Saturday, July 15, 2006

Desire & Capital: Why!?

So. What motivates me to string together such a loosely-related set of blog entries on the almost meaninglessly ambiguous phrase 'desire and capital'? It's ultimately an urge on my part to try to articulate how the capitalist and non-capitalist film industries, and their authors, constitute "desire" onscreen, and whether or not there are some broad patterns to be read in the ways these constitutions appear. So if we say that filmmakers in line with Hollywood or some other capitalist film industry have a tendency to 'commodify' desire, to turn women into objects in the vaunted Western tradition* then can we really differentiate socialist filmmakers or even socialist industries?

And then within this initial, presumed capitalist/anticapitalist manichaeanism there is internecine conflict. Dziga Vertov-era Godard assumes a constantly critical, puritanical posture, directing his energies
against Chytilova, for instance. After his return to "commercial" filmmaking, however, Godard (retaining his critical crankiness) loses some of his puritanism--it converts into elegy, or it reverts into the playfulness of his early work. Prénom: Carmen and Passion, two early 1980s films that deal with a history of forms (the famous novella and opera; the history of Western painting from Rembrandt, Goya, Delacroix), suggest to me--and perhaps I am misreading--that the substance of cultural loss, of loss of cultural memory, occurs not what an object is lost but when its context is erased and a new context built, blindly. To recreate the painting of the Old Masters in filmed tableaux: what does this mean? What does it signify, that we [meaning: anyone] should desire to do this? And Prénom: Carmen--when Godard rips a few pages of the storyline, reconstitutes it in his own film, what does it mean? What is said about Maruschka Detmers herself, this Dutch-cum-French beauty whom Godard parades lithely naked before the camera, as, if I remember the film correctly, relations between her and her lover go sour ...

In 1968's Teorema Pasolini (who took the side of the police in May '68, because they came from the working class while the students emerged from the bourgeoisie) provides a nuanced Marxist reading of the power and allure of the desired object, a One wanted by Many. On the flipside Hollywood liberal Hal Ashby (in a film made in '75 but set in '68 during the McGovern-vs-Nixon run-up), provides one of American cinema's most powerful views of the One who wants Many--Warren Beatty's character is an inversion of Teorema's Terence Stamp. (This is to say, yes, Stamp may have desire and Beatty is also desired, but the films focus on Stamp's status as object and Beatty's as subject.) What does this mean? That in a liberal, self-critical capitalist context, the focus is on the subjectivity of this One Man, whereas in a similarly self-critical Marxist worldview (made by a Marxist as the postwar 'economic miracle' of Italy was in crisis), the focus is on the subjectivities of those who behold this One Man. I wonder if we can read these formations, these stances, as at all indicative of their circumstances of production.

*see Jonathan Berger, see Laura Mulvey, you get the picture, you understand there are exceptions to every rule of course, etc.

** I was going to punctuate this entry with stills, but Blogger has decided not to cooperate.

*** More coming soon on Diary of a Chambermaid, possibly For Ever Mozart, maybe Frantz Fanon, and who knows what else ...

1 comment:

jvpnall said...

McGovern v. Nixon was 1972. 1968 was Humphrey v. Nixon. Shampoo is 1972. It is definitely 1970s, not 1960s.