Sunday, June 9, 2019

Hollywood, Cinema, Pornography & Propaganda

It's often said that there is a fine line between art and pornography, and this is true, but few people take the time to seriously contemplate where that line is. As a fan of both art and pornography, not to mention sociology, I have probably spent too much time on the subject. Most people view the dividing line between these two mediums to be the actions of its subjects, to put it bluntly, people fucking. But some of my favorite art films include graphic scenes of passionate and unsimulated coitus. And some of my favorite genres of pornography involve acts that many wouldn't even consider to be sexual. No, the line between art and pornography is not defined by its subject matter but rather by its intent. The intent of art is to provoke and engage the audience intellectually. The intent of pornography is to indulge and engage the audience reactively.

Unlike far too many other feminists, I have no problem with pornography in and of itself, particularly if it involves Asian lesbians with small feet and plenty of rope, but there are forms of pornography that have nothing to do with natural human sexuality in all its perverted diversity. Propaganda would probably be my least favorite genre of pornography and this hardcore smut plays on cable news 24/7 when any child could be flipping through the channels. Propaganda is the ultimate form of malignant pornography. It is the complete antithesis of art, designed for the express purpose of keeping people reacting by making sure they have no time to think. The audience is blitzed with an explosive barrage of suggestions, largely parroted from the satanic conglomeration of big government and big business commonly referred to by woke freaks like me as the Establishment. "Fear! Fear! Be afraid! Be afraid! Vote! Buy! Vote! Attack Iran! Squirrels on jet skies! Lupus fun run! Drone strike! MONEY SHOT! Have you attacked Iran yet?" Some pretty sick shit. Ted Turner makes Bob Guccione look like Captain Kangaroo.

But while cable news may make the sickest porn in the biz, they don't sling the most. That foul distinction belongs to Hollywood, a bottomless tar pit of brain-dead smut. I love cinema, I have since watching Bonnie & Clyde on Turner Classic Movies as a curious genderless tyke, but it is because I love cinema that I have grown to despise those perverts in Tinsel Town. Hollywood is the mortal enemy of any true cinephile because it reduces the art form into an intellectually masturbatory industry. And Summer is their jiz streaked Bacchanalia of mass banality, when big studio vampires lure wayward rubes to the cool shadows of the theater where they suck their wallets dry.

People in this country hate to talk about movies with me because I hate all their beloved stupid fucking movies with a furious passion that idiots tend to find off-putting. I hate the pandering nostalgia porn of Pixar, where computer generated mascots assault peoples clitoral-sensitive funny-bones with an endless stream of random pointless references like Robin Williams on a crystal methamphetamine bender. I hate the goopy inspiration porn of high-handed historical hagiographies, designed to glorify the state as a bastion of multicultural perseverance in order to sell the American Dream like a snuff film to the jaded foreigners on the festival circuit."You see, Frenchy, America ain't so bad. We got saucy colored gals making our Nazi rockets!"

I hate the endless assembly line of instantly forgettable remakes, cheesier than any Skinemax parody and twice as stupid, often advertised as progress just because they replaced all the main characters with this weeks favorite token minority. "Stay tuned for Paul Feig's gutless remake of The Breakfast Club with all the leads...  Played by... Hermaphrodites with Marfan Syndrome?! Be there!!!" And I absolutely fucking despise with every cell in my chronically misgendered corpse that never ending assembly line of moronic blockbuster schlock that every errant asshole and their cousin adores called Marvel Studios. The one dimensional superheroes. The black and white moralism. The empty social justice pandering. The gratuitous abuse of green screen special effects. The thinly veiled appeal to hyper-jingoistic do-gooder interventionism. I fucking hate it all. Superheroes have long been the bane of good comic books, now they threaten to take Hollywood to new depths of pornographic sleaze as they turn the once moribund industry into a cultural juggernaut defacing the globe with American "values". The basic premise of nearly every one of these cinematic abortions is identically simplistic; Here's your fucking shit, now eat it. And eat it they do, by the boatload. I only wish Stan Lee was still alive so he could die twice.

This has long been the problem with American Cinema. People in this country view films as being roller coaster rides. They hand some toothless carny a sweaty wad of cash and get their cheap thrills for about 90 minutes then forget what the saw on the way home. And sometimes that's OK, but to reduce an entire medium to mental masturbation sinfully underestimates the revolutionary power of cinema. Not to sound like a snob, but Europe still seems like the one place that really gets this on an above marginal level. People in Italy and France go to theaters to think and be challenged, to be provoked, and in a society so desensitized by constant war, plague and pestilence, it takes a lot of cinematic dynamite to provoke even basic empathy. That's why a new wave of European directors have taken to resurrecting Antonin Artaud's Theatre of Cruelty, a philosophy that preaches that the only way to drain the collective abscesses of a crumbling society is to assault audiences dulled senses with provocative imagery and tap into the subconscious root of their misery.

In this context, the director must not simply be an artist. They must be a terrorist, awakening the privileged to the suffering that will be returned to them by the people that their wealth oppresses if they fail to wake from their stupor. These auteurs of Europe's so called new wave of extremity have turned the propaganda of modern cinema into a new form of what the old anarchists referred to as propaganda of the deed, using their Kalashnikov cameras to blitz the cinema with the power of uncensored imagination, raw, naked, dripping with blood. They use the once exploitative tropes of horror and eroticism to provoke philosophical debates on things even most Europeans would prefer to ignore.

As I alluded to above, the English speaking world has derisively called this new wave 'Extreme Cinema'. They even find the gal to accuse it's directors, terrifying visual Blanquists like Lars Von Trier, Gaspar Noe and Micheal Haneke, of being the real pornographers for the simple fact that they aren't afraid to use the weapon of untethered sexuality to get their point across. We have witnessed similar knee-jerk reactions to nearly every significant avante-garde movement of the last century, from the Dadaists to the Vienna Actionists. The western press doesn't want you to expose yourself to the masochistic lessons that only radicals dare to teach. They fear, as they always have, that you might run the risk of being awakened from your shackled slumber in this suburban purgatory capitalism has erected around us. But I implore you to ignore their breathless warnings, save your time, save your money or what's left of it, skip the latest Avengers monstrosity, stay home and download something to challenge yourself, like Gaspar Noe's latest intoxicating mirage, Climax, or the critic-eviscerating menace that is Mr. Von Trier's The House That Jack Built. Prepare to be offended but resist the temptation to simply react. This is not Hollywood pornography. This is art. This is cinema. It's supposed to hurt a little, but trust me, dearest motherfuckers, it's worth the price of admission.

Peace, Love & Empathy- CH

Other movies to watch out for.

-Irreversible (2002) by Gaspar Noe
-Man Bites Dog (1992) by Remy Belvaux, Andre Bonzel & Benoit Poelvoorde
-Funny Games (1997) by Micheal Haneke
-Martyrs (2008) by Pascal Laugier
-Blue Is the Warmest Colour (2013) by Abdellatif Kechiche
-Holy Motors (2012) by Leos Carax
-The Piano Teacher (2001) by Micheal Haneke
-Inside (2007) by Julien Maury & Alexandre Bustillo
-Antichrist (2009) by Lars Von Trier
-Raw (2016) by Julia Ducournau

Soundtrack; songs that influenced this post.

*  Love to Hate You by Erasure
*  Closer by Nine Inch Nails
*  Goodbye Yellow Brick Road by Elton John
*  My Monkey by Marilyn Manson
*  Kool Thing by Sonic Youth
*  Wuthering Heights by Kate Bush
*  Shitty Ballet by Bleached
*  Debaser by the Pixies
*  Raping a Slave by Swans


  1. My tastes in pornography are somewhat more pedestrian than yours. Basically, any soft-core porn showing maximum orgasm by a slutty female is sufficient for me.

    In the area of cinema, I agree with much of what you say. However, I must admit to a sinful enjoyment of an escape into Marvel land. While the general moral views of Marvel superheroes are quite Manichean (unipolar "good" vs. unipolar "evil", what you describe as "one-dimensional"), and this is certainly not consistent with general libertarian and anti-statist culture, Stan Lee and I go way back. Over forty years ago, I spent many a late night in the Page House (essentially a dormitory) Library on the Caltech campus, enjoying Marvel comics, time that should have been spent studying. I have observed his battle over the years against censorship, both from the governmental and corporate institutions, and for that, I believe he deserved support.

    How you view Marvel Studios movies largely depends on how seriously you take them. If you can simply relax, treat it as entertainment, and not take the underlying militaristic/Manichean themes too seriously, you really can get some enjoyment out of them.

    That being said, there are many things I never did like about the underling premises of the Avenger flicks. One of my most profound objections was the economic illiteracy inherent in "Infinity Wars", the idea that Thanos could simply wipe out half of sentient life, and this would somehow reduce want and poverty. The fact is, such an action would trash the economies of every country of every planet of every star system in the Universe. The level of economic activity in a society is increased, NOT decreased, per capita, by increasing the population, due to economies of scale and the division of labor. Yes, there are more mouths to feed, but there are also more hands and brains available, and more of a diversity of them. It is the reason those idiotic Trumpian fascists who wish to close the borders to any brown person from any part of the world are full of shit.

    There are other problems with Marvel themes as well, the primary one being, as you mentioned, the militarism and "need for intervention" premise. But, what the hey? Can't we just kick back and simply be entertained?

    1. Absolutely. And I enjoy my fair share of B-movies, from Death Wish to Showgirls. My main issue with Hollywood is that this is all you get. There is no more room for the dangerous cinema of the 60's and 70's. Can you imagine a movie like Taxi Driver or Midnight Cowboy being released in theaters today? Apocalypse Now would be considered an art film. Only Europe seems to take cinema serious anymore and in an age in which the populace has never been more disconnected from the violence of their rampant consumerism that is downright criminal.

  2. "Apocalypse Now"

    That brings back memories. It is a stunning and somewhat embarrassing thought that I essentially lived through the entire Vietnam war without once taking a stand for or against it. I was a pacified idiot who grew up in a lily white (with an occasional Asian), middle class town. My only real fear was of getting beat up by bullies, as the thought that someone may actually not have a place to live or food to eat was completely beyond me. I probably deserve homelessness at least as much as anyone else, but, hopefully I can avoid it in my declining years.

  3. Nailed it. I may love you. Your list of favorite directors pretty much mirrors mine.

  4. Borg, "Apocalypse Now" begins with the assertion that the North Vietnamese are withholding vaccines (thereby justifying the narrative of humanitarian intervention that continues today). It's a flawed movie. If one wants to view a movie that enlightens, try watching "The Passenger" (starring Jack Nicholson). This movie informs without resorting to porn (thereby not stooping to the lowest common denominator). Or one could simply go to the source and watch "Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid" (Peckinpah) and get woke. Thank you for reading this!

    1. Come and See is still the most devastating war movie I've ever seen. The Battle of Algiers and Che are also brilliant.

  5. BTW, watch the 1987 "Director's Cut" version of "Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid"...the original was cut by MGM into senselessness because the Studio was afraid of this most ambitious movie ever made. Wake UP!

  6. Look at this:
    The show starts at 3:00 ...