Friday, 18 March 2011

Week 3: Retrospective reflexivity and melodrama!

This week has been intensely marred by the impending doom which is the pitch for our 90 second short film.

This heavily weighing on my mind, the increased day dreaming has lead to some very unusual places. The content of this week’s blog is a culmination of reading about reflexivity, melodrama and, of course Duke Nukem and his appropriated machismo styling’s.

To clarify, this week in class we talked about the melodrama. I have been inclined to debate that anything that is edited is a melodrama because it is defined as something exaggerated for effect in relation to narrative and emotional moorings. Reflexivity is the social theory which attempts to understand the cyclical nature in which we move through society. The self referential film is a fantastic example, like choosing to use Liza Minielli and Robert DiNero for New York, New York. This is reflexive because like the characters they play, the audience is aware that Minelli is a cabaret performer and DiNero is a method actor, this reflexive self awareness means the film can suppose the intelligence of its audience, which I think we can all agree is a good thing.

And Duke, Duke Nukem (I promise all these things tie together, bare with me)
So Duke is the main character from the series of games made during the 80s and into the very early 90s. He is the heightened sense of masculinity that goes hand in hand with Arnie, Bruce Willis and Rocky Balboa. There has been 14 years since the last Duke Nukem game, and since then, the sweaty teenage boys of the game world have grown up, bought PS3s and gotten girlfriends who also play video games (and now make up a third of the market) Duke has been widely publicised, criticized and demonized depending on who you read or watch. Reviewers tend to lean towards criticizing the upcoming game for being a throw back to sexism, chauvinism and overt masculinity. (as if the realism of call of duty detracts from the lack of female influence) It is because Nukem’ is unashamedly a satire, a self aware game which is doing what so many films have done and throwing back to a well established world of sexploitation for the enjoyment of modern audiences who can laugh and understand the concept. Like the renaissance of exploitation films who admire Russ Meyers use of females as objects or Bruce La Bruce’s free for all of human objectification games too are finally being seen as art and thus finally subjected to the same scholarly application that other forms of literature have been for centuries.

Like Todd Haynes film ‘Far From Heaven’ (2002) which is a throwback to the Sirkian Melodramas of the 40s and 50s. Duke Nukem wants to be recognised by a smart audience for what it is paying homage to, and not reprimanded as adding to exploitative or negative melodramatic discourse. It is in this vein that I want to explore the idea of reflexivity in retrospect.

The notion here is that even if during production and contemporary viewing of a film certain elements are not notice that they can be in retrospect recognised as reflexive. This is most prevalent in revisionist and queer theory, which uses a fine tooth comb to search for any inkling of queeness. Rock Hudson is a terrific example of such, used in numerous Sirk Melodramas and most notoriously in the Rock Hudson Doris day combos (such as Pillow Talk, (1959 in which Hudson pretends to be gay) the notion that Hudson was actually gay came out years after these films. Notably the film most heavily drawn from for Todd Haynes homage was Sirks ‘All That Heaven Allows’ (1955) in which Hudson plays the gardener character. Haynes, by making the husband character homosexual his appropriation is positing a correlation between how far has the openness of homosexuality in film come.

All of this makes for delicious subtext and the very same which gets Duke and his machismo in trouble, because audiences cant accept the self awareness, self reflexivity in a video game like they can in a film. It is horrible that you might have to make a film which is accessible to the lowest common denominator. Which thankfully we do not, IE Lars von Trier.

All That Heaven Allows (1955) Douglas Sirk. USA 
Far From Heaven (2002) Todd Haynes. USA
New York, New York (1977) Martin Scorsese. USA
Pillow Talk (1959) Michael Gordon. USA


Game Informer. Vol 21, issue 3. Australia
^ Bourdieu, P. 'Outline of a Theory of Practice'Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

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