This is about a cartoon that appears in many US newspapers. But I do not read the funnies, so I wouldn't know.

a claim about underlying symbolism:
“Marmaduke the dog is the rape fantasy taken flesh; he is the overpowering force that conquers your will and thus leaves you inculpable. You physically cannot resist; therefore you are absolved of responsibility. It is not your fault. (The tacit implication is that you are then free to enjoy it guiltlessly.)”
a claim about the fans of the strip:
“This is great for little-old-lady-with-her-morning-tea comicstrippery (while the coal-black spark in her inmost being is fanned, perhaps, into a wan but unrecognized flame) but bad for our hip, ironic, post-postmodern cynical times.”

[originally appeared in a longer post
about Backwards City vias]

Magritte was a faker, but he still inspires book covers

When this was written in 2006 there was a link about an exhibition of book covers called "images in the spirit of Magritte".

I couldn't stand any of them. I have long believed Magritte faked it. So to me the covers were fakes of a faker.

Peruse this
Magritte - 'Threatening Weather'

It means nothing. If it is a window into the artist soul, then there is nobody home.


Here's the breakdown on the two forms of surrealist art:
“There were two main forms of surrealist art. The first was called organic or biomorphic and involved "automatic" drawing and calligraphy as a way of expressing the subconscious freely.

Magritte was a member of the second branch which created more concrete and dream-like images. This second group created works which could be paradoxically considered to be realistic representations of the absurd or impossible. René Magritte was a master of this second form.”  [italics added]
Instead of the italicized part I would have written "which were empty of meaning but pretended not to be".


To clear your sensibility, painted by Joan Miro in 1921-22, an example from the first ('organic' or 'biomorphic') branch of surrealism, called "the Farm"

Miro - 'La Masia' (the farm)'

The world needs more Miro. Here's a crazy idea: when Paris Hilton memoirs are published the publishers could put 'Dawn Perfumed by a Shower of Gold on the cover!

[originally appeared in a longer post
about Backwards City vias]

edited 2007-01-01

then significantly modified on 2008-01-15

Benchley obit, and Jaws symbolism

Speaking of the V-shape, Slate's obit of Peter Benchley.

Apparently the man was a Puritan, and possibly his story about sharks (and their jaws) originally had an underlying meaning, somewhat lost thru editing and then later dissipated in the movie version.
“Start with heavy-handed symbolism: The seaside town the shark will terrorize is called Amity. Next add ungainly metaphor: "The past—like a bird long locked in a cage and suddenly released—was flying at her, swirling around her head, showering her with longing." Finally, throw in a charmingly awkward lovemaking scene: A couple "thrashed with urgent ardor on the cold sand." The novel opens with that ardor, and after its climax, the still-naked woman slips into the ocean, becoming an opening course for the shark circling below.”  [italics added]
“The Associated Press reported this week that Benchley's initial 100-page book draft was filled with puns. His editor, Thomas Congdon, wrote in the margins "NO JOKES,"”
I do not believe Spielberg 'rooted for the shark', btw.

[originally appeared in a longer post
about Backwards City vias]

link to Portman interview about V for Vendetta

An interview with Natalie Portman about V for Vendetta.

I guess with that title your unsconscious is supposed to wonder 'what else could V stand for?". Heck, the letter is practically a pictograph!

[originally appeared in a longer post
about Backwards City vias;
See also the later, longer post on this same topic]


links to old material added

This week a few posts have been improved, and some pieces I wrote years ago have been added (but buried in the archive).

If anyone cares, newly on this blog are:
  • the Star Wars movies compared to the Thousand-Hand Guan Yin

  • two posts that had to be directly political: something written when the Batman Begins trailer came out, and a rant about Spartan.
Pretty soon I will post (at the top) a cleaned-up old piece on what subtext is, using an old Frank Capra movie as an example.

If I can't think of anything new, that is.


a movie composer's breakthrough score mentioned

One of the best movie scores I have heard recently is from Sur mes lèvres (2001). The English title is Read My Lips.

It's classical music. The closing credits have a nice long chunk.
We hear bells as if from far away. Then a string section rises sadly into a melodic interplay with a horn section. After that dialog completes, it's back to the distant bells.

Not too many Americans have seen this interesting thriller because it's French. It does seem likely it will soon be remade by Hollywood (because of the way lip-reading is tied into the plot). However the soundrack might not be the same.

The composer's name is Alexandre Desplat, he'd been sort of France's Danny Elfman. When Sur mes lèvres came out he had already done scores for 77 movies&TV shows.

Other people I guess were impressed because it was just after that Desplat started getting hired by Hollywood. In the last few years his scores have included Girl with a Pearl Earring, The Upside of Anger, Syriana and Firewall (now in a theater near you).



double 'pink' coincidence

In 1963 a comic caper movie was made that was supposed be about a knighted British jewel thief. The part of the bumbling French policeman on the case went to Peter Sellers, an English comic actor.

By the time the movie came out, the movie was called 'the Pink Panther', referring to a diamond. A cartoon pink panther appeared in the opening credits portraying sexual elusiveness.

As many know, the movie was a hit. The thief character was deemed inessential, and 5 more Sellers 'Panther' movies were made (as well as a few without him). The diamond was not in all those but they all had the phrase in their title, the teasing pink creature + the vamping music in their credits1 and featured the incompetent French policeman.

The most striking feature of the Sellers' character was that he wasn't just incompetent, he was essentially a eunuch. The blatant subtext of the movie series was that France has no balls.

No male eunuch character before that or since has been such a hit in the USA, as far as I know. Supposedly this was because of Sellers' skills.

possibly helping the popularity

It may be no accident that the movies' prime years coincided with the Vietnam War. The original came out more or less when the French basically pulled out of the conflict leaving the USA to fight it alone.2  Personally, I believe that is why the word 'Pink' ended up in all those titles. It just worked at an unconscious level, in my opinion [reading pink=eunuch, not pink=commie].

It is not clear that the rights holders thought this, however. The 'Panther' movies kept being made even after the Vietnam war was over. But maybe they should not have, because these were not nearly as successful at the box office.

the revival

In the nineties, apparently, another Panther script floated around (at one point the idea was floated that Chris Tucker could play Clouseau).

Then in December 2003 -doing interviews promoting another movie- Steve Martin told interviewers that he had been working on the Panther script, and was planning to play the lead.

The movie was, in fact, greenlighted and now 2½ years later is now in theaters [promo photo]. Critically panned, it is nonetheless #1 at the box office. After its opening weekend anyway.

again, a political coincidence

Not to get too political but in 2003, France had ducked out of another war the USA was entering into. Rightly or wrongly. France refused to join in the new Iraq war and some people in the USA then revived the 'surrender monkey' insult, the WWII claims and so on.3

Someone could ask Martin (and everyone else involved) if -in 2003- they had cynically been thinking that anti-French sentiment would help ticket sales in the USA.

But no-one will ask.

btw, when I posted this idea on a webboard last week someone asked me if I just thought of it .. the truth is, i had never seen it anywhere.

  1. the theme by Henry Mancini has since become famous

  2. As far as some in the USA were concerned France did not do enough to fight the Nazi in WWII either. That is too political to get into here. I am just trying to analyze the movie

  3. in March of that year that the US Congressional cafeteria had changed the name of french fries to 'freedom fries'. Remember all that?


irony still being dumped

Last September, the international version of the NYTimes ran a short article about restrooms in the new Moscow
“Restaurants are outdoing one another to create the most elaborate restroom in this booming city awash in oil money, with such things as gold-plated toilets, walls of padded leather, urinals with spectacular skyline views and toilet bowls resembling Gzhel porcelain, the Russian version of Delft”
Among other people, they talked to a movie director about this:
“[Andrei] Konchalovsky discerns deep-seated psychological complexes behind the quest for luxury toilets in the restaurants and homes of Russia's nouveau riche.

"Rich Russians, because they didn't live in very good conditions 10 to 15 years ago, sublimate their attitude to money with extravagant, unthinkable toilets and wine for $1,000," he said.”
The article uses Russian history as its frame (it includes toilet quotes from Putin & Lenin). Finally it gets to this:
“Yevgeny Katsenelson, a prominent restaurateur, waved off attempts to analyze the fancy restroom fixtures - all imported from England - at his latest hit eatery, Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, which takes its name from the film by Luis Buñuel, who, coincidentally, often used toilet imagery in his films.”

Somehow I don't think the reporter saw the movie...  Released in 1972, its most memorable scene is a bourgeois dinner party set up around a table as usual but on toilets instead of chairs (they may also have not worn pants). [someone who saw it]


I am not posting this now because I just learned there is a new restaurant stupidly referencing an ironically-titled movie. Or that the NYTimes has a bourgeois reporter that didn't seem to get any of the ironies (even as she used the term 'nouveau riche').

No, the reason I post about this now is because a restaurant has just opened in Japan with toilets as the decor! [photos]


the subversive sequence in Who Killed Bambi?

Qui a tué Bambi? is a sexy-thriller set in a hospital, from 2003. Very cinematic, it's not a really good movie.

The best thing in it is a throwaway sequence intended to increase the mystery surrounding one of the characters. Watching that part of the movie makes one wonder (even more) whether this man is a sociopathic murderer or just a handsome doctor lacking a wife ...

the game

Isabelle takes a sleeping pill but, for one reason or another, ends up in a nightclub before it takes effect. A bunch of people at work have set up an outing there.

At the moment of her waking, everyone else giggles and urges her to play a game. Lights are pulsing - it is all very strange. The doctor pretends to have had a dream and Isabelle has to guess it using 'Yes' or 'No' questions only. She reluctantly agrees.

She asks things like
  'Was it an erotic dream?' (he answers 'yes').
  'Was there sex?' (he answers 'no').

A dream emerges from the questions, about a man in clothes, a nude woman, starlight.

Finaly Isabelle asks if the nude woman is her. At that point everyone laughs and tells her it is all a trick! They explain to her that -whatever she asked- the mysterious doctor answered Yes if her question ended in a vowel, otherwise he answered No.
In this game French works well, as it has key optimistic words ending in vowels like Ici and oui.

As they laugh at her that such a romantic scenario emerged from herself, Isabelle quickly leaves the room.

Oh my God! It's not you, it's me!

I can't remember a better screen depiction of projection (the psycholanalytic term).1

The sequence is subversive, in the best sense of the word. Marvelously indirectly-direct. Everyone who has watched the sexy thriller has learned in the marrow of their bones what projection is, if they did not already know.

That Isabelle is the heroine, that she has been victimized (in a way) into creating this projection strenghtens this effect. This because many people who need to come to terms with their own projections feel themselves as victims. Watching poor Isabelle, they will have no problem internalizing the concept.

the screenwriter's title

Btw, the title (translated in English as 'Who Killed Bambi?') was clearly chosen for it's cleverness. It's certainly evocative and probably helped sell the movie (a good thing). But it gives a misleading impression of the plot. More accurate would have been the working title, translated in English as 'Run away, Bambi, Run away!".

added later: in 1998 a sexy thriller was released in France called "Cours, Lola, Cours" (translated from its German title: Lola Rennt, aka "Run, Lola, Run"). It is possible this clever title inspired the original screenwriter to write what he called 'Fuis, Bambi, Fuis' (different plot). Also, I guess it is possible that in 2003 when the movie came they didn't want it to sound too similar to the German movie.

They might also have discovered that in 1992 a book had been published in English called "Run Bambi, Run", and didn't want to be sued if they used the working title (fyi: "Fuis" can be translated as "Flee" or "Run Away").

  1. This is not a classic case of projection. The dream is never within Isabelle, formed as part of her.



the TV ad with the weak man

In the USA, a TV ad apparently belittling men is aired. A rw radio host complains about it.

There's a culture war going on, after all. This is not an isolated case.

The ad gets pulled. The Green Knight argues

“What the culture warriors don't get, though, is that this narrative almost never appears in any serious context. It's always in the form of comedy, and one point of comedy is that it's an inversion of what people think of as the natural order of things. The reason our culture considers a gormless man funny (and a capable woman funny) is that we don't really believe in them. Despite what the culture warriors think, ads like this reinforce the patriarchy as much as they subvert it, because they require it as a norm against which to contrast their comedy.”

GN is on my blogroll, I agree with him a lot. But here he omits the overall picture. He is right that the ad does not promote weak men, but instead laughs at them. And he makes a nice point about subversiveness.

But his post glosses over the importance of the issue to the culture war. And I don't think 'patriarchy' is an exact enough term here.

In terms of archetypes, in the ad the woman wants her husband out obtaining food (not bossing her around). That's how I saw it, anyway.

Left-wingers have long intuited that the hunter-gatherer archetypes have to go. [And they're right.] Meanwhile the modern world has its emasculating forces. These trends overlap like in a Venn diagram, but are not the same.

What is confusing is this trend and these forces end up embodied in the same people.

Forget the lame embodiments of two seperate trends. Remember that if and when alpha, non-hunter-gatherer men show up en masse that will be when the USA begins to emerge from the its current Culture War. That's the truth neither the left or the right seems to get.

eg: Many men in the USA did not vote for Kerry in the last US election not becaue they thought he was gay, but because they thought of him as too 'French'.

As for the pathetic man symbol in the TV ad --whether laughed at or laughed with, via any archetype at all-- they are irrelevant in the sense they will have no impact on this.

one last thing

In the baby-boom generation I trace some of the confusion of ancient archetypes with emasculation to ... Dr Seuss! For instance, the enormously influential Horton Hears a Who children's book taught (among other things) that 1) animals kidnap the small and weak and 2) the best way the weak can live in such a world is by making an important symbolic sacrifice.

The Dr Seuss analysis is too long to go into here. I do remember an exchange from the television show Rosanne
A little kid asks his father:

"Dad, I thought it was good to be a man"

His father replies

"Not since the sixties, son"

The rw radio host probably feels the same way.

Meanwhile the left is confused as to the extent of the truth of this, and the way forward.


the gay cowboy movie's existence

Released 6 years ago, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon cost around $15m to make. In the USA alone it grossed $128m. That's $100m profit.

ASFAIK, in Hollywood it was co-distribution deal, meaning the profits were spread around.

Naturally the director got another chance. He made .. Hulk. It's budget was $120m. In the USA alone it ended up grossing $130m. Not a huge money maker, but a pretty good result for a disappointing, arty-type monster movie.

Among the director's earlier movies was Sense and Sensibility, a big moneymaker.

Ask yourself this - let's assume Ang Lee is liked, a good guy. We know he made pots of money for Hollywood. What do you do if you run Paramount and this director shows up with a well-crafted script about gay cowboys, two major stars have signed on and .. the budget is only $14m?

Answer - you don't run Paramount, you're reading this.

Seriously, if you did run a movie studio you would agree to finance the movie. Every time you would agree to this. Every single time. It is called 'business'. And guess what? ... So far the gay cowboy movie has grossed $42m.

What do you now?

Answer - you promote the movie for an award because that's free publicity.

There is no gay agenda in Hollywood. I am not gay myself but in reality 6-10% of the world is. Yet a far smaller percentage of movies Hollywood makes feature gay characters. It has got to be less than 1 tenth of 1 percent. From this statistic alone is easy to see Hollywood does not have a gay agenda.

The fallacy is that this movie is lauded because it's gay. I haven't seen it but a gay movie is never going to be made unless the script is superior to other scripts in the first place. And the big stars the studio demanded would not have agreed to do it unless they saw it as Oscar material.

An equal fallacy is the one about how so many of the best American movies over the last few decades involve gangsters and/or torture. This does not mean the USA is a gangster nation. Does it mean we're a torturing culture? Does it mean Hollywood likes to see people's ears cut off, or horse's heads cut off? No it does not. That is also a fallacy for similar reasons.

The secret is not giving a crap about hype. Too much hype .. turn off the TV.