Voyou Désœuvré

@voyou It's not exactly true that Mike Leigh is bad at making films, and yet he doesn't make good films. http://tmblr.co/ZBDcWy1YClrlT 20 Dec 14 Reply Retweet Favorite

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In the essay “Utopia as Replication”, Jameson suggests we consider Walmart as an example of how “the most noxious phenomena can serve as the repository and hiding place for all kinds of unsuspected wish-fulfilments and utopian fantasies”. Jameson intends this as a bit of a provocation, but I wonder if Walmart isn’t actually too easy a choice for the “paradoxical affirmation” of “what is most exploitative and dehumanizing in the working life of capitalism”. Walmart’s vastness of scale and remorselessness give it an aesthetic alibi, allying it with a tradition of modernist creative destruction which is likely to be attractive, at least to the sort of people who read Jameson. To really follow through Jameson’s project of unearthing the “utopian impulse”, we need to consider an aspect of capitalism that is not just exploitative but also in bad taste; for a certain strand of contemporary opinion, that would be “twee”, the kind of cutesily-retro faux-petit-bourgeois capitalism of cupcake shops and Cath Kidston. Read more↴

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snippets

  • It’s not exactly true that Mike Leigh is bad at making films, and yet he doesn’t make good films. Though there’s often a lot to admire about his films, there’s always a Monty Python moment, where he leans on the clichéd characters and silly voices that English drama schools imagine are representations of class (to put it another way, I’ve never seen a Mike Leigh film that allowed me to completely forget he was responsible for the execrable Abigail’s Party).

    Case in point, Mr Turner. Timothy Spall has rightly been praised for his performance as Turner (although many of the other characters show Leigh’s ability to get talented actors to turn in stagey, mannered performances). The physicality of Spall’s performance, aside from being impressive, is thematically relevant: the film emphasises that, although Turner’s paintings sometimes seem to be made up entirely of light, steam, and spray, this apparently ephemeral (or spiritual) quality is connected to the materiality of the paint, the painter, and 19th century industry and science. When the film explores this theme through the cinematography and through Spall’s performance, it’s very engaging. Unfortunately, part way through the film decides the best way to make its point about the materiality of art is by contrasting Turner’s earthy sexuality with an effete Ruskin putting on a silly camp voice.

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