space belong to a severe demythologization of the classic Apollo myths.
Demythologization as an anti-traditional aesthetic strategy which Picabia puts to use in his “Apollo and His Messengers” is, it seems, of three types. The first type is the simplest but not less daring than others. It is a physically deflated version of a previously deliriously aggrandized Apollonian glory. It’s the tiny “naturalistic” representation of one of Apollo’s mythological horses, which looks at us with A surprise – it cannot yet digest what her banishment from the center to periphery of the world: from the main representational space, can mean. The horse, probably feels like the 1% of the Americans today – the richest minority when they give themselves to the fear that one day the majority will be able to restore democracy in the country.
The second strategy of demythologization Picabia uses here is that of drastic reduction of mythological parameters of Apollo to insultingly realistic frame of reference. Yes, Apollo is represented as not white-skinned. First, it is the reference to the fact that we all ultimately came from Africa, it means, that we all genetically mixed regardless of we like it or not. But the second reason is from the area of aesthetic truth – the sun of our perception is not white, it is rather yellow and even orange with strong darkening skin power. To have a relation to the real world, even as god, means to have a relation to reality which is not directly metaphysical – white, but always “dirtied” by the spots of darkening – the traces of living on earth.
Picabia deprives us of the image of Apollo’s flower with penetrating power of the sunbeam, with petals pinker than rose’s magic. More, he allows himself to laugh at us – he hints at its presence on Apollo’s body in distorted way – in intentionally wrongly identified area: Apollo’s pearl becomes a trivial part of the banal flesh. The painter, probably, had a fun of imagining how some of viewers worriedly looking for it in the painting. He makes Apollo a kind of castrated – he knows that such representation will create in many of us phobic worries. Identification with traditional figure of Apollo makes us all feel like a great womanizers beyond our ordinariness, unconscious guilt, tiredness or wilting age.
The third aesthetic strategy of Picabia in his “Apollo…” is hyperbolic emptying of representation, like, for example, in depicting always ready heavenly horses – the sign of Apollo’s movement from place to place, from the flesh to the fresher flesh to inseminate life and earth and resurrect human hopes. Heavenly horses in the painting are as brown-dark as Apollo himself, and they are dark because they are transparent to the landscape. They are just a dynamic aspect of a monumental world. They are, as if, the rocky sounds of Apollo’s carriage mixed with the visual idea of Apollo’s horses creating one holistic visual-audial image parodying today’s flying super-technology.
With his left hand Apollo keeps the wooden leverage by which he is directing his horses with a habitual gesture of the working man whose destiny is to follow his job description which has been assigned to him by the order of things. As a worker Picabia’s Apollo is quite an obedient creature – he is not putting the “wheel” of his moving aggregate down even in the moment of his rest – he is always ready to fly up-and-ahead again, but he is not hiding his boredom and even sadness. He is real. Here he is creation of the art, not of mythology, of the truth, not pleasing illusions.
With his disrespectful deconstruction of Apollo’s myth Picabia takes away from us a lot of pleasure (which provided us with self-aggrandizing excuse through unconscious identification with god.) As an artist Picabia is putting under a radical doubt the very value of human gesture of mythologizing reality, be it done in obviously mythological art and/or in political ideology. For eons we, humans, have only lived under, by, through and with myths. They help us survive psychologically and physically, but they also have made us what we are – matter-of-factly cruel, belligerent and indifferent. Our unconscious, semi-conscious or cynically conscious identification with Gods has radically destroyed our potential for having humility in front of other people and the world at large. Our fixation on gods made us feel ourselves as a kind of semi-gods. We unconsciously mixing gods with billionaires and generals. People like Francis Picabia are those who are trying to save us from ourselves by pointing towards a necessary transition from human self-aggrandizement towards humility more congruent with our life with other humans and nature.
Of course, to prevent the possibility of democratic humanization of humankind, inseparable from giving ourselves to humility, sobriety and rationality, we, seduced and corrupted by megalomaniacal profit-worshippers – invent new gods – with manifold heads of multifarious technological inventions for playing and fighting, for self-entertaining and killing.
07 Apr 2017
Posted by Victor-Katia as Discussion and Mind-Probing, Sociological essays, The Ultimate Question Is Not Economic Efficiency, Profit-making Strategies
Economists are prone to represent even the question of helping those who need help as an economic issue, not as matter of the ethic of social behavior. When compulsive wealth-worshippers look around they see not the world and another people, but their not-yet-materialized profits: mountains, valleys and rivers of perfumed profits as their future.
For profit-centered people the situation that when you’re borrowing from those who are much poorer than you (regular taxpayers) it is completely different thing than when you borrow from those who are richer, is outside of their attention. It is a curious paradox of today’s “rich” societies that indirect but actual borrowing from the poor (through the mediation of federal tax system) is not considered borrowing. The fed-power covers-up the misery of the wealthy debtors by the solemnity of the government ritual. Democratic government transforms the fact of borrowing from the poor into its own gift to the rich. This tricky operation completely eliminates the possible ethical connotation of what became the fact of limitless borrowing by the rich (through government) from the poor (regular taxpayers).
Why profit-makers never contemplate about the ethical side of their financial relations with the poor? Why do they automatically accept that the best thing the poor can do is to give part of their hard-earned money to the profit-makers? And the fact that the government didn’t ask the taxpayers’ permission to give their money to the profit-makers cannot excuse the matter-of-fatness with which the wealthy don’t feel that it would be just ethical to, at least, partially return the money which made them rich, through investing it in regular people’s life instead of pushing for austerity for the majority. Why those who pay taxes (the part of which will go to the pockets of wealthy profit-makers) should be object of austerity measures – reductions in food supply and public services?
Regular people don’t demand from the government not to use their tax money for “helping” the rich. Aren’t profit-makers of today the psychological heirs of monarchs who fought for the crown with the same crazed passion like profit-worshippers of 21st century for their profits? Of course, those with the “right” beliefs, religious or secular, are consumed by a similar megalomania. The very fact that a person can believe that his religious belief or secular political or ideological construct is more truthful than the beliefs of others, confirms their psychological similarity with our profit-makers – a specific arrogance of superiority over others which then can lead to their repression if they didn’t recognize me/us as the natural leaders. It is here we discover the messianic pretention and “metaphysical” right for leading the world of Soviet Communist ideology, “superiority” of Arian race and American “exceptionalism” and “greatness”. It is somewhere here we can locate the psychology of the one-percenters and their yearning for an unlimited profit-making.
Belief in god very often, unfortunately, is the function of a desperate need to be saved by god – so, belief then can be the honest payment and sincere gratitude for being saved. This crude exchange of favors is, it seems, the very mechanism of pop-religious believing. But to believe in the unlimited/ultimate profit-making is equally necessary to have a need for salvation through unlimited wealth. For worshippers of profit to be wealth-successful is the path to salvation from a dangerous world. It is not so much that belief in god is a “spiritual ideology” in comparison with secular ideologies, but that wealth-ideology transforms money into a kind of “spiritual” substance – symbolic supreme value which, as if, transcends the secular frame of reference. “Secular” ideologies (“Communism”, “Arian superiority”, “American exceptionalism”) historically are a sociological mediation between god-ideology and money-ideology as the images of human salvation. Money as the supreme value is a kind of image-tool – a combination of archetypal image (god, according to Jung) and sublime (idolized) technological tool of salvation through financial self-aggrandizement.
The reason profit-makers are looking for money-power instead of direct power is the perfected technical thinking as a result of technical-scientific prowess of modern civilization – the path to wealth becomes cognitively easier because of the appearance of soft-wares helping to smoothly violate laws restricting illegal ways of money- appropriation. Sophisticated soft-wares provide strategies as how to violate these laws not in the letter. This smart differentiation between violations of laws in letter – laws as such, and violation as ethically ambiguous operations is really a revolutionary innovation of modern financial thinking. This revolution opens unimaginable horizons in human thinking concerning ethics and legal obstacles to “untied” financial success. What yesterday was considered as a combination of illegal and immoral behavior today became legal and, maybe-ethically ambiguous-and-maybe-not at all.
People give their tax-money to the money-makers through democratic government, but m-makers now don’t want to share even a tiny part of their profit-money they made on people’s taxes.
Obsessively prone to compulsive profit-making individuals feel themselves less vulnerable vis-à-vis the people and the world. If you believe that you are under god’s protection or at least “associated” with god you feel yourself bigger and stronger, with a euphorically heightened arrogance as a result. The need to aggrandize yourself (and, therefore, feel more confident) is a result of infantile fixation on a childish image of power as an unlimited magic. Idolatrous profit-makers’ concept of power didn’t grow together with them growing up. It remained underdeveloped, on a pre-rational level. They use adult – rational professional knowledge to serve their pre-rational – infantile desire to be super-strong/super-smart/super-rich. Children with a technically advanced scientific thinking is more and more widespread type of an adult human being even in today’s so called democratic societies – that is itself a factor inviting apocalyptic consequences. Compulsive profit-makers come, mainly, from traditional conservative families, many of which used with children corporeal punishment, where fathers often not only took despotically authoritarian posture but were prone to play with children gods, while mothers – a-symbiotic unreachability (Barbara Bush is almost a text-book example of such mother).
01 Apr 2017
A female in a state of undress invites us into…the deep perspective space seen through a sequence of doors… The garments this enigmatic female figure wears are a marvel of invention. One consists of a bundle of gnarled roots, while the other is of wrinkled violet velvet with gold hems and lace cuffs.
Tim Martin, “Essential Surrealists”, Parragon, 1999, p. 123
The woman’s ruffled purpled brocade jacket, opened to reveal her bare chest, tops a skirt of long, green tendrils, which, upon scrutiny, assume the form of human bodies.
Ann Temkin, Philadelphia Museum of Art, 125th Anniversary, 2002, p. 132
Dorothea’s feet are bare and her breasts exposed in a rebellious manner, reflecting the oppositional forces of conformity and fantasy.
Michael Robinson, “Surrealism”, 2006, p. 194
The beautiful woman we see in Tanning’s “Birthday” is too independent from the viewers’ presence to be considered as unconditionally attractive. Indeed, can an attractive woman not to try to attract, be indifferent to being assessed according to the scale attractive-non-attractive? And can a not-attractive woman be still considered beautiful? In other words, can beauty without the smallest appeal be impressive without being perceived as intimidating?
Is the heroine of Tanning’s painting intimidating? Her beauty is, as if, wrapped in her own being. She looks at the world, which, as if for her at this moment doesn’t include viewers and, may be, artist too. But isn’t the beauty of her face can be felt as less beautiful because of the disinterestedness of her attention to the world? Her gaze, as though pushes the world away in the very moment of noticing it. We feel that she is neglecting us not because she has a neglectful position towards people, but because we, the viewers, aren’t important when we’re focusing on her our attention. At this point her very presence in front of us has already forced us to forget about her attractiveness-non-attractiveness and start to operate with something like reliability/non-reliability of her beauty as such. If her face seems less beautiful because she allows herself to pass us with her attention and, therefore, is perceived by us even more intimidating, her breasts, somehow, seem a little less breastly because of her indifference to or at least independence from our gazes. Of course, by daring to qualify the protagonist’s breasts as “less breastly”, I am not implying that they‘re less beautiful. But they are completely belong to themselves, not even to her. They are too… alive to be at the service of the gaze or males or children. They’re too sensitive as to have a functional application. They’re, as if, in any moment can change.
These breasts, certainly, don’t belong to men’s intentionality in spite of their arousing power. But they also don’t belong to motherhood and even less to the mirror. They, like her body, don’t belong even to her in the habitual sense when we say “my body” or “my legs”, etc. Her body, as if, didn’t get the full feeling of being hers, because her existential attention was never concentrated on possessive feelings toward her limbs or other parts of her body. Her body is like her gaze – it belongs to the world only in a certain moments – her body belongs to her life, but not to her.
But who is that amazing, simultaneously frightening and irresistible little creature in front of the not-understandable woman of Tanning’s painting? They both look at the same direction – at the world ahead. The creature looks a little like a Lemur but it is with magnificent wings. The protagonist’s life is like this strange winged creature which looks, as if it came (flew away) from the caves or dens. It is Dorothea Tanning’s image of this woman’s life from her childhood to her adult life. It is a metaphor of a holistic essence of her very vitality. As we see, a little monster symbolizing the protagonist’s life is far from looking anything like her. Why this beautiful woman’s vitality can be locked into this particular, even demonic creature, frightening in its air of aggressive alertness? Something about beauty and, may be, even attractiveness need to be like this inside to protect themselves in the factual world.
From her childhood the life/vitality of the woman in the painting was intimidated by the world, and she came up with a solution represented by the interior with numerous opened doors bathing in the currents of fresh air. Interior of her spacious apartment mediates between her life and the external world. Of course, this interior is not for domestic comfort and interior design – of furniture and draperies, like it is for the majority of people. The heroine of the painting is not a person who closes the doors, but who prefers to open them – for herself, her life and the world. And she doesn’t need makeup as her apartment doesn’t need furniture decorations. She has her art, and as an artist she is barefooted in her place, in her life and in the world.
The painting is dedicated to the introspective experience the protagonist has during her own birthday – the time of contemplation about her personality, particularity and development up to the age marketed by her birthday. Obviously, this essential date doesn’t include bouts of gluttony or a time of dissolving human personalities into a maze of emotional familiarity with other people – relatives, friends and acquaintances (spontaneous creation of collective identity with emotional non-differentiation when one person starts the sentence and another finishes it, and everybody is equally happy, as if, it’s one collective birthday).
But, of course, birthday can be any new day, new encounter with the world, our own life, our own particularity, a day with new ordeals, which we can celebrate together with Dorothea Tanning and her incredible protagonist looking at us with her curious and stubbornly independent gaze.
22 Mar 2017
When masculinity becomes spiritual it is distancing itself from or abandoning life.
When femininity becomes spirituality it creates alternative life.
When contemplation about life becomes sensuous it is feminine spirituality.
Sensuous agape becomes a celebration of new forms of life.
Duras’ “Baxter, Vera Baxter” is a film-contemplation about the sensuously contemplative Eros.
Nature we’re anonymous part of (before we imagined consoling theological reference), as nature itself anonymous to itself, can’t care about us. For this reason it’s natural that humans “spontaneously” don’t care about nature – nature doesn’t care about itself. It just lives and dies quite indifferent to both conditions whatever happens to it. In our human perception nature is irresistible in its monumentality, it’s authoritative, rather than seductive (until we’re not adulterating it with the incontinence of our projections). Those among us who “care” about nature do it because they “technically” understood that if nature becomes “disturbed” it’s bad for our own survival (quite egoistic and “beyond ethic” reasoning). Nature is indifferent to us as most of us to nature. This morally neutral nature is the environment of frustrated human happiness and the background of our suffering including melancholic grief of Vera Baxter. Like the human womb is not a mother, nature is not even a womb. It can destroy or protect you without any intention to do either. May be, nature is artificial, (robotic) womb, that of the creation. Vera Baxter has to solve her problems herself, with friendly human help, which she is very lucky to deserve.
Interiors help us against nature’s indifference as a protective projection of our naive animalistic narcissism and as an extension of ourselves, a kind of our psychological exoskeleton – a reflection of our suffocating rivalry with another humans. Something monstrous is with the interiors of our settling places – with their pompous artificiality they are also a form of nature created by us, puppies of creation according to our ambition to imitate the Creator and to rule over the world.
Vera Baxter (Claudine Gabay) “was abandoned” by her husband, but he is not a monster created by human proclivity for scapegoating. He is struck by the widespread human illness – lost the ability to love: to, psychologically combine and unite – amity, Amour, Eros, Agape and disinterestedness. There are numerous reasons why this materially successful person got this affliction typical in the so called prosperity societies offering sparkling compensations for the loss of the capacity for loving. Among them – sex, beauty, consumerist comforts, social status and respect, domineering and successful self-image, etc., anything you get as a tail if you have “many-money”. But Jean is suffering not less than his wife. He belongs to the rare creatures who are prone to suffer without love. People like Jean are martyrs of wealth, and they’re stuck in their golden caves forever. Several Duras’ films depict and describe this type of people. Today, it is even impossible to imagine, that only several decades ago these people could exist. Was it democracy that created these exotic creatures? Post-democracy cannot afford them – it made them mutate and disappear.
Vera Baxter’s husband is a rich businessman – no, he is much more emotionally developed – Vera characterizes him as not-a-rich person, but the one who has a lot of money. He is not robotized by money – he feels that he is hurt by losing the psychological border between himself and money. Money is a monarch – it cannot tolerate the slightest disagreements.
So, which is it, compensation or insult – the fact that Vera’s husband “sold her”? To be a desired object is woman’s meta-historical destiny. Woman’s voluntary participation in this deal is not eliminating or even softening its meaning. Desire comes with the need to control – Jean just outsourced the whole problem: money will take care of it. It’s great lesson of barbering bribery – be it legally illegal or illegally legal.
Depression of non-belonging and melancholy of self-contemplation
“Vera Baxter loue une villa a Thionville-sur-mer Venue avec son amant, elle decide par la suite de se terrer dance la villa. Elle se confie a une femme et lui raconte la maniere don’t son mari Jean a paye un homme afin que celui-ci devienne son amant…” (Allocine)
Vera Baxter, abandoned and alone, feeling her soul forgotten and her body refused and thrown away, allows herself ephemeral moments of chaste exhibitionism, as if her nudity is able by pure magic of its presence in front of herself to find worlds which can need her.
Vera’s body, as if offers itself to the walls and the ceiling and the trees and clouds behind the windows. And her bodily solitude offers strange cure. Her exhibitionism is pure, spiritual and unexpectedly satisfying, as though to offer her body to nobody and to nothing – is the offer which is always accepted although without being answered.
Gerard Depardieu plays the individual who received from Vera’s husband money for helping her to go through period of amorous solitude. Something in Vera – her disinterestedness vis-à-vis the world, has impressed the sensitive gigolo who fell in love with her. He started to empathize with her predicament and felt self-reproachful for his shameful participation.
Being liberated without becoming corrupted by the freedom of exposing yourself to corruption
Vera is very lucky to meet the disinterested attention of a person, who by chance learned about her situation and is psychologically willing and able to help. Delphine Seyrig plays Duras-like character who sees the feminine destiny in the historical perspective and appreciate the uniqueness of a woman like Vera whom she found locked in suicidal danger.
Just the observation of how these two exceptional female characters interact creates in us, viewers need to define ourselves away from traditional structures of mutuality (when two or more persons use one another for mutual benefit).
To be alone
Here we see the mistress of Vera Baxter’s husband right at a time when he has abandoned his wife. In modern life of enhanced calculation nobody really wins – it’s what the face of this young attractive and intelligent woman tells us. As the other characters in the film she tries to understand the essence of her predicament. Today happy looking are only those whose ability to see beyond the surface of life is reduced – people with programmed – standardized soul.
To be helped to be free
How for a screen-writer and film-director to address and describe a human being in her purity – in the not-corrupt segment of her/his soul? The very desires to survive socially and physically and encircle ourselves with entertainment fences are rooted in fear of violent death and punishment for disobedience and impregnated with greedily hysterical search for saving beliefs and supporting ideologies. The necessity to permanently maneuver in circumstances and calculate advantages makes it possible for people to tolerate life by turning off their human/holistic intelligence (mental sensitivity of heart inside the mind) and becoming unreachable for the meaning of facts of life. Instead, the intelligence which is allowed for human beings by the very structure of today’s life is to develop technical – calculative and manipulative reason, which makes them robotized – without breathing soul and mind. It’s this human condition which entertaining art industry is only too happy to exploit. Duras as human being and a serious artist is creating a cinema incompatible with (mass cultural) entertainment. “Baxter, Vera Baxter” is a current of pristine air to the spiritual slums of everyday life.
Vera Baxter (Claudine Gabay) is a seemingly regular person, with a typical feminine destiny of falling in precipice of love, being structured by marriage, giving her soul, body and aspiration to motherhood and becoming abandoned by her husband. After processing and absorbing the romantic idea of love in her adolescence and youth, Vera is made by life to feel love as sex and distraction from everyday routine. But something in her is crystallized as exceptional – it’s the sublime sensitivity of her soul which helps her to take life without permanent fight for appropriating – status, property, entertainment, social success, and for dominating the circumstances. Vera Baxter is a contemplative type of a person – she takes her predicament: losing all she had, as a challenge to contemplate, to think, to feel what’s happened and why. Vera’s proneness to internalize the external world rather than compulsively act on it includes her ability not to be afraid of suffering, to be able to step down to a depressive mood – to the river, and up to the cloud of silence. Be in the river or on the cloud for too long is a deadly danger, but Vera is lucky – she got il une inconnue – the “unknown person” (Delphine Seyrig), who became determined to help her in her destiny.
L’inconnue is a person who understands Vera’s predicament – to lose everything what love for a man (and man’s love) can provide – the children, social status, self-respect, material prosperity, identity, personality, areas of mastery. She thinks that in order to be able to love man less conventionally (less symbiotically and socio-morphically) and be capable to raise emotionally and mentally healthier children woman needs more independence not so much from the man she loves but from his love.
But Duras is not representing the problems between a husband and wife as that between two human beings or as a problem of marriage as a social institution. The very organization of life in society becomes in the film something like a third player the destiny of human love depends on. Vera’s husband, Jean is a rich man who is traumatized by his psychological situation – by the necessity to make profit in a profane way, by neglecting the human need to be disinterested in relation to the world – to love intellectual, aesthetic and mystical bonds to creation, and even before this neglecting the issues of equality, justice, fairness and human compassion. This “forgetfulness” is equal to the betrayal of human existentially spiritual nature, and the first calamitous result of the narrowness of human focus on pursuing personal success is a breakdown of the ability for a sublime (non-symbiotic) intimate love. Jean has lost Vera internally – he has lost the ability to love her because he cannot anymore love another human being. In Jean’s universe of profit-making the other is an indifferent object – positive, negative or neutral for your intentions.
Duras indirectly but insistently emphasizes that Eros and Agape are close relatives, that one without the other both are lost in the world. Vera and Jean are co-victims of this lost tie between two ways of love. When Eros and Agape became separated the Lust (lascivious Greed) quickly inserts itself into the equation of life (what we are witnessing today in mass-cultural separation of love and sex). An economy based on obsession with profit is organic part of mass-cultural degradation of human sensibility.
Here is how the plot of the film proceeds – Jean Baxter pays a million to a young man, a highly sensitive and intelligent person (Gerard Depardieu), to take his wife off his hands. But this person fell in love with Vera and by this betrayed his “payoff”. This opened an unexpected chapter in this business transaction between the husband and transitionary figure – a space of independence from received money opens – not only for the receiver, but for Vera, who could be existentially lost in an abyss between two hills, if not for the appearance of a stranger, the “another woman” (the prototype of Duras herself), who came with a gift of disinterested help. Of course, this help doesn’t mean a lesbian relationship, as many will likely believe or suspect. Amazing thing we have a deal here, is, it seems, the disinterested and transcending sexuality relations (although without any phobic panic about lesbianism). Mass culture has taught us, Americans, about primacy of sex and primacy of survival through social competition – mass-cultural myths, following the agenda of tiny minority – 2% of the population – people of deep cultural deprivation and serious psychological underdevelopment.
The style of the film reflects the fact that Duras considers human beings as human nature in history – she includes human history (concrete historical references) and spiritual experiences in human behavior, for example, she depicts human being not as a fallen-factual, but as a pre- or post-fallen.
Duras’ film addresses the human being not through amusing, entertaining and/or violent situations, but through a very particular – aesthetically spiritual rapport with a segment of the human soul not corrupted by mass-culture which has managed to create in us a fundamental need to feel our better-ness, best-ness, greatness and exceptionalism in comparison with others.
06 Mar 2017
“Manipulative, dishonest and lacking empathy – the traits that describe a psychopath – aren’t pleasant. But the idea that they are also fiendishly clever isn’t accurate… Because many psychopaths are charming and manipulative, people have assumed they often also have above-average intelligence. Psychologists term this the ‘Hannibal Lecter myth’. Psychopaths are impulsive, have run-ins with the law and often get themselves hurt… Brian Boutwell at St. Louis University in Missouri and his colleagues analyzed 187 studies on intelligence and psychopathy. These papers include research on psychopaths in prison as well as those enjoying high-flying careers… Overall, the team found no evidence that psychopaths were more intelligent than people who don’t have psychopathic traits. In fact, psychopaths scored significantly lower on intelligence tests… The finding will help put the Hannibal Lecter myth to rest…. Psychopaths are very sensation-seeking. They don’t like to sit and read books – they end up engaging in substance abuse… Psychopaths are rather inarticulate, and swear a lot. They talk over you in brusque, aggressive style.”
Jessica Hamzelou, New Scientist, 28 January, 2017, p. 12
04 Mar 2017
“Hours after Donald Trump was sworn in as president, his administration removed the page on climate change from the White House website and published a new page, An America First Energy Plan… This plan says Trump will roll back two key elements of Obama’s environmental policy: the Climate Action Plan and the Waters of the US rule, which expanded the freshwater areas protected by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers… It outlines plans to exploit untapped shale, oil and natural gas reserves on federal land and revive the US coal industry. It also says Trump will ‘refocus the EPA on its essential mission on protecting our air and water’, suggesting it will abandon regulating greenhouse gas emissions… Other decisions in Trump’s first days in office have also dismayed observers. He has reinstated a federal ban on US funding for international health organizations that counsel women on abortion. And he selected Ajit Pai as chairman of the US Federal Communications Commission. Pai opposed net neutrality regulations that were passed in 2015 to ensure an open internet and prevent broadband providers from blocking or throttling access to content. Meanwhile, there were rumors that the EPA this week has frozen all of its grants and that the US Department of Agriculture has banned its scientists from talking openly about their work.”
“New Scientist”, UPFRONT page, p. 6, 28 January, 2017
03 Mar 2017
Benton’s mural-sized painting “Hollywood” was intended, the artist remarked, to show that the movie industry was “predominantly an economically conditioned art”. “The movie art is not only a business but a business expression. It speaks in by and through the patterns of the American business mind. It is go-getter, optimistic, sentimental, and politically conservative. It sings and clowns in Rotary Club fashion, and romances with a high regard for the status quo in everything.
(Th. H. Benton, “Hollywood Journey”), Erika Doss, “Artists in Hollywood: T. H. Benton and Nathanael West Picture America’s Dream Dump”
Benton and West challenged the movie industry’s destructive manipulation of the American Dream, and its corrosive impact on the nation’s social and political futures.
Erika Doss, Ibid
The young lady who occupies the center of the panel is more a symbolical than an actual movie figure. I wanted to give an idea that the machinery of the industry, cameras, carpenters, big generators, high voltage wires, etc. is directed mainly toward what young ladies have under their clothes. So, I took the clothes off…
T. H. Benton, “Letter to Longwell”
A female movie star is the heart of Hollywood movie, like male star is its brains and muscles.
A female movie star in entertaining movie is the goal, while the male star is a model of competence in how to reach this goal.
A female movie star is the dream-realized, while the male star is either the possibility or the guarantee of its realization.
Colorful moths of myths manufactured with hard- and soft-wares is the “operational” definition of Hollywood productions.
Creators of commercial movies are specialists in money-making through movie-making
Metaphoric “abbreviation” of Hollywood as Hilly-weed or Hell-y-weed industry: sell, sale, sail, soul, salt, silk, sold.
Benton is right – Hollywood magic is to show a dressed woman as if she is naked, and by this to combine cabaret and optics: two arts – exposition and delivery and two substances – organic and mechanical to work with.
The quantity of people and technical gadgets in this mural is overwhelming, and so should be the result of the intense work of making a movie – the ready product: the movie itself, and so should be the result of its readiness – financial plenitude of the box office sales. According to Benton, the Hollywood empire of shadowy dreams and their imaginary satisfactions is centered, like human body around sexual organs, on the idea of the female star. The male star is very near by, with his straight gaze penetrating the very locus-focus of femininity. The task of the male star is to professionally handle the phallic (irresistible) woman, incomparable and stubborn, who is at once a beauty, bounty, bondage and freedom. In the adjacent studio the sexual and violent scene is being prepared, where the male star is training his female counterpart a simple super-historical and Hollywood truth of who is the boss of the screen-queen. Hollywood offers its viewers the most adventurous of adventures, the fullest and deepest orgasms for dominatrixes and their slaves and conquerors: the tamers of female demons transformed into angels through love in order to seduce the audience by Eros and Resistance. Many varieties and fascinating branchings of this videogame exist and develop more with time, and it’s one of the most successful strategies to pump money out of the pockets of viewers.
Not without the masterful help on part of the male-stars, those trainers of “feminine mystic”, Hollywood is able to design female cloth, which is, whatever the plot of the story can be, psychologically transparent for the audience’s perception, like it makes the movie screen a transparent – imaginary versions of human life. Movie-woman as an object of amorous and sexual appropriation and possession becomes for Hollywood movie-makers a metaphor for their efforts of moneymaking. The female-character/star is a Hollywood code-name for profit. In Benton’s mural we see, how film making industry is organized around woman whose real name is money. In Louis Malle’s “Pretty Baby” (1978) the director analyzes American postindustrial life as a combination of gambling/casino and prostitution/brothel as a way of building private prosperity of people’s American dream.
The auditorium, the screen and the projection room at the movie theater are located in the spacious basement where, as in a variant of Plato’s cave people moved by the lust of imaginary satisfaction while “chaining themselves to their seats” to enjoy in full the screen shadows. The sad usherette is preoccupied with her own thoughts and feelings, which are not addressed by the feverish foolishness of screen life (it’s like fake food we consume, which step by step makes us sick with obesity, diabetes, excess of cholesterol, elevated blood pressure, etc., while enjoying the extra-sugar, harmful fats, extra-caffeine, etc.) Our addiction to entertaining images makes us psychologically regressed and less and less able to understand (and losing taste for understanding) the reality of adult life – an inability that makes us easily manipulated by the wealthy masters of our lives, whom we worship for their financial success. Entertainment transforming life into amusingly simplified animation cartoon situations provides us with something better than mundane life – entertainment enters our souls like angel-ghosts. But our neat and stubborn usherette is an exclamatory contrast to the mentally passive pleasures of watching movies while being in a position of symbiotic (positive or negative) identification with the characters-stars.
By the posture of the usherette we see that she is trying to grasp something – (probably, some problems in her emotional life), but she is alone – nobody will address her concerns and difficulties – the task of entertaining art that Hopper depicts from the side, as anonymous waves of murky light, is to entertain (like the task of singer is to sing, actor – to act, talker to talk, snorer to snore, eater to eat, etc.). The job of entertaining through movies is to envelop the viewers with balsam of images pointing away from life – towards hope, belief, forgetting “all the bad things” and turning towards half-filled glass and not half-empty.
Tautology of entertainment means that the consumer consumes images which satisfy as images, not like reality, and then life is left ineligible and ungraspable, and human being belongs to his emotional disappointments and frustrations making him hateful and impulsive. The situation is not that there is entertainment and there is serious culture. Entertainment is a vampire, a cannibal of the soul – it kills culture, it gradually suffocates it. People lose the ability to think without having immediate satisfaction. People become psychologically and intellectually sterile. Culture is closed off to the heroine of Hopper’s painting. And still, she is a heroic figure – the lonely fighter of the resistance to surrender to entertainment completely. She doesn’t know, that a person cannot effectively think about life without humanistic education, and this education becomes less and less available.