Extract from Reflections on the Novel

Before broaching our third and final question (“What are the rules one must follow in order to succeed in perfecting the art of the novel?”), we must, it would seem to me, reply to the constant objection if certain melancholy minds who, to give themselves a gloss of morality wherefrom their hearts are often distant, persist in asking; “Of what use are novels?”

Of what use, indeed! hypocritical and perverse men, for you alone ask this ridiculous question: they are useful in portraying you as you are, proud creatures who wish to elude the painter’s brush, since you fear the results, for the novel is – if ’tis possible to express oneself thuswise – the representation of secular customs, and is therefore, for the philosopher who wishes to understand man, as essential as the knowledge of history. For the etching needle of history only depicts man when he reveals himself publicly, and then ’tis no longer he: ambition, pride cover his brow with a mask which portrays us naught but these these two passions, and not the man.

The novelist’s brush, on the contrary, portrays him from within… seizes him when he drops this mask, and the description, which is far more interesting, is at the same time more faithful. This, then, is the usefulness of novels, O you cold censors who dislike the novel: you are like that cripple who was wont to say: and why do artists bother to paint full-length portraits?

-Extract from Reflections on the Novel by the Marquis De Sade

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A Shattered Consciousness

I consume some films, ones that I feel require attention, often as I can in an altered state. I don’t do drugs, not illegal ones anyway, so my method is late, late nights and caffeine. The subsequent result is a feeling of disconnect with the world and that loosened mooring joins more readily to the flashing lights and quiet sounds on the television. The darkness outside helps too, no singing birds or rejuvenating sun. My mind on edge, I’ve been here before, eager to see the dawn one moment and determined to crawl into bed the next. These are the nights that I remember, these are the moments that cling on and won’t get go. To read a book as the sun rises and this frail world spins and that little thread that binds concerns disappears is, to put it simply, magical.

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A Place Beyond My Sanity

Place Beyond the Pines, starts with something like a magic trick, Ryan Gosling goes into the cage on a motorbike after a long uninterrupted shot, therefore Ryan Gosling must be in the cage doing those stunts. Perhaps, the function of the long shot seems plain regardless it serves as an entry point to the characters skill and Gosling’s on the bike.

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A Stream of Constant Noise

Time to try something different, the object of this blog is at least partially to discuss things that twitter would simplify in a way that distorts the conversation unhelpfully.

The Rules of Attraction, first thoughts; the way the suicide scene is shot juxtaposes it with the sexual climax previously. The denouement for both women is ultimately unsatisfying. Both acts are tied to James Van Den Beaks character (Peter is the fake name he gives, I don’t remember the real one) ah Bateman, it’s unclear the roommates motivations for sleeping with him at this point.

While the revelation of the constance presence of the girl is somewhat over wrought it fits with the frantic style that pops in and out of the film.

More possibly later.

My god Victor, that was an explosion of imagery and noise, I think he might end badly.

Oh god, no one knows anyone both literally and metaphorically. Ha!

I feel as though unsubtlness has been perfected in films over the last fourteen years, here it feels as though its trying a little too hard. But then again Starship Troopers managed satire of the most overt kind without it feeling forced. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy my time with the film, but it didn’t capture me the same way that say, Spring Breakers did.

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Random Musings on Three Films with No Conclusion Asked or Given

‘Stoker’ is the third film I’ve watched this month to deal explicitly with male obsession in regards to women. The first and most overt was ‘Under the Skin’, that particular film intimately explores heterosexual male and female relations, giving particular focus to the role women have as sexual objects for men. It is at times, deeply uncomfortable and in so being forces the watcher to confront a darker reality than is usually witnessed in conversations in the light of day. It concerns itself with what happens in the darkness of a club or the predawn around suburban houses, the edges of existence. To a great extent the film conveys an atmosphere of uncertainty and fear in being alone and objectified.

The second is a film that I am a little confused by, the film is ‘MASH’, a film that is heavily critical of war as a practice, yet the characters who embody this viewpoint in one memorable scene, humiliate a woman, making her suffer for their amusement. My problem with it is that up until that point and even after, I watched a film with a perspective on war that found itself based on compassion. But in that scene the principal characters demonstrated such cruelty and callosness and had their actions rewarded and endorsed.

The third and final one that I mentioned earlier is ‘Stoker’, I won’t get too deep into the specifics of the film, as at least part of my joy in watching it involved unravelling the characters and their motivations. What I will discuss briefly is about the central figure of the film, India. She is throughout defined by her sex, and her sexual awakening coupled with the arrival of her Uncle leads to some disturbing violence. It’s also, out of the three, the one I have least of a handle on and I’m certainly going to try to find a decent article that gives a reading of this film.

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I just had a discussion with a mate of mine who adored ‘The LEGO Movie’, so much so that despite seeing it in the cinema he now also owns a copy on blu-ray. That talk made me work through my feelings on that particular movie, feelings of which I am going to to articulate/vent/spew here.

Firstly, I was intrigued by the film, I certainly didn’t loathe it, I even rewatched it, not only because I enjoyed my experience but also to figure out what precisely was nagging at me, why was it that when I watched the film there was this little nugget of conflictedness rearing itself in that squishy thinky part of me. The conclusion I came to, and a rather unpolished one at that, was that it felt like Toy Story with real, preexisting toys. This conclusion, while not incorrect, lacked a certain level of nuance. So the talk earlier with my ‘The LEGO MOVIE’ loving friend helped me flesh out those feelings and give a little more substance to my thought than I had previously.

Animated shows of the late eighties (which I wasn’t alive to see but regardless) and nineties (which I was) existed to sell shit, Transformers, Biker Mice from Mars, that one with the Sharks in a motorcycle gang, yet even when revisiting them I don’t get weirded out. Probably because I first watched them as a child, so at that time you’re not really thinking on any sort of ‘THESE SONS OF BITCHES ARE TRYING TO MANIPULATE ME!’ level. But also and I think importantly here, they exist on a level of abstraction, Transformers as far as I recall was never something I watched (it may not have been on British tv?) but in both the cartoons and Michael Bay’s films you aren’t watching the toys, what you are watching is either drawn or computer animated machines of alien origin. Whereas ‘THE LEGO MOVIE’ has the toys in a fashion that while slightly idealised (no chew-marks from difficult to separate pieces) are completely representative of the product you get out of the box. You could of course argue that like the Transformers, the lego characters move on their own, without a child’s hand to manipulate them. Except of course for the part of the film where a child does manipulate and play with the lego figures, and his developing relationship with his father, which then leads directly to a scene that epitomizes many toy commercials of my youth, that of the FATHER FIGURE PLAYING AND HAVING FUN WITH HIS SON! You actually root for this reconciliation during the film, you want that scene to happen and like a dog following a trail of treats, inevitably find yourself trapped in an upturned washing basket.

I know when I watch this film that I’m being manipulated and the film tells me; ‘HEY DUMB-ASS! HERE ARE A BUNCH OF LEGO PRODUCTS, DON’T THEY LOOK FUCKING COOL?’ The worst thing is that they do! The toys do look cool and fun, the film succeeds in persuading you that lego is a great thing to play with, especially as it allows you to FORM INTIMATE AND CLOSER BONDS WITH FATHER! And that’s what gets to me, it’s like a conman telling you he’s going to pick your pocket then you’re all surprised when you can’t find your wallet. You’re a little impressed but also annoyed, you’ve paid with whatever is in your wallet to be fooled and that, despite all the glamour and skill involved, rubs me the wrong way.

If you didn’t pay for this entertaining commercial, either through someone else buying it or literally ANY OTHER WAY that didn’t involve you giving money to film that tells you to BUY BUY BUY! Then you’ve won! For the rest of us, I feel compelled to re-purpose a quote from a classic;

But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved ‘THE LEGO MOVIE’®

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A Sequence of Observable Events in Watch_Dogs, or Peeping Psycho

Due to the upcoming announcement of Watch_Dogs 2, I was reminded of this piece I wrote. I’ve gone back and edited it a little. I do hope that the next game breaks away from the monstrous but ultimately boring character that is, Aiden Pearce.

Watch_Dogs isn’t a great game, it’s not a terrible one either, this isn’t an original or controversial opinion, like the game itself, mediocrity is the consensus. There is one element of this lackluster game that I’ve taken quite a shine to, the ‘Privacy Invasion’ activity. This, one of the many side activities in Watch_Dogs, involves finding a junction box and hacking it. Occasionally it’s a little more complex but the basic formula of find the thing, follow a line until you find another thing to unlock the first thing, stands. What I’m intrigued by is what happens after that, you get treated to an extended tableau, or the alternatively, the first act of a play, an intrusion into the lives of the denizens of Chicago. They range, much like life itself, from the mundane to the creepy and occasionally the emotionally touching. You experience, like the voyeur you are playing, a snapshot into complex lives.

I’d like to talk briefly about two of these unsettling intrusions. The first happens in medias res, a man and his topless companion are playing Russian roulette, the woman holding the gun towards him and while the man eggs her on to pull the trigger, which she does, several times. Her nudity acts as a visual cue, the breaking of a taboo which signals the possibility of more broken taboos to come, that the gun held precariously could, before the end, expel a small but fatal shard of metal, ending in explicit violence. This didn’t happen, the scene ends in suspense with the woman putting the still presumably loaded and miraculously unfired gun to her own head.

The second is a far more subdued scene, the camera’s view isn’t total, partially blocked by a table or chair. A man, which the wonderful magic phone you carry with you is able, despite the obstruction of view, to identify him. It tells you that he’s a seventy year old man with cancer in remission. He remains motionless and you could, presumably, look on his prone form forever without the camera kicking you out. The only action you have is to hack a phone lying strewn on the floor. Doing so brings up an answerphone message, left just that morning from a concerned son who’s decided that his father should live with him and that he’d be by in the evening to pick him up. Usually these encounters end themselves quickly, kicking you out of the scene, but this one hangs on, I was starting to wonder whether I could leave it on forever and was consequently a little disappointed when it did, after an admittedly decent amount of time, lock me out. Yet that lengthening of the traditional time was done well and impressed me, these incidents were clearly created with some level of thought into the detail.

Neither offers resolution, we don’t know whether the gun will, as Chekhov is famously quoted as saying, go off in the second or third act. Nor do we know whether the man lying on the floor is alive and even if he is, we don’t know what will happen next. Importantly for a game we are unable to influence the future of these figures, we can’t call the police to get the first two arrested (hopefully saving their lives) nor can we call the ambulance for the old man. We are impotent, unfortunately these privacy invasions are not about helping people, they are about being a pretty creepy voyeur, which does suit the personality of Aiden Pearce, the role that you are supposed to inhabit, but is pretty unsatisfying if you wanted to play the game with any illusions that you were a good guy. Often, what little choice you have in these scenes make you anything but, with frequent opportunities to hack the bank account of those you surveil. This, while feeling like a twisted sense of justice against an objectifying misogynistic ass, becomes needlessly cruel against a couple fighting terminal cancer.

What this says about the lead character speaks to the pointlessness of moral choice in a game centered around an ignorant, self-righteous, psychopath.

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