That’s Entertainment

Michael Triegel

“Moore:I don’t think that superheroes or superhero comics of today are aimed at children anymore.
Q. Who are they aimed at? Teenagers?
Moore: I would say it’s considerably older. I think that the average comics reader these days is probably in their 30s, their 40s, their 50s.”

Alan Moore (Interview with David Marchese, Vulture, 2016)

“It is difficult now to put yourself in the shoes of people who were making decisions at that time [in 1938]. Obviously the government of that time, out of fear that German power might lead to complete victory, preferred to ally itself with Hitler’s Germany rather than opposing it. As part of this alliance, there were impositions, including combating and exterminating Jews. The racial laws were the worst fault of Mussolini as a leader, who in so many other ways did well.”
Silvio Berlusconi (Holocaust Memorial Day speech, 2013)

I was talking to a friend the other day and the subject of John Ford came up. And what we both found ourselves agreeing about was that while Ford was a liberal, and a reactionary version of liberal, he still made movies that somehow were very moving. And the enigma of Ford’s films lingers today in the face of what passes for serious cinema. Now film has always been a highly mediated art form. Its origins as a seaside attraction and diversion have never left it, and the implementation of a studio system, and eventual mega corporate enterprise colors everything and impacts how everyone experiences cinema. But in the shadow of the screen habituated public and massive addictive qualities of the internet, the experience of watching, say, The Searchers or My Darling Clementine is increasingly strange, even uncanny.

My friend’s son noted that (as he was watching The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance) rarely does one see people gathering in groups to argue *democratically* about how to proceed on a given problem. That is a key feature of the Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, and its something that crops up repeatedly in Ford’s films. The second enigma is John Wayne himself. A hideous reactionary and near fascist, Wayne was also something very special on film, and in his youth I would defy you to find a more graceful actor, a more physically gifted presence. Ford obviously recognized it early on.

Enrique Chagoya

But I come to this because of having watched Todd Phillips Joker and the latest Tarantino Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. And I have been hesitant to even see Joker because I had a suspicion I would hate it, and yet several good friends have admired this film, and mostly people in general have viewed the film as a near masterpiece. And the friends I know who admired it are people with excellent taste and knowledge of film. And yet, here we are. The director, Todd Phillips, can include in his resume such work as The Hangover (1, 2, and 3), Starsky and Hutch, and War Dogs (a comedy about arms dealers). It is reported that Joker made him over 100 million dollars. I think that John Ford provides a rather good entry for a discussion of Joker. For this, Joker, is a pure studio product. It is part of a comic book franchise and serves in a sense as a prequel to all the Batman films. And of course the public has already had two memorable and well known Jokers (Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger). And the mise en scene here is studio conforming (and for fuck sake stop the over use of color correction. Must all scary dystopian films be green?) and its shot with a kind of perfunctory nervousness and lack of identity. The final shot of The Searchers, where Wayne is framed in the doorway of the homestead and the camera finds him in near silhouette with the desert of Monument Valley in the distance — and Wayne slowly and beautifully turns away from society and returns to what he has come to know best. Such grace is impossible in a film like Joker.

This does not even address the script. But before that it is worth examining a little the state of comic books and western culture, and especially Hollywood.

“Enter Jerry Siegel, an aspiring teenage writer, and Joe Shuster, a young would-be artist – both nerdy alienated Jewish misfits many decades before that was remotely cool. They dreamed of the fame, riches and admiring glances from girls that a syndicated strip might bring, and developed their idea of a superhuman alien from a dying planet who would fight for truth, justice and the values of President Roosevelt’s New Deal. Barely out of childhood themselves, the boys’ idea was rejected by the newspaper syndicates as naive, juvenile and unskilled, before Gaines bought their 13 pages of Superman samples for Action Comics at 10 bucks a page – a fee that included all rights to the character. Not only was Siegel and Shuster’s creation the model for the brand new genre that came to define the medium, their lives were the tragic paradigm for creators bilked of the large rewards their creations brought their publishers. ( ) At this point, it might be worth pointing out (not out of ethnic pride, but because it might shed some light on the rawness and the specific themes of the early comics) that the pioneers behind this embryonic medium based in New York were predominantly Jewish and from ethnic minority backgrounds. It wasn’t just Siegel and Shuster, but a whole generation of recent immigrants and their children – those most vulnerable to the ravages of the great depression – who were especially attuned to the rise of virulent antisemitism in Germany. They created the American Übermenschen who fought for a nation that would at least nominally welcome “your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free … “
Art Spiegelman (Guardian, 2019)

John Wayne in The Big Trail, 1930. Directed by Raoul Walsh.

I am not sure what one should expect in films based on comics. Or rather, based on and set in a comic universe. And that strikes me as a central problem for Joker. This is Gotham, and the dystopia of this version of Gotham (like most versions of Gotham) is a cartoon dystopia. And this film, like Dark Knight, imagines a mass of proletarian hooligans and mean spirited louts, a world of nasty millionaires to be sure, but the masses are inarticulate, mean, cruel, sadistic and incompetent. They do not organize but only riot. In a sense this is the same logic as The Hunger Games and The Divergent series . These are misanthropic visions, in which the working class is as much a problem as the ruling class. And in which this artificial dystopia is saved by one or another form of authoritarianism. There is also a hugely derivative aspect to Phillip’s film, one can (off the top of my head) count scenes borrowed from The Shining, French Connection, King of Comedy, Clockwork Orange, Singing in the Rain, The Comedian, and, well, all the other Batman franchise offerings.

And these cartoon dystopias serve to mask and remove the real character of the actual dystopia of modern America. The actual characteristics of contemporary dystopian landscapes are thereby hidden. The elision is always what created such a dystopia. The origin story is never about Gotham.

Mircea Suciu

“That films particularly suggestive of mass desires coincide with outstanding box-office successes would seem a matter of course. But a hit may cater only to one of many coexisting demands, and not evento a very specific one. In her paper on the methods of selection of films to be preserved by the Library of Congress, Barbara Deming
elaborates upon this point. Even if one could figure out…which were the most popular films, it might turn out that in saving those at the top, one would be saving the same dream over and over again…and losing other dreams which did not happen to appear in the most popular individual pictures but did appear over and over again in a great number of cheaper, less popular pictures. What counts is not so much the statistically measurable popularity
of films as the popularity of their pictorial and narrative motifs. Persistent reiteration of these motifs marks them as outward projections of inner urges.”

Siegfried Kracauer (From Hitler to Caligari, A Psychological History of German Film)

Mussolini speaking at political rally.

“Like Rossellini, Carol Reed and Billy Wilder confront the wreckage of past cinematic representations of gender, desire, and national identity, centering on new ways to consider masculine subjectivities after fascism. Once again, the medium of film itself is under scrutiny in Reed’s The Third Man and Wilder’s A Foreign Affair, two English-language films shot almost simultaneously with Rossellini’s Germania anno zero on location in the rubble of Nazi capitals. Unlike Rossellini’s neorealist work, these films do not reject the manipulations and stylizations of conventional cinema; instead they embrace the pleasures of artifice, while continuously interrogating the terms of their own representation.”
Siobhan S. Craig (Cinema after Fascism)

Siobhan S. Craig’s excellent book on post war Italian cinema came to mind as I watched the Todd Phillips film. Firstly (and now we can get to the script of Joker) there is nothing remotely like the intellect of Wilder or Rossellini in anything being made today. Or Carol Reed for that matter. But more importantly Craig’s comments on masculine subjectivity and (more significantly) the interrogation of the terms of representation of any director’s work is really precisely the problem, or problems I associate with Joker.

Anne Appleby

There is also a good deal of submerged machismo in Joker. It is there in the homoerotic camera that obsesses on Phoenix’s very skinny body, and it is there in the overcompensation expressed in the music choices, the gratuitous choreography (and as in La La Land, the intentional anti choreography, the casual inexpert false modesty), and in the multiple homages (imitations) and how Phillips is always proving he is not making a comedy (evidence of seriousness). In other words, the various borrowings (many from musicals) are stripped of the actual cinematic form they possessed and rendered as (color corrected) *bad ass* versions –simplified and made brutish. But Phillips always betrays himself. The ugly unflinching Phillips version is actually far more obsessively over directed, and yet not richer or deeper. The law of unintended twee, or something. Its the road show version of King of Comedy with the stand in cast. And the script is always self interrupting. No scene reaches what one senses is its resolution. There is no world created, and this is a flaw for many films of the last decade. Does one believe in this specific Gotham? Or is it seen as enough that the audience knows the general landscape from a familiarity with the franchise.

It is in the script that Phillips flinches most. And in interviews Phillips provides hints that he wants this film to be seen as an auteur creation; it is the story of Phillips himself unable to make comedies anymore because the #MeToo moment has rendered comedy impossible.Those comedies (his bro comedies) are not funny anymore. Director as maligned comic genius — and mass killer, fuelled by resentment and self pity.

And Phillips’ interviews also suggest a tough guy posture that fits well with the masculine dominance seen in the film. But this returns us to comic books, I think. The original underclass outsider art form (sic) was quickly absorbed into the Imperialist anti communist authoritarianism of the early cold war. If the end of the golden age of comics was around the mid eighties, the post script has been stretched out indefinitely as pure marketing and as such has bled into nearly all studio product over the last ten years.

A Foreign Affair (Dr. Billy Wilder, 1948, with Marlene Dietrich)

Today’s film franchises are mostly about the indelibility of class hierarchies and the virtues of smart wealthy white men. And they are finally sort of training wheels introductions to fascism.

“…in Italy’s case, remembering and forgetting are coherent notions that simultaneously contribute to and are informed by a national self-image centred on victimhood. Notwithstanding significant variations and serious challenges to this discourse, commonly known as the italiani brava gente myth, the narrative of innate Italian decency is the common denominator that ties together the longue durée of Italian representations of Fascism, from the emotional intensity of neorealist cinema to the calculating and servile revisionist melodramas of the Berlusconi years.”
Giacomo Lichtner (Italian Cinema and the Fascist Past)

“A fundamental pillar of classical fascism was anti-communism. (Mussolini defined his movement as ‘revolution against revolution’.) There is nothing comparable in the postfascist imagination, which is not haunted by Jungerian figures of militiamen with metallic bodies sculpted in the trenches. It knows only bodybuilders trained in ordinary fitness centres.”
Enzo Traverso (The New Faces of Fascism)

I think it is hard to escape a discussion of masculinity when looking at comics and the film franchises built from comics. In Joker there is additionally a ridicule of the working class. Arthur Fleck (later Joker) has a day job (for a while) as a party clown. This is really low hanging fruit. Making fun of people involved in party planning is standard fare for the bourgeoisie — this is what liberals love to imagine occupies the flyover states. And the problem is here that Phillips creates a world of party clowns that doesn’t exist. It is condescending and mean spirited and panders to the class biases of his target audience (presumably).

Joyce Pensato

A contempt for the masses, for democracy itself really, is a hallmark of ruling class thought in the 20th and 21st centuries.

“…the British political elite was generally contemptuous of democracy. Neville Chamberlain, for one, is cited describing the British electorate as “an immense mass of very ignorant voters of both sexes whose intelligence is low and who have no power of weighing evidence.”
Ishay Landa ( The Apprentice’s Sorcerer: Liberal Tradition and Fascism)

That the British elite supported Franco and Hitler both is evidence of a tradition of white supremacism and fascism in the West, and one tied into directly the eugenics movement that continues on today in much new green discourse.

“…there was a well-developed indigenous tradition of ways of thinking which, while they cannot be called ‘fascist’—not before 1918 at any rate—can certainly be seen as ‘proto-fascist.’…I am proposing… that we reassess the intellectual provenance of proto-fascist ideas in Britain, suggesting that they may be found to quite a large degree in the Nietzsche and eugenics movements, movements that represented the ‘extremes of Englishness’.”
Dan Stone (Breeding Superman. Nietzsche, Race and Eugenics in Edwardian and Interwar Britain)

Michael Borremans

But back to comics and Hollywood, and masculinity. I could make an argument that films like those of John Ford are, if only by virtue of their form, of a qualitatively different register than what comes out of Hollywood today. And in a sense the Marvell and DC comix franchises are really less pernicious politically than what you see in the pure propaganda of stuff like Angel has Fallen (the latest in the series) or Jack Ryan on TV, or Treadstone, or Homeland, or any of the myriad Dick Wolf franchises, or etc. I mean the list is endless. And throughout all of these runs a representation of manhood that is defined by martial training and by violence. Arthur Fleck is really Jack Ryan but for class origins. And there is a current (not unrelated to eugenics) or theme that sees the desire for ‘cleaning up’ society as perfectly reasonable. This is a hallmark of fascism after all, the threat of infection from the underclass or other. The othering of anyone not white and western is too visible and obvious to argue about.

A number of reviewers summarized the film pretty concisely …

“Low-class people are aggressive, angry animals and upper-class people are also aggressive assholes. Everyone is an asshole, so who do you want viewers to fucking stand with? It’s funny because the film also descends into a race problem to coincide with the class. Whether intentional or not, it’s pathetic that everyone Arthur interacts with as a low-class citizen are Black people because, stereotypically, they’re poor. That’s their role. They exist solely to convey his low-class stature.”
Rendy Reviews blog.

Jonas Bugert

Allow me to quote myself here…from 2015 on this blog (The Sound of Architecture):

“The importance of sound in film is understated. In Italian cinema, after WW2, there were debates around the question of post synching the sound track. Elias Chaluja suggested that post-synchronization was an expression of the dominant class, of its ideology and a way to distance identification, but more, to ‘conquer the screen’. Remember that Pasolini, Bertolucci, Antonioni and a dozen others had signed the Amalfi Manifesto in 1968, protesting government censorship, and monopoly control of distribution, but also the laws concerning post synchronization. Antonioni perhaps above all other film directors, radically reversed trends in how to score films. His films create sound-scapes, for lack of a better word. He, like Pasolini, under duress, fashioned new ways to dub and post synch their films. Which suited both their sensibilities. The anti fascism of both instinctively rejected music cues for narratives. They were out to liberate the screen, not to conquer it.

Antonella Cisto, in a very good book on Italian Cinema and Sound, writes:

“Fascist oration continued to circulate in the mouths of foreign actors in foreign films via the voices—timbre and style—of the same dubbers who originally celebrated the Duce and Hitler in the LUCE newsreels and documentaries. Antonioni notes scathingly how Guido Notari’s voice, spoken “with all the emphasis required by the superior hierarchies and with a total lack of sensibility,” is still audible after the historical fall of Fascism, and still declaimed “with the same cadence, the same warmest faith that was fascist,” thus suppressing any other foreign spirit and substance. Dubbing, Antonioni affirms, is a “nightmare” from which the Italians need to be liberated.”

Looking at the sound of comic book films one finds a good deal of noise. And the conquest of the screen is expressed, additionally, with the insistence upon speaking loudly. For the world of DC or Marvell comics is one in which you have to scream to be heard. The desire to find respite or relief from the sound pollution of contemporary dystopian life ends with a desire to de-populate the crowds making all that noise. There are strict class cues in the context and manner of speaking in film. David Attenborough’s mock soothing ruling class voice is never interrupted by noise.

Attenborough wants to clean up the earth by cleaning out the unwanted (unwanted by him and his friends).

Ailbhe ni Bhriain, photography

It is useful to simply note that another thread in the ascension of fascism today, its rehabilitation, is found in left antisemitism. And this starts with Nietzsche.

“…it was the Jews who started the slave revolt in morals; a revolt with two millennia of history behind it, which we have lost sight of today simply because it has triumphed so completely… Let us face facts: the people have triumphed – or the slaves, the mob, the herd, whatever you wish to call them – and if the Jews brought it about, then no nation ever had a more universal mission on this earth.”
Friedrich Nietzsche (The Genealogy of Morals)

And this is found most acutely in reactionaries posing as Marxists or socialists. Zizek remains the prime example. It is the simple sleight of hand whereby one announces one is a leftist and then expresses the most reactionary and fascist (and racist and antisemitic) positions. But not wanting to digress too far here, I want to gradually return to the expression of and stylistics of the new fascism. When I wrote that the form of Ford’s films separates him from Todd Phillips (or Zack Snyder, or Ben Affleck, or whoever) it has to do with camera and editing (not to be too rudimentary here). Ford imbues each frame with a kind of humility — his films do not manipulate, ever. They may, in text and often in performance even, espouse the reactionary, though more often just old school liberalism. And they are often sentimental. But they allow the viewer that space to re-narrate, to contemplate and assemble thoughts on what is there on the screen. I cannot think of a single Hollywood studio film in the last decade that does not interrupt contemplation. On the level of message there is the bourgeois alibi that allows a contempt for the Other to be filtered though a fetishizing of the victim. From a certain perspective the Phillips film (and perhaps most comic book/super hero films) are Nietzschean.

John Ford, on the set of The Searchers

“Commodity exchange effects an equation between things which are in fact incommensurable, and so, in Adorno’s view, does ideological thought. Such thought is revolted by the sight of ‘otherness’. of that which threatens to escape its own closed system, and violently reduces it to its own image and likeness. ‘If the lion had a consciousness’, Adorno writes in Negative Dialectics, ‘his rage at the antelope he wants to eat would be ideology’.”
Terry Eagleton (Ideology)

The flip side of the same cultural coin is Quentin Taratino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Now, for fifteen minutes or so I felt a wistful heartache like nostalgia for my youth. I grew up in that world. The fringes of Hollywood. And the re-creation of that time was evocative. But putting that aside (to return to it below) there is a deeply disturbing and highly reactionary core to this film. One has become used to Tarantino’s offhand racism and in a sense, lines like “don’t let the Mexicans see you crying” are hardly the problem (in fact while that line has been singled out in several reviews I thought it was pretty funny and not anything any Mexican I know would take issue with).. except for the fact that it’s in this film…a Tarantino film. The far bigger issue is just how astoundingly white is Tarantino’s world. The film is really about how the privileged white people — in this case, the ones who make movies — are depicted as victims and as deserving better. But the flip casual racism feels like Tarantino trolling the public now. The broader assumed privilege and superiority is much more concerning. Richard Brody has a pretty cogent review, really, at The New Yorker which concludes with…“his closed system of cinematic faith bears the blinkered fanaticism of a cult.”

It’s hard to argue with that. And again, here is the ostensively hip and liberal Tarantino presenting what aspires to a fairy tale or homage to an earlier era of Hollywood, but that is really a racist paean to white privilege and white heroism — fictional though he knows it is, but is fine with conflating that fiction with reality. It is both adolescent and puerile, and the trivialization of, well, everything, is becoming Tarantino’s signature. His posture is to make fiction as important as what is real, and that in this conflation, so thinks Tarantino, lies something cool, progressive and post modern even. Now, the unintentional effect here is one of almost despair. A despair at the decades of meaningless regressive pablum that the industry serves up. There are literally dozens of nods to old TV shows and films, to men’s cologne and women’s make up products, and the cumulative effect is just depression and a sense of futility. I remember ages ago Geoffrey O’Brien wrote something about the sheer mind numbing volume of material committed to film and video over the last hundred years. An amount hard to even gauge, and most of it just pure mental waste product. What Eagleton sites above (via Adorno) is relevant here. For everything becomes the same thing. Over and over and over. The stunning repetitive sameness that comes out of a system predicated on ‘othering’ everyone else is the real magicians act that defines mass entertainment.

Sylvester Engbrox

For Tarantino’s film is not unlike the Italian cinema under Mussolini. It is fascist art, really. Calculating and servile. It’s lack of overt politics is a way of validating the system under which it is made. Then there is the problem that Tarantino literally cannot construct a story. This film comes it at close to three hours. It is so empty and boring that to read reviews of it is even boring. Watching multi millionaire white actors feeling sorry for themselves in roles that cleve closely to their celebrity personas is almost comical (and casting Lena Dunham as a Manson family member is another ever so ironic touch) but in the end is not at all. Then there is the petty mean spirited ridicule; of Bruce Lee (which IS racist besides just being lame) and Roman Polanski, and then the weird cameo with Damian Lewis in an orange wig doing some version of Steve McQueen. Ya think there are masculinity issues involved in all this?

Peter Handke, the most recent winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, and the greatest living writer in my estimation, ended one of his books (Short Letter, Long Farewell) with a semi fictional meeting with John Ford. Handke did meet with Ford, and used it fittingly as the culmination to his novel’s journeys across America. (The title is an homage to Raymond Chandler’s The Long Goodbye). Joseph McBride, in his book Searching for John Ford, recounts the Handke episode this way…

“While painting Ford’s home in Bel Air with somewhat fanciful detail in the book’s closing scene, Handke captures the metaphorical truth of the aged director’s surroundings, an incongruous oasis of old-fashioned Americana in the midst of an alien landscape. Ford is attended by a mute and crippled housekeeper, an Indian woman who acted in some of his pictures, and by his wife, described as being from “a family of Irish immigrants who had settled in Maine.” Mary plays “Greensleeves” on the harmonium in his bedroom. The atmosphere outside is ominously heavy with approaching rain and flashes of lightning over the surrounding hills; dark shadows fall over the grass in Ford’s garden as he smokes a cigar and muses about his country and its people. “We hardly dream at all any more,” regrets Handke’s Ford. “And when we do have a dream, we forget it. We talk about everything, so there’s nothing left to dream about.”

Geoff Thornley

“Distinctions between the real and the synthetic dissolve and everything becomes a parody of everything else.”
John and Nicholas O’Shaughnessy (The Undermining of Beliefs in the Autonomy and Rationality of Consumers)

In a sense both Phillips and Tarantino are pretending to be progressive. Its a mediated kind of pretense, for they are resolutely non political. Phillips has said several times that Joker is not a political film (no, really). This is a version of this new pretense to progressiveness or liberalism, but it masks a very reactionary reality. But it also speaks to an evolving idea of ‘entertainment’. Today entertainment is a category quite separate from art or even culture. Entertainment is proudly manipulative and propagandistic, its about royalties and profits and box office. Its proudly grafted to institutional manufacture. And institutional guidance. Entertainment is meant to be distracting. I think the question is, were medieval jugglers or clowns “distracting”? Somehow I think in not the same way. Its a bogus thought experiment anyway because today there is no corner of experience that is not tied into screen habituation and mass surveillance and propaganda and control. Entertainment is today a form of absolute control. And this new realm of entertainment is linked to the marketed reality of radical consumerism as individualism.

“…hierarchical position is related to almost everything about men’s lives—their political party preferences, their sexual behavior, their church membership, even their rates of ill health and death. Moreover, the correlations are not trivial; class is substantially related to all these phenomena.”
Melvin Kohn (Class and Conformity)

Heinrich Hoffman, photography. (Hitler rehearsing speech)

It is interesting in the O’Shaughnessys book that they directly link post modernist marketers (and thought in general) with Nietzsche. One might write a new Karl Lowith style history and title it From Nietzsche to Derrida. In any case the hegemony of entertainment as both an ideology and cultural reality is tied into the entire fabric of fascist thinking that has found traction in Western consciousness now. And this is a new screen fascism. It is fascism of the screen, and it has birthed the new religiosity of much green thinking. And all taking place on screens, and within the massive surveillance apparatuses of social media and e-communications.

“Robert Antelme’s L’Espèce humaine (1947) offers striking parallels to Gilroy’s work. A French communist, Antelme was at Gandersheim, a subcamp of Buchenwald, then survived on a death march and was finally liberated at Dachau. His book is centrally concerned with the way in which the ‘calling into question of our quality as men provokes an almost biological claim of belonging to the human race…and finally—above all—it brings us to a clear vision of its indivisible oneness’. { } Antelme describes how even the most basic human actions, walking, urinating, excreting, eating even scraps, celebrate humanity.{ } In turn, then, this bears a relation to the act of writing or speaking. Blanchot suggests that it is not simply a question of ‘telling the story’ (that is, relating facts) but of speaking, of speaking to another human being. And this is the tension Blanchot finds in The Human Race: a book about the way humanity is taken away which is at the same time reasserting humanity: thus its “‘choking or ‘smothered’ words.”
Robert Eaglestone (Holocaust and the Postmodern)

Dumitru Gorzo

People less and less often talk to each other in person. Or at least they do in media representations. They do not, as in the films of John Ford, gather to debate democratically. They only consume electronic propaganda or consume and create identities based on marketing. One of the things that the Tarantino does achieve is to provide a sense of the scale of psychological waste in western culture over the last fifty years. Various shots of Taco Bell or Der Wienerschnitzel outlets, or of long gone TV shows like Mannex or Lancer and the commercials that went with them. The scale and volume of this stuff, all of the mental detritus of western daily life, especially American daily life, is there in several registers of pollution. And there is nothing nostalgic about any of that. Those foods were poisons, those amusements mind numbing and the effects have been enduring. My nostalgic heartache became a genuine depression, almost horror, at the plastic and toxic and pointless corporatization of daily life, a corporate takeover that occurred during my lifetime.

These films also, in another sense, represent the culmination of instrumental thinking, that post-positivist instrumentality that has reduced even exchange value to something lesser, an almost ontological diminishment of being alive. These are third or fourth generation dupes of actual storytelling. Both compulsively sample the work of others. The sampling is so pervasive as to be the prime engine of each narrative, actually. The better to conform without seeming to conform.

Entertainment is there to prevent listening or actual speaking — and perhaps never has work that disrupts commodity consumption and use seemed more important.

Jorge Macchi

To donate to this blog you can use the paypal button at the top. It is very much appreciated.


  1. No, that’s POISON.

  2. Georg Witzarbeit says:

    Dream has been commodified. Debate is “entertainment”(gated community form of dialogue). We see it in movies and every facet of journalism. When “winning” means more than the discussion and dreams are what we pay to see Capital raises the Fasces and leads “Culture”.

  3. Anatole David says:

    Debate is competition not dialogue. It is “entertainment”. Dream are Market idylls. When dialogues or debates are mock battles and dreams wares to be sold Capital raises high the Fasces and leads.

  4. By the way John, speaking of this 2019 literature Nobel, which Peter Handke book(s) would you recommend ?

  5. IMDB labels Tarantino’s movie as a comedy and drama, but it could be a horror, for example because we are in the expectation of a great eruption of violence, perhaps even through a cheap “jump scare” like in From Dusk Till Dawn. Especially the long scene where Pitt goes to inspect the base camp, we are held in the expectation of a sudden discovery that the owner has been brutally murdered/is tortured. And the actual violent end (against the women) I guess for a non-desensitized person is still a gruesome horror scene.
    Just for the historical/political take, there’s also no reference of the “conspiracy” theory that Manson was a state agent.

    As for Joker, IMDB classifies it as crime, drama and a thriller. It’s not a horror I suppose, for which clowns are otherwise quite suitable, eg the one in Poltergeist (parodied I think in one of the Scary Movies, as involving anal rape). I think Poltergeist was discussed in a short soviet/Russian book criticizing American movies: Vladimir Molchanov’s 1987 Массовая мистификация: поп-культура и суеверие (‘Mass mystification: pop culture and superstition’, which can be found online), part of a series titled ‘Myth and reality: on the fronts of ideological struggle’. An easy read if you hate mystical/fantasy movies AND their academic commentators (it begins with a diss on Ray Browne’s Objects of Special Devotion: Fetishism in Popular Culture). I think there was no horror genre in USSR movies (perhaps one exception a story by Gogol iirc).

    By the way, IMDB does not classify Jaws (1975) as a horror either (instead: adventure, drama, thriller).

    Not related, but for your interest, the late Kautsky did some film analysis. Here’s him explaining why we love Eisenstein’s Potemkin (quick translation from his The Materialist Conception of History, a section titled “Rise of the Proletariat and Struggle for Democracy” p. 507 vol.2):

    “Long decades it seemed as if the industrial proletariat was completely incapable to successfully resist its adversaries, as if it at most could rise to outbreaks of despair, ending fruitlessly or even with a bloody crackdown. Just… such outbreaks appear to poets and painters who sympathize with the proletariat, particularly suitable to artistic treatment, from Gerhart Hauptmann’s “Weavers” and Käthe Kollwitz’s drawings to Ernst Toller’s “Machine Breakers” and the Potemkin film. Basically, all these representations should act depressing on the proletariat and its friends, not uplifting, because they show us the oppressed in a state in which they are absolutely unable to take advantage of any victory, even if they temporarily gain one. Even Battleship Potemkin eventually fails and is abandoned by its crew. If the representations of those events today act very differently than depressing, that is attributable to the fact that the proletariat, which is viewing it in our days, is very different from the one of the past, which is being represented.”

    There is a great reversal of the dramatic Steps scene in a 1935 film (written by Babel) about the city of Odessa: (starts at 19: 30)

  6. John Steppling says:

    thanks, I don’t know that book but will check it out.

  7. John Steppling says:

    i think the logical first book…fiction anyway…is Goalies Anxiety at the Penalty Kick. In theare Kaspar is, of course, great. But Ride Across Lake Constance also excellent.

  8. Once Upon A Time… to me, at least, was pushback against the #metoo movement, and especially a mea culpa for Quentin’s real father, Harvey Weinstein. Taking Manson out of the equation and turning the Family into a female-led tribe of harpies was a truly reactionary move, and gross. But then again, Tarantino is gross.

Speak Your Mind


To Verify You\'re Human, Please Solve The Problem: * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.