Cynicism and Paranoia

Our class discussion this Wednesday explored the portrayal and significance of cynicism in film, particularly in relation to paranoia and nostalgia.

“What is the definition of cynicism?”

We thought it was perhaps someone worried about or obsessed with conspiratorial events, someone who criticizes with no resolution, someone who is pessimistic and selfish—the traits of a cynic, we gleaned, were all rooted, one way or another, in selfishness.

We then examined our definition in the context of The Conversation. How was cynicism expressed here? We agreed one manner in which Harry Caul’s cynicism was expressed was through a rigid manipulation of perspective—as an audience, we experience solely Harry’s reality throughout the film; with no other perspective to temper his, we adopt Harry’s as our own. Other examples we discussed were Midnight in Paris, in which cynicism is expressed through nostalgia, or the protagonist’s longing to live in the past, or in Head, in which the Monkee’s sense of cynicism is expressed through farce.

This led us into an examination of New and Improved Quality, which we were apparently all quite baffled by. Finally, a brave soul spoke up and commented upon how patronizing the film seemed to her—that it granted zero credit to the viewer, sparking a discussion about who exactly the narrator of the film was; a patronizing, maternal and standardized voice—“A mediation of technology!”— attempting to totally indoctrinate the mind.

We were pretty warmed up by this time, but alas, out of time. And the class ended. And we left.

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