February 2008


I associate William F Buckley with pornography and spiders. Coming from a left liberal family this is probably putting  a kind face on what the older generations of my family thought of him. But I am too young to have experienced the animosity they held towards Buckley when he was at his height,  so instead I knew him as the punchline to two great Woody Allen jokes.

The first is in Bananas where Allen’s character– Fielding Mellish– is at a newstand buying pornography, finds The National Review in the pornography section and buys it to cover up the other obscene material he purchased;

The second- not on the internet- is in Annie Hall when Alvy Singer comes over to Annie Hall’s apartment to kill a spider. When he gets there he notices a copy of the National Review and reacts with horror. Annie tells him she is trying out new things. Alvy replies:  ” Then why don’t  you get William F. Buckley to kill the spider.”

Both jokes are hilarious, but they treat Buckley better then he deserved. As the following exchanges with Vidal and Chomsky demonstrate: he was a toff, racist, jingoist, classist, proto-fascist with ideas far more obscene then the worst pornography and a magazine that wasn’t even worth wiping your ass with. Its a shame there are so many more where he came from.

The videos are also a depressing reminder that there used to be Leftists on TV worth a damn, who could obliterate the gibberish the right wing calls an argument. Yet, somehow Buckley’s follows are hegemonic and DLC hacks represent the Left. That is the real tragedy.

Edward W. Said’s Traveling Theory and Traveling Theory Reconsidered both examined how Lukacs’s idea of reification was adapted and transformed by  theorists in different contexts. In the former Said argued that reification was domesticated by academia, in the later he argued it was also radicalized by Adorno and Fanon.

Pier Paulo Pasolini offers an intriguing parallel in his discussion of how the genre of Italian neo-realism traveled:

“Italian neo-realism moved into France and England. It has not finished. The only place it is dead is in Italy. It has changed its nature and become a different cultural entity, but it has continued in France with Godard and in the new English cinema. The odd thing is that after moving into France and England particularly via the myth of Rosselini, neo-realism is appearing again in Italy with the younger directors; Bertolucci and Bellocchio are carrying on Italian neo-realism filtered back via Godard and the English cinema.”

He continues;

“I think you can see the English cinema is very much influenced by neo-realism. I was in England just a while ago and saw Poor Cow— even a child could see it is a produce of Italian neo-realism which has moved in a different context.”

What is interesting in both instances is why and how these important counter hegemonic ideas/genre…forms… traveled and what their ramifications were. The academic realm demands more in depth studies on them. The cultural realm demands modern equivalents.

I more anti-Oedipus then pro-Oedipus, but I do love speculation.

Following up on my earlier post about Pasolini’s unacknowledged influence on Bertolucci’s The Conformist— I came across this Pasolini comment on his influence on Bertolucci:

“I think more then being influenced by me, he reacted against me. I was rather like a father to him, and so he reacted against me…Maybe I gave him something indefinable, but he was always able to tell the authentic from the inauthentic. I always had a very general influence on him, and as regards his style he is completely different from me. His real master is Godard.”

This new information indicates that because 1) Bertolucci is extremely Oedipul and 2) Pasolini’s influence on Bertolucci was general and not the stylistic influence of Godard he jettisoned in The Conformist,  perhaps there is some substance to my speculation that Pasolini is the only father Bertolucci did not kill in The Conformist.

I synthesized my post on Hilary Clinton with my other posts on Marx. The fine people at Long Sunday were good enough to post it. Check it out.

Ralph Nader announced he is entering the presidential race today. The liberal blogs responded with opprobrium. Reed Hunt does so here. DHinMI really lets him have it; “For making America and the world bear the risks and potential costs of his actions, Ralph Nader should be judged one of the most unethical politicians in America” here. This singling out would seem to go against DHinMI’s later admission that Nader was a necessary but not sufficient cause of Gore loosing the 2000 election. But, even if you do grant that Nader was a cause of Gore loosing, that does not make him anymore ethically or morally responsible for the cluster fuck of the Bush administration then the rest of us. This fact can easily be obfuscated if the blame is pinned on him. If Ralph Nader didn’t exist he would have to be invented. Long live the cult of the Goreacle.

Not the somewhat dubious article on May ’68 in today’s Independent- Egalite! Liberte! Sexualite– which jettisoned the egalite and the liberte,  reducing the whole to do to the fact the French hadn’t freaked out, and then put out, like their contemporaries in England and the USA. But, something that took place in France that year, which displays the sexual abandon the French so desperately needed. Perhaps this is really what trigged the May days;

Today it struck me that Pasolini’s definition of conformity is a concise summary of how I remember Marcello, the conformist in Bertolucci’s Il Conformista.

Today’s Guardian has an interview with Bertolucci about the film. He has this to say about it:

“The conformist understands that the reason of his desperate look for conformism is that he realises he is different and that he never accepted his difference. In that last scene, he understands why he became a fascist – even the worst fascist of all – because he wanted to hide and forget what he feels are his differences in his deep, deep consciousness. It’s like realising that even fascists have a sub-consciousness.”

With the Freudian influence the movie has, you could then say the conformist’s repression of his difference articulates Pasolini’s point;

You could say it [conformism] is the decadence of integration into society. The average man is proud of being what he is and wants everyone else to be the same. He is reductive; he doesn’t believe in passion and sincerity, he doesn’t believe in people revealing themselves and confessing because the average man is not supposed to do these things. But the other characteristic, equal and opposite, is that this consciousness is not a class consciousness, it’s a moralistic, not a political consciousness.

Yet, Pasolini only makes a brief appearance in the Bertolucci interview, where it is mentioned that they were friends and that Bertolucci worked for Pasolini. Instead, the majority of the article focuses on Bertolucci’s Freudian theory that his work was an attempt to kill both his biological father; Attilo Bertoluci, and his cinematic father; Jean-Luc Godard.

In Godard’s case this is played out in his rejection of Il Conformista with the note he gave Bertolucci that read; ‘You have to fight against individualism and capitalism.’ Bertolucci attributes this break to the oblique fact that “I had finished the period in which to be able to communicate would be considered a mortal sin. He had not.”

The unclear meaning of this leaves room for speculating that Pasolini’s influence is unacknowledged. For in contrast to Godard, Pasolini’s conception of capitalist conformity is that it eradicates individuality and communication, and in doing so stymies political consciousness for morality.  Does this make Pasolini the father Bertolucci’s hasn’t killed? or is his just a massive unacknowledged influence? What i know of Bertolucci’s later works would seem to confirm both. Further, does Bertolucci’s reductive Freudian interpretation wreak of another type of conformism that evacuates broader social, cultural or historical influences?

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