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September 10, 2012


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Fuck yeah!


"I would think that Ellis would be delighted that, while an undergraduate, Wallace rhapsodized over the "smell of cunt in the air;" it makes him sound like a particularly loathesome character in, well, a Bret Easton Ellis book."

Disagree. It makes him sound like a perfectly normal sophomore.

Louis Godfrey

The last few sentences on Ellis, DFW and DeLillo actually made me feel kind of sorry for Ellis, which I didn't think was possible.

And I am looking forward to a lengthy reaction post when you finish War & Peace.

Danny Bowes

"After American Psycho made its splash, or whatever it was, I read precisely enough of it to determine to my own satisfaction its authorial voice, which was/is a ventriloquist dummy's inept parroting of Alain Robbe-Grillet dressed in a "Die Yuppie Scum" t-shirt."



I was only vaguely aware of this kerfuffle (I tend to steer clear of Twitter), so it's nice to have the whole thing encapsulated and unpacked in such a fun piece. Thanks for that, Glenn. For my part, I've read nary a word of Ellis', although what I've gleaned from secondary sources makes me pretty content with keeping it that way. I have read the excerpts of the DT Max biography that have been carefully parceled out over the interwebs lately, and from them, I'm not terribly eager to read the book. Maybe it's still too soon. I dunno. But something about Max's approach seems off; I have a hard time knowing how to put it other than that it feels too New Yorker-y.

Not being particularly well-versed in the High Po-Mo that many (including, I guess, DFW himself) considered him as heir to, I've never had much invested in that side of his seemingly split persona. My own life & literary circumstances had primed me, upon first delving into Wallace, for the semi-recovery-based, deceptively simple, "sincere" stuff in his work. There's still stuff in Infinite Jest and elsewhere that I churlishly respond to with a "well, duh!" attitude, but for me, that's part of what made DFW's struggle so fascinating and poignant; that someone so smart and keenly aware of his surroundings could have been so thick-headed and confounded about things I had taken for granted as being basically true. This is not, btw, some kind of back-handed one-upsmanship on ol' saint Dave, because his struggle forced me (and many others, I'm sure) to reconsider and actually CONTEND with the need/desire for simplicity and wisdom in extremely complicated and distracting times, and it continues to do so.

David Ehrenstein

Speaking as a Hipster Douchebag, "Moonrise Kingdom" WAS my favorite American film this year -- until I saw "Keep the Lights On."

Bret's a very sad case, far more at war with himself than David Foster Wallace. His love died a few years back and he's never gotten over it. That's fairly simple and quite sympathetic. But all this was preceeded by ears of living in what's known as a "glass closet." Bret has never liked being gay -- and he's not about to start liking it now.

Joel Bocko

I don't have a dog in this fight, never having read Wallace or Ellis (although I have read War and Peace!). That said, I've seen the film versions of American Psycho and Rules of Attraction and loathed them about as much as I've ever loathed any movie.

I'd like to think at this 'historical moment' as Ellis called it the whole postmodern sarcastic irony while feigning superiority to said irony thing would be crashing like a house of cards what with enough real problems confronting us, so that we can get our noses out of the navel-gazey 'we're all middle class neurotics now' zeitgeist of the 90s. But that thing's been declared dead before to little avail, so we'll see.

It should also be clear by now that only hipster douchebags use the term 'hipster douchebags' so you'd think the supposed sophisticates would've discovered another metaironic level to this whole thing, whereby hipsters no longer defensively rail against hipsterdom but regard it with condescending affection or something, like it's a pop cultural phenomenon they're already looking back on while living through it. Or maybe they're past that too and back to hating it and I'm just behind the curve. I'll take a rain check.

Stick to Tolstoy, Glenn. Definitely worth more of your time than this twerp.

James Keepnews

All this talk of DFW and hipster douchebags does set me to reflecting on how in G-d's name the Harper's New Books column went from being written by John Leonard, then to Zadie Smith, then to Larry McMurtry (wherein we learned Lar the Lion runs a Texas bookstore and Diane Keaton's nickname, also, if somewhat less about new books each month), to now the enervated douchery of this Joshua Cohen fella, in unnervingly PDQ succession. Cohen is not uninformed -- he does, as last month's issue demonstrated, know his Danilo Kis. And like all post-millennial "hipsters," he might reject the designation while his columns traffics in the worst kind of teeth-grinding, McWeenie deadpan preciosity no reader will ever deem "angelheaded". And so, in this month's Harper's on the occasion of D.T. Max's DFW bio's publication, Mr. Cohen avers that Mr. Wallace committed suicide to prove that we are at the end of postmodernism. Emmis. No real link for us non-subscribers, but in summation, Mr. Cohen maintains: "Love more, feel more, be more—_this_ (emphasis his) is the perennial sermon of realism (inasmuch as this is horseshit, one wonders why he was so emphatic), which modernism responded to with cynicism, postmodernism with irony. Wallace had been too disabused of both to respond at all, save with a rafter, a lawn chair, a belt." I have a laundry list of things for which I should very much like to disabuse our wispy post-ironist, generally in the vicinity of the soft cartilage of his septum. So, if I tell Joshua Cohen he's a fucking asshole and sock him in the nose, do you suppose that might be proof of the end of something else, like, perhaps, his criticism or at a minimum its shameful, self-absorbed will to douchebag conjecture?


I feel like there's a great blog post (or maybe, book?) brewing somewhere about the whole PoMo ball of wax vis-a-vis contemporary cinema. Can any movies be said to function as cinematic correlatives to the kind of literature that many regard as so important, and also so fraught? Did Postmodernism ever really bridge that gap between books and movies? I understand that lots of pop culture has sort of (what seem to me) to be pseudo-PoMo tendencies (like the Simpsons), but did it go further than that? Any takers?

For my two cents, it seems way more apparent in TV (irony!) than in Cinema, which maybe has to do with the whole "maximalist" thing, or not. LOUIE seems to be a shining example of the new ironic/sincere hybrid; the merciless irreverence/brutal honesty of Louie CK's schtick that somehow seems to fit with a sincerity about family, community, politics, etc. that can border on the sentimental, but mostly works just fine.

David Ehrenstein

"feel like there's a great blog post (or maybe, book?) brewing somewhere about the whole PoMo ball of wax vis-a-vis contemporary cinema. Can any movies be said to function as cinematic correlatives to the kind of literature that many regard as so important, and also so fraught? Did Postmodernism ever really bridge that gap between books and movies? I understand that lots of pop culture has sort of (what seem to me) to be pseudo-PoMo tendencies (like the Simpsons), but did it go further than that? Any takers?"




Well, yes, there's that. I wasn't thinking so much of experimental cinema, although clearly I could have been. I guess I meant something a bit closer to the mainstream, or at least the cult-favorite status of certain books by Pynchon et al. I'm also realizing now that a good portion of Godard could qualify, but somehow a lot of this seems to hinge on the putative differences between Post-Modern and Modern, which to my knowledge haven't ever been all that agreed upon.


I also have to finish "War and Peace" one of these days - when I have time (and no, I am not using the Snoopy method).

I read "Less Than Zero" when the movie came out, and thought it was the most depressing book I'd ever read, and had no desire to read it again. Of course, I was 19 at the time, so it's entirely possible that if I did decide to read it again, I'd be ashamed of myself, but I have not as of yet. I also read "American Psycho" and "Rules of Attraction", and while I was amused at all the music references in the former (and must confess I still like Huey Lewis and the News), I found both novels incredibly self-indulgent, and while I agree about Glenn's assessment of the movie version of "American Psycho" (I also think it's Christian Bale's best performance), I didn't like the movie version of "Rules of Attraction" one little bit.

I stopped taking Ellis seriously as a cultural critic when he slammed the Broadway musical version of "Tommy" for "selling out" - as if he hadn't - so I'm not surprised he's being a dick here.

And I am beyond tired of the term "hipster". To me, it's code for, "You educated white guys have no business listening to/reading/watching this! Why don't you go back to listening to/reading/watching this (insert name of appropriate white-bread entertainer here) like you're supposed to!"

Gordon Cameron

Space Ghost Coast-to-Coast?


I don't have much to say about this Ellis controversy, though I am mildly interested in the upcoming film he wrote for Paul Schrader. Regardless, I will mention that a couple recent articles have made me very nostalgic for DFW the essayist. One is Aleksandar Hemon's piece on the making of the adaptation of David Mitchell's "Cloud Atlas" in The New Yorker and the other is John Jeremiah Sullivan's profile of Serena and Venus Williams in the New York Times Magazine. Hemon and Sullivan are fine writers, but DFW was able to take those kinds of assignments (like his piece on David Lynch in Premiere and his essay on Roger Federer for NYT) and really inject them with a unique perspective and sensibility. People seem to think Sullivan, in particular, is DFW's heir, but he's just not as good, if you ask me. I don't plan on reading the new biography either.

@James Keepnews: My favorite Harper's New Books reviewers were John Leonard and Benjamin Moser, incidentally the non-novelists. Zadie Smith is a pretty good critic too, but I was sort of happy to see her step down from the gig. I mean, her books sell millions of copies, she publishes essays regularly in the biggest magazines and she has a tenured teaching post. Did she really need a regular reviewing job too, lol? (Speaking of Smith, has anyone read her latest novel? She's always cited DFW as an influence, but this is by far her most Wallacian book. Not quite sure what I thought of it.) I haven't read many of Joshua Cohen's reviews, nor have I read any of his fiction. What you describe doesn't sound promising.


@ Scott: I think the hype surrounding Sullivan is silly and distracting; he's no more an "heir" to Wallace's status than Wallace was to, say, DeLillo, but I do think he is a terrific writer. There are undeniable stylistic and even temperamental similarities, (perhaps this is further evidence of the Wallace style being currently "dominant") but Sullivan is very much his own writer, and has a good attitude about the whole Wallace thing. Besides Pulphead, which has some brilliant stuff (and lots of stuff that's just good smart fun), his book Blood Horses is enough to make the most jaded memoir-hater's heart melt, as it did mine. Can't recommend it enough.


I've read a little bit of Joshua Cohen's fiction (a couple stories, passages from his novels) and was pretty impressed by it, if only as a linguistic performance. His energy and talent are formidable, though he's too undisciplined with them to yet be a major writer. But he has no compunctions about using reviews of other people's work as essentially a platform for more of his schtick, which often gets him into trouble, in this case lots.

I kind of like both the AMERICAN PSYCHO and RULES OF ATTRACTION adaptations. The latter unearths talent in actors who were heretofore just more grist for the snark mill, and Avary comes up with some amusing and inventive ways of visualizing the book's quasi-stream-of-consciousness passages. And contra Mr. Kenny I don't think High Tragedy is at all what it's going for. BEE is bearable at feature length, provided he's being mediated by a filmmaker with a point of view. The prospect of actually reading one of his novels--which would require spending more than 2 hours in that headspace--fills me with dread.

Jaime N. Christley

Terrific post. I do want to chime in again that there is a great unwritten book in the ether called "Glenn Kenny's History of the 2nd Half of the 20th Century and A Bit Afterward Too." I'd buy that book.

James Keepnews

Confess I have not read Mr. Cohen's fiction, but (now that I have my "hard" copy handy), G-d save me, I have read this:

"As a nonbeliever—which is to say a close reader"—read (close or far, who gives a shit?): a douchebag—"—it's difficult to decide who died for fiction's sins. On the one hand, there's Jonathan Franzen, who continues to write, and continues to complain about the impossibility of writing, if only to remind us that realism hurts."—Jesus, not as much as that tortured construction...and then, we come to it: "On the other, there's David Foster Wallace, who killed himself if only to prove that postmodernism is dead."

Ah, yes, JC, "if only"...

Glenn Kenny

@ Jaime: Many thanks, sir, and I think I'm gonna use that as a pitch at a book meeting I have tomorrow.

@ James: Good God, that's wretched. I have to wonder if the man has actually gone through life without ever having experienced a suicide in his family or among his friends. Or if he has, how obtuse and sad this guy has got to be.

Brian Dauth

Zach: postmodernism in American literature can be seen as far back as Chapter VIII of Faulkner's "Absalom, Absalom." Some would say that postmodernism was co-existent for much of the life of modernism (Lyotard among others).

In cinema, some of the great autuers of modernism find themselves moving to/embracing postmodernism at the close of their careers: Visconti (DEATH IN VENICE and onward); Antonioni (ZABRISKIE POINT and beyond); Hitchcock (the final sublime 5 starting with MARNIE).

Other filmmakers, though rooted in modernism, start out in a postmodern key and never look back: Eastwood; Fassbinder; Pasolini. Still others are are rooted in post-modernism -- Almodovar; Van Sant -- from the get-go.

Joel Bocko

I think this is the point in the conversation where all parties have to offer their interpretation of the term 'postmodernism' because it doesn't sound like a common definition is being used. Certainly neither Zabriskie Point nor Clint Eastwood would fit my conception (well, except for the chair speech, maybe).


As Steve Coogan put it, "Tristram Shandy" -- and, I might add, Prospero's speech that ends 'The Tempest' -- "was a post-modern classic written before there was any modernism to be post about."

'Flags of our Fathers' strikes me as postmodern.

That Fuzzy Bastard

Well, the prime characteristics, if I recall my Jameson correctly, are pastiche without parody, self-referentiality, and a tendency to collapse signifier/signified relationships and narrative dichotomies. I'd say Tod Haynes is very much a postmodern filmmaker (though one could make the case for him as a more orthodox structuralist), Gus van Sant maybe, Eastwood definitely not (he's aware of media manipulation, but things on screen very much are what they are in his movies), John Waters kinda (he does pastiche as parody, but with a camp blankness that gets closer to Jameson's postmodernism), Fincher maybe.

Brian Dauth

Some quick thoughts (I will try and add more later, but work is very busy for the next two days):

1) To read Jameson on postmodernism is like looking to Fred Phelps for nuanced commentary on queer culture. Jameson hates postmodernism and distorts it in order to attack it. There are many better guides to postmodern thought, some of whom I have referenced in posts at davekehr.com

2) William Beard captures part of what I mean in his book "Persistence of Double Vision" when he writes: "Hollywood post-modernism, by contrast, almost always stages this disbelief in grand narrative in conjunction with the (classical) grand narrative itself -- and both sides of the contradictory antithesis are consumed simultaneoulsy and disavowingly." That is what I meant when I wrote that Fassbinder, Eastwood, and Pasolini were rooted in modernism, but work in a postmodernist key. All three artists are transitional figures and can be appreciated from a modernist perspective with nary a nod to post-anything. On the other hand, Almodovar is best appreciated through a postmodernist lens since his work builds upon the work of these transitional auteurs.

3) There has always been self-referentiality and audience address in art. In some ways, I find "Moby-Dick" to be symptomatically postmodern. Postmodernism, though, combines these two techniques with other concerns, e.g., interrogation of Otherness. I love both "Tristam Shandy" and "Gulliver's Travels" and their pre-post aspects, but neither have the postmodern trajectory of "Absalom, Absalom."

Joel Bocko

Here, I suppose, is the key question: if postmodernism is primarily defined by self-awareness what distinguishes it from modernism which is also largely defined by this quality?

I've noticed that pro-postmodernists have a tendency to lump modernism in with classicism, while anti-postmodernists see Modernism as the true revolution and postmodernism as reactionary. Often it seems as if people with different interpretations of the term don't even seem to be speaking the same language, and I think the key difference may be less how they perceive postmodernism than how they perceive modernism and its relationship to what came before and what came after.

Because I thought & read more about these issues a year ago than I do now, and don't want to reinvent the wheel by starting from scratch with my definitions, I'll repost some comments I wrote last year on a thread for Melancholia. Hopefully they still make sense out of context:


"It’s difficult for me to respond to this because I’d have to elaborate on my own definition of the term postmodernism, which I’ve done before but every time it feels like starting from scratch. It’s one of those “know it when you see it” phenomena, compounded by the fact that it has so many different manifestations and definitions (how very postmodern of it) that it’s difficult to draw limits between what is and isn’t postmodern. I think the qualities Maurizio mentions (and dislikes) are a good starting point – self-aware irony is one of the prime symptoms of postmodernism to my eyes, stemming from a rise in self-consciousness no longer tethered in any direct way to traditionalism (or classicism, or closed romantic realism, or whatever you want to call it), unlike modernism which is sort of a way station toward between the two (and I tend to like it more because I feel it has a richer dialectic, among other things)."

followed by:

"As an addendum, out of curiosity I looked up wiki to see how it defines the terms, and sure enough the entries on modernism and postmodernism don’t seem to be in any dialogue with each other. The entry on postmodernism classifies modernism as something fairly traditional itself, saying it focuses on specific definitions, while the entry on modernism classifies modernism as breaking from certainty and context and embracing chaos and self-consciousness. At the end of that entry, when it’s supposed to define the relationship between modernism and postmodernism, the entry breaks down and becomes vague (lots of “citations needed”) and elliptical. It’s as if people can talk about postmodernism’s relationship to modernism, or modernism’s relationship to traditionalism (or premodernism – again, there were so many different traditions before modernism it’s hard to come up with one term to encompass them), but can’t talk about the relationship of all 3 to one another or the house of cards collapse. I think the terms have some value, so I use them, but recognize that along the way some wires will probably be crossed."

and after someone responded that post-modernism varied depending on which field/medium was under discussion I wrote:

"on October 13, 2011 at 12:47 amMovieMan0283
Well, I respectfully disagree here – I think a continuum of postmodernism can be found across mediums, both from my personal perspective/definition and also based on intellectual commentary. I would also still like to here your definition of postmodernism (in film, if you wish) as I’m still unsure how you define it.


Also, we may be talking about slightly different things here, as the hyphen indicates. While the postmodernism I speak of is obviously “post” “modernism” I don’t see it as solely being defined by its “after”-ness; it could be called something else and the rose would smell the same, whereas I’m getting the sense that perhaps you just mean post-modern literally, i.e. whatever follows after modernism in a particular medium or field."

Joel Bocko

Oliver, does Flags strike you as postmodern because it recognizes a myth and picks it apart?

Fuzzy, to elaborate on your definition: does 'pastiche without parody' essentially mean 'pastiche without purpose', parody shorthand for purpose since prior to Pomo, the default motive/aim of pastiche was to parody? I get the sense that many works described as postmodern embrace pastiche as a form of pure play - not explicitly comical (otherwise it would verge back on parody, although to be fair a lot of parodic works have been described as postmodern too). Now obviously play is a purpose too, but certainly throws that term (purpose, that is), in a different light, and makes the form/mode an end in itself rather than a means to an end.

Self-referentiality - in what way do you personally see the self-referentiality of of postmodernism as distinguished from that of postmodernism? I have some ideas of my own (related to how the work perceives its relation to other works) but I'd like to hear your own elaboration first.

A tendency to collapse signifier/signified relationships - now this is interesting because I see supposedly modernist works as doing this far more than postmodern works, which instead seem to use the signifier as a kind of totem, playing freely with it either as if to do so was to play with the signified itself, or as if the signified was irrelevant, maybe even a chimera, with the signifier all that's really real. Perhaps I should try to offer some examples if this generalization seems too vague. Let me know.

As for (collapsing?) narrative dichotomies, I'm not sure what you mean here - can you elaborate?

"Eastwood definitely not (he's aware of media manipulation, but things on screen very much are what they are in his movies" Yes, this is why he doesn't meet my definition either although maybe Space Cowboys could fit (not sure how much of that is intentional though; can you have 'accidental postmodernism'?).

As for Dave,

The interrogation of Otherness - this is an interesting distinction between postmodernism and (I assume, among other things) modernism. However, would you say it's symptomatic of postmodernism or fundamental to it?

Although I've posed the question generally to everyone interested in this conversation, I'm particularly interested in Fuzzy Bastard's and Dave Kehr's definitions of modernism (and no, that's not a typo; I mean post-less modernism - see above).


@ Fuzzy- "things on screen [in Eastwood's films are] very much are what they are in his movies)..."

So far as I can tell, Eastwood's best / most interesting films (I would count GAUNTLET, UNFORGIVEN, PERFECT WORLD, GRAN TORINO and FIREFOX among those films) combine both a somewhat realistic, quasi-documentary aesthetic with hyper-stylized, expressionistic qualities generated in key sequences. So much so, that it is not easy to say exactly "what things on screen" really are in the first place... [Whereas, films like BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY or SUDDEN IMPACT work largely in one dominant note to the exclusion of the other, and what you say might be applicable.]

Re the debate on modernism / post-modernism, I dunno if we shouldn't begin here: Joyce, Pirandello, Yeats, (Wallace) Stevens = modernism; Godard, Orhan Pamuk, Calvino, Jia Zhang-ke = post-modernism.

That Fuzzy Bastard


I go with "pastiche without parody" because I feel like "without purpose" implies without aesthetic purpose, which of course, it isn't. Modernism often used pastiche, but it was always to imply a conflict of values---i.e. Eliot putting Cockney slang next to Latin to imply a collapse of traditional values. Postmodernism rejects those sorts of hierarchies, so a postmodernist might insert a musical number in a tragedy without intending to undermine the tragedy, or elevate the musical.

My definition of modernism vs. post (with a heavy debt to my old prof, Austin Quigley) goes something like: Modernism believes that the systems of the past are obsolete; it mocks old systems of belief and signification while attempting to build new systems better suited to the modern era. Post-modernism is skeptical of all systems of belief and signification, including the work of art itself.

That's what I meant about Eastwood: his characters are meant to be people, his stories are meant to be plausibly happening (even Mystic River is *supposed* to be plausible). The distinction isn't stylization vs realism, it's about what relationship the people on screen have to what you know of human behavior. For a postmodernist, the people on screen are not characters, and don't necessarily have any relation to human psychology or behavior; they're just two-dimensional images that make noise, with no one choice more plausible than another except on aesthetic (rather than psychological or narrative) grounds.

As for self-referentiality: I agree that it's a feature of lots of modernist work, Elizabethian theater… hell, pretty much everything *except* 19th-century European art. I find it sort of funny that self-referentiality has become, for many, the defining feature of postmodernism, considering that it's the one least unique to the postmodern condition! But if I had to define specifically postmodern referentiality, it might be the use of self-referentiality to subvert the audience's suspension of disbelief, to remind them that it's all a bundle of words and images rather than a window to any world.

That's why I was thinking particularly of Tod Haynes, who always wants the viewer to be very aware of the total unreality of the film, the arbitrary quality of a bunch of lights and sounds being taken as forming a story. Godard, too---"It's not blood, it's red" is a deeply pomo statement.

Joel Bocko

I actually see Godard more as a misunderstood modernist, for reasons I think Richard Brody lays out fairly well in his book (although I don't entirely agree with his approach/thesis). But to me one of the most important features of modernism vs. postmodernism is the relationship to the past. Both see premodernist traditions (which we could variously call classical, romantic, realist or something else depending on the circumstances) as no longer viable, but modernism seems to me to exist in that twilight zone where the old way is either still dying or only recently extinct, with its memory still sharp and distinct (think Eliot's The Waste Land where the classical citations still carry a charge of power yet are recognized as coming from a different reality) whereas with postmodernism the old ways are looked upon with a sufficient degree of distance that pure irony or reinvention seems the appropriate response.

To put it succinctly and rather romantically, the modernist is the dreamer just awoken, still disoriented but still under the spell of the vivid experience, which still seems more real than waking life, whereas the postmodernist has been awake for a while and is having a jolly time playing with the strange images or ideas in the dream, without them threatening to overtake him.

If 'the dream' is premodern existence than it makes sense that Godard, hitting the scene when cinema's self-awareness was just beginning to come out of a low ebb, is a modernist rather than a postmodernist. At least in his initial years, he's in the process of breaking away from a romantic, illusionistic, instinctive engagement with movies (part of his breakaway is personal as well as historic, conditioned by the very process of creating what had previously been magical objects) - and one could say that even after the Gorin years, this remained his dominant sensibility: a feeling of surprise and confusion, caught between what might be called a 'bourgeois' emotional engagement and a Marxist-analytical intellectual awareness.

As for Jia, I'm not sure. I think where I would place him has more to do with how I would define and demarcate Chinese social development than anything else. For example, whether the Open Door policy is the crucial swing toward modernity (which seems one of the preconditions of modernism, but is not identical to it) or whether the Maoist takeover is a better marker (in which case the Open Door, and with it Jia's films, become postmodern instead). Maybe the terms don't make sense in a Chinese context, but from a Western standpoint it almost seems to me like Jia's films - with their sense of loss, their tight formal/structural concerns, and their explicit depictions of the strange transformation from one way of experiencing the world to another (most obviously in Platform, but also in his other films I've seen) are modernist takes on a postmodern world. But maybe that's just me fudging, since I tend to prefer modernism.

I will say that I think Lars Von Trier, who I like a lot, has a postmodern sensibility, but coupled with an emotional depth and sense of tragic grandeur (which the irony - ironically! - only deepens) I don't usually see in postmodernists.

(oh and, mea culpa, I don't know anything about Pamuk or Calvino so I can't comment there!)


Fuzzy, I find what you have to say about the distinction between pomo and modernism to be very interesting. Actually, the very lack of a value system itself can seem pomo to seem either liberating (Godard) or corrupt (I don't want to name any names, but I have a filmmaker in mind- whose initials begin with Q and T- but like I said, no names). If characters are only two-dimensional figures, that endorses, well, practically anything from the filmmaker doesn't it? (Maybe that's why I find Oliveira's to belong to the modernist tradition- his films possess a curious moral authority.)

Re Eastwood, however, I must disagree, again: I don't think that "his stories are meant to be plausibly happening", at least not all the time: the stylization (especially in some of those films I mentioned) acts a kind of distancing device- they make you realize that the events and characters in the movie are stand-ins for Eastwood's ideas. So, the battalions of police emptying barrel and barrel of ammo into the bus- that is not a plausible event by any stretch of imagination: it becomes more meaningful if you consider the action as a continuation of the extraordinary critique of the police running throughout the film. (For the record, MYSTIC RIVER, despite the extravagant praise, strikes me as a minor Eastwood film mostly because it is an adaptation of the work of a mediocre, unconvincing and overpraised novelist.)

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