Sunday, 7 December 2014

Yr3 Week 7 (Thurs 20 Nov - MDA3200 Film Theory - Political Types)

We returned back to the subject of political cinema this week, opening up with a screening of the Cuban drama Memories of Underdevelopment (1968),a  prime example of what is known as 'Third Cinema', birthed from Latin America in the mid Twentieth Century. In this film, a bourgeois man opts to remain in Cuba as the Castro government takes control, and we follow his observing the changes in the country and how indifferent he is to it, treating those around him with a degree of contempt, such as his supposed 'best friend', and a young working class girl whom he often demeans. Mixed in with this is newsreel footage of actual historical events and people, like the 'Bay Of Pigs Invasion'. This only further magnifies the film's efforts for social commentary, and gives it much more a feeling of being grounded in history, and as a time capsule of the times.
When looking through cinema, there are 'Four' types: 'First' is your big mainstream productions, 'Second' is the European arthouse circuit, 'Third' cinema is the politically-minded ring, and then 'Fourth' is a more recent movement that focuses on the indigenous/aboriginal populus of countries around the Pacific, like Australia and the United States. In the case of today's film, a member of the 'Third', we looked into Marxism, a political ideology that felt society had been forced into a 'Base'with the working classes, and then a 'Superstructure' that dictates everything else (religion, law, education etc.), leading to inequality and manipulation (the irony being that 'enforced equality' was just as controlling when Communism came around and tried to put Marxist ideas into practice). However, Marxism did also lead into a 1920s movement known as 'The Frankfurt School' which birthed what we know today as critical analysis, combining the breakdowns of Marxism and Psychoanalysis to understand the true nature and message of a given work. This is known as 'symptomatic reading', and it's should be all too clear why this applies here.

This of course, leads into film ideology, constantly evolving and changing as interpretations are brought up and then challenged or debated (something which, as this blog has evidenced, I am no stranger to). In this case, this is more to do with the idea of class struggle and division for hegemony, and as yet another example, we watched one of The Guardian's microplays, Britain Is Not Eating, which all about how the higher classes perceive the way the working ones use their money, and them arguing that food banks and benefits are unnecessary.


Then, in the seminar, we discussed more about Memories itself, refreshing ourselves with a brief recap of a sequence set during a visit to the home of author Ernest Hemingway. Here, we noted how there is a contrast of intellects between the main lead and his girlfriend (classist and maybe sexism), how his narration comments and disdains on Cuba and its culture/world view (seeing them as undeveloped and base), and even having a cameo of the book's original author may be self deprecating and slightly meta (reflexivity). As for the structuring, the film doesn't make much use of transition, and instead opts to use 'titles' when moving to a new part of the story, akin to the book. It also regularly sprinkles in flashbacks of the main character's upbringing in 'old' Cuba, and the aforementioned vignettes to add in more context and background to this world and him.

Finally, just for comparison, we saw another Cuban production, Soy Cuba (1974), which is sort of like a Cuban Nashville or Shortcuts, detailing the lives of different people. Our vignette was on a fruit seller's girlfried who sells herself to an American for a night, much to the bewilderment of her boyfriend. This is lighter and more pro-Cuba than Memories, painting Americans in an unsavoury light and showing them as 'corrupting' and 'piggish'. In the end, I feel that I have not much more to add as a conclusion that the above did not already detail.

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