Critical Analysis is really going to be uncritical analysis concerning what we are going to be learning about, as it’s not really going to be from the point of view of the composer that we are going to consider, but the other guys.
Out of the reading material that you have it looks as if Beyond the Soundtrack will be most beneficial.
Film’s narrative is really quite beyond the unities known to Aristotle: Time, Place and Action. They were ideals of the time back then, but nowadays things like narration are kind of unnecessary - considering the choice of direction and the bias that it creates is the stories’ driving force. The drama used to be constructed to work by itself, and now with film it really is quite the opposite.
The diegesis has of course many diegetic and non-diegetic sounds. Many, many films though of course have sounds that appear to be non-diegetic and turn out to be non-diegetic and vice a versa (we’ve learnt all of this before). Spoofs have this a lot. To briefly recap, there are four basic types of sound in film
The Basic Four Types of Sound in Film
Synchronous non diegetic:
Asynchronous non diegetic:
There are also more advanced uses of all of the above that are partially listed below.
More advanced types of Sound
Displaced diegetic is a mixture of the above that has an anchoring in the diegesis but is used to score other scenes. You could say that any film that has music that seems to be scoring the scene but turns out to be diegetic is this. There are many examples, but Boogie Nights, Natural Born Killers, Rango, Eyes Wide Shut, Milk, The Curse of the Wererabbit, Sweet Sixteen all have it. It’s a good thing to use as well, but people of course have to understand why they’re using it. With Eyes Wide Shut it is being used to illustrate the fact that there are many characters who give false impressions out to you, just like the film does with its use of music. Natural Born Killers uses it in a way that makes the film maker - Oliver Stone - seem virtuosic in his use of music, but it doesn’t really serve any purpose other than that, and it isn’t entirely clear if it is or not. Boogie Nights uses it in the beginning one shot section where it turns out that the music has been playing in the club the whole time, but we’ve been able to hear it. Rango uses it in a similar way to The Curse of the Wererabbit and Blazing Saddles where we hear the music offscreen and our attention is subsequently brought to the diegetic source of the music.
Another form of this is when a metalepsis is created in Octopussy where James Bond hears the Bond theme tune played by a snake hypnotist and seems to recognise it. It is a kind of inception as Bond cannot possibly recognise his own theme tune in his diegesis. It’s an illusion breaker that’s similar to The Matrix, a de ja vu in his diegesis. But this is one of the joys of fiction that we all like to relish in from time to time.
However, having said all this, saying how much music is diegetic - etc - does not really say anything about the music itself, and why it is being used. One very good example of non-diegetic music that is semiotivally evocative is Platoon. Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings is used at the end sequence with the dedication to the Vietnam soldiers because the music has been used in so many public funerals: Einstein, JFK, Grace Kelly, etc. It connotes that the men who died in the war of Vietnam/war of America is that those men who died there are worthy of the same position and treatment as those greats who I’ve just listed.
A more common use of non-diegetic music though is the most obvious use, and that is to depict what a persons’ thought process is. So many examples, but here’s a good hypothetical one (it’s in a film but I can’t remember which). A native indian living in modern America sees an authentic indian head dress. He stares at it. What does the music do at this point? This is the key thing.
Sometimes there are unlikely coincidences in diegetic music, such as in Little Voice when the main character is listening to Get Up by [needs to be confirmed]. She is then told to physically get up in the diegesis by another character. It should have been a sign that she should have seen.
Another note about displaced diegetic music is that it can be used as a very long sound bridge to the source of the music. There are most likely very many examples.
Milk uses diegetic music that becomes asynchronous as it scores the rest of a scene that spans many years. But this particular use of synchronous to asynchronous diegetic music can be called/is called dediegetisation of music. Very clever stuff that totally makes sense. However, having said this, there are films such as Love Actually where the music does become dediegetisised, but that does not leave the diegesis, in fact it stays in the mind of a character. In this case it is Hugh Grant’s character. The music dediegesises and envelopes the scene. Bordwell calls this internal diegetic but it is really more commonly known as meta diegetic, probably by Pam Cook and Jenet. The story becomes one within another story. Novels have the same thing when they have a characters’ inner voice come out under a narrators’ voice. The meta diegetic is taken to a whole new level in Singing in the Rain and in The Itchy and Scratchy Show in The Simpsons. A show within a show basically. Is there something similar with Animaniacs?
The film Happiness has very semiotic music being used when Philip Seymore Hoffman’s character tries to get some number for sex/phone sex. Mozart’s music [exact track needed] comes in - in the mind of Philip as it turns out - even though the connotations of the music are of love and marriage. Quite the juxtaposition, don’t you think?
Anyway, that will probably be enough food for thought there for one week. Until the next one.
Preface: In order to understand subject material better, I thought it best to put it into a story. Here is a story based off the information found in the first part of the first chapter of The Rest is Noise by Alex Ross.
The story of Strauss, Mahler, and the Fin de Siècle – by Laurence Bush, based on the book The Rest is Noise by Alex Ross.
It took me a long time and many hours of conversing with the local people, but I finally got a ticket to see Salome on May 16, 1906 in Graz. I had heard so much of this piece composed by Strauss from my contemporaries - who had seen it five months earlier in Dresden. How bad they made me feel for having such little Clairvoyance as to what was happening in the modern world of music. It was imperative that I see this piece, as I’d heard of its ‘ultra dissonant biblical spectacle’ and its ‘depiction of adolescent lust’ that had to be censored by the authorities. A colleague of mine - an erudite of music – told me the ever-illusive Gustav Mahler would be there along with his hoard of ambitious elitist students. This high society made me sick to the bone, and I felt a fever come over my degrading body. I had spent many days shut away in the furthest boiler room at the Graz mental institution for fear that I would be disturbed in my etudes with my stolen literature. I had only deep greens and potatoes for food and the stench of my fetid faeces was rife. The confused and scared caretaker took leave for the weekend early so as to leave the mess I had created to the new and mentally challenged caretaker boy who was starting on Monday. This gave me two days of homelessness where I would most likely forget the information I had learned from having to beg for spare change on the streets.
Wednesday came, and I saw Arnold Schoenberg arrive at the station having come from Vienna. His eyes leered at me for only a second, but I could tell that his sharp mind knew who I was. His verbiage with his younger associate consisted mainly of how the glory of the evening’s piece would reflect on their great and prestigious town - Vienna. I knew better. I grabbed my blank score and followed them as they went on their way, pencil in hand, eyes sharp, and belly rumbling. I dipped my hat and slowed my pace behind other beggars keeping a narrow range of distance from the group. As a gaggle of schoolgirls on the other side of the road distracted the party I made my move and pick-pocketed a score from one of the associated academics. I shuffled into a near by alley and poured over the score over a pile of rustic bricks. To my dismay it was the vocal score only, but not to worry, I would have to suspend my learning and use what I had at hand. I had planned to copy the entirety of the score – a feat I had yet to accomplish – by evening so as to quietly secure the copy with its owner that I’d stolen from by the evening’s perceived enjoyment.
Not long after I’d finished I had become dubious on the work. In all its complexity and shifts in mood the work stood out as a misnomer in Strauss’s repertoire. The flamboyant fanfare so familiar of Strauss was absent and had been replaced with polyphony of tonal colour and a consistent change of mood. I was flabbergasted with such a red-blooded and arrogant approach. My mind was swelling. How could my fellow intellectuals hold this piece to such a high regard? I swiftly folded the piece I had transcribed in its entirety and stuck down the back of my braced trousers. I walked down the street with a hobbling sensation, anxious to get to the Opera house before the show got underway.
I arrived promptly and hastily made my way to the top of the packed and heaving theatre. My odorous smell cleared a path to my seat situated at the back. I uttered a word to no one and slouched into my chair. I glazed over the crowd to see if I could pick up the enterprising youths I had so callously thieved from earlier. My eye caught the well-dressed Alban Berg and from the look of the back of his head it was clear that I had targeted him in the incident involving the schoolgirls. I laid my coat on my seat and headed straight for his row down the front.
As I hobbled closer to his whereabouts I saw an opening and made a lunge for a woman sitting behind him. I shouted at her as if she were my darling and hauled my way over the party of pompous sophisticates. Much attention was drawn, but it was necessary. Many drinks were spilled, but in the cacophony of events I had a stab with the score at Alban’s chair and managed to slide it in between the chair and his back. After feigning an apology to the resident audience and lady I whisked my way back up to the balcony. A silence was called just as I sat down and the show began.
The great Strauss slowly made his way on stage to a riotous applause whilst the orchestra clapped in submissive diffidence. The airy conductor’s baton rose and a bow from the great man followed. A unanimous tear was shed at that moment, a tear that I did not share, for a man perceived to be so great made me feel decadent so much so that I had only spite for him. As the mutual feeling of anticipation grew in and amongst the audience and orchestra Strauss signalled for tranquillity. He prepared his body and he suddenly became completely focused – his eyes shut. He extended his arm and a flurry from clarinet began the charade of voice and orchestra. No doubt the ‘musical devil’ of harmony was audible in that beginning ascent. My eyebrows rose at many passages, and my eyes tentatively darted between singer and score as the piece progressed, but the more I heard the more I felt left behind. These peoples’ attitudes were now more so of idolized worship than of jovial mood, applause and harmless chitchat were kept to a bare minimum. Strauss had the audience blinded by his charm and his charisma, but I was not fooled. He may have thought this piece through to be thought provoking, original and unauthentic, but it came out as baffling to my conservative mind. The appetiser of the score already obsessed me, so I bade my time ‘til the interval.
As the interval kicked off with a favourable uproar I hurried for the stage. Score in hand I tipped my hat and sniffed loudly at the doorman. He allowed me to scuttle past him without uttering a question as to where I intended to go. A few minutes later and I was bartering with a viola player who sat back row on how much he would take in cash for a quick look at the score. I began with his recommendation with what he thought the score was worth – mere tuppence – but I prevailed and won it at less than a tenth of the price I initially thought. It turned out that the score was only for the viola part and not the orchestra. Angered at having wasted my precious time I instantaneously enforced a second rendezvous and demanded the full score. The reply I got was disheartening, as it meant either getting the full score from Strauss himself or approach the illusive Gustav Mahler for his copy. The viola player suggested that I bribe a player from each section in the orchestra, but I dismissed his advice as risky folly. I briskly ushered him out of the room and prepared my exit before the second half began. As I made my way passed the bustling crowd it was clear to me that Gustav Mahler be the one who lends me a copy of the score. I sat through the second half glancing around at the audience’s range of expressions. Some were infatuated, some were whispering with gentle lisps so as not to be heard, and some’s eyes were glazing around the audience also. Before the piece finished I thought to end this dreadful cycle, and plummeted myself regrettably to the lobby with my own audience of bewildered stares. I hung around waiting for the end making eye contact with the front-of-house briefly and intermittently. The piece came to an end, and the audience loved it; I could not believe it, I had failed myself. My obvious decadence was too much to bear, so I hid my face from the crowd as they came flouncing out. I stumbled through them to get to the stage where the orchestra were packing away their gubbins. Strauss had left the stage, and Mahler was nowhere to be seen. Quickly I made my way backstage asking for either man. I was greeted by shocked expressions from the players as to where my congratulations were, but then they saw my porous face and greasy hair. I made my way to Strauss’s room with each direction I received, and preceded to find it unoccupied. I infiltrated the room and searched carefully. Under his conductor’s jacket was where I found the said article. I had only enough time to take a breath and fumble the score before I heard concerned voices. I peered around the room that resembled a large canal cabin and spotted a cupboard under a desk. I opened it up and scrambled on top of some stored wooden stools. Perching my body on two seats I heard many footsteps enter the room. ‘I saw him go in here’ said a voice amidst the distressed chatter. For five minutes and even a door-swing of my cupboard later the two men remained. From then on they sat down and conversed. ‘I could have conducted your score… You said Let ‘em wait… They couldn’t start without me… It is like you are at the opposite side of a mountain from me, one day we shall meet… The Kaiser is sure to like this piece… The Kaiser will not accept your piece… You are supposed to be backward because you are from Munich!’ Their collective voice carried on until all that was left were they. It was obvious that I would not get out until much later. So biting my bottom lip I waited for the men to leave. Mahler gave his thanks to Strauss and congratulated him with a firm handshake and a slapping hug. Strauss looked for under his clothes and behind his mirror for the score, and then left, locking the door behind him.
I gave it twelve or fifteen minutes before I plucked up the courage to slide smoothly out of the cupboard. The room was pitch dark, and I needed to write copy the score before morning. Fumbling around the room I felt nothing of use, only instrument cases, furniture, and a felted chandelier. Then, I felt the baton Strauss had used in the performance. I snapped the tip off, found a violin case and retrieved the bow. I made sure the bow hair had a little slack, twisted the baton around the horse hair only once, ripped the felt off the chandelier that I then clawed into little pieces, and proceeded to assemble said pieces around the new tip of the baton on the table. With a bit of forward and back motion on the bow whilst keeping the tip steady I had made cinders on the wooden table. I blew them and made a small fire. After lighting the candles in the room I put the fire out with the violin case. Over the entire course of the night I transcribed the score Salome.
Morning came and news of a break in and a found-but-thought-to-be-lost score came to light. I returned to the streets. The next day I saw with squinted eyes at the train station the academics that had come in search of a bounty in musical knowledge. They sure knew something that I did not, for they seemed pleased and praised their Salome scores publicly to one another. My heart sunk, and my guilt of past debauchery in the music of the populace grew. You will hear me one day Strauss, you will hear me.
Choose a piece of music, which is in some way related to one or more other pieces. After a brief introduction, contextualizing the piece, present an analysis of the music, outlining its main features, tracing their relationship to these other pieces and offering a more detailed discussion of those features of the music, which you find particularly interesting. You may find it useful to include music examples and diagrammatic representations of the music’s structure. It is recommended that you discuss your choice of music with one of the modules tutors. Ralph Vaughan Williams was born in 1872, and had a fairly typically upper-middle-class background. He was educated at Charterhouse and Cambridge, but also spent two years at the Royal College of Music, where he studied under Parry and became friends with Gustav Holst. The pair shared many enthusiasms, including collecting folksongs. He became passionate about folksongs and grew to believe they were under-rated and should be regarded as part of the English heritage. Vaughan Williams’s Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis was first performed in Gloucester Cathedral at the Three-Choirs festival in 1910. “[The] masterpiece made comparatively little stir at its first performance and was not immediately seized upon by orchestras. A few people … . realized the beauty of the new work, … . its gravity and strength reflecting the same qualities in the black-haired, handsome giant who was conducting his own music. The Musical Times critic complained that the Fantasia, in which he curiously found the quality of ‘charm’, was ‘over-long for the subject-matter” (Kennedy, 1992, p.92). In the 21st Century, the work has been heeded as “a national treasure.” “It seems to stand for something very particular in this country’s national consciousness” (BBC, Discovering Music). What will be discussed is why Vaughan Williams wanted to use Tallis’s hymn, “Why fum’th in fight the Gentiles Spite”, as his theme and what contextual meanings it created at the time. The Death of the Author by Roland Barthes argues that the role of the artist in the 20th Century changed to have more of a collective voice an individual one. Vaughan Williams understood this at the beginning of the Century, “‘Why should music be “original”? … . It does not matter if this word has been said a thousand times before as long as it is the right thing to say at that moment” (Music in the Western World, p.450). Vaughan Williams’s use of Tallis’s material shows that it holds a lot of value to him as a composer. Tallis was, along with Byrd, the most well paid composer of his time in 16th Century England, as he worked directly for Kings and Queens. Having this theme as the main focus of the Tallis Fantasia was Vaughan Williams trying to show that the English were not educated in their heritage of their music. “He [Vaughan Williams] was painfully conscious of the illiteracy of much of English musical life” (Kennedy, 1992, p. 37). A critic of the Gloucester Journal having seen the first performance of the Fantasia stated, “‘We confess,’ … . ‘that the “theme” on which the Fantasia is founded is not familiar to us,” (Kennedy, 1992, p.94). This lack of knowledge frustrated Vaughan Williams no end. Vaughan Williams said himself, “The new generations just did not take the trouble to learn the tunes [folksongs]… . Already by 1907 many of the folk singers who had provided Sharp [folksong collector] with his songs were dead.” (Kennedy, 1992, p.25) Vaughan Williams’s frustration may have had something to do with the fact that Germany had wiped out all English Classical composers ever since Handel moved over from Germany to compose in England (Artists, writers, and musicians, Brothers, 2001, p.83). Vaughan Williams wanted English composers to give England musical value that would add to its heritage, “‘Art, like charity, should begin at home. If it is to be of any value it must grow out of the very life of himself, [the artist] the community in which he lives, the nation to which he belongs.’” (Who wants the English composer?, 1912, p.11-14). Even though the theme of the piece is by a composer who lived and worked for the established church all of his life during the Roman-Catholic and Protestant years of Henry the VIII, Edward VI, Mary Queen of Scots and Elizabeth I, it is not wholly inspired by church music, for Vaughan Williams’s specialty was English folksong. His English Folk Song Suite, his Six English Folk Songs all take their source material from old English folksongs that he had set about collecting in 1903 (Kennedy, 1992, p.29) since he was afraid that the folk songs would be forgotten forever, “Every day some old village singer dies, and with him there probably die hold a dozen beautiful melodies which are lost to the world for ever” (Kennedy, 1992, p.36). Vaughan Williamss uses strings alone to in this piece to communicate a natural, forest like timbre. This is because Thomas Tallis grew up in a far more rural Britain, compared to the one in which Vaughan Williams lived in that had been through the industrial revolution. The G major chord that begins the piece reverberates within the instruments’ strings because every instrument in the orchestra has a string that is tuned to either G, or D. It is only worth two beats, but it helps set the scene for the subtle entrances of the theme that come in bar four in pizzicato. Bar three begins with the first and second violins playing two Ds an octave apart, high in their tessitura, and very quietly to give the fragments of the hymn, that are played in the violas, ‘celli and double basses, a bleak and suspenseful quality. The motif that is played pizzicato is the first phrase of the hymn, “Why fum’th fight the gentiles spite”, is changed in this new orchestral context. Originally, in the 16th Century, its austerity broadcasted to audiences and singers a protection in the form of Protestant Queen Elizabeth the first from an imminent threat, Catholic Spain. In The Tallis Fantasia, the minor tune, and later becoming the a Phrygian tune due to the addition of the minor second in the scale, heavily differentiates itself from the original’s vigorous homophonic bellowing religious texture. The next segment of the original hymn comes two bars after rehearsal mark A in the first violins and second violins. This is from the hymn where the lyrics are “The Kings Arise”. Vaughan Williams has thus already stated two sections of the hymn before it has even come into full existence, which it promptly does a bar and a half after the Largarmente. The theme quietly enters in the violas, celli and basses. Vaughan Williams’s instrumentation is key here. The pastel and harmonically open tremolo violins above it give the theme a calm and refreshing, yet sorrowful essence. There is also no grounding bass line to give the theme any security, except the occasional pizzicato. This gives the simple yet sad tune a searching quality, a quality that the original hymn certainly has not. One similarity between the two works is that all of the parts play together in homophony, albeit the first violins in the Tallis Fantasia. This supplies both pieces with a sound of musical unity. Vaughan Williams knew how to compose for strings and how the versatility of stringed instruments allows different colours to be composed. For example, he instructs the basses to play pizzicato. This furnishes the celli and the viola’s notes with a staccato attack on top of their flowing legato phrasing. This rhythm of staccatos is not identically matched to that of the theme. One could be subjective and say that the pizzicato notes are rhythmically similar to that of a heartbeat, especially in the first four bars that they are heard. This heartbeat sound should have a calming effect its because the rhythm in the double basses is very natural and slow. Subconsciously, this would cause the human to sync their heartbeat to it. Whether Vaughan Williams knew about this is unknown. The first violins build on their shimmering and delicate timbre throughout the statement of the theme, but seven bars before rehearsal mark C, they prepare the audience’s ears with a sentimental legato rise of “The Kings arise” that lasts just one bar before they descend back into the background and return to play tremolo. They take the foreground three bars later and four bars before rehearsal mark C with the descending form of the “The Kings arise”, which is “Against the Lord”. This is the first time this part of the hymn is heard in the Tallis Fantasia, and since the first violins played the pitch-retrograde form of it, that is “The Kings Arise”, it seems very appropriate for Vaughan Williams to orchestrate it for the first violins. Vaughan Williams ends the phrase by ending on G major at rehearsal mark C. Here, the first violins start to transcend upwards searching for, what looks to be (in the score), the initial resonant G major chord from the first bar. Both violin sections rise up, but land on a B flat instead of a B natural. This prevents the music’s from achieving the same awe that shone at the beginning. But it also has increased the energy of the timbre and the theme is restated with more impetuous, and, one could say, even more desolation than before because of this. The second violins drive the piece steadily with their ascending and descending semi-quavers of G minor and other minor arpeggios a fifth apart. The theme is now played in the high register, and thus, in a different voice than that the viola, celli and basses had created. Vaughan Williams brings in a new voice by having the theme played by the first and second violins. This gives the sense that the feeling of despair is a collective despair, rather than a typically romantic and individual despair that a Romantic composer would have written. It also reflects that Vaughan Williams was a modern composer, in the fact that he did not want his music to sound individual, unlike many other romantics before him. At rehearsal mark E, the music procrastinates its resolution by modulating to increasingly unrelated keys until it finally settles in F sharp major. The ‘a tempo’ mark four bars before rehearsal mark F sees the first account of the splitting of the double string orchestra in tutti and soli sections. The soli play fragments of the Tallis theme homophonically, starkly contrasting itself from the next section, section J. Section J sees the first and strongest influence of folksong in Tallis Fantasia. Vaughan Williams prepares it with a folksong like tune from a solo viola that respires with the orchestra so that it feels less alien to the orchestral texture. The next instrument that breathes the air of the folksong is a solo first violin. It is then joined by the solo viola and then later a string quartet. Both solo viola and violin play a recognized and developed version of the original Tallis hymn, but this time, it has been imbued with triplets and quavers. This puts the listener in a completely new world compared to the one that Vaughan Williams initially created. The first beat of the bar is also made very ambiguous by entrances of the instruments of the string quartet to be on other beats of the bar, rather than the first one. Each of the quartet’s roles is also very vague. This gives the listener the sense that the piece is being improvised in front of them, when it actually has been meticulously written out. This improvisational element is very typical of folksong. The solo cello at rehearsal mark K is an example of the faux-spontaneity of this section. It has a motif that ascends quickly and then descends in triplet time. This figure last four beats, but the time signature is in three/four at this point, rather than four/four. It is not unique to the cello though, as it is an imitation of a motif that the viola has two bars before rehearsal mark K. This echoing is not exclusive to newly joined instruments in this section though. When the viola comes in five bars before K, the solo violin imitates its material a third above a beat later. This free and unconstrained polyphony that Vaughan Williams produces differs so greatly from the previous music in the piece, and especially from the original Tallis hymn tune. He is laying down another culture, the rural folksong culture. “[Vaughan Williams] ‘we simply were fascinated by the tunes and wanted other people to be fascinated too.”(Kennedy, 1992, p.38) The sound of spontaneity, along with the natural sounds of strings, together with the simplicity of the musical material, and with the implied environment of a small gathering of folk musicians, conveys charming rural England. In 1910, the rural English culture was in danger of becoming extinct and forgotten by the industrialized English city people. The splitting of the orchestra into different sections was unusual at the time for composers. But without a doubt, Vaughan Williams creates a very effective sound with it. The ‘Malto Adagio’ section at rehearsal mark T starts with a texture that is almost the same as the texture at the very beginning of the piece. The chord is spread across the range of the orchestra, and the fragments of the hymn are plucked in pizzicato in the violas, celli and double basses. The harmony and dynamics though are totally different and it has become far more ominous than at the beginning with that vast G major chord. The chords shift chromatically downwards and dynamically descend as if some unknown presence looms and presents a threat. The beginnings of the hymn are slowly stated until we land on a low F minor chord where the hymn is silently plucked out. Rehearsal mark U sees the theme come back in its original form in a solo violin. The accompaniment is made up of quiet and shimmering strings with pizzicato on the first beats of most bars to keep the sense of rhythm. There is also a solo viola that initially imitates the solo violin in canon a bar later. But as the theme comes in the solo violin, it plays a folksong like backing. The folksong inspired viola makes use of triplets in and amongst quavers and semi-quavers that when paired with a sturdy hymn tune produces a taste almost as if wine and beer have been mixed together. The continuous search that Tallis Fantasia goes through finally comes to a gradual end. Ending the piece is a G major chord that resonates across the double string orchestra. But its sound is empty and full of regret. In preparation, Vaughan Williams brings the music to the home key of G major four bars after rehearsal mark X. Here, the quiet dynamics, the slow tempo, and lack of bass make a frail texture that seems to convey the end of a long journey. At rehearsal mark Z, the music turns a corner where an abrupt and dissonant chord resonates loudly on the fourth beat of the bar. We see, in the conscious of the music, what we have been searching for this whole time, but not in the alive state that we wanted. The rising solo violin is so incredibly lonely and sad, and the orchestra so cautious when trying to accompany its grief with a plagal cadence, that one can see a grieving body crying over another. The orchestra and the violin roar the G major chord, and we are left sitting motionless, listening to it die. This epic sadness in the ending could have been a reflection on Vaughan Williams who may have thought that his cherished collection of folksongs and hymns were the last in their long lineage. It is true that local, modern hymns and folksongs are few and far between in the 21st Century. You could say that he probably wrote the Tallis Fantasia with regret in the sure knowledge that the inevitable would happen, their depletion being part of the natural development of a nation. Bibliography: Artists, writers, and musicians: an encyclopedia of people who changed the world: by Thomas Brothers, 2001. Vaughan Williams’s Tallis Fantasia, BBC, Discovering Music archive, http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio3/discoveringmusic/listeninglibrary.shtml#v Music in the Western World: a history in documents, by Piero Weiss, Richard Taruskin, 2008. R. Vaughan Williams Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis, Hawkes Pocket Scores, Boosey & Hawkes, Music Publishers Ltd, 1975. The Work of Ralph Vaughan Williams, 2nd Edition, Michael Kennedy, 1992. ‘Who wants the English composer?’ The R.C.M magazine, 9/1, Christmas Term, 1912.
Music Since 1900: ‘Music about music had always been part of twentieth-century discourse’, writes Alex Ross in The Rest is Noise. By comparing the work of two or three musicians from both halves of the 20th century, discuss the extent to which you agree with Ross.
When concerning the 20th Century’s heterogeneous and vast array of music, there is plight in stating that something applies to everything. ‘Music from music’ has always been a huge part of music’s evolution, but that is not to say that it existed at every stage. Concerning music, there are many, but two large forms that oppose each other in the 20th Century; Music Derivata, and Serialism. Musica Derivata is where one would use someone else’s music in order to make one’s own. Not only quote from it, but derive something new out of it, either changed, or to have its meaning heightened. But Serialism posed a big problem for composers who were using Musica Derivata, because using music that is made up of abstract material creates only more abstract material. Composers like Stockhausen knew that serial music was very hard to listen to after the audience’s initial fascination with its unusualness had died away. But Stockhausen and his contempories did not want to capitulate on their previous musical discoveries.
Stockhausen is one composer who is famous for using both Musica Derivata and original ideas in his music. Stockhausen claimed that his piece, Telemusik, was not a collage piece; it was in fact an ‘intermodulation’ piece, a term that he invented. A lot of sources say that ‘intermodulation’ is very different to ‘collage’ in music; ‘Having expanded his musical realm to include everything from the “completely abstract” to the “most familiar,” Stockhausen faced the challenge of connecting such varied materials. These connections were crucial for they would distinguish his works from mere collage. If Stockhausen was adamant about one point it was that “the composition Hymnen is not a collage” (Quotation and Cultural Meaning in Twentieth-Century-Music, p. 141). Hymnen takes the melodies of national anthems and uses them in a way of parody by combining and manipulating them electronically. (A Theory of Parody, Hutcheon, 2000, p. 7). Collage or intermodulation, this piece is certainly a good example of Musica Derivata.
Telemusik used Fibonacci numbers as its form’s basis. Stockhausen liked to use Fibonacci numbers in his music because of their “organic” proportions and because of the offbeat rhythms that they create. (Symbolism, Wager, 1998, p. 102). In sections 21 and 22 of Telemusik, Stockhausen sequences chanting folk material, because Fibonacci numbers, to us and him, dictate that these sections are the ‘Golden Sections’. (The New Music, Brindle, 1987, p. 49) Because of the unoriginal material used, it is thus a piece of Musica Derivata. Stockhausen was also a great improviser, and he coined the phrased “intuitive music” when he wrote Aus Den Sieben Tagen in 1968, and Für Kommende Zeiten in 1971. These pieces were written in text format without manuscript. An example of one of the instructions was “play in the rhythm of the universe”. (New Perspectives, Sutherland, 1994, p. 214). These instructions were very complicated when attempted in a performance. But having music that is written in words rather than on manuscript liberated musicians and instrumentalists from notation. The inspiration for this partly came from Satprem’s book Sri Aurobindo: or, The adventure of Consciousness. (Other Planets, Maconie, 2005, p, 308). This also made it easier for musicians to understand what was wanted of them, as notation was becoming very complicated and sometimes incomprehensible by the 1970s.
One musician, who played a huge role in characterising the 20th Century, and who was more popular with the larger audience than Stockhausen, was Miles Davis. His music was derived from many sources. In 1948 Miles Davis worked with Gil Evans to make the album Birth Of The Cool. Gil Evan’s and his associates were unhappy with the amount of virtuosic material that dominated Bebop at the time. At the time of The Birth of Cool’s release, Columbia Records told Miles Davis that he should go back to playing his previous, and more virtuosic style, with Parker and Glosbe because the album was a huge failure. It was later re-released when listeners had matured and could understand it better. In Miles Ahead, Gil and Miles worked with larger ensembles. Blues for Pablo references Pablo Picasso, who, at the time, was the most talked about artist popular culture. This was the first step in defining the genre of ‘Cool Jazz’. Picasso was also one of the first artists to use other artist’s work in his paintings, as a form of collage and quotation. Blues for Pablo is very typical of 1950s jazz because it uses orchestral instruments. Gil Evans once said, ‘endless mixtures of sound… are new not only to jazz writing but to all orchestral music.’ (Jazz: The Essential Companion, Carr, 1988, p. 160). Miles had differentiated himself from all other jazz musicians that had come before him by using less improvisation, slower tempos, more melodic material, less chordal material, and more manuscript. He was taking elements of classical music and incorporating them into jazz. The horn player, academic and composer, Gunther Schuller, argued that in albums like Miles Ahead, a new genre of music was emerging called ‘Third Stream’ (Musings: The Musical Worlds of Gunther Schuller, 1989, p. 114). ‘Third Stream’, a term coined by Schuller, was meant to differentiate the Classical/Jazz crossover music from the more traditional and authentic of the genres that had come before. In the present day, there exists a ‘Third Stream’ between nearly every genre of music. An example of an unexpected fusion would be John B’s album, Visions, where Jazz meets Drum and Bass.
The second collaboration between Davis and Evans, and one of the best examples of ‘Third Stream’ music, was Porgy and Bess (1958). The name itself is the same as what it was originally based on, which was George Gershwin’s opera Porgy and Bess (1935) about black people working in the cotton fields. The post-modern Gil Evans adapted and transformed George Gershwin’s piece Summertime into an almost completely different piece. The original Summertime has a full orchestra, a soprano singing the melody, a series of chords played by the strings with interludes from the flute. The orchestration is far bleaker at the beginning of the song than Gil Evan’s version. The biggest difference is the addition of a rhythm section in replacement of the strings. Gil has also replaced the soprano with Miles Davis on muted trumpet. He still retains interludes with woodwind instruments, but not in the same way. Again, like Blues for Pablo, this music is almost entirely notated on manuscript. It unsurprisingly sold many records because both Miles Davis and Gil Evans were smartly creating a crossover between music that both jazz lovers and classical lovers and by intertextually referring to music that both parties love. They were thus making their music available, and desirable, to a larger audience. Columbia Records were delighted with the album, even more than so than they were with Miles Ahead. One of the reasons why this became very “cool” in society was because the music was very calmed, matured, and easier to play.
Kind of Blue came out the previous year on August 17, 1959. But what made it so special was that it was made out of a sextet of musicians, smaller than Porgy and Bess’s nonet, and far smaller than anything that had come previously. It is said to be the best selling Jazz album of all time, and with good reason. Kind of Blue is very similar to Gil Evans’s version of Summertime in that it’s extremely cool, not everything happens at once and the ideas are introduced individually without tension. There are no “thick” chords, unlike Bebop, and there is a lot of modality in the harmony. The album defined what cool jazz was, and even became a cliché. Philip B. Pape in All About Jazz: Kind of Blue – Review, stated that it was the “defining moment of twentieth century music.”
Another Musica Derviata composer was one of the most influential of the 20th Century. He was Claude Debussy. Debussy’s work was the pivot between late Romanticism in music to twentieth century modern music. Having been initially influenced by Russian composers such as Rimsky Korsakov, Borodin and Tchaikovsky, and also Wagner, Debussy became very interested in non-Western music, especially Javanese Gamelan. “…the initial stimulus for “Pagodes” was Debussy’s entranced hearing of the Javanese gamelang orchestras at the International Expositions in Paris in 1889 and 1900.” (The Piano Works, Schmitz, 1966, p. 82). The tuning of gamelan was slendro, or to Western ears and minds, pentatonic. Pagodes (1903) was the first piano piece to use this scale substantially in the Western hemisphere for a long time. It does not use it consistently though, as there are cluster chords that are very prominent one minute and forty seconds into the piece. It is also not Javanese gamelan music that has been reorchestrated for piano because towards the end of the piece, the virtuosity of the pianist grows immensely. The piece also ends on a dissonant interval. Saint Saëns remarked, “the ancient modes are making a comeback, to be hotly pursued by the scales of the East in all their tremendous variety.” (The Exotic, Bellman, 1998, p. 260).
Although Debussy was hugely influenced by music at the time, he was even more so by art. The Symbolist movement in France at the time spurred him on to make friendships with artists and poets. Debussy created Prélude a l’après-midi d’un faune in direct response to Mallarme’s poem Afternoon of a faun. (Artists All, Raffel, 1991, p. 105). This shows that not all of Debussy’s influences were from music, just like Kandinsky’s art was not based on other art, but jazz.
Because Debussy’s music had such an impact on so many other composers and their music; Reich, Glass, Ravel, Stravinsky, Takemitsu, Messiaen, Boulez and Bartok, also film composers such as John Williams, it is hard to disagree with Alex Ross’s statement. But there have also been many other composers who have in some of their pieces ignored all music that has come before them, such as Le Monte Young and John Cage. These composers were not so popular compared to the masters of intertextuality and Musica Derivata. The serialists, such as Webern and Schoenberg, accomplished much in their time, but left listeners baffled by their strange and unnerving sound. To unnerve the listener constantly with every piece, like Webern did, logically decreased his popularity. Miles Davis was successful because his compositions and playing was easier to listen to, and they intertextually referenced other pieces of music, most notably Porgy and Bess. Many bands that came after Miles Davis used obscure music as their source material, most notably The Beatles, but also Paul Simmon, The Rollingstones, and many others.
What is certain is that the 20th century was a time of rapid change. During the 18th and 19th Centuries, music changed gradually. By the end of the 20th century though, most people in the Western world had either seen or had a family member, see two world wars, a moon landing, and had flown on an aeroplane. This globalisation meant that people had access to previously unheard music and ideas from around the globe. It also meant that familiar music gave people reassurance in a changing world, and exotic music gave people wonder as to what it was changing to. The 21st Century is now a time where information is no longer a plane journey away, but a mouse click.
A Theory of Parody: The Teachings of Twentieth-Century Art Forms, by Linda Hutcheon, 2000.
Artists All: Creativity, the University and the World, Burton Raffel, 1991.
Jazz: the essential companion, By Ian Carr, Digby Fairweather, Brian Priestley, 1988.
Musings: The Musical Worlds of Gunther Schuller, 1989.
Other Planets: The Music of Karlheinze Stockhausen, Robin Maconie, 2005.
Quotation and cultural meaning in twentieth-century music, David Joel Metzer, 2003.
Symbolism as a compositional method in the works of Karlheinze Stockhausen. By Gregg Wager, 1998.
The Exotic in Western Music, Jonathan Bellman, 1998.
The New Music: The Avant-garde Since 1945, Reginald Smith Brindle, 1987.
The Piano Works of Claude Debussy, Elle Robert Schmitz, 1966.
With reference to at least one Asian Horror film and its Hollywood remake, discuss the proposition that some horror narratives work best in specific cultural contexts.
There are universal fears and there are cultural fears felt in each different nation. Japan, uniquely, has materialised its personal fears in the film world: nuclear war in the form of Godzilla, the break-down of the family unit in Ring and Battle Royal, and suicide in Pulse and Suicide Club. There are other uniquely Japanese anxieties expressed in these films that hark back to Feudal times of the Edo Period.
Ringu explores many Japanese fears: the fear of the ‘Onryō’, uncanny technology/haunted media, the modernisation of the family unit, and the ‘unpacifyable’ threat. Onryō is one of many Japanese ghost/yūrei, a vengeful female spirit/reikon that becomes stuck between Heaven/yomi and the physical world. A spirit that is trapped between Heaven and Earth because it is believed that in the act of its violent death, and its lack of a proper burial, they are unable to pass on and thus haunt in the form of a ghost/yūrei. There are many similar beliefs in Western and Chinese culture concerning spirits who are unable to have a peaceful afterlife. The character Sadako is one of these, or so it seems. She is dressed in a traditional white kimono signifying the white burial clothing in the Edo period. White clothing was only worn by Priests or the dead because of its symbolism in Shinto where white is the colour of purity. Sadako’s long black hair symbolises her death, as, traditionally, Japanese women pinned their hair up while they were alive, and it was down when they were dead. Ringu’s mise-en-scene lends itself well to Sadako’s long black hair, as, throughout the film, there are consistent shadows that create an opening for the jet-black hair of a deadly onryō. Ju-on uses this element of film-making far more, as it created a camouflage for the onryō in the film. This consistent concealment creates extreme ambiguity for the viewer as to what is on screen, making the film extremely terrifying.
The story of Ju-on originates from the belief that yūrei haunt specific locations, like the alleged ghost that haunts Himeji Castle, and the ghosts of Aokigahara, a forest at the bottom of Mt. Fuji where there are on average thirty suicides a year (Hadfield, Japan struggles, 2001). Japan is notorious for its lack of crime, contrasting with its reputation for copious suicides. It can be said that ‘[in] the political and cultural unconscious of the west, Japan has come to exist as the figure of empty and dehumanised technological power.’ (Spaces of Identity, Morley, 1995: 169-170). Thismechanisation of a country’s workforce has had dire consequences in the family. In Ju-on, it is the past that comes back to haunt the present. Like Ringu, the force that has come back is an onryō, in this case, a murdered housewife.
Hollywood commission Gore Verbinski to remake Ringu in 2002 at a similar time to when it was remaking 1970s ‘white-trash’ horror films, for example, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, House of Wax, Wrong Turn, Last House on the Left, The Hills Have Eyes, etc. This was done because America found it hard at the time to demonise itself, and had to look to foreign sources for horror. Something similar in Ringu to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre grabbed the attention of Hollywood. It was that the monster, Sadako, was left unpunished and unvanquished at the end. This story allowed America to express its inner anxieties about its instability as a nation concerning the terrorist attacks on 9/11 and its identity. Gore Verbinski’s remake of Ringu, The Ring, uses shadows, dark hair, and dark clothing to create a similar mise-en-scene to that of the Hideo Nakata’s almost pitch black visuals that are truly terrifying on the first viewing of the film. But because Ringu was generally the first film that a Western audience had seen an onryō in, the horrifying context and background that the Japanese had grown up with was absent. The Edo period costume that Sadako, now called Samara, wore in the film had no particular identity and context to the Western audience, only that it resembled a girl in a dressing gown with black hair obscuring her face. The hair no longer functioned as a symbol of the Japanese pre-war folkloric ghost that had terrified Japan for hundreds of years, or energy, fertility, pollution, or demons.
There are two set-piece scenes from The Ring that do not occur in Ringu. The first is the scene where the horse breaks free in the ferry and then proceeds to drown itself. The second is where we find Samara’s father electrocuting himself in the bathtub. As well as the change in the way that the Kyuji character, Noah, is found, in that there is an action orientated cross-cut between Rachel driving furiously to save him at the end of the film, and Samara coming out of the television set. Compared to a dedicated scene of Sadako killing Kyuji, the scenes are added purely to drive the narrative, and thus abide by Western audience’s movie expectations (Film Genre, Langford, 2005: 180). There are also many differences is Samara’s short film compared to Sadako’s. The film in The Ring is saturated with images that play a part in the story; the horse, the ladder, the well closing, and the isolated chair. There are also images included in the montage that have no relevance to the story, and are just there for shock value and for the art side of filmmaking; the finger nail being stabbed by the rusty nail, the maggots, the centipede scuttling out from under a table, a three legged dog. Sadako’s video has only eight different shots, compared to Samara’s thirty four.
In Sadako’s film, Hideo Nakata has included a shot of dying men crawling across the ground. This could have symbolised something quintessentially Japanese: a typical post-nuclear bomb scene. Hypothetically, when people are suffering from radiation poisoning, they act very much in the same way as they do in Sadako’s film, for example, crawling across the ground, dying. Verbinski has discarded this image, as well as the repeating sequence of the man pointing off-screen whilst standing in the water. This discredits Nakata’s original, as at the end of Ringu, the same man is seen pointing at the copy of Sadako’s videotape when Asakawa asks herself what she did differently compared to Ryuji. It is important to note also that the video man is pointing at a video clearly marked “COPY” in English. The ocean the man is pointing at in Sadako’s videotape, and the white noise on that is on the video tape, both symbolically represent complete chaos and otherness (Case Study, White, 2005: 40). This similarity begs the question as to whether the man with the cloth on his head is related to, and whether he is actually Sadako’s real father, the deity who lives in the ocean, and what his face may really look like. It remains ambiguous, but his and Sadako’s face can be speculated to be the face of the post-human (Case Study, White, 2005: 41).
Samara’s appearance is also very different to Sadako’s, in that we see Samara’s human face, while it we only get a glimpse of Sadako’s strange looking eye. The iconic downward drooping eye of Sadako is not kept in The Ring. This is a shame, because it looks alien or in-human (Case Study, White, 2005: 40), begging us to speculate whether Sadako was a fully human child, or whether she had similar features to that of the ocean deity. When Asakawa and Ryuji in Ringu lay Sadako to rest by giving her a proper burial, her spirit traditionally would go to yomi and the killings would stop, as we have seen in Kabuki and other onryō themed films. However, Sadako may have been quite in-human, as her mother, Shizuko, may have had Sadako with the ocean deity (Shizuko’s conversations with the ocean in a non-human dialect confirm this speculation) making her inhuman and thus immune to the traditional onryō assuaging techniques (Case Study, White, 2005: 40).
In Suzuki Koji’s novel, Ringu, Sadako was a hermaphrodite. This is not touched upon by Nakata’s film Ringu, but it is truly out of the question in Verbinski’s The Ring. Ryuji is also a self-professed rapist (Ringing the Changes, Hills, 2005: 162) in the novel. Sadako’s alleged hermaphroditism may explain as to why she was brutally encased in the well, as it concerns the dishonouring of the family. This is something that has been key throughout Japan’s social history. Sadako’s never ending killing spree also signifies a modern change in Japanese culture. Dark Water’s (Hongurai mizu no soko kara) protagonist, Yoshimi is, like Asakawa from Ringu, a single parent. Their marital status is a reflection on Japan’s break down in traditional family values. Some have seen this as Japan becoming sick. The wetness that both The Ring and Ringu have represents illness and decay (McRoy, Jay, Nightmare Japan, 2008: 83). It is far more prominent in The Ring, where it is used like dripping blood, or slime that a creature emits. One could say that this reflects America’s views on Japanese culture. In the opening scene, it is used to a similar affect to Predator. The Predator’s blood is used as a string in the labyrinth of the jungle for Dutch to find. This effect is used quite often in Hollywood cinema, and is more of a catalyst for the protagonist to find the monster.
Masami and Tomoko’s characters are school girls. In The Ring, they have been replaced with two teenagers, who look and act a lot older than their Japanese counterparts. The fact that Ringu’s story comes from yōkai stories that were aimed at school children, and about school children, is not strongly touched upon by Verbinski’s remake. This is a shame because yōkai stories are so popular in Japan that even the media have occasionally taken up a few of the stories and investigated them themselves, such as ‘jimmenken (human-faced dog)…in 1989’ (Pandemonium and Parade, Foster, 2008: 290). These stories followed the kaiju eiga of the 1950s and 1960s, which followed the Kaidan stories of the Edo Period. These stories never found an audience outside of Japan though, so it is understandable why Verbinski would leave the reference out.
There is also a message concerning the fact that one can never ‘un-see’ something, in that the characters of the film who live to tell the tale, for example, Asakawa, are forever scared by the experience. Sadako leaves her victims, who look upon her face, with an expression of shear terror cemented in their cold corpses. Verbinski has pounced on this idea by showing the victim’s faces of Sadako’s wrath as mutilated, terrified and rotting. It is a very similar to the effect of Medusa, only more gruesome. This could be seen to be Sadako and Samara’s way of transforming and scaring the world through the form of media in order for them to wreak revenge against humanity. The aim is to make everyone remember them, by causing mass suffering.
The Ring was by all means a great success in the U.S and Japan, but it by no means is superior to Ringu. The problem stems from the fact that The Ring is overcautious in its plundering of the original (Aesthetics of Cruelty, Hand, 2005: 18). It covers no new ground. ‘…[The Ring] pays homage to the original. However, [Tajitsu] also fails to clarify exactly what text is the ‘original’ is in this specific context. … The question, ‘What was the purpose of a remake?’, is an extremely provocative one.’ (Japanese Cinema, Philips, Stringer, 2007: 301). There is no denying that The Ring was an international success at the box-office, and Hollywood’s intentions were also on display when concerning the matter: the sole purpose of remaking Ringu was to sell it not only to America, Europe, and Japan, but also to Hong Kong, Thailand, and Korea (Pandemonium and Parade, Foster, 2008: 206). The Ring certainly lacks authenticity, and it shows in the cult status that Ringu has achieved because of the remake. It has gained a Western audience, who watch it because they want to see what the Hollywood executives saw in Ringu, and why it was special.
Foster, Michael Dylan (2008) Pandemonium and Parade: Japanese Monsters and the Culture of Yōkai, University of California Press.
Hadfield, Peter (June 16 2001) “Japan struggles with soaring death toll in Suicide Forest” The Telegraph (London).
Hand, Richard J. (2005) ‘Aesthetics of Cruelty: Traditional Japanese Theatre and the Horror Film’, in James McRoy, Japanese Horror Cinema, Edinborough University Press. 2005.
Hills, Matt (2005) ‘Ringing the Changes: Cult Distinctions and Cultural Differences in US Fans’ Readings of Japanese Horror Cinema’, in James McRoy, Japanese Horror Cinema, Edinborough University Press. 2005.
Morley, David and Kevin Robins (1995) Spaces of Identity: Global Media, Electronic Landscapes and Cultural Boundaries, London and New York: Routledge.
McRoy, Jay (2008) Nightmare Japan: Contemporary Japanese Horror Cinema, Rodopi.
Philips, Alistair and Julian Stringer (2007) Japanese Cinema: Texts and Contexts,Taylor & Francis publishing.
White, Eric (2005) ‘Case Study: Nakata Hideo’s Ringu and Ringu 2’, in James McRoy, Japanese Horror Cinema, Edinborough University Press.
Note: The exam has a few things about it that might confuse people. No one knows what is happening with it, but Leon knows, and his email will now tell us. Basically, you can pick the exam paper from the school office on April 19th, then you’ve got a week to research it. That doesn’t make any sense. You can take one piece of A4 that you can write on both sides with, weird. There ere two sections in the exam, and you have to answer one from each. Section A: a choice of questions about the film screened on April 20th in the normal slot. Section B is a mixture of material covered in the latter part of the module and more general stuff. The exam date is definitely the 26th April. Anyway, now that’s done, we can now finally move onto the horror side of things, like learning about Shivers, when his computer will bloody well bloody work! Thank the lord. Ok.
The cinema of David Cronenberg: full of hilarity, but also some horrible stuff. Jean Baudrillard wrote After the Orgy, he talks about the fact that when everything is liberated, then what’s left to shock? Every taboo is broken in this film. Every moral, social and sexual hierarchy is reversed. The film is definitely a series of vignettes with the obnoxious body. The company that owns the hotel/apartment building is called a ‘division of General Structures Inc.’.
The division between the corrupt in this film is huge, as the hotel is a place for people to reside from all the rape and violence outside of it, thus distinguishing the high from the low. There are loads of distinctions in our history as well, and Cronenberg uses distinction. You can look at his films in a ritualistic way as well, concerning Girard. We are all governed by a boundary and distinction loss, says Girard. That story about the Indian tribe killing each other because they could not distinguish friend from foe. With Cronenberg’s horror, there is a loss of established distinctions. He’s also interested in subverting images of the body [King of Body Horror]. Crash, Dead Ringers, The Fly, they all have it. His images of the body never fit established gender distinctions. His films also break down the distinction between high art and commercial film making. He originally came from an experimental film making background. Brecht was interested in vignettes and blank faces in drama.
Cronenberg picks works that are hard to understand, like Naked Lunch, and Crash. He also did Crimes of the Future ‘70, Eastern Promises ‘07, Rabid ‘77, Scanners ‘81, etc. The beginning ones were government funded by the Canadian cinema fund.
He definitely has become one of the leading figures of post 70s horror. Otto Rank in The Double says that you have to use a gothic literary theory method. Otto was a contemporary of Freud who said that there was a collapse of reason and rationality, and a collapse of individual identity in gothic literary. Twins are creepy, they look alike, and they share the same traits. This is the loss of distinctions. The uncanny by Nicholas Royal is a good book that goes over the double, and admits that there is another Nicholas Royal. Cronenberg’s cinema has a collapse of identity; the passive one becomes the aggressive one. In ritualistic society, if you’re a twin, you’re going to be killed very quickly. Barbara Creed in The Monstrous Feminine draws on Kristeva and says that Cronenberg’s films offend because the collapse the borders and distinctions. He deal with waste matter, in that he has a lot of insides and guts that are outside on display. There is a lot of puss and muck in the corpse. The sexual difference in the film also comes up, where people might suddenly have too much sex drive, or too little. In Cohen’s, Screening the Male, Cohen argues that Cronenberg has his masculine characters as female, open and lacking. It’s abstract, but we’ll now see a film clip from Videodrome to solidify this. Yeah, James Woods has a massive vagina on his stomach. It’s not an isolated scene though, there are plenty of others, like Rabid where the hard-core porn actress suffers a massive car crash at the beginning where she has a massive vagina under her arm, that has a huge penis, that comes out and stabs people, I think.
This horror of distinctions has even covered the way in which his films have been received. Stereo had this review ‘New arrangements of the flesh break down traditional binary opposites between mind and matter, image and object, self and other, inside and outside, male and female, nature and culture, human and inhuman, organic and mechanical. Indeed, the systematic undoing of these distinctions on every possible level is the major structuring… damn I didn’t get it.
So we will offer a brief biography of David Cronenberg, and then consider the ways in which a denial of distinction structures a number of levels of his work. He was born on 15/03/53 to a respectable Jewish middle-class family who were quite interesting, because his father was analytical because he was a journalist or something, and his mother was a pianist. He was an honours science student when he went to the university of Toronto. He shifted from science to english language and literature. He was successful though, in that he won the prestigious Epdom (or somethingg) award for best short story. Through his life, there has been a battle between two forces between the rational and scientific and the chaotic creative side. The competing forces of these two often deal with unguided scientific figures that cross the boundary and create chaos. The death of his father was a from a skin disease due to the lack of calcium. It must have been the loss of distinction in this disease that did something. The body started to rot, but the mind did not. His father’s bones split through the skin as a result.
Cronenberg’s films expose modernist tensions around distinction/division, especially in the gender area. It presumed a clear cut masculine versus feminine scenario, but Cronenberg under cuts it. Modernity also emphasis a clinical division of gender and sexual identity, plus the mind dominating the body and repressing it. The scientific figures are normally reconfigured as irrational or monstrous. What Cronenberg is really interested in is a monstrous ambiguity in sexuality that he defines as just ‘flesh’.
There are a number of interesting features in his films; mind versus body, sexual identity, the family and social institutions, moral codes and metaphysical beliefs, economic and political structures, and structural experimentation. Medalling scientists are never rational in these films, or films in general really. It privileges the body over the mind. Concerning sexual identity, the house wives become aggressive and phallic The Victorians believed that the family was a bolt of goodness, in David Cronenberg, this is reversed. Moral Codes and metaphysical beliefs collapse the validity since modernity.
That’s the end of the horror module. Whey! Oh yeah, I didn’t manage to go to the seminar because I had an exam. Dang, well, might get the notes some day, but most probably not. Probs best to stick with what I know already. Anyway, might not have covered anything new, it might have been just exactly the same kind of thing.
Ms. 45, or aka, Angel of Vengeance.
The Philosophy of Horror talks about the horror of things that should not be together. Society is a gross-out movie that has the alienated hero believing that his dad is an alien, he later sees a massive anus with his dad’s eyes, and it’s really weird.
This week, we’re looking at ‘Psychoanalysis’ and the movies of Abel Ferrara. I think it’s Julia Kristeva. She is a high end, high art psycho analyst. She never stoops down as low as the horror film, so never quote her, only quote people who have used her teachings. She is hugely influential in the horror film world with people like Barbara Creed in The Monstrous Feminine. This takes it one step further than Robin Wood and talks about what we’re really horrified by. For Kristeva, that which disgusts, is infantile. The things that were repressed in our childhood, come back to us in our later life in the horror film. Ever since Psycho we have had this obsession with the monstrous mother. Kristeva goes on about the repressed relations with our mother. How do the disgusting elements relate to the order disruptions? One thing that truly terrifies us is when certain boundaries break down. The perfect nightmare scenario, you’re in a group doing fine, and then the group kills you suddenly. Body boundaries break down a lot in horror films as well. Violence and the Sacred talks about the role of menstrual blood. The women who are on their cycle in ritual societies are forced to leave the group for a few days. Once the boundaries break down, that becomes an element of disgust. Buffalo Bill from Silence of the Lambs breaks down the boundary between the male and female. There are also barriers between man and beast, Wolf Man being one example where the wild beast meets civilised man. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde are another example, Hyde being the hairier one. What happens when the clear and affable language body is broken down, and the fleshy body takes over. That’s the core of Julia Kristeva and her language of semiotics.
We’re going to do three things. Give a brief biography of Julia Kristeva, outline her ideas on language and abjection as they apply to the horror film, and then end with some brief possible criticisms of her work. Abjection basically refers to disgust.
So, where to begin. She’s an interesting theorist, because she’s both a psychoanalyst and a semiotician. She covers language and the infantile. She’s written Desire in Language (1984), Powers of Horror (1982), and The Kristeva Reader ed by Tori Moi. So she’s all over linguistics and she’s a key feminist. The Powers of Horror she goes to the fridge to get some milk, but even though it’s out of date, she, and we, insist on smelling it. ‘I look, I wretch’. It sets up everything you need to know about abjection. One of the most horrific things in horror is finding a body that’s all over the place, and then saying ‘is that John’ or something. You just have to label the body for it to become disgusting.
Kristeva believed that language is a transmitter of ideology. Roland Barthes went over the fact that you could have a normal looking image that had a hidden meaning behind it. Kristeva was extremely influenced by Jacques Lacan. She was interested in how we first talk, we enter a language system that has hidden ideologies about gender. She believes that there is a female language that undercurrents male assumptions. She says that there are always hidden meanings between adults when they communicate.
So that which horrifies has no boundaries or distinctions. For Kristeva, the binary opposites and distinctions we find in horror are in the favour of the male. She then says that men rule over women, because we use language in our favour. ‘M-a-n’ and ‘W-o-m-a-n’ is just one example. The world of the symbolic in the adult world, and language ruling our lives. For Kristeva, there is another realm outside language and reason. The semiotic is what it is. For her, this realm is not made up of language, it is made up of more infantile forms of communication. The semiotic is the realm that is associated with the mother. What she is saying is that we have two forms of existence. The first begin the wooly, mushy, child like existence. The mother comes into play a lot as well. Language and distinctions replace the bonds that we have with the semiotic and the dominance of the female, with the mother. She is thus trying to re-evaluate the role of mothers in our society. The primary bonds between child and mother are all overlooked in favour of our language-led adult lives. Our primary periods of development are defined in the pre-linguistic realm that we share wit the mother. However, these close bonds are destroyed when we enter the language dominated system of symbology. The role of motherhood is thus extremely important. As soon as we start to learn language, the primary periods of connection are destroyed. These bonds between the mother and child, according to Kristeva, never fully disappear. They are evoked in certain works of fiction or certain psychological states that draw on two key features: They are, firstly, a sub version of adult forms of communication, and secondly, an emphasis on disturbing bodily acts, which is abjection. So, how can we craft her account onto the horror film.
he disturbance of the elements, abjection. Kristeva considers the semiotic return of the repressed in certain works in literature. Her primary accounts have been of modernist literature rather than film. Certain forms of the modernist literature play around with the riles of language, thus disturbing us as readers, and thus taking us back to our infantile pre-linguistic state with our mothers. There is a tradition in modernist literature where language is used in an unconventional manner, so that it doesn’t make sense or communicate with symbology anymore. Writers that play around with syntax and grammar, and the established the language rules. Truly radical writing undercuts the language system that we have. One writer is James Joyce and his works like A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. One example is this, Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down the road and the moocow that was coming down the road met a nicens little boy called baby tuckoo. There are nonsense words and repetitions in this opening statement. This piece of work looses the grasp of language. For Kristeva, this playing around with literature takes us back to our infantile repressed stages before the role of the father and our identity come along. This babble undermines all male language. For works to be truly semiotic, there needs to be the playing around with language and the focus on disturbing bodily acts. What about film though? Is there a film language? H’m.
The universe without shame, where the child will freely revel in their own waste without consequence. The mother is usually the one to take care of blood, fesses, urine and vomit. Theses are perfect things for a horror film though. Infants look back on this time in their life with a sense of shame because the mother is responsible to the child’s body. The mother becomes abject by association. In later life, she becomes disgusting in later life, for some stupid reason. Why are the mothers in horror always associated with disgusting things. The mother in Psycho is trapped in a wine cellar, Ms Voorhees is a headless person or something, i don’t know, haven’t seen it yet.
A case study of hers, Kristeva, called Ellipses on Dread and the Specular Seduction which goes on about ‘A’ a four year kid who has a repeating nightmare about his uses of the potty. In the nightmare, his shit doesn’t want to let go of his body, and then threatens to turn into a monster. The monster doesn’t have a distinct identity because it’s both a frog and a crocodile. The monster is also inside out. The nightmare stops when the father comes in and threatens punishment, but it never says who to. The mother is not in the dream. So everything that is abject, is infantile. Barbara Creed notes many things in her essays, like, the semiotic is also present in horror as well as modernist literature. There are also very few punishing fathers in horror. The mothers are smothering and threatening that inhabit filthy and abject environments. Creed goes further than Kristeva by identifying three levels of abjection; waste matter being the first. Waste matter is a like a genre without shame. There is an emphasis on the uncontrollable body spasm. The fact that the waste matter often defies any categorisation in language. People don’t know what to say when this stuff happens on. Carrie, The Exorcist are key areas concerning this. The Corpse is the second one, it’s the ultimate abjection, the death of our identity. The horror film overloads the death of our identity in a number of extreme ways. People are torn apart in horror films, they don’t just die normally. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre has a family house made out of corpses. The third thing in the list is the subversion of sexual difference. We often have categories of killers without proper sexual identity, like Freddy. The females also takes on male identities. Kristeva might have missed a lot of stuff, as she didn’t even look at Hollywood films, because she’s too much of a snob.
Carrie was the first popular film to do split screen. Everything changes when Carrie goes crazy when her gaze destroys everything. The soundtrack is different, the cinematography is different, everything is affected.
There’s something about bodies that grosses people out. The thing is that some people would not want to accept all this theory because they a bit macho or something. Guys who don’t want to have next with girls on their period, normally are very much in touch with their symbolic. When talking about the female body in horror, it’s always the female body. Guys always need unity in their body. Within the whole history of horror, there have been pictures and campaigns where the female body is associated with threat and bodily fluids. Videodrome has the subversion of sexual difference with the massive vagina on his stomach that people insert videotapes into. What makes a woman, a woman, is internal, rather than guys, who are external. the fairy tales always have a boy who goes through a dark wood and comes out a man.
Dylan Evans is the best guy to read on who talks about Lacan in his book Lacanian Psychoanalysis. Lacan is really hard to read basically, hat’s why you need people to read it for you. When writing on this, don’t just write about the one area.
Female Perversions is also a good book to read for psychoanalytical readings that is a series of case studies on male perversions that always to do with the female body. There are some very weird ones in there. The females bodies are always the leaking ones.
Serial Killers on the vast majority are men, but the problems come from the transitional stage between the semiotic and the symbolic. They are thus quite normal, because they just didn’t evolve properly psychologically like everyone else.
Because the angel of death in Angel of Death doesn’t speak, you could say that the waste… or something like that. Didn’t get it, not really relevant.
All of his films, the guy who made this film, have issues with the female body. Driller Killer is another one of his, but he also did porn films, one about men who are repulsed about the female body.
The semiotic finale is the film has the characters’ voices slow down, decaying away. She also utters the word ‘sister’ at the end of the film. She points out the people who are repressive to their females counterparts with he gun.
Kristeva has looked at Jackson Pollock’s work and has written essays about it. She also writes about high end avant garde music. You’d better have a look at that.
The unconscious, where everything unresolved resides.
The 80s saw AIDS that made the male body feminine, rather than phallic like it was before.
There are two ways in which you can become sexually indifferent. A supernatural force like in The Exorcist. Or mutilation. the bath tub is always used in American horror films, example being, Nightmare on Elmstreet.
The Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre has Leatherface as a woman at the end all transgendered. The sound is also full blast and the dialogue is really quiet.
Thana’s name means death is Greek, so she is the angel of death in the film. Her sexuality is also quite phallic and potent. When the guy at the end lifts up her skirt, the gun is where the dick should be. Rap music is the power of the voice, but the film uses some rap where the voice does not make any sense.
The guy playing the trumpet at the end is actually a sax. Thana’s voice is actually the sax playing over the top. The signs of an abusive relationship is the violence of speech, which one guy has in the film when he talks about himself. Kristeva was all over male violence, mainly because she was a feminist. She was once asked by a feminist who asked, ‘should I even name my male child’. Stab at Mater has explosions of bold text in it, which has nothing to do with the written text, but are words about the body. It’s a bloody good book to read though that’s for sure. It would be neat to list an appendix where there is a breakdown of language. You need to put language and the subversion together in the essay. Story of the Arc is a book by Batai where they have a sex-death orgy. But it is the language of the text that really makes it special.
White Trash Horror
Cabin Fever puts two social groups together, the rural underclass and the educated. the youth led, rich guys. That’s why it’s interesting to academics. Generally though, it’s not an interesting film for me anyway, I kinda hated it when I saw it.
‘White Trash’ refers to long standing myths about certain social and sexual groups. They get served up as monstrous representations in the horror film. What is monstrous is very much open for change in American Cinema concerning time spans. It is almost as if the monster in the American film embody fears that are current at the time. Frankenstein for example represents monstrous sexuality. In the 60s, it changes, in the 70s, it changes. In the present day, we have all kinds of post 9/11 traumas. But there are long-standing myths about the American population that carry on. The monster in American film represents something as otherness. Peter Hutchings goes over this well in Horror. The horror in America represents something that may upset social norms concerning sexuality, socially or ethnically, etc. After 9/11, there have been quite a few Islamo-monsters, but in Dawn of the Dead there is a Mosque at the beginning. In the absence of Islamophobia in film, there is instead ‘white-trash’. The white trash are the people on Jerry Springer, the uneducated deep south, just like the people on Jeremy Kyle. The white trash is doubly coded though, as they sometimes represent social groups that Hollywood dare not represent. As well as always changing, it is depicted differently (the monster as other). This says whether America is in a time of instability, or not. It’s the way the monster is punished at the end that dictates this. The monster is often left unpunished if America is in a state of turmoil. This goes for Texas Chainsaw Massacre (74) where Leatherface is seen triumphantly swinging his chainsaw at the end. The protagonist at the end is also quite mad, like her torturers.
We are going to Outline a theory of the monster as Other. Then use 1970s horror as a case-study. As a way of conclusion, we will look at new categories of the monster as ‘other’. We will use the 1970s as a case study because it was one period where America was in a situation of political and social turmoil. Another reason we are doing this is because Cabin Fever has no Islamophobia, but there is a recalling of 1970s horror. Wrong Turn, House of Wax, etc, all come back to the 70s. Cabin Fever uses the same sound track as Last House on the Left. There are also plenty of 70s horror remakes, The Hills Have Eyes being better than the original. What does this say about America?
Robin Wood, who died a couple of weeks ago was a great theorist who wrote Hollywood: From Vietnam to Reagan. His philosophy is to try and understand the contradictory nature of American horror. It both disgusts and appeals. He uses a nice analogy of watching through cupped hands. Beyond the gore and blood, or the physicality of it, Robin Wood goes deeper. He says, ‘it’s not the content of the film that attracts and appals, it is what the horror film and the monster represent.’ These can be contradictory sexual and social norms. He also says that the horror film is ‘the return of the repressed’. Freud argued that everything in our suppressed infantile imagination reappears in a monstrous form, for example, in our stories that we make when we are adults. We are both attracted by the horror film and appalled by them.
Hollywood’s most famous monsters are the ones that break the most rules and taboos. We are thus appalled by them at the same times because they throw up a a number of contradictory emotions. Wood goes further though and argues that ‘in society, we live under various regimes of repression. One is the ‘basic versus surplus repression’. The reason is, is because the monster smashes their way through the levels of repression is our daily lives. Basic repression comes from Freud and his writings on ‘the child’s mind’. He says ‘that in order for society to function, there has to be a basic level of repression that governs us to do useful things.’ The child is always governed by the ultimate of antagonists, which is, I’m not quite sure, have to research that. As a child, we have a lot of violent and sexual urges that must be repressed in order for us to lead meaningful lives. There is also surplus repression that comes from Marxist theorists, mainly the ‘Frankfurt School’ of Marxists, and especially Herbert Marcuse. He wrote ‘One Dimensional Man’, which is about the work methods of capitalism seeping into our bodies. The surplus layers of repression are there to ensure that we are good-male-white-middle-class-consumers. That’s annoying, really annoying. Society comes in and further represses our desires, our body and mentality. We cannot switch off from this once it’s been installed without a lot of help. But where can we get this help? American culture by and large is pretty banal and meaningless. A hell of a lot of people hates their jobs, and in their free time, they just consume meaningless things, like horoscopes. This is all in order to keep the machine running. The horror film’s outlaw status exposes the tensions in our capitalist driven society. A level where repressions slip is in the American horror film. That is why we are attracted to these films. The monster in every horror film represents some subversive force according to Wood.
The monster comes under ‘excessive sexual energy’, which is bountiful in the horror film. In the 50s, America was experiencing a population slump. So what happened? Women were represented as domestic-lustrous beings in advertising and the newspapers. Think how the vampire has been portrayed through the years concerning sexual energy. In a male dominated society, women become the key, says Robin Wood. What he notes is that since 1960 and Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, women have been depicted as aggressive, violated, or smothering. The horror film is thus a good mirror, according to Wood, to what society thinks of women. The Last House on the Left has depictions of characters who are working class, just like Frankenstein, who was the first one to be dressed in industrial boots and overalls. Shameless was only popular because it allowed middle-classes to laugh at working-classes from up north. The Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre has a kid who says ‘don’t touch me or I’ll get my dad on you, he’s a lawyer’. The guy kills him anyway. The monsters are thus the things that threaten the middle-classes.
There is a long-standing history, that goes back to the 1930s, in which ethnicity is portrayed as monstrous. Dawn of the Dead (the original) has this, as there are clear monstrous groups. 1970s horror contained features that had never been seen before. There are ‘self reflective shocks’; Vietnam, Race Riots, Urban Unrest, Political Corruption, Economic Instability, etc.
1970s American horror shifted towards an emphasis on the American monster. Before the 70s, monstrousness had always been external, as it resided overseas, or in the hands of foreigners. It brought horror back home to the south. What we had in the 70s were duel images of the American self. It was seen both as a rural zone of comfort, and also a monstrous low carb. The Waltons came out at the same time as Texas Chainsaw Massacre, very duel.
The rural south is becoming the dominant image in America, and Annalee Newitz has seen this in her book White Trash: Race and Class in America. She goes over the difference between ‘plain-folk’ who are the uneducated people who are quite nice, like the Waltons, and then there are the aggressive bunch who will blow you away if you step on their land. White Trash is definitely becoming a big thing on Failblog and the internet that is normally referred to as Red Neck. Male sexuality in White Trash is normally choked, while the women are abundant. One of the traits of white trash these days is eugenics and exploitation. All of the studies of ‘back in the day’ were The Happy Folk (1912) The Happy Hickories (1918) The Mongol Virginians (1926) said that the people who lived in the country were of a different ethnicity. What a threat. Concerning Temporal Incongruity, Cabin Fever does just this. Technology always sarcomes to nature. There are also threats to the middle-class.
It was pretty clear that Sarah Palin’s campaign was becoming much about ‘folksy southern charm’ rather than about politics. Ironically, the term ‘hockey mum’ was reversed by the tabloids into ‘hooker mum’, telling us something about the plain-folk that America has, and how they’re all whores. There then stripping contests where the Strippers were dressed Sarah Palin. Beverly Hillbillies depicted the struck-gold hillbillies as unable to get rid of their habits, which was quite funny. Cabin Fever seems to be serene at first, but it turns out to be full of shit and viruses that will kill the shit out of people. It plays around with the ‘White-Trash’ way of things, but it is not fully. There are many sexualised shots of the grotesque; where the girl has an infection all over her back, and when the guy has blood all over his hand after he tries to masturbate his girlfriend. But is this movie about ‘women’ as monsters rather than white-trash? It could be about alternative sexuality, other cultures/ideologies, the Proletariat ‘The proletariat has been colonized by bourgeois ideology’. Class is still high on the British horror scale, but not with America, as Rob Zombie’s Halloween didn’t carry on the ‘class’ theme that the original had. These don’t mean anything unless you know about Surplus repression. Basic repression is the repression of the child’s urges. The man with the frying pan is an example who didn’t have these urges stomped out of him by the time that he had grown up. He had 170 frying pans on his wall that he had sex with. His mother had confused the two terms of frying pan and ‘whore’, which explained why he couldn’t get off to anything apart from frying pans. Surplus repression is where society channels our energies to constructive things for the greater good. There is no such thing as ‘You Time’ in this society, according to this theory, as people are totally defined by their work. Does surplus repression extend to other sections of society? Yes it does. The Frankfurt Manifesto was made by snobby professors who said that every aspect of our leisure time was dominated by our surplus repression. For the guy working at the factory, the music that he buys has the same repetitions that he has at work. The same with the housewife, in that they always go for horoscopes and that kind of thing. Basic repression makes us adult human beings, but Surplus Repression causes us to be capitalist middle-class guys etc, who consume loads of stuff, making the guys who know this stuff richer and able to buy bigger iMacs.
Cabin Fever’s virus is an unseen threat, as well is Islam. George Bush once said ‘We are dealing with the enemy within’. Spooks, 24 thrive on these enemies.Violence in the Sacred by Girard describes the most terrible scenario in Yugoslavia where old neighbouring villages hacked each other down one day in one huge massacre. In ritual society, women are normally seen a sacrificial victims when there is a crisis. The role of the law forbids this in Western society. What if we had no law one day? We’d probably all kill each other, eventually. Trouble on the Texan Border is a free ebook that you can download that has Reno Girard talk about it. He’s an awesome guy.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre has the two white Americas together in a van. The white-trash guy burns the photo ritualistically, like voodoo people would. The tanned skin also discriminates the guy against the whiter skinned middle-class, which happens in India a lot.
America has expressed its Islamophobia cautiously post 9/11.
The monster is white-trash is, what Douglas Donovan describes as ‘whiter than white’, more like vanilla, why is this? There is an emphasis on the documentary style of the 1970s because there were plenty of documentaries back in the 70s which were full of horrendous images. Ritualistic societies always go for the scape goat in which twins normally get the rough end of the stick. Features of the 70s are; the monster as normality, an empathy towards the monster as other, an unconventional film style, a cynicism towards the forces of law and order, an ambiguous resolution (the feel bad ending, which normally means that America is in a bad state). The Last House on the Left is the film that sums all of these up.
Horror and soft-core porning in the Spanish film industry.
Concerning the ongoing national traditions of terror that we have been studying, we are now moving on to the films of Jesus (pronounced Jesss-uss) Franco and the leading role of the film She Killedinn Ecstasy. You either love Jess Franco or you hate him. Franco was directing when there was a dictatorship in Spain, that is why the film is dubbed in German. It was because it couldn’t get screened in Spain. Before he was a film maker, he was a jazz musician. Come on though, it’s the sound-track in the horror film that makes it amazing, so why is his music so shit? Who knows, this would be a good thing to study probably.
So why are we looking at this film maker? He is Spain’s most prolific horror film director, and Soledad Miranda is one of the biggest stars. Jess has made 163 single films, not counting the remakes that he makes of each individual film. Jess Franco is an auteur without a country, because Spain would not accept his films because they said that they did not represent they’re values. He’s quite consciously able to explore transgressions between sexuality and death. These have put him at film making odds with the official Spanish film making culture. So he’s an isolated maverick. Check out the notes from U-link to get all of his films with Soledad Miranda. Jess’s style has been described as ‘horrotica’. Both audiences and critics are equally unsure as to whether they are supposed to be aroused or scared by the film making. ‘It’s a spectacle in which death and sex are not only intermingled, by inseparable. Who better, then, to act as the director’s fetishistic focal point than the late Soledad Miranda?’ Jess’s version of Dracula is called Countess Dracula, The Sucking Woman, etc. The vampire in the film extracts the semen from her victims.
We will outline some of the key features of Jess Franco’s work, and look at Soledad Miranda’s characters as a Sexually Monstrous killer.
The peak period for production for Jess was the late 60s and early 70s. This peak of production was called ‘the master of eurotrash’. Francisco Franco was the dictator, who acted as the perverse opposite of Jess Franco. Francisco Franco died from his face falling off because of cancer, a huge similarity to a zombie film that Jess was making about zombie movies, his mirror image. Jess represented everything that Francisco was trying to oppress in his fascist regime. David T Giles wrote a good book called Modern Spanish Culture, which is very useful concerning this topic. He represented a huge amount of topics that were seen as taboo. One format of film making that was popular in the regime was ‘espanilada’. It’s a traditional form of song-and-dance narrative with a historical Spanish setting. It was not outwardly political, but it did give the values of the regime. In all fascist cultures, there are always emphasises on traditional cultural values. Francisco went for the traditions of Spanish entertainment. All these films were all family melodramas. All discontent was resolved within the family. The primacy of religion was also promoted at this time in film. The role of the father was a key figure in restoring the balance in the family, and in religion in these traditional Spanish formats. Another feature was ‘the cult of machismo’. In other words, there were plenty of women who needed sorting out by men/father figures. Thus there was a lot of male power with individual agency. The location of women within the domestic space was also a huge thing in these films
Soledad started her career in Espanalada movies, but gave it up because she was disenchanted with the roles available. All of the features in these films was reversed by Jess Franco. Jess emphasises the primacy of individuals from outside the family. The male role within the family is always essentially critiqued in Jess Franco films. The males become dephalasised or impotent father figures, or evil sadistic father figures. The role is thus always subverted. In Virgin Among The Living Dead, a father figure is powerless against the vampire. Jess Franco appears in this film, and in She Killed in Ecstasy, as well as the other actors, who are actually film critics and artists. He played a part in a a film Something Notrodame where he played a main part where he killed women as a priest.
‘The Fascist dictatorship gave us women in the kitchen, Jess Franco gave us women in prison.’ Every aspect of his cinema is a perversion of Spanish Orthadox culture. His gender politics was so out of sync with Spain at the time. With Tenemos 18 anos, he got into trouble because there were two women in a car together in the first scene without a man there to protect them. !. The narrative structure of his films is normally experimented with. David Bordwell stated that he used Narrative Experimentation. What is for sure is that Jess Franco used his Jazz upbringing as influence in his film’s structure, because Jazz intervenes. There an episodic structure, and there are musicians as main characters, one example us from Venus in Furs where a musician discovers super-heroin.
Franco’s films got in trouble with his use of zoom. Art cinema directors are the only guys who use zoom lenses, not directors who work in proses, rather than poetry. It’s deeply anti-traditional to the Spanish regime. Fiction is less important than style in these films.
There is a consistent attempt to destroy the patriarchal figures in Jess’s films. Not only male priests are seen as vindictive, but pretty much every male character is seen as weak. Franco’s cinema also plays around with a disturbing emphasis on the body. Franco’s films follow three clear trajectories; the pop -art body, which is a period of film making that latest from 1965 to 1967 in Franco’s film making. In this part, he was making ‘spy-thriller’. There subverted the image of masculinity that James Bond franchise highlighted. The Bond characters were in need of a lot of female assistance, naturally. The next emphasis on body came in the form of horror-body-emphasis in the mid-sixties to early 1970s. There are a lot of castrating-females in these films, with even more emphasis on anti-male. The third period was about the porno-body with Soledad Miranda.
The website www.soledadmiranda.com is quite interesting in that it is full of fan-fiction is full of her being cursed, and as a sadist. There are four ways in which Soledad Miranda films provide unsettling images of female sexuality: Female sexuality is symbol of death. Every element of sexuality is replaced by a more horrible threat of death. Carol Jenks wrote about this is Popular European Cinema. The females become figures of horror. The zoom shot is argued that it disrupts any element of sexual pleasure that we find in the horrotica text. There a re also Processes of Traumatic Repetition: in that the narrative structure of the films are deeply troubling. Finally, there is a constant subversion of the Controlling Patriarchal Gaze. Jesus Christ. Too much there to comprehend. Sorry for all of that, but it was all taken down in quite a frantic manner.
Blah blah blah, come on Xavier where are you? Ahh, here he is.
Faceless is a skin-graph-expose film, apparently.
Was the film offensive to you? Not sure really. It would have offended the Spanish at the time, as there’s a scene where the Soledad walks out of a church. There’s also quite a funny side to it concerning the sex. Freud would have ea field-day with this because he said that people find that sex is funny because laughing is an act of release and we all do it while watching it. Matador has an opening scene in it where an impotent bull fighter masturbating to horror films by Dario Argento and Jess Franco. Don’t Torture a Duckling is similar is a way in that it deals with patriarchs and families.
Subversive women, subversive everything is what comes into Jess’s films. Cult films always revolve around the death of a star, an example of this is Bruce Lee’s death, and the lead character of The Crow. The Omen was re-released recently, and a lot of cultist things came out it with the number ‘666’ when the cast and crew kept on seeing the number appear in front of them. There is a macabre value to cult films that have had female leads die in relation to the films that they have been in.
Sexualisation and death have been current since the Gothic era with ‘dead females’ and then vampires. Edgar Allan Poe once said that the most poetic subject is that of a ‘dead woman’. There are a lot of ‘Omen’ like things concerning Marilyn Munroe’s last pictures before her death. It has something to do with death and passiveness. Dead women are aggressivelesss, and inanimate. They’re not like that in horror at all, in fact the dead women in films are always over-sexual and hyper-aggressive. Concerning auteur theory, Hitchcock’s cameos are always apparent when a man is looking at a woman, in other words, a phallic lead look. Jess Franco also has cameos. In his one though, he is the one suffering, rather than the woman that Hitchcock wanted to suffer. Franco always said that he didn’t have ownership of the film, just like Jazz Musicians say that no-one has ownership of the music that they make. Miles Davis obviously wasn’t a Jazz Musician.
Freud talks a lot about the slim axis between sexuality and death. He also went on about the theory of ‘repetition’ in that we are doomed to repeat. In love, art and death, we have repetitions. The pattern of repetition within us. Freud studies ‘the pleasure principle’. It was a study of the first world war veterans and their horrendous memoires that they should want to forget, but all they want to do is talk about.
There are also ‘death drives’ that Freud started. Stuntman Mike from Death Proof is the best example of men who have this drive. It comes from times when sex and death are in the same room, apparently. Trauma for the male psyche concerning travelling towards death. The unnerving stare of Soledad in her nude scenes destroys the eroticism of the scene because it’s unnerving. The ‘death instinct’ versus ‘the life instinct’ either go between going forwards or backwards. Jazz is very repetitive, just look at Miles Davis cool album. I’m not sure these notes make much sense.
Eugene de Sade appears to have a titillating opening, but it becomes a very macabre scene where the girl is killed. The daughter and the father are both perversely obsessed with each other. They even go so far as to get the perverse idea of going to Paris under the false pretence of going to an academic conference, but when they actually want to murder a hooker. Franco is a short man in reality, and his leading ladies are also very tall, giving his cameos some very strange sickly things, erghhhh GOD!. When they kill the prostitute, there is a huge excess of sexuality and music in the scene. Not sure what it all means, dammit.
The famous part scene that he shoots is really quite a strange one. There;s a midget conducting the whole thing, there are titillating women everywhere people getting off with more than one person at the same time. There are women running around, people in suits, bored looking at books, transsexuals. After all of that, the midget feeds something to person after requesting that everyone be quiet. There is no establishing shot, so we have to find out where they are. It’s a retroactive visual experience, which is very art-house.
Horror – Suspiria.
So far, we’ve had a look at national horror cinema. This also goes for Suspiria as well.
Suspiria was a bit over the top visually and audotorially. Michael Powell’s The Red Shows was one of the biggest influences of this film, even though it is a mellow-drama. Suspiria has been recently quite successful with its blu-ray release because of it’s amazing visuals. The style of this film has been a real taboo for the critics. Many of the British and American press reviews slated the film. Variety said that it had ‘artistic aspirations’. Mick Garris reviewed the film terribly, but he must have regretted it. ‘The idea of good film making is that you slowly build to a climax. You never start with your best hand’. Dario Argento does the opposite of that, and starts with the best first. Monthly Film Bulletin said that it was aimed mainly at the Italian youth and their irrationality. They are thus saying that the Italian film industry is sub-everything-else. Italian film has always been dismissed by American film critics.
Sergio Leone’s works were revered by Western critics when they were first released because the Spaghetti Westerns started with the climax, or the shoot out. They were said to not be Westerns by the critics who saw them. High Noon didn’t work like The Good the Bad and the Ugly, Fistful of Dollars or For a Few Dollars More. Now they are viewed as master pieces. The same goes for Argento’s work. So the Italians were always seen my the Americans and the British as amateurs in their craft. But it wasn’t just the reverse of traditions the critics hated, it was also the extreme level of gendered violence.
There are some key facts about Argento that you may need to know, but they’re all on u-link. Argento was the inheritor of Mario Bava’s stuff. He was the son of a wealthy film family. His father was a famous film producer in the ’60s. He didn’t start as a film maker though, he began as a film critic, just like Goddard and François and Truffaut. Knowing this, it can be seen that he takes more of his influence from art-house rather than Grind-house. Argento was one of the first to evaluate the Spaghetti Westerns in a good light. After this, he went on to direct The Bird With the Crystal Plumage. It was a huge success, but the critics slated it, typically. He combined the art-house with the blood. This started a fluid overlap between the two genres concerning the people working on them. Argento was not only a director, he was also a famous producer. One of his films was the original Dawn of the Dead. The soundtrack was also done by his rock-group, Goblin.
In The Bird with the Crystal Plumage the same thing with the gendered violence and reverse-climax. At the end of the film, the killer was revealed to be the woman that was seen at the beginning. This made the critics throw up in their mouths as it reversed all traditions again.
Let’s go over the Giallo and depictions of gender. The Giallo is an Italian format of the British and American detective novels like Agatha Christie and Conan Doyle. The Italians just added their own little spin-off. Gary Needham’s ‘Playing with Genre: An Introduction to the Giallo’ is a free ebook that you can download or buy. Gary defined the two specific cycles between 1963-66 and 1970-76. He also saw that the Giallo reflected the post war changes in Italian life, with the emphasis on travel, fashion and consumption.
A hell of a lot of Giallo films have airports in them, even the first Giallo film that was made. Suspiria also has one. There is also something with the North and South as well. This also reflects the American films concerning the Southern part of the countries. There are two Italies. In the film Don’t Torture Ducklings the Northerners come down to the South where they see locals torturing wildlife.
Note: Find your own quotes.
‘Every Giallo reflects a psycho analytic reading’. Witches in Suspiria etc. In Gialli, the killers are mostly female, rather than male. There are also a lot of subjective viewings of the killer’s eyes in close-up, rather than Asthmatic Breathing that you get in American slashers.
Context wise, the style of Suspiria is extremely offensive. But as a director, Argento took his cue from Art-house and not Grind-house. His biggest influence was Michaelangelo Antonioni, a great director from the Art-house. Blow-Up was one of his films. Argento remade it as Deep Red and invited the lead role to play the same part. He also took a scene straight out of one of Michaelangelo’s films in Tenebrae.
Argento said that the Gialli were aimed not at one audience, but at two. The urban and educated north, and a male dominated, uneducated south. The producers then catered for both of them by putting fashion, art and politics in, as well as shock, titillation and gore. There are different peaks of interest in the film for different audiences. This was because the viewing habits of the two hemispheres of the country were totally different.
But what about the ‘male gaze of cinema’? These films seem to trade on images of gendered violence. Men, Women and Chainsaws goes over Argento’s films in Chapter four. The Author, Carol J. Clover, notices that the male gaze destroys the women in the film. She also picks up on ‘eye violence’ because Argento seems to disrupt the male safe viewing space. He does this by putting objects and elements in front of the subject of interest. He also has a knack of going for the camera lens with knives and bullets.
It is for certain that Suspiria is very similar to Blood and The Black Lace and Tenebrae. Up until five or six years ago, it was widely regarded that the Hollywood way of viewing and analysing film was the right way, but as it turns out, that isn’t necessarily true. Before now, films like Suspiria were dismissed as ‘European art-house# that didn’t really make any sense. The Italians certainly have their own way of viewing films though, and that is very apparent when you see their film festivals and how the watch their films in those kind of contexts. They always talk throughout uninteresting moments of the film about what the characters are doing etc, and then when a piece of action comes on screen, their gaze is fixated until it is over.
Concerning gender, sexuality, and the ambiguity of sexuality in Suspiria, it is worth mentioning that there aren’t exactly any male figures in the film. One of the guys is blind, the other is a freak who doesn’t say anything, and the other one is clearly gay. Masculinity is, in Argento films, very problematic. The main character of Suzy is very asexual as well as child like because she never has any sexual interest in anyone, she has a flat chest (as nearly everyone else does) and she talks about being cooped up in a boarding school as if she is ten years old again. The school is also completely female dominated by old mother figures who turn out to be quite monstrous. This is very similar to the mother figure in Frightmare. One scene that does have the male in it is the scene where Suzy discusses matters of witchery with Dr. Frank Mandel played by the German Udo Kier. He tries to rationally explain the goings-on, but when the film comes to an end, his explanations quickly get dismissed as completely wrong. Some male figure eh. Concerning men in the film though, the ones that do exist, every single one of them is dependent on a woman (mother figure) in some way, whether it be in speech or action.
A good book to look at is Laura Mulrey’s Visual Pleasures and Narrative Cinema and Jankovich’s Approaches to Popular film.
There are a few Christ like bodies in Suspiria as well, but the catch is that they are female rather than male. The character of Sara is one example when we see her lying on what seems to be a death bed near the end of the film. Another example is the first girl to die before she falls through the glass ceiling.
Note: A very interesting thing to write about is at what exact points do the different hemispheres of Italy find interesting on the electrocardiogram.
Something that is contextually interesting is the fact that Suspiria is not set in Italy, but an unnameable country.
The character of Suzy’s character arc is quite funny, because she goes from ‘not knowing what the hell is going on’, to ‘still doesn’t know what the hell is going on’.
Dario Argento mentions that he once asked another filmmaker about the cinema of poetry and the cinema of prose. These cinemas are both different in that the cinema of prose is where you do not notice the camera work, but with cinema of poetry, you are forced to notice because of the strong stylistic features. Dario Argento admits that he is more of a poet than a …. err, not sure how to say that.
A good place to takes some more notes from is Xavier Mendik’s documentary on Suspiria. He is the man for making it.