Monthly Archives: April 2012

Jaap’s Recitation 11:00 4/25

We began the recitation by reviewing all of the important information pertaining to the final paper of the semester and its due date.

Next, we watched a clip from J.J. Abram’s 2011 film Super 8 and discussed the role of technology and nostalgia within the film. We discussed the paradoxes that present themselves in the films recreation of an era of American culture through digital means as it creates an appearance of more modern era of cinema while trying to capture the essence of an older one. The class also discussed the relation of nostalgia to fandom as it presents itself in the film, not only in regards to the characters fandom of films, but J.J. Abrams fandom of Steven Spielberg, to whom the director fills the film with homage.

Next, we discussed the dynamics of participation and interactivity in films and how they differ. We discussed how participation is external to the work and how interactivity brings the audience closer to the work, as well as how these two methods of experiencing narratives have grown dramatically through the advent of DVD special features (in regards to interactivity) and social networking (in regards to participation.) In relation to this idea, we viewed a clip from The Animatrix, a 2003 film that, through interactivity, grants viewers a greater understanding of the film The Matrix’s narrative.

Finally, we discussed Tom McGowan’s article “Left on Mulholland Dr.” and how it offers a broader understanding of the David Lynch film. The classed discussed our opinions of McGowan’s argument that fantasy driven by desire masks the trauma of reality and that reality is characterized by trauma, as evidenced by the film plot. In relation to this we discussed the relationships between fantasy and desire in the film as well as what in the film is reality if anything is, coming to the conclusion that the film requires several viewings to understand. Concluding the recitation, we discussed the relationship between acting and reality in regards to Mulholland Dr, and even Super 8, noting that when the characters act it seems much more naturalistic.

Bruno’s Recitation, 2-3:15, 4/25/12

The screening for the class this week was David Lynch’s disturbing “Mulholland Drive.” This nightmarish film toyed with the idea of confused identity, and fantasy/desire versus reality. Bruno opened the recitation by asking us, “why is cinema an ideal form in which to explore confused identity?” To bring us into discussion about this topic, he showed us a clip from Todd Hayne’s “I’m Not There”, a fiction work that chronicles the many lives and identities of Bob Dylan. He noted that the construction of Bob Dylan’s identity comes from many identities. This idea is at the core of “I’m Not There”, “Mulholland Drive”, and “Vanilla Sky”, which we screened a clip of in lecture.

Bruno noted that like “Vanilla Sky”, which stars Tom Cruise, “I’m Not There” is a star text. “I’m Not There” shows us Bob Dylan as child, wonderer, outlaw, and “star”. Yet the star persona is a construction within itself, and ultimately, we will never know the real Bob Dylan. The same goes for Tom Cruise. The Tom Cruise we know is a construction of the media. This idea is extrapolated in “Vanilla Sky”, in which David Aames, (Tom Cruise’s character) gets by on his looks and only knows material wealth, just like the “star” Tom Cruise. All three films, “Vanilla Sky”, “I’m Not There”, and “Mulholland Drive” involve the theme of multiple identities. As the respective protagonists journey through different phases and “identities,” the audience is asked to travel with them and identify what is the “true identity” of the characters and question if, in fact, there is one.

After mulling over this topic, we moved on to presentations. Vivienne presented on the Jenkins article, “Quentin Tarantino’s Star Wars…” Essentially, the article discussed the dual nature of technology. At first, computers provided freedom from the media, whereas now, the media has infiltrated the Internet. Jenkins discussed two parties of fan culture: “The Prohibitionists” and “The Collaborationists”. Fan culture contains a “Grass roots movement”, in which fans create knock off/spin off media forms of their favorite movies. According to Jenkins, the media is now punishing this movement. This punishment is merely a part of the media’s complete obliteration of folk culture.
The 20th century is a re-emergence of grass roots activity with technology. We’re basically borrowing mainstream media to re-create old folk culture. The advent of digital film technology and the low cost of special effects today allows for a flourishing of amateur filmmakers.

Jenkins asserts that fan communities are relatively powerless, for they depend on authorities from mass media corporations. He cites George Lucas as an example of one of these authorities. Till this day, Star Wars has a huge fan following and an entire culture of its own. At first, Lucas appreciated the fan culture and allowed his fans’ imaginations to run wild with Star Wars dedications. Yet when “Star Wars Erotica” emerged, Lucas took authoritative action. He aimed to regulate Star Wars fan culture by limiting what fans could create and where they may exhibit their creations. Although he couldn’t completely stop fans from creating Star Wars dedications, he didn’t want fans to re-create or extend his original Star Wars universe. Although there is a tension between the creators, the media, and the fans, the creative authorities and the media need to acknowledge that they need the fans as much as the fans need them.
One student noted that a high school presented “Star Wars the Musical”. Because of its immense popularity, George Lucas sent out a “Cease and Desist” letter to the high school (a ridiculous measure in my opinion). I asked Bruno if the artist is technically allowed to put these limitations on fan culture. I imagine that once the art is released, it belongs to the world and fans can do what they want with it. Bruno noted that although one would think it doesn’t belong to the artist once released, Copyright Laws complicate the definition of ownership.

After Vivienne finished presenting, Carly presented McGowan’s article “Lost on Mulholland Drive…” McGowan analyzed the movie in psychoanalytic terms. He separated the film into two parts: part one represents fantasy and part two represents desire. He says that while watching the film, the audience is put in the place of Rita, who is suffering from amnesia. Just like Rita, the audience is in a constant state of confusion. Lynch distinctly marks when we leave part one and enter into part two. According to McGowan, fantasy is more real and controllable than “reality” is. Essentially, this film points out the roles fantasy and the movies/Hollywood play in our daily lives. Hollywood, of course, capitalizes upon fantasy.
The fantasy part of “Mulholland Drive” portrays a successful female/female relationship. Yet in the “reality” part, this relationship turns sour when Camilla decides to have a heterosexual relationship with the movie director, Adam. The first part of the film is Diane’s fantasy of her love for Camilla, and the second part is what actually happens/ “reality”, which is cued by the mysterious Blue Box. McGowan says that we can only represent the real through the imaginary, which is represented by the Blue Box in “Mulholland Drive.”

Bruno ended the recitation with a quick overview of Lacan’s Three Orders: the imaginary, the symbolic, and the real. The imaginary is where fantasy lives and the symbolic is where we live: language, signifiers, society; the “real world”. The “real” is unattainable, and only experienced through the symbolic. Freud and Lacan agree that people with mental disorders actually have a deeper understanding and richer experience of “the real”, because they are not living within the symbolic order and conditioned/trapped by “normal” society and language. Bruno’s explanation allowed us to see Lynch’s heavy use of psychoanalysis in “Mulholland Drive” and many of his other films.

Jaap’s Recitation, 4/25/12, Mulholland Drive

We opened the class with a friendly reminder from Jaap that we only have one more week until our final papers are due. Do not email them, they must be turned in, in hard-copy.

Jaap then showed us a clip from the film Super-8 by J.J. Abrams. In the clip a group of young teenagers prepares to film a a scene from their amateur movie on super-8 film stock. However, in the middle of the filming a train is run off the tracks by an oncoming flatbed truck and the kids must run for their lives as the train explodes all around them. We talked about this clip in relation to nostalgia. We noted the Irony in Spielberg’s celebration of traditional filmmaking while at the same time the film relies heavily on big-budget state-of-the-art special effects as a way to further the plot of the film. We also noted how the film seems to have a nostalgia for movie-made childhood. In other words the film yearns for the type of childhood one might find in earlier Spielberg films like E.T. or Close Encounters rather than a childhood that existed in the real world. We noted how fan-culture and cinephilia greatly expanded with the advent of digital filmmaking because this style of filmmaking made it much easier for the amateur filmmaker to shoot and edit a film without much previous experience.

Next Rob did his presentation on Jenkins article pertaining to the fan-culture surrounding the Star Wars franchise. He noted how fan culture in general changed with the oncoming of the franchise and how the advent of the internet allowed for new and more convenient means for fan culture distribution by these fan boys. He discussed Jenkins idea of folk culture and how he views fanboy participation as folk culture because it has grassroots campaigning, mass participation and a version of a barter economy.  He noted how Jenkins states that pop culture is what happens to mass culture as it is pulled back into folk culture by members of society. He noted how Jenkins feels web film is good for the budding auteur filmmaker and that Jenkins advocates participation over prohibition filmmaking in that it is better for there to be a synthesis between the media conglomerates and the amateur filmmakers rather than a block put up between the two groups.

We followed this up with a short film from the Animatrix  which is a collection of short films that are an expansion of the universe of The Matrix because the audience gets info from these films that they did not otherwise get in the original films. We noted the difference between participatory and interactive forms of entertainment.  We noted how interactivity is when new technologies are designed with a set environment that people are free to interact with but not expand upon, such as a video game. A participatory form of entertainment is like when fans make their own video based off of popular films. These fans are making up their own ideas that are completely free of a set environment that they must abide by.

Next I did my presentation on Todd McGowan’s incredibly dense article on his unique interpretation of Mulholland Drive by David Finch.  The article was pretty rough and I cannot say that I am disappointed that I don’t ever have to read it again. In the article McGowan states how he feels that fantasy is something that helps an individual find reality.  He feels that it is the traumatic collision of fantasy and desire that forces a person to come into contact with the real and that this experience basically always sucks for an individual. He states that in Mulholland Drive this moment came when Betty and Rita find Diane’s dead body in her apartment because this is when the mise-en-scene starts to become more bleak and dark and this is also when the film stops having even a casual sense of temporality. He also feels that the film is a good representation of the female fantasy because the female fantasy inevitably goes on to long after the realization of the sexual relationship, this is because fantasy can no longer be held together when desire for sexual relationship has been satisfied.  McGowan also states that Lynch is making a comment about Hollywood in general because he doesn’t feel that they take fantasy far enough.  This is because hollywood is trying to make us unaware of the fantastic elements within film, Lynch feels that you should make it obvious to the viewer, that you should reveal what is fantasy to the audience. I think. We ended the class with a discussion on what we all feel was fantasy and what was a dream in the film as well as what we thought the blue box meant. Which was obviously not a unanimously agreed upon conclusion.

Boys Don’t Cry and Female Masculinity: Reclaiming a Life & Dismantling the Politics of Normative Heterosexuality by Brenda Cooper

Right away, Cooper articulates that her essay analyzes Boys Don’t Cry (1999), directed by Kimberly Peirce, as an investigation of heteronormativity through a narrative that privileges female masculinity “in four ways:

  1. by dismantling the myth of “America’s heartland;”
  2. problematizing heteromasculinity;
  3. by centering female masculinity; and
  4. by blurring the boundaries of female masculinity

…exposing sexual heteroideology and prejudice while normalizing gender fluidity.”

Cooper says that director, Kimberly Peirce, wanted to not re-tell the “sensationalized” murder story of transsexual, Brandon Teena, but to “reclaim” why a girl would want to identity as a boy in the first place.  Cooper believes that masculinity had been recurrently researched, but never researched without the notion of men, therefore fostering society’s unchallenging male dominance and “bearer of gender stability and sexual deviance.”

Heteronormativity is culturally reinforced by the media, which depicts characters who transgress from heterosexuality, strictly male or female, as “comic, weak, or as evil,” linking these types of deviant characters with “criminality.”   Queer theorist, Judith Roof, explains “narrative heteroideology, the ways narrative and sexuality work together to create and perpetuate a heterosexual ideology in culture and media” regardless of the support of gays and lesbians from straight people.  Roof explains, it is an inherent and cyclical social issue.  Boys Don’t Cry (1999), “perhaps the only film addressing the issue of female masculinity by a self-described queer filmmaker to reach mainstream audiences and to receive critical acclaim and prestigious awards,” by highlighting female masculinity in disparity with how society and media typically depict it, within the confines of heteronormativity.

Brandon Teena was murdered in the “heartland” of America: Falls City, where family values carry “potent connotations of the heterosexual ideal.”  News coverage illustrated Teena as a threat to traditional family values, to the women, to innocent women—but most aggressively portraying him as a threat to America as a whole.  Peirce captures Falls City, not as a town rich with hard working, simple, religious folk, but rather as a dismal place with dysfunctional families, dead-end jobs, and abundant alcohol and drug use to pass the time hoping one day to escape.  In Boys Don’t Cry (1999), the characters that surround Brandon Teena are alcoholic, depressed, violent, and promiscuous, allowing Brandon to be seen against this imperfect subversive backdrop, showing his normalcy, but most effectively, his altruism and good nature.  By portraying male characters that are drunk, unemployed, violent, self-mutilators to control their temper, their heteromasculinity appears discomforting and rather threatening, problematizing the heteromasculine construct.   When Tom and John violently rape Brandon, then murder Brandon and Candace, in a rabid attempt to reclaim their masculine privilege, Cooper asserts that Peirce suggests “to spectators that Brandon is not the one who is ‘sick’: ‘[It] is male heterosexuality— culturally assumed to be a firmly entrenched, inalienable identity—that shows the greatest signs of sickness and is in dire need of reconfiguration,” making heterosexuality rather than transgressive sexuality, seem strange and in need of analysis.

When Lana favors Brandon over John and Tom, it is clear that though Brandon is working hard to adopt masculine codes of conduct from the men, he is also connecting with his inner masculinity.  Biologically female, Brandon imparts his innate sensitivity and qualities that women dream of in men; with his female masculinity, he becomes the perfect boyfriend.

The scenes in which Brandon is admiring his sexual identity as a man in the mirror, performing his sexual identity, we are invited to join in celebration.  The film’s thematic inclination is in support of self-identity over anatomical biology, so when Brandon’s transgressive sexuality is questioned, we feel just as confused as Brandon, and do not relate to the confounded expression of the people questioning him.  “By framing Brandon’s gender performance as an example of legitimate female expressions of masculinity, the narratives of Boys Don’t Cry throw into question the privileged sexual definitions of what constitutes ‘normal’ masculinity and sexuality.  In so doing, the film ‘queers the center’ of normative heterosexuality by ‘centering the queer’ in the narrative,” causing us to view everyone as transsexual, and transsexual not as subversive but as yet another shade of grey.  When Lana calls Brandon a girl at the end of the movie, it is a narrative strategy to remind us that gender issues, though able to be reconfigured, are indeed unresolved, despite the film.

 

RECUPERATION REPRESENATION AND RESISTENCE BLACK CINEMA THROUGH THE 1980S

The article frames Hollywood cinema as a closed system, in which black people are not only portrayed in a manner that is stereotypical, dehumanizing, two dimensional, but also exploited professionally while victimized by the parameters of a Caucasian-centric industry and national culture. “The rise of this ideologically conservative cycle of production came to be known as the cinema of recuperation,” in which Black people were portrayed as stereotypical caricatures subtly “refashioned and resurfaced” in Hollywood films for three consecutive decades beginning in the late 1960s. 

“Blaxploition” or “black exploitation” began with the films: Rocky (1976), “which featured an implied racial contest and the triumph of the ethnic white working class”, and Star Wars (1977), “with a white versus black allegory that celebrated the recovery of a patriarchy and a technological militarism,” as two pivotal box-office successes of the 1970s. 

While the 1980s experienced a rather contradictory occurrence for black cinema: when Eddie Murphy entered the scene, as Hollywood’s most popular black actor and ticket selling enticement for white America.  Eddie Murphy also provided a source of racial and class tension in the films he starred.  His blackness confronted the issue of “white exclusion, but not so far as commenting on white domination or [white] privilege.”  And though he became a box-office smash, the disadvantage of “such a one-dimensional blackness is reduced to the white environment.” Murphy’s over-abundant sex drive in 48 Hrs. (1982), and for example, the depiction of the black characters in Spielberg’s The Color Purple (1985) as sexual Neanderthals like bullies, not to mention, the black woman throughout dominant cinema, as a representation of the oversexed, or “even the sexually indeterminate construction of Whoopi Goldberg’s character,” prove this point of one-dimensionally written black characters.  America’s attraction to Murphy however, is due to “his paradoxical-positioning at the top of the ever-shifting entertainment business while raising the contradictions of America’s ongoing, mostly repressed, discourse on race,” while the Reaganite 1980s still could not dwell on challenging issues of social inequality, and most unquestionably: applied social revolution.

Only eight movies actually had blacks in starring roles out of the hundred plus films produced in 1982.  What was just as disappointing and illuminating, out of the hundred plus films, not one featured even one black woman.  “By 1983, frustration had built to the point that the two black members on the Screen Actor’s Guild Wages and Working Conditions Committee quit in protest of the guild’s refusal even to consider a minority hiring system based on fixed numerical goals.”  For better or for worse, consequentially, the 1980s witnessed a huge resurfacing of cinematic imagery from Hollywood’s pre-civil rights past, surmounting to a cinematic style of “appropriation and representation of African Americans that might be best described as neominstrelsy.”  Black music was appropriated as well for the purpose of cinematic exoticism.    

Interestingly, Hollywood’s cinema of recuperation paradoxically corresponded with the country’s broader social efforts to reinvigorate America’s ever-hopeful ideologies, historically derived from the nation’s founding principles and self-determination for the pursuit of happiness, liberty, and justice for all.   But, dominant cinema nevertheless maintained its “narrative formulas, images, and strategies of containment,” repressing and devaluing African Americans through cinematic representation until the end of the 1980s.   

 Because Directors Robert Altman, Stanly Kubrick, and Arthur Penn, “re-established [this] thematically and formally conservative, linear, illusionist style called the cinema of recuperation,” Hollywood’s effect on the film industry caused its return to producing big-budget films that could not allot for a reconfiguration of the black image.  To blame the film industry however, would be a misinformed judgment, as the people of Hollywood had no choice but to conservatively respond to the racial climate in America at the time.  On the other hand, continuously fostering this racist reality by creating films that portrayed black people inaccurately, it’s difficult to discern which came first: the chicken or the egg, as media is an extremely powerful social agent and catalyst.  Most Hollywood corporations had been “absorbed into mega-media conglomerates with diversified media interests,” to the point that filmmaking lost sight of its artistic reasoning, and the industry saw cinema as an investment for a refined product, essentially manufactured to compete in the augmenting “media-integrated, global, mass entertainment market.”

American culture no longer accepted from Hollywood the broad scope of experimental and countercultural films as a way of stimulating the nation with progressive and alternative ideas and images.

The subtlest yet most popular form of subjugation black people underwent during cinema of recuperation was what the article calls “biracial buddy films of the 1980s.” The appeal for the film industry was profit.  Black people playing sidekicks provide white viewers non-threatening comfort: “these alien, exotic, noncompetitive, desexualized contrasts to the reigning ‘norm’ of whiteness.”

 Three decades saw relentless protest that did not yield positive results for African Americans in the industry.  Due to a perceptive interpretation of American culture, Hollywood concluded its most profitable means to proceed were “in ignoring the demands of minorities for fair representation and rebuilding its older practices and paradigms.”  When it cost on average between twelve and fifteen million dollars to produce a feature film—expecting three time the amount put down in order to procure a profit—it’s strategically economic to understand to the concern for “social justice or the sensitive depiction of marginalized communities” could not have been a priority to the blooming mega-billion dollar industry.

If Hollywood did anything “right,” the article churns, it was the industry’s “blatantly racist, sexist, and homophobic practices” that helped foster the “Blaxploitation boom… helping shape a politically self-conscious critical black audience aware of its commercial power and hungry for new cinematic representations of a diverse range of African American subjects and issues on the big screen.”  As Carol Cooper bluntly puts it, “no collective unconscious in the world has been as comprehensively shat upon as that of the black American.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jaap’s Recitation 12:30 4/25

Jaap opened class with a few final reminders for Final Papers. Papers are due in hard copy by Friday, May 4, at 5PM and can be turned in to Jaap’s mailbox in the Cinema Studies department. Papers can be turned in early at either lecture or recitation.

Next, we watched a clip from J.J. Abrams’s Super 8, which opened our discussion of fan culture. Considering the use of technology and nostalgia in the flim, we discussed the function of Abrams’s homage to Spielberg (specifically Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T.: Extraterrestrial). The clip is marked by the tensions and paradoxes of both technology and nostalgia. We discussed how technologies old and new are represented in the clip as the young filmmakers of Super 8 try to make an amateur, “old-fashioned” movie, they are abruptly interrupted by the oncoming train and subsequent accident, a special effects-laden sequence. Nostalgia plays into the clip in many ways. For one, the film is set in the 1970s and revolves around a group of children. Most importantly, the film exemplifies Abrams’s nostalgia for “Smalltown, U.S.A.” as Spielberg showed it in his films. Lastly, Jaap had us consider how fan culture plays into the premise and production of Super 8. Abrams made the film as a far-reaching result of his own experience with fan culture for Spielberg. Furthermore, the kids themselves are a part of fan culture, trying to mimic movies and filmmakers.

Denzel and I presented on Henry Jenkins’s article, “Quentin Tarantino’s Star Wars”, a discussion of fan culture and its role in the internet era. Apart from the heavily detailed analysis of the Star Wars film in which Jenkins’s frames his argument, the article is concerned with the relationship between films’ avid fan bases and the corporate control exercised by studios and production companies. Jenkins considers interactivity and participation, his two categories of fan activity with the films they love. Interactivity allows fans more freedom and creative control, where participation exists entirely within the framework set by the film and its production. Next, Jenkins considered what he called the “prohibitionists” and the “collaborationists”, dividing those fans that would reject more controlled fan spaces from those whose interaction with the films would be encouraged and sought out to improve the source material. Jenkins ultimately makes his case for a dialectic between corporate power and the fans, considering a synthesis of the efforts of each.

To continue our examination of a collaborative fan culture, Jaap introduced us to The Animatrix, a series of short animated films set within the “universe” set forth in the first installment of The Matrix series. The Animatrix is a significant example of this type of fan filmmaking because it adds to the viewer/consumer’s overall understanding of The Matrix and its universe. We determined that The Animatrix, as well as the video game Enter the Matrix, is ultimately intended for audience participation, not interactivity.

Lastly, David presented on Tom McGowan’s “Left on Mulholland Dr.”. In the article, McGowan tries to present his own theory on the meaning of the film. David attempted to translate those ideas to class, but even McGowan’s theories are dense.

Jaap closed class with a few questions about Mulholland Dr., fully acknowledging its role as a “film that requires multiple readings”.

Role Theory, Star Wars The Musical and More: Bruno’s 2PM Recitation

Hello everyone. Today, perspicacious Alex Greenberger gave a good summary of our recitation and more (his analysis of/love letter to Mulholland Drive is quite phenomenal, please read it). Therefore, rather than waste your time and rehash everything, I’ll bring up specific topics and use them as framework for discussion topics that I want your input on (yes, you who aren’t even in my recitation, I’m talking to you too). I’d recommend that you read Alex’s post first.

First, Hayne’s “I’m Not There.” Hayne’s film is particularly interesting in light of postmodernism and the idea that one constructs their identity, that the same person can have multiple identities. Indeed, the now-omnipresent catchphrase “The Social Construction of Reality” was coined by the sociologist Peter Berger who also came up with the concept of Role Theory. The basic premise of Role Theory is that we adapt to multiple different roles depending on what sort of social situation we are in. A businesswoman would not talk the same way to a client as to her daughter, for instance. Do you buy this theory? Do you see yourself adapting to different roles as situations require them? Does/did Bob Dylan adapt to different roles, or is Haynes playing with our own different perceptions of a celebrity?

I think the concept of Role Theory is also particularly interesting in the context of Mulholland Drive because during the first part of the film it would appear that everyone is acting (somewhat cheesily, I may add) in their specific roles according to Diane’s fantasy. One of my favorite things about the McGowan article is how insightfully he enlightens the ways every “role” in the first part of the film is crafted to appeal to Diane’s desires and wishes. I like Alex’s claim that “[Diane] has dreamed up a movie, one in which she has even edited the whole thing by herself, and one in which creativity goes unbridled.” And, in a sense, Role Theory assumes that we write ourselves roles in our own “films” due to social expectations. This is an interesting idea, one that I will get at a bit more in a second.

First, Vivian and the Jenkins text.  Jenkins is writing all about the tensions and (occasional) harmonies between media studios and their fans. One of my personal favorite examples of this tension is Star Wars: The Musical. Seriously, skip to the 4 minutes mark in this video and watch my favorite song from the whole show. I’m really jealous that I didn’t get to do this in high school.

Anyway, this piece of brilliance was written by a couple of high school kids who ended up creating a school show so popular that they received a “cease and desist” letter from George Lucas. This is ironic, considering the fact that I bet this musical made a bunch of people actually want to watch Star Wars. That, at least, would probably be Jenkins’s argument. Do you all have any stories about how you’ve appropriated or examined a world through film, costume, or fan fiction? Do you find copyrights on fan fiction as dumb and repulsive as myself?

Next, Carly and the McGowan essay. I have never read Lacan, which made me feel like I was grasping for the source text, but I found it fascinating and Carly did a pretty good job going through it considering the density and difficulty of the essay. I like Alex’s commentary on Hollywood, and I think it’s accurate, but I also give McGowan a lot of credit for showing how Lynch keeps desire and fantasy separate. Fantasy, as Lynch shows, is used when we create narrative coherence out of our lives. Without fantasy, we are stuck in the world of a desire that can never be fulfilled. Without fantasy, the Other is truly and frighteningly evasive.

For example, have you ever had a crush on someone? Yes, you have. When you have a crush on someone you desire to be with them and this desire almost instantly leads you to fantasize about the two of you being together. You imagine that you can control the Other and hope that things will work out in your favor. Well, without fantasy, you are left with simply desiring something that is completely unobtainable (at least, as far as you can know or control). What a sad, terrible place to be. By dividing desire from fantasy, Lynch shows how the true nightmare is to desire without the aid of fantasy. You’re left crying and masturbating in vain without resolution like Diane. Yikes.

Yet the greatest point of tragedy occurs when these separate spheres converge at the Silencio. How sad is it that the woman singing is an illusion! How sad is it that the narrative we find transcendent and moving is an illusion! Like Betty and Rita, we fall into the trance while we simultaneously know that it’s a lie. I can hardly think of a scene in film with such incredible longing and a scene that works as such an effective love/hate-letter to Hollywood and film itself.

Yet Mulholland Drive, with its unbridled fantasy, is filled with scenes of comparable power. It has the scariest jump scene I’ve ever experienced in cinema (somehow the juxtaposition of the “Bear Man” as my friends lovingly call him and California afternoon is far more frightening than most horror films), the most hilarious cameo (Billy Ray? Really?), one of the greatest rigged shots (the 50s music scene Alex mentioned), and it is in general arguably the most tightly wound non-narrative film ever. Newcomers and oldcomers alike, what did you think about Mulholland Drive? How did it affect you? I have some friends who riffed on it the first time they saw it, so be honest if you didn’t like it. I would, however, really encourage you to watch it again.

That’s all from me!