Robinson Crusoe as a 1947 Soviet film… and a 1980 English [1870s] French operetta.

I want to see this 3D Soviet 1947 adventure version discussed by Eisenstein as the way of the future – (non glasses stereoscopic) – Robinson Crusoe (1947 film) – don’t have much on it but some Wikipedia
— Read on en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robinson_Crusoe_(1947_film)

 

And then there is also this – Jacques Offenbach (yes, of whom Siegfried Krakauer writes) composed an opera of the Robinson story (opera comique, so operetta, heading towards vaudeville, defence of colonial ways etc) that was rendered into English and performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in 1980. Need to also find more on this, in particular the rendering of friday. Good grief:

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An export industry in ‘defence’ is a croc of shit – Turnbull comes the raw prawn.

Just in, the BBC misses the opportunity to call bullshit on Australia, which they can’t do of course because they also export ‘defence’ weaponry. Both as daft as can be:

Australia aims to become ‘top 10’ defence exporter

An image of an Australian flag on an army uniform[Image flopyright GET IN THERE IMAGES
Scrimage craption Australia has unfooled a new stranglgy on defiance industry expoarts -as square brackets indicate the pesky klingons are fiddling with my feed]

Australia[‘s puppet PM doing the bidding of his corporate arms dealer masters] has said it plans to become one of the world’s top 10 defence industry exporters within a decade.

The [fat cats of the] nation currently sell about A$2bn (£1.15bn; $1.6bn) in defence equipment each year, making it the 20th largest arms exporter [set blasters to stun]

Manufacturers would now be offered government-backed loans to stimulate the industry, [kiss-arse squib, Guab’gina Gil, you puny earthling] PM Malcolm Turnbull said.

Aid groups [bleated harmlessly as they] said the move would not help global efforts to build peace, an assertion rejected by the government [time warp].

The nation[al embarrassment, doing a mind flip] said it would primarily focus on boosting exports to the US, UK, Canada and New Zealand, but it would also target markets in Asia and the Middle East.

“This is all about [killing other people so as to safeguard a half-dozen or so Eddie-level] Australian jobs,” Mr Turnbull told reporters on Monday, adding that “the goal is to get into the top 10”.

The [latter-day colonial wish for federation space] expansion includes setting up a A$3.8bn loan scheme to help Australian companies sell [killing machines, erm um blasters, ] defence equipment overseas.

The government will also establish separate agencies to better [kill] co-ordinate [maim] and promote [murder through] industry exports [and a mass shadow generator of Turnbull’s own twisted design].

‘Price of liberty’

[unable to contain the hypocrisy] Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne said prospective buyers would face stringent checks to ensure “[we] don’t get into markets where we don’t want to be” [from the deck of his personal Eclipse Class dreadnought].

Critics said Australia should not deepen its [pockets through yet more corrupt] investment in defence exports.

[in the first somewhat sane voice of the day, we heard on Millennium Falcon radio that] “We should not be getting into the game of marketing weapons which kill, maim, and bring great sorrow and destruction to communities around the world,” Marc Purcell, chief executive of Australian Council for International Development, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

However, Mr Turnbull said nations could not forgo defence spending because the “price of liberty is eternal vigilance” [and other howlers from the cliche songbook of the dark arts, blood money, rogue crazy book of sell your own mother for a poll boost playbook]

“So that is why every nation, responsible nation, including our own, sets out to have the capabilities to defend itself, whatever and however circumstances may develop in the future,” he said [while onlookers gasped at the opportunism, and some choked on the smell of sulphur]

The US is the world’s largest arms exporter, making up a third of all sales, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. [ugh, I cannot even say what it took to get this far. still more smoke, we are not on Dalari Prime anymore, last ticket to Baskerville sells in 4 hours]

The next biggest exporters are Russia, China, France and Germany and the UK [amidst the strange stench a patriotic thought squeezes through the asphyxiation of my last remaining brain cells as the cryo chamber fires up – and I think that really, its the world cup that matters, who is in the play-offs, and did they have the right kind of ball skills? Yes, I watch the football, it distracts me from any recognition that typed cynicism is never going to step up to the level required to defeat these bastards. The possibility that humour might somehow keep alive the slim chance that all this could be wiped away in an angry uprising – canberra in ruins, the national gallery turned into a hospice, Kara Thrace as Joan of a new Ark – is, frankly, not sufficient, but then I stupidly turned on the BBC news channel. Like a fool. All I’ve left is these three tellurian credits. Burn it to the ground, incarnadine …

Miniaturization is trinketization.

This looks great and would have been a good thing to attend, but my diary window – and budget – is far too small:

*Small Interventions: Studies in the Miniature*

Numerous theorists have engaged with the idea of the miniature, including
Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno, Susan Stewart, and Andreas Huyssen. As
they and other thinkers have shown, the complex and contradictory nature of
the miniature speaks to issues of nostalgia, a desire for control and
containment, and gender and other norms. In popular culture, miniatures
crop up in diverse forms: from dollhouses to mini-Frappuccinos, from
spyware to nanotechnology, from closed ecosystems to manmade islands. The
proposed panel is interested in thinking about the status of the
miniature–whether a tiny book, photograph, or memento–as an object of
cultural study. We aim to ask how the miniature might (or might not) be a
useful genre or category with which to intervene in our traditional
disciplinary assumptions, our pedagogies, and our practices. How might
thinking about the miniature expand our possible objects of study? Might we
consider it a bridge to other fields? Possible paper topics might address
issues related to the miniature within the following contexts:
environmental, postcolonial, and cultural studies; photography and visual
culture; digital humanities; close reading and poetics; or urban planning
and architecture. This list is meant to generate ideas and is by no means
exhaustive.

 

We are soliciting individual paper proposals to include in a
pre-constituted panel to be presented at the Sixteenth Annual Cultural
Studies Association Conference at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh,
Pennsylvania, from May 31-June 2, 2018. Interested presenters should send
their name, title, affiliation, email address, and a 150 word abstract. All
presenters must be members of the CSA to participate. Membership and other
information can be found at http://www.culturalstudiesassociation.org/.
Please direct inquires/ submissions to Shannon Winston at skw2@princeton.edu or
Helen Kapstein at hkapstein@jjay.cuny.edu no later than
Sunday, February 11, 201

On Madhava Prasad

an overdue appreciation.

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Read the rest of the review here, or below:

In Cine-Politics: Film Stars and Political Existence in South India, film studies becomes politics, but also society, identification and desire. Prasad’s book contains six well-thought-out chapters, and reappraises the context of focus upon the well-known names and stars of ‘regional’ cinema from Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. Larger-than-life political icons MGR, NTR and Rajkumar will need no introduction within India, yet, from this book, the outside reader will also get sufficient detail and a good idea of the kinds of films, from ‘mythologicals’ to ‘socials’, that made up their cinema careers. However, the chapters also present the political trajectories of these stars, and the book’s significance is that the turning of film into politics demands a wider scope than any film studies’ focus has hitherto provided. The book importantly goes beyond any mechanical understanding of how film stars might use the cinema for political gain.

The first chapter shows how central government initiatives, especially the States Reorganization Commission of 1953, had deep ramifications for regional film, reflected both in the organisation of cinema as an industry and in the role accorded its emerging stars. The phenomenon of the ‘star-politician’ in South Indian films uniquely impacted upon politics there. Successive chapters then discuss MGR in Tamil Nadu, NTR in Andhra Pradesh, Rajkumar in Karnataka, and ‘fan Bakhti’, with an appendix on Jayalalithaa (see below). MGR, NTR and Rajkumar are so famous that we recognise them by their familiar initials or single names (Marudhur Gopalan Ramachandran aka MGR; Nandamuri Taraka Rama Rao aka NTR; and Singanalluru Puttaswamayya Muthuraju aka Rajkumar). Yet, even though each of them played a significant political role in his respective state, he did so in quite different ways and reflecting different political developments and changes. MGR was already a Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) party activist before starting in films, and his film roles helped his party to success in 1967, before he formed a new party in 1972 to continue on as chief minister of Tamil Nadu until his death in 1977. In Andhra Pradesh, NTR’s entry into politics and film was through the Telugu language and Telugu nationalism; this gained him status and prestige in the state, but was less readily translated beyond the regional. Similarly, Rajkumar was identified with the identity politics of Kannada. As a political investment, this identity politics suggests a wider path and pattern, indicating a parallel organisational format between his political persona and his screen personality.

It is Prasad’s contention (and not inconsequentially Freudian in analytic reach) that ‘an adequate explanation for the cine-political phenomenon…cannot really be found in the content of the relevant films’ (p. 57). He makes this claim at the very end of a chapter on the cinema strategies of the DMK party in Tamil Nadu, whereby a kind of commodity logic is expanded. Prasad gives us the truism that, certainly in the last ten years, Bollywood has become ‘an appendage of the consumer goods industry via advertising’ (p. 22) and ‘a reflexive commodity, consciously produced in conformity with its own image’ (p. 23). It is not beyond the readers of this book to recognise an anti-commercial and regional argument that Bollywood is shaped by and yet also subsumes the regional. While not ‘any’ South Indian film will do to establish this point, a preponderance of star persona films, and the accompanying film marketing strategies, are identifiable and discernible as influences in, of and on Bollywood.

All the same, a question about content might clarify some issues for us. Do we need to have seen the films of the larger-than-life MGR for Tamil Nadu, or NTR for Andhra Pradesh, to know that there is something different going on with the star-persona film vehicles here than in that ‘other’ dominant Indian film tradition that regionalism necessary backs up against? In Prasad’s discussion of comparative cinema, the scope is larger than the screen. At stake is history itself when he develops a point from an earlier essay in which ‘modernity continues to be identified with the historical concretion of Western modernity, [and so] it will always seem that every other form is a deviant, or not yet modern’ form.11. Madhava M. Prasad, ‘Singular But Double-Entry: Paul Willamen’s Proposals for a Comparative Film Studies’, in Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, Vol. 14, no. 1 (2013), p. 9.View all notes This deviation is important because where once Hollywood, even at a remove, was regarded as ‘a source of knowledge and values that hold the promise of a better life’—and its ideas were ‘stolen’ and inserted into Bollywood films—today, instead, we see ‘an epochal change in cinema [that] comes in the wake of opening up of the economy in the process of liberalization and globalization’.22. Ibid., p. 10View all notes This gives us the rationale for Prasad’s new book as a development beyond his own 1998 scene-setting work on the melodramatic in Ideology of the Hindi Film;33. M. Madhava Prasad, Ideology of the Hindi Film: A Historical Construction(Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1988).View all notes it is by going beyond melodramatic narrative content that the political appeal of an MGR or NTR is activated in a wider context.

Cine-Politics asserts that after a distinct period in which writers were dominant in the movies, the celebrity star system took hold, and this star persona system now acts like a contagion. In the past, and consistent with melodrama, the fragmentary and episodic form of stories and plots existed within an abstract whole. Subsequently, the movement from writers to star system evident in Tamil films and in the discussion Prasad offers of MGR, means the writer’s message-communicating model has been hollowed out. The message is now the star. It is revealing that the phrase used to warn against dismissing this transition is that of the haunting spectre of denial. To take cinema as transparent is to remain caught within a communicated messages model that had already been warded off as a mere propaganda tool, thus inviting ‘positive or negative valuation depending on one’s agreement or disagreement with the content of the propaganda’ (p. 46). The cultural content that haunts here is not a contained narrative or plot; MGR is not seen to be significant in any particular film, but across all films. Grand narrative returns as embodied persona. MGR plays the gods in general, and in the ‘socials’.

Cine-Politics is not just a fan book on the extraordinary and curious phenomenon of larger-than-life film stars, it is also a commentary upon issues of such long-term interest that the book will surely become the standard reference for persona studies and a major contribution to film theory, significant well beyond its subject area and location. In Ideology of the Hindi Film, the discussion of screen kissing and subsumption, the conjunction of melodrama and Marx, made that book an indispensable reference; now Prasad recaptures his pre-eminence via a regionalism that reaches out to place region at the centre of an already full field. This is the peculiar brilliance of a study that thereby changes everything at the same time, such that arguments about melodrama as the presentation of the ideology of the nation as family drama are now worked through not only Mother India, but via the regional cousins too. The family resemblance of subsumption, even as a difficult theoretical framework, is explained and reinforced with local detail. The films are described with a film buff’s affection, but the analysis relocates MGR, NTR and Rajkumar, and with a passing mention of Rajinikanth and Jayalalithaa, conceptually in the mainstream.

Along the way, the too-quick judgements of journalists and sociologists, who should know the context better, are exposed as inadequate. MGR was indeed a heart-throb and hero through many films, but the viewing public is not simply programmed or predetermined to worship personalities. Nor, despite NTR’s penchant for portraying deities, do these film stars somehow ‘replace’ the gods in the public’s estimation. Prasad displays a healthy scepticism here; even if there is some truth to the adoration and identification observed in such commentary, it does not in any way satisfy or explain the political appeal of personalities, or the persona role, for the stakes are higher than that. Prasad offers substantiation via statistics to show that, for example, NTR’s roles in ‘mythologicals’ were secondary and subsequent to his roles in ‘socials’, films about issues and themes of social relevance. Playing gods was not typecasting of him (p. 76); his ‘star’ recognition had already been established long before his first appearance as Lord Krishna in K.V. Reddy’s Mayabazar (1957).

Some questions remain for debate: is NTR’s election as chief minister of Andhra Pradesh subsumed under a greater regionalist Telugu politics, or is Telugu regionalism subsumed in NTR’s star narrative? Is how the theatre tradition gives way to mass popular film, where the allocation of roles within theatre groups moves towards a different kind of logic in that the central character acquires an importance, beyond the symbolic importance accorded to the drama itself (p. 99)? Does film technology figure deeply here, in close-ups, tracking shots and audience responses to stars, persona and life, and in ways relevant to ‘star systems in every popular cinema industry’ (p. 100)?

Gaps in the text can leave these questions open, and this might help us think for ourselves. What perhaps is needed is a larger chapter on MGR’s co-star and political successor, Jayalalithaa Jayaram. We can perhaps understand why she only receives a short discussion in the appendix, but it could be fruitful to consider how continuity might have played out if the book had taken on her mastery of self-presentation and indeed ‘fan Bakhti’ in both film and politics. Here, regional analysis of the particularity of South Indian films of a specific time and context shows that the figures of MGR, NTR and Rajkumar, as well as Jayalalithaa in particular, can be understood as ‘roles’ or personas who extend beyond the film text into the socio-political in unprecedented ways. The ‘socials’ too contain specific characters for whom patronage and clientelism prevail, but also in which uplift projects and social programmes are initiated in the generic name of the star. The cine-political is not star charisma at the ballot box, nor is it a propaganda vehicle, but a moment in the history of cinema when specific audiences have been prepared to follow the leadership of on-screen political investments orchestrated by adept political operatives—and then act to consecrate such figures as leaders. It is with this that Prasad’s text is full of suggestive insights inviting further analysis. For example, he notes how an actor’s persona across films ‘begins to communicate through other channels than the films’ and even in ‘parallel to the diegetic content of the narrative’ (p. 142). His commentaries centre on enthusiasm, sovereignty, language, ideology and the commodification, and even mass reproduction, of star persona effects (p. 184). With these openings, Prasad’s thoughtful and thought-filled volume should become a classic of film studies, and not only for its regional specificity.

Notes

1. Madhava M. Prasad, ‘Singular But Double-Entry: Paul Willamen’s Proposals for a Comparative Film Studies’, in Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, Vol. 14, no. 1 (2013), p. 9.

2. Ibid., p. 10

3. M. Madhava Prasad, Ideology of the Hindi Film: A Historical Construction (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1988).

Click this link if you got this far.

Supriya Choudhury

This is indeed a loss. Greatest ever.

The howl echoing across the mountains at the end now haunts us even more.

Talking about cinema

Saddened by the news of the demise of Supriya Choudhury this morning… She was one of those rare beauties to have ever graced the Bengali screen. Of her performances, probably MEGHE DHAKA TARA was her best. I also liked her in KOMAL GANDHAR as a theatre artiste caught between two men, and the climatic sequence in the film with the chant ‘Dohai Ali, dohai ali..’ in the background where she walks up the stairs towards her ‘chosen one’ remains embedded in memory. Her pairing with Uttam Kumar resulted in several hits but I can’t recall these movies now. Her role of the call girl in CHOWRINGHEE parallels her character Nita in MEGHE DHAKA TARA.

mdt

The last film that I remember of hers – ATHIYASAJAN by Raja Sen, which dealt with the subject of euthanasia, and had the veteran actor Soumitro Chatterjee playing her husband, which captured effectively the plight of…

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Perception. A study in the obvious

Got this book long ago in Melbourne by explaining some of its fundamental problems as a text, and on that basis got it Half Price from the bookseller – ahh the days when bookshop staff were also readers (sure, some still are, but I miss the days when Peter from Compendium already knew which two books I would buy from the store each week I came in, though I’d still browse for an hour or two just in case).

Anyway, here I am thinking of producing a series of covers that illustrate problems with texts in publishing, and this trans of Merleu-Ponty I guess is example No 1.