We started off the class by Bruno introducing a Portuguese word, “saudade.” This word correlating to nostalgia, the main theme that we repeatedly discussed throughout the recitation, is a word that Portuguese take pride in as it cannot be fully translated into other language. Likewise, the emotion of nostalgia can never be fullly put into words and the complexity of nostalgia displayed by “saudade” served as an interesting trigger for the discussion.
We then talked about the relationship between nostalgia and the burning of photos in Hollis Frampton’s (nostalgia) (1971). We related the burning process of pictures to resurrection process, as the burning itself made new, distinct, physical images of the photo. One student suggested that its process was like the cycle of pheonix, destroying itself to make a new meaning. Moreover, every photo was burnt in a different way, creating a unique image. While it was being destroyed, it simultaneously being created. The film itself suggests that the photos, which represent the past and memory, are never gone because while they are being burnt, the film itself is left eternally. Then, we talked about the relationship with time in this movie. Having the narration one ahead, the viewers have to think about the future and the past at the same time which requires an active spectatorship somewhat similar to the effect of Andy Warhols’ Chelsea Girls (1966). Frampton’s deliberate off-timing of narration forces the viewers to constantly think about the time that is not present and the viewers have to choose whether to look forward to the future photo or to think back at the past photo. Frampton constantly revisits the past through this film which might be the reason why he named the film (nostalgia); he recorded the past by taking the photos, revisited it by writing the narration about the photos, and destroyed it but made it last forever by filming the incarnation process. Here, we observed that technology has both triggered and interrupted our memories. By preserving the representation of the memory, we can prolong our memory but also distort it.
We moved on to how nostalgia is depicted through various medium. As mentioned before, technology is closely related to memory and different medium has different way of provoking the sense of nostalgia. For example, visually, flashbacks, romantized visions of past, and foggy images try to portray nostalgia in films. Similarly, Peter Bogdanovich’s The Last Picture Show (1971) chose to use black and white film to capture the sensibilities of nostalgia. Also, in choosing the music for the film, Peter used the music that was from the old times and played it in the background to seem more like a part of their lives than the soundtracks. The aesthetic choice of using black and white film and music from the past period exemplified how the movie carried nostalgia to the viewers.
The Last Picture Show is intriguing in that the film asks the viewers where the nostalgia is. Nostalgia can be defined as the romanticized vision of the past and the visions that viewers see the most are the sexual activities. Furthermore, sex is depicted in non-erotic and ordinary way, far from romanticization. The depiction of sexuality is discrepant from what the viewers expect and this discrepancy parallels the difference between characters’ perception of sex and reality of it. Also, the depiction of masculinity and feminity also deviate from the viewers’ expectations and stereotype. Women seem to have more power in sex as they are seeking for status whereas men are sensitive and emotional. Nonetheless, both women and men are stuck in the town, stuck in the past, perhaps feeling nostalgic for the future to come.
We finally talked about the impact of TV in The Last Picture Show. We pointed out that only the female figures were watching TV and suggested that it was TV that might have made the women behave in distorted and thwarted way. Also, the last scene showing the end of film age due to TV indicates that the way of living has also ended with the downfall of film. We concluded that the film itself was nostalgic about its own art form, such as western imagery of landscape, and that it could be an homage to cinema itself.