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.