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A video meditation on masculinity, spectacle and cinema.
Bruce Willis in a baby costume, trapped in an opalescent womb, conversing with an emissary of God.
Fred Astaire leaping on walls, expressing the exuberance of new romance while holding a picture of his beloved.
A young soldier ruminating on his beloved back home.
Two boys caught in an act of destructive, spectacular play.
Each of the segments of this short video depict men in some way and foreground spectacle. At play throughout the various clips are elements of fantasy, imagination and celebration. Still, these images' own cinemativity provides a sterilizing effect. 'Love' exists out of the frame, nothing is consummated, and sexual desire?which is both the fissure and the drive in cinematic totality?is sublimated, effaced or eradicated altogether. The "life" that Bruce Willis enunciates in the opening clip echoes not only the circular chambers and narcissistic loops of the editing strategies, but the cinema's drive toward narrative enclosure. The 'play,' the 'fantasy,' the 'musical' nature of the clips represent a peculiar intersection between the escape from this circuit of meaning, but also its total fulfillment in the moment of the dance. What is sensical and what is non-sensical about this video? What is manly and what is boyish, even infantile? What happens to the male subject of film and his attendant desires? What about our own desires as spectators?
In curating these clips, employing the techniques of video remix and looping, and displaying film theory text, I hope to provoke thought about the musical form, especially how it represents a singular challenge for theorizing Hollywood Classicism by providing a rich arena for it and also revealing its shortcomings.
Footage from: an episode of Moonlighting ("Womb with a View," Original Air Date: 6 December 1988), a scene from Royal Wedding starring Fred Astaire (directed by Stanley Donen, 1951), a clip from The Thin Red Line (directed by Terrence Malick, 1998), a video taken of my friends by my friends.
Text from: Sean Cubitt's The Cinema Effect (MIT Press, 2004):
We do not want to see Fred Astaire mount Ginger: we have come to see them dance (177).
The classical cinema [...] seeks the surface, the pure difference of movement. But the dialectic of nonidentity that persists in destabilizing the equilibrium produces a further desire in the classical apparatus, the desire for a teleology that, as responsive to notoriously fickle and unpredictable customers, it does not possess. In place of that goal, and indeed in place of hope, the Hollywood machine instead displaces its desire toward the framing and organizing of chaos. In this pursuit it turns from depiction to narration, the ancient art of taming the difference out of which its desire emerges (179).
Classicism instead mobilizes fantasy, but does so in order to satisfy it. It evokes desire to display it, to mirror desire back onto itself and in that reflection to complete desire as a closed and narcissistic loop (180).