Monthly Archives: January 2012

Dreaming Of Greek Island Villas

Different Spin

Just a weird, weird thought for today. Would you move to Greece?

I don’t know if you’ve ever looked, but today Mrs. Pleiades showed me a bunch of photos of Real Estate available in Greek Islands. Hey, I’m no millionaire or anything, but you can dream. What caught my eye was the price tags on some of these gorgeous places. Take this one here in Ithaca, home of Odysseus. Or this seaside villa for 850k Euros. How about this 270k Euro cottage in Corfu? They’re absolutely beautiful places. I know Greece is in a lot of turmoil but consider this for a moment. If you had a bit of money and you could own one of these sorts of places, and wouldn’t starve and had all the amenities of a good life available, would it really matter to you that the Greek government is insolvent?

Apparently wealthy Germans flock to the Greek Islands.  guess it’s their equivalent of the Gold Coast. You can see why. So it is hard not to imagine that the Germans get something out of Greece being a member of the European Union and by extension, a member of the Euro.

I’ve been pondering this tangle of facts all afternoon. People are busting a gut buying a 2 bedroom flat in Sydney. For the same money, you could theoretically buy an amazing piece on some Greek Island and just stare at the beauty all day and all night. Okay, I know you’d need some cashflow but the point is how good is a 2 bedroom flat in Chatswood or Pyrmont, let’s say, compared to a villa on a Greek Island? If you need evidence that the Greeks really are in trouble, this has to be it; and in turn if there’s any evidence that Australian property is way, way overpriced, then this must be it.

But it cuts in all sorts of different ways. Imagine being a poor Greek person. If all this was around you and you couldn’t buy in because foreigners came all the time to buy it out, why the hell would you stay? No wonder they like the European union where they can get to work anywhere. If they got kicked out of the Euro zone, they would still have their real estate bought up by foreigners, but they would lose that freedom to go work anywhere in the Eurozone. No wonder the polls in Greece say they don’t want to quit the Eurozone.

It would be a shame if the Euro were to implode as a result of all the debt woes and bad faith negotiations. The fall out from that is going to be awful. But maybe all those Island properties would become even more affordable – then what are you going to do? 🙂

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Movie Doubles – ‘Snow Falling On Cedars’ & ‘Cedar Rapids’

The Cedar Double

These films have just about nothing in common. One is a drama made years ago, the other is comedy made last year; one has a very self-important tone, the other totally without pretension; one is about a search for a moral purpose, the latter is about the ubiquity of moral purpose. I’m going to have a hard time making this stick, except for the word Cedar in the title of both films. Ouch.

As luck would have it, they’re the two films I watched back to back. Still, they’re both American movies that are not set in major urban areas. There must be something that could be held up for a comparative analysis.

Cedars And Godliness

I know it seems like a joke and coincidence that I’m attempting to write a movie double of two films connected only by the word cedar in both titles. Cedar of course is on the flag of Lebanon and there are such things as Cedar of God. King Solomon’s temple used cedars. The mentions of cedars in Bible seem to indicate that God liked this tree a lot, amongst his creation of trees. According to some, it may even have been the tree used for the cross. Thus unsurprsingly, there is a lot of God-talk in the middle America of ‘Cedar Rapids’.

The Cedars in ‘Snow Falling on Cedars’ is more psychological. The forest of cedars forms a kind of terrain where desire plays out, but at the same time the title indicates a condition of winter and a frozen landscape. The cedars in the film seem to envelope the living space and surround the people living in the small fishing town. The trees are like sign posts of the unconscious as the characters move through them towards a different consciousness. Thus, the cedar tree reference in both films conjure metaphorical link to something spiritual. That is not to say I believe in the spiritual or that even the characters in the film believe in the spiritual, but that there is a certain irony in the reference to the cedars in both films.

Small Town Blues

Both of these films are set in country towns. Part of the narrative involves the fact that people in small communities know each other all too well. The assumptions implicit in ‘Cedar Rapids’ is that there is a certain style of business that thrives in small communities and these are at once strengths as well as delimiting factors for the denizens of these spaces. Similarly, ‘Snow Falling on Cedars revolves around Ethan Hawke’s character Ishmael’s travails as a small town newspaper man. The smallness of a community brings a different resonance to the relative importance of things. In both films, the influence of community brings about important plot points.

Tim, played by Ed Helms in ‘Cedar Rapids’ calls upon his one to one relationship with his clients in order to undo a wrong. Ethan Hawke’s Ishmael has a one on one relationship with the authority figures in the town which enables him to persuade them of important circumstantial evidence. The people in turn support a moral cause in both films. What’s interesting about ‘Snow Falling on Cedars’ is that even if the town can barely conceal its racial prejudice, it can still find moral certainty enough to do the right thing. In ‘Cedar Rapids’, the opening voice over pretty much tells us the main character believes in small towns exactly because a small community can be counted on to watch out for one another, and this informs the moral character of the town.

Yet, there is something not too right about these townships.  In both contexts the main characters are chafing against the invisible limitations placed upon them for being in these small towns. This small town blues essentially allows the irony to breathe in both films.

Sexuality As Future Tense, Past Tense

We all look forward to our first sexual encounter. Some more than others, and provided it’s not like some molesting by a Catholic priest or a dirty uncle Ernie, the moment has its own poetry. it’s in that spirit that ‘Snow Falling on Cedars’ spends a lot of time on the remeniscences of Ethan Hawke’s Ishmael. The big question for Ishmael is why Hatsue cannot overcome her background and love him. It’s a plaintive plea for love which turns into a retributive rejection by Ishmael, but in some ways this is a weird film. It is almost as if the narrative wants to have it explained explicitly why intercultural relationships are unlikely to work out in the the context of a largely prejudicial American society. The plot is built on Ishmael’s awkward inability to see himself in the context of the society he comes from and inhabits.

Tim Lippe in ‘Cedar Rapids’ is also awkwardly unaware of his surroundings and wider public opinion, both about him as an insurance salesman, but also as a human being. There is an equal degree of lack of self-awareness in Lippe that lands him in quandaries that are actually not that profound if one had perspective. With both characters, sexuality triggers much of the reassessment, which is an interesting twist. Just as ‘Snow Falling on Cedar’ proceeds with the anticipation of sex, ‘Cedar Rapids’ proceeds on the memory of sex, and the memory is oddly grotesque, for Tim is in a relationship with the woman who was his primary school teacher. For Tim, his retarded emotional life exactly mirrors the oddness of his relationship with his former primary school teacher.

Unlike a Bond movie where sex never transforms anything in the story line or within the Bond persona, the anxiety about one’s sense of self is explicitly wound up with sex in both films, and that in of itself is an interesting match.

Race Politics In Loop

It seems like a minor plot point, but when Tim meets Ronnie Wilkes as played by Isiah Whitlock Jr., he stops dead in his tracks, in fear because Ronnie is a black man. He gets over the initial abjection pretty quickly, but the fact that Ronnie is black becomes a plot point in the rescue sequence later on. ‘Snow Falling on Cedars’ is a film about a community not dealing very well with the presence of Japanese migrants. Amazingly enough, both films have more than one anxious moment to do with race.

Kazuo, who is on trial in ‘Snow Falling on Cedars’ is always presented as ‘the other’, from start to finish. Ishmael attempts to cross the cultural chasm between his White American identity and Hatsue’s Japanese American identity, but fails mostly due to World War II. It’s not entirely clear in the film whether the failure is because of the gap that is too wide, or it is because given the war, it had no chance whatsoever. The films expends a great deal of energy on showing Ishamel’s yearning for Hatsue but it is in no way clear as to its position about if Kazuo were to date a white American woman. One imagines that there is still too big a taboo.

After all, if a white American male is still freaked out at the site of black man in a film made in 2011, then what chance is there for the taboo being broken in Hollywood really?

Existentialism As ‘Doing’

When you think about, characters in movies – good or bad – at some point have to be existentialists in as much as they should be defined by their actions much more than their thoughts or words or abstractions. This is because the audience can only understand the character through what the character does and says; not what the audience thinks the character is thinking. given that is the condition of the narrative, in most films we await the main character to do something. It could be anything – kill the President, build a barn, solve a case, bury the treasure.

That being said, we wait a long time in both films to see just what these main characters are going to do; and as it turns out that both Tim and Ishmael do the right thing. Still, in both films, it’s a mighty struggle to actually highlight what exactly the right thing is meant to be. ‘Snow Falling on Cedars’ spends a good deal of time showing why Ishmael might feel put out enough that he doesn’t simply come forward with the evidence. He even comes close to destroying the evidence. Tim in ‘Cedar Rapids’ is clueless as to what exactly the problem is, until he is informed that his predecessor bribed his way into winning the coveted prize. For a moment it seems he must swallow his pride and give into the tyranny of corruption, but then he comes back to blow the lid on it. Both films work very hard at getting to the point – the belabored style is oddly something that they share. Odder still, the two films end up with a weakly argued existentialist position.

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Stating The Obvious But Here Goes…

Somebody Else’s Take

As some of you have noticed I’ve stopped writing about what the industry is like or doing for a long while now. I put up my white flag and decided just to blog what pleases me rather than what irritates the shit out of me; and it has to be said that the film industry – both here and over in America – was giving me the major shits at every turn. I’ve given it half my life, I iwsh not to waste the other half trying to recoup what I cannot get back.

Anyway, today, I just want to show you a link here form Pleiades. Cutting straight to the chase…

One aspect of the modern world that has also changed is that people now have damn big TVs, and don’t feel all that much of a need to venture from their home, especially when the popcorn prices are so high. But while studios and distributors can wear the flack for screwing around consumers by not having same time international releases, on this score it is the exhibitors who deserve the blame.

Last year there were reports of Universal Pictures “risking the wrath of cinema operators by launching new tests of premium video-on-demand (VoD). Universal suggested it would shrink the release of the film Tower Heist on VoD” to only 21 days after being released in cinemas – and this VoD was being done only in two cities in the US – Atlanta and Portland, and they were going to charge $59.99 for the privilege. It was a “test” to see how the strategy went. How did it go? Well it didn’t. The exhibitors reacted by threatening to completely ban the film from their cinemas – and not just in Atlanta and Portland. When a studio the size of Universal Pictures can be made to back down from a test that would get its product to consumers faster, you know there are problems with the industry.

The same exists in Australia where any independent producer game enough to suggest trying a bold strategy of releasing a film in cinema and online at the same time will be a producer who does not have a film released in a cinema.

Murdoch may think that the pirates are the problem, but a look at the industry shows it to be a tired, aging Frankenstein that created a monster, chose not to feed or nurture it, and then blames it when it goes and dines elsewhere.

Murdoch may think SOPA will save his studio, all it will do is further alienate an audience that is treated like it has not aged past 19, doesn’t have access to the internet or owns 40 inch plasma TVs, and like they don’t have a hell of a lot more choice on how to spend money than they did 30 years ago.

The key for the industry is: Don’t make crap, and don’t treat your audience like crap either. Can’t be that hard.

You’d be surprised at how hard it is for the willfully obtuse. Or perhaps not.

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News That’s Fit To Punt – 11 Jan 2012

Not In Decline, Just Reclining

Walk-off HBP sent me this link to a NYT article that argues that maybe Japan has been over statinng its dismal financial situation for two decades and that perhaps things are not as bad as claimed.

It is true that Japanese housing prices have never returned to the ludicrous highs they briefly touched in the wild final stage of the boom. Neither has the Tokyo stock market.

But the strength of Japan’s economy and its people is evident in many ways. There are a number of facts and figures that don’t quite square with Japan’s image as the laughingstock of the business pages:

• Japan’s average life expectancy at birth grew by 4.2 years — to 83 years from 78.8 years — between 1989 and 2009. This means the Japanese now typically live 4.8 years longer than Americans. The progress, moreover, was achieved in spite of, rather than because of, diet. The Japanese people are eating more Western food than ever. The key driver has been better health care.

• Japan has made remarkable strides in Internet infrastructure. Although as late as the mid-1990s it was ridiculed as lagging, it has now turned the tables. In a recent survey by Akamai Technologies, of the 50 cities in the world with the fastest Internet service, 38 were in Japan, compared to only 3 in the United States.

• Measured from the end of 1989, the yen has risen 87 percent against the U.S. dollar and 94 percent against the British pound. It has even risen against that traditional icon of monetary rectitude, the Swiss franc.

• The unemployment rate is 4.2 percent, about half of that in the United States.

• According to skyscraperpage.com, a Web site that tracks major buildings around the world, 81 high-rise buildings taller than 500 feet have been constructed in Tokyo since the “lost decades” began. That compares with 64 in New York, 48 in Chicago, and 7 in Los Angeles.

• Japan’s current account surplus — the widest measure of its trade — totaled $196 billion in 2010, up more than threefold since 1989. By comparison, America’s current account deficit ballooned to $471 billion from $99 billion in that time. Although in the 1990s the conventional wisdom was that as a result of China’s rise Japan would be a major loser and the United States a major winner, it has not turned out that way. Japan has increased its exports to China more than 14-fold since 1989 and Chinese-Japanese bilateral trade remains in broad balance.

As longtime Japan watchers like Ivan P. Hall and Clyde V. Prestowitz Jr. point out, the fallacy of the “lost decades” story is apparent to American visitors the moment they set foot in the country. Typically starting their journeys at such potent symbols of American infrastructural decay as Kennedy or Dulles airports, they land at Japanese airports that have been extensively expanded and modernized in recent years.

Now that is interesting. The most interesting point might actually be just how much the yen has appreciated. If you read any newspaper or magazine in Japan, the rising yen has always spelled doom, but there has never been a country that’s gone broke on the back of an appreciating currency. Consider that for a moment. If Japan really were going out the back, unable to compete, you’d think foreign investors would pull their money from the yen, but repeatedly since 1985 when the Plaza Accord was struck, investors have chosen to put their money in the yen. Are they right? Who knows? It’s not gold, but every time there is a shock to world markets, the yen creeps up.

Even in 2006 when I was in Japan for a shoot and visited the headquarters of Mitsubishi where they build just about everything in heavy industry, there simply was no sense of panic about the state of the yen or the world – and it struck me as being at odds with all this talk that Japan was being beaten at everything in the world. So, here’s a little paragraph from the NYT that needs attention:

Part of what is going on here is Western psychology. Anyone who has followed the story long-term cannot help but notice that many Westerners actively seek to belittle Japan. Thus every policy success is automatically discounted. It is a mind-set that is much in evidence even among Tokyo-based Western diplomats and scholars.

Consider that paragraph as an admission by the NYT that maybe even the westerners on the streets in Japan covering events there don’t really have a inside scoop on Japan. It is possible, it is likely, it is entirely conceivable. After all, there’s a huge gap between what is said by politicians and bureaucrats in public and what they say in private. Whatever the case may be, the article flies in the face of accepted common paradigms about what is going on in Japan.

 

 

 

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‘Brighton Rock’

Running Up In Front Of The Hundred Faces

I laughed so much I thought maybe I’ve become psychopathic. This is a great tribute film masquerading as a Grahame Greene adaptation. I knew the film was set in 1964 as opposed to its original period, and people have been wondering why it had to be, just to accommodate the youth riots. The quick and dirty answer is that this film has less to do with recreating Grahame Greene’s novel so much as retracing ‘Quadrophenia’. It’s blatant, but knowing it helps you really enjoy this film. I know I did.

If you don’t know or like ‘Quadrophenia’, this film is likely to fall on blind eyes, so to speak.

What’s Good About It

There’s plenty to like in this film. It looks like they made this film out of off-cuts from Quadrophenia in parts and then it segues into its own thing just beautifully. The cinematography, the production design, the editing, are all lovingly rendered. The performances are great and there’s really never a dull moment as you watch Pinkie the psychopath cause havoc.

Also, the moment pictured above, where Pinkie on his stolen scooter with Phil Davis’ Spicer in tow, finds itself leading the mod’s scooters is priceless. Phil Davis of course was in ‘Quadrophenia’ playing Chalky. There is also a shot of the hotel steps which is the same angle as the one in ‘Quadrophenia’. It was so close, I expected Sting – or somebody who looked like Sting – to come bounding out dressed as a Bell Boy. It didn’t happen, but my heart quickened in anticipation. It’s that kind of film. If you know and love Quadrophenia, then ‘Brighton Rock’ is a must-see film.

What’s Bad About It

I think that for a film that works so hard to work in the riots and the Quadrophenia look, it might have y’know, slotted a Who song in there somewhere.

What’s Interesting About it

Alas, I should have done a movie double with ‘Quadrophenia’. Oh well… For instance, the landscape relationship apparently doesn’t make sense, but only if you don’t know ‘Quadrophenia’. The reviewer above complains most bitterly that Dover makes an appearance for no good reason. Well, in ‘Quadrophenia’, Jimmy the personality-afflicted mod rides the lambretta he stole from Sting’s character, right up to Beachy Head where he destroys the scooter in a gesture of identity suicide. So in this film, the psychopathic Pinkie takes his young wife Rose up to Beachy Head on a stolen lambretta to urge her to suicide. While I’ve never been to Brighton, I know the Brighton Beach in that movie fairly well. Once the riot breaks out, I kept expecting to catch glimpses of action that matched ‘Quadrophenia’. The shot where some youths break a shop window shot from inside, clearly is in reference to the earlier picture.

There’s Crazy And Then there’s Psychopathy

What really pops out about both films is the apparent hands-off attitude to insanity. In ‘Quadrophenia’, it is quite possible Jimmy has gone schizophrenic because of his drugs, but it’s never made explicit as an explanation. In ‘Brighton Rock’, it’s never quite explained how or why Pinkie comes into the world, but it is clear that from the beginning, there is something deeply wrong with this character. Indeed, Pinkie is at once a total misfit from the get-go. He’s a young hoodlum, raised by a hoodlum, who witnesses the death of his father figure, as well as getting facially disfigured.

Psychological problems always make for good drama, and in a sense this is why drama queens we meet in real life might be people harbouring a personality disorder or an outright insanity of some kind. One other thing that can be said for certain is that having crazy characters means he writer does not have to delineate a motivation that we find logical. In other words, you don’t know what they’re going to do next because if there’s only crazy logic to it, then it means it’s not going to be rational.

Still, the film works very carefully as to why Pinkie does certain things. The father figure in the photo is dressed in a war time parka, so he puts it on on the important day. He steals a lambretta scooter, which combined with the war time parka makes him look the part of the mod. Clearly it’s a gag. It’s totally crazy-reasoning for the character that somehow lands Pinkie at the head of the mod crowd, who are in  one sense the expression of the dysfunction in British society; but the film works very hard to get him there. Now, the deeper question to ask is whether the craziness of the rioting youths and the hoodlum violence of Pinkie and his gangster life are interchangeably equivalent in English culture.

Is Pinkie violent because he’s just born that way? Or is it a social problem of England that manifests itself as both the senseless youth riots and the psychopathic killer that is Pinkie? And that question might be the reason why the film makers decided to update Brighton Rock to the era of the riots. The cathrsis of death at Beachy Head in ‘Brighton Rock’ is not only evoking ‘Quadrophenia’, it is symbalically raising the issue of why there are such people. Is society headed over the cliff with Pinkie?

In light of the recent riots in the UK, it does make you wonder if there’s a lot more crazy out there than we thought.

Teenage Wasteland, It’s Only Teenage Wasteland

Pete Townshend made a million out of singing about how awkward being an adolescent can be. Indeed, the phrase “teeange wasteland” sums up so much of the angst and inadequacy of feeling these characters growing up and coming of age in the 1960s.  There’s a little alleyway in Brighton that has turned into a shrine because of the sex scene that was shot for ‘Quadrophenia’. It’s all part of the emotional terrain that is worked hard in ‘Brighton Rock’, for both Pinkie and Rose are awkward adolescents who have only ventured into adulthood with the minimum of emotional equipment. The kiss in the rain is particularly awkward and strange, and it harks back to the awkward sex in the alley from the earlier film.

One of the unstated issues in the film is the inadequacy of both Pinkie and Rose in their inability to express their inner turmoil. Rose thinks she has made a connection with Pinkie, simply because he tells her they have a connection. She nary searches her own feelings before she’s decided that she is going with him to the ends of the world. Pinkie doesn’t even know how he feels because he’s too traumatised and he’s a psychopath. His stated reasons for doing things are ironically at odds with what he really seems to want. This dynamic of two inadequate people groping for a relationship finds a connection with the abortive sexual encounter in the alleyway in ‘Quadrophenia’. Phil Daniels’ Jimmy thinks he’s the problem while he worships Steph, and it turns out Steph can only be described as a feckless girl with personality problems of her own. Rose and Jimmy are both yearning for the other person without knowing who the other person is, and in both films they finish up not knowing.

Is Pinkie Evil?

The world that is presented in ‘Brighton Rock’ is tangibly limited and the horizon for its characters are nowhere near as wide as the ocean. They swim in a small pond of a community, and are largely incapable of change. The gritty social realism in the film is enough to make you recoil in horror, just looking at the council building flat or the ugly backstreets. The England of 1964 is nowhere near as glamorous as the swinging 60s ought to feel. It is in this cosseted world that Pinkie has grown into being, perhaps like a tumour.

On the face of it, there’s no arguing the fact that Pinkie is evil. But it’s also pretty clear that Pinkie is a psychopath. It brings up the point whether criminality is a function of society and mental illness. Pinkie is at once a belligerently hostile young man who earns his angry young man epithet easily, but he’s also incredibly recessive for his obvious moral weaknesses. Similarly, Rose is only socially normative to the degree that Catholic guilt has shaped her into a cowering woman, but we find in her alliance with Pinkie against Ida that her morality doesn’t run all that deep. It falls upon deaf ears that she could be charged with being an accomplice. They’re both far more crazy than they are criminal, although their criminality does cause problems for them; it’s almost as if it is a side issue. They’re rebels without a cause and without a clue.

It might seem like the same old depressing film making to some but this film does offer up some interesting insights into the socius of 1964 England. I guess my best advice is that you take in ‘Quadrophenia’ before you sit down to watch this film.

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Movie Doubles – ‘No Strings Attached’ & ‘Friends With Benefits’

Is This Even Legitimately Two Films?

…or are they both some kind of twisted sequels to ‘Black Swan’? It is as if Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis decided while on the set of Black Swan to make the same movie, about couples who start fucking and then realise that, oops, they’re actually in love.

What’s Good About These Films

They’re like 2 peas in the pod of stupidity. One is always better than two; or perhaps it is best to repeat messages just in case people don’t get it the first time. After all, any excuse to watch people on screen fake a shag is good Friday night fare for couples’ nights at the movies.

Oh, I know I complain too much. I should be grateful it’s not based on some comic book, but with these kinds of characterisations, you could’a fooled me.

What’s Bad About These Films

Unless you like redundancy, you have two films with essentially the same story. I watched both for reasons I cannot explain and found them to be just as idiotic as the other. I’m not insulted by them; it’s just that I have a hard time coping with just how little imagination seems to be doing the rounds in Hollywood these days – and all the while there’s some cabal of execs pulling down stupid money deciding on which films get made. My suspicion is that the second film got green-lit by mistake, when the exec thought they were the same film, having green-lit the other.

Okay, So Why Write About Them?

I was thinking about the distance it took from the Baby Boomer text of ‘Annie Hall’ to late boomer ‘When Harry Met Sally’ to Gen-X texts ‘There’s Something About Mary’ and ‘High Fidelity’, right down to these two films. If you bother to think about it, each generation is trying to express the problematic of romance in terms of their generation, and when we get down to Gen-Y, we’re given these films which beg more questions than the answers they provide. Forget for the moment that I have a hard time relating to Ashton Kucher and Justin Timberlake as guys who are romantic heroes, or that Natalie Portman and Mila Junis seem more hysterical than any emancipated women on screen before them. These films are really odd.

Back in the Baby Boomer days, the big mystery for men was what they were supposed to do. In ‘Annie Hall’, Woody Allen’s character Alvy Singer essentially has to let go and relinquish control, as does Billy Crystal’s Harry at the very end of ‘When Harry met Sally. By the time Gen-X is going through these kinds of questions, men are assumed to have relinquished paternalistic control. Instead they are asked to step up and support their half of the bargain, as is the case with Ben Stiller’s character in ‘There’s Something About Mary’ and John Cusack’s character in ‘High Fidelity’. In other words, the relinquishing of control doesn’t relinquish responsibility for men.

So what is being asked of the Gen Y male in these films? They’re being asked to fall in love, despite the deals that get made, relinquish control keep responsible, but most importantly, be infinitely patient with the stupidest foibles in the world, in the nae of romance. And this is a curious thing because after all the emancipating and liberating and feminism and what-have-you, the big romantic challenge for men is actually falling in love. If it weren’t for all the sex scenes, it’s like a Jane Austen novel, just even more castrating.

The Reification of Relationships

The most important thing to notice in the progress (or regress, perhaps) of romantic comedies is that the instiution of marriage clearly gave way to de facto relationships because nobody could trust the institution of marriage any more – at least not the sort of people who write scripts for Hollywood. It’s not clear if this reflects the wider population, but in American cinema at least, there has been a gradual deconstruction of the institution of marriage to such and extent that all relationships can be reduced to sex. Having arrived at this moment, the characters in these films freak out and conservatively back-pedal quickly to traditional modes of relationships, which involve ceremonies an understanding and the underpinning of love.

Back in my days at Uni, I had a behavioral science lecturer come in to and lecture that social purpose of marriage was to regulate sexuality. We have marriages because we need to ensure that everybody has equal chance of mating and laving off-spring. So the lecture went. I think it fell on largely uncritical ears who thought behavioral science itself was some kind of bullshit. Today I look back on that lecture and these films and tend to think that what is going on is a deregulation of this market. The way society is set up with morals is clearly to create obstacles so that sexuality *is* regulated. This explains why they have arranged marriages in certain cultures as well as prostitution (the exchange of sex for money) is scorned almost universally.

What these films then show is that we’ve arrived at a point in history where possibly, the institution of marriage has utterly failed to regulate sexuality in our society to a satisfactory degree, and so it is being wound back by the forces of libido itself. This is why the characters in these films decide to embark on no-strings-attached-fuck-buddies project. And nobody questions this decision. Consider for a moment how scandalous ‘9 ½ weeks’ was back in the day when Mickey Rourke and Kim Basinger’s characters essentially went at it and that was most of the movie. These films are -while being much less titillating – further down the track from ‘9 ½ weeks’ and exist as a kind of post-morality sign post. Maybe things really are loosening up and in a generation or so they’ll be making movies about how quaint it is to want to get married.

To be frank, I’m not so much scandalised by these films; I’m more bemused that they exist as a kind of state-of-the-marital-union sort of addresses on sexual mores in LA.. I don’t know if the rest of the world is ready to follow bravely into this world. After all, a completely deregulated sexuality might mean too many people getting too much sex, and render sex unremarkable, and thus take the intrigue right out of relationship movies. It might be a better world but I suspect the movies would be even worse off.  Maybe what the sign post is saying is that from here on in, don’t expect too much from Romantic Comedies.

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