Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Semiotics and Popcorn

"There are many beautiful images hidden inside the head of each human being. The idea is to take them and show them outside." -- Jean Rollin


So, this has been an interesting read. It's been a long time since I've read anything that alluded so much to Freud and Lacan. Well, with our internet age, one doesn't get to read a lot of real thinking about movies at all, much less any references to psychological theories. Much as current music criticism rarely ever talks about the actual music, movie criticism seems to have devolved into judging how "cool" something is, and usually gives passes to incompetent technique in favor of successful spectacle.

"While plot and dialogue may be de-emphasized, a simple yet cohesive philosophical system permeates all six films of Star Wars" -- Camille Paglia on George Lucas
"It's far from a perfect film, but it struck a chord." -- Joss Whedon on The Avengers

And so on.

Actually, I have read another book lately that refers a lot to Jacques Lacan. Alison Bechdel's sort-of sequel to Fun Home, the more introspective Are You My Mother?

(from Google Books search)

Her books are a discussion for another day of blogging, but I think that Bechdel latches on to Lacan in this story for the same reason that the film critics in NeonomicoN do: He represents an attempt to talk about primal, emotional responses in a logical fashion. He was a surrealist before he was a psychoanaylst and understood that irrationality is as important to our humanity as our rules and customs.

"With spiralling irony, the fantasy can only turn in on itself, condemned to reproduce (literally) the structures from which it tried to escape, exploding at last in auto-destruct."     -- Carol Jenks, "The Bride of Frankenstein"

Is this what the horror movie is all about? Are all these zombie movies portraying the American inability to face and discuss their irrational urges? Lacan's theory revolves around our usage of language to develop our identity; perhaps our monsters are the things that are made out of language that we allow to rule our lives. Shuffling, hungry corporations, blood-thirsty religious ideals and the mind-control menace of patriotism and partisanship.

"In 1951, the year of the Festival of Britain, Michael Frayn defined two important types in British cultural life -- the herbivores (middle-class, Labour-voting do-gooders) and the aggressive, acquisitive carnivores, quite happy to prey on those weaker than themselves. Charles Barr has argued that Ealing studioes celebrated the British herbivore, Peter Hutchings that Hammer were attracted to the carnivore, embodied not just by Dracula and Frankenstein but also by such ruthless, no-nonsense puritans as Van Helsing and the Duc De Richleau." -- Leon Hunt, "Frightmare"

I don't know. Honestly, I don't see enough modern movies to make any kind of judgement call; they're an unjustifiable luxury to me at the moment. If there is any kind of dialogue going on, it's only being broadcasted to those who can afford to spend the time and money to sit in the dark for a few hours to be "entertained." And so I read. Because I'm a cranky old man.

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