The algebra of need

What madness of actors is it that only approaches the horror of war and yet still rends minds? In the midst of the jungle that is Apocalypse Now, both the brooding Brando (reading The Golden Bough in his temple) and a more unhinged Martin Sheen (the future best President the Empire never had) break their backs upon the fire of insanity. And even in a related way there is madness in the directors Francis Coppola, and earlier Orson Welles (who started but did not execute a projected film of Heart of Darkness). This of course is mad enough, but not close to the indigestible indescribable photo-real blood-and-bone mulch of our daily news reports. War films require a celluloid mode of madness. From Aguirre, Wrath of God, through to the marines singing for Annette Funicello at the end of Full Metal Jacket – there is also a kind of celebrity chaos on the brain that is carefully staged to stand in for the horror, the horror. A depth of affect that still cannot quite reach inside the photograph, cannot animate the film footage, and certainly cannot assuage the desperate need of the piggy pollies to keep themselves clean amidst the shit they have stirred up.

As they stumble towards a tortured damp squib end, I have to ask again: why have the Blair years, which were the years of souped-up Thatcherism with a better frock, why have they not produced the same kind of hostility, dismay and exile that Maggie’s viscous militarist rule had done? We have been ruled by warmongering maniacs in ways contrary to universal good since time immemorial, and too many of us have learnt to ignore this with a vengeance. We are a virus upon the planet. Uncle Bill as freedom fighter, clom friday, for a mainline Napalm shot.

Photo: Horst Fass, near Bao Tra1, 1966

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  • Luches  On 09/06/2007 at 16:06

    Hi, mate!
    It’s not as though Blair’s generated no satire and no political or aesthetic resistance–but I take your question to be stuck on what constitutes the evidence, tonality, and genres of satire. Where MT generated *V for Vendetta* because she said there was no society, TB generated *The Queen*, a deconstruction of the desire for sentimental nationality shaped by kind authoritarianism, the film a soft satire of softness with a bite that you didn’t have to feel if you didn’t want to. Even satire has been privatized, neoliberalized! Maybe different political styles engender satirical inversions in the mode of homeopathy, so that soft, well-intentioned, interiorized authoritarianism produces a different kind of satirical efficiency.

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  • Perezoso  On 21/07/2007 at 21:08

    What madness of actors is it that only approaches the horror of war and yet still rends minds? In the midst of the jungle that is Apocalypse Now, both the brooding Brando (reading The Golden Bough in his temple) and a more unhinged Martin Sheen (the future best President the Empire never had) break their backs upon the fire of insanity. And even in a related way there is madness in the directors Francis Coppola, and earlier Orson Welles (who started but did not execute a projected film of Heart of Darkness). This of course is mad enough, but not close to the indigestible indescribable photo-real blood-and-bone mulch of our daily news reports.

    Yass. Baudrillard barely scratched the surface of the cinematic swindle, really. Actors–even the Greats like Brando or Beatty—function as the salesmen for the Ho-wood business, really, regardless of their intentions. Any grunt who lived through ‘Nam (and who was not some gung-ho imperialist) has ample reason to track down Francis Ford and stick his M-15 in the fraud’s face (then again, so might Conrad scholars).

    It’s difficult to even describe what happens with movies, or the flick business, but Actors seem more akin to great criminals than anything–George Lucas/Spielberg as sort of the PT Barnums of the last few decades (and FFC in that class as well).

    Instead of Nam, we now have FFC and his Brando tragic hero (and however PC MB may have been (in that docu-drama of A. Now, someone claimed that Mr. Marlon had not even bothered to read HoD), we have Platoons, and Full Metal Jackets, and Deer Hunters (itself a rather bizarre and possibly homo-erotic dream), and the associated hippy-dippy protesters (themselves often rather blithe to the real events of the 60s, as Didion pointed out back in the day). IN Vietnam of course they don’t need flicks, or protest anthems–they have fields full of corpses.

    Tim O’Brien’s “The things they Carried” serves as a decent antidote to the Ho-wood ‘Nam grunt schtick, maybe. As does a perusal of some of Chomsky’s stuff on the Vietnam war (tho’ he too may be deceiving us).

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  • John Hutnyk  On 22/07/2007 at 09:14

    ha ha hee hee – the best satire image from here is the idea of Conrad scholars with M-15s. Thanks for that, muchly. J

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