Aphorisms XIV

Pronouns again – A teenage girl bought the airfix. “Did she?” says my friend. But here is a place where I would say ‘they’ – uncertainty again being the aspect relevant to explaining why. I don’t know them…

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Can there be a superlative without the disgust of the ordinary? Yes. In fact, that is a prerequisite. It’s not the difference from the ordinary that makes something superlative, but a superlative relation of that thing to us, experiencing it. And the disgust of the ordinary often slides in surreptitiously at the back. It may seem stupid to say that the best film has no relation to other films by that fact, but it is stupider to say that any film could satisfy the language game of suiting the squirly set of conditions for bestness taken in the tool like sense. The best tool for the task does that one job better than the others. But a film without an adjective, has no one task. I guess it’s a classic example of language going on holiday.

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If you need a word to change, you need people to use it in a way that makes other people go – yeah, that works. Like a prototype explosion that proves the concept. But there must be gas ready to ignite.

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Obvious? – For movie criticism to have a point (other than a kind of self congratulation or absolute negativity) it must be possible for us to convince someone that a film they thought was bad, is actually good, or vice versa. If this is not the case, or if we deny it when it happens, then the whole business would seem a bit pointless. Your only real audience would be future film creators, who are in any case often bound by duties and urgencies that don’t brook advice.

There is a complication to this, though. I’ve found myself enjoying a film greatly, only to hear a tide of negative criticism afterwards, and find myself thinking – ha, I must have really been stupid to enjoy it, I mean it’s obviously stupid. Then I would rewatch the film, enjoy it again, and think again about the criticism, and realise that it took a very particular and subjective reading and pushed it until it became the negative totality. I would have answers to each point. At the very least, this shows enjoyment of art to be only tangentially related to certain kinds of critical arguments. Or maybe that was just bad criticism. But it was certainly persuasive.

I find emotionally rooted or moral criticism to be the best, in the end, which expands on the film, to help me see more of what is happening, or how I could enjoy the film more. Some of that criticism takes the form: So you saw this, but what you also saw, though you didn’t know it, was this. So you saw a woman caught in a space catastrophe escape orbit to earth, but what you also saw, was an allegory for the loss of a child. But hopefully not focusing on the sins of a movie. We all know how focusing on sin goes in the end. Focus on redemption.

It is relatively obvious that information external to a film can change your experience of it, but not always in a good way, or a predictable way. Spoilers are a complex example of that – because for some good films, it wouldn’t necessarily matter if it were spoiled to you, because the journey would still be worth taking. But a spoiler can certainly deny you that experience of finding out something for the first time as the creators intended you to, and alter your moment by moment suspense during that first watch.

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Society is living rent free in my head

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‘I don’t know who needs to hear this, but…’ sometimes functions the same as ‘i need to hear this’.

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A cultural idea floats free of reality very quickly and easily. It’s hardly real before it becomes an image of an image.

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Some types of information actively transform things. They clamp onto some part of a mind, and catalyse its change of shape. An example of this is crushes in high school dramas. ‘I like you’ as information can transform a situation completely, change the tenor of all of its objects and events for a character, disrupting the previous equilibrium for all, changing the possibilities One piece of knowledge expressed through a speech act. Just think of the other incredibly dangerous and at first sight inconspicuous knowledge acts that can transform the entire world, implode self conceptions. What is the most catalytic knowledge act in history?

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If you enjoy horror fiction, the kind without a redemptive or satiric motive, presumably you enjoy it through the privilege of never having had to live it. Either that or through a kind of rancour. Neither are very palatable. Or there is playing a game of guessing with the creators, or of just pure marvelling at the things these people are being made to go through. Or I guess that there is a side to human experience which is just horrific, and to know this is in detail to expand your horizons.

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Trying to read Adorno’s Aphorisms – Rivers have different amounts of gold in them, so you have to choose which are worth panning. Some are so cold you can only stay in for so long, and the more constant that cold, the more it saps your strength and means you can’t justify the effort. As with panning nowadays, it’s not about getting gold to use, in the economic sense. There are better ways to get gold than panning. But panning is relaxing and seeing the speck rattle around the pan, brings a little use, but also brings with it joy – unless the river has drained you beforehand. Then you just feel relief that you have a reason to stop.

I’m sure Adorno would have something to say about this approach to his work, but all I can offer is a shrug. I read the bad faith in aphorism 64, morality and style, where he says that if he took the effort to make his thought palatable to general readers, he would therefore be morally compromised, and would destroy any truth in his aphorisms. How easy it is to find reasons for what you’re already doing. But maybe this is all due to a bad translation, or the wrong moment.

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The love of the new isn’t due to a mistaken belief that it’s better than the old – it’s due to a love of feeling connected to other, living people, who are creating and making their way in the world at the same time as us.

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To hold that all the best movies (paintings, books, etc.) have already been made is obviously to deny, for basically bankrupt reasons, superlative status to future films in post-colonial societies, to films in post-sexist societies, to post-capitalist societies, and post-communist ones, to say in effect that white men and their imperial culture have made most of the best films, for other white men. Which is messed up.

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It’s easy to think sometimes that everything is connected, in a perhaps plausible way, because it looks good in the way the argument moves. But often not using anywhere near enough evidence to support it legitimately. This, rather than to say that the sum of causes in society is often irrational or at least a sum of unrelated events and tendencies (which can be essentially related, for sure, but not in every manner).

Like holding that the increase in belief in astrology has something essential to do with the decline of organised religion, rather than being a kind of non-essentially parasitic thing. But of course, I might be doing it now, with this argument…

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