META-NOMAD

TSPDT8

The Threepenny Opera (1931) is nothing particularly special, in fact many of these films ranked higher than 500 in terms of merit I have a feeling were picked due to some extremely specific consideration, and many film reviewers are against qualifying a contemporary film as a great until the consensus has been agreed, well I say ‘fuck that’ to be quite honest, there’s little in me that can accept that these films are anything but dry, tiresome and archaic visions of a dead-time, lusted over by those too far into a thematic rabbit-hole, if it cannot hold my attention in its remastered state, then by christ I am in awe of those who can drag anything but a sentence or 2 from these dated perspectives. Which brings to Limite (1931) which is often called Brazil’s greatest film. Well shit Brazil, if this is your greatest I hope I don’t have to see anything even close to your worst. Don’t get me wrong, it was beautifully shot and had some interesting juxtapositions in multiple shots and the narratives were told in a somewhat original way, but this is truly one for the hardcore film nut, one who wishes to analyse each frame and produce a lucid post-modern text in the process. In this day and age it’s quite something to admit that the collectively-agreed-upon ‘classic’ is actually quite dull, and you don’t really care for it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Luis Bunuel’s Land Without Bread (1932) begins as a melancholy look at a small, isolated town. Who due to their location have hardships with food, death, education and farming etc.. It’s trajectory quickly becomes more sombre, more lucid, towards what it means to live in isolation, the strange traditions, the thoughts of death and loss, the acceptance of both.

And then I was like ‘Finally…Freaks!’ and…I was let down. Perhaps a testament to modern shock, the destruction of taboo and general contemporary decadence and degeneracy, but Tod Browning’s Freaks (1931) neither shocked me, disturbed me or even really woke me up. There’s some deformed and generally admirable people whom are part of a carnival, there’s a bit of plot lying around somewhere but hell, it’s quite transparent someone had the foresight to gain a career off the backs of genetic rarity, watch it for a snapshot of peculiarity at best.

Howard Hawks Scarface (1932), a slow burner, a slow starter and a slow mover, a technique in cahoots with its characters, all of whom in their arrogance and masculine confidence own everything in a certain manner. The initial striking a match off a policeman’s badge acts as a short metaphor of 30’s gangster power, the utilization of the bureacratic and controlled as a means for further mob-expansion, though of course this expansion continued long into the 70’s.

An interesting point to make here however is that this film from 1932 does in fact condemn both the gangsters for their illegal and mob behaviour, as well as condemning the police for doing little about the menace. Cinema lacks the audacity – potentially in the face or current identity politics – to cast a finger upon any group, they fear and skulk away from any real potential for confrontation, except wherein that confrontation is one being dragged by ever-leftward swimming Cthulhu, that is, Hollywood simply stands with the majority now. Which in Hawk’s day would be bending to the gangster’s whim even though they didn’t like them, they stood up for what it was they wanted to say, as opposed to helping pronounce that of the loudest whiner.

I have to admit something once more in relation to these musings on film, these much older films, at least from what I’ve seen prior to 1950 have a certain incoherence, the camera works, the film is displayed, the actors are speaking and the sets are standing, but all seems in the singular, yet to truly connect into a unified whole, when one focuses on one single point in these films, the rest loses any intensity, no flow or flux, no rhythm or beat, they jolt and bang along with stops and starts, parts and bits, mashed together into spikingly-dynamic assemblages of cinema, often jolting to the (poisoned) modern mind seeking linearity and ease in all.

Just a short one whilst I get things back ticking along here.

Blog: TSPDT6 & Note on Xenobuddhism

On Carl Theodor Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) Antonin Artaud stated that the film was meant to “reveal Joan as the victim of one of the most terrible of all perversions: the perversion of a divine principle in its passage through the minds of men, whether they be Church, Government or what you will.”

And in my opinion it does just that, and it goes about it in no overly complex way, there’s little in the way of sophistication or creative temperament, just a sublime (and I do not use that word lightly) performance by Renée Falconetti, a minimal set and a focused camera technique. The film is an exercise in compressed spirituality, wherein each time the camera is focused upon Joan of Arc’s face one gets the feeling of a real, visceral belief in God, in saviour. The feeling is akin to reading the works of Lovecraft, where that which is nowadays often accused of being a fiction is brought to life by those who have firsthand experience of the/an Outside, whether it’s Arc’s God or Lovecraft’s Occult, both are read as if that which is usually questioned is taken as reality, fictions become fact. The use of light and dark could be said to be kitsch, potentially obvious, yet it stands entirely true for its purpose as that which reveals the good from the bad. There’s very clear inspiration here for countless films to come, the use of harsh close-ups, little-to-no-makeup, angles utilized as status signifiers, yet it is unarguable that what stands out is Falconetti’s ability to make even the most staunch non-believer question their heart, even for just a second. In Dostoyevsky’s 1869 novel The Idiot, the character Prince Myshkin, having viewed the The Body of the Dead Christ in the Tomb (below) in the home of Rogozhin, declares that it has the power to make the viewer lose his faith. Well I claim the reverse is true for Renée Falconetti’s performance as Joan of Arc.

 

 

The Body of the Dead Christ in the Tomb – Hans Holbein the Younger, 1520-22

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Renée Falconetti as Joan of Arc.

Now, onto the rest. The Wedding March and Pandora’s Box (1928) are both difficult to find, in fact, now I’ve left the era of really early stuff I imagine I’m going to be confronted with both rare and protected films. People on Sunday (1929) was about as enjoyable as it sounds, don’t bother. The Man with the Movie Camera (1929) I generally thought of as pretty convoluted and hammed up, this is usually the case with a lot of French stuff to be honest, they try just that little bit too hard and what could have been an interesting experiment/experience trails into a nonsensical reference only a few people will get. The Blood of the Poet (1930) was another non-find. L’Age D’or (1930) supposed to be one of Bunuel’s greats, hell I couldn’t draw much from it. Earth (1930) by Dovzhenko was a film I was looking forward to, Tarkovsky lists it as one of his favourites, stating that Dovzhenko understood how to create simple cinema, truly minimal film, there’s a fine line and I guess once again my temperament fell onto the wrong side of it, alas…I was unimpressed. Hell, I never said I was going to glorify the whole list, hopefully by the end of this I can give you the films from this 1000 that’ll actually interest your 21st-century addled brains.

Edward Van Sloan: [Introduction to the film] How do you do? Mr. Carl Laemmle feels it would be a little unkind to present this picture without just a word of friendly warning. We’re about to unfold the story of Frankenstein, a man of science who sought to create a man after his own image without reckoning upon God. It is one of the strangest tales ever told. It deals with the two great mysteries of creation: life and death. I think it will thrill you. It may shock you. It might even horrify you. So if any of you feel that you do not care to subject your nerves to such a strain, now is your chance to, uh… Well, we’ve warned you.

James Whale’s Frankenstein (1931) I’m guessing is as clear cut as Frankenstein films are going to come, oh, and also it’s our first ‘talkie’, there’s dialogue again so these might just get a little longer. This is a very clear cut horror which arguably spent a little bit too much time in the editing room (unless there’s a story there I’m missing out on), it’s often jarring how quickly we’re moved along to the next clear piece of narrative, almost…mechanical. I jest, with a remaster this could quite easily sit alongside contemporary horror films as an example of how well a written work can be turned into film.

Extras:

Note on Xenobuddhism:

XENOBUDDHISM BEGINS WITH XENO by XENOBUDDHISM

‘Land goes on, gets blunt, boils this shit down:

“Xenobuddhism- the illusion of the substantial self isn’t dispelled by argument, and for most people it won’t be meditation or some of kind of psychological discipline that does it – getting copied, downloading thoughts, splitting/merging consciousness – that stuff will really have an impact and yes, it will be difficult to ignore”

Xenobuddhism is neither Buddhism nor accelerationism nor transhumanism. It is born from their convergence. It’s Buddhism once exposed to the mutagen, the black liquid. It’s the technocommercialist takeover of dharma in the realisation that techniques for realisation have outpaced humanity. Capital begins rerouting human agencies, demonstrating emptiness as the immanent engine of history. Buddhist modernism sought to update the former based on the latter; Xenobuddhism is dharma expounded by modernity itself. Xenobuddhism is unconditional accelerationism apprehended in the guise of a religion. The self illusion – the heart of the human security system – will be vaporized, and the species with it. Enlightenment and Enlightenment colliding. Whoever says it’s a dystopian picture really hasn’t been paying attention to history thus far.’

An intriguing read by Xenobuddism to be sure, I quarrel with the idea of the human-security-system here in relation to Buddhism. Yet it reads as if there were a mirror (=human-security-system), read the story of The Sixth Patriach Hui Neng. So here I would say that Xenobuddism makes the mistake of the first poem:

The body is the wisdom-tree,

The Mind is a bright mirror in a stand;

Take care to wipe it all the time,

And allow no dust to cling.

The human-security-system here acting as the mirror, yet the proposition that there is a mirror (within Buddhism) is wrong:

Fundamentally no wisdom-tree exists,

Nor the stand of a mirror bright.

Since all is empty from the beginning,

Where can the dust alight.

Whether or not this implies that the Buddhist mind falls quite sharply into unconditional ways of ‘thinking’ would require further investigation. There’s no mirror for dust to collect upon, there’s no human-security-system for the black liquid to collect upon, so it’s washed directly through you, potentially into you, there’s little time for transition here it seems. The substantial self (as Land puts it) in Buddhist terms never was, it was created after and so it’s more a case of realization of negation, as opposed to dispelling an attached psychological reality.

 

Blog: TSPDT5

Let me tell you, watching this much film is strange, you very quickly notice how repetitive certain techniques are, how music is utilized well or just for filler etc. etc. You very quickly notice films that standout, ones that do not make you think Oh, here we go again. I couldn’t find a good copy of October (1927), and as Eisenstein is thus far one of the few silent film makers worth watching, I didn’t want to spoil that which many claim is his best or most important work. Murnau’s Sunrise (1927), though it technically holds 8th place (ranked) in the list, I found it not at all that great, something which is held in such reverance I feel shouldn’t merely fade into the background of that which surrounds, but it did…and so I have few memories, at least none worth recalling. Seventh Heaven (1927) I was unable to find.

Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927). The version I watched [here] had the New Pollutants soundtrack, which in my opinion is far greater than some grainy classical number. The score by the New Pollutants throws you directly into the acidic hell of the clearly symbolic underclass, proletariat etc., their lives constrained by pipe and machine, their lives literally utilized as fuel for the fire, a fire that heats the bellies and homes of those above. A very clear symbolic message of class struggle in the age of industry. The industrial revolution and industry in general here acting as the ‘villain’, that machinic process which via exhaustion and overwhelming suffocates the energies’ of humanity; industry as the creative end-game of humanities’ soul, agree or disagree this is the message. As the pipes hum and shifts change, the cogs flow into one another seamlessly, a difference only of a linear time. Lives, place and acts all a series of bleak repetitions amongst a vast network of the same, sterilized life. So what is it about Metropolis that makes is so great? Well quite simply it’s everything, there isn’t a part of it (Character, location, theme, acting etc.) that isn’t great, each and every screw and bolt is wound so tight it’s difficult to spot any fault. The concentration usually on this idea of proto-AI or proto-Robotics, or even Transhumanism, or, at a push, Feminine overcoming via the emancipation of the body. Whichever way you wish to play it the discussion of the Maschinenmensch usually holds the fore. Not that it shouldn’t, only it begs the attention of one’s eyes elsewhere, what of the city, what of this…expanse. This glaring testament to Art Deco, this thematic will of the future; this film acting as a lost manifesto of blithered hope, riding a convergent wave to its doomed reality.

And what of these strange houses, overlooked by the centuries, the odd, cult-like elements of Metropolis are what help retain its presence in this contemporary clownworld. Within the alleys, atop the skyscrapers and deep underground here, still exists skulls of old and the knee to the crucifix. Those who will bow to master and ignore the reality. As the living skeleton acts his strike, looking the viewer directly in the eye, we witness a domination away from sci-fi and robotics, away from class struggle, away from the pillars of civilization, and so the film accelerates towards a mass escape from death as the tide rises, the malevolence of all involved froths to the top and the death and scorn is unavoidable no longer, welcome human race to your own demise, one you built, turned on, coaxed forward, encouraged and then, in a fit of narcissistic rage, told to halt.

Sadly, I cannot find a good copy of Abel Gance’s Napoleon (1927), and I have heard great things, this might be a special case wherein in I order a copy. Un Chien Andalou (1928), Dali is an artist I not only dislike, but also distrust, and so this film doesn’t sit right for me. It’s famous for the eye-slice scene alone. The Cameraman and Steamboat Bill, Jr (1928) both Keaton flicks, and that’s all they really are now, flicks…not films. I lose interest so quickly, it may be a little overdramatic to say such a thing, but post-1950 such infantile and excessive humour just doesn’t seem right, and now, both Keaton and Chaplin stand as fragmented comics whose humour rings for another time.

The Docks of New York (1928) The Wind (1928) Storm Over Asia (1928) and The Crowd (1928) are all without accessible good copies, and I refuse to sit through 2 hours of 360p grainy silent film, it simply would not do them justice.

Blog: Further, TSPDT etc.

Neural Shroud’s latest which covers the increase politicization of communication is succinct. I believe there’s an undercurrent of cybernetics running through this piece – can’t quite place it – that said, the increase of politics within the everyday sphere is generally just exhausting, nigh impossible to comment on the ‘merit’ of anything without first addressing its political backdrop, affiliations…these are becoming unavoidable however e.g. Star Wars. Intriguing as these protocols are, there are at least 2 things heading our way which are (to a certain extent apolitical), the first being the rise of AI and the second being Bitcoin, or digitalized cryptographic currency as our primary means of exchange, the latter here of course having political considerations, however even those are decentralized and disconnected from state, and thus we enter in a realm of micro-protocols adhering to that which small groups, or individuals wish to do.

 

I’ve decided to venture into the depths of film this year, my trajectory is from a fairly formal standpoint, that of the They Shoot Pictures Don’t They 1000 Greatest Films List, which I shall be tackling in chronological order as a means to comment on the history of film as a whole, also as a means for lovely digressions into all manner of haphazard opinions etc. As such I began with L’arrivee d’un train a la Ciotat from 1895, little to comment other than that my mind insta-clicked of, I’ve become so used to high-definition media that the origins of film are apparently beneath me…fucking K-Addiction. And onto Georges Méliès’ Le Voyage dans la lune (A Trip to the Moon, 1902):

There’s this odd sentiment of wonder and awe towards not only the moon itself, but the moon as the possibility of future, as opposed to simply continuation of the present. Wherein the ‘scientists’ above are seen as wizards, temporal-magicians who are the guiding force for man’s ability to transcend and overcome.

This short scene, wherein our scientists descend into a cave upon the moon, is an exemplary comment on the current climate, e.g. “What happened to the future…” we have become scared, as such these visionaries in 1902 vision the moon as this incredible place full of wonder. Our empirical abilities aside, we’ve lost our love for Mars even though the possibility of getting there grows ever nearer. It shall be a dull day when Musk lands upon Mars and the majority of TVs are tuned to some kitsch-celeb-shit-show.

D.W. Griffiths The Birth of a Nation (1915) is a masterpiece of cinema, the unavoidable racism and revisitionist history aside, technically Griffith’s magnum opus acts as a true game-changer. I must admit, I still find it difficult to engross myself in the clunky flow of these earlier works. I’m avoiding Feuillade’s Les Vampires for a while until I can find both the time and a good quality version.

Surprisingly I’d yet to watch The Cabinet of Dr Caligari and wasn’t as blown away as I thought I might be, that said, I’ve never been a fan of expressionism in general, however, on a little digging the book From Caligari to Hitler extrapolates as to some interesting temporal ideas:

“…in which he claimed that many of the elements of the expressionist film style, as well as Caligari’s overall story of a madman hypnotist who uses a mindless sleepwalker to carry out murders, were “a premonition of Hitler.” – link

“It was a bright jungle, more hell than paradise, but a paradise to those who had exchanged the horror of war for the terror of want.

It stood out lonely like a monolith.” – From Caligari to Hitler – PDF

And in my opinion, still does, the story of the sane turned insane, and of the absurdity/insanity of unquestioned authority is a continuing source of maddening loneliness (Kafka etc.). I must add that the removal of these film’s narratives from my contemporary perceptions is growing more difficult with each new watch, to appreciate their place in history, their place as creators and especially innovators is stifled immensely by K-Addiction and the awful explosion-loving programming of modern film-making. Michael Bay extends his arm into the past and rips away subtlety…

Pleasantville: Knocked from Stasis

The residents of the town Pleasantville are within a TV show called Pleasantville, which our two protagonists, David and Jennifer, find themselves thrown into. A town & TV show which is of 50’s attitudes, whereas our protags are from the 2000s (it seems.)

Thus the town acts as a place of temporal-stasis, a pure-linearity, a linearity which is temporal and spatial, as its main street curves in a loop onto itself. Only that which has been written of the show can happen: A basketball will always go through the hoop, things are done in order, etc. etc. Yet once our two protags are thrown into the town, they act as malicious agents, though not on purpose, anything they alter brings consequences, a quasi-chaos theory within a smaller universe (the town of Pleasantville).

The subtle changes to the Universe remove the ‘written’ characters from their existential script, the one in which they meaning. Once the characters, acting as extras to the universe, NPCs if you will, realise they can do things outside of the written order, their world begins to deconstruct in both negative and positive ways. The sexually repressive attitudes of the 50’s: handholding, kissing at ‘Lover’s Lake’ etc. are cast aside for full-blown MTV-style lovin’, in fact this sparks a conersation in which Jennifer, who’s in her early 20’s, has to explain what sex is to her 50’s mother, the style begins to evolve into a Greaser care-free style, and that which becomes altered in the ‘meant-to-be-black-and-white world’ begins to appear in colour. Yet, certain characters who realise that they can act off script begin to question the ‘point’ of their existence, for if the chef at the diner can put the lettuce on the burgers before the cheese then his entire world is altered, he begins to question. The questioning acts in certain ways in accordance with Artificially Intelligent learning, exponential growth of knowledge: The chef realises he can place lettuce before cheese, and quickly learns he could go just not make a burger at all, or even not go to work. Thus the protagonists act as agents within a linearity, both wielding the possibility to knock existent-zombies from their unconscious statis.

Chef: What’s the point bud?

David: You make hamburgers, that is the point.

Chef: It’s always the same…

David: Look, you can’t always like what you do, sometimes you just gotta do it because it’s your job, and even if you don’t like it you just gotta do it anyway.

Chef: Why?

David:…I think that you should try not to think about that anymore.

(Note: Some filler from the conversation is cut here.)

Anything authentic, which in this case is that which is not-of-this-world begins to take on actual colour, as opposed to the black-and-white 50’s TV aesthetic. These acts of complete authenticy eventually begin to, in small ways, destroy the world, causing a tree to self-combust into flame: flame, which, as something not used within the actual TV program should not…be. Leaving the firefighters in awe of flame and actually using their equipment for its use for once, in Heideggerian terms this act is for the firefighters to take that which is present-at-hand and utilize it, transform it, into the ready-to-hand. This acts leads the in-Pleasantville characters to question the ‘outside’ of Pleasantville. The books which were previously blank, begin to become filled in via the protags memory of them, thus the characters begin to read that which they never should have, they begin to shed their black and white shells and become conscious of the metaphysical colour. Many of them become, especially the older generation of extreme 50’s conservative values, become self-conscious of the colour; self-conscious of their enjoyment of the culturally transgressive, and as such, paint themselves back to black and white, to cover their new found ‘cultural-outside’.

One scene in particular, though a little romantic, is incredible in terms of a metaphor for political and cultural escape. The chef is given a book on Art to flick through, as he enjoys painting, the process of him viewing beautiful works of Art is literally euphoric. Yet, he still cannot see ‘colours’.

Chef: “Where am I gonna see colours like that. Must be awful lucky to see colours like that, I bet they don’t know how lucky they are.”

An erudite comment on existentialism and the perspective of the artist.

Among other things, the film has a reasonably transparent criticism of the patriachy, in which William H Macy’s archtypal father character, continues to ask where his dinner is when he arrives home from work. It’s not on the table, as his wife is out expressing herself, enjoying her own life outside of the linear. He explains this to his group of pals:

There was no dinner.”

“*GASPS*”

“If George here doesn’t get his dinner, anyone of us could be next.”

A questioning of values begins from the older conservative townsfolk. They believe it will just “Go away.”, yet of course those who’ve experience the colour do not want it to go away, there begins a questioning, largely from the women at first, starting with George’s wife, who realises she can do what she wants.

And so begins the films comment of black segregation in America in the 50’s. People begin to display ‘No Coloureds’ signs and talk of seperating the pleasant (black and white) from the unpleasant (coloureds), the comment itself is a little weak. And so begins violence towards ‘coloureds’, violence, which up until now has not been part of their world, they are as of yet, to see blood.

The film roughly follows the linear history of black segregation politics in American, finishing in David and Chef painting a large mural on the side of the Police Office, showing the rise of the colour and the change.

It is a film of political, cultural and existential apathy. Directing its artistic sensibilities towards the absurd nature of those who find themselves in multiple forms of stasis, towards those who are stuck.

The Big Short – Bureaucratic Horror

“I mean for instance, one of the hallmarks of mania is the rapid rise in complexity and the rates of fraud…” – Michael Burry

What’s the initial setup for your most basic horror film? An ordinary world, the world as a given, everything fine, normal and we as a viewer still have our nerves. Everything is as it should be. There may of course be a hero, a protagonist with which we will side, usually we shall take the side of those who we feel are more morally just. Then something goes wrong, a disturbing force, something mystical, strange, violent and absurd shall overthrow the narrative, we are given a clear warning of this, some eerie tone or a sense of unease and foreboding is given. The problem is usually solved, or fixed, the villain or sense of unease is killed/ended and those who’ve survived go on with their lives.

In this case The Big Short begins entirely in the ordinary world, we are told of Lewis Ranieri the father of mortgage-backed securities in the 70’s, we don’t know who he is, but he changed our lives, which already pushes a sense of unease, someone changed all our lives and we never knew, this is nothing unique of course, except it comes apparent later on as to why it’s a malicious global economic change. The ordinary world is short lived, we are given images from the 2008 housing crisis, people being evicted from their homes, poverty, strife, anger, worry and fear all crammed into roughly 2 minutes of news real footage. There isn’t necessarily a singular hero in this case, prior to beginning the film the audience understands that it’s about the 08’s housing crisis, so, who does one support? Who are we backing here? Who’s out hero? Potentially you could argue our ‘hero’ of sorts is the likes of Michael Burry who foresees the crisis, however, much like the rest of the films ensemble he merely uses his knowledge to profit from the crisis. Not that he, or any of the other protagonists could have done anything about it of course, to step in the way of big business is to commit career suicide, so you take what you can and leave, I guess. Perhaps the future economy is our hero? What we want to survive in an underlying sense of security in those who hold our money and safety, though the film’s general premise doesn’t bode well for this idea i.e. This has happened twice now, within a 70 year time frame. So, what kind of horror is this? A bureacratical one, constantly fluctuating with a sense of kafkaesque frustration.

Wall Street loves to use confusing terms to make you think only they can do what they do.”

Of course, this is nothing new. Look at any system in which there’s something at stake which those who know don’t want spoiled, or to have the wealth spread out amongst even more people: Bitcoin, stock markets, morgages, taxes, forex, etc. these systems are made implicitly to push people away. So already the viewer is given a new world in which the narrative is to make transparent was has for so long seemed like complete gibberish, techo-jargon explained to the layman, so we can see it for what it is, simple exploitation. We are given a world in which we’re the fish, yet the problem being, the time has passed, 2008 has passed, so we are just relieving the intricacies and underlying structure of a collective nightmare.

“You have no idea the crap people are pulling and the average person just walks around like they’re in a goddamn Enya video. They’re all getting screwed…Credit cards, pay day lenders, car financing, fees, fees, and more fees. And what do they care about? The ball game or which actress went into rehab?” – Mark Baum

 

As witty and humourous as Baum’s statement is, it’s true, it’s always been true and will forever be true, as long as we stay within the capitalist realist state we are currently within. The interesting feeling the film emanates here is that of nausea, an uncanny situation in which the horror is unfolding from both sides inwards, there’s no hero to save us, any possibility of salvation has been buried in time under stacks and stacks of paper work, maybe not, that could just be conjecture. However, the viewer now understands they are in there’s no out as this has happened, so they are just to sit and watch the horror unfold, slowly watch as the scaffolding is poked and prodded until collapse.

 

Who bets against housing?”

 

That’s the problem, complete in 4 words. Who, as in, it will never fail because everyone knows it wont. Bets, it’s a dumb gamble. Against, it’s secure. Housing, it’s housing, it’s always fine, I mean it’s housing for christ’s sake: we live in them. Everyone does it so no one questions it, The Big Short tells the story of when the mad man on the street is finally vindicated, those shouting “The End (of the economy) is Nigh!” of course no one listens, and no one will care afterwards becuase they’re too busy trying to find a new home or work out what the hell happened. Most horror movies at this point either have a clear villain win or loss: the villain either kills the victims or vice versa, that doesn’t happen here, everyone is left to deal with the remains, as if a big economic villain came in ravaged 99% of the parties involved and left without any damage to itself because it never existed in the first place. The viewer, left empty, just continues on, I don’t know how to finish this because the movie itself can only leave you with a distinct sense of dread that the walls that surround you aren’t financially secure, nothing is, it could all crumble…well, we already knew this though didn’t we.

Ivan’s Childhood

“War is no place for children.”

 

Ivan’s Childhood sits as a blueprint for Tarkovsky’s career, with an idea towards accessible spirituality and metaphysics, towards the il y a and dread of existence. One strikes one foremost, as with any Tarkosky film is the imagery, a sublime mixture of intensly humane images, contrasted with striking, quasi-abstract death-imagery.

Ivan, a 12 year old Russian boy, whose family, we learn, has been killed. He had joined a partisan group and had attempted to cross the front line into Soviet territory. He is captured by the Soviets and installed into the war effort, his small physique and swiftness his beneficial attributes. A stoic and contrarian boy, a boy pushed temporally into the realm of man prematurely, allowed access into a chaotic masculine space before one should be. His attitude allows him to fit in.

Ivan’s dreams are interspersed througout the film, the viewers gut directed towards near overdrive as one forgets Ivan’s childhood, accepting the film’s plot as truth-of-the-matter, normality forgotten, for peace cannot exist in wartime as such neither can the innocence of childhood. For a directorial debut one quickly realises Tarkosky is working from a different plane, one where the hidden, the shadowed and the mist no longer exist as a limitrophe, but are brought to the fore and Ivan’s present emotions are laid bare; amongst the half-lit swamp, the suffocation underground and the rumble of flares overhead. Which each glowing terror a moment in Ivan’s future is destroyed, physically, metaphorically and metaphysically, which each act of violent-self a piece of childhood cannot happen.

Ivan attempts to cross the river, back from where he came, an attempt at the impossible, attempt to become what one was, to erase the past. As such Ivan becomes lost in the swamp, in the mist, in the gases and gunfire. We are to find out about his fate in the final scenes of the film. As the Third Reich is overthrown, papers on the floor of an ex-Nazi government building show that Ivan was hanged. We are shown the room of execution. And then cut to a dream, Ivan playing a child’s game on a tranquil beach, all the while a dead tree sits waiting, amongst the frollics and fun there lies the metaphysicl truth of the matter, the childhood lost, tainted and never returned.

Tarkovsky seems me a director one should begin at the beginning with, one shouldn’t start with his magnum opus’ as I feel the emotion and imagery may in fact be too much, it may seem kitsch almost, when in reality it is the utmost calculated spirit and mystery. All Ivan knows is war, without hope of a childhood, born into war and his life is of war. Violence, horror and survival is all he knows and in certain respects all he will (now) ever know, a life scolded by the war. A tension between a sweet yet dangerous nostalgia – that of what is childhood is meant to be – and the reality he is within. Nostalgic dreams become nightmares; the impossibility of normality is true horror. Ivan’s loss is pure, dead loss, a side may have won, but no -ism, -opia or -ology can redeem the death of a child. A vacuum of meaning where there should be enjoyment exists in the total now, it has happened and as such the celebrations at the end of the film fall flat; Somebody won, it has ended, he is dead, hate is no-more…but what of our Ivan? What of a child? This can seem to be empty sentiment, the typical “Think of the children!”, but Tarkosky’s presentation of such a statement retrieves it from its mutation as something used. No longer are we to think of the children as a thought to get us to act, we are presented with the children, the innocence, but we are presented with a narrative complete, as such we are simply to witness what has been and attempt to learn. Ivan was gone as soon as he heard the first bomb fall.

Ivan is mad, that is a monster; that is a little hero; in reality, he is the most innocent and touching victim of the war: this boy, whom one cannot stop loving, has been forged by the violence he has internalised.” – Jean Paul Sartre (http://people.ucalgary.ca/~tstronds/nostalghia.com/TheTopics/Sartre.html)

Arrival – Heidegger, Levinas and Fatalism.

Arrival  – Dir, Denis Villeneuve. 2016.

 

I used to think this was the beginning of your story. Memory is a strange thing, it doesn’t work like I thought it did. We are so bound by time, by its order.” – Louise Banks

 

Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival is as gentle as a Kubrickian film is ever going to get. Overbearing stoicism, captured in wide shots and a general sense of seclusion and alienation, one is not so worried about the aliens as a potential for hostility, but if this will actually change anything, one feels for the earth. Whatever this is, it is already above the idea of humans vs aliens, it is beyond the horizon, into a dark unknown, an unknown even those who travel through space and (potentially) time cannot enter.

Amy Adams as linguist Louise Banks, who we see from the beginning has lost a daughter to cancer, in a flashback overcast with the idea of a dream made, then destroyed. The news comes in, as it always does and always will, aliens have landed…finally? It seems this way to Banks, who is nonchalant to the news, it’s clear to the viewer nothing could overthrow the hand life gave her, she cares not for the one dealt to the world. She’s asked by the government to use her skills as a linguist to communicate with the aliens. At the army camp, situated next to the ‘landed’ ship, she meets Ian Banks, a physicist, whom she has a relevant love interest with. I feel in the case the word ‘alien’ cheapens the detail and nuance applied to this film’s extraterrestrial, who I feel are at opposition to hostility, one has a sense of fright and worry, the extraterrestrials understand they are the strangers. Which at once gives the viewer the feeling of unease, who here is the authorative ‘species’ or genus, the hierarchy has been dissembled, we are at threat together.

The aliens or ‘heptapods’ landed in an oval pebble type ship, as high a skyscraper, yet gentle on the landscape, not too authoritative, not cold nor warm, there, still and settled.

The heptapods reside in there ship, within a lit room filled with what seems to be steam or smoke, separating them and the humans is, I guess, the heptapod equivalent to glass, the humans the other side, in their own large room…which is only illuminated with light from the heptapod side, and their own feeble technology (Glow sticks, lights etc.)

The heptapods bring a new illumination, one humans are only just becoming aware of, a world anew; and so the task begins of how to communicate. The illumination in a sense is post-Platonic, our minds are no longer the only source. Illumination of the Other? Or has the horizon simply ‘moved’. The Levinasian illumination (Existence and Existents) is inverted, the possibility and potentiality of hostility from light, a physical manifestation of uncanny-sense. We supplied the light to our own world for so long, and now an-Other supplies a new light, one that can go beyond our ‘known’ horizons, through time and temporality.

And so the task begins of how to communicate. The heptapods communicate via what seems to be 3-dimensional rings of smoke, the meaning of which change via the subtleties of the shape. Banks begins to understand the language as something which addresses time, addresses temporality, eventually leading her to understand that it can help one understand and view their individual history and future directly, a language that can take one within their history, within their future, within their time. A language in-keeping with Martin Heidegger’s theory of historicality:

[Death] is only the ‘end’ of Dasein; and, taken formally, it is just one of the ends by which Dasein’s totality is closed round. The other ‘end’, however, is the ‘beginning’, the ‘birth’. Only that entity which is ‘between’ birth and death presents the whole which we have been seeking… Dasein has [so far] been our theme only in the way in which it exists ‘facing forward’, as it were, leaving ‘behind’ all that has been. Not only has Being-towards-the-beginning remained unnoticed; but so too, and above all, has the way in which Dasein stretches along between birth and death. (Being and Time 72: 425).

Thus, Dasein, a being such as a human, one which can interrogate its own being is at all times behind its past, and ahead of its future. We are pushing our past, correcting and changing our experience with knowledge of our past, and attending to our past with direction towards possibilities of the future. So the language of the heptapods is a practical manifestation of Heideggerian historicality, praxis-language.

The film doesn’t however, extrapolate on whether the language is in favour of will, or is in fact fatalistic. The ending allows the viewer the knowledge that Louise Banks has seen her future, and that in fact the flashback at the beginning was a flashforward, and at ‘current’ she is witnessing her future, the one she will have with Ian, whom she met whilst working with the heptapods, they will marry, have a child, divorce, and the child shall die of an incurable disease. She decides to stay with Ian despite knowledge of her future, thus can she now – via heptapod language usage – change her future? Improve her relationship with Ian, have the child at a different time so it may potentially avoid the disease. It’s unclear whether at the beginning she (potentially) subconsciously knows of her future – this would be a possibility within the logic of the film.

These questions are classic philosophical questions, those of freewill, free-choice, determinism and fatalism, are our actions our own? Yet the questions are asked via a Heideggerian framework, one in which language is employed as spatio-temporally free-floating, existing outside of physics. A pure metaphysical language. A Heideggerian language of historicality, applied via a Levinasian ‘extraction’:

Moreover, the very fact that a painting extracts and sets aside a piece of the universe and brings about, in an inwardness, the coexistence of worlds that are mutually alien and impenetrable, has already a positive esthetic function.” (Existence & Existents, Emmanuel Levinas, p48)

Usually it is only that of a physical ‘spatio-temporal’ object that can extract from culture, physically that is, an idea etc, an object such as a painting or poem or film carries with it a sense of time, an individual-time. The language of Arrival and that of the heptapods is the extraction of time from a fixed linearity, it is a language to remove the shackles, the individual’s time becomes economic, theirs. Though if the language is, as the film’s linearity would have us believe, fatalistic, then the language is but a curse, we can view our future and do nothing about it? A world learning of their unchangeable futures is a paradox in itself. To teach a class of students how to utilize heptapod language to view their future, would be to teach a class of linguistics students their future’s look very bleak, many of them will die and suffer loss, and will want to change their future, as such, the language only be a tool, a gift, a means to alter one’s future.

The heptapods act as the symbolic manifestation of a transcendental understanding of Heideggerian thought, an understanding in which one can transcend human limitations, break free of deterministic shackles.

Afterword: There is of course the argument that the heptapod language would be part of one’s ‘preset’ path, as such determinism still stands outright, the language may only act as the ability for larger states of flux within a preset horizon.

Capitalism & the Undead P2: Animality Unbound

INTRODUCTION

We move from the slow, ambling undead towards a new mode of flux. Away from the easily structured modernities, the fluorescent, clean buildings and the tinny red blood. We shall be cast from the murmurs, the drooling hedonistic masses; those so easy to avoid. We will find a new hunger, insatiable and violent. A physicality born from thoughtless material-gain. A literal breed of consumer. Organic consumer capitalists, grown from the land.

THE DEAD NEXT DOOR (1989)

We begin with a cult film, with cult elements. A new direction towards the consumer, the acceptance of such, people will consume and so it simply is, the fight is lost almost before the film has even begun. A concentration not on defence against the consumer, but on assimilation with their needs, their wants…their desires. A structured society that has a place for zombies.

Down through twisting rural roads, to the corner stores of suburbia and within the concrete metropolis’; the undead have become clutter, small fragments of a larger whole, littering the world, scraping and bashing into everything, consuming all they contact, an accepted virus. A world without blood cells of white, a world that has forgotten the possibility for protection and thus accepts. Sometimes, gratefully.

As with any formal society divides begin against ‘whatever-it-may-be’, those who are fine with, and those who are not fine with, extremists of left and right, with those on the fence only being consumed. To not make a decision is to be infected by a virus worse than death. The Zombie Squads replicate replace the police in this film, mobilizing and hunting vagrant biters, jay-walkers get shot down, undead squatters evicted with death.

“The thing’s head’s off its body for Christ’s sake, doesn’t it know that?”

No, it doesn’t, consume, consume, consume.

There is the opposite, as there always is, those against those who are for, protecting the zombie’s right to exist, to not be used and experimented on, to not be round up and controlled for gain of another. Surrounding squad-stations and government buildings, armed with placards and speeches, reminiscent of a counter-culture, hoards of protesters, a small mass infecting others with their own non-brand.

It can be just a brain. A literal brain, surrounded by its own mucus casing, a pulsating red vessel, void of all nutrition and stimulation, a mere gear to be turned by that which passes by, taking in and then…nothing. The brain becomes an organ of use, machinery to be utilized, plugged in and wired up to a system built with malicious intent, an ignorant capsule bowled at an economic circuit-board.

A slave-virus with one directive: to consume, or feed. If unfed the user will die, the virus, wholly its own, survives without the user. A malignant consumerist alien feeding on your soul until you die. It has no other objective. To use up, to spit out and continue. The sputum of humanity.

28 DAYS LATER (2002)

A medicinal beginning. Caged ancestors infected with rage, the archaic remnants of homo-sapiens locked away, animalistic behaviours behind lock & key. Descendants tied down and forced to watch the work of their worst offspring, plugged into direct-horrors, a brain-feed into the worst of a Race. The categorical begins to poke at our unconscious, the chained Id tested and vulnerable. The outside seeps in, a thin quiet mist of infinite enters, with the purpose of evolutionary deconstruction: animality unbound.

To avoid the terror one must destroy feeling. To avoid the reality one must become a new. To avoid reality one must consume. Coma or not one has to awaken in a new world. Lost and alone, attempting to find real people, subtle, nuanced, 3 dimensional humans who still have Being. To move freely in a city without a bump, money strewn, food a plenty, survival a mere gimmick against trinkets and toys.

THE END IS NIGH. A repetition of any apocalypse, except, the apocalypse came and went, no one noticed; the time to invest in death. The churches reverse into themselves, Hell is overcrowded so they burst up and into the sacred. Temples now breeding grounds, disease centres, concentrated spaces of the Antichrists’ brethren. The priest walks out, a saviour in the dark, and as he comes into the light his bones become not his, his muscles flare and his teeth expand, hope is lost, you are nowhere and no one is coming.

To run from salvation is the step before the endless. One must re-enter the underground, meaning only exists when something is there to give it such, but if one is too pre-occupied with simple survival, then the environment simply becomes objects within space. Homo-sapiens occupying a world void of meaning, chased from their own minds by an empty hoard.

“Plans are pointless, staying alive is as good as it gets.”

A small glimmer of life atop a new tower, the last remaining kernel of human life resides in a grey block amidst a desert of hollow beings. Trolleys meant for collecting stacked 10 high, once used by the undead to consume more & more, now used by the living to defend themselves. A barrier of consumerist memories.

A simple visit to a food store, one time, for survival is as good as it gets, necessities only, then, into flux, mobility and survival, always. Mental survival, the ability to disallow the infection in, not even as thought, to kill a consumer is to kill nothing, it is to shoot the air. The undead die, nothing changes. An empty death for an empty existence. The roof a wash with empty buckets, the living get handed nothing, for the world is not theirs. The world is no longer alive.

Watching the horses frolic, alive in their own world, Frank watches intently, the image a temporary vaccine against the undead. The grass a colour known only to the living, the breeze a temperature felt by those who can feel and the sky existing only for those who know what it’s like to exist.

A single drop of the virus and one shall turn, the most loving and compassionate human will change in an instant. Now the loving has gone and one must feed. Family, friend, both only a thing to be consumed, something to be used only to prolong one’s own life. Narcissistic entities existing in a perpetual empty landscape.

The virus is contagious anew. Virus-assimilation via proximity, to live within the world of the undead one has to become part-undead. It can take you over, you get a consumerist lust, the supposed wants and needs infect your mind, and so you turn, and you justify your cause, until you can do so no longer.

DAWN OF THE DEAD (REMAKE, 2004)

Time has passed since the original mall, the mall of Americana, the tubular bright lights, the advert jingles, the colours found only in certain eras. Gone are the rambles and bored groans of green-tinted zombies, the tongue-in-cheek humour, the possibility of friendship. Welcome to the new improved zombie, the consumerist 2.0, one whose memories never were, and if they were, they were implanted.

An idyllic neighbourhood, the perfect job, the protector of the community, the children, the fitness, the sport and the caring. All infected beyond return. The virus shall inherit values, it shall evolve morality into its own being. It shall take what you know to be true, destroy it, blend it into a phlegm-paste and force-feed you with it. And until you beg for more, until you either die, or beg to eat shit, the virus shall not stop.

A return to the familiar, the Mall, the transcendent home of the consumer, building as encapsulation of intent: we know you think you want to consume, so we made a place to reinforce your belief. The undead run this time, their thirst for the original is energized. The hunger more insatiable, the hoards larger, the uncontrollable hedonism, the ignorance sprayed.

“Why’d you think they come here?”

“Memory maybe, instinct, maybe they’re coming for us.”

Perhaps the virus is airborne, for these humans seem dumb, ignorance towards the intent of others, the belief that those that do not know, in fact do know. The belief that everything might end up OK, the belief that there will be an end that they can conceive, the belief that, in short, the world is still theirs.

There’s another, aside from the group, a street over, atop a roof. “May as well be on the moon.”. The alive are so few. Originality is an impossibility. To find another amongst the mess of the unthinking. One shall only see new possibilities from afar, what is possible is out of reach, to attempt anything new, original or lifelike is to risk death. Before you reach an idea to be spread, the many shall eat you whole. If you ever even think of trying something, the skin shall be ripped from your bones, like gum from the underside of a school-desk.

“When there is no more room in hell, the dead shall walk the earth.”

The evolution takes place under the noses of the alive. An undead mother giving birth to an undead child. A human-turned-consumer giving birth to a little consumer child. There’s no longer need for a virus, with this mutation, we have become a virus. From spawn we need falsities. From birth we are anchored to a nothingness of our own creation. Torn from the womb and cast into a sprawling slum of narcissism, greed, guilt, plastic, chemicals, imprints, replication, simulacrums, chambers, systems and structures. Hope does not want us.

One has to become sporadic, reach for an organic weaponization, strive for a fusion of nomadic-survivability, turn to possibilities oceanic in scale, turn to realities larger than clusters. Grow shields for limbs, our organs must turn liquid and flow into the channels of the like-minded. We must, at all costs, accelerate evolution. To avoid becoming a zombie, first one must truly not want to become one, not even glimpse at the possibility of an undead existence. One shy look towards the life of a consumer and one has already turned.

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