Monday, March 21, 2005

aging well

Our condition has become one in which our natural mode of perception is to view, feeling unseen. We do not so much look at the world as look out at it, from behind the self. It is our fantasies, now all but completely thwarted and out of hand, which are unseen and must be kept unseen. As if we could no longer hope that anyone might share them - at just the moment that they are pouring into the streets, less private than ever. So we are less than ever in a position to marry them to the world. Viewing a movie makes this condition automatic, takes the responsibility for it out of our hands. Hence movies seem more natural than reality. Not because they are escapes into fantasy, but because they are reliefes from private fantasy and its responsibilities; from the fact that the world is already drawn by fantasy.

- Stanley Cavell, found in Gabriel Josipovici's Touch, 43.

There would seem to be only two possible responses to Godard's films today. Some immediately claim that they are antiquated, hopelessly antiquated, if not obsolete - in short, they have not aged well. Others may suggest that such responses betray a certain ideological stance as well as an inability to see Godard's jokes. Personally, I am all for abrupt endings, for film experiences that are less than perfectly smooth, that seem to reference in advance their own antiquation even. Josipovici writes of addiction, and of a "great age of movies" that "was also the age of adolescence:"

(That our adolescence coincided with the great unselfconscious era of the Hollywood movie is of course pure chance, but it does suggest that we and all those born between 1920 and 1945 will always have a different sense of film from those born before or after.) Cavell, at any rate, spends a good deal of time wondering why the films he recalls with such pleasure are the middle-brow films produced with such confidence and in such quantities by the Hollywood machine, and why, now that movies seem to have caught up with the other arts, so to speak, and are dividing more and more clearly into high and middle-brow, there may be great films produced but it is impossible to view them with precisely the kind of delight with which we viewed them as teenagers...


Addiction, then, in the full sense of the word, is an adult condition, though its seeds are sown in childhood. And so it may well be that it is far too solemn, far too censorious, to describe film as having all the ingredients of addiction, as I did earlier; it may simply be that film is a form that a moment in our life when we are struggling to make the transition from child to adult, and that high-flown theories of the nature of film and the greatness of individual examples quite miss the point. (Touch, 44-45)

Anyway, I think what I admire most about Godard is his precision, even and especially - as he happens to say about Hitchcock - with regard to "the smallest" and "most subtle of truths." Contrived, clunky, quaint? But isn't this part of Godard's point? Is a sensitivity to Benjamin's 'aura' made possible by Godard's film's? Or maybe we should just be content to get our kicks from the renowned existentialist, Jim Carrey?

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