A Context for Conceit

July 20th, 2008 § 0 comments

breathless

History deals heavily within the confines of context, and so it is that my brother shouts at myself and others when we make assumptions and judgments—as we tend to do so often—about people, places, events, that happened outside our knowledge of “the context” they happened in. It was the first film class I took in collage, however, that taught me if I wanted to understand much of anything, I had to be able to separate myself from it. This separation is necessary to see any context other than your own. I don’t tend to think of visual art in this manner, for inexplicable reasons I am moved in ways I can almost always articulate, and I am not usually helped by, or reliant on, context. Artistic histories never seem to exist in the same realm as the art itself, they are two separate ideas that rarely connect together in my head. I have great interest in art history but it never gives a context, at least not one that does not feel artificial, to art itself. With film, however, it is imperative for me to understand it as something besides what it is—context renders the unwatchable watchable. Who is the film for, how does it function, and is it worth taking the time to guess? It would be fair to say, although I am not sure it is fair to do, that I ask more questions of film than I do of visual art. The necessary connection film shares with its audience is perhaps slightly less muddled a history than that of the fine arts, or that connection has been maintained by the industry because appeal and movie-going pleasure is linked to profit. My relationship with film has always revolved around struggling for a context in which to place it, a way to make sense of that which I dislike, dismiss, or despise. Without a context too large a percent of films could be dismissed from my current perspective. My latest dive into Truffaut and Godard was disappointing to say the least, and I am gasping for a way to hold their reputation and critical acclaim against what I see as two bad films, both from the 1960’s, Shoot the Piano Player and Breathless. My determination not to dismiss them has caused quite a ramble of thought.

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Youth & Age

May 3rd, 2008 § 0 comments

Of late I wonder if it all comes back to those adolescent musings on gender I entertained as an undergrad. When I think about the majority of my undergraduate I work I remember how so much of it had to do with myself and being a young woman in a world dominated and dictated by older white men, and being in a relationship of a particular kind very young. It seems silly now looking back to think I was so preoccupied, but if I think more carefully I can remember why. The position I had put myself in, both maritally and in terms of lifestyle, made me unique from others and a target of public perception. It preoccupied me because it was a large force in my life for many years. Every year we became older it was less of an issue to deal with, we became more “normal,” and the less it became a question to answer.

lolita

As a woman there seem to be certain ages you go through that get more attention than others. Say for instance teenage girls from about 13 or 14 to 18 or 19, who are prime targets for male flirtation from all ages. Somehow it seems to be a societally sanctioned age of sexiness, perhaps it really is an age where one exudes a sort of Lolita-like charm, but all aged men seem drawn by it. The early twenties are not the same, I don’t get the same kind of attention I used to, I assumed it was because I was married or had simply gotten uglier in the past few years, perhaps both. Lately, however, I am beginning to wonder if the middle of the twenties fall into another of those desirable categories. Perhaps it has to do with age groups, what can be accomplished and at what ages. Most men are not looking for a wife in their early twenties, so perhaps not being part of youthful social groups was useful, but now perhaps they are. I am not exactly sure what it is, but I seem to be getting a lot of “favors” and “attentions” I don’t remember getting since I was a teenager. I have also been noticing it is not the same kind of attention, it is more of a possessive adoration than an outright call for sex. No one really seems to want physical favors, they are just willing to do things for me they won’t do for others. In France I got very used to being ignored, unless it was to be stared at like a foreigner, and it is a little odd feeling to be back in a position of “control,” of sorts.

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500 Pounds & A Room of One’s Own

January 19th, 2008 § 0 comments

I can’t believe, for several reasons, that I have never before read A Room of One’s own, it seems to have slipped through the cracks of feminism, and I suppose it was placed lower on my list of Woolf books than others because it was about “Shakespeare’s sister”-this gross misreading seems to appear on the back of many different publishers descriptions of the book. Woolf was asked to write/lecture on “women and fiction” and this books is the culmination of her efforts. It is Woolf at her best in many ways, at least for me. If one reads her early work she seems not quite herself, her early style follows that of the female writers who came before, she is conscience of being both a woman and a women in a linear history of female novelists. Her later work is angry, depressed, and resentful, these books disturb and anger me when I read them, partly because of her situation in time/life, and partly because I know, as do most, how she died. Her later works read as desperations against or toward something, against life perhaps and toward death. A Room of One’s Own is probably the first book of hers that left me completely satisfied, it is almost as though she has proved her own argument through her life of writing. If one is busy being angry at one’s situation and position, if one writes against those that oppress and control, than one’s craft is compromised. The story she subtly tells in the book, that a great many white, wealthy men contribute to, is the familiar one most women know, one that is at the same time angering, pathetic, and sad; men fought so hard for their superiority, it is painful to imagine why. As she says, “the history of men’s opposition to women’s emancipation is more interesting perhaps than the story of that emancipation itself.” Her conclusions to the multitude of problems she evokes are simple, for women they need money and a place to work, they must not write as “women” but simply as people, and they must not write in anger against their life and situation, but rather as a writer with something to write. Her explanation is much more eloquent and interesting, but that seemed the gist.
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December’s Anecdotes

December 30th, 2007 § 0 comments

Determinedly milling about the book store, vainly hoping to find the fictitious book that combines the scattered and random countries I currently feel interested in, my attention was caught by secretive voices to my right. In an obviously less traversed aisle, perhaps it was manuals, two young girls, dressed in preteen fashion, were sprawled out upon the floor, sweetened drinks beside them, with the confident air that no one would want, wish, even could for that matter, venture down their aisle. While a vertical walkway divided the shelves, they eyed me suspiciously and distastefully, for bringing near them what I sensed was an adult reality-I was there because of what the books contained and was shopping them according to little signs telling me divined by country then city, while they were creating a private space for themselves amongst miscellaneous other meanings. They reminded me of the girls from Bye Bye Birdie, sitting in their bedroom chatting about boys, leg hair, and 15-year-old notions of love. I was suddenly aware of my intrusion, and while I tried very hard to give the impression that I really needed the books near the end of aisle, which of course I did, my concentration became focused on their words. I could see from the corner of my eye that they had Seventeen, or some other teen marketed magazine, spread in front of them, and were reading from it in tones that might suggest they were reading the Bible, or at least a good piece of fiction. I suddenly had a flashback of a “quiz” my older cousin forced my mother to take from perhaps the same magazine a long time ago. I remember my mother’s consistent answer of, “but I wouldn’t do any of those things”, my cousins exasperated insistence “you have to pick one”, and my own anger at watching her waste the last of our time together on, what seemed to be, a completely vile magazine. On the floor next to me the more authoritative of the two girls was saying, “would you rather be pretty or…” I could not catch the end, “because of you are like, pretty, like hot guys just come to you.” The remains of my teenager mind laughed, recalling that very fiction that used to be the reason why you needed to be pretty at all, and my current sensibility knows the viciousness of that lie and what it leads to. Little girls should not worry about hot guys, they should be doing, I don’t know, whatever it is that little girls do, but even so my pop culture references tell me that this is what little girls do; a sad and discouraging notion. I had heard more than enough, grabbed my books from the shelf and wandered to the cafe, for the first time annoyed at the infectious stupidity we allow. What is it they say in Ferris Bueller, “I weep for the future”? Weep, no, because I can’t yet make myself blame them, as seems most popular right now in American self-criticism, but I do worry.

ann-margret

Woolf with two O’s

February 17th, 2007 § 0 comments

When I first began watching films in my Film Noir class, my teacher was lecturing to all of us what we should look for, concluding with, “and when the Femme Fatale dies at the end make sure you note how. . .” seeing the looks we gave her she paused for a moment and then added, “the woman always, always dies, I did not give anything away.” It is not a suspenseful genre of unexpected twists and turns, it is a formulaic creation of post world war II insecurity. This theme can also be applied to a certain genre of early feminist writers, Bronte, Chopin, Wharton, Woolf, etc, as it seems that none of their women live in the end either—death for them seems to be the only escape to their trapped existence within British society.

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