Friday, May 4, 2012

Joyce, Connolly and the madness of capitalism (2)

A brief piece was on our blog a couple of days ago about John Huston's film The Dead, based on the short story by Joyce.   I was informed that Joyce was very familiar with Connolly and in The Dead, he linked Connolly to the most energetic and vivacious person at the dinner party, a young woman. The rest, the dying petit bourgeois he portrays so brilliantly, are contrasted to this young woman, and a woman also, who was inspired and full of life  because of the inspiration of Connolly and the revolutionary movement. This young woman leaves the dinner party early. Why? She explains. She is going to a meeting in "Liberty Hall where James Connolly is speaking." Wee Joyce and Huston where not so slow. The comments below reveal more about the film and the destruction of film as art by the Wall Street Crowd.

"The Dead" is not concerned directly or immediately with class struggle. It was Huston's last film, made as he was dying. It is an unbelievably restrained and vivid rendering of the original story: [the acting is amazing - it comes across as completely spontaneous] -  actually not so much a story as an apparently random series of snatches of conversation at a private party in Dublin around 1900. Subtly - without 'effects' or background music, but hauntingly you gradually become aware amid the gossip and chatter, the jokes and songs and repartee, of the waste of life of everybody at the party, a party almost of the living dead....and just at the end [as in Ulysses] the focus is brought on to an individual, a woman, and her fruitless yearning for things lost in time.....

What is amazing about the story and the film is the amount of work it demands that you, the reader or the viewer, have to put in. There are no obvious big theatrical events - It makes its points cumulatively by referring to an unacknowledged common moral understanding on the part of author and spectator: the impulsion to identify with the character in front of you and at the same time to see him/her from the outside with their vanities, faults, antisocial attitudes, backwardness etc. - making you want to laugh, cry and also enraging you... this was Joyce's farewell to the town and the country he passionately loved and which meant everything to him and which he hated with all his soul.....

You could still get works of art on TV and at the commercial cinema till the '80s. Now the investors in film have got to be 100% sure of their returns before parting with their money. They have the distribution, marketing, the newspaper and TV references etc. all worked out long in advance. Most films made are never shown I did go once to the Locarno Film Festival where I saw many fantastic Polish, Cambodian, Dutch, Czech, American Independent, English and other films. None of these has ever been shown in the UK. [One was advertised but withdrawn - another was televised in a barbarously cut-down and politically bowdlerised form..] Near us is a so-called 'community' cinema. But it shows mostly the same 'blockbuster' films as the commercial chain cinema. When I applied to be a trustee, they explained that I could have no say in what was shown: that was outsourced to a commercial firm. The task of trying to negotiate to get a certain film at a certain time at a certain cost - or to get it at all' was something for inside professionals......

As for the TV stations, it is well known that they exist by grace of the advertisers and there is so much 'choice' now [that is choice of stations for the advertisers - not of programmes for us] that the admen get the upper hand: the programmes are increasingly just the stuffing between the real reason for the station's existence."

Julian Silverman

No comments: