Saturday, October 29, 2022


Milanovic defends "a thousand points of light". Jäger and the Slobodian are snobs—Jäger's admitted it— pretentious defenders of what their own seriousness. But Jäger's a proud fan of Fleetwood Mac and I think I may be responsible for Leusder shutting down his Soundcloud account—in embarrassment? And the idiot they're mocking is a fan of Mark Fisher. I don't know where the Eisenstein reference comes from. It's not in the thread, but all the thread is is bragging by citation and in-jokes, academic standard practice. "They then chuckle together in a self-congratulatory academic manner."  

It was common knowledge once that Lucas modeled the stormtroopers' helmets after the Teutonic Knights in Nevsky, and the emperor's cloak and the camera angles after the grand master.

Lucasfilm 
Johnston remembered that early on, Lucas showed him Sergei Eisenstein’s classic film, Alexander Nevsky, whose opening featured a battle on ice between medieval warriors. Lucas told him, “I want the battle on Hoth to feel like this. I don’t want it to look like this, but feel like this.” With relative freedom from Lucas, Johnston relished the opportunity to imagine and develop the battle visually.
None of this means the Star Wars film's don't suck. But the first one has the perfection of Casablanca,  

The tragedy of cultural homogenization begins at the top: the fish rots from the head. Jäger, Slobodian and the rest have convinced themselves that only the other elite, the elite they disdain, are decadent. 
Mozart didn’t have luxury to write atonal music most people don’t understand/find ugly. He had to appeal to aristocrats for patronage & middle class who bought seats. It’s when you separate artist from audience (eg give him tenured university chair) that things turn south.

Jäger replies 

And Adorno was right when he said that Schönberg’s dodecaphony presupposes industrial class conflict as a backdrop for the music even to make sense to any audience

The Nazis weren't wrong when they said the work they banned was decadent. But the work they banned  was honest, and the work they promoted was decadence based on dishonesty: idealism as sham, backed by the gun. 

Adorno and Jäger, following Schönberg, by rhetorical sleight of hand—and out of psychological necessity—turn honest decadence into ideal truth, as liberalism and liberal economics does with greed and self-interest . In both cases awareness evinces optimism: the unexamined prior.

Back again to Arendt and Brecht. I repeat myself because everyone else does.

At that time, nobody anticipated that the true victims of this irony would be the elite rather than the bourgeoisie. The avant-garde did not know they were running their heads not against walls but against open doors, that a unanimous success would belie their claim to being a revolutionary minority, and would prove that they were about to express a new mass spirit or the spirit of the time. Particularly significant in this respect was the reception given Brecht's Dreigroschenoper in pre-Hitler Germany. The play presented gangsters as respectable businessmen and respectable businessmen as gangsters. The irony was somewhat lost when respectable businessmen in the audience considered this a deep insight into the ways of the world and when the mob welcomed it as an artistic sanction of gangsterism. The theme song in the play, "Erst kommt das Fressen, dann kommt die Moral," was greeted with frantic applause by exactly everybody, though for different reasons. The mob applauded because it took the statement literally; the bourgeoisie applauded because it had been fooled by its own hypocrisy for so long that it had grown tired of the tension and found deep wisdom in the expression of the banality by which it lived; the elite applauded because the unveiling of hypocrisy was such superior and wonderful fun. The effect of the work was exactly the opposite of what Brecht had sought by it. The bourgeoisie could no longer be shocked; it welcomed the exposure of its hidden philosophy, whose popularity proved they had been right all along, so that the only political result of Brecht's "revolution" was to encourage everyone to discard the uncomfortable mask of hypocrisy and to accept openly the standards of the mob. 

Eisenstein, Film Form, p. 20, defending convention, and tradition. 

We have been visited by the Kabuki theater-a wonderful manifestation of theatrical culture.·

Every critical voice gushes praise for its splendid crafts­manship. But there has been no appraisal of what constitutes its wonder. Its "museum" elements, though indispensable in estimating its value, cannot alone afford a satisfactory esti­mate of this phenomenon, of this wonder. A "wonder" must promote cultural progress, feeding and stimulating the intellec­tual questions of our day. The Kabuki is dismissed in plati­tudes: "How musical!" "What handling of objects!" "What plasticity!" And we come to the conclusion that there is nothing to be learned, that (as one of our most respected critics has announced) there's nothing new here: Meyerhold has already plundered everything of use from the Japanese theater!

Behind the fulsome generalities, there are some real atti­ tudes revealed. Kabuki is conventional! How can such con­ ventions move Europeans! Its craftsmanship is merely the cold perfection of form! And the plays they perform are feudal!—What a nightmare!

More than any other obstacle, it is this conventionalism that prevents our thorough use of all that may be borrowed from the Kabuki.

But the conventionalism that we have learned "from books" proves in fact to be a conventionalism of extremely interesting relationships The conventionalism of Kabuki is by no means the stylized and premeditated mannerism that we know in our own theater, artificially grafted on outside the technical requirements of the premise. In Kabuki this conventionalism is profoundly logical-as in any Oriental theater, for example, in the Chinese theater.

Among the characters of the Chinese theater is "the spirit of the oyster"! Look at the make-up of the performer of this role, with its series of concentric touching circles spreading from the right and left of his nose, graphically reproducing the halves of an oyster shell, and it becomes apparent that this is quite "justified." This is neither more nor less a convention than are the epaulettes of a general. From their narrowly utilitarian origin, once warding off blows of the battle-axe from the shoulder, to their being furnished with hierarchic little stars, the epaulettes are indistinguishable in principle from the blue frog inscribed on the forehead of the actor who is playing the frog's "spirit." 

I've referred to this for 40 years but never quoted it here. Nevsky was my favorite film as a kid, but it doesn't hold up. I still have fun watching it.

Jäger
People comparing a Star Wars spin-off to Eisenstein is a decent argument for just letting the CCP take over and institute a ban on all cultural production west of Berlin

I can play this game

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