Thoughts On: April 2018

30/04/2018

Moana - Syzygetic Projection & Gaze

Thoughts On: Moana (2016)

This post does not engage Moana directly, but uses it to analyse the ways of approaching narratives as embodiments of yin and yang.


The fidget spinner. I have recently been immersing myself in a lot of Jung. In fact, for quite a while now I have been coming to terms with some of his key ideas (anima, animus, Logos and Eros in particular) and listening to chapters of Aion. More recently, however, I have started working my way through The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious. And in conjuncture with this, my thoughts have wandered towards the fidget spinner.

The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious is a volume of Jung's essays that seems to define him in his most abstract and, to me, fascinating lights. The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious deals with the human psyche as caught between biological and Freudian psychology. Whilst biological psychology considers all to do with the psyche in regards to the material body as it has evolved over hundreds of thousands and millions of years, and whilst Freudian psychology deals with the psyche as a product of, primarily, childhood, Jung deals with the psyche as reflective of mythological tropes that are thousands of years old and in regards to the individual's interaction with them from a young age. Jung then investigates the psyche and essential humanity as something given and, to a degree, taken. He refers to his key theoretical entities, the archetypes, as equivalent to Plato's Ideas. There are thousands of words that could be written about that sentence alone, but, one key concept that I want to highlight is that, in alluding to the Platonic 'Idea', Jung is alluding to the products of conscious being - thoughts of, exploring and defining form; ideas - as gifts given. One does not make an idea. An idea, when it is beyond mere opinion, when it is a fact reflective of reality, is accepted from a realm transcendent of ourselves. This indeed sounds highly metaphysical, but Jung emphasises that such an idea is far from this. Jung's archetypes are Ideas as images: imagos. The imago is the picture we create of someone, and it is often not a completely realistic one as it lends itself to bias, exaggeration and idealisation. Nonetheless, the imago as 'Idea as image' and 'archetype' is not constructed singularly by an individual. Like ideas are considered by Plato as gifts from the abstract, stars plucked out of the heavens, archetypes emerge from the collective unconscious in accordance to Jung. And the collective unconscious, a relatively simple idea, is a conceptualisation of all shared human thoughts and traits; the collective unconscious is made up of everything that, to a good degree, is in all people. It is all the unconscious thoughts and predispositions we share.

The archetype as a product of the collective unconscious is what necessitates a study of mythology, fairy tale and religion for Jung, for these are collections of unconscious imagos, characters and narratives that form a library and history of human thought. Whilst mythology is not the birthing point of archetypes, they reflect the most fundamental Ideas that humans, conscious or not, gleaned from the universe. As a result, to understand Jung's archetypes, especially the anima and animus, which are arguably the most important archetypes, one must start with a conceptualisation of the universe. Ironically, we will have to conceptualise of the universe in terms of ourselves, in reference to mythology and Ideas of the collective unconscious. This, however, will make clear why Jung is so insistent upon the personal unconscious as intrinsically bound to the collective unconscious.


We would all be very familiar with this symbol. This is the simplified representation of the taijitu. It emerges from Chinese philosophy and Taoism and is a mandala. In such, it represents the universe. The universe, the circle, is made up of a duality; negative and positive. However, in the negative and the positive are attributes of the antithesis, implying that positive can come from negative, that negative can come from positive and that the two are only in balance when such is the case. The negative and the positive are abstract, non-concrete ideas. In such, they can be seen to represent dark and light, passive and active, male and female, etc.

In the realm of the taijitu, and, indeed, in the realm of Jung, too, it seems that masculine and feminine pre-exist the human man and woman. And this is a profoundly important element of Jungian archetypal theory. Men imitate the 'masculine' side of the universe whilst women imitate the 'feminine' side of the universe. Jung is wary about defining what masculine and feminine mean in these regards, but, with anima and animus, he alludes to the 'soul' (anima; female) and 'heart' (animus, male). In alluding to this, he immediately emphasises that he does not want to invoke dogmatic conceptions of either male or female, rather, only wants to enter a realm in which we intuit what is masculine and what is female, not just in regards to our culture and society, but in regards to the conception of the universe we inherit from the collective unconscious. Jung, in this sense, does not believe that male and female are merely social constructs; they reach deep into human history and, quite essentially, transcend it. Furthermore, Jung believes that the collective unconscious has understood, and so represents, truth.

Archetypes are the manifestation of truth. However, they are not pure. Archetypes are mapped onto the world, they are imagos, and thus they become social constructs to a degree. Moreover, they can become pathologised; made receptacles for all of our complexes. The anima and animus are then not yin and yang; they are our idea of the ultimate female and male, and, in turn, they are idols of yin and yang held in our psyche. In turn, they can be corrupted if we do not monitor and work with them consciously. Alas, let's take a step back. Fidget spinners.


What I want to take you through is a thought experiment that questions what the fidget spinner may symbolise if it, itself, is interpreted as a mandala. To start the thought experiment, we should recognise that the fidget spinner was designed to capture the attention of people (children and young people) who fidget. There were claims that it could help people with ADHD and autism, but these claims are not scientifically supported.

I think it would be fair to say that, in complete ignorance of the toy's purpose, the fidget spinner became a huge fad product. I think it has gone away by now. There are multiple videos online of people using pressurised air to make them spin ridiculously fast and, in addition to this, people have set them on fire and turned them into weapons - and then, I'm sure, made them spin at thousands of rotations per second. This would indicate that the toy has ran its due course. Alas, why did it become so popular?

Most simply, the toy is mildly captivating and a physical novelty; it spins at a faster rate that you'd think having not spun one and so the sensation of it spinning on your finger is fascinating. If we were to delve a little deeper, however, we could look at the design of the spinner.


What we have here is a central button, a ball bearing, surrounded by three weighted lobes. The lack of friction surrounding the central button and the balanced weight of the three outer lobes allows for smooth spinning. Moreover, the three holes make for an optical illusion as they spin. What is fascinating about this design here is the use of 3. Fidget spinners will work well with a various number of lobes; common designs range from 2-6. However, 3 is the primary design. This has much to do with size requirements and the device fitting in small hands. But, could we make a stretch and - just for the sake of analysis - question the three lobes as a symbolic reference.

3 and multiples of 3, 12 in particular, are numbers that people seem quite drawn to - especially in narrative forms. Three of the most expressive uses of 3 come from Judaism/Christianity, Hinduism and Taoism. 3 is a significant number in Christianity because of the Father, the Son and Holy Ghost. 3 is important in Hinduism because of Vishnu, Shiva and Brahma. And 3 is important in Taoism because of the positivity, negativity and balance in the taijitu. Each of these examples paints a picture of two extremes and a counterbalance. For Christianity there is the Father on one extreme and the Son on the other, but both binding them together and transcending them is the Holy Ghost. In Hinduism, Vishnu is the creative force of the universe and Shiva is the destructive force; two extremes that are mediated between by Brahma, the preservative force of the universe. In the Taoist taijitu, things become most simple, there is the extreme negative and the extreme positive put in a dichotomy, but kept in balance via their meeting. Binding and transcending each of these trichotomies is the idea of 2+1 as an equation for being. This is reprised by Newtonian theory that suggests for each force there is an equal an opposite (F1 = −F2); and in such, there is balance in the world. Newton, later Einstein and other physicians, have formulated this view of the world that we deem realistic and accurate whilst humans across the world have always been trying to articulate it. Whilst Newton says F1 = −F2, the Hindus, for example, suggest that on one hand there is destruction, on the other creation, and keeping them in harmony is preservation. These ideas manifest as truths of different qualities - Hindu philosophy and Newtonian physics are, let me emphasise, not the same - but my point is not to conflict science and philosophy. Let us then draw up one more example. We all hold two extreme ideas of what was and what is. These are extremes quite equal to the Christian father (past) and son (present). However, to unify past and present we use the idea of progression, and thus emerges a direction of time that extends into the future. And the future is always looming (you could say a little like the holy ghost is). Again, my point here is not to suggest that the world of symbols is equal to the world of science/facts. Rather, my point is that the world of symbols reflects the world of facts in a manner that is so often perceived as profound and meaningful. Specifically in regards to the idea of 3, this phenomena manifests with religious trichotomies. And, I am of course making this point to suggest that, just maybe, the reason why the classical fidget spinner has three lobes, and in turn, is so fascinating to us, is because we are inherently fascinated by 3. The fidget spinner, as not just a toy, but a mandala, situates the universal trictotomy of positive, negative and balance; father, son, spirit; destruction, creation, preservation around a centre - the individual - and we spin it as a means of acting out life. Playing with the fidget spinner is to act out the philosophy that, to live is to be surrounded by forces of positivity, negativity and balance chasing one another's tale.


This pretentious, but maybe fascinating, interpretation of the fidget spinner is something that I am mentioning because it occurred to me in parallel with my reading of Jung. What I now then want to present to you, however, is a mandala of my own that, not only combines Jung and the fidget spinner as a mandala, but gives us a novel pathway towards what I believe is some powerful film theory. To start this new line of thought, I want you to imagine the perspective of a binary star:


If you are one of these stars, and you are spinning around the other in such a way that you are always facing them - which is to say, as you spin around them, you are pivoting to keep a focus on them; you are in rotational balance - will you perceive them to be moving around you, or will you be moving around them, or you will you sense that you are moving around one another, or will nobody seem to be moving at all? And consider the fact here that, in a dark void of gravity-less, absolute space, you have no reference apart from the object in front of you.

I have been thinking about this for a while and I haven't been able to come upon any concrete answers. However, what brought me towards these thoughts was initially a conceptualisation of a two-lobed fidget spinner. If you were in one of the holes, would you sense that the other is forcing you to spin, or would you feel that it was yourself causing the motion, or could you sense that it was both of you/none of you?

These, I have to admit, are probably stupid questions that many of you are palming yourself in the forehead over. However, the idea within here is simply one of perspective. And outside of a psychical realm, within a symbolic one, this question of perspective links to the idea of two extremes spinning around one another. And it simply asks, how does one extreme see the other as they spin? If we map this idea onto positive and negative, masculine and female, anima and animus, we have an allegory of sorts that models the dance between masculine and feminine that we all encounter in life onto a mandala. And so this is what I have tried to manifest:


This mandala I have created is a syzygetic mandala. Syzygy is a term that Jung uses to describe the pairing of anima and animus, masculine and female. What I have drawn up is, essentially, a two-lobed fidget spinner floating in space. In one lobe, the higher lobe (though, due to the symmetry, there is no strict higher or lower) I have recreated the simplified taijitu as to represent Eros. Jung describes Eros in connection with the anima as presiding over the female consciousness as a great binding force. I have characterised it with the taijitu as it is a symbol of balance and binding - positive and negative coming together. In the other lobe I have presented a 12 pointed star. This represents Logos, which, as Jung suggests, is the logic and reason that presides over the animus. The 12 pointed star is then reaching out to the 12 orbiting globes around it; it is investigative and adventurous. The globes are presented to look like the ball bearings of the fidget spinner...


... as to imply that they make the rotation of Logos and Eros (as if they were binary stars) in the outer-lobes smooth. However, the globes serve a further purpose as a multiple of 3, and so represent the trichtomy we have discussed already. I have multiplied the trichotomy by four as to represent the trichotomies that are present in anima, animus, Logs and Eros. Each element is individual and requires attention to remain balanced between positive and negative. The 12 globes are Eros, positive, negative and balance; Logos, positive, negative and balance; anima, positive, negative and balance; and animus, positive, negative and balance. They all orbit an individual's Logos and Eros, which the taijitu and 12-pointed star represent, letting them spin in place as they watch one another like binary stars.



In the centre, you will see an empty circle. This is Aion: life. Aion mediates between Eros and Logos because life itself is in a balance between masculine and feminine; it controls them a little like the outer circle contains the two serpents in the taijitu, but, where the positive and negative are contained in the taijitu, they are made to spin in the syzygetic mandala. And the construct holding these three spheres together is split in half as to allude to the divide and to re-represent the taijitu.

All of these constructs are kept within a sphere as to represent the universe. The universe is broken with the four lines, however, because the universe must be perceived by a human eye as to be seen holding masculine and feminine. When we think of the universe in such terms, 'the universe' becomes 'our personal universe'. The sphere is broken to remind us that there is space beyond what we may perceive to be representing us and our perspective; the real universe lies beyond the personal universe. As a result, this mandala simultaneously represents the personal syzygy within ourselves and the collective syzygy in the wider universe, emphasising the thin divide between the two.

Overall, the mandala represents Eros and Logos floating around Aion in the universe. If this represents reality, then this is tantamount to the taijitu. However, if we consider this a receptacle for archetypes, the universe is in fact our psyche. Within our psyche is masculine and feminine and they revolve around the self, which is Aion: life or the idea of lifespan. The mandala emphasises the rotational ability of this dichotomy; Eros and Logos orbit one another and the self. The conflict that this produces is one of perspective; of Eros and Logos struggling to relate to one another and remain in a balance. In the most basic sense, this mandala is then trying to show the same struggle that Jung does in The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious between anima and animus and the collective and personal unconscious; between myself and other; between the self I hold within me and the other that is within me as well as my self that I see around me and the others that I see around me.

I bring this up as this leads us into a new realm of thought. It is hard, in life, to perceive ourselves in relation to our opposite. The most fundamental self and opposite is the yin and yang; it is the anima and animus. Narratives are so fascinating as they challenge our own syzygetic composition. That is to say, narratives can challenge our animus with representations of the male that are contradictory. Likewise, narrative can challenge our anima with representations of the female that are in conflict with our perception. We can think of this as the challenging of the syzygetic projection. However, whilst the projection of our own personal syzygy creates friction in the space between ourselves and cinema, our biases can lead us astray. In such, we can become possessed to a degree by our own projections. And this means that, if we have a certain view of the masculine in the world, but see a contradictory view presented and choose to disregard it on only temperamental basis, that we have become possessed by bias. This is a fundamentally illogical way of approaching narrative as we choose to approach story as if it serves us, rather than challenges us. Feminist film criticism often deals with this realm of spectatorship. In such, it is almost always asking why females and males are presented certain ways. In asking this, you can realise the flaws and problems in the subtext of films that can sometimes only serve the biases in men and women. Sometimes, however, one can become possessed by an ideology and, instead of investigate film, expect it to operate in certain ways as to fit one's view of the world. We have talked about this divide a lot when discussing Amélie, and so we won't venture there again. Instead, what I want to do today is contrast two views of Disney's Moana as to demonstrate how one's internal syzygy effects how we perceive the subtext of a film.

I have already given my view on Moana's symbolism, and this view in many ways resonates with a video essay I am about to show. However, whilst I think that the subtext of Moana is strong and cohesive, Pageau seems to view the film as semiotically faulted because the masculine is simply replaced by the feminine whilst the presented masculine is bashed.


Pageau's analysis here is excellent, far deeper and precise than that which I offer. However, he seems to view the film as a twisted masculine hero narrative. In such, expectations of the presence of the masculine become paramount for his criticism. However, what I proposed was an analysis that saw this as a female hero myth about the female element of this world correcting itself and its masculine counterparts. And whilst this comes loaded with negative masculine archetypes, I don't think presenting men as negative is a no-no, and nor do I think presenting men as positive is a must. The same could be said in reverse; it is not wrong to show a negative female archetype, and it is not wrong to not show a positive female archetype. What is represented and not represented depends on the kind of story one wants to tell. And Moana seems to be about a reconciliation with the mother and father simultaneously. Moana's journey is then one that is meant to strengthen the masculine in her society - which has become female-dominant due to her father's own fears. She is tasked to bring adventure back into her society because her father, out of fear and tragedy, lost his sense of adventure. Simultaneously, she pulls Maui back into his role of uplifting society. He, after all, has become jaded and egotistical. Moana's response to the lack of positive masculinity is to reinvigorate those fires whilst putting out the fire within herself to a degree. She then transforms Te Kā into Ti Fiti only after having formed a relationship with the masculine.

Pageau analyses the design of the given world as one in which female reigns and builds his criticism from this foundation. He would rather there be a world in which masculine and female are in balance before the narrative starts. Why? With the world presented as female-centric, we know there is something wrong. The world is tantamount to a household in which a father has become sullen whilst the mother has become tyrannical. The mother became tyrannical because the father became obsessed with giving his children all that they wanted; he started to become their oedipal mother. When the mother becomes tyrannical, the children cower in the shadow of Eros; the adventurers stop adventuring and become a gathering society; they become female themselves. This over-abundance of the female presence gives rise to an anomalous female who is guided by her animus out into the waters. The daughter confronts her own mother. This is a story quite like Mulan in which, to defend the motherland and preserve her father, a woman must become a hermaphrodite of sorts. However, in becoming hermaphroditic, the female finds the path back to purer femininity by reconciling with the mother and forming a bond with a male. In joining forces with Maui, Moana confronts the tyrannous mother archetype and fosters masculinity in her tribe. Does this mean that she will remain a man, that she has placed the feminine symbol on the highest point of her island as to stop its growth? I'm not sure. If you assume that this narrative could only work with a male lead, then the answer would be tantamount to that which Pageau presents. However, if you follow the story as a female hero myth, we can assume that having put a balance between masculine and female, having made her tribe both hunter (masculine) and gather (female) again, that Moana will found new island tribes. These new tribes won't, due to a tradition of exploration being embedded into them, remain stagnant gatherers. This is what the shell on the top of the previous island represents. The island became female, and in doing so tried to ascend to heaven, which, narratives such the The Tower of Babel perceive as foolish. Moana urging her tribe to search the world, not only reach upwards to the heavens, is the female force within the tribe wanting the domain of the feminine to be expanded so that it can be organised and uplifted by the masculine who operate in it. In short, you may say that Moana is a story of a wife wanting a new, better house. And what is wrong with this? The female urges and goes forth with the male to conquer greater realms. And this is what Maui would continue to do in the end of the film; within the new, greater domain of the female, Maui would have the chance to bring more islands up and serve his duty in parallel to Ti Fiti.

The statement made to the masculine by Moana is, let the female grow and expand, and you will find greater responsibility and a greater domain to conquer. And this is not a poisonous statement. We can think of it as tantamount to a father letting his daughter become a woman. In nurturing this process, the father opens up a whole new world of different responsibilities for himself that will potentially see him become a better man. This is what happens with Maui. Whilst he is humbled by Ti Fiti in the end of the film, he is also given the opportunity to be a better person and confront larger goals as humans spread across the world. This doesn't sound like man-bashing to me. Sure, men are given a poke. And, no, I wouldn't say that the film couldn't do better, but, I think it says more than Pageau suggests. And let it not be forgotten that the narrative commentary is directed mostly towards the female as a female hero narrative; one that says women should confront the tyrannous mother and engage the sense of adventure and masculinity that she may be seeing as missing from society. (These statements, if I may note, are stuttered and, ultimately, are failed to be articulated in Tangled and Frozen - in Frozen the failure is more intense, Tangled just feels flat and un-fairy-tale-like).

The point that can be made by contrasting the results of Pageau's approach and my approach concerns syzygetic projection. In looking at Moana as it wants to be seen, rather than how we may want to see it based off of our own preconceptions and syzygetic temperament, we can learn a bunch. This is not to say that we are always wrong in projecting our sense of balance onto the world. However, when it concerns narrative, we have the opportunity to test such things. We can have our anima and animus confronted quite comfortably, and from the conflict between ourselves and the other we are presented with understanding. And such brings us back to the syzygetic mandala:


Masculine and female revolve around each other. Conflict comes from the revolution because perceiving one another in motion is difficult; it is hard to know who is spinning and how. Alas, by realising the masculine and female in ourselves, we can have a conversation manifest between all masculine and female syzygies whether they be in ourselves, in others, in reality or apart of the collective unconscious. To look at film in such a way is to engage a syzygetic gaze, a gaze that seeks to understand the differences and similarities between the personal syzygy and the presented syzygy. This allows us to step away from more basic and clunky ideas of a female and male gaze and allows us to recognise that the female and male gaze are always bound to one another; the test of narrative is so often realising how they are bound, and the reward of narrative is seeing our own syzygy reflected back at ourselves.

What I finally want to emphasise before ending is the difference between syzygetic projection and a syzygetic gaze. The projection is unconscious and it can lead to biased readings that fail to reflect anything back at ourselves. The gaze is conscious and seeks to see ourselves reflected back at ourselves. It is important engage the gaze as well as project as it allows for a communication between multiple levels of the syzygy manifestation. This is how we open up our lives to narrative and, not just criticise and force our perspective onto ourselves through film and narrative, but learn via introspection with film and narrative as coaches of sorts. The point made with Moana is then only a small part of a much bigger equation, one that concerns trying to see the other as ourselves before seeing ourselves in others. And so to reduce much of this down to the most basic assertion, I think it is best to ask how a narrative is already embodying a syzygy of its own composition before questioning how it is not embodying a syzygy, or our own specific syzygy.






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Drama & Archetype - Surface And Deep Archetypes In The Exploitation Space

Thoughts On: Drama & Archetypes

Today we build upon a theory of objective-subjective impressionism by questioning how archetypes function in regards to drama.


We have previously talked about three theories that, today, I want to combine. The first theory is of exploitation and the viewer. We talked about this in regards to The Wolf of Wall Street.



This theory of the 'exploitation space' deals with a film existing between ourselves and the screen. This space of cinema is a construct of both filmmaker and audience. Both collaborate, and so both project part of themselves into this space. This space is one of exploitation because it makes us vulnerable by having us feel conflict; our emotions are exploited and/or so are characters in a narrative.

For the sake of brevity, I will not delve into the intricacies of these theories, so, please, if you're interested follow the links and read around the theory. That said, we continue.



The second theory is of objective and subjective impressionism. This deals with impressionism turning characters into objects and objects into characters, and it comfortably merges with the exploitation space theory as to demonstrate that the filmmaker can use certain types of impressionism to manipulate the space in which we, the audience, are exploited and view exploitation.


The final theory concerns drama. This theory hypothesises that 'drama' is not a genre. Drama sits in a category of its own and it can be classified. There are then four types of drama: biodrama, tuphlodrama, typhlodrama and melodrama. What we are going to do today primarily concerns drama and its relationship with being within the exploitation space.

To start, it is best to define the four classes of drama. We should all have heard of melodrama before. This is drama that is intensely contrived. Biodrama may not be familiar, but it is a very simple term. Biodrama is the drama of life, it is realistic action put onto film. Tuphlo and typhlodrama are where things get slightly difficult. Typhlodrama describes films whose action is based in physical and psychological unrealism (a little like the melodrama), but is nonetheless trying to be a little realistic. You need only think of films such as the Bourne Identity here. This represents a new kind of modern action film that, though it is based on Hollywood nonsense, has a gritty and realistic approach. The kind of drama represented by action in Bourne Identity is slightly blind to the rules of reality. Tuhplodrama, the final kind of drama, is based in psychological and physical realism that is perturbed and disturbed by an artist. We can understand this via the action in the films of Yorgos Lanthimos, films such as The Lobster, where characters exists in a realistic domain but, for lack of a better word, act in a tone-deaf and off manner; they act in a way that is deaf to the musical harmony of 'normal' life as represented by what turns out to often be Hollywood melodramas.

What I want to investigate today is the manner in which drama effects the exploitation space via archetypes. And this will have us expand upon the idea of an exploitation space. So, to begin directly, the initial essay on the exploitation space dealt with a conceptualisation of a space that conjures emotion. The introduction to the idea of that space is then limited as it focused primarily on the function of the 'exploitation film'. And in such, the theory, as presented there, was weighted towards understanding how we can watch seemingly disagreeable films. To pull back and reassess, let us take a look at the space again:


When we project ourselves into this space, we are manifesting archetypes. It is important to be very particular when using the term 'archetype' as I believe it has two functions. The Jungian idea of the archetype emerges from the psyche. That is to say, it can only ever be projected onto objects as to see them manifest our own biases, fantasies, complexes, desires and, more simply, temperament. The more general idea of the archetype, however, is manifested, not by the psyche, but, an artist. The psyche recognises this kind of archetype. Thus, there are the kind of archetypes that are written into a film, and then there are the kind of archetypes that we bring to a film. Jung would be very sceptical about the more general idea of the archetype that is often presented over his as it implies, quite simply, a stock kind of character; a figure who reoccurs over and over. The recurrence of the, for example, strong man archetype, is a pretty conscious one which is not necessarily deeply embedded in the personal or collective unconscious. Jung would be more interested in the archetype that may be at the core of the surface level one. This would be the archetype that we perceive in conjuncture with our personal experience when watching a strong man on film. In the strong man, we may then project the archetype of our father or animus.

We can distinguish the Jungian and the general archetype from one another by labelling the Jungian variant the 'deep-archetype' and the general variant the 'surface-archetype'. Unlike Jung, I am deeply fascinated by, and so see much value in, not just deep-archetypes but also surface-archetypes. Surface-archetypes do not say much about the individual in a qualitative sense (this is what Jung would always be after as a psychiatrist), but they do indicate the ways in which films speak to one another. And thus surface-archetypes provide a psychology of art itself - which, without its human counter-parts is nothing, meaning that its psychology is not as important as the audiences' or filmmakers'. Alas, art has a kind of psychology that is made accessible by the surface-archetype, and I find it fascinating.

What we project into the exploitation space are deep-archetypes. What films project into the exploitation space are surface-archetypes. The archetypes of the viewer will always be deep as they emerge from the personal unconscious, unconsciously. Archetypes projected from the screen will always be surface as they are emerging from a personal unconscious (the unconscious of the artist) or a collective unconscious consciously. To be more precise, I should justify and problematise my use of 'always'. Surface-archetypes can emerge from the viewer when they engage film with an ideology at hand. In such, if you are told to write an essay on a film for a class on feminism, you will consciously be holding a feminist lens onto a screen. Thus, the archetypes you project will have a pretence of surface about them. However, I question if ideologies are in fact manifestations of temperament that we engage and use unconsciously. If this is the case, which it may not be, then deep-archetypes will always emerge from the viewer - even through ideology. Suffice to say then that deep-archetypes emerge from the viewer the majority of the time. And in regards to surface-archetypes emerging from the screen, we can query the filmmaker, who may not consciously be using archetypes, instead, putting their deep-archetypes on screen directly. I am not sure how possible this would be considering the fact that numerous people work on films. And whilst we could say someone leads the way as in an auteur theory, I find it hard to say that anyone can direct, write and produce a film whilst not once making conscious the process of their projection. If anyone does this, maybe Lynch does - maybe a few others. Alas, it seems to me that surface-archetypes will always be present on screen, not just because it would be hard to project much other than that, but also because deep-archetypes, when not gleaned from the the collective unconscious unconsciously, can't, arguably, be unconsciously gleaned at all. I will not speak in definites though. So, suffice to say that, for the majority of all cases, surface-archetypes will be projected through a screen.


Having established that both surface and deep archetypes populate the exploitation space, it becomes clear that the exploitation space is a playground for the archetypes. In such, it will have us engage with representations of humans, events and objects alike that are all limbs of the collective unconscious in some way or another. The exploitation space then becomes a pseudo collective space of unconsciousness. Notably, however, consciousness presides over the space as we see represented by the line that transcends the space:


Having set the grounds for a unified theory, let us now begin with the unifying. If the exploitation space is the playground of the archetypes, the archetypes are manipulated by a filmmaker via objective-subjective impressionism:


What is of interest here, is that only 2 of the 6 types are archetypes. What we then perceive and dream with in the shared cinematic space is not just archetypes. Whilst we project deep-archetypes into the space, we may be confronted by a mere caricature. When these two figures play in the exploitation space, sparks of entertainment and/or frustration may fly. Let us then imagine an enjoyable exploitation film. I will reference Slave Girls From Beyond Infinity. Here, the personal deep-archetypes represent our own complexes whilst the film presents us toys to play with. The toys, when interacted with unconsciously remain caricatures and objects of our will. But, when analysed, they can become symbols; objects that reveal to us our own psychology, temperamental complexes and deep-archetypes. Slave Girls From Beyond Infinity the probably says much about my anima.

This line of thought, in general, says much about the joy and meaning one can find in trashy movies. Alas, the deep-archetype may also confront another archetype - a surface-archetype - and, in such a case, the viewer will have material with which to delve into the depth of the film. But, when the deep-archetype is confronted by a symbol or character, a mirror is held up. The surface-archetype almost always appears real and deep. We are then forced by it to analyse ourselves in conjuncture with the film.

More could be said about each of those processes, but, I am currently interested in relating these three phenomena to the types of drama. Let us then step back and ask what a filmmaker will engage in the exploitation space when they manifest biodrama. By presenting life as it is, complex and challenging, a biodramatist will want to create a complex character. Bergman is a master at this, and Scenes From A Marriage is a masterclass in this regard. It is in this film that Bergman then uses biodrama to make characters that are so real that we can't help but see them reflect the archetypes we project back onto ourselves. We then watch our own anima and animus bicker and destroy one another when we watch Scenes From A Marriage.

Conversely, in a melodrama, we will see archetypes or caricatures fall to the whims of our own biases. In such, what we want--yearn--to see occur will occur. The silent film melodramas, Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans, for example, are particularly brilliant at this. It is in Sunrise that we don't necessarily see real characters, but, our own idols, our anima and animus, put on screen. The result of this is the diametrically opposed to the result seen when the deep-archetype is confronted by a character. The surface-archetypes and caricatures of the melodrama perform for our deep-archetypes whilst characters challenge them.

What we see the exploitation space transformed into by the biodrama and melodrama are places of intimacy and discomfort. Realism causes discomfort. Unrealism is intimate. With typhlo and tuphlodrama, we will see the exploitation space mediate between these two states. The typhlodrama exists primarily in a realm of comfort with everything presented performing for our projections. However, it can challenge them with doses of realism and tragedy. And this isn't to say that, through tragedy for example, typhlodramas generate negative emotion. No, this is not the source of discomfort. Discomfort is characterised here as forced introspection. When we are made to consider reality as reflective of ourselves and in turn question ourselves there emerges the discomfort. This occurs throughout the masterpiece that is The Planet of the Apes prequel trilogy as we continually realise that the apes play out our mythological stories.

As you may put together, tuphlodramas focus on the uncomfortable space. Like biodramas, they want us to see our deep-archetypes reflected back in our face. However, they will use contrivance and hints of melodrama as to tend to our projections, only to then strike out at them again. A brilliant example of this would be The Meyerowitz Stories. Within this film we are continually made to see ourselves in a family that is falling apart. Comedy so often perturbs the realism, however, taking the edge off of the film. But, the relief is sometimes a rouse. There is a strain of the film in which we see a character's daughter start to make films and appear naked in them. Initially this is played for comedy. However, when we identify with the father, and the absurd joke emerges again, there is a tinge of horror as we question 'What if that was my daughter?'. Here our deep-archetype, our daughter, figurative or not, our anima, is thrown in our face by tuphlodrama.

Many more examples could be drawn up here, but what I present now concerns drama, objective-subjective impressionism and the exploitation space. These three theories interact in a way that will see specific games played between deep and surface archetypes in the collective space of unconscious (a.k.a the exploitation space). Dependent on what kind of impressionism and drama utilised by a filmmaker, different archetypes will emerge and, in turn, the exploitation space will start to liven


To see this post in its context, please check out the page that collects posts on my developing theory of objective-subjective impressionism here.







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End Of The Week Shorts #55

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Moana - Syzygetic Projection & Gaze

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29/04/2018

End Of The Week Shorts #55



Today's shorts: To Be Or Not To Be (1942), Sister Act 2: Back In The Habbit (1993), Orgy Of The Dead (1965), Fellini Satyricon (1969), Julie & Julia (2009), The Coward (1965), The Holy Man (1965)



I've always felt lukewarm about Lubitsch. It's hard not to like Ninotchka. Going into To Be or Not To Be, supposedly Lubitsch's best film, I was hoping for something at least as good as Ninotchka. What I got, however, was... ok. 
Lubitsch's brand of comedy is quite dry and subtle, and with To Be or Not To Be it emerges as dark in an almost absurd way. However, I don't think it's absurd enough. There's a stiffness about this film that has you stop and question who, what and why a bit too much. For instance, this is a film that is ultimately satirising actors, actresses and celebrity affairs. In turn, this is trying to be a screwball comedy. However, it distracts itself with war and Nazis with jokes that are few and far between - and ultimately not too funny. Pushed to the ironic extremes of something such as Duck Soup or The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek, this would have worked. As is... well, let's say I'm still not sure what the Lubitsch touch is.



For what it is, Sister Act 2 is pretty awesome. 
The first movie had a clever premise that was executed brilliantly. However, it felt very much so like a spoof of an crime-drama within a musical. And that is to say that you could feel tropes and structural formulas typical of a Hollywood movie. I won't fault the movie for that, but, Sister Act 2 exists under the shadow of its predecessor quite comfortably, relinquished from having to set up a genre and a premise. Using this to its full advantage, Sister Act 2 is plain fun. We get to see characters from the previous film reprised and put in a place where they support the new set of characters wonderfully. And we also get one of the best numbers of both films. Overall, however, Sister Act 2 is pretty cheesy, but near-impossible not to like. At least, that's how I feel having grown up with this.



Unwatchable. 
Orgy of the Dead is as dumb and hackey as the title suggests. It follows a couple (a writer and his wife) who get in a car crash and somehow end up in the realm of the dead. More specifically, however, they end up in a graveyard where a blonde... guy (he looks a little like a vampire) spends his night watching semi-naked women dance. For some reason. Each woman dances to a theme (cats, money, prostitution, weddings, etc) and every now and then cutaways remind us that the blonde guy, his big-breasted assistant, the annoying couple and even Wolfman and The Mummy are suffering through these boring-ass dances. And, spoilers, there's no orgy. I don't know what purpose this is supposed to serve. You'll fall asleep before you soil your underwear.



Satyricon is a film that has you ask "Why am I watching this?" for the entirety of its overlong run-time - seemingly intentionally. 
A visual spectacle on one level and a narrative mess on another, Satyricon is incomprehensible; primarily a test of how fast you can read subtitles and follow a set of visual non-sequiturs. Upon reflection, however, Satyricon begins to make sense as a film reflective of its time. Just like the original work this is based upon satirise its times (the Roman Empire, 1st century A.D) through extravagance and degeneracy, so does Fellini's film. Satyricon is then seemingly a reflection of an Italy in chaos (entering its Years of Lead). It then uses a vision of Italy's ancient past in a way that Italian politicians have, but without promise or any pretence of sense. 
I'm still not certain whether or not this is worth the watch. But, it is certainly an experience.



A nice little movie. A really nice movie. 
I suppose it would be fair to say that this is a study in narcissism - the good kind. And such is recognised in a way, but simultaneously built upon. A movie about idols, humans as statuettes of our imagination's own creation, ourselves imperfect, everyone else around us perfect, Julie & Julia juxtaposes fantasy with reality. There is then something in you that may yearn for more of Streep as you watch this film, but, what Streep's narrative represents is the fantasy. Adams in her quirky, slightly annoying narrative represents reality. We are lucky to be able to dream with Julie, but the meaning and weight of this film comes from realising that we are Julie. The archetype projects from within the type, the typical, the you, the us, the everyone else. The archetype is who you could be if only you weren't so... you. Relish what is slightly off and annoying about this movie; it's a good one.



Kapurush, or The Coward, is a film about the pain and draw of nothing; about emptiness in a dream. In such, it follows a writer whose car breaks down, and is helped by a man who happens to be married to a girl he once loved, but let leave his life. Whilst a Bollywood musical would be 3 times longer, full of tears and see the boy and girl come together before, probably, choosing to stay apart because of duties, but then pulled together by the forces that be, The Coward takes a realistic form to simply see seemingly real people interact. And, in turn, we see hubris and we see weakness through our own desires and expectations. We are asked to question when we are worthy of a second chance, and even when we are worthy, if a second chance will be granted to us at all. 
Simple, yet brilliantly conceived and so deeply enticing, this is more than worth the watch.



A brilliant film. 
The Holy Man is often shown as an accompaniment to The Coward, and both films speak to one another through the theme of honesty in action. Both are romances of sorts, one is about action and direction the other is about inaction and confusion. Dishonesty catalyses and propels all conflicts in both films with a lack of commitment to ones own words defining the forces that protagonists must confront. What Ray then formulates through these films is a commentary on the present moment as an opportunity to engage the depths of honesty within ourselves and act them out; the past, the future and the grey are left abstract, almost reduced to satirical or comedic elements, and so what comes to define Ray's realism is a philosophy of simplicity. Be who you can be, and do so forthrightly. Maybe then the life you want will reveal itself to you.






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Every Year In Film #36 - The Squaw Man

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27/04/2018

Every Year In Film #36 - The Squaw Man

Thoughts On: The Squaw Man (1914) & The Birth of Hollywood


A look at the birth and rise of Hollywood.


I have never been one for history. As a kid in high school, I'd think of it as a subject with a lot of dates that I couldn't remember and really just pushed it aside completely. Trying to do the best job I can possibly do for the Every Year Series, however, I have had to immerse myself in history more and more so. And in learning about, primarily, 20th century history I have very quickly come to see history and the humanities as more than dates.

The first thing you learn when taking a serious look into any historical topic is that history is not a thing of the past. History affects us in the present. And to figure out where you stand, you apparently have to look back. But, the more you try to grapple with history, not just understand, for example, when WWII started or what happened during the Cold War, the more abstract questions become. This especially happens when you start asking why: why WWII happened and why the Cold War was sparked? One of my favourite why? questions is: Why is there East and West? To all of these why? questions you'll find some answers; WWII happened because Germany was again trying to become a dominant world power; the Cold War happened because the spread of Communism was a real game-changer for the state of all geopolitics; the East and the West are divided as such primarily because of the split of the Roman Empire and its role as a dividing line between empires beyond Europe and within Europe. But, these answers very quickly become dissatisfying, and thus history really becomes a set of arguments and a vast array of contributing factors. History as such reveals itself, especially to a real novice like myself, to be a single, overwhelming scream of events and happenings. What I have then come to realise is not just that history is more than a thing of the past. History is also more than the past, the present and the future. History does not just tell us where we are, where we came from and where we're going - it so often struggles to do this even in the slightest. History is a conceptualisation of human existence as an omniscient, continuous and intertwined body of causality.

I open this entry of the Every Year Series as such because we are now upon a historical explosion: World War I. An impossible amount of history goes into WWI, and WWI spits out an absolutely enormous gob of history itself. WWII is wrapped up in WWI; WWI is wrapped up in colonial conflicts across the entire globe (hence World War); in conflicts (over oil) within and around what we now call the Middle East, with what was the Ottoman Empire; in the emergence of Communism, hence the Cold War (which we are kind of still in); in the start of conflicts between the Far East and the West; in the emergence of America as a global super power; in a proliferation of deadly technology that eventually leads to the ultimate decider of all global interactions in the modern world, the atomic bomb, etc, etc, etc. WWI did not just create these strains of history, but it becomes a kind of major limb of history as the conceptualisation of human existence.

Much of what WWI funnels into the history books is tied to film history. However, let it be noted that film does not interact with the first World War as it did with, for example, the second. Film, generally, not only fails to interact with the Great War until the mid and late-20s, but it also doesn't really play a significant role as propaganda from 1914-18. There are a few key pictures from Britain and America about WWI that may be considered propaganda, but they were more so experimental fabrications that served as dramatised news reels. (We will not touch on actual news reels because we will find ourselves veering so far away from film history and into general history and a history of media that it'd be counter-productive).

In the same way that major conflicting powers had to learn a whole new kind of warfare, a warfare of the trench; had to learn how to integrate high power machine guns and tanks into combat, had to learn how to amass and manage huge, national armies for the slaughter, the major powers had to learn how to use new media as a weapon during WWI. The reality is, however, that this last learning curve wasn't an overwhelming concern; film, specifically, simply wasn't that high on the list. And, if we were to take a step back for perspective, though film was really taking shape around 1913-14 - cast your mind back to the Danish feature films, the Italian epics, the French serials, Griffith's one and two-reelers - the culture around film needed much development. So, though cinema had language to deal with the war - and maybe with some effect - it is hard to judge if filmmakers were sophisticated enough, if studios were willing enough, if audiences were engaged enough, if the authorities cared enough, to push cinema into these new realms. But, one example of somewhat light propaganda that we can then look at depicts The Battle of the Somme:


The Battle of the Somme is a documentary shot by two cameramen, Geoffrey Malins and J.B McDowell, on and near the front-lines of the battle in the days before it begun and just as it starts. The documentary is meaning to be a transparent, elongated newsreel of sorts that would have informed the public in Britain, America and other Ally countries about the state of the war. And though this is often noted as fake, a very small percentage of the film (like the 'over the top sequence') which is said to amount to only 90 seconds is known to have been staged. But, whilst reasons for this are initially logical, they reveal the true nature of the propaganda.

Scenes that were closest to the fighting would have been too dangerous to shoot - most of the combat put on screen is very distant. It then makes sense that the chaos of men leaving their trenches would have been staged for the camera. However, whilst the film depicts wounded and dead British soldiers, the devastation of the battle, renowned as one of the worst military exploits of British history, is downplayed and never really come to into real contact with. Not only is the danger and devastation then avoided and kept at a distance, but footage was cut out by British censors at the War Office as to reduce the amount of dead shown, and ultimately to imply that the battle was a success for the British. In reality, however, it is hard to say that it was a success for anyone at all with a third of all men - aprox. one million out of three million - wounded or dead with the Germans suffering casualties and loses between 400,000 and 500,000 and the British around 420,000.

As we see here, the propaganda film around WWI isn't too developed, and nor does it play a big role in the war. In reality, cinema in general throughout Europe was slowed down by the war. Film production in France for example, whilst it was booming around 1913/14, almost came to a halt during and after the war with Feuillade's serials (Fantomas, Les Vampires, Judex, Tin Minh) being some of the only surviving cinematic documents of the time, until French cinema was revived by filmmakers such as Gance with his 1919 film J'Accuse. In the meantime in Britain, their biggest contribution to film history (arguably their biggest contribution to all of film history) was Charlie Chaplin, who, as most will know, was only an export of British theatre and never apart of the industry. And whilst Germany makes an almost unthinkably significant turn-around after WWI in their cinematic industry, it is in no good place during the war; it also struggles, ultimately fails, to match the cinema of America in scope and reach.

If we then want to talk about WWI and cinema, we have to talk about the rise of Hollywood. This rise is the most overwhelmingly significant event of the first world war period for cinema; it is industrial, cultural and technical. It is then between 1910 and 1920 that we see a film industry literally built up from the dirt in California, filmmakers flock to it, a culture exude from it and technical developments made with in. In making its return to America, The Every Year Series, which hasn't put much focus at all on the States, will dedicate 3 posts to this rise. Today, we will look at how an industry started to form in Hollywood, next, we will take a look at the star system and the new culture of celebrity, and then, finally, we will investigate some significant technical achievements.

We have alluded to this rise of Hollywood before in discussing Edison and his Trust, and, to start the discussion today, we will have to do this again. In turn, we find ourselves back at the turn of the century. It was around 1900 that the first major American production companies rose: Edison Studios, Biograph (first known as The American Mutoscope and Biograph Company) and Vitagraph Studios.




These were all initially based in New York and were founded in response to the birth of cinema around 1895; initially, Edison's first experiments with the Kinetoscope and then the Lumières' Cinématographe. New York then became the first centre of American film production - primarily because New York was America's heart of commerce. Over the 1900s, however, this specified, with Fort Lee in New Jersey becoming the major hub of American film production - a proto-Hollywood of sorts. So, whilst Edison's studio is important as the first film production studio in the world, Biograph and Vitagraph are also important as competitors who empowered a movement away from the Kinetoscope with their own cameras that were more like the Lumière Cinématographes and Edison's developing technologies. These three companies would have been major foundations for the New York film industry, attracting actors and commerce already present in the state. Not only constructing blueprints for how to run a major studio and mass-produce film, these companies played a significant part in the founding of national and international distribution schemes and saw the rise of America's first stars. Biograph in particular is most notable in regards to the final point as they saw the start of many significant careers including Griffith's, Lilian Gish's and Mary Pickford's.

Because of the boom that these companies initiated, before 1910 there were a few other significant companies in competition with them: Lubin and Kalem. These were all based in and around New York. Kalem is particularly notable because of their film adaptations: the first film versions of Ben Hur and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Ben Hur, however, is an important film because it was one of the very first movies to be tangled in a copyright lawsuit for illegally adapting a book they hadn't owned the rights to. This set a president of films having to gain rights to material they didn't own. In addition to this both Kalem and Lubin - much like everyone else in the film industry - would have been in constant disputes with Edison Studios. This is, of course, all down to patents and Edison essentially attempting to claim a monopoly in America.

Edison's monopoly may have possibly been attained in the late 1800s. However, with the rise of Biograph, Vitagraph, Kalem and Lubin (among many other independents) the film industry was just becoming too big. What's more, significant production and distribution companies are being set up across America. In Chicago in particular, Selig Polyscope and Essanay were the centre of American comedy from the late-1900s to the mid-1910s. It was Selig and Essanay who then housed the likes of Fatty Arbuckle, Harold Llyod and Charlie Chaplin. In addition to this, from the early 1900s, major European production companies, such as Méliès' Star Film and Pathé, had a presence in America. So, despite the fact that he owned almost all of the cinematic patents, in turn the rights to make film, in America, Edison would not be able to wipe all of these companies out and fight against the 1000s of distribution and pirating companies around America alone. Edison did a good job of strangling the entire film industry though. But, in making it so hard for the other major companies at the time to make film, he damaged the American film industry itself. This was because foreign films began dominating the markets through the other major studios. By 1907, it would have then been increasingly clear that wiping out all of the other companies (if that was possible) would leave Edison competing against the entirety of Europe by himself - and Europe may have drowned out America in this time. He then formed, in 1908, the Motion Picture Patents Company.

The MPPC, or the Trust, was designed to control the American film industry, eradicate all independent companies, and direct cash-flow to Edison's pocket. All of the mentioned companies - Vitagraph, Kalem, Lubin, Selig, Essanay, Star Film, Pathé, and more - were then united under one banner that (somewhat loosely) controlled licences and royalties to everything attached to production, distribution and exhibition. It is then highly noteworthy that George Kleine, founder of the Kalem company and distributor for Biograph and foreign films - the most powerful distributor in America, as well as Eastman Kodak, the major producer of film stock, were apart of the MPPC. Initially, Biograph were not apart of the this Trust. In truth, Edison formed it to unite the major players in the American film industry against them. It was Biograph, after all, who operated with a different camera than everyone else on top of owning the rights to the Latham loop, which gave them power in the courts.



This small but integral element of cameras was an essential mechanism in keeping the film slack as it passed through machinery. All cameras used the Latham loop. Biograph owned this. Because of the power that Biograph wielded, Edison had to come to terms with the company and so they became joint partners of the MPPC a year after everyone else. Nonetheless, despite the fact that the Trust was no longer trying to squeeze Biograph out of existence, its function remained the same. Everyone in the Trust had the rights to use, create, distribute and exhibit film. Moreover, the industry was standardised, through policies controlling pricing and even the length of film (everything had to be one-reel until 1912). This meant that if you weren't apart of the Trust or paying royalties to the right people, you were essentially committing a crime by making, distributing or showing a film. This crime could be punished by copyright laws, or you might just get beaten up by the thugs that Edison's company apparently hired.

This was the American film industry around 1910. It wasn't an easy place for an independent filmmaker. In the modern day, we might compare it to the early days of the World Wide Web around the 90s if its creator, Tim Berners-Lee, had chosen to patent it. If Berners-Lee, like Edison, wanted to control everything, he would have fought against anyone who created a website or platform of any kind that linked to others, restricting our usage of the internet, and reducing it to a tool for very few. In short the internet would be a relatively sucky place. This is not to imply the manner in which the American film industry would have initially grown if Edison never established a patent system, but it builds a picture around how limited and hostile the movie industry would have been.

This, as many of you will know, is a reason (not the one and only, however) why filmmakers ran away from New York to the furthest place in America possible: California. Not only were filmmakers in California days of travel away from New York, but they were close to the boarder. And in Mexico, they could not be persecuted - this is something that those in Chicago didn't have. In addition to this, the Californian industry had the weather and infrastructure on their side. In New York, most film studios, especially in the early days, were set up on rooftops. This allowed them to shoot outdoors without being down on the busy streets, overshadowed by looming buildings. Alas, whilst they'd have the exposure they needed during clear summer days, New Jersey isn't very unfamiliar with cloud, rain and winter. On the other hand, California, the Los Angeles area in particular, has no idea what winter is; it's too busy worrying about where to find water in the middle of a desert. This, for a movie industry who didn't yet have the technology to satisfactorily light scenes (these techniques would be developed around the mid-1910s and standardised in the 20s), made California ideal. And this is forgetting how difficult was to even shoot in New York and how wide open California was.

But, before we can talk about the people who built Hollywood as a film industry, and before we can even talk about the films they made, we have to touch on the founding of Hollywood as a place. Los Angeles in the early 1820s passed over to Mexico from the colonial Spanish after they won their war for independence. Hollywood was not Hollywood. It was a small ranch town with a population of under a thousand people that was in the Cahuenga Valley. A couple of decades later in the mid-1800s came the Mexican-American war, which saw the Americans take over the area. Moving into the 1870s, with California now a star on the spangled banner, the rail system had made its way down to the south. And coming upon the turn of the century, oil was found in Los Angeles. This saw a huge boom of commerce with California becoming the biggest oil producer in the world, the population soaring over one-hundred thousand around the turn of the century. And so from the 1890s to the 1920s, the area expanded, undergoing rapid industrialisation.

Taking a step back before the oil was discovered, we find ourselves at a time of relatively slower growth with the railroad bringing more people into what is essentially a flourishing agricultural community that produced grapes, lemons, oranges, bananas, pineapples and more. The railroad brought with it a real estate developer, H.J. Whitley, and in the 1880s, he came upon the patch of land and decided to buy it up. Land was somewhat cheap, it was fertile, it was expansive and not yet heavily populated. Whitley saw an opportunity to build a town here. As he was on the land with his wife, he apparently came upon a Chinese man hauling a cart of wood. He asked him what he is doing, and the man supposedly replied in broken English "haulie wood". Whitley heard "hauling wood" as "Hollywood", and thought the name fit well; 'Holly' represented his English heritage and 'Wood' his Scottish heritage. And so the name stuck - or, at least, that's how the legend goes. Other sources suggest that the name comes from native bushes that look like holly.

Alas, Hollywood had a name, it had a community, the estate business was booming, rich Americans were setting up homes and oil had been discovered. This was a sweet little spot. Filmmakers had more than enough reasons to turn to it. The industry wasn't born over night, however.

Around 1910, films were being made in numerous places all across America. But, the main hubs were certainly New York, its neighbour Pennsylvania and, further in-land, Illinois. This was a period that signified the height of the Edison Trust's power. However, Edison didn't go unchallenged. Whilst the independents struggled and dispersed across America (we can imagine that a great deal of the thousands of distributors, exhibitors, etc. grafted their way ok), a certain Carl Laemmle lead a fight against Edison and his conglomerated majors. He had started up his own film exchange where he rented films to theatres in his area. Laemmle was inspired to do this having previously set up his own theatre that didn't do too well - and no thanks to the sources he was receiving film prints from. The Laemmle Film Service was a success, but, as it grew, it caught Edison's attention and, believing that he owned the rights to use film and movie projectors, he felt entitled to royalties that Laemmle was not paying. Laemmle refused, and thus he was laden with hundreds of lawsuits.

In the meanwhile, Biograph was doing business as usual. Griffith was a director by now, squeezing out his one reel films like sausages - at a rate of around 1 a week. He was learning and developing as a director as well as building a troupe of actors, which included Mary Pickford. Here is an example of a Griffith-Pickford picture, Ramona:


Ramona is a tragic romance one-reeler. It projects a particularly Griffith-esque theme of injustice whilst dealing with elements of the Californian history we have already discussed. But, whilst the theme of injustice is used here to show evils committed against 'Indians', Griffith is, of course, most noted for his glorification of the KKK as defenders of freedom and enforcers of justice. It's the likes of Ramona that paint a clearer picture of the kind of man Griffith was; certainly clumsy and slightly bigoted, from our perspective, with his depiction of races not his own, but not malicious in nature. This is something he tried to show audiences after The Birth of a Nation with the likes of Intolerance and Broken Blossoms.

That aside, as is told to us in the opening titles, this was shot in California. Biograph had not set up shop in California, but had sent a crew over to the West Coast. Around 1910, whilst Hollywood had not yet been established, this may have been an increasingly common venture for East Coast studios to make - especially during the winters. Alas, this is not the first film made in the state. The earliest film made in not just California, but Hollywood specifically, is thought to be D.W Griffith's In Old California.


But, whilst prints of the film are said to still exist, none seem to have been digitally archived for public access. So, to take a step back, Griffith's trip to California in 1910 is one of the earliest documented trips to the South-West Coast. It was also one of the last times Mary Pickford worked with Biograph, for it was at the end of 1910 that she left the company. After writing two screenplays for Selig, Mary Pickford signed a contract with Independent Moving Pictures, a studio started up by Carl Laemmle, who, you will remember, is still entrenched in lawsuits with Edison.

Laemmle's IMP was new competition against Edison, started up in the same year his Trust began to come together. IMP became famous for taking famous faces and giving them names. Biograph girls such as Mary Pickford then became actual movie stars credited on the screen by IMP - something that most other studios of the times refused to do. It is Florence Lawrence alongside King Baggot, not Mary Pickford, however, that were two of the first major stars that America produced.

  

Whilst much could be said about these two figures, what is probably worth noting above all else is the fact that, though Lawrence worked for almost every single major studio and Baggot was called the "King of the Movies", their names have not echoed too well through the chambers of film history. These were two of the first people to have their names publicised widely - we shall return to why momentary. However, they existed in a rather quiet and quaint period of film history; that is, the period we are studying now. In truth, 1900-1920 is a relatively anonymous era for film history. But, America around the mid-1910s is a particularly quiet time. There are of course a selection of bombs that were dropped by Griffith and Chaplin, but the majority of the American movie industry was cautiously developing whilst Europe was at war. You will then not find the huge blockbusters and the immense razzle and dazzle that characterised the 1920s in 1914.

Chaplin and Griffith very easily eclipse what is often called the least-studied era of film history. They are framed as precursors to 20s filmmaking, which saw Europe strike back at Hollywood, incredibly significant technological leaps made and the greatest silent movies put to screen. But, the American stars we still know to this day, Chaplin, Fairbanks, Keaton, Pickford, Swanson, Lloyd, were names that were most famous in the 20s and, some, transcended the silent era. The earlier stars of the mid-1910s were stars of a different calibre who were in smaller scale films and a smaller-scale industry. We do not know names such as Florence Lawrence or King Baggot like we do Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin for this very reason - even though they were stars in their own right and contemporaries of one another. This is something to keep in mind as we progress. So many films from this period have been lost, and even those that survive are entirely overshadowed by the films of Griffith and Chaplin. American cinema in this period then exceeds much of what we know and talk about today.

Alas, what Griffith, Chaplin, Pickford and Fairbanks would do in the 1920s with United Artists would not be possible if Carl Laemmle had not made stars out of Baggot and Lawrence. It was Independent Moving Pictures who, as said, were amongst the first to credit their stars and publicise them. And this was done in response to Laemmle's lawsuit. He used his actors and the image that they could contrive as a marketing strategy. This worked. Laemmle earned the public opinion he needed to define the independent market positively; this was not just a hoard of pirates, outlaws and thieves, but an establishment that housed some of the nation's favourite personalities. Such would have contributed to his eventual victory over Edison that, in 1915, saw the Trust considered an illegal entity.

There is more to the dissolution of the MPPC that this, however. From 1910-15, the foundations of a movie industry were set in California. This was a time in which movie celebrities rose, a time in which Kodak pulled away from the Trust and feature films started to emerge in Europe. Whilst there are examples of feature film production in America in this period, the MPPC ensured that feature-length film production was not a norm in America until approximately 1914. And then the World War started. Europe stopped making so many films. Imports of European cinema into America through the big companies in the Trust were significant sources of income. The need for non-European films necessitated the independents - especially those in California who were making Westerns. The majors in New York and their business model were becoming increasingly dated.

Let us then go back again to Griffith's period in California during 1910. Many of his films made here were successes. They had an aesthetic reminiscent of bygone times that, though they would have been set around 50 years in the past, would have shown great contrast to big city life in places such as New York. What's more, they often emphasised older values. And we see this especially with the Western, which has historically been a genre that represented the American version of nationalism, patriotism, and all that comes along with it. American patriotism is founded in the glorification and romanticisation of the past. It has always presented itself as quite different from nationalism - which was putting Europe in an awful lot of mess in 1914, and would continue to do so for the next 30+ years. It was 'Old California' that gave filmmakers the opportunity to contrive a patriotic vision of America for Americans, which foreshadows the later separation of the European and American silent film. One of the first studios to then follow Griffith and set up shop in 1911 was the Nestor Film Company.


Nestor were the first studio to move away from New York, shedding their previous name of Centaur, and set up in Hollywood permanently. Companies such as Kalem opened up branches along the West Coast in the same year that Nestor made their move, and they did so to start shooting Westerns. Alas, Nestor is the first known studio to have put roots down in Hollywood specifically.


Soon after Nestor came Laemmle's Independent Moving Pictures. Laemmle was still based in New York at this time and so, as he was setting up branches in California, he was busy with Edison; his new distribution company was in trouble and he was trying to build the image of the independent movie business with his stars. To aid the situation, there emerged a new corporation that conglomerated many independent studios into a vertically integrated (they controlled production, distribution and exhibition) system. This corporation was called The Universal Film Manufacturing Company.

It was between 1910 and 1912 that movie companies started flooding to California and L.A. (Let it be emphasised that 'Hollywood' is so often a catch-all phrase for a much wider area). This is then the time that saw a huge out-pour of new corporations and subsidiaries that evolved into world famous entities. For example, from the collapse of Laemmle's Motion Picture Distributing and Sales Company came Universal Studios after Nestor and IMP combined as well as Mutual Film Corporation, the conglomerate that signed Charlie Chaplin.

Around this time, many of the major and minor studios in New York were buying up lots and shooting films in and around the Hollywood area. Between 1911 and 1915, the major foundations of a new movie industry that would rival the first American film industry in New York were set. One of the most noted films of this era, the subject of this post, comes from 1914. This film is The Squaw Man.


The Squaw Man is a film that follows an Englishman, James, who is outcast from his family in England because of his corrupt cousin. He makes his way across the Pacific to New York, but doesn't find a very warm welcome. He then journeys further to the West Coast, Wyoming. It's here that he meets further hostility in the form of a few rough cowboys - one of whom, an outlaw, tries to kill him. He is saved, however, by a Native American woman who he falls in love with. Over the course of the film, they have a son and James' cousin back in England dies. As he passes, however, the cousin takes the blame for the corruption that James was outcast for. When the family journey to find him, officers in Wyoming find evidence that confirms that James' wife saved him by killing the outlaw. They choose to arrest her. The two then send the son away to England, and the mother, pursued by the local authorities, kills herself.

This is a film about innocence and stoicism being exploited. In turn, it forms a loose allegory about colonisation by seeing a persecuted Englishman move to America and integrate into the native culture. However, as opposed to highlighting the negative consequences of America being colonised, this attempts to make a statement on the 'good colonisers' coming too late. And so this forms a more general statement on the tragedy of tardy justice and morality.

The Squaw Man also falls into a tradition of silent filmmaking that is based upon books, plays, fairy tales, etc. As we have discussed many times before, these films, especially those pre-1920, are not adaptations as we know them today. This is because they use ellipses for an audience that has at least heard of this story beforehand, or has read or seen it. The Squaw Man is based off of a famous play from 1905 that was novelised in 1907. And in such, the story inherits the rounder sense of story that has a strong chronology and cause and effect. However, it does not deal with emotion and smaller details of information too well due to the undeveloped cinematographic direction. It then appears that this is reliant on some kind of familiarity pre-the viewing. And, as a result, it is difficult to say that this is a particularly significant achievement in a more general artistic sense. Nonetheless, The Squaw Man is a very significant film for at least two reasons. The first is that this is the first feature-length film to come out of Hollywood (not out of America, but the Hollywood area). The second is that this is the first film made (co-directed, let that be emphasised) by Cecil B. DeMille - famed director best known for Golden Era epics such as Cleopatra and The Ten Commandments.

Much like the film comes from a play, so does DeMille come from the theatre. It was then in 1913 that DeMille moved away from Broadway to make The Squaw Man. DeMille did so because he had found some success on Broadway but was struggling to support his family. In such, he had helped form the Jesse L. Lasky Feature Play Company with Jesse Lasky and Sam Goldfish. After their first hit, success alluded them on the stage and the company was failing. Lasky and Goldfish then convinced DeMille to move into moving pictures, and so he ventured on to the West Coast with a crew and with intentions of making a film. DeMille eventually found a good location in Los Angeles and bought up a barn, which had some offices and a laboratory in it - and still stands to this day.


DeMille soon went to work with his crew and co-director, Oscar Apfel, on The Squaw Man, hoping for success by adapting this long-running play. And some success they found - far more than they were hoping for. The money made from The Squaw Man supported the new studio, allowing them to expand production. In 1916, the company merged with another studio, Famous Players, to become Famous Players-Lasky. And Famous Player-Lasky would eventually become Paramount.

What The Squaw Man represents is a moment in time that bridges a gap from the theatre, New York and its confines into a new realm. It was a film that arguably could not have been made in New York, it spawned a company that could not have survived in New York and it supported filmmakers who were struggling in New York. It also had the reach and the realism that a play did not. The Squaw Man is a major statement on the fertility of this new place called Hollywood. This was a new town that even failing businessmen and artists could venture to and find opportunity. DeMille and the Squaw Man then come to be archetypes of these times that manifested enough times over so that what we know to be Hollywood today could be founded.

***

Now that we're coming towards the last part of the post, we're going to have to step back quite a bit. We opened this post by talking about World War I and history as a conceptualisation of human existence as an omniscient, continuous and intertwined body of causality; a huge scream of events, people, places and times. What we have tried to do so far is answer the question: How did Hollywood rise? An answer is very difficult to come across. The most basic response concerns Edison's monopoly and World War. But, to tell the story of Hollywood's rise is a task I have been struggling with for very long time and still feel I have not gripped all too well. It is a story of countless names and innumerable business. It is a story of a movement that no one coordinated. And by the time anyone knew what was happening, everything was all too complicated to make real sense of.

However, what may be clear so far is that Hollywood was a new start. The New York industry was functioning a little like a system of cogs drenched in tar thanks to Edison. At least, this is the picture that we formulate as we hear about the lawsuits and tyranny that characterises the era. And this is a picture that is difficult to overcome considering how few truly notable films are shown to come out of this sphere - especially as we move through the 1910s and into the 20s with the true rise of Hollywood. It is hard to tell if we are engaging historical bias when considering Hollywood a new start for the American film industry, but, it became a flourishing industry at the perfect time. Maybe the industry built up in Chicago could have been this new start around 1907. Alas, it didn't have the context of WWI to support it (as grim as that thought is). That said, Hollywood was not just a good place to run to around 1913. It was a place populated by countless names and studios that all transformed into brands we all know to this day.

Adolph Zukor, Hary Cohn, Sam Goldfish, William Fox, Louis, B. Mayer, Jack, L. Warner, Carl Laemmle. Many of these names may not sound too familiar, but, they are all at the foundations of companies such as Paramount, MGM, 20th Century Fox and Universal. These businessmen all had their start in Hollywood and the surrounding Los Angeles area between and around 1910 and 1920. They were mostly immigrants, almost all Jews, who did what those in New York couldn't; they conglomerated and vertically integrated systems of mass filmic entertainment. There is a stigma attached to mentioning this because the fact that Hollywood was founded by Jews is so often used for antisemitic rhetoric. However, an idea of great interest emerges from Neal Gabler (author of An Empire of Their Own) and his commentary:

They [the mentioned Jewish businessmen] created their own America - an America which is not the real America - it's their own version of the real America. But, ultimately, this Shadow-America becomes so popular, and so widely disseminated, that its images and its values come to devour the real America. And so the grand irony of all of Hollywood is that Americans come to define themselves by the Shadow-America that was created by Eastern-European Jewish immigrants who weren't admitted to the precincts of real America.

What you begin to see when you track the beginnings of Hollywood as we have is an industry funnel towards Paramount, MGM, Fox and Universal and take off from there. I am ending on the fact that Jewish businessmen started these industries not to draw attention to their religion, culture and background, but how that saw them integrate into American culture. In certain senses, these men contrived the American dream and put it onto film. It was because of who they were that they could do this, and it is because they managed this, that Hollywood rose.

Many more names and moments take us towards the rise of Hollywood and American cinema more generally. However, I hope today that we have tracked an initial movement of filmmakers from New York towards Hollywood. We shall continue to explore this in the next posts, and so, until then, I highly recommend some further reading. Sources that I found particularly useful were Before The Nickelodeon by Charles Musser and American Silent Film by William K. Everson. There was a lot that I didn't include in this post, and so, if you have any questions, the comments are open. Thank you as always for reading.

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