Being good for my word, below is the second version of the Dawn of the Dead clip I published yesterday here, but this time with a running commentary of the edited scenes. It is far from perfect, and Jerry gave me a ton of good recommendations for making it better, so I will return to it. Nonetheless, think of it as my ode to director’s commentary when they meant something during the heyday of Laser Discs. In fact, I think my favorite quote from a film commentary was by John Singleton on the Boyz n the Hood laser disc where he refers the use of slow motion during a particular scene of drive-by violence as “Peckinpah shit.”
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I liked the commentary – haven’t seen DotD for years now, and I’d forgotten a lot of the humour (following the queue lanes for instance). You were spot on to pick up on the fantasy element of being locked in a mall, and having it all to yourself. This is genius, because, for many people this would seem like paradise (now even more so than back then). The whole idea of ‘shopping’ as a leisure pursuit. And so to take the allegory (while bearing in mind what we talked about on The Mist), there is a message here that I think we are seeing come true today – the fantasy of ultimate consumerism quickly becomes a prison. For a while the characters revel in it, but soon they want to leave. And one could argue we are seeing that struggle now – the credit crunch, global warming, global food shortages, etc are all examples of the prison created by excessive consumerism. Now we have to leave the protective bubble and go out and face the ‘zombies’.
Phew, I’m beginning to sound like an old socialist, watch out I’ll be selling copies of ‘Socialist Worker’ on street corners next.
That is an awesome reading in terms of the larger global credit crisis, home mortgage collapse, and the horror of unchecked capitalism gone out of control –which is without question in my mind the reason why the economy is being hit so hard now. This grafting that fantasy onto our own moment is something I was imagining in relationship to the Iraq war and America’s place as empire, coupled with the problematic notion of American exceptionalism. However, the framing of these scenes within our global economic moment of is an extremely rich line of interpretation. For the idea of try to escape the mall, or by extension the “pure motorized instinct” of consumption within a capitalist logic of production, progress, and growth brings the point home that much more powerfully. (I’ll be out on that corner with you!)
One of the most fun papers I delivered at a conference as a grad student was actually dealing with Frederic Jameson and Terry Eagleton’s Marxist critique of contemporary culture. The paper had many, many holes, but it was actually a fun analysis of The Fight Club (film version) soon after it had come out, and the logic was tracing Hollywood as an economic entity (as illustrated in movies like Fight Club, but even more powerfully as you outline here DOTD) trace the very limits of possibility of the schizophrenic logic of such an economic model.
I mean Fight Club is premised on the idea of small, violent collecties throughout the country (and the world) that begin rejecting this logic of consumerism and organize as a kind of terrorist movement against the very built/marketing realities of mindless consumerism. I mean the final scene features the bombing of a huge credit card headquarters as a vision of emancipation from the culture of credit and debt we have created around this great speculation machine of wealth that ensures an entire class of the working poor. Yet, The Fight Club is a big, successful Hollywood production that grossed millions and millions of dollars and in many ways is one of those shiny, consumer products that epitomize this logic (I mean David Finch was a commercial director before Se7en).
What was cool, though, was not so much whether or not Fight Club was a good or bad movie per se, for I think that is an uninteresting route to some degree, but rather how it exemplifies the schizophrenic logic that will lead to a kind of economic cannibalism of just about every principle one holds dear, even the very notion of political revolt against consumerism that drives a film like Fight Club. I love this gap, this rupture between what is “right” in a kind of hip, alternative vision of the world as liberated and our own consumption of that message via the very system that helps frame the logic, it is like pointing a video camera into it’s own monitor screen to film, a seemingly never-ending series of infinitely regressing images that begin to suggest an inescapable, distorted logic of capital.
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