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Monday, June 20, 2011

Box Office: Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and Water For Elephants

Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
Domestic:  $10,095,170    9.7%
Foreign:  $94,289,245    90.3%

Worldwide:  $104,384,415
Domestic Summary
Opening Weekend: $335,502
(#23 rank, 34 theaters, $9,868 average)
% of Total Gross: 3.3%
> View All 44 Weekends
Widest Release:  202 theaters
Close Date:  February 24, 2011
Release Date: March 19, 2010Genre: ThrillerRuntime: 2 hrs. 32 min.MPAA Rating: RProduction Budget: $13 million
Water For Elephants
Domestic:  $57,192,169    50.3%
Foreign:  $56,430,306    49.7%

Worldwide:  $113,622,475
Domestic Summary
Opening Weekend: $16,842,353
(#3 rank, 2,817 theaters, $5,979 average)
% of Total Gross: 29.4%
> View All 9 Weekends
Widest Release:  2,820 theaters
In Release:  59 days / 8.4 weeks
Release Date: April 22, 2011Genre: DramaRuntime: 2 hrs. 0 min.MPAA Rating: PG-13Production Budget: $38 million

 I put these stats here for comparison. Allowing for the fact that GWTDT has been out 1 year longer than WFE the difference of 25 million in the production budget is significant. We do not know what the promotion costs were for WFE but when you trot trick ponies all around the world for promotion they are considerable. Add that in for all the TV time and trailers for months. Gulp!

GWTDT had none of that and opened at $335,502 and never had more than a total of 202 theaters at any given time, this is impressive. The US Domestic total at 10 mil is low but consider that the film is Swedish, with English subtitles and you have the answer. The American masses are not known for their literacy chops.

So a small limited release art house film is giving the Hollywood WFE a run for its money.

Without getting into an interpretive swamp here, I see an interesting trend emerging. Am I the only one? If you were an actor which way might you decide to go for both esthetic reasons and financial ones, and considering your time and energy selling as a large part of the equation?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Reading Bel Ami Through Marx, Foucault, Baudrillard and The Inscription of the Body

The Foucauldian grid of power.knowledge/capital is the matrix that Georges Duroy exists in. All the reviews judge him a scoundrel, rotten, a terrible person who seduces, sleeps and fucks his way to the top. But what else is new. Ambitious men do not marry waitresses. Usually. Or hardware store clerks, do they? And don't women gauge men that they plan to marry as furthering their position in life? Being a good provider for them and their children? As Glenda Jackson says in Sunday, Bloody Sunday, "doesn't marriage always get down to property?" Why does Georges Duroy draw such condemnation as a character.

I read a few English translations, mostly early ones. He felt insecure and lost in the beginning, while trying to present himself as a normal person in Paris. He meets an old military acquaintance on the street. They have been acquaintances, not comrades and not even good friends, but Duroy is accused of betraying his friend who helped him get a start. If you read the book it is clear that Forestier had plans to use Duroy for his benefit at the newspaper as well as giving him a start. It is not difficult to see that someone you know, somewhat who is in need of some advice and guidance, and who might be of use, could generate an impulse of kindness in you to help out. As long as it is not going to inconvenience you too much and as long as there stands a possible future benefit to you. Forestier quickly cools off the second time Duroy asks for help and Duroy backs off.

He simply is attracted to women and they to him. He intuits what they want to hear and desires to please them. He has few social graces and those are mostly copied from watching others. He is a rural rube who went into the military. Know anyone like him now?

His first women are prostitutes, and his first real woman is Madame Marelle. She is from Bohemia. For an understanding of immigrants from Bohemia in the early to middle 19th century read Willa Cather's My Antonia

Willa Cather My Antonia
The writer as a child has a beloved playmate who is a young child of cultured but struggling parents from Bohemia. She is an alive spirit as is Clo, full of spontaneous curiosity and emotional changes. So Georges has an affair with Clo, married to an old man who is away a lot and who probably doesn't mind as long as it is not thrown in his face. Clo wants to go out and be seen with him and he spends all his money on her until he doesn't have any anymore. Then she begins to slip money in his pocket to help him so she can continue to see him. (Later he gives her the financial tip that will get her 70,000. Nice payback, eh?) He feels reluctant but acquiesces quickly. What is so wrong about this? Unless you yourself are a petit bourgeois, and then of course you will judge him for this. 

Forestier's wife encourages him to see her, helps him with an article or two to get him started and he begins to learn journalism the way it is practiced at a successful newspaper. This is wrong? 

When Forestier's sickness worsens and he goes away with his wife to hopefully recover_but really to die_ she asks Georges to come and stay with her. He does. Forestier dies. And he sees his chance to marry a woman he has long admired for her wit, her intelligence, her ambitious nature, and because he is sexually attracted to her. He proposes right away in a very careful and seductive way to her as he knows he must make his intentions clear immediately before someone else does. This makes him a bad person?

They spend their wedding night on a train and Georges is amorous. He has no social experience at all as to how he should conduct himself. Men are supposed to be attentive and amorous, aren't they, just after they are married-on their wedding night? He pushes, is rebuffed, pushes some more and in one of the English translations it skipped to the next morning, in another it said they copulated, so I went to the French original:

un accouplement violent et maladroit which is pretty clear.

It's a clumsy, violent quickie. LIke he might might have rolled a peasant girl at home in the fields. And Madeleine clearly expected more in a nicer place and didn't get it and she makes him pay for insulting her that way. She is never warm and passionate with him again, and even indicates its OK with her when he takes up again with Clo and seduces him into seducing Mme Walter. This is his fault completely?
He plays his seduction game with Mme Walter and she falls fast for him being married to another clumsy man, with two young girls, and craving something else. Not to go there too far but why is this so terrible  except for the fact that she bores him very quickly and he can't figure out a way to get out of it smoothly as he doesn't possess the social graces necessary for that? He sees that if he hadn't been married he could have married the young daughter he has so much fun with. But if he hadn't been married he wouldn't have the veneer of varnish on him he now has, nor the money he now has from the death of Madeleine's "friend". He has learned how to negotiate from his wife__ to play poker__ and I suppose people want to blame him for that too?

He finds out through Mme Walter, who confides in him that her husband__his editor and owner of the newspaper__ have used his writing to cover up a big government money deal that will make them filthy rich. Just not Georges. No loyalty there at all. Does he owe them devotion? Or honesty? Or anything else? He is confined in the Foucauldian matrix and he is surviving by allowing Destiny to offer him chances, windows of opportunity, doors to go through, that he takes. He learns journalism, or how it must be practiced to continue working and moving ahead career wise. Is this any different from 99% of career hungry people today? It may not be an example of integrity, but how many people do you know that would sacrifice their upward mobility just to do the right thing? Count them on a few fingers, would you please.

He perceives at a big open house celebration that his wife is very friendly with one of the men in on the big financial deal. He is wishing he were not married so he could marry the young now very wealthy daughter of his employer and editor and husband of his ex-lover. This is complicated, but is it bad? Is he a snake or a swine because of this? What has he really done so far?

HIs wife Madeleine has taken his affection and thrown it away. I grant you it wasn't a great passion, but it was affection. She has betrayed him and now is deceiving him with this government official who got a power position because of the copy George wrote about the African colonies and Tunisia government debt. Everyone got something out of this but Georges and now he is being cuckolded.

Georges enters the parallel universe of Symbolic Exchange and Death. His wife has given him a "gift" and he must return the "counter-gift", which must be greater than the gift received, or he must suicide. (Baudrillard looks at 9-11 in this way also. The US has not returned the counter-gift and has no way of doing so.) Not necessarily die, but become a passive partner of his wife like his predecessor Forestier, which is a suicide. He returns the "counter-gift", divorces his wife, ruins her lover, and plans a runaway strategy to capture the young daughter who already adores him. This is diabolical in an evil way? She should marry an effete title instead? And he has learned not to rush the sex this time.

Her father, his employer Walter, tells his wife that he is going to marry Suzanne over her furious protests, and thinks it might not turn out too bad as Georges has shown great intelligence and ingenuity. And he is dangerous. Georges has entered the Order of Production and Exchange and has willed his strategy for success. Why is he seen as a cad who mistreats women and ends up with it all? Are all these women victims? I don't think so. I think they are full participants.

And I wish fans and reviewers and Rob Pattinson would stop wading into the psychological swamp of interpretation.

On the first page Georges is worrying:

He regretted that he had not remained where he was;but he had hoped to improve his condition--and for that reason he was in Paris!

So here beats the heart of a petit bourgeois who wants to make it in Paris and leave his peasant origins behind. Understandable.

And then one of the finest examples of Marxian class struggle I have ever read. Georges takes Madeleine to his family's tavern following their wedding train trip, at Madeleine's insistence of course, and she is appalled at his family background. He is happy to see them and unashamed, although he understands why it would be difficult for her and agrees to leave when he sees she is uncomfortable.


Mother Duroy did not speak, but remained sad and glum, watching her daughter-in-law out of the corner of her eye, with hatred awakened in her heart__the hatred of an old toiler, an old rustic with fingers worn and limbs bent by hard work__for this lady, who inspired her with the repulsion of an accursed creature, an impure being, created for idleness and sin. (65 words)

The hatred women have for one another is here. The complete antipathy and 
irreconcilable hatred of class differences and class struggle can be felt in a way Marx could never have expressed it in all his pages. The terrible Inscription of the Body Foucault, Deleuze and Baudrillard describe is all here in 65 words. The slyness out of the corner of her eyes, her rigidity, and not least, her terrible hatred. Brilliant.

Mu Nu by Hung Liu
Measures 80" by 140" almost 7 ft by almost 12 feet showing a mother harnessed with her young daughter behind her, taken from a 1920 photo before Chairman Mao changed all this. It hangs at the Kemper Contemporary Museum in Kansas City on the right as you come in the door. It is huge. The horror that you don't see in this image is the other pair in this diptych following, just as huge with an image of a barge being pulled in a canal in China by a mother and her daughter, who is learning very young to inscribe her body for backbreaking_literally_ labor. And this is during the same time period that young girls are still being tortured by having their feet bound to be idle ladies. And while the US is supporting Chiang Kai Shek.
free download pdf at google books
Is there one of the judges who has a better plan for him? One where he could have remained other than one of the bumbling older men we see in this novel? Is he any different from us? From Rob Pattinson who must make his compromises with his harassing fandom, his employer Scummit, the Hollywood machine?  

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Reading Bel Ami Through Symbolic Exchange Not Psychology

Rob Pattinson is on record as denouncing the character of George Duroy. Passing judgement on him. His girlfans say this is not a good character for their Rob to play. He will alienate some of his fan base. Duroy is this terrible person who sleeps his way through women to climb the social ladder. Actually, he is caught in the Foucauldian grid of power/knowledge/capital of his time.

And robfans just denounce him as being an awful person who takes advantage of women. Really? Like these women are not complicit? That they are not seducing him back? Like they are victims of this rake? Is not he as much seduced as they? To regard his women as helpless victims is to hold them in contempt; to think like this is to hold women in contempt.

What was he supposed to do instead in order to be a good person?

What he had was a particular kind of perceptual intelligence. Not the kind that is part of normality, part of educational advancement. He felt what people were feeling and thinking. He was aware that this "friend" Forestier was not a friend, just a simple acquaintance who decided to help him on a whim, thinking Duroy might be of use to him. Duroy felt the affront but did not expect him to be any different from what he was. Duroy constantly is perceiving his environment and trying to be what is expected of him. He is the son of peasants and has no social graces except what he copies. He was entranced by Madame Forestier, seduced by her. Seduction does not necessarily imply sex. And his manner pleased her.

Madame de Marelle came after him, Madeleine and he arranged their marriage and he was charmed by her but wounded. Madame Walter is entranced with him and so is her daughter. Duroy is handsome, charming, and seeks to please all around him. He knows he has certain advantages but also knows what he does not know. Only toward the end does he begin to will, to produce the results that he wants.

This is a man who lives within the Symbolic Order of Seduction. What is the point of analyzing him psychologically. He is a small squirming insect in a thick web of the world with only a limited amount of wiggle room. When Destiny beckons, he follows.

No I cannot see any reason to castigate him. To heap abuse on his character. Within his world I find him admirable. And de Maupassant is amazing, far better than I had previously thought him to be.

Following Baudrillard in the instructions given to him for his journalism:
Things should be hinted at in such a manner as to allow of any construction being placed on them, refuted in a manner that confirms the rumor, or affirmed in such a way that no one believes them. (BA 120 1910 ed)

The above is the perfect description of the use of signs as masks, neither confirming nor denying but ambiguous enough to be seen either way. And this is how Bel Ami's George Duroy conducts himself socially. The social sphere he inhabits conducts itself according to signs that simulate and dissimulate and Duroy has to learn how to read them. He has to stop blushing, stop insisting on outmoded trinkets of behavior, and allow the world to think him. Given his skills, his background, his acquaintances, his allies, he chooses within a labyrinth of deception and blind alleys and learns how to survive and then to prosper.

free download Bel Ami
Is it worse that Susan marries him than a seventy-two year old title? How do we know he won't love her, be affectionate with her, treat her kindly, cheat on her, but is she not better off with him? Why is he so bad for doing this?

Resonates with Updike's Gertrude and Claudius, the backstory of Hamlet.
Gertrude and Claudius

Monday, June 06, 2011

Reading The 2011 MTV Awards Through Baudrillard

Rob, Kristen and Taylor at MTV Awards 2011

popcorn: corn filled with hot air

Belladonna left a comment

Sorry fellow-fans, just sayin' it like I feel it.

I saw this last night but didn't save it as I thought it would be there this am. Basically it said that the perception of Rob was that he was cruel in the things he said (to Reese) and the things he did (kissing Taylor). Highly criticized it was erased. But I agree. Rob is no longer the adorable, grateful boy getting a prize for Twilight and thanking Catherine Hardwicke for everything, including Kristen. He's grown up folks!

Belladonna replied to Lydia

Hi Lydia:
I just checked back and saw the responses and rebuttal to my comments after viewing the clips last night (I couldn't see the whole show, so everything I viewed was out of context), and I realize I can't respond to al the comments to me.   It's easier and saner for me to just delete mine... unfortunately, it seems I can only edit them as I have. 
Rob did look great, Kristen looked beautiful and a good time seemed to be had by all.   With the dawn comes understanding, so I can't help wondering what he might think of himself and the show when he sees it replayed in the clear and sober light of day.
'nuff said,

A shame belladonna feels compelled to erase her written thoughts when they were so accurate.

First of all the MTV Awards are a simulacrum. They are a copy of a copy with no original. The Academy Awards have been simulacrum for many years now. Initially they were small insider gatherings to honor excellence. Now they are lobbied and campaigned for events.

The televised event is the event, not recognition for excellence in an artistic film or excellence in acting. The event is the event. Because it is a simulation! Yes, the Oscars are now a simulacrum. The MTV Awards are a copy of a copy with no original, that is, another simulacrum.

More popcorn please.  More hot air, please. More empty 'sign' please. Or is this 'sign' a mask for their being nothing there. Is it simulation or dissimulation. Yeah, Im confused and don't care to figure it out right now. When I do I'll tweak this post.

The MTV Awards are events "honoring best pic, best actor, best kiss", etc and an honorary award for Reese Witherspoon, a generational award. Now there was a kiss and slap award. You've been around a long time, Reese. You're getting old, aren't you? What shit. I did enjoy seeing clips of all her work, which has been excellent, so this award to Reese was the only bright light for me. (Actually I didn't watch any of it, just looked at some stills and a bit on youtube.)

The Award, and all awards, are holding the celebrities hostage. Baudrillard's analysis of the hostage situation applies here. The celebrities are complicit. They can't not go. They can't go and act sulky, can they? They are expected to put on their professional smiles for the screen, aren't they? And frantic fans vote so they can see them there. I bet this makes them so so happy you voted for them. They are expected to be nice and thank the promoters for the honor - the honor? Honor? What honor? I'm looking and I don't see any honor. Maybe I dropped it on the floor. Let me look a minute, will you?

Wait a minute, I want some more popcorn!

It goes so nice with everything else, doesn't it? 

In fact these awards are cruel. They force an artist to fly from Toronto to California, leaving the concentration required to get into a very difficult part (Eric Packer in Cosmopolis) to attend a simulacrum that has nothing to do with what it says it has to do with. Best this or that. 

It is only a popularity contest whose only purpose is to promote itself as a popularity contest! The promoters buy the TV time, sell ads for the time, collect fat fees for this promotion. The ads are expensive because celebrities are pimped to be there ensuring lots of viewers. Get it! The medium is the message.

We know from reading Freud,Wit and the Unconscious that wit is uttered on two levels as jokes are also.  All sharp, intelligent, funny wit involves a certain amount of hostility, aggression, cruelty, whatever. Of courses you can always go for bland, which is usually what you get at these things, so you watch only to see faces, images, and whose dress was she wearing? Who wears it best? Actually Kristen's choice of dress was very witty. Best kiss in a dress with pricky safety pins all over it! Careful Rob. I'd kiss Taylor too.

More Corn coming, wait a minute. Ahhhhhh. So now we get to Rob''s performance. No enthusiastic 
thanks for Catherine Hardwicke or anyone else. Finally acknowledging Reese for what she did: cutting him from Vanity Fair. She did, you know. And at the time it hurt. It set his career back a lot. He took emasculating roles afterwards. That hurt him personally. See here for my longer take on this.

And by saying "fuck" in a fucking pretense of an award show to make money for promoters was priceless. And kissing Taylor was so perfect. Now all those ad people are going to ponder if they want to spend pricey money on this show. What if he wins next year? What might he do then? Do we want our product on a show where someone says, "Fuck? And kisses a guy for best kiss?"

The suits are gonna have to think about this. Carefully. Very carefully.

Listen fans, this is Eric Packer territory. 

People have criticized these awards for their stupidity. For not having anything to do with excellence. Others are screaming and creaming to see Rob and Kristen, even if it really interrupts their life to be there so they vote and vote and vote and vote and vote so as to see them. Is this love? Is it even affection? But anyway to criticize these awards is to attack them on their turf. You can't win that way. You cannot fight any war on someone else's turf. 

Vija: The market culture is total. It breeds these men and women. They are necessary to the system they despise. They give it energy and definition. They are market-driven. They are traded on the markets of the world. This is why they exist, to invigorate and perpetuate the system. (C p. 90)

I'm talking to all you readers.

More corn. So Rob implodes the MTV Awards in true Eric Packer fashion. Yaaaaaay! They are pretending to give an award for "best" and being cruel about it. Rob is following Baudrillard - consciously? unconsciously? -  and pretending to accept the pretend award and being even more cruel about it. This is the way you implode their game.

All the refusals to vote had no effect. All the sulking had no effect. All the criticism had no effect. Because you were playing on their turf. Get off it. We are in simulation now. It's gametime.

    Wednesday, June 01, 2011

    People Know What They Do. They Frequently Know Why They Do What They Do. But What They Don't Know Is What They Do Does.-Foucault

    Pattinson Signing
    Group Pic With Pattinson

     Mayhem in Toronto. Why is Rob Pattinson so complicit? Reading through Baudrillard's Revenge of the Crystal  Eric Packer starts out the day being complicit. He ends the day as a world-self crucified visionary prophet. How does it happen to him? 
    They are enjoying this, aren't they? At last Cronenberg has a film that will hit the big time and one that is important enough to deserve being there: Cosmopolis by Don DeLillo It is also Pattinson's ticket to the award circles for a performance that could be considered great even by the suits.  Eric Packer is a major modern character.  Cronenberg and Pattinson
    Postscript August 8 2012: I couldn't have been more wrong about Cronenberg eh.

    Cropped-Fan Pic

    Rob Signing After Shooting

    A Hostage: Robert Pattinson As Eric Packer
    Cosmopolis Shooting Crowds In Toronto  
    Foucault Quote-Madness and Civilization

    Vija: What is the flaw of human rationality?
    Eric: What?
    Vija:It pretends not to see the horror and death at the end of the schemes it builds.     (DeLillo Cosmopolis p. 90-91)

    There are at robsessed a huge number of fan digital pics, a blog post by a fan in Toronto, and an outcry from posters who want Pattinson to be left alone, be able to work, be taken seriously as an actor. And Other posters who are drooling. What does Rob want? What does Cronenberg want? And what does the administration of robsessed want?

    The administration of robsessed knows what it is doing and why it is doing it. But does it know what it doing does.

    Does Rob know what his complicity DOES? I don't think so.