This week in class we were looking at stylized artifice, madness, ambiguity and desire. Also the contemporary gothic, and auteur theory. Well god damn, that is 20 essays right there. But since I just finished the baby 1000 word essay (with15 sources mind you) I think im done with academic writing for the minute.
When I think of the contemporary gothic I can’t help but think of American Gothic parodies (mm you know, that painting of the man and his daughter lady standing in front of their gothic revival house) Everyone from the Muppets to Paris Hilton and Nicole Ritchie have appropriated the painting.
Nothing more nothing less, styalized artifice seems to be a dirty thing. Not at all in my opinion. We would we be without Burton, Copola, Gillium, Visconti, Araki, Argento, Brooks, Fellini, De palma- and, the filmic example of the week goes to Campion’s ‘The Piano’
What a rapturous film. I want to discuss her in terms of auteur theory, but first the notion of previous knowledge. So the Piano has a wonderful score by Michael Nyman, one that I have had on my ipod for years. But ive never seen the film till this week. Im curious as to the impact for individuals and how different the emotion elicited can be for different people. I knew the song, i used to use it to write to, on repeat. Now I think about it it does elicit a silent sadness, but I never would have thought about it in such a cold, heartfelt context until I saw the film.
Back to auteur theory and stylized artifice which is a glorious thing. Campion as we were privy to in class has much of her stamp marked on her films. We saw from her early examples Girls own Story (1984) and the later Sweety (1989) the inclusion of many of the same themes from later films. The silent woman, their is something in silence. The focus on female, femaleness and femininity- brutality, causation and fate. The visual similarities which transcend her films seem to be a dichotomous, almost idiosyncratic use of repression and desire and feminine sexuality, lace, long flowing hair, flowing, cold water and silence. But then tightly wound, buttoned up, stiff silence. There is something in the silence.
I thought the themes in the Piano were tip top. The idea of what it is to be civilized, your own concept of civility and the savage is questioned as the gentleman becomes the savage and the natives are the most harmonious and civil to one another. Campion also brings up the idea of barriers, language, literal, sexual barriers all working towards some kind of release. As Ada (Holy Hunter) describes at the end of the film that she dreams of her pianos watery grave and she like to pretend to be drifting above it, which lulls her into a sleep.
I think since the lack of female directors was also mentioned in class, the material which was handled by a female can not be ignored. So post feminism would have you deny this distinction between man and woman, but I think the innate difference bioligcally makes for interesting comparison. Would a man have been as likely to get Ada to be somewhat dressed down (frumpish?) for the majority of the film, surely the gaze was exquisite, the hole in her legging, the barrier even through Adas repressive clothing is visual stimulus. Im not sure a man would have shown the same restraint with the sex scenes, nor with the delicate revealing of Adas sexuality. Though that is undoubtedly a generalization.
Personally I’m a great fan of the idea that a directors themes and motifs can be traces throughout their work. Tarintino and feet, Minneli and frames, Argento and having his daughter raped in every movie- we do the same literary appreciation with fine art, literature and music, so film to is legitimised by critical theory.
(Dario Argentos auteur stamps include having his daughter Asia as pictured, raped)