Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Cineme: Cold War Paranoia

Do you also do this when you teach, trott(ha)ing out ideas from your undergraduate education that have been with you, that perhaps you have not developed in the slightest regard, like miniscule seeds that somehow brought you to the present but which seem to remain in the infantile stage of development ...? (there is a question there).

For me, the course was "Cold War Lit", taught by Prof. Daniel Bourne, the year was 1993, perhaps?. One of the things I appreciated about that class was Bourne calling out some genius for not operating on "all 4 cylinders" ... I was thinking then that there was too much kid-gloving in teaching. That may tell you something about my present pedagogy. The idea, however, was the film "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" (1956) exemplified paranoia about the effects of communism on human life in an imaginative form.

In other words, the story of aliens landing on Earth and slowly but surely subverting all normal human life by creating exact duplicates of existing humans. These duplicates are by all external appearances indistinguishable from the originals, except to those who know them well and notice subtle yet significant psychological differences. In particular, the duplicates lack human emotions. And most insidiously, the duplicates are appearing more and more frequently, and the normal humans are becoming more rare--that is, the duplicates are replacing all of the normals.

The claim is that Communists are like these duplicates: by all appearances they are normal, but at the most profound human level, on the level of emotions (hold on a second, has anyone here read any of the canon of the history of philosophy, which generally agrees that intellection is the factulty that constitutes the anthropological difference? ...), they are not American and not human.

If you look at the Wikipedia entry on this film, there is some discussion about these Communist readings, which are concluded with statements from those involved in the production that no such intentions existed. Fuck, thanks for clarifying that. Now we can die knowing that all such interpretations are false, deluded, etc. (another pet peeve of mine, the intentional fallacy). Whew. Good thing we didn't need to call Encyclopedia Brown. His fees are getting expensive.

I take it the idea at the core of the film is a cineme, by which I mean merely a concept that has some considerable cachet in the business of film production. I draw this conclusion because this film has been remade so many different times, both under the original title and numerous others. A cineme is an "idea" in film because it has certain components which are inseparable from the medium, such as the visual narrative representation of the duplicates and the ineffable but horrifying process by which the originals are replaced by duplicates. Perhaps there are other elements as well that belong especially to film, rather than to literary fiction (the narrative was originally a short story by Jack Shitlips).

Last night I felt into, unwittingly, what I out of honor would hereby like to call the Encyclopedia Brown problem, of determining, if the idea is a Cold War artifact, why the cineme continues to be so meaningful, even now some 20 years after the fall of the Soviet Union. although the are probably other examples, Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig recently starred in the "The Invasion"(2007), which I had the unfortunate displeasure of watching. Probably a lesser Encyclopedia Brown would claim, cleverly, that the film sucked and the reason is that it's raisin d'ĂȘtre is now absent. But a more courageous Encyclopedia Brown would not stop there. For what have we to do with outcomes?!? I mean, it did spend some time in the theatres and didn't go directly to video. Or more seriously, it was made, right, and that is what means something ...

After a seed like this, it was easy to swallow Jameson's Third World Unconscious argument.

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