Online Discussion (Combo #1+#2)
In retrospect the movies that considered quintessential to my induction into the world of film studies thus far are those centered on Marxism, Socialism, or leftist theories. Not because I am secretly harboring socialist sympathies (haha–no). Rather because in my English 3010 class, modern criticism and theory, we spent close to the majority of February studying the school of Marxist literary criticism and those who spout/ support it, and how fundamental it’s focus on binary oppositions (the proletariat, working mass vs. the bourgeois, elitist few), and how instrumental it was in the shaping of other schools of literary criticism. This was my thought process while watching such movies as Good Bye Lenin, Touch of Spice, and even Pan’s Labyrinth.
In Goodbye Lenin, The revolution set afoot with the reunification of socialist, East Germany with capitalist, democratic West Germany reflected the clashing of differing economic and societal philosophies. While some accepted the change wholeheartedly, thus lending themselves to the commodification and in some cases the westernization of their country (e.g. Coca-Cola, Holland Pickles, and sister dropping out of College to work at Burger King to engage in “currency exchange”). This is lending to Marxist theory that once an individual is paid for use of their skill set (hourly wage or annual salary), the individual themselves has been reduced to the status of commodity, to be bought and sold, and whose use-value is determined by their production rate. Essentially, everything and everyone has a price tag.
So naturally, when we covered “Euro pudding” in The Spanish Apartment and debated in class on whether or not we were being presented an “accurate” portrayal of a European student abroad or, was it in fact a privileged, bourgeois depiction—this is what my mind automatically leaps to: One month’s worth of Marxism. Concepts such as diaspora, “the male gaze,” and hegemony in the face of the privileged class is reminiscent on courses from the previous semester (LIT4188/ LIT 4685). Both classes focused on the effects of imperialism on the subjugated masses, exile/relocation, and the ripple effects on later generations as portrayed through literature (esp. in terms of classifying a one’s identity).
As I am flipping through the course pack now, just judging on how full the margins are with my scribble of notes and the like, I can tell where my interests are centered. For example, judging by the multitude of highlighters used for Jonathan Ellis and Ana Maria Sanchez-Arce’s article “The Un-Quiet Dead: Memories of the Spanish Civil War in Guillermo Del Toro’s Cinema,” I found it to be quite illuminating. I especially appreciated the multi-faceted approach in the interpretation of the symbolism within the story (emphasis on the left eye, equating to Spanish dictator Franco, or the Flesh monster as depiction of the Roman Catholic Church, who had sided with Franco in the Spanish Civil War, consequently partly responsible of the butchering of its loyal patronage). Or the representation of Carmen and Mercedes as two separate modes of Femininity: the submissive vs. the subversive within the prevalent system of patriarchy. Being an enthusiast of feminist theory, I devoured these interpretations up like chocolate.
The bulk of my highlighter kaleidoscope explosions center around the brief chapter on New Queer Cinema defining identity (and the spectator’s gaze with From the Edge of the City); as well as transnationalism with Eleftheriotis’ article (with A Touch of Spice), Pan European Cinema, the article categorizing all the different types of cinema, and many more. Consequently, it would appear that articles that I have thoroughly enjoyed have challenged my way of thinking, meaning that I can no longer continue my role as a passive consumer taking in the movie at face value, solely appreciating the aesthetics. Nowadays, it’s mise-en-scene this and diegetic sound that, movies have been essentially ruined for me by hyper- analyzing the meta-text. Now, the cinematic experience eludes me. It has become impossible to remove my scholarly goggles. My question to the class is am I the only one playing this balancing act between consumer and scholar? Or is it my own neurosis at play?