Thursday, March 22, 2007

The question to end all questions

Is art still able to change society? Can art bring on a revolution? Is art useful against capitalism?"

Simple answer to a big question (ok, three questions you can bring back to one big question, I mean): No.

At least not directly. But art can change people and they hopefully will change society. Seems like a very long shot nonetheless at the moment and in the current moral and cultural climate.

But to continue, I do not know why Dejan focuses on Lynch as a particularly subversive film maker. Would that be because, purportedly, you cannot make much sense of his movies? Or because he refuses categorically to explain anything about them? Is not the mere fact that Lynch leaves so much to the imagination and to be interpretated a proof that he is not subversive at all? Because to be subversive or revolutionary you have to work out one idea or a set of ideas and make the most of those. A strange plot or a weird atmosphere do not therefor make subversion.

I think it is mostly because not for one moment have I during the screening of a movie of his felt uncomfortable, having had the feeling that someone was actually challenging my world view. Challenging my view on film, ever so maybe. But on the world or on my own ideas? Hardly.

If I would be seduced to call someone a subversive film maker then it would be the Godard of the sixties and seventies or, today, Michael Haneke. I can remember feeling particularly uncomfortable watching Funny Games and Caché, because these movies really made me think about a particular element of today's society, be it, I will readily admit, a very limited element (voyeurism in Funny Games and the consequences of a very little event/deed in our own life for another person's life in Caché), for weeks after I watched those films. And then even Haneke's movies do not go far enough, because in the end they remain confined to the bourgeois environment he is critiquing or commenting upon.

But even with Haneke you know the mainstream (be it merely the Palme d'Or mainstream) will be all too quick to recuperate such a figure. They will award him a prize for the strong emotional content or the bold ideas and when that is over and done with the possible subversive, let alone revolutionary, content has already been neutralized. You see, critics may describe him as controversial, but they will never go as far as to label him subversive or revolutionary.

[And this is of course related to the fact that almost no-one anymore uses the words 'subversive' or 'revolutionary' anymore. They have become empty words, that used to mean something in a far away past. They have become devoid of meaning, mere possible meanings, no longer actual meanings. And this - but I digress - because these words have been used in the past, and still continue to be today, merely in an overly metaphorical or figurative sense, thus having lost all of its original force.]

And of course Le Colonel Chabert is right about one thing: even if Lynch were subversive, how many people actually have seen his movies? Lynch latest movie came out about a month and a half ago in Belgium and it has already been removed from the theaters. Why? Because even if he were subversive, he would have to make money in order to get his subversive message through. And he does not, so...

5 comments:

dejan said...

Yes I'm afraid you (and Le Colonel) are right. I'm afraid I have been generalizing my experience of Lynch as subversive, unjustly. But I still think the question of subversiveness merits discussion, for the simple reason that hugely successful films (like the 300 currently being discussed on Antigram) are able to influence people ideologically, and in the grips of multimedia multinationals we are largely in ''the cinematic mode of production'' (Beller), so apparently film plays a very significant political role.
I wrote in another message that your email is bouncing back, if you want to make an appointment you best write to me again!

Fire in the Mind said...

you have several email addresses. which one i write to?

btw: new lynch is playing the whole of next month here in antwerp. but only in the film museum. so best make an appointment a day it is screened.

Fire in the Mind said...

btw: next post about subversive films :-)

dejan said...

you have several email addresses. which one i write to?

btw: new lynch is playing the whole of next month here in antwerp. but only in the film museum. so best make an appointment a day it is screened.

that's just fine! i won't stand you up next time. the only mail i use is the wanadoo one.

Martijn said...

And then even Haneke's movies (...) remain confined to the bourgeois environment he is critiquing or commenting upon.

I was once saw an interview with Haneke in which he explicitly stated that his films are no critique on the upper classes, but on the human condition in general. He always sets his films in affluent settings to prevent people from saying "well, they did it because they were poor/stupid/ignorant."