We aired Fritz Lang’s Metropolis as part of our lecture series last week, and only two people showed up, which is a shame. I first saw it in college, perhaps in a class. I know I went out and rented it and made my two closest friends watch it with me over and over. I loved the imagery, the sets and painted backdrops in shades constructivist, futurist, and expressionist. The treatment of the main female character, however, left a lot to be desired. Maria embodies the traditional virgin-or-whore dichotomy, enforcing the notion that a woman is either one or the other; nothing in between. To be precise, Maria is the saint and her robot double, the false Maria, is the sinner. My two friends and I promised to start a band called The False Marias, but school got in the way. I like to think we’d sound like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
Given a choice between the roles of good girl and bad girl, I’d choose bad girl every time. Actress Brigette Helm must have had so much more fun as false Maria than true. Just look at her delicious expression! Remember the TV show Jem and the Holograms? I liked the Misfits. Jem is particularly distressing to look back on. Why would a rich secret rock star be ruled by blind devotion to some jock preppy guy? 1980′s, I don’t miss you!
The next film in the lecture series is Jia Zhang Ke’s 24 City. I hope we have a better turnout. ♦
Now that classes have ended it’s time to return to my research with renewed force. To prepare my brain for the delightful onslaught of knowledge, I watched some documentaries about modern philosophy and modern philosophers. Renewing creative force via distracted absorption is advice directly taken from my Inspiration and Authorship lecture. These films remind me why I care about the intellectual’s life, and why I choose to function this way in the world.
He who thinks great thoughts often makes great errors.
The quote above is Martin Heidegger, and begins a 1999 BBC documentary, Heidegger: Thinking the Unthinkable, which is part of the series Human All Too Human, itself the title of one of Nietzsche’s texts. The film is slow-paced but insightful, the quote above presented as a partial apology for the fact that this great thinker was a Nazi. I try to block that out when enjoying his work, but it’s ever-present. The film can be seen on Google video.
Astra Taylor’s documentary Examined Life (ZeitgeistFilms, 2009) is a set of short conversations with renowned contemporary philosophers who explain either the kernel of their work or reflect on some critical question of our age. My favorite thing about this film is that Taylor decided to interview each philosopher while he or she walks or moves through space. In the New York Times’ article about Examined Life (“Thinkers in Transit, Philosophy in Motion,” Feb 20, 2009), Taylor mentions this idea came to her after reading Wanderlust, a ‘discursive’ look at the history of walking, by Rebecca Solnit. I’ll have to check that out. The notion that motion changes an individual, liberates them, is an intriguing one. As a source of inspiration, Examined Life delivers. I had to pause it several times to jot down incoming thoughts. Here’s the trailer. ♦
Last night I watched Fantastic Mr Fox, directed by Wes Anderson (Twentieth Century Fox, released 2009). It’s based on a story by Roald Dahl, heavily altered by Anderson. Fantastic is a puppet movie, which is fun in itself, and it’s voiced by some great Anderson regulars (Owen Wilson, Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman), with a sprinkle of A-list actors, namely George Clooney and Meryl Streep who voice Mr and Mrs Fox. Most of the film’s characters, in fact, are woodland creatures, like Fox, Badger, and Weasel, who wear clothes and walk on their hind legs.
Anderson’s films are always quirky, and often dark, not unlike movies by the Cohen Brothers. After watching, I began to reflect on the uncanny moments in Fantastic. Take for instance the character of the Lone Wolf, who appears only briefly, and who doesn’t speak English like the other animals. [more...]