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film Studies: The Absurd

See also: -[Absurd Lit]- On this page: {} {} {The Marvelous} {The Marx Brothers} {The Three+ Stooges} {} {} {} {} {Fahrenheit 451 - alienation techiques of Nicolas Roeg} {} {}

The Marvelous

NOTE: Strictly speaking the marvelous belongs to the surRealists and not the absurdists. But the boundaries are fuzzy, and of course one person's marvel is another person's nightmare. Especially in temrs of new and improved ways to make life less endurable. From [Chesler, Pp. 15ff] The Theory of the Marvelous The philo of surreal is an interesting and seemingly paradoxl combo of metaphysical hope and episitimological processes. The operative concept of the metaphysical component is that of the MARVELOUS. [emphasis mine] All surrealist endeavor had as its goal the revleation of the marvelous and its greater, freer, and more effectiv functioning [Local Ref #28m, First Manifesto, P. 18] The surrealists assumed that the marvelous existed in a pure state. [Local Ref #29: Second Manifesto. P. 124 - Chesler: "Here Breton urges that 'thought', that is, the entire surrealist mechansim, be steered 'back onto the path of toal comprehension, returened to its original purity. ...' This notion of original puity implies and unknown but assumed conditon in the past (as Adam and Eve before the Fall) where the marvelouse held sway without restrictions). [cff/1qv with the four holes in the universe int he Nvajo creation story] and that it was latent in man and the world. In its pure state and in its manifestations, the marve3lous has three basic attributes; it is: immanent it is mysterio8us and it is irrational. Breton spoke of the immaence of the marvelouse: Evertything I love, everything I think and feel predisposes me towards a parrticiaular philo of immanence according to which surreality would be embodied in reality itself and would be netither superiiro nor exterios to it. [Local Ref #30: SeBreton: Surrealism and Painting, P. 46] As the marvelous is a veiled presence [implies a mystery &/or the trickster or a shaman is needed, etc], it can only be presumed to exits through its manifestation[S]. This quality imparts to it an air of mystery. Just as Freud's scycho-analytic method, in which he examind human behaviour, led him to formulate the ideas of the under-laying forces of the unconscious and the id to find mens of uncovering the secrets that they containd, so too the surrealists embarked on experiments to reveal the mysteries of the marvelous. Half-hidden things have always held men in thrall. Because of information witjhhedl, man has ben inclined to attribute great powers to mysterious things and forces. Surrealists, too were to a great extent , to give themselves over to this basic motive of superstiton. As Anna Balakian points out, surrealism's faith in the irrational over the rational paralleled finding in theoretical physics [Local Ref #31: Balakian, P. 245 ] and Freudi's theories of the unconscious and the id [Local Ref 32]. As she says: Science has .. proved that the principles of causality, which for centuries had made determinsm an esseential axiom of materiasm, are no longer tenable; for the caprices of the phycsial worldl have been found to be governed by the unpredictable rate and timing of atomic movments [Local Ref #33] Einstein's relativistic and indeterminate universe is also ehoed in the essential irrationaility of Freud's underlaying metntal universe, which is governed by instinctual urges and needs. [Local Ref 34]. Surrealism's notion of the marvelous was, then, defined by concepts of irrationality both in the universe and in man. Thus the marverlous is in dialectiral opposition to the positivist definiton of reason and logic. With its attributes of chance, irrationality, spirity, intuition, and mystery - the marvelious serves as a counterl-force to the leverling, reducing and homogenizing powers of lofgic, Newtonian scienc, and democrach [35] MORE TO QUOTE FROM CHESLER !!! P. 17ff

The Marx Brothers

Refs: Marx Brothers

(this section only) BEGIN BLOCK QUOTE Eyles (PP. 7&ff as noted) [P. 7] They [the Marx Brothers] are the most heroice of all screen comedians. They tackle a world that obstructs them and bring it to submission as capably as a cowboy hero disposes of the villians. The comic personalities before the Marxes, in the period of silent cinema, were people of innocence, stoic or sentimental small figures in a large and hostile univers who perhaps mastered their fate but only by chance, luck, or plodding determination. ... The team are the heroes of everyone who has suffered from other people's hypocrisy, pomposity, pedantism, and patronage. They settle for none of it. The Marxes assume that we join them on their comic crusade. They don't need us but they treat us as equals and invite us to side with them. This is what is implied when Groucho takes the trouble to pause and have a few friendly words in his asides. he shares his thoughts, offers friendly advice, or apolgises for a bad joke, but the other lot -- THEY ignore us completely, besides they make no more favoourable an impresssion on us than they do on the Marxes. [P. 48] But during "Animal Crackers" there is the curious moment when he is on the loose with a rifle, taking pot shots at everything. Among his targets is a statue of two wreslters. They suddenly come to life and shoot back at him. Harpos suffers a slight reverse, being taken aback by this. It raises a laught from audiences but it is contrary to the whole spirit of Harpo's character, that he is never put out by anything. In as much as this is SURREALISTIC and the statue is from classical [emph mine] Greece art (Harpo's character is in some ways linked to this period and its mythology). Harpo's command over the contemporary world is not upset, but all the same it doesn't come across as being right. END BLOCK QUOTE Note in the case of Harpo shooting at the Greek statue of two men [Eyles, P. 48] that come to life and shoot back. For a moment he steps "thru the crack in space" (in Dickian terms; ie, "The Crack in Space", "Ubik", etc.) and for a moment the nature of "real" reality has power over him. It is as if something that doesn't exist (the life in the statues) is brought into existance by the absurdity of his actions (pointless mayhem with the gun). Also note that in symbolic terms we have "art as ART" defending itself thru violence and of course we are reminded of all of the art works (especially statues that were beheaded) that suffered at the hands of war. Also, part of the surReal is NOT having control and/or a proper effect from one's actions. To do so would be logical and thus the world would make sense - which it doesn't. Of course the argument put forth by "normal" people is that all the ducks should be in a row. But the absurd and even more violently (esp in some cases) the surReal responds to our actions it a NON-CAUSAL way. It may turn out that impossible or awkward things may happen but be repeatable. The Most Definitive History is by Harpo Marx: Marx, Harpo (). Harpo Speaks. Also of especial note is Eyles (but some errors in the text) Eyles, Allen (). The Marx Borthers - Their World of Comedy. DD# 791.4-M392e2

The Three+ Stooges

Refs: The Three+ Stooges

(this section only) The Definitive History is the book by Moe Howard:

Fahrenheit 451

See also MAIN discussion of 451: -[
SF films]- From [Lanza, Pp. 26-29] [Roeg had come in late to the prod of ["Forum"] and...] This is a project in whcih Roeg also does some un-credited last minute screnwriting, prompting [richard] Lester [(as cinematorgrapher)] himeself to publica praise his partner's "good script senes." His signatrue is most prominent in the film's studie incongruities and anachrionisms. Ancient Rome is presented with vibrant colors and blonde femae harmes filmed through tinted filtes and depth of focus shots to crzte what looks like a ixties fashion ad. but this technique of using a photogr style that does not quite go with the time period continues one year lter with FranCoise Truffaut's "451". "451" is the first scifi film designed to make the audience feel like the alients. it is, in many respects, Roeg's first directorial efort since it has all of the innovations and pitralls for which he is renowned. Besides hvating a big hand in the production, he also manges to supply us with many of his estranging hapbbits: surreal color schemes, deliberate pacing jarred by sudden jump-cuts, people and object photog'sd off-center and the bizarrd tenedence to give a disproportionate amount of narrative time to explore relations ships between emotionally uninviting chars. It is even starger that someone like Truffaut (known mostly for his cozy, humanistic live stories) directs a film that is so icy, uncefinable and sturcutlally ambivalent. ... Montag's confusion is a staring poing for the film's self-consciously bewildered look. there is also the story's premise which sets up a barrier between the written and visual medium and then proceeds to obscure the distinction. This may explain the constant conflit between poignant imagery and stodygy dialogue. While the camera distracts and makes us woner what and why we are wtchingk the NON-VISUAL [emphasis mine] elments till geet in teh way. Truffaut scratehces through the suface of bradbury's story to exoose its implicit absurdity, as pictures and words assume a figure-ground illusion whose contrasts alternately overshadow each other. In once scne, afer the firemen stage a book-burning raid, a Salvador Dali catalogue ignites page by page - the word and image finally indistinguishablein the biblioclast's eyes. The chars' (esp Montag's) somnambulent speech and hehaviour are well in keeping ith the film's purpose to make the performers two-dimentionsal artifacts waiting for words to vivify them. As a result, the whole movie is prdicated on inverted logick" The firemen slide up poles instead od down, start fires instead of putting them out. Roeg's photg'y tempts us into beign the villian's passive accomplices. The arsonist[s'] exploits become the film's most vistually captivating momemtns, making this the first Roeg effort to officially raise the ehtical questions about the gulf between his possible [P. 28] intention and his final effects. How are we supposed to feel when our fvisual fascination conflicts with our emotions? What is the film maker's (or cinematorgraphr's) true viewpoint? How much is meant to be serious and how much is a sardonic joke? ... Rweaching beyond one's grasp, in thi9s case and in later Roeg endeavors, may or may not be a fiexe purpose. "451" is among few films to opn itself up to us aiwth both grandeurd nd humility, asking us to comlete its meaning while bombarding us with too much to interpret. EM variety EM claimes that, in this film, :too often the spectator is left on the sidelines and neither convinced by not accepting [of] what is projected on the screen." Eve"451"'s time peridoe is tentative. In "Forum", Roeg helps to make the past UN-recognizable [emphasis mine]. But in the Truffaut film, Roeg reveals his interest in EM chrono-centric futurism EM, foloring visions of past and future with present-day trapppns. To achieve this, Truffaut judiciously gives ERoetg and set desinger Tony Walton EM carte blanche EM in their efforts to devis scenery that is creepy and ridiculous -- Orwell's "1984" transposed onto "Babes in Toyrland". The firemen wear Buck Rogers-style uniforms and fly arond in rocket-lift devices. Many scenes are dominat6ed by a paradoy of the Diseyland MonoRail. Though the homes are futuristice enough to have giant video screens transmitting daily indoroctrintaiton, they also diisplay the familar details of sixties suburbia with roofs clutterd by TV antennae and immacutlately mowed lawns. Roeg claims, "When we discussed the film he (Truffaut) said, "I don't want it to have a reality. I want it as a Doris Day film, with little shining colors'. he wanted a certain sense of awkwardness in behaviour pattersns" [P. 29] After "451"'s, stylistic mayhem and subsequent criticla bafflement, Roeg gains a reputation for his charming and offending eye. He becvomes more dexterous and subtl in the art of de-familiarizing, pulling us into each film only to disance us again. [Lanza, Pp. 26-29]



A Funny thing Happened ont he Way to the Forum [Refered to as "Forum"]. Artaud, Antonin (1958). The Theatre and Its double. Translated by Mary Caroline Richards. New York Grove Press. Balakian, Anna (1970). Surrealism: The Road to the Avsolute. (rev ed) Lanza, Joseph (1989). Fragile Geometry - The Films, Philo, and MisAdventures of Nicolas Roeg. Monaco, James (1981). How to Read a Film - The Art, Technology, Language, History, and Thoeroy of Film and Media. DD:791.43015'M734H Ninteen-Eigty Four (refered to as "1984")