Schreck, I'm not sure your position leaves enough room for ideological analysis of film, identifying and critiquing moral/social/political elements in film in the ways many writers of Movie, Positif, the CineAction collective, and others have done. Aside from whatever lubitsch may be doing, this category of criticism doesn't have to be knee-jerky and it's not about looking for morally pure films or films free from spurious stereotypes. What's your take on all this?
A rational, well constructed post deserves to have justice done it:
Greg, first I'd say this-- the answer to this inquiry presents the strong argument, in my mind, against the kind of objections to various pieces of art raised by Lube. The answers are as infinitely variegated as human taste itself. Human beings register profound (& unprofound) works of art in various places... in the head, in the heart, in the guts, in the bowels, in the voting booth, and in church. Everybody brings the most important actor/director to a given piece of work: themselves... the spectator. They make the final cut on any given piece of celluloid which supercedes the power effected by any auteur or studio head (see the vastly different versions of Die Nibel & Spinne & Metrop viewed by all of us... none of us has apparently seen the same film, and this is inevitable and a good thing as well as
an argument against attempting to find a consensus regarding the interaction of a film with it's context, since no-one is seeing the same thing to start with). Mostly, this brand of analysis-comparison, using individual-taste/worldview-as-template does little else but starts fights. Art is too personal. This is why as experience develops, the appreciator of mutual humanity tends to refuse to debate "taste", "good", bad" "intellectual". Lube is looking for, it seems, a universal disqualification process based on his own individual experience-- and this is the problem. He's confusing Deep Passion with Final Insight, which is the classic mark of youth... completely normal youth, mind you, which may well be on it's way to go someplace fabulous. Some extremely brilliant artists never shed this tendency, incidentally-- the stubbornness even works in their favor, keeping the work pure; the test of course is what exactly the dude has going on in there. But for now, the drifting around the board pouncing on areas he feels strongly about is defeating his purpose--unless he's merely exhibiting himself-- as he hasn't grasped that passion is not rational, and that feelings are not facts. The only way to Get It is to have these kinds of discussions for years, notice that they rarely get anywhere but always spark contention... and eventually have the gut reaction of growing fatigued the second that kind of discussion appears, already foreseeing the inevitable result.
But there is a separation of processes-- a potential disqualifiecation process
that can run side by side with and potentially overtake a visceral enjoyment-- you're hinting at in your post which is a bit suspect for me, when we're discussing what I register as Good Peices of Art. It always opens up the door for conservatives & religious fanatics to wedge their own legs through and hold the door open for their own agendas. For me, historical study (and it's bastard twin sister, ideology) is seperate from being entertained. Regardless of the context surrounding The End Of St Petersberg, for example, I rank it as one of the most fantastic films ever made. I can't help but care deeply for The Village Lad, because despite the political context/goal for the film (promote the spread of/sympathy for communism), the human story is rendered in a way where the tale of human struggle, strife and survival are presented in a universal way where I relate. Despite the Leader he is unlucky enough to have been born under, he is a human organism searching for the same things I do. Every human confronts obstacles, plugs on despite crushing misery from time to time... certain stories, despite being products of certain historically terrifying environments, still move the soul as exquisite delicacies.
I also see the road of enemy/rejection-hatred, rife in Lube's posts, to be a source of nothing but further misery-- blindness & more disagreement. It creates nothing but additional hatred and atrophies the mind of the hater. If we're discussing Hitler & Nazi Germany, for example, I think it imperative, if one wants to insure That Sort of Thing Never Happens Again, to take a significant chunk of one's mind and try get inside the mind of Hitler, and the average German of the time. Demonizing/jettisoning your enemy from rational understanding does nothing to surmount him as an obstacle. Hitler was a human being with deeply felt passions, moments of profound tenderness... so was the SS man, the Einsatzgruppen, Heydrich, et al. Writing off as Purely Reprehensible the criminal perpetrators of the holocaust, as well as the contemporary German of the period, without putting yourself theoretically in their place to attempt to understand what led them down such a warped road... and what that road looks like... and understanding that this road can be made to feel good and right... and even quite banal & unspectacular--- this sets the modern-day individual up as unable to recognize the danger-signs when they occur
. I think if more Americans took a calm, temporarily
empathetic look at germany 33-45, much of George Bush's lunacy could have been pinched off quickly. There are so many educated people who see that man as completely ignorant of history, who see a dangerous similarity between himself & facsist leaders, but they can't say anything about it without getting into trouble because of knee jerk reactions. Hitler is no longer seen as a real person-- neither are the Germans of the period... they are seen as demonic aberrations which require the presence of forked tongues & horns & flames to trod in their footsteps today. They can't imagine themselves as flirting with the same sort of blindness & royal fucking up of one's country.
I think there is a health in Fully Understanding One's Enemy, of living his outlook in your head, tracing his steps, recognizing his mind even when it's dormant & charming. So I absolutely agree with you in contextualizing certain artworks-- but not with the using of this process to short circuit artistic appreciation of or disqualify outstanding pieces of work. If it is possible to walk into a store and purchase video of attractive runaways & single mothers in desperate need of cash screaming while getting fucked in the ass then drinking from a beaker then swallowing the cum of 6 dudes in sum, then placing in context & appreciating the genius of Lang is a breeze. (Btw it is far from certain that in NIBEL scholarship Alberich is universally seen as rendered by Lang to be beheld by spectators as a Jew.) I think everything should be up for grabs & in full view. Nothing neutralizes fear & hangups than familiarity & demystification.
Of course there's a rational line at genuine incitements to viciousness or mass murder-- obviously serious questions would begin to form in my mind if I beheld a man watching Der Erwige Jude over & over again. But I think making ex post facto connections between Die Nibel and the holocaust-- and condeming the film owing to the association, is a bit over the top. I mean, come on-- from FURY forward, Lang went right to work making films defending the undefended and attacking Fascists. From MINISTRY, HANGMEN ALSO DIE, both made before it was at all clear that his own people had lost the war... to his own leaving Germany at the precise (despite his tightening the story up vs. what his passport said) moment that it was clear the Hitler was not going to be a passing fad, it seems to me Lang is unassailable. Why attack those who enjoy his films?
And no, Greg, I don't know where the ideological line is for Lube. What's his take on splatter pics? Like conservative christians ranting against abortion as murder (but supporting Bush the war/torture/murdermonger), folks of Lube's kind tend to get into trouble for contradiction. First he attacks one of the finest films ever made (SUNRISE) because of the presence of a sexually agressive woman portrayed as a dangerous vamp... then promotes PANDORAS BOX... which portrays what is what out doubt, literally the deadliest sexually agressive vamp of the era
... whose sexuality literally
destroys men AND helpless well-meaning lesbians alike.
It's the lack of self-awareness inherent in Lube... his inability to step back and say "Well, my eyeballs bring my own perfectly unique agenda to film-- an agenda exclusively my own based on my upbringing, ethnicity, history of contention versus outside forces which tried to hurt me/humiliate me for no reason/perpetrate an injustice upon my person-- which feels like it blankets everything because My Eyeballs Show Me Everything, but to which the rest of the world is oblivious. So I've got to be careful about Falling For My Own Editorialization by making sweeping statements... or at least making them without acknowledging my own relatively unique proximity to the rest of the world..."
So, to wrap up Gregory-- of course it's often interesting to socially/politically contextualize a production, particularly if something strikes you as curious in the text and you'd like an answer. But beware the danger: answers will not always be available, or accurate. We're talking about film-- the world of lies. You can drive yourself haywire with this-- where does it end? Should we grow disturbed over the beauty of the Sistine frescoes because Michaelangelo was glorifying an organization (the catholic church... I was a Roman Catholic, so don't get excited anybody) which is responsible for endless centuries of invasion, murder, torture, hysteria, anti-semitism, nazi-sympathy, etc? For me the christian bible is filled with beautiful writing, exquisite; I can read it & be moved, awed in so many ways... then put it down and contemplate in even greater awe what a poison and scourge it has constituted for the human race, responsible for more deaths than any satanic cult or "dark" religion in history. One can easily condemn the sum of American cinematic output prior to 1964 owing to civil rights disgraces-- and all of it's output because of the still unatoned-for devastation wrought upon the indians (with special disqualification reserved for Ford, Mann, et al).
For me these are seperate processes (except in the case of overtly political films i e FARENHT 9/11, certain Stone films, etc): 1st comes visceral enjoyment of an artwork, then 2nd your investigation of the piece's context afterwards, if interested enough
. I tellya, I own hundreds & hundreds of films, and investigating the socio political context of each would leave me no time for anything else. Some guy might see a beautiful woman, ascertain that he can nail her, then take her home and fuck her forthwith and pronto. Another guy might, during the cabride to his apartment, find out that her politics are offensive to his and give her cabfare and get out of the car.
I maintain that in many cases, enjoyment of beauty can be an end in itself. If I was full enough of jizz I might doink an absolutely mind-bendingly beautiful woman even if I knew she was Antonin Scalia's law clerk by day and out of my presence. That doesn't mean she & I might not have the most unbelievable sex of our lives owing to visceral registration of beauty, contrast & exoticism. This is often
my experience communing with communistic and even nazi-era pieces of work. If one knew the full facts behind every seeming beauty we experience, one might never leave the apartment... then read Christ In Concrete and jump out the window.