The Italian Job – The Tragicomic And The Feel-Good

Quick Thoughts: The Italian Job (1969)

Fresh our of prison, Charlie Crooker plans to steal 4 million dollars off the streets of Italy.

italian job

This is definitely one of the great British films. It serves as an entertaining action crime thriller, but more importantly a comedy – a prime example of British comedy. We see this in the paradigm of the plotting, the rise and fall of action, anti-parallel to conflict. In other words, as levity and excitement rise, disaster creeps closer, waiting to pounce just when you think everything is going to be all right. This genre of comedy is quite iconically British. Many comedians such as Stephen Fry, Russel Brand and Ricky Gervais have made this larger point before me, making clear the place British comedy has in entertainment – especially in juxtaposition to the comedies coming from America. British comedy is self-deprecating and preferring to be laughed at than walk away to whoops and applause. This was all explored in a video by Now You See It (link here). The video serves as great commentary toward the American dream and British cynicism, giving an explanation as to why the two different types of comedies come from the two different side of the Atlantic. But, I believe there’s more to be said in regards to why these two types of humour exist, functionally, structurally as technical comedic forms. I think the reasoning for the difference mirrors the cinematic dichotomy of films and movies. Movies are pictures where the main goal is to entertain. Films on the other hand hold meaning over entertainment. The easiest way to understand this is to compare Hollywood blockbusters to European dramas. The difference between stereotypically British and American comedy mirrors this as the self-deprecating, tragicomic form can say or mean more. This isn’t to say that British films have more meaning in them, instead, it’s best to stop classifying the two kinds of comedy by country, but by approach. There’s the tragicomic and the feel-good. Feel-good comedies are for the most part throw-away entertainment. We can watch these films and have a good time, maybe many times over if the film is good, but there’s few questions raised by the narrative, neither is there a plotted structure we feel we must pull apart or delve into. With The Italian Job, we’re forced to ask why, when everything is shown to be going so well, that Crooker manages to have everything turn tits-up. Because, coming back to the paradigm of this films structuring, that’s exactly what we’re given time again and time again. The films shows Crooker getting the beautiful women, then having his girlfriend catch then scream and shout at him. It shows the gang’s elegant cars, the awe-inspiring scenery – the back drop to a James Bond film – and then takes it away with shame, showing Crooker and his gang as next to nothing in face of the Mafia. And finally, we have a successful robbery, one scuffed up by celebrations, ending on a literal cliff hanger, one that Lock Stock And Two Smoking Barrels seems to pay homage to.

With an aspect of tragedy in comedy, an element of being on the losing side, comes a lesson of caution. The true difference between American, British, feel-good, tragicomic humour is in a philosophy of how we learn and how we cope. Laughter is how we point out weakness, it’s how we say you’re doing this wrong, or you’ve out-smarted me. It’s also a means of reflecting on subjects whilst feeling good – conditioning our minds and bodies for positivity. With the purpose of laughing being in learning and teaching, is it more important to reflect success with feel-good comedy that we may imitate, or is it more important to reflect failure with tragicomics to be avoided?

What I love is that this is not a question to be answers with ideals. It’s a question you answer with how you behave. What is funnier to you, tragicomics or feel-goods? What is your favourite joke or comedy, and how does that classify? What does that then say about you, how you perceive the world and how you learn?

 

 

Previous post:

Fight Club – Nihilism, Anarchy And I

Next post:

Ordet – Intangibility

More from me:

amazon.com/author/danielslack

Advertisements

Fight Club – Nihilism, Anarchy And I

Thoughts On: Fight Club

An insomniac runs into a soap salesman.

Fight Club

We’ve all seen it. And so the warning is pointless, but, SPOILERS. Tyler Durden is a projection of The Narrator’s screwed up mind. With that said, this is a movie entirely about self-destruction sourced from a simple lack of identity. Fight Club is a movie much like The End Of The Tour, but more extravagant with an exuberant, boisterous and hyperbolised style, movement and characterisation. This is then a movie that is, at its core, pretty petty. However, the truth of this is presented in a manner you can take seriously, in a manner you don’t feel you must mock. So, the core of Fight Club is of a man that is simply not happy. To combat his depression he wallows in it, but when he can no longer feed off his own bullshit, he decides to hit self-destruct. His self-destruction through Tyler is actually tantamount to us not being able to take the plights of this movie (or something like The End Of The Tour) seriously. The narrator knows his problems are pretty pathetic, he knows that going to the dozen support groups he has no place in joining is pitiful, pretty scummy and completely self-absorbed. It’s with Marla that this narcissistic essence of his self becomes unbearably upfront. This is what triggers Tyler. Tyler is nothing more than a way for The Narrator to punch himself in the face and stuff Marla without having to recognise the fact that he is both pathetic and could maybe push a way out of his depression. The paradigm of this film is then all about a reflection of self. In the very beginning, The Narrator is forced to look in on himself and see nothing. He stays up night at day, simply wanting reprieve. He hates his job. He hates the system he is apart of. He wants out.

To understand The Narrator’s position you simply have to see him in an empty room. There is a door and it’s unlocked. The Narrator wants out. What does he do? He walks to the door, pulls it open and leaves, right? Ok, but what if The Narrator can’t walk? The door is now shut in spite of him, his efforts, his need to translate thought to physical actions are fruitless. It’s now that we see his depression, his insomnia, his debilitating lack of perceived self. He sees himself as empty and so is powerless to leave his unlocked room. What happens if, in exchange of locking the door, we give The Narrator a friend with a bomb? He still wants out, but he’s not moving. Why not let the friend destroy the room around him as he stands? This is the entire narrative of Fight Club. The Narrator senses a vacuous hole beyond the shell of his skin, and this makes him feel like absolute shit. To escape this, he projects the shit onto the walls around him. He then decides that if he wipes the walls clean, maybe wipes them away completely, the shit inside him will be gone too. What we see here is a cushion of nihilism being popped by a pin of anarchy. The Narrator doesn’t believe in himself and so he doesn’t believe in the world. He decides he wants to lose control, he wants to play with his internal self-destruct button, and then he decides the world’s self-destruction also needs to be hit. This translates to Tyler’s plan to destroy all monetary and capitalists aspects of society instead of The Narrator searching within himself for a new beginning. This trait of The Narrator and Tyler is immersed in a plea to the world to stop letting them (him) destroy themselves (himself). In short, it’s working a boring job for money and to simply accumulate things, that are so easy to do, just like watching TV, living a safe, quiet life by everyone else’s rules. However, we choose to live the easy life, to indulge in shit that’s not good for us. Is it right that the world then be labelled corrupt? Is it right that we then think the system needs to change? Does it make any sense that what we feel in side is irrevocable attributed to the world around us along with blame and consequences to come?

This is a question Fight Club begins to ask. However, this is not the last interrogative given by the final image of the film…

What this image caps off is the end of a cautionary tale. The Narrator and Tyler alike, no matter how enjoyable they are, no matter how convincing their case for anarchy feels, are (somewhat inadvertently) liars. Don’t get sucked into what they preach. That is not what the film is about. As said, this is a film about finding yourself. It’s subsequent commentary then comes with how people tend to approach this perpetually distancing peak that is ultimately insurmountable – knowing just who you are. Again, this is a film about finding yourself, about finding your own individuality, and it starts with The Narrator breaking away from his shirt, tie and suitcase by beating himself and friends up for a laugh, to actually feel, to experience physical truth. It’s the beginning of the second act where the nihilistic and anarchistic elements of this film teach lessons that actually help The Narrator. What The Narrator and Tyler start off doing is simply chipping away at the hatred they have for themselves. They feel weak and pitiful and so they ask themselves just how weak and how pitiful they are. They test and find this out with Fight Club. And it’s, as Tyler says, Fight Club that is truth, that isn’t bullshit and lies. What’s bullshit is The Narrator’s boss being a better person or having more power than The Narrator just because of a title. This social hierarchy is what we all experience every day. It’s having to be polite, having to be passive aggressive, having to not ask someone who believes they are better than you to actually prove it. It’s the monetary and capitalist aspects of society as presented by the the first two acts and all of the workplace scenes that demonstrate how we live in a society where we fight with metaphors, with implimence, with intangibility and hidden agendas. And the rules of this world remained undefined as we simply aren’t able to talk about them. And it’s that there that should be ringing all the bells. We all know it:

“The first rule of Fight Club is: you do not talk about Fight Club. The second rule of Fight Club is: you do not talk about Fight Club.”

 

These rules are a massive fuck you to the way we operate in a civilised society where we have to be passive aggressive, we have to be fake and lie – and never talk about that fact. The first two rules are then a dare to actually say who you are, to actually say what you feel you must not, to talk about Fight Club despite authority. This is a paradigm repeated throughout the film. In fact, it’s after Tyler and The Narrator have their beers over The Narrator’s apartment blowing up that Tyler demands The Narrator actually ask if he can stay at his place. This is the best example of social conduct being thrown out the window in search of honesty. Tyler knew what The Narrator wanted to ask. The Narrator knew that Tyler knew. Still, he keeps his mouth closed as it’s the polite thing to not be upfront, as he didn’t want to force a yes, or hear a no. These touch and go rules of society keep us from truth, keep us from being honest with one another and ultimately separate us all. I don’t believe this a universal truth, and I don’t think we should be unconditionally honest. But, more honesty in our world is something that wouldn’t go amiss. This is a concept explored by another film…

… so maybe I’ll save that talk for another time. Nonetheless, honesty is all Fight Club represents, is all Tyler and The Narrator are in search for in the first half of this movie. The subsequent rules of Fight Club reinforce this:

“Third rule of Fight Club: if someone yells “stop!”, goes limp, or taps out, the fight is over. Fourth rule: only two guys to a fight.”

Think about these rules, not between two people fighting, but talking. If we could be honest enough to say how we truly feel, about our boundaries, about truly pushing to the fringes of what we’re capable of, we would be able to see true character in others. We wouldn’t be coddled by cushions of social conduct. I remember hearing a Joe Rogan podcast, with Duncan Trussell, that dipped into these ideas with emojis and texting. Trussell spoke about emojis being like hieroglyphics that communicated more human emotions with imagery instead of words, letters and squiggles. But, on another episode of Rogan’s podcast, a similar idea came up with texting, but with a different interpretation. It was questioned if auto-correct and suggested responses may one day evolve so that we needn’t have to text or message, until we will be simply watching our computers or phones have the chats we would – but are too lazy to type out. It’s these two perspectives that outline just what The Narrator and Tyler are trying to escape. They don’t want to live in a world of auto-correct and predictive messaging because it leaves them empty as is a mere extension of regressive rules of social conduct. Its predictive messaging that mimics not wanting being so impolite as to just ask a stranger for help, instead, take them for beers and wait for them to offer. The world feels easier with predictive messaging and another person offering instead of us asking, but we are taking ourselves out of the equation at our own expense. We aren’t putting our true and nuanced emotions down on the page or screen. We aren’t trying to conjure up new sentences, different ways of saying things, we aren’t trying to do better, to have things be more personal and more real. To understand why real is important just look at emojis. A smiley face can work on many levels words may not, and with just one click, because they mimic what we are used to. We are used to looking at someone as they talk. When they say something we like we smile, we laugh. An emoji or a lol has to suffice on the phone, but all we’re really trying to do is mimic real conversations so we feel the genuine emotions humans have been coded for. All this begs the question of why not just put down the phone and talk to someone? These are the exact questions Fight Club begins to probe. It wants true raw emotions and because the characters in this film are so tightly wound around themselves, the only way to get them out is through extreme actions and extreme emotions – fighting and the ensuing ecstasy of pain and triumph.

However, this devolves with the rise of Project Mayhem. But, we’ll get into that later. First, it’s important to understand the roots of the nihilism, the complete disbelief in belief, and anarchy, the singular belief in disorder, in this film. These two terms have their problems. You cannot be a true nihilist for reasons explored in the previous Thoughts On essay.  You cannot be a true nihilist because belief fuels perception and reality. You cannot be a true anarchist for the same reason. People perceive, and perception is simply noticing patterns. You cannot live a life without perceiving, nor experiencing patterns and a certain set of rules and structurings. However, there are healthy doses of nihilism and anarchy that we can all take. By suspending our belief in everything once in a while, we can gain perspective over the absurdity of the society we’ve created. We are born wanting to sleep, eat and fuck – and feel good, safe and comfortable in the moments between activity. Why, if this is what we all want, must we then work? Why, if this is what we all want, do we get married, struggle after sex, affection, love? These are great questions that allow us to assess the world we live in objectively. It’s through a certain degree of nihilism that we can ponder, find out who we are and live by the rules we think make sense. For instance, why must we work? Well, yes, we all just want to be comfortable, but laptops, WiFi, heat and electricity don’t just happen. You need to create and maintain these things, just like we need to create charts, move money around, market, produce art and so on. We must produce these things for others so we may also consume what we are not able to produce – and that’s society. That’s why we work. It might not be fun, but it makes sense. As for the second question of sex and love? Well, it’s clear not everyone deserves our love, not everyone wants to be fucked, or have sex with another or every single person. We feel this way for evolutionary reasons, so we don’t end up with mates who have bad genetics, or are horrible people. It’s nihilism that makes society absurd, but we must not forget that nihilism is just a tool that raises us up for the purpose of perspective, so we can actually see the sense in a crazy system. The same may be said for anarchy. We live in a world that exist without any apparent reason or rhyme. Embracing this once in a while allows you to step back, look at the rules and decide if they make complete sense, if we want to be sending reams of emojis, if we want our computers to talk for us whilst we just watch, if we actually want to test the glass we feel we’re made of with a good scrap. Again, this is what the first half of Fight Club sets up so perfectly, but in comes Project Mayhem…

Project Mayhem is perpetually enforced nihilism, it is systematised anarchy. This is what happens when you take the given concepts too seriously and act as if they are philosophies possible for people to live by. What we see with Project Mayhem is a group of guys from the Fight Clubs being taught to let go of rules to feel truth once in a while growing into men that do not believe in anything but Tyler. Project Mayhem becomes a cult. This cult believes in a dogmatic hierarchy, it believes solely in Tyler and what he believes. That’s not nihilism – you’re not supposed to believe in anything. However, professing you’re a true nihilist leads to this. The same can be said for anarchy. The men working under Tyler aren’t true anarchists because they have a leader, they are doing what they are told, they have rules, they support control. This is what leads to the final irrational bombing. But, the contradictive failure of Project Mayhem is best exemplified with the death of Robert Paulson.

He dies on an operation, getting shot in the head. The men’s first reaction here is that the cops are pigs, that it is there fault alone. But, The Narrator is forced to ask: what did you think would happen!? It’s at this moment that we realise the sheer mindlessness of these supposed anarchists and nihilists. Anarchy and nihilism affords the opportunity for perspective and enlightenment – only if you utilise it well. They came into the project to find out who they are, to find their independent and true self. But, it’s chanting ‘his name is Robert Paulson’, a name given in death, that it’s made painfully clear that the purpose these lost postmodernists are so desperately searching for, has disappeared within themselves – and that they buried it. They are fighting for purpose, a purpose only felt when dead. What the fuck is the point of that!? There simply isn’t one.

What’s also poignant is Marla. We mustn’t forget that Marla is ultimately the crux of this film. She is what triggers Tyler and she is what The Narrator hides from. She is a person on his level that can help him through his own bullshit. A very important scene that comes midway through the film is one that mirrors the first fight The Narrator and Tyler have. As said, before the fight and after the beers, The Narrator is forced to actually ask Tyler if he can stay over. What this achieves is truth, it solidifies the relationship between The Narrator and Tyler – and is also the driving mechanism of Project Mayhem that brings all the men that it does together. But, during one of their many morning meetings Marla and The Narrator talk, but, as always, The Narrator cannot be honest with the only person he probably needs to be honest to – Marla and ultimately himself. When she tries to push him to talk about himself (Tyler) and her, he backs away from conversation, saying he’s mot afraid, but in the end simply mirrors Tyler’s words with: this conversation… this conversation… is over… BANG (shuts door)… is over. What this cites is The Narrators inability to be truthful when it truly matters. And just like the Project Mayhem goons blaming the cops for Paulson’s death, The Narrator blames the world for his problems. What’s horrifying is, like his goons, he has blinded himself to truth. He attributes everything shitty and contradictory that he does to Tyler – as if he’s a different person. This brings us toward revelation pretty quick. The significance of The Narrator realising he is in fact Tyler comes with his sudden humanity and surge of morality. He sees that putting men in danger, feeding them lies of anarchy and nihilism isn’t helping himself or them. And so he has to turn back to the beginning where he started to find truth in beating himself up. He fights Tyler, he fights with open eyes and wins, gaining his own personal independence and a hand to grab his…

… because, in the end, Fight Club is a romance. It’s a search for love and personage in oneself and hopefully with someone standing by your side. Sounds pretty soppy for a film called Fight Club, huh? But, that’s the truth. The truth is that The Narrator, much like us all, is an emotive creature. He feels happy, sad, lonely, lost. This changes his perception of self, and to deal with that, he figures he needs to change the world. But, with notions of nihilism and anarchy, The Narrator loses all sense of responsibility. That’s why Fight Club is a cautionary tale. It’s great to rebel, to question, to want change, but only if you hold in the back of your mind a constant reminder of your own personal responsibility. You should stay true to the idea that our actions are often towards personal growth – especially the pre-planned and questioned ones. But, you should also remember you ultimately want to eat, sleep and fuck – all whilst being happy, safe and comfortable in the moments between – and that’s all. The ‘moments in between’ are the existential focus of one’s life, they are only managed with open eyes, with a concept of responsibility – and it’s what will hopefully stop you from having turn the gun on yourself whilst blowing up the world to get a fresh start. With perception meeting the reality through the senses our bodies hold, we must remember that we are a tool, but a tool that gets to exploit the system of reality. It’s thus then ultimately true that control is the epitomal fantasy in a reality without free will or actual answers, where we are not omnipotent, all knowing, all powerful. This leaves us the only response of trying to control the fantasy we live in, not the world or reality as that is simply impossible. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again…

Control, the fantasy; control the fantasy.

 

 

Previous post:

2001: A Space Odyssey – Something From Something From Something From Something From…

Next post:

The Italian Job – The Tragicomic And The Feel-Good

More from me:

amazon.com/author/danielslack

2001: A Space Odyssey – Something From Something From Something From Something From…

Thoughts On: 2001: A Space Odyssey

I’ve covered this film before, but as it’s such an expansive artistic labyrinth of themes and ideas, I’ve decided to cover it again, this time in long form.

2001 2

The fundamental philosophy of 2001 is found in the singular image of the monolith.

In fact, it’s the monolith that represents the most crushing existential question anyone can ask themselves. Where does this all come from? The answer for billions of people and for thousands of years has been, God, in many shapes, forms and interpretations. It’s God that gave life, God that decides, God that is in control, that at least set this all up. The most obvious question we’ve all then asked is, if God created us, who created God? This is a question that has plagued many philosophical minds, with answers sometimes in referral to absolute power, infinite existence, essence and many other abstract thoughts. Another answer to the question, where does it all come from?, is scientific, is usually the big bang. About 13.7 billion years ago, something happened which led to our universe exploding from a point infinitely small and infinitely dense. As anyone who’s sat in a science class could tell you, something doesn’t come from nothing, energy and matter are not destroyed nor created – never completely. They simply change forms. So, like with the idea of God, we can turn to the big bang with many questions, like: where did it come from? What caused it? What was there beforehand? Answers to such questions are abstract, and for me, almost impossible to comprehend. The hardest concept for me (as I presume is the same with many people) to actually see and come to terms with is the concept of there actually being nothing before the big bang. The implication of this is that with the big bang came the birth of space and time. That means there is no where and no when for us to question when it comes to the precursing environment to the big bang. In sometimes accompanying addition to this idea comes other explanations to ‘the before’ of the big bang. Other explanations pertain to our universe expanding and contracting infinitely, meaning that the big bang was just the point of a new beginning for our universe. What came before the big bang would then be this universe, in a different form, milliseconds from collapsing in on itself. Another explanation to what came before the big bang comes with a multiverse theory. In this theory, universes are born in an inter-universal space, maybe from other universes, maybe from their deaths, maybe from contact amongst blobs of universes. What would trouble anyone with the concept of energy conservation at hand, of something not being able to come from nothing, would then be their capacity to ask: what if you zoom out? The exact same question may be asked with the theory of God, of multiverses and of our own universe expanding and contracting.

What if you zoom out? has us all squeezing our heads, wanting to cry, just hopelessly having to accept that we live in a reality tantamount to the ‘chicken and egg’ metaphor. This reality seems to infinitely perpetuate with Gods creating Gods, with universes being inside universes, multiverses within multiverses. There is never an end, nor is there a start. This is then ultimately troubling because, to quote my favourite band, “Stay. You don’t always know where you stand until you know that you won’t run away”. It’s stood still in ambiguity, in the dark, in perpetuity, that humans fidget, get scared, want to run away. Without knowing where it all starts on a cosmic, theological, universal, multi-universal, level we don’t know our place in this world, in time, in the vast breadths of reality. This is why questions of our origin and end haunt us, this is why answers are so eagerly sought out, the truth that we simply don’t know so often looked past, so hard to swallow. Kubrick offers no solace to this existential plight with 2001. Instead, it’s the monolith, that is implied to have given us a step up in the evolutionary ladder, that almost mirrors theories of a God or the big bang. The monolith with its basic shape, lack of colour, simple looming presence, is what perfectly represents our question of: where does it all come from? The monolith, as presented by Kubrick, may have given us our last huge evolutionary jump, just as it may have provided all those ahead of us and all those before. The monolith may have been responsible for the jump from basic life to complex life, from no life to simple life, from there being nothing in this universe to there being something. It’s with Kubrick’s monolith though that we still have the What if you zoom out? paradox. But, it’s with the rest of his narrative that he makes clear why this existential plight is fruitless, why our origins, our ends and all that perpetuates toward and away from them, are inevitably irrelevant to us, ourselves, as singular brains, minds, selves.

His point comes both with the design of the monolith and the paradigm of characters’ behaviours. The monolith being a basic oblong is an extension of the stargate sequence…

This is visual poetry. And what it’s saying is WHAT THE FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU… Kubrick has no other way to show the journey Bowman takes. Just like he throws a dazzling display at us here, he shows us simple mundanity with the monolith because it represents incomprehensibility. It’s recognising this that we can see the leading force of this film to be the confines of human perception. And it’s with that theme that we must then look at the characters of 2001. We start with the intro where we are given Moon-Watcher (the monkey thing), later our other key characters become Heywood (the chairman guy who gives a speech) Bowman (the main astronaut) and of course Hal 9000. What connects and separates these three characters is simply the fact that they are consciously alive. With life they are given the drive to continue living. Moon-Watcher doesn’t want to be eaten by predators, Heywood wants to protect and find the monoliths, as does Bowman and as does Hal. What’s then clear is that the main bulk of 2001 is a race towards that next big evolutionary step as given by the metaphorical monolith. The monolith, as mentioned, is almost God. It’s a force that gives something where there was not much before. Kubrick’s use of the monolith is then a very reductive view of the world, and it mimics us and our What if you zoom out? because there is the essential requirement of reason, of an image that explains it all. This is so crucially important as it mirrors the drives shown by characters. They want to survive, they want more. All characters understand there is something attainable that will change the state of their existence and, without any other reason beyond curiosity, maybe fear, they want it. It’s often what we refer to as the human condition that explains this contradiction. We want goals, material representations of our time and efforts, when the physical truth of reality is that there is no better, there is no worse, only a transference of energy and matter. Having more money, knowing the truth, where this all comes from, isn’t going to do anything to the world, only make you feel better about it (on the largest, truest scales). It’s then perception that has us race, want more, that gives us the stargate sequence. What Kubrick’s ultimate message here comes down to is a universal disconnect between us and the cosmos.

I touch on this point quite often with the blog, but, without emotions, without conscientiousness, the world would be a much better place to look at, it’d be easier and nobody would be worrying, and all because we fundamentally wouldn’t be seeing the world, we wouldn’t be interpreting energy, matter and happenings with emotions. The disconnect between ourselves and the universe is then in us, is in our emotions. Why, if we are the product of a bigger picture, would we be created to view it without answers, without the means of being ultimately satisfied? This question is often materialised with a question of God. Why, if God exists, if God created us, wanted us to be, if maybe God loves us, would he have us suffer? I don’t think this is a practical question though, nor one we should be asking. Fundamentally, this is a rhetorical question. It asks: why do you believe in this guy if he’s such a dick? However, this could be a question asked without ulterior motive. And when you face this question head on you can conjure up answers such as a universal correctness, maybe karma, you may even say that God doesn’t in fact love us, or maybe that he’s testing us all. I still say this is a question we should ignore. Why? It puts us at the centre of the universe and demands an emotional reading of a reality operating on levels completely different to ourselves on a psychological and emotional basis (if we can assume the universe and reality has either of those basis). Instead, I revert back to the similar, but much more objective take on this question pertaining to disconnect. If you look at certain physical laws around diffusion, osmosis and thermodynamics, you can see the universe wants equilibrium. It wants to spread its energy throughout itself equally and kind of snuff itself out with inert serenity. How do we fit into this paradigm? We have a perception that doesn’t align with the universal flow towards serenity. We seem to be a stick in the works with our emotions and disconnect. The only reasoning behind why we then exist may be that we either serve as a way to contaminate the mix of the universe to stop it evening out, or that we are here to speed the progression towards nothingness up. Maybe we’re a product of life becoming more and more complex, to the point of understanding the universe enough to give it that kick in the black hole and end it all. On the other hand, maybe that kick in the black hole could allow the universe to start again, or live on? It would then makes sense that if the universe and all its laws are in us that it too wants to live forever. Maybe we are part of an evolutionary line towards the universe being restarted, living perpetually. Maybe the universe is internally trying to hack a system of detriment and a slow death?

It’s with this view of the universe that introspection is the only way to understand reality. It’s us then assuming we want to live forever, and so the universe must also want this, that gives us our place in the big picture. We are a tool of perpetuity. We are a means to prolonging an end. It’s the monolith in 2001 that then represents an intrinsic connection between us and the universe. The monolith is our drive towards living forever meeting the universe’s. There’s a race between us and A.I (Hal) because there is a sorting process of the universe working out who is the best candidate to evolve towards something that could save the universe’s life, to continue its existence on forever. Whilst I think this is the key concept of the movie, and a great way to interpret many of the questions raised so far, we still have the question of what came before all this, and what if you zoom out?

Well, the answer comes right back to perception. It does not matter if there is something beyond the big bang, beyond our universe, beyond God or the multiverse. It doesn’t matter because there is a seed within us all that is selfish. That seed does not care about above and beyonds, not truly, it’s only concerned with infinite directions away from itself in relation to itself. It only wants to survive. This idea is closely linked to those captured by Un Chien Andalou, and is all to do with the journey. We only fear or are curious of beginnings and ends because we are so in love with the road underneath our feet. We, to varying degrees, all want to live, and maybe forever. If this wasn’t true, we’d all kill ourselves without hopes of a heaven, of something better. Because there is a drive within us that wants to simply live on, we can care only about our own worlds, about the things close to us and the things we can effect. If we were given the means of  understanding everything that is, what would be the point of existing? Ultimately, you wouldn’t see one, and so everything would become nothing. Everything would become inert. A being that fully understood reality would understand so thoroughly what all that was around it was that it’d become numb to it. And, in terms of perception, reality would evaporate. Something would become nothing to a being that could perceive utmost truth. For that nothing, for that meaningless to become something, you’d have to want to see it as such. The way in which this seems to happen is that within your perception is planted a seed, a promise that there is something more worth waiting around to see – some kind of meaning. This drive is life, is why we perceive, why a plant photosynthesises, why a bear catches fish, why a mosquito reproduces, why the universe maybe wants to live on forever – and it’s a lie, a ruse. Despite this, it’s irrational to want to understand all that is, because, perceptually, we would see everything turn to nothing, we would lose consciousness just like memories fade, the feeling of the clothes on your body dissipates, the rancid smell of your room simply goes away. It’s for this exact reasoning that there is the stargate sequence. You don’t want to know what all the answers look like. That’s just a trick your mind is playing on you to keep you interested in reality, to keep you living, to keep something from falling into nothing. Why? Well, why not? Maybe not all matter gets to perceive reality consciously, maybe we live in a mathematic playground of nothing and something. Some of us get nothing. Some of us get something. Maybe there are varying shades of this something. Nonetheless, ask yourself, would you want to give up your something? Your answer is either, yes. Or, your answer is no because you are curious, and built to want something else even if that something is what you perceive to be nothing – and all for a reprieve.

In the end, you better hope that something comes from something comes from something comes from something… God created God created God created God… a big bang followed a big crunch followed a big bang followed a big crunch followed a big bang… that when presented with a universal zoom button you can forever scroll and scroll and scroll and scroll… because whenever you reach the end, the program shuts down, your eyes close, darkness becomes epitome, something becomes a tree fallen in a pitch forest of nothing.

Previous post:

Peter Pan – Time And Simply Getting Along

Next post:

Fight Club – Nihilism, Anarchy And I

More from me:

Peter Pan – Time And Simply Getting Along

Thoughts On: Peter Pan (1953)

Wendy, Paul and Michael are taken to Neverland by Peter Pan.

Peter Pan

I absolutely love this film. It’s an immense classic, and will forever be a masterpiece. It manages to poke fun at issues of violence, race and gender to ultimately bring its entire constituency together with a resounding message of heart, naivety, togetherness and fun. Not bad for a film that came out in the 50s, huh? In all honesty, I don’t understand how the narrative of old films being sexist and racist is so prevalent. I mean, just watch the films of the time. Anyways, let’s not get into that, instead what is so brilliant about this film. Peter Pan has always been heralded as an archetypal kid, a symbol for the spirit of childhood and fun. This, while very true, is not the overall purpose of his character in respect to Disney’s narrative. Peter Pan is in fact a pretty broken character and for the most part the anti-hero of this picture. It’s this aspect of him that never goes overboard though, but is instead encapsulated by his arch nemesis. Before we jump into things I have to mention Spielberg’s Hook. I covered this very early on and in doing so demonstrated the fundamental link between Peter and Hook. The key take away was that Peter is a child in spite of time. When time and consequence come into the picture, Peter will essentially become Hook. Hook is an archetypal sullen child in a man’s body. He hates Peter because he can’t be him. It’s then time that is the biggest threat to both Peter and Hook. Hook’s conflict with time is, however, materialised with the crocodile. It’s the ticking croc that is a constant reminder that time wants to engulf and consume him, make him old, wither his bones, slow his heart to a stop. Hook is thus fixated on time. Peter couldn’t care less, and somehow time has no effect on him. This gives us two archetypes. One is of timelessness (Peter) and the other is of fear and a constant fixation on time (Hook). Because of this, the titles of the two films discussed are given the names of the archetypes as this is what the protagonists fight against, but, just like Hook is not the main character of Spielberg’s classic, Peter isn’t the main characters of Disney’s 1953 masterpiece either. It’s essentially Wendy that is the core focus of Disney’s Peter Pan.

It’s with the opening that two themes are introduced: gender and childhood. The gender aspects revolve around George as the clumsy, slightly insane Dad. This is how the film first pokes fun at the theme of gender with the males, and later does the same with females and Tink. The mirror to the bumbling, irate Dad is the ditsy girl who gets tricked by the big bad guy. These jokes pointed at the characters are later redeemed however, with Tink realising her mistake and fighting with the Lost Boys, but also George bringing Nana back in, calming down and hugging his kids. It’s seeing this opening paradigm of thematic character arcs that you can almost instantly recognise the core idea of this film. It’s about change. It’s about archetypes, about stereotypes, but as part of characters who don’t need to change much, as part of characters that are deeper than just the clumsy Dad and the ditsy fairy. That there is what I love about this film. It says that archetypes (that some may not like) are in us all. I can laugh watching George stumble around the room and getting mad because I do the same thing sometimes. This works as a simple piece of observational comedy because what is also observed is that George, much like us all, doesn’t just stumble around rooms and get mad. When we’re stressed, getting ready to go out, we may somewhat represent what George is, but give us time to calm down we can all laugh about it – just as he does. The exact same thing happens with Wendy and Tink getting slightly jealous over Peter – simple observational comedy. But, what is further observed with Tink and Peter is that Peter would never give up Tink just as she wouldn’t him. The glue stitching these two ends of observation – joke and resolution – is a childish idea of time, of letting things go because you are in the moment. In other words, you were mad or jealous then, but now can let that go. And children do this perfectly. One second they can hate each other, pulling one anothers’ hair, fighting over toys, but in the next, can be back to best friends. This is because of their perception of time. They don’t care about what happened 20 minutes ago as much as adults do. And for some reason, forgiving and forgetting is seen as an adult trait. It’s this contradiction that Peter Pan draws out with this simple observation. It doesn’t take being grown up to get along with your friends, or family, it takes looking at time like a child would.

Now, bringing things back to Wendy and childhood, we’ll stay with the opening whilst keeping a loose grip on the theme of gender. Wendy is, again, seen through the looking glass of stereotype. She’s an average kid with quite a lot of imagination. She believes she’s a child, and likes being just so. What she doesn’t realise though is that she’s pretty grown up. It takes Peter Pan to show her this. In fact, the two needn’t have gone to Neverland if Wendy only realised how much of a kid she isn’t. It’s with the early proposition of a kiss that demonstrates Wendy’s maturity. She is kind of interested in boys. Peter on the other hand is shown to be a true kid because he never indulges in the girls around him (the mermaids, Tink, Wendy, Tiger Lilly). He just laughs, wants to hear all about himself, or gets red faced when they approach him. And, it’s for that reason that Peter is the only true child in Neverland. All the other Lost Boys, as well as Wendy are only around him to later realise that they are growing up. It’s Wendy and women in general that are shown to be more mature than boys though. They seem to grow up sooner and remain more composed. This is the aspect of femininity that this film celebrates and is encapsulated with the image of a mother. Mothers are shown respect in their capacity to nurture a child, understanding time as a factor and having patience. Meanwhile, men are shown respect for the games they play and the rules by which they play them. By this I mean to reference the idea of good form that Peter and Hook seem to uphold. Whenever one cheats they are punished (Hook being chased by the crocodile). There is a cross over her to the women too with Tink also being made fun of every time she’s a bit of a bitch toward Wendy. It’s in this that you can see men and women being drawn together. Throughout the film it’s shown that the two sides can play together, can play each others games, and by one another’s rules. Again, the glue keeping them together is childhood, is a kids’ disregard, yet eagerness to play. Nonetheless, Wendy still grows up in Neverland.

Wendy serves as the fulcrum by which fun is balanced with looking after oneself. This concept is best demonstrated with her bedtime stories. She tells the boys fun, entertaining, inspiring stories, but only so they get their sleep, so they get their nightly dosage of dreams. This idea of fun juxtaposing sense and pragmatic solutions is mirrored with the theme of race with the Indians. This is a sequence that to some would seem insensitive, and I agree, but its insensitive for good reason. Neverland is in short an extension of a child’s imagination and children see the world in simple terms – like a huge Native Indian with red skin and a pipe that is constantly fighting with cowboys or white hunters. This insensitively simple view of a culture is, however, reduced to nothing more than a game. Cowboys literally do fight and capture Indians, but, they let each other go afterwards. It’s this mocking of race relations and a violent history with childish games that brings Peter and the Chief together. The two, like the film, ignore non-sequiturs and simply concentrate on playing their game of pretending to kill each other instead of actually doing it. It’s leading off from this point of levity, of inconsequence, that we should come back to Hook and Peter. Hook, as said, represents consequence. Peter, with literal flippance as a flying 12 year old, fights Hook by not caring, by having fun. It’s then with the end of the film that we have serious consequence faced with hope, faced with flippance. When Wendy walks the plank she has irrational confidence in Peter. She upholds an idea of honour, of good form, a childish idea, and jumps. Peter, of course, catches her. She keeps trusts a childish idea of ‘everything will be ok’ and it allows everything to perfectly slot into place and work because this is the core message of the film. Trust is what brings people together. Hook trusts no one, he uses people, he is a cowardly codfish, cannot trust himself and so leans back on bad form as a short cut to winning. Wendy and the other kids show themselves to be a team by trusting each other, by getting along, by taking literal leaps of faith knowing that there is someone willing to catch them. This is why themes of race and gender are so important to this film. It’s about having a childish perspective of time, trusting one another as well as having good form and being there to catch whoever is falling – all whilst having a good time.

And it’s that there that marks what it means to be an adult. Being an adult is embracing time, is being able to cope with situations, by having enough naivety and courage in you to look after others as well as yourself. Trust in time, trust in self, trust in others. That is everything that Peter Pan stands for. It’s Peter himself that then never grows up to forever be a standing archetype against the paranoid Hook for a revolving set of doors letting Lost Boys and Girls into Neverland to realise they’ve grown up enough to appreciate the little childhood they’ve got ahead of them. You’ve got to love that, no?

 

 

Previous post:

Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind – JUST, PLEASE! LET ME ENTERTAIN YOU!

Next post:

2001: A Space Odyssey – Something From Something From Something From Something From…

More from me:

amazon.com/author/danielslack

Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind – JUST, PLEASE! LET ME ENTERTAIN YOU!

Thoughts On: Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind

The story of Chuck Barris, the television producer of shows such as The Dating Game and The Gong Show who was also immersed in covert CIA operatives.

Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind

What I love about this film is its reflection of society through character and its incredibly nuanced form and structuring of plot. It’s only downfalls come with the exuberance and insanity of its characters and situations which sometimes sully the quality of atmosphere and dramatic tension. Whilst this makes complete sense considering the vacuous fixation on facade that many of these characters have, and so can’t detract from the critical acclaim and meaning of the movie, it does cheapen the experience a little. That said, what is most poignant about this film is us, is the dangerous mind that revolutionised entertainment, changing it forever. It’s The Gong Show’s format that we see spliced across all talent shows, almost anything to do with competition and even debate on TV today. There are so many examples I could give, I feel like there’s no need for me to do it. The same goes for The Dating Game. Anything to do with reality TV, love, romance and a whole lot of other lies has grounds in this format of television – and that’s exactly what Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind demonstrates. What this brings to the table today is linked nicely to the previous Quick Thoughts I did on 99 Homes. I touched on its poignant juxtaposition between business and emotions, and I left that talk with a question to you that basically asked how you’d like to see society change. Would you like everything to become more business like, more Darwinian with the best of the best rising to the top – even if a vast swath of those people aren’t scientists, engineers or deserving geniuses, but greedy con-men who essentially know how a system works? Or would you prefer we all live in an extremely socialist state, where meritocracy goes out the window and we all hold hands and dance all day? Now, your answer is most probably not going to be either one of those, instead, will lean toward one extreme or the other to a specific degree. I personally lean more toward the unemotional, Darwinian, kill or be killed world. I’d hate to live in a society that is exactly that (kill or be killed) but I lean closer toward that than hugs, kisses and unconditional love. I say this because I couldn’t unconditionally love everyone, I wouldn’t want to pretend I did either because it’d be a lie. In all honesty, I wouldn’t want to live in a society where we’re all really nice to each other. I’d like to live in a place of respect, of smiles and hellos when necessary and when you mean it, but not all the time. Moreover, I like the scary feeling of hurtling movement in society. I like that, as I write this, in a matter of weeks Americans will have to choose between Trump and Clinton. It’s a bit fucked up, maybe even a funny situation to be in, but I love that giddy feeling of ‘oooooohhhhhh shiiiiiiit!!!’.

I suppose I sound kind of nihilistic, flippant, and overall a dickhead when I say that, but if I were to give a more concise personal truth to the idea of hurtling, scary movement, I’d have to say that I like it, not love it. What’s more, I try to accept it. Time seems to be a physical force, it seems to be the one in control and because of this, no matter what. day will turn to night. You can either hold onto light or fear the dark with a binary mindset, a rigid, right and wrong perception of the world. And, to me, that seems self-destructive and at the least no very productive. When you recognise that day and night are, metaphorically, all about light, about perception, you can look at the world pragmatically, even have fun with it, not call doomsday and lose your shit. Night is darkness, it’s the bad things, the scary things, it’s Clinton winning when you voted for Trump, it’s Trump winning when you voted for Clinton. But, take a step back and night is darkness – and darkness is a blank canvas. Darkness is the absence of light to a mind that is attached to an eye only capable of perceiving with the electromagnetic oscillation of photons. When our eyes find darkness, our minds start painting it over, they start imagining monsters, evil, ghosts, demons. And the metaphor stands true for presidential elections as it does the whole concept of optimism and pessimism. When you want to see pitch, abysmal darkness, you allow yourself to fill in the gaps, to predict and imagine the worst – and at your own expense. When you look at things in their true light, not projecting your own with false optimism, you can navigate the world as it stands. So, nihilism would then be seeing darkness, pretending it’s light and saying fuck it – and that’s kind of me finding what could be a terrible situation in America funny. But, the truth is that time will reveal reality. And in all probability, reality won’t be as bad as you imagined, neither will it be as good. We will be able to deal with it and navigate the light as it shines. That is the reason why I like the hurtling movement that scares the shit out of me. The hurtling movement is toward an unknown and when it brings me there, I’ll find out that it’s not so bad. Bringing this back a step again, when you want the world to be hugs and kisses, you want a world that is predictable, that is always going to catch you when you fall, that is always going to ensure things stay the same. You are essentially trying to take away the power of time. This is an impossibility, and in the happy, hugs and kisses world, bad shit will still happen. But, when it does, we won’t be as prepared for it, not mentally, and we won’t be able to deal with it as well as the level headed and unemotional. That is my position on question I gave.

But, what on Earth has that got to do with Confessions Of A Dangerous Mine? Well, Confessions Of A Dangerous mind does two things. Firstly, it demonstrates the hurtling of time with the success of Chuck, whilst also making the hurting absolutely terrifying with how insane his life is, despite how intense his influence became. Secondly, Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind sets up a similar line of questioning to the emotional and unemotional debate I just had with myself. And its this that I want to zoom in on. With entertainment as a theme, not money, government, families and society (like 99 Homes) Confessions reflects a different perspective on the debate. Chuck, with his TV shows, represents an emotional extreme as well as an unemotional one. His shows stimulate the audience, but they stimulate to the point of having a numbing effect. If we look at modern reality TV shows we can clarify what I’m saying. Reality TV is all about drama, is all about quick cuts, broken story lines, fights, screaming, shouting and just general mania. It’s inside the television that you find emotional intensity and extremes. But, what this translates to through the screen is the anaesthetising of the home viewer. They watch vacuous and empty television purely built to entertain, nothing more, and they do nothing but stare, almost zombified. I know this because we all do. We don’t just do it with bad TV, but bad movies and shitty content on the internet too. We scroll and we click endlessly, our brains agitated when there’s nothing flying at our eyeballs of no consequence, of no meaning. We aren’t bettering ourselves, we are chipping away at our own idea of self. And, as much as this sounds stupid and like I’m moaning, this is a very serious thing we are doing, and if you want to ignore that, well, who am I to stop you? But, consuming shit TV, films and content hurts you the most because our media becomes our world, it becomes our encompassing self. What I mean by this is that when I watch 2 or 3 films a day for years, I become a film geek. Film is all I can talk about, all I know, and all I want to be around. In the same respect, if you spend 9 years studying medicine, well, you’re probably gonna become a doctor. The lie we feed ourselves when we watch TV for hours everyday is that ‘it’s just entertainment, I’m just relaxing, it’s ok’. That’s a bullshit lie and we can all feel it in our bones. Spending hours watching shit TV changes how you think, how you view the world and how you view yourself. When all you do is work, then come home, eat, use social media and watch crap TV, you are becoming an expert in the fields you are learning all about. Just like after 5 years of accounting you’d feel pretty good at it, like you’re an accountant, watching real housewives for hours on end everyday, months and years on end, you end up feeling like you are like them, like they could be your next door neighbour, like they live in your world.

In the same way you shouldn’t surround yourself with drug dealers, murderers, gangsters and rapists, you probably shouldn’t surround yourself with idiots either. The trouble of this, when it comes to TV and consumerist media, is that drug dealers, murderers, gangsters and rapists, aren’t people we associate with as easily. Stupid people on the other hand… fuck me we like to watch them. And they are like a soft fudge, a piece of cake or an arm chair, you can just so easily just immerse yourself in, become comfortable with and, in the end, used to and then tolerant of their shit. You can’t do this with murderers and rapists because its not so easy to get comfortable in a prison cell and listen to their horrifying lives and stories. That’s not to say you can’t get sucked into that kind of media just as bad as shit reality TV and its equivalents, just that shit ‘harmless’ TV is more abundant and more addictive. When we are then allowing these people to become our worlds, when we essentially live in the same mental spaces as idiots, people we don’t respect, people we wouldn’t seek out and listen to, invite too our homes to have a chat with, we are conditioning ourselves for a broken and deteriorating world. What you then have to question is: why am I watching this? Is it really harmless, especially in the long term? Think about it, if you watched documentaries for 25 years straight, what would you be like, what would you know, what kind of perspective would you have of the world? You’d know about vast and far between countries, regions, their cultures, biospheres, you’d know about technology, science, politics, history. If you watched reality TV for 25 years straight, what would you know? You’d have a great back-catalogue of good episodes, arguments, fights, times he cheated, she said this, he said that. When you then ask yourself what would you prefer to have, you are asking yourself a question already touched on. Do you want the soft, easy world, or do you want the harder one? Reality TV is the soft world, reality TV is the life you live, just manipulated with everything emphasised and blown up. The real housewives are you with more makeup, more money, more attitude, less respect, less brains (at least that’s how they’re presented). Documentaries and knowledge are the hard world of truth (as close as you can get to it). They are lions eating antelope, they are countries bombing one another, they are stock markets, they are ways of live, they are philosophy, space, the atom, everything between and beyond, they are light, the light that shines on the good and bad, the pain and the joy – with indifference – and just because that is the world, that is reality.

What I’m then asking you with the question of entertainment, softness and knowledge is all about reality. What kind of reality do you want to surround yourself with? And like the first either or question I asked, you won’t take one extreme or the other, you won’t seek out 100% factual media, you won’t spend every waking hour reading texts, statistics, finding absolute truth and a network of knowledge, just like you won’t spend every waking second with real housewives. What you must ask though is where you will tip the balance. Because, ultimately, we need mindlessness, we need entertainment due to an existential hardship intrinsic to the human condition. It’s all about reality. We need the real housewives and the lie they represent because lies will also be found on the history channel and in the textbooks. They are not lies in the same respect however. The housewives aren’t trying to teach, they aren’t trying to be real, but the textbooks are. However, no textbook has every single answer in them. You can open a physics book and learn about stars and the atom, but only to a certain level before things get blurry and the scientists must admit that they just don’t know some things yet. The existential hardship in this is that no matter what, you can’t surround yourself in an ultimately true reality. This is why we can all settle for a blend of as much truth as we can get as well as a bit of lies and half-truths on top of that. That is why I can love cinema without shame, without feeling like I’m spitting shit at you when I say the real housewives are bullshit. That’s because the real housewives and Confessions Of A Dangers Mind have their differences, but in the existential big picture one cannot trump the other in terms of truth, message and lessons. We cannot use that big picture as an excuse to fall into shit media though. That is something I’m sure almost all of us must agree on. It’s ok to live in your own personal Matrix, but only if you are trying to make that Matrix your perfect world. This all turns everything I’ve said thus far right back to you – if you know something is shit, why are you watching it? It’s making you shit, right? Our bodies are what we eat in the same respect our minds are what they consume and perceive. That means that whilst I think the real housewives are bullshit, for you to watch them (which is not off the table) you should be able to see some truth, something bigger than vacuous emptiness in what they say and so. Maybe you like to watch them in the same respect someone would watch a clan of monkeys, maybe you find that entertaining in the same way you find it interesting, not completely empty.

In the end, I’m trying to make a call for personal justification in you. I’m asking you for a reason why you watch what I call shit. If you haven’t got an answer, then you’re admitting it’s shit, that it’s making you shit and that you are ultimately content with being shit. And, I mean, I consume what some would call shit. I’ve recently grown to love The UFC. But, what I love about it is the visceral truth in the idea of competition, I love the aggressive emotions in conjures in me, I love that people fight with fists, never just with words, which leaves a dispute settled, there is always ultimate truth, there is never really ambiguity, there is never doubt, but always room to prove yourself. I love that and am happy for that to represent my persona and my way of thinking. The same goes for my love of metal and movies. Some people may think they’re shit, but I can justify why I like those things and aren’t embarrassed to have them represent me. So, is there anything that you consume that you feel doesn’t represent who you are, that is a detriment to your persona and perception of self? Is it time to let that go?

Through and through, that is what Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind stands for to me, and is ultimately a cautionary tale about. We shouldn’t fall into our own traps and become something for nothing or just because. I’ll say it again: our bodies are what we eat in the same respect our minds are what they consume and perceive. Don’t eat shit. Don’t consume shit. That is the only way to survive in a world of unknowns, where we are the only ones we know for sure exists, when to our left is the only hand our right may grip for guidance.

 

 

Previous post:

99 Homes – The System And The People

Next post:

Peter Pan – Time And Simply Getting Along

More from me:

amazon.com/author/danielslack

99 Homes – The System And The People

Quick Thoughts: 99 Homes

After being evicted from his home with his son and mother, Dennis Nash takes a job under the real-estate broker that evicted him.

99 Homes

This is a film charged with emotional movement, a visceral ebb, flow, pull, push, touch, punch of intensity and feeling. It achieves this by striking cords of instinct pertaining to our place in the world, our personal security and the moral state of our persona as perceived by those around us. What’s great about this film is its capacity to take two sides of a troubling system and pragmatically tear the viewer apart. It’s the kill or be killed system of society that is capitalised on with this movie through a fundamental juxtaposition of big circles and small circles, the impersonal and the personal, the emotional and the sensible. It’s the government and free market represented by real-estate that stands for the unemotional business, ‘homes as boxes’ view of the world. Dennis starts the film as victim to this harsh system of knowing the pit falls or falling down them blindfolded. But, when he works under Rick Carver, he learns where to step, how to cheat and exploit the system. And that’s the crux of this film and what serves as the most poignant theme presented. Exploitation. We live in a world of finites. There are only so many homes, only so much space, only so much money. There’s a lot out there, but there’s also a lot of people – quite a few of them very selfish and very efficient hoarders. This sets up the kill or be killed, it’s be exploited or exploit. When you speak of the world like this, you often speak in metaphors and caricatures with the boogeymen laying in wait under all of our beds – but what this film demonstrates with layer after layer verisimilitude, is what seems like shades of truth, what is true for many businesses like those presented. And whilst the example of exploitation in society is severe and emotionally charged in this film, serving as a poignant example of emotions v the pragmatic, we experience smaller doses of what this film represents day-to-day through marketing, advertisements, TV, the internet, such and so on. My favourite example of this though would be the local shops around my area selling something as simple as a drink for £0.99. Whilst some shops do this, others will sell the exact same drink for £1.74. 1 drink, almost double the price. But, how to they justify this? They sell 2 for £2 as part of a big deal. That means that you’re getting the exact same drink for more of less the exact same value, only if you buy twice as much. So, if you only want 1 drink, you’re forced to spend more, just so you’re not made the fool. This, whilst a dick business move, isn’t that wrong. What I could just do is buy 2 drinks and save one for the next time or the next day when I want one. But, do I do this? Nope. I buy 2 drinks every time, drink them both and then come back, which, because of my consumerist stupidity, gives the local shop double the amount of money I should be giving them.

This is the paradigm of the film. It’s sacrifice, it’s sense, it’s resisting temptation and emotion, or it’s exploitation. The smart and those with self-control and a lack of attachment rise to the top in this system. Whilst this system sucks, who can you blame? Is it the business’ fault for wanting to make more money, or is it my fault for buying 2 drinks every time, not going to the other shops, is it the home owners’ fault that don’t want to give up the home they’ve lived in their whole life? Despite your answer, it’s clear that the world we’re building with this system is much less emotional, sentimental and precious, but also maybe a bit more sensible, scientific and pragmatic. So, from where you stand, how important are emotions and personal attachments against sense and pragmatism? In the end, what is right, what is wrong, what would you sacrifice?

 

 

Previous post:

Un Chien Andalou – Meaning, Cinema And The Dream

Next post:

Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind – JUST, PLEASE! LET ME ENTERTAIN YOU!

More from me:

amazon.com/author/danielslack

Un Chien Andalou – Meaning, Cinema And The Dream

Thoughts On: An Andalusian Dog

The infamous surrealist short from Dalí and Buñuel.

Un Chien Andalou

Unbeknownst to any of my viewers, I’ve wanted to talk about this film for a long time, and have even tried once or twice. I’ve wanted to write about An Andalusian Dog because seeing it for the first time was a formative cinematic experience for me as a writer. But, when I’ve tried to talk about the film on the blog before, I wanted to discuss all of its minute details, explaining what each moment could mean, or what they mean to me. This, however, never panned out because this is a filmic experience, and in itself, a film, that is almost opposed to that philosophy. It’s in my writings that Un Chien Andalou has inspired ambiguity, inspired imagery that may be imbued with implimence, but not concrete, equative meaning. And it’s surrealism, that which Buñuel and Dalí portray, that attempts to reveal the Freudian subconscious through sensory and emotive cinema. The according philosophy of surrealist film is then of irrationality, is of a nature you cannot nomothetically pull apart and explain. It’s then this philosophy that is opposed to what I’ve wanted to, and in large part do, on this blog – explain movies. What Un Chien Andalou instead represents and teaches anyone interested in cinema is the fundamental idea of fantasy and imagination inherent to the art form. I’ve talked about this subject of fantasy before with posts like those on The Matrix, but fantasy is an extension of the human imagination that isn’t satisfied. Tarkovsky says is best with:

“Some sort of pressure must exist; the artist exists because the world is not perfect. Art would be useless if the world were perfect, as man wouldn’t look for harmony but would simply live in it. Art is born out of an ill-designed world.”

His point here is not really that the world is imperfect and that it should be better. His point encompasses the artist in respect to perspective. We create art because we see the world as imperfect, we look around at cities, at oceans, the sky, space beyond, technology before our faces, under our fingers and we look through organic devices attached to incomprehensibly complex structurings, chemicals, pathways and interactions yet we still want more, we think this is not good enough, or, at the least could be better. I daren’t critique this kind of thinking because it is inherently human and to deny drive, to deny need and want, to deny curiosity, would be to lie. Instead, what I’m trying to demonstrate, as I think Tarkovsky may be, is that we project the ill-design in us onto the world. It’s drive, need, want, curiosity that both gave us electricity and medicine, but also war, greed, suffering in ourselves and put upon others. If we didn’t have the human ingenuity and agitation, we would be a bunch of mindless hippies in love with the universe at best, but a horde of animals, in tune with nature, but completely unaware of our existence in all probability. The world, to the hippie and horde, would be perfect – and only because their internal schematics saw it as such. So, Tarkovsky’s point and mine is that art comes from imperfection. Take that a step further as we just have and we can recognise art as coming from need, drive, want, curiosity; from an irrational human essence, something broken within us. How this irrationality has been most accessibly explained is with Freud and his theory of the unconscious mind. Whether its with complexes that have us want to sleep with our mother, or play with our faeces, Freud sees breaks in the wirings of the human mind that express themselves without our say-so, or know-so. This expression is fantasy, dreams and buried associations of memory and emotion. When you look at the world, especially of art, through the Freudian looking-glass you fall down a postmodern rabbit hole where meaning is so fruitful it’s almost negligible, no one idea much more helpful, nor valid, than another. To clarify, it’s best we turn to our film at hand, An Andalusian Dog.

Un Chien Andalou is comprised of images and happenings that are somewhat related, with the stitching of juxtaposition having to be of our own design. The audience decides what, for example, a moon has to do with an eye in other words, but, the stitching never shows itself and never explains itself. The design of this film is then meant to imitate a dream – the human subconsciousness. The question then raised by this is: why are we watching the film? This question may not be obvious at first, but considering this film as a dream, Buñuel’s or Dalí’s, and that a dream is a personal story only a dreamer can understand, well, what hopes to we have of comprehending what Un Chien Andalou talks about? The answer to this draws our existential magnifying glass back from human internals and subconsciousness, to the possibilities of a collective consciousness. Dreams are memories interacting with perception and experience. They are our own biases playing against ‘reality’ creating out own personal shades of reality that we perceive and live in. To what degree are our own lives and realities comparable to the next man’s? There of course isn’t a solid answer to this, but I can offer my opinion. I see humans fundamentally as machines. We are sacks of flesh, hormones, networks of arteries, veins, capillaries, axons, dendrons, neurotransmitters, muscle, water, bile, saliva, blood and urine. This is true for all humans – this is true for a lot of life forms. And this fundamental orchestration of organs, flesh and bone prepares us for reality in a similar way. This is what draws us together. What’s deeper and more profound is that across all life, there is an inherent quantum connection – and it comes from the atoms we are all made of. By their own rules we strive to understand, atoms and their quantum parts exist in paradigm, rule and pattern – just as the macroscopic world. This means that whilst we all live in a reality dictated by the gravity keeping us on this orb of molten, semi-molten and solid rock, metal and dirt, we also live in a world dictated by the duality of the photon, entangled particles, relativity, supposed dark matter and spacetime. We cannot feel or perceive some of these forces and laws in our everyday, but they guide how we live intrinsically, and in ways we couldn’t imagine. This means that the catastrophe of just switching off gravity is, relative to human life, just as poignant as just switching off dark matter, or the speed of light. That all then suggests that there are laws, paradigms, patterns and rules around us that dictate perceived reality that bind us together. We all live with atoms and under the influence of gravity and so, in a certain respect, we all live in the same world.

It’s then consciousness, or the mind that can experience, that begins to separate us, that induces the debate of nature and nurture. Nature is all that we’ve discussed, from our biology to the physical law of the universe. Nurture is the ill-designed and irrational breaks in our minds interacting with nature or reality. The result of experience nurturing our existence is then fundamentally a journey toward understanding. Experience is seeing the world. Living is not dying – and that’s what our bodies want – not to die. So, the job of the mind is experiencing the world in a way that won’t result in the body dying or coming to harm – understanding, learning, growing (away from danger and stupidity). This is exactly where need, want, drive and curiosity comes from. Need is survival – we all feel we need to live, no question about it. Want is requiring standards of living – of having life, but wanting a good one. Drive is the fuel that keeps the fires of ‘want’ burning – it’s working for a living, for more money, food, a better life. Curiosity is the road from wanting to having, it’s wishing you could live forever and in a perpetually bettering state, but then deciding to go out into the world and find the means, stumble upon penicillin, create the atom bomb. What the crucial takeaway from this, from the difference between nature and nurture is, comes to an idea of acceptance. Nature is accepted reality. Nurture is envisioned reality. Nurture has a veil pulled over your eyes, and the seed planted in your brain that says this could be better. What humans then live in is tantamount to a tug of war. We live lives bound by gravity and Einstein’s relativity. We knows this and, in certain respects, feel it. We accept that ‘reality’ is a thing. But, we also have questions, we have dreams that can, and may well eventually be projected onto reality, changing it forever. Humans, with our ill-design are then in a conscious forefront between the construction and the acceptance of reality. Understanding this, you see the truth of our disconnect and connect. It’s nature that connects, and nurture that separates. But, the tug of war is in progress. We aren’t the horde, we aren’t the hippie, we aren’t telekinetically connected in peace and unification either. This is what Un Chien Andalou stands for by trying to project a dream, to have individuals who have not lived in the mind of Dalí or Buñuel have their own shade of comprehension over their art, life, work and unconsciousness.

So, we come back to the question: why watch the film? The answer is that we are testing the boundaries of nurture and nature, we are testing if and how we compare to others. This test holds no answers though, the test is more like a gateway. The gateway is toward numbness, occupation and, quite simply, entertainment. We cannot know exactly how someone else perceives An Andalusian Dog because we can’t feel as they do, we cannot experience the cogs of their mind (as dictated both by nature, being human, but also a human that has led a different life) spinning as they perceive it – in the same respect we couldn’t feel or experience Dalí or Buñuel’s thought process as they created this film. What does happen when we discuss or watch this film with others, however, is a projected idea of connection. We can get a rough feeling of what Dalí, Buñuel’s, a friend’s unconsciousness is like through watching. It’s the allusion art constructs that then allows people to communicate in ways other than simply talking or interacting. It’s then art that starts to fill in the gaps of the ill-designed mind. It’s because people perceive life with their eyes and with a partly/largely unconscious mind that film exists, that that surrealist philosophy of cinema exists. We cannot say what is attempted to be said with Un Chien Andalou with a speech, with a book, with a play, with music or dance and that is precious because humans want to understand through any avenue we can. The avenue of cinema is projected fantasy, most purely, through surrealist film. But, if Gene Kelly has a red-purple-blue glowing emotion in his chest he wants to share, he sings in the rain and we get to feel something in the realm of what he may have felt. If Scorsese, De Niro, Schrader feel a putrid, yellow-brown-black disconnect in their gut, they can ask “you talkin’ to me?” and that question may burn in our abdomen too. If Stallone feels itching aggravation, pressure that must be pushed against, a pull that must be met, he may translate that from Philadelphian streets, through montage, to a ring and a shaken ‘Adrian, I did it!’ straight to the visceral poundings in our chests. That is fantasy, that is cinema, and that is the dream of the broken mind searching for understanding in a world it refuses to entirely accept.

Through and through, what Un Chien Andalou means is a question not answered with explanation, but exploration. You feel what An Andalusian Dog means to you, and you then hope, think or glance toward an idea of that feeling aligning with and in others. That is the biggest take away of this film – it’s the essence of art and of cinema as an art form. It is the communication of the irrational, the hidden and the insurmountable. It is the journey that conjures emotions, that occupies the mind, that momentarily fills gaps.

Previous post:

Suicide Squad – Why Blockbusters Are No Longer Films

Next post:

99 Homes – The System And The People

More from me: