Thursday, November 18, 2010

the sub-prime method of quotation

Via Ruchir Joshi on Facebook, this apparent 'controversy' over Godard's alleged anti-semitism and giving him an honorary Oscar (which of course, he didn't go to collect).

Following links from that piece, I found Bill Krohn's review of a recent biography of JLG written by Richard Brody*, in which he picks apart Brody's charges of anti-semitism (and other things).

The main threads of Brody’s approach are laid out in his discussion of Godard’s first two critical pieces. Citing an article about Joseph Mankiewicz that appeared in La Gazette du cinema for June 1950, he skips over Godard’s relatively in-depth discussions of two films, A Letter to Three Wives (1949) and House of Strangers (1949), to cherry-pick the idea that the article on Letter “is devoted less to his films than to Mankiewicz himself,” as shown by a single sentence: “This letter to three married women is also three letters to the same woman, one whom the director probably loved.” That way lies biographical reductivism.

The second selection of quotes comes from a more difficult piece, “Towards a Political Cinema,” which takes as its starting point newsreel images of young German Communists marching in a May Day celebration: “By the sole force of propaganda that was animating them, these young people were beautiful.” Brody again skips over the gist of this densely argued article to get to what interests him: “We could not forget Hitler Youth Quex, certain passages of films by Leni Riefenstahl, several shocking newsreels from the Occupation, the maleficent ugliness of The Eternal Jew. It is not the first time art is born of constraint.” And he concludes that Godard “took all fanaticisms to be alike and to be equally beautiful. Without equating the far left and the far right politically, Godard equated them aesthetically.”

Sliced and diced like a package of subprime mortgages, Godard’s questing thought becomes what Brody needs it to be, and in the process we may not even notice that the person who’s equating communism and fascism politically, by calling them both “fanaticisms,” is Brody. That’s ideological simplification with a vengeance. Cultural journalism is now in the driver’s seat.
 But hey - don't sit around watching me quote selectively. Go read!.


*All this is, like, last year. Not so recent, but whatever.

1 comment:

km said...

Must the "auteur theory" question persist after all these years?