Wednesday, January 09, 2008

All that Heaven Allows...

Me on Fassbinder, in Socialist Worker.


Anonymous parodijski centrum said...

Fassbinder was “out” as both a gay man and a supporter of the far left. Both positions made him many enemies in the 1970s. He claimed that his phone was tapped as part of the “war on terror” of the time, against the Baader-Meinhof group of left wing terrorists.

Fassbinder was also a fat dominant top who used to pimp young slender bottoms, Marlene Dietrich lookalikes (probably from the same immigrant workforce that his films, as you say, shielded against capitalist exploitation). After he was finished lavishing expensive gifts on them, he would usually feel guilty or bored and dump them. This seems to have led to suicide in two of his slut boys. Fassbinder drowned the guilt in control freak trips on the movie set.

I'm not saying that this should be used as some kind of ''an argument from experience'' as Comrade Antigram would say, or a psychologization, but it does forcefully assert the iron fist of Comrade Fassbinder's Marxism!

Why don;t you tell THAT to the Slovenian trannies!

3:09 pm  
Blogger owen hatherley said...

Fassbinder was, there's no doubt, a very bad man...

12:39 pm  
Anonymous parodijski centrum said...

Look of course you can't judge an artist's contributions on the basis of his personal life, but I don't think your assessment of Fassbinder's contribution to socialism is correct. I think his inspiration mostly came from his balls. This comment is directed to myself as well, examining my double position as an artist and a critic...There is a great documentary on F where Hanna Schygulla explains his sadism, I will try to locate it for you

4:32 pm  
Blogger owen hatherley said...

You're right in a sense, and there are definitely films where his cruelty and narcissism are the main focus. What I would argue (and I wrote my Masters on RWF, an excerpt from which is here) is that not all of his films are 'driven by his balls'. Sure, his balls are a major factor - but I can't exactly get that into a Socialist Worker piece. In his (immense) corpus there are many films which fit the schema I laid out there, and there's others that don't. I wasn't exactly going to talk about Satan's Brew, y'know...

10:56 am  
Blogger roger said...

Hey, I'm not sure I like Douglas Sirk reduced to a director of women's weepies - I was sorta surprised about that. Fassbinder brought Sirk back into critical respectability, and as far as I know, he's still there. I interviewed James McCourt last year, who, when he wrote for Film Comment in the seventies, was one of those critics who elevated Sirk (who he knew) and helped introduce Fassbinder to American audiences. You should check out McCourt's Queer Street: the rise and fall of an American culture, which treats Sirk tangentially. Sirk's Imitation of Life, which I think you were referring to, is dense with racial and sexual subtexts - and Written on the Wind is, at least according to McCourt, one of the great cultural events of the fifties.

3:09 pm  
Anonymous parodijski centrum said...

The crucial issue in Querelle is the dissatisfaction, the drive, the repetition, the underlying Affect. Power dynamics is certainly a big part of the problem, but the other equally important problem is that I think the experience of anal sex (which here is literally Fassbinder's aesthetic method) is ultimately a virtual one, as it provides direct/uninterrupted/total jouissance ONLY PHANTASMATICALLY. In layman's terms, you can't cum out of your ass.

Note there's nothing political about this question and I'm neither suggesting that compulsive sex is BAD nor that people SHOULDN'T fuck each other any way they want... rather, a purely psychological issue. If the sexotopia or a sexpol revolution is to be intrinsically motivated by unbridled pleasure, this still doesn't have a grounding in concrete-material-historic reality.

I do have some concrete ideas, such as coming up with a cross between a cunt and an asshole in genetic experiments, then implanting that in male and female subjects alike. Possibly with some kind of a biogenetic switch that would enable you to move between the functions of this new organ.

3:49 pm  
Anonymous parodijski centrum said...

Roger I don't know if you saw but you're the recipient of this year's prestigious LEAST VIAGRA TAKEN BY A MALE OR FEMALE, GAY OR STRAIGHT STARLET Parody Oscar (tm) award. The jury decided to give you the award for calling Le Colonel Sherbert ''a swordswoman''.

Todd Haynes made an excellent gay meta-re-envisioning of All That Heaven Allows in FAR FROM HEAVEN, which took Sirk and Fassbinder's Verfremdungseffekt one step further by making the very surface of the film the source of the Verfremdung.

3:54 pm  
Blogger roger said...

pc - I got out of the prize entry business when I won second prize at the Optimist Oratory contest in Dekalb County in the 8th grade. My theme was international peace, and my prize was an album entitled: John Wayne sings songs of America!

I'm not sure how the surface of the film can be a source of Verfremdung. You mean, it was scratched up, or the colors were garish, or something? I haven't seen the film. I've heard it is good, though. Will have to check it out.

7:48 pm  
Anonymous parodijski centrum said...

You mean, it was scratched up, or the colors were garish, or something?

No at one point the title characters remarks that if only we could see the world in beautiful colors or something that end, and at that moment she is referring to the pronouncedly beautiful photography, which is much more the star of the film, than the actors in it. It is very META, but it works because not in a PoMo way (the Impostume just made a good remark on that subject in his review of Glazer)

11:54 pm  
Anonymous parodijski centrum said...

(meaning if only we could see all the different colors of skin instead of privileging the white one)

11:55 pm  
Blogger owen hatherley said...

Roger - again that was for reasons of brevity, I love Sirk unreservedly, and gave him a lot more space in the MA.

Interesting on colour & surface as verfremdung btw - but actually I think that's both there in Sirk already, and also in Fassbinder (Martha esp) so I'm not sure what Haynes adds to it. I like Haynes generally, but Far From Heaven I found weak and pomo...

5:24 pm  
Anonymous parodijski sturm und drang said...

I don't think ''it'' was present in Sirk, except as a campy exaggeration, or smth to be deduced from the diegesis; but in FAR FROM HEAVEN ''it'' is the very material substrate (now there's a marxist term for ya Comrade darling) of the picture because at the point where the actress points out (to the audience) that the colors of the film strip itself are a metaphor of racism, things are ontologically (equal status of actor and film) as well as figuratively (simulation) collapsed onto a plane of immanence, darling.

This might have turned out an intensely annoying PoMoization indeed (something like Bugs Bunny winking at the audience) were it not for nuanced acting, the handsome Dennis Quaid dressed as a 1950s daddy just the way I like it, and a tender discussion of racism that will please Roger to his buttocks.

The main character did resemble Colonel Sherbert, though; she spent most of the film feeling sorry for herself!

8:55 pm  
Anonymous la resistance parodique said...

Why don't you send me that thesis, the snippet you put online provides for only a very superficial glance...

8:56 pm  
Anonymous la resistance parodique said...

Did you finally get that goddamn DVD I really don't know what happened, maybe you have to re-send your address because sloppy Communist that I was I must have written it down incorrectly the first time you sent it! Either that or the British postal services should be shot.

8:59 pm  
Blogger owen hatherley said...

No, still not arrived. There's been lots of postal strikes so that might be why, damn collective action. Will try and dig out the whole MA, if I can find it...

1:49 pm  
Anonymous jonquille de camembert said...

I just saw that this was in this or last month's NYReview of Books, should be worthwhile for Fassbinder people, in case you didn't see it. Haven't had time to read it myself. But then, he doesn't interest me that much, and neither did the film, which used to be shown at theaters several nights in a row, maybe still is.

12:38 am  
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