Naked Image

When I was last at the Tate Modern, I saw some video by Francesca Woodman from the 1970’s. She had a piece where she had stretched butcher paper in front of the large window of her loft. Light was shining through the window and through the paper. She stood naked behind the paper, so that her silhouette was visible and drew on the paper from behind. Then she tore the paper in a kind of provocative way, revealing increasing sexualized parts of her own body, until finally she stepped through it, tearing it all away and walking off frame.
I’ve been thinking about this piece a lot. I was first drawn to it because of the attractiveness of the artist, but the viewer is being asked to consider several things. By drawing on the paper, I think she was trying to create an idea of it as a canvas. We have a cultural idea that artists express themselves in a pure, cerebral form through their art. The canvas becomes almost an extension of self – but specifically, a very dualist kind of self. The canvas is not about the body, but about the mind.
Hélène Cixous argues that all binary oppositions eventually come back to gender. So when we put mind and body into opposition, immediately, we assign one of them to male. And, indeed, historically (and currently, alas) men are mind and women are body. These oppositions are also an implicit comparison, so the mind is more noble and pure than the body. The (male) artist is thus a triumph of masculinity. He expresses the true, the valuable and the pure of himself through his canvas. But if this is implicitly masculine, then women have greatly reduced access. They’re not artists, they’re women artists and that’s something different. Their body is thus always made visible, not just because it’s a site of difference, but because women are presumed to entirely be of and about the body.
By allowing light to filter around her naked body and through the canvas, Woodman makes this explicit in her work. The strip-tease aspect of her tearing makes a connection to sex and femininity even more explicit and invites a feminist analysis. Her drawings are torn to bits to reveal her body / herself, which / who then leaves. She breaks down the mind/body dichotomy, and, in so doing, her work is placed in the male gaze, which is not a site of empowerment. But she remains in control. There is no operator behind the camera. She controls what we see and when we see it, as much as she can, since the paper tears in unpredictable ways. By working within the male gaze, she makes it visible to the viewer.
I was also drawn to the aesthetics of the piece. It’s shot in her home. The attachment of the paper is ad hoc. The video is actually a series of takes. She tried this multiple times and put several of them on the finished tape. I like the experimental nature of it. I like that it’s about process. I think the aspect of it being in her home, which is an intimate setting (I mean that the way that small chamber music venues are described as intimate). She lets us into her life in a small way to make a statement about herself, her art and art in general.
I also admire her courage. There’s no metaphor for being naked on camera because it is the metaphor. She is actually uncovered, but never uncomfortable. It’s amazing.
So as I begin to think about making little films, I keep thinking of hers. I also think of her relationship to her body and the camera. I’ve spent most of my life striving to remain covered, living in my head. I don’t think I have the “wrong body,” but I think my identity was at odds with aspects of my body – not even in a way that I’ve been fully aware of. Which is to say, being naked on camera is not something I would ever have considered in a million years. No. No. No. What are you kidding? It’s another door that was closed – right next to all the doors that disallow crossdressing. These doors are starting to open for me. (Note that they should never have been closed in the first place.)
I’m working on a video of me giving myself a shot. It is uncovering. I thought of her video for courage to continue. My nakedness, though, is metaphorical. Do I want to put out there a picture of me in my bed room? Hesitating? Pausing? Failing?
Why do I want to do it? I have no idea. I try to get things out of my head sometimes and if you that with art, then how you do it is by putting it in other people’s heads. What does it feel like to have your identity hinge on an injection when you have a fear of needles? Well, here’s one answer.
I’m considering doing a piece with a bunch of still photos, slowly fading from one to another. In them I would be in the same location, in the same pose. I would start wearing a suit, hat and jacket and in each picture, remove one item until I was wearing nothing. (Why do I want to do it? I have no idea.)
I pass when I’m clothed. People see me as a man, which is what I want. But I’ve only done hormones and only for a few months. My body is ambiguous. Not even as ambiguous as I would like. It would be a stripping away of identity and of self. (Why do I want to do it? I have no idea.)
What is sex? What is gender? They’re both culturally constructed. My very body is queer now. I call all of these oppositions into question just by existing. My queer self is inscribed on my person, on my physical being.
I don’t want to be a shock value, though. I don’t want to be daytime TV. I don’t want to be a women’s glossy mag. I don’t want to be a bad joke. I want to be a person, clothed or unclothed. Woodman was dealing with the same sort of issues in her work, about how her image is transmitted and received. She can’t control what the perceiver thinks. Somebody like me could come up to it and think , “ooh, hot woman.” But if that person engages the work, they walk away with more than that. She does with pacing, timing, repetition of the same scenario. She’s got some advantage over me in that we, as a culture, acknowledge that cisgender women’s bodies exist.
So, I don’t know if it’s a good idea. I’m looking for thoughts.


Trans Movie

We’ve been watching queer movies at casaninja, thanks to Netflix. I just saw Ma Vie en Rose, a French and Belgian movie about a 7-year-old transgender child. Um, wow. I wasn’t so self-aware at seven, but man, I can relate to parts of that film, like being dragged to therapy. And stressing the heck out of my parents with no idea why or how. Also, the part where hir mom says that everything is going to hell and its all hir fault. . .. Maybe I’m over identifying. Yikes.
The basic plot of the movie is that a heterosexual fmaily moves to some very heterosexual suburbs in Belgium. Their little boy IDs as a girl and wears dresses and scandalizes the neighbors who fly into a homophobic rage. The parents drag the kid to therapy. The kid gets thrown out of school. The father looses his job. The family relocates to France. In France, the family has a transgender kid for a neighbor who forces the main character into a dress to get hirself out of it. The new-to-France mother freaks out and assaults her mtf kid. The nieghbors interviene asking her what the hell is wrong with her. Because they’re in France and not Belgium and don’t freak out over crossdressing seven year olds.
Then, I think there was sort of a forced happy ending, but I can’t say because the disk was screwed up and it wouldn’t play past the start of the reconciliation, but I can imagine the dialog (translated into English for your benefit):

Mom: You’ll always be my child.
Kid: Even if I’m a girl?
Mom: It’s ok, we’re in France now. Our neighbors are no longer filled with irrational hate against anybody even slightly different from themsleves.
Kid: So I can be a girl?
Mom: You can have freedom of gender expression until puberty!

The moral of the story is to stay out of Belgium. Sure, the beer’s good, but the people are nothing but trouble.
As an aside, are there any happy trans movies that have FTMs in them? Are there any FTM movies at all besides Boys Don’t Cry?

Lesbian Movies

We started our movie queue with Go Fish, a lesbian movie form the early 1990’s. It tries so very very hard to address all issues relevant to young, urban dykes. And it does pretty well at that quest, even if sometimes unsubtle. There’s a lot in about the difficulty of maintaining a minority identity in a hostile culture. One of the main characters worries about dropping into straight society and disappearing. There’s a lot of angst like that. Another lead points out that it’s easy to be labelled a dyke when you’re in a cozy couple, but if you’re single and mess around with a guy, man, everybody thinks you’re bi. (Well, it was the 90’s).
I liked it then and I like it now.
After that we watched Sister George from the late 1960’s. It’s a British flick. I think the moral of it is to stay out of England.. Hollywood wasn’t ready to talk about lesbians, even if it was as relentlessly negative as this movie.
It’s based on a play, whose script I happened to read a few years ago. I read the whole thing and had absolutely no idea what was supposed to be going on. It was based on some stereotype of female queerness to which I had never been exposed. I can’t say watching the movie cleared it up overly much, but I can say that I think they took the entire play script and put it in the film and then added in scenes that were talked about in the play, just to fill in gaps. The movie was like 3 hours long.
The plot of it is that a woman who plays a nurse in a soap opera is getting written out of the plot, despite being popular and having been on the show for decades. The reason for her firing is because she molested some nuns in a taxi cab. Obviously, she’s coming completely unglued. The movie ends with her jobless and with her girlfriend stolen away by her (female) boss, which was played out with perhaps the creepiest sex scene ever put on film. The evil/aroused expression in the boss’s face is like something out of 80’s German lesbian porn. Aieee!
Given the dearth of other lesbian images in film, this movie was very influential, and I’ve seen references to it other places. Halberstam writes about it in Female Masculnity, noting that it’s not entirely negative. It has the most swniging, happening lesbian bar on film. The bar is packed with happy dancing couples and a girl band. Butch/femme couples abound. One of the femmes even comments that she thinks Sister George is hot. So she’s left lonely and jobless at the end, but it’s clear she has savings from having been a TV star and living modestly through that time. After she gets out of jail for smashing up the BBC studio, she can pop over to the bar and get a more loyal girlfriend to mistreat. Or therapy. She could really use some therapy.Blogged with Flock

Star Wars, Torture and War

During my morning showers, my mind seems to be turning often to the new Star Wars trilogy. Thankfully, not to Jar Jar Binks, but instead to the oft-repeated moral of the story: anger leads to hate. Hate leas to the Dark Side. (I might be forgetting a step in there, but anyway, don’t get pissed off). When the movie came out, I read a short newspaper article complaining about this morality. The author said something along the lines of, you can’t get pissed off at the Nazis or you become a Nazi yourself. Therefore, according to Lucas, there’s no place for outrage in a moral society. However, I think there’s another reading to this story.

Jedis aren’t regular folks. You don’t run into them at the super market. They wear funny robes and live in a temple. They’re specifically a warrior caste. Therefore, advice given to a warrior caste might specifically relate to their day job. If you’re going to use violence as a means of problem solving, you can’t act out of anger. It’s like spanking kids. People who rationalize that it’s good teaching tool (almost) all agree that you shouldn’t do it when or because you’re pissed off. Being a Jedi is a sort of a parental role in society. Sometimes, they have to administer spankings, so they better not do it when they’re angry.
Many of you, like me, probably think that’s just not a good idea to hit a child. Violence is not really a tool for problem solving. However, this is an action movie. What’s more, it’s an American action movie. Most Americans (especially those watching action movies) beleive that there are circumstances where violence is a tool for problem solving and indeed, there are situations where it is the only tool. (for instance, see Nazis in the first paragraph). Therefore, advice given to a fictional warrior caste might be applicable to the voting public of a democratic war machine.
A newspaper (the Washington Post?) recently ran a profile of three torturers. One was from Israel, one from Northern Ireland, one an American stationed in Iraq. All of them acting as government agents. One of them said, “you can’t fight evil and stay good.” A lot of the debate about torture is whether or not it works, which is morally moot. (It doesn’t work, but that really doesn’t matter.) The point is trying to stay good. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to detainee abuse. Detainee abuse is the dark side.
I’m listing to a CD of Howard Zinn speaking of art in a time or war. In the part about Catch-22 he talked about the Allies – the good guys, doing bombing runs on towns and villages with no military targets. War makes you bad, he said. Even if you start out good, it makes you bad.
Is there a way to fight a war without anger?
Let’s consider again the story of Anniken’s downfall. A very smart, very promising kid has to deal with some very painful blows. He’s got a phyisical, military sort of power and an incredible feeling of entitlement. He wants to do good and to protect what he values. At the same time, he wants to gain power for himself. In so doing, he starts making sacrifices. He sacrifices some of his values towards the greater good of protecting what he values. In the end, power becomes the most important thing for him.
Now, imagine a young-ish country, flush with military power. After a devestating loss, they turn outward to defend themselves and start striking in anger. In order to protect some of their values, they have to sacrifice some of them. They trade civil rights for some increased security. Eventually, the ruling class loses all sense of protecting the people and turns instead to increasing their own power.
Maybe the story of the entilted kid who is well meaning but also greedy is a story that really is logically consistent. The seemingly mututally exclusive motivations represent fractured motivations with himself and the differing motivations of different segments in society. Advice that is silly for individuals could be really useful to that kid, to public leaders and to entire societies. America: don’t get mad!

Happy Dog

Xena has fully recovered from airplane trauma. Almost. She’s become incredibly obedient, which is strange, but she seems very happy, running around and sniffing at things. The only things that freak her out now are loud noises and hurricane force winds. I had kind of forgotten how cute she is, like when she runs her forehead into my feet to show affection. What a great dog.

In other happy news, I went to a film festival going on Rotterdam, but which is not the official city festival. It’s the Reject Film Festival and they’re showing a bunch of short films by my friend Nick. It was great last night. A bunch of films and a three course meal for 10€. It’s still going on, so everybody who can should check it out.
I will go to the official festival later this week, but tonight I have lab time.


I posted this as a comment in vince’s blog:

Ah, the role of high art in pop culture. in american movies of the 50’s, when people go to see the symphony or opera, it’s used as a kind of a backdrop. the symphony itself is rarely shown. often a conductor (who really is obviously not conducting) in tux waving his arms around provides the only cues that the symphony is there. the symphony atendees are wealthy. they sit up properly and siltently in straight back chairs as if they are at church. Opera and high art is not to be enjoyed, it is a duty of their class to attend.

In soviet symphony, as a contrast, high art was considered culturally valuable to the masses. They symphony would be shown in movies playing along with their real-life conductor. the views were (obviously) not wealthy and were shown enjoying the music. For music deemed “romantic” (not the era, the mood), such as one of chopin’s themes, that i can’t recall the name of, couples in the audience might look at each other and smile, and perhaps snuggle into each other or males might but their arms around females. the soviet movie audience is thus encouraged to enjoy the symphony, rather than see it as an eltist (and boring) symbol of the upper class.

the idea of an eltitist nature of high art in the us is a persistent one. It can show up in carol’s experiences in gifted and talented programs, so that Opera is considered soemthing that an elite group would be suited to enjoy, wheras a regular group would not. Or it can show up in the anti-art rhetoric of republican senators, vowing to destroy the NEA.

the anti-high art movement has commercial roots. It’s been encouraged extensively by hollywood. Radio stations, such as the mormon-owned KDFC, portray calssical music as something to fall asleep by. Miami currently has no classical music radio whatsoever. thus corporate-owned radio has no desire to broadcast lively and current high art, or in some cases, no desire to broadcast high art at all.

the reasons for this are beyond the scope of this procrastination. however, the consistent mediocrity of pop culture may be a factor. Pop culture is insipid. It is not thought-provoking. It is easier to control than a complicated and thoughtful piece of art.

Alaxander Nevsky Paper

Celeste Hutchins
Nevsky Paper

I read Eisenstein’s explanation of how the Nevsky images and sound work together and I remain unconvinced. However, what was clear both in his writing and his film were strong issues of Russian identity.
These were very obvious in the film, where the characters openly discuss what it means to be Russian and the importance of the homeland. This was contrasted with the German other. Today’s Colloquium speaker noted that the music used for the Russian themes in the film were based on Russian folk modes. Thus it is somewhat similar to Stravinsky’s Svadebka, as they both use folk elements to re-imagine folk life.
I recognized other things common to Svadebka including that the female love interest had her hair parted into two braids, thus indicating her status as an unmarried woman. However, at the end of the film when the two couples pair off, neither woman starts singing a platch, but instead look happy with their future husbands. However, the matchmaker (mentioned early in the movie) has not yet been sent, so perhaps the platch would be premature and might interfere with the happy ending.
Russian identity is obvious in Eisenstein’s writings as he quotes Pushkin. Pushkin’s poetry is strongly linked to Russian identity. He is widely quoted and revered.
Despite the obvious and strong Russian identity in the film, certain American film conventions were used. For example, as one of the Germans fell through the ice and slowly slipped in and drowned, there was a Mickey Mousing downward trombone slide matching his action. Eisenstein goes so far as to claim that all of the score in the waiting scene is Mickey Moused, drawing diagrams and making claims of eye motion. Some scenes had music pre-written for them and Mickey Moused in reverse, so that the action was made to mirror the score.
This type of Mickey Mousing however, goes far beyond anything that would be found in an American film. The score, with it’s folk modes and choral works is distinctly Russian. These Russian identities in the film are contrasted with the film’s portrayal of German otherness. The creepy bucket-style helmets make the Germans look like aliens. Issues of religion also figure in very prominently.
The Germans have crosses on their uniforms. They have crosses on their shoulders. Even the eye holes in their helmets are cross shaped. Many scenes show the German holy leaders raising crucifixes. The religious leader goes so far as to say that there is only one world emperor and he must bow to the Pope. The Germans are in Russia on a religious crusade to impose Catholicism.
In contrast, there was only one scene showing Russian Orthodoxy. It was a short shot of some people standing, one of them holding an icon. The Germans are evil Catholics and the Russians are practically atheists by comparison, but they do have this other religion, which they get to keep, at least until the revolution.
Musically, Catholicism is represented by the organ that the priest plays. Also, since the trumpets are first blown at a church service, they also represent catholicism as much as they represent the threat of the knights. It is hard to draw a distinction between Catholicism and the Teutonic threat as Catholicism is the Teutonic threat. It is their motivation for coming to Rus and their justification for committing atrocities. Religious baiting is a tired old form of propaganda, but probably useful in a legally atheist society, as it helps build national religious (or irreligious) unity.
There is also a single character who was probably supposed to be a Jew. This character tells the angry nationalist mob that nationalism is not as important as money. Some nobel character kicks the Jewish man and calls him a cur. Because of the diasporic nature of Jewish peoples, they were viewed as stateless. In the Soviet era, Jews were not considered Russian citizens, but rather resident aliens. Their legal nationality was Jewish.
This possible Jewish character does not get a musical theme. He has about the same amount of screen time as the Russian Orthodox church, maybe a bit more. He is represented by stereotypes and carries no iconography. Thus religions in Russia are barely present in the film, whereas German religion is threatening, gets a lot of screen time and has musical themes and instruments associated with it.
Russian identity is thus defined, both as what it is and what it is not. Russian identity uses folks modes, quotes Pushkin and is forever optimistic. Enemy identity is religious, faceless and threatening, with odd instrumentation of bassoons and strange trumpets. Most horrible of all is the traitor to Russia who gets killed by an angry mob. Real Russians – the ones not kicked to death by the proletariat – love their country and will fight for it.

Drama Free Zone

I’ve decided, as of this morning, as my mind was clearing from the smoky haze and beer of the biker bar I was at last night, to avoid people that make me feel stressed. I can keep my own stress in check by not thinking about it. Two giant papers due at the end of the term that I haven’t yet started or even know how to begin? not thinking about it. those books I’m reading about medieval drama? they’re pleasure reading of course. no need to stress. no need to panic. deep breaths.

But then when someone else starts ranting and ranting and ranting about how they have no idea what to write and there’s not that much time left in the term and they’re going to flunk out, etc, etc, etc, then I get all keyed up too. this works for other ranting subjects, as well. so I’m going to hang arund mellow people instead.

Biker Bar? Did you say “biker bar?”

What’s new?

As friday was a total wash anyway, what with having an all-day long gamelan gig, I decided to not worry about working in the evening, so some folks and I went to see Love Acually, a romatic comedy staring Hugh Grant. What was I thinking? I’ll never have those two hours and eight minutes back in my life. (Before anyone accuses me of a lack of accuracy, let me make it clear that I don’t actually know how long the film was, but two hours and eight minutes seems like a reasonable number, any anyway, you have to factor in things like previews, leaving before the credits are finished, arriving late, etc, and it could well have been two hours and eight minutes. Anyway, you don’t read my blog to find out how long movies are right? but I can give an accurate review.) What made the film even worse is that I’ve sat for two weeks of lectures about film scores. So the always-terrible movie of romantic comedies was especially evident. There was an unruly number of simultaneous plots in the film, something like 12. there were three main musical themes: one was the romantic angst theme, one was the triumphal theme and one was the much more rarely used dark theme. there was also a liet motif mostly attached to a comic relief cahrecter, but also present in the rest of the film. the dark theme was so rarely used, that I have forgotten everything about it except for it’s existance.
the romatic angst theme was played on the clarinet. It was most certainly not in major. The clarinet, historically is used as a signifier of sexual experience. Here, it retains a connection to it’s early 20th century predecessors by signifying sexual tension. In the middle part of the movie, this theme was often used as the story switched from plot to plot. So there would be some development in one of the plots, a sexual tension would develop or be made more evident, the clarinet theme would come in as the actors mimed an approximation of angst, and then the scene would switch to another set of chracters.
the trimphal theme was mostly present at the end of the movie, as all of the plots but two (more on those two later), came to a triumphal conclusion. It also appeared however, earlier in the film. For example, as the Prime Minister of the UK was calling the US a bully and otherwise dissin the President of the US in an unplanned moment in a press confrence, the triumphal theme swelled majestically. Almost all of the emotional information theme is encoded in the romatic triumphal theme. the PM’s speech was controversial enough that using the darker theme would have shown it to be an unmittigated failure. The lack of a theme altogether would have been so ambigious that the audience would have been unable to gauge the PM’s sucess or failure until later scenes where characters discuss the speech. The triumphal theme was the equivalent of having the press corps burst into cheers and appluase, the kind of rediculous movie contrivance that we are spared at least until the last quarter of the film.
Near the end of the film there actually is a scene where a croud bursts into applause, but it is not for something so boring as poltics, but rather when the writer asks his former maid to marry him. the entire Portugese quarter of some unnamed French city has followed him to the restaurant where the woman, with whom he has never had a convesation in a mutually-understandable language, is waitressing. the incidental music drops out. he asks her in broken Portugese to marry her. She says yes in broken english. the restaurant bursts into applause as she decends a staircase to his arms. the triumphal music swells. Interrestingly, the restaurant contained a band playing source music (source music refers to music that the characters as well as the audience can hear), who had fallen silent for the proposal. When the woman accepted, the band immediatly struck up again, but the sound track only contained the triumphal theme in it’s orchestral scoring. the scoring of the triumphal theme, as well as the dark theme and the calirnet theme, never varied in scoring.
the triumphal theme is unrelentingly cheesy. More romantic than the romatics would have wirtten. It saturates the sound track at the end. Assaulting the audience, and informing them of the very happy endings.
Not all the endings are happy, however. for instance, one of the plots contains an agressive female. this plot, like all the other plots, aside from the other unhappy ending, is told from the male’s point of view (the movie contains only heterosexual pairings). a woman in his office is trying to seduce him, despite his having an exceptionally wonderful wife. the other woman, like all the other characters is entirely one dminesional. One of the advantages to squeezing in so many plots is that virtually no character development is required and there is opportunity to use every romantic comedy cliche that exists. however, the other woman is even more one-dimensional than anyone else in the movie. Her motivation appears to be evil. For example, her male target is talking to his wife at the office Christmas party. his wife goes to get him a drink or perform some other small favor. the man calls his wife either a saint or an angel. then the other woman appears, wearing devil horns and a red dress. This level of (un)subtlety is used throughout the film. his story ends unhappily as his disabused wife painfully smiles at him, miming being happy at his return while the evil temptress is pictured looking evilly happy in her apartment, standing in front of her mirror in her sexy underwear, putting on the necklace that the husband bought for her.
the story of the cheating husband (who never went further than buying a necklace) is contrasted with the story of the cheating wife. this story, also told from a male perspective, involves, like all the stories except the Other Woman plot, involves an agressive male. It begins with two men in formal wear discussing the regretablity of them having recently frequented prostitutes who turned out to be men. the camera pans out and we see that one of them is getting married. the best man is angsty at the reception and iirc, someone asks him if he is in love with the groom (at least, I think that’s what I heard). the man acts alarmed, but not homophobic at the question and then changes the subject. Later in the movie, the wife views the wedding video shot by the best man and discovers it is all of her, thus indicating that he loves her. he storms out of his apartment, deliberating for a while whether to go back in and speak with her, while a score (“score” refers to music not heard by the characters) pop song plays in the background. finally, he zips up his jacket and the pop song becomes louder, thus providing a stinger and signaling that he has made up his mind to leave. Near the end of the film, he goes to her house and she kisses him. At the very end of the film, he, she and the husband are pictured together whiel the triumphal music swells, thus indicating approval for him persuing her. thus a male homewrecker is acceptable, while a female one is trouble.
however, some of the conversations earlier in the film may have ben intended to convey a much more complicated relationship. In the old days, a converstaion about male prostitutes (and the shared sexual experience) and a question about his relationship woth the groom would have been enough to signify the best man as a bisexual. As romantic comedies do not tend to be on the cutting edge of film convention, it may have been the intended implication here as well. Perhaps playing triumphal music for the three of them is designed to show that they all manage to live happily ever after.
the other unhappy ending is the sole one told from the female point of view. All of the other stories end at the arrival gate of Heathrow airport, while the triumphal music swells for all but the cheating husband. this story doesn’t even get to the airport. A woman, working at the same office as the cheating man, has a crush on one of her colleagues. Junior high-style, they slow dance at the office Christmas party and thus are then dating, or something. He asks her to dance, so she is passive during their plot. they go back to her apartment and are making out (his idea) when her phone rings. Her phone rings constantly throughout the movie. In this scene, it is revealed that the person she talks to is her brother, who is insane. the male is annoyed at the interruption. they resume making out when the brother calls again and she agrees to go see him. the male love interest objects. this may be one of the scenes where the dark theme is employed.
near the start of the film, the woman is encouraged by her boss, the cheating husband, to make a pass at her colleague and told that the colleague is aware of her interest in him. Despite this, she continues to act entirely passivle until she goes to visit her brother in the mental hospital, rather than have sex with her colleague. when she become active, she annoys her potential partner and their relationship is ended. During her second to last scene, she is seated, at her computer, working late, while he, the second to last person to leave the office walks by and they awkwardly wish each other a merry christmas. In the last scene, she is wrapping a scarf around the neck of her brother in the mental hospital.
the theme that plays in the mental hospital is the leitmotif theme, a major theme in the movie, but also attached to an aging rockstar, one of the few people not persuing anyone. He has re-recorded a version of his old hit song, which used to go “Love is all around us./ I can feel in my fingers./I can feel it in my toes.” the new version has been changed to “christams is all around us.” the movie open with him in the recording studio accidentally singing the wrong version several times before getting the right one. the song thus functions both as a love theme and a holiday theme, thus reminding us that it is a christams (and christian, really) movie.
the christmas/love theme is often source music, as the rock star frequently appears either on a television watched by one of the other characters or on the radio, however it also occurs in the score, but possibly with a different scoring in that case. It has been stuck in my head for days. the theme acts as intermediate theme, signifying love, but not sucess or angst. the 11 year old boy, while running through the airport to tell a departing classmate that he loves her, pauses for a minute to watch a television with the rocks star on it. after his pause, he runs past the final security barrier to talk to his classmate. the pause thus reaffirmed somehow his love for her and thus was worth the possibility of the persuing secrity gaurds catching him.
there are a few instances where the music is ambigious in regards to being source or score. For example, characters will be at a party where source music is playing, but then they are shown in a car with no cut in the soundtrack, so the pop song has changed from source to score. In one scene, a radio station plays a love song in honor of the Prime Minister and in movie cliche fashion, he dances all over his house until someone walks in on him. the music is assumed to be source, except that it cuts off suddenly as he is discovered, thus showing that it must be score. this is such a movie cliche, that the audience does not pause for a moment to wonder why the prime minister would be dancing around his silent house.
The last elemnt of the movie worthy of discussion involves body image. All of the women are exttremely skinny except for the Prime Ministers’ love interest who is an average weight. Most of the other women look emaciated. the chaeting wife weights about 10 pounds, for example (this is an exagerration, please don’t raise issues of accuracy). This normal-looking woman is discussed several times, being described as having huge thighs and giant butt. In my opion, she was one of the most attractive women in the movie, and she does get her love interest in the end (the Prime minister, at that), but her weight is criticized several times.
the other character to have her weight discussed it the Portugese maid’s sister. the maid first brings her up as she declines an offored pastry. then the sister later appears in the film as comic relief. the writer appears at the door of the maid’s father to ask for the maid’s hand in marriage. the sister appears and the father orders her to marry the writer, despite never having met him, as nobody else would want to marry someone so fat. the writer asks for the other daughter. the father takes the writer to the restaurant where the maid works while more and more people follow along to see what will happen. the conversation along the way is half people wondering what will happen and half the father insulting the daughter for her weight. He calls her “Miss Dunking donuts 2003,” for example. the musical cues, the comic setup inherent in the cliche of the confused follwing crowd and the predjudices fo the audience solicitted a laugh from the theatre that I attended. Other fat jokes along the way were also laughingly approved by the audience.
In conclusion, I have written far too many papers and I can’t make it stop. Also, this movie, like many romantic comedies, is hetero-normative and essentially conservative, urging women to adopt conventional social roles and to be passive in relationships. Non-passive women are either evil or alone. It may even be dangerous to have a story told from your own point of view. The anti-feminist viewpoint is most prevelant in romatic comedies, a genre of films made for women viewers. why some women enjoy cheesy movie cliches, being assaulted by triumphal themes that Wagner or even Bruckner would have been ashamed to write, and being programmed to be helpless and undernourished is a mystery to me, but somehow it seems to work finacially for the studios. I’m not seeing anymore films unless they’re somehow art films or the last section of the lord of the rings trilogy.

what about the damn biker bar

We decided to go bowling with angela last night, but we got lost and we called to ask for directions, the alley told us they weren’t going to have any free lanes. So we went to a billard hall that we had passed along the way, but they had a cover. So we decided to go to the Red Dog Saloon. Tiffany loved it. it’s a real biker bar. Jessica arrived later and was given a hard time by the bartender. She has nothing of a biker bar about her and is entirely out of place in such an establishment. Angsty conversation ensued, which was widely overheard by interested eavesdropping males. Yesterday, I also gave Xena a bath, so she smells much less offensive. And I wrote the introduction to my Joan of Arc aper. Today, I’m supossed to be creaing 12 sounds for some john cage thing, but i’m posting to my blog instead. alas.

Movie Music Paper

Celeste Hutchins
Movie Paper

The only thing cohesive about the movie Laura is that there are only two musical themes in it. The other, narrative themes are much less clear. Lydecker, as Kathryn Kalinak points out in her article, is clearly meant to be read as gay. This is most clear in the opening scene, which, Kalinak notes, had a different director than most of the rest of the film. He also plays what The Celluloid Closet called “the sissy” in the scene where he finds out the Laura is not dead, when he passes out. After Lydecker regains consciousness, Carpenter insults Lydecker for his lack of masculinity. In his most forceful and perhaps wittiest lines, Carpenter suggests that Lydecker should get back “on all fours.” He might as well called him a fag.
If Lydecker is supposed to be gay, then what is his relationship with Laura supposed to be? As Kalinak points out, Lydecker’s characterization, like everything else in the movie was disputed by the committee that assembled the film. The entire movie is just as confused and unclear as Lydecker’s motivations and sexuality. The plot has holes in it. The characters never stop to ask important questions (Why isn’t Laura surprised that her fiance is not shocked by her reappearance?). The characters themselves are half formed and waver between different archetypes and stereotypes. The only consistent character in the film is the overwhelmingly stereotypical Betsy.
Given this mess of inconsistency, poor writing, and ambiguous plot, it’s no surprise that Raskin chose to limit the musical material. The music is the glue holding the disparate visions together as a semi-cohesive whole. Having additional themes might have simply highlighted the fragmentary nature of the narrative. Instead, by having one main theme repeating over and over, Raskin creates connections between scenes and reinforces his vision to Laura’s character. Ultimately, Raskin’s vision of Laura is the prevailing one, both because it’s repetition gives it more time “on screen” than the actress gets and because of it’s lack of ambiguity. Laura’s character was clearly not resolved by the time the movie was assembled and so in the final version, if judged by non-musical cues alone, she has no real character. Is she virtuous? Is she a victim? Does she deserve her fate? Is she a “good guy” or a “bad guy?” The visual images and the dialog present no clear answer to these questions. She is just a bystander in her own story.
The music, however, changes that. The main theme is clearly and obviously connected to her. Carpenter describes the theme as “not exactly classical, but sweet.” This characterization of the theme also accurately describes Laura’s character. In the end, she is sympathetic: an innocent victim of bad circumstances who deserves something better. This is entirely a result of the music.
Kalinak describes the secondary, darker theme as being connected to Lydecker. This is much less obvious than the main theme’s attachment to Laura. Kalinak notes that the theme often appear where Lydecker does not. She claims this foreshadows Lydecker’s guilt. The connection between the second theme and Lydecker was not obvious to me when I was watching the movie. I noted that there was a second, darker theme attached to foreboding events. As a modern viewer, it seemed as if the second theme is sometimes placed with Lydecker to foreshadow his guilt. In other words, I felt that the theme did not belong to an individual, but to a mood.
Attaching a dark mood to Lydecker, also, may not soley be intended to signify his guilt, but also his possible homosexuality. Kalinak notes that unusual instrumentation was used around Lydecker. She also notes that theme heard in Lydecker’s apartment is “heard in a predominantly woodwind ensemble.” (p 171) This woodwind ensemble may have been used to highlight his sexuality. Kalinak writes, “Certain stereotypes evolved as a shorthand for sexual experience . . .. [T]hese conventions included brass and woodwind instrumentation, unusual harmonies and bluesy rhythms.” (p 166) Here she is discussing sexual experience for women. It must also carry weight when these conventions are attached to male character. She goes on to state, “The classical score frequently encoded otherness through the common denominator of jazz. For white audiences of the era, jazz represented the urban, the sexual and the decadent . . .. [T]he classical score used jazz as a musical trope for otherness, whether sexual or racial.” (p 167) While the scoring in Lydecker’s apartment is not, jazz, it does use woodwinds. Also, the second theme, which may have been attached to him, has unusual harmonies. Clearly his scoring is intended to convey sexual otherness. Woodwinds, while not jazzy in this case, were associated with jazz. Homosexuality was associated with decadence. Thus the music in the apartment theme, in addition to the staging, the dialog and the blocking, also highlights Lydecker’s queerness.
The opening scene makes him overwhelmingly gay (as overwhelmingly gay as one could be during the era of movie codes). What then is his attachment to Laura? What is his motivation for killing her? In asking these questions, I am making the assumption that audiences of the time would have been unfamiliar with the idea of bisexuality. If it is the case, and Lydecker is gay, then what does this mean for Laura’s character? The implication seems to be that she was sleeping with him. But if he’s gay, then obviously, she wasn’t. Raskin’s concept of Laura was of a good guy and not a “whore,” as Preminger characterized her. ( Kalinak p 167) Raskin’s participation in the queering of Lydecker adds credence to his vision of Laura as innocent. If Lydecker is gay, then Laura is not sleeping with him and thus perhaps is not sleeping with her other suitors and thus may be a virgin with bad luck. She thus can be “not exactly classical, but sweet” and live happily ever after. Lydecker’s motivations are then utterly unclear, but he does die at the end, which is very often the fate of gay characters in older movies. The audience can then go home happy, knowing the manliest man got the girl. The girl is innocent and will live happily ever after without the homo, who got killed. Manliness, honesty (Laura is the only suspect in the movie who doesn’t lie constantly), heterosexuality, and virginity thus triumph. The movie ends with a reminder to buy war bonds. With our values, how can we lose?

Longer Movie Review

First, let’s talk about what was cool about the first movie. It was green and oddly timed. The whole thing was shot with this errie greenish, slightly-off feel to it. Everything was kind of decayed. It was awesome. and the soundtrack was really good. the product placement, coupled with the excellent cinematography made it the movie equivalent to reading Wire Magazine We’re all anti-capitalist now, but at the time, it affirmed our dot com lifestyles. The whole movie was like a matephor for working at a startup. Neo works at an office that represses him. The establishment gets him down. But then someone approaches with a crazy plan, they can’t even reveal until he signs an NDA. His personal life sucks after that. He eats gross food and lives in a funny little room, and his clothes are beat up, but none of this matters, because he spends all of his time hacking the matrix. And he gets the cool dot com accessories. He gets the nokia. the super-fast network connection. Um, some machine guns, but you know they’re suppossed to represent palm pilots or something. He becomes the uber-hacker. He’s thinking outside the box. there’s no sex in the movie. Who has time for that when they’re wortking at a startup? The scene at the very end where he takes off like superman, that representes the stock after the IPO.
Ok, now on to the current movie. dot coms crashed. cell phones ar enot as ubiquitous as they were. nobody is buying toys like that anyway. and most importantly, AOL bought time Warner, the company that made the film. and the film people smelled a franchise and brought in some new writers. so the new movie has sex in it. Do you ever need to see whats-his-face that plays Neo’s bare butt? nononononononoNO. but there it is, on the big screen, larger than life. there’s more sex than that too, but it’s pg-13 sex. It’s really pg-14, since the target audience is clearly 14 year old males. and they got rid of most that confusing science fiction stuff. and the women in it were a little too powerful and onconventional, so they fixed that. And the soundtrack was little too alternative and not hollywood schmaltz in the first one, so they fixed that. And wouldn’t it be cool if there was a big fight, like in a medival chalet with a bunch of armor and swords and stuff stuck to the walls, so that people could just grab them and start fighting?? what an original idea! i’ve nevr even heard of that except in 2186731647983624 james bond movies and other lame action films. Oh, and throw in a bad guy that speaks french. they even got rid of the product placement. There’s really not much to say in terms of the plot, since the plot was clearly an afterthought to the really really really long, violent fight scenes. i think if you have over an hour of special effects, you might forget to do some of the finishing touches, like texture mapping. the special effects in the first film were awesome. the ones in the second film were rushed through production or something. it was on a par with some video games that i’ve seen. unrealistic movements. lack of texture on fast parts. bleah. bleah. bleah.
Ok, now I know all of you are going to go see it anyway, becauyse the original was so awesome. It’s not the same movie. It’s got the same actors playing charecters by the same names in an entirely different movie. an action movie. one where the sci-fi component has been dumbed down to Trinity guessing a root password in one try and hacking an entire system in three keystrokes. It provides some unintended comedy.
But you’ll see it anyway because it was shot in Oakland. there is a long long long long long get-up-and-go-to-the-bathroom-come-back-get-popcorn-come-back-go-for-a-smoke-come-back long long chase scene filmed on 880. It’s a whole bunch of car accidents. I think it was about an hour of the movie of car accidents. they keep going back and forth over the same stretch,, but traffic never gets snarled, despite it being in the 880 cooridoor and there being so many accidents. I think maype it was suppossed to look like they were moving forward, but the effect doesn’t work if you know the freeway. I can only imagine what KCBS’s traffic report would sound like. and no news helicopters ever showed up. anyway.
the also tear up and down broadway. and they go in one of the tunnels to alameda. is this why the tunnel was closed every night for months? you can see all sorts of local landmarks. so go and you might recognize a restaurant or something. otherwise, there’s really no reason to see the movie. i want my money back. and it cost $3 for a soda. that’s sugar and water!!!! for three dollars. it’s an outrage. i wish i’d gone to a concert instead.