Daily Archives: June 11, 2022

Dangerous Sex and Scattered Focus, Fifty Years Apart (WR: MYSTERIES OF THE ORGANISM and BAD LUCK BANGING OR LOONY PORN)

Written for the first issue of the Trafic Almanach, to appear in Jean-Luc Mengus' French translation in Fall 2022. -- J.R.

To burglarize Marx, we don’t make love
under circumstances we choose, we make
love under the circumstances we inherit,
and even pre-pandemic, the inherited
circumstances had been feeling pretty toxic
when it came to bodily matters….If love is a
matter of attractions and repulsions, of
bodies and how they collide, the afflictions
of the social body bleed into our individual
desires and disgusts too.
Laura Kipnis, Love in the Time of Contagion

The bracing shock delivered by Radu Jude’s entertaining Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn (2021) reminds me of the shock carried by another entertaining Eastern European feature dealing with both sex and fear of sex, both contemporary culture and contemporary cultural restrictions, half a century earlier: Dušan Makavejev’s WR: Mysteries of the Organism (1971).

Of course, 1971 and 2021 are separated from each other by more than just fifty years and two notions of entertainment. The struggle to reconcile Freud with Marx that animated so much of the oeuvre of Bernardo Bertolucci, at least until its simplified resolution at the end of The Last Emperor (1987) in favor of Marx (”Is that so terrible?”… Read more »

Michel Gondry: Coping with the Metaphysics of Overload

The following short essay was commissioned by the Walker Art Center in early 2007 for a brochure accompanying a retrospective (“Michel Gondry: The Science of Dreams”) presented between May 11 and June 23, and a Regis Dialogue that I conducted with him on June 23. –J.R.

What’s sometimes off-putting about the postmodernity of music videos is tied to both the presence and absence of history in them — the dilemma of being faced simultaneously with too much and too little. On the one hand, one sees something superficially resembling the entire history of art — often encompassing capsule histories of architecture, painting, sculpture, dance, theater, and film — squeezed into three-to-five-minute slots. The juxtapositions and overlaps that result can be so violent and incongruous that the overall effect is sometimes roughly akin to having a garbage can emptied onto one’s head. Yet on the other hand, radical foreshortenings and shotgun marriages of this kind often have the effect of abolishing history altogether, making every vestige of the past equal and equivalent to every other via the homogenizing effect of TV itself. Back in 1990, sitting through nearly eight hours of a touring show called “Art of Music Video,” I was appalled to discover that the two most obvious forerunners of music videos, soundies from the 40s and Scopitone from the 60s, were neither included in the show nor even acknowledged in its catalog’s history of the genre.… Read more »

Everyone’s a Critic

From Felix (published by the European Film Academy) no. 5, 25 November 1994, where it appeared both in English and in German translation, as part of a special section called “The Vanishing Critic”. That title seems prescient in some respects; in many other ways, however, this whole piece seems very dated now. –- J.R.

One factor in particular seems to distinguish the situation of film critics in the United States from the situation of film critics elsewhere: that for the past twenty years or more, many of them have been treated like stars. This isn’t to say that the same syndrome hasn’t appeared elsewhere in different forms. During the last year or so of his life, the late Serge Daney achieved a kind of celebrity in France that is certainly related to stardom. But the notion of the intellectual star critic — the sort of fame that has accompanied European figures such as Sartre, Barthes, and Eco, and which formed Daney’s late career to a lesser extent — is not readily translatable into a stateside context, apart from a handful of figures mainly identified in the U.S with Europe, such as Gore Vidal and Susan Sontag.

What I’m thinking of, rather, are two separate kinds of star status achieved by American film critics since the 1970s.… Read more »