Thursday, May 25, 2006

Desire & Capital: Preliminary Notes

I may start taking notes on the relationship between sexual desire and (Marxist) economic analyses in films that I see where the relationship between the two is implied or brought up explicitly. Sometimes the existence of overwhelming desire exists in a film as an (intentional) counterpoint to economic or sociopolitical crises, which causes the characters to behave in ways that don't appear to be rooted in politics, but which have a certain residual whose political roots are evoked through the structure of the artwork itself. In the famous 'Freud' and 'Marx' image from Godard's Le Gai savoir, it's as though the 'Freud' (libido) supplies the drama, and the 'Marx' (physical sexuality) supplies the action, and economy and society go on operating through individuals in ways that seem to be purely corporeal, neither economic nor social.












In Dušan Makavejev's Man Is Not a Bird (1965), the character Rudinski has to balance his dedication to his job as an engineer (for which he is given a medal) and his attraction to the young woman Rajka. A maxim that I believe the film postulates: a man cannot be ruled by his passions, but neither can he reject them totally--Rajka (as a mustachioed truck driver's advances suggest) is a bit more attuned to the pushing and pulling of the heart, and I think Makavejev's work is an ongoing attempt to unite the ideas of sexual liberation (release) with the self-control (labor & ownership) of workers, which arguably found its greatest culmination in WR--Mysteries of the Organism ('71). Makavejev is neither friend nor foe of the State, exactly, from my admittedly quite limited vantage point. What interests him is instead the attempt at true liberation in terms not only socio-economic, but in terms of the Godardian 'Marx' and 'Freud,' an attempt that a Communist government will not necessarily make in earnest, but which Makavejev will agitate for anyway.

Below, stills from Teorema (Pasolini, '68) and Shampoo (Ashby, '75) ...



















Pasolini was a Marxist of course, and Towne & Ashby left liberals (I would think?)--both draw interesting portraits of sexual attraction and desire, the sexual revolution, the possibilities of a certain political promise (and also failure). I haven't even begun to scratch the surface of Teorema or Shampoo, each of which I've seen only one time, but both films are about a certain sexual proclivity, a propulsion among their characters, to which 'backgrounded' social and political elements depicted in the films have a very serious and complex relationship. So, I hope, more on them in the future. As with my previous post, this is something like a sketch or a study of a more serious work that may result some months down the road.

10 comments:

girish said...

I'm thinking of Bertolucci's The Conformist and its connections between fascist politics, repressed sexuality and conformism.

Marcello/Jean-Louis Trintignant: "I'm going to build a life that's normal. I'm marrying a petty bourgeoise."

[and on Guilia/Stefania Sandrelli]: "Mediocre. A mound of petty ideas. Full of petty ambitions. She's all bed and kitchen." [ouch]

Jay said...

La Chinoise might be a useful film to revisit.

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