Monthly Archives: January 2018

A nude boy and extreme close-ups in ‘Django Kill… If You Live, Shoot!’

As I was researching my master thesis and examining the tautology of genre, I stumbled upon Sholem Stein’s list of unusual westerns.

Luck would have it that the first film on the list, Django Kill… If You Live, Shoot!, is on YouTube, so I watched it.

Did it live up to its expectations?

Not really. It’s a silly film.

Two notes:

It gratuitously features a nude boy, just as El Topo did. But not as nude here and only seen from the back.

And then there are the close-upsSergio Leone style, including tiny drops of sweat.

A way out of the ‘tautological genre-trap’

I finally started writing my master thesis for a degree in philosophy.

The subject?

“Can porn be art?”

The answer: “Yes it can be but usually it’s not.”

Anyway, to get to this answer, one needs to define art and porn.

Defining art is notoriously difficult.

Defining porn less so. First you need to get rid of the tautological genre-trap (see genre theory, corpus and tautology).

Page 135 from ‘Theories of Film’ (1974)

I finally read the original page on which the problem of the tautological genre-trap is first elaborated [above].

The page is from Andrew Tudor’s 1974 Theories of Film, the chapter’s title is “Critical Method: Auteur and Genre”, the page 135.

The text reads:

“To take a genre such as a ‘Western’, analyse it, and list its principal characteristics, is to beg the question that we must first isolate the body of films which are ‘Westerns’. But they can only be isolated on the basis of the ‘principal characteristics’ which can only be discovered from the films themselves after they have been isolated. That is, we are caught in a circle that first requires that the films be isolated, for which purposes a criterion is necessary, but the criterion is, in turn, meant to emerge from the empirically established common characteristics of the films.”

Tudor calls this an ’empiricist dilemma’.

More philosophically, you might call ‘genre’ an ostensive definition.

My way out of this quagmire?

Make use of Venn-diagrams. Some works are part of the ‘western’ set but can overlap with other sets.

RIP Mark E. Smith (1957 – 2018)

Mark E. Smith was an English musician, known for his post-punk group the Fall, a renowned and idiosyncratic offshoot from the UK post-punk popular music scene.

His voice is reminiscent of Jonathan Richman and tracks such as “Big New Prinz” [above] are as weird and danceable as Richman’s “Roadrunner” for example.

On a personal note: the covered “Mr. Pharmacist” in 1986, at a time when I was into garage rock.

P.S. The train footage in the clip of “Big New Prinz” is an example of slow television.

RIP Hugh Masekela (1939 – 2018)

Hugh Masekela (1939 – 2018)  was a South African musician, composer and singer.

I celebrated Hugh’s 70th birthday nine years ago [1] and pointed to the two compositions of Masekela that are in my top 1000 (“Grazing in the Grass” and “Don’t Go Lose It Baby“).

Above is “African Secret Society”, a 1974 composition by Masekela, soft, breezy and jazzy (and I love the idea of an African secret society).

Also [above] a recent find I discovered after France Gall’s death, “Umqokozo (Children’s Game Song About A New Red Dress)“, a song French musician Serge Gainsbourg used without credit as “Pauvre Lola” and on which you can hear Masekela playing at 0:55.

Michel Houellebecq praises “The World as Will and Wallpaper”

“Artichoke” wallpaper[1], by John Henry Dearle for William Morris & Co.

As I’ve mentioned[1], I travelled to China over the holidays, to visit my daughter Bonnie.

On holiday , and practically only then, I read.

My finest read this trip was Michel Houellebecq‘s De koude revolutie. One of the most enigmatic essays in that collection is “Sortir du XXe siècle” (2000), the title of which translates as “Leaving the 20th Century”, but which has, to my knowledge, not been translated into English.

The essay starts as a diatribe against the left, against 20th century social sciences (Pierre Bourdieu) and thought (Jean Baudrillard). It criticizes the nouveau roman and praises New Wave science fiction (“BallardDischKornbluthSpinradSturgeon and Vonnegut…”).

Most of all it praises American writer R. A. Lafferty and extols the virtues of the short story “The World as Will and Wallpaper” (1973), the title of which references Schopenhauer’s The World as Will and Representation and manages to weave William Morris (English artist, writer, socialist, activist and designer of wallpaper) in the story, both as character and as author of The Wood Beyond the World, which in this story has become a place which cannot be reached.

Kristeva and Volksgeist

I am quite fond of texts that make broad sweeping generalizations.

Last Sunday, I came across one such generalization in the Dutch translation of Kristeva’s Strangers to Ourselves (at the Sint-Jansvliet flea market in Antwerp).

“Nowhere is one more a foreigner than in France. Having neither the tolerance of Anglo-American Protestants, nor the absorbent ease of Latin Americans, nor the rejecting as well as assimilating curiosity of the Germans or Slavs, the French set a compact social texture and an unbeatable national pride against foreigners.”

The above generalization is one of national character, one of the hardest to make and the least respected, the category basically came into being with Hegel and Herder‘s Volksgeist and fell out of favor with Nazism.

RIP France Gall (1947 – 2018)

Jazz À Gogo (1964) – France Gall

France Gall was a French singer. She is famous for such songs as “Teenie Weenie Boppie” (on LSD), “Zozoi” (Brazilian), “Ella, elle l’a” (on Ella Fitzgerald) , “Laisse tomber les filles” (on Lotarios), “A Banda (Ah Bahn-da)” (Brazilian), “Poupée de cire, poupée de son” (Eurovision song winner) and “Pauvre Lola” (which only features her giggle).

Of personal interest is her collaboration with Serge Gainsbourg.

Notorious is the fact that she apparently was unaware of the fact that the “lollipops” in  “Les Sucettes” could mean more than just mere lollipops, despite her being already 19.