The Guardian (blog) - Marcus Browne Thursday 12 November 2015
The aim is to produce the reader you want for each story
“I think an author should write what the reader does not expect. The problem is not to ask what they need, but to change them … to produce the kind of reader you want for each story.”
50% of public opinion is shaped by fakes
“I am a philosopher; I write novels only on the weekends,” said Eco. “As a philosopher I am interested in truth. Since it is very difficult to decide what’s true or not I discovered that it’s easier to arrive at truth through the analysis of fakes.”
“I would say that 50% or more of public opinion is shaped by fakes. We are blackmailed by them,” he said.
Real literature is always about losers
Mullan later quoted one of his favourite lines from Numero Zero – “the pleasures of erudition are reserved for losers” – before going on to ask Eco why he chose to tell the story from the point of view of a thwarted character.
“Because that’s literature,” said Eco. “Dostoevsky was writing about losers. The main character of The Iliad, Hector, is a loser. It’s very boring to talk about winners. The real literature always talks about losers. Madame Bovary is a loser. Julien Sorel is a loser. I am doing only the same job. Losers are more fascinating.
“Winners are stupid … because usually they win by chance.”
January 29, 2014 Interview with Paul W. Kahn, Author of Finding Ourselves at the Movies - Hope Leman (@hleman)
Every movie imagines the possible through the construction of a narrative. An account of natural development does not include the possible. We don’t say that an earthquake was one of several possible events. We say it happened and it had to happen because of shifts in the tectonic plates that preceded it. A narrative does not work that way. A narrative always sets the actual against the possible. We are interested in human stories because of the choices made, but choice requires a belief that other possibilities were present – the choice could have been different.
A central argument of the book is that films show us the origin of the state in an act of sacrifice. This is a challenge to social contract theories that understand the state as solving a collective action problem: to advance the interests of all, without sacrificing the interests of any particular individual.
That is not what we see when we look at the representation of the political in films. Instead of a state advancing individual interests, we see a state for which individuals take up the burden of sacrifice. Films often pose the question: for what are we willing to give up the self? They always answer: for the sake of love, we will sacrifice the self. The state, in popular films, often appears to rest upon love and sacrifice, not contract and interest.
That the body might be given in act of sacrifice is exactly what pornography denies. Pornography relies upon a representation of a kind of ecstatic moment, but it is contained within the body. It is the ecstasy of pleasure – an extreme – not of sacrifice. For this reason as well, political drama always blends into family drama because both dramas are about the sacrificial character of love. Pornography, on the other hand, strips the individual away from family. Yet this idea is so difficult to sustain that pornography often falls back into a banal plot of reaffirmation of the traditional family once the exploration of the pleasures of the self alone have been experienced.
Love, I suggest in the book, may be the central theme of popular films. I have noticed lately that this seems more true of American than of foreign films. That probably tells us something about our optimism, the Christian roots of our culture, and our sense of what is most important in a life.
The center of these dramas of love remains the family – a common theme of television as well. I don’t think it is a matter of identifying films that are better or worse with respect to this theme. The strategy of the book is not to look for great or excellent films, but to pursue a kind of anthropological approach of looking to whatever is playing at the cinema.
Popular culture, after all, is not ordinarily high culture. A bad film, I argue, can tell us as much about ourselves as a good film in its choice of themes, characters, and problems to be resolved. As for enriching the experience of viewers with respect to the topic of love, my main suggestion would be to pay attention to the dynamic of sacrifice. One way we know who or what we love is to ask for whom or what we are willing to sacrifice. Films often explore just his question: for what will the subject sacrifice?
Movies involve us in a problem, a site of tension, and they ask, “What would you do?” Of course, they often represent this in fantastical ways, but so does religion speak of miracles and fables. The movies are always “preaching” to us not because they are trying to be didactic, but because we are eager for narrative. We come out of a movie with a sense that something has happened. We want to think about it. Thinking about the meaning of parables is, of course, one of our oldest experiences of religion.
Films interest us because they are both a result of and a reflection on free action. We don’t interpret a natural event; we analyze its causes. A free act is one that occurs for reasons. The meaning of a free act is a function of the reasons we assign to it. We might disagree about the reasons; we may be uncertain. Reasons, accordingly, call for interpretation.
I do not engage the professional scholarship of film studies. Rather, the book addresses the questions that have always motivated philosophy: for example, freedom, faith, love, death, and justice. I hope readers will engage these questions and learn that they are still very relevant to our modern experience.
The Pinocchio Theory - Freedman on Mieville - I just finished reading Carl Freedman’s excellent book on China Mieville, which I can heartily recommend to anybody who’s interested in Mieville. The book ...