Friday, February 20, 2015

she is mine

Freud will have to continue a little bit for a couple reasons: 1) there is bit more to say about Freud before I inject some Lacan and 2) I realized that Mulvey doesn't include Jung, so in terms of my paper not being a research paper but an analytical piece based around the supplied readings, I shall leave Jung out of it... even if there may be useful things to say; for instance, much of what Mulvey is trying to argue about how Freudian psychoanalysis connects with common cinematic representation fits with the Jungian idea of the collective unconscious. Effectively, however much a filmmaker intends to put psychoanalytic concepts into a film, they go in anyway. And, even divergent concepts, arguably, exist within film not necessarily because a filmmaker may deliberately be trying to diverge from the norm but unconsciously.

But anyway, Freud...

Another Freudian idea central to our experience of film, according to Mulvey, is scopophilia, looking as a source of pleasure. The voyeurism inherent in most film, but especially one such as this, with its sexual themes and displays, is deeply suggestive of this scopophilia; we like to look, and Baz Luhrmann as director, loves to give us something lavish and beautiful to look at. Mulvey argues, "In a world ordered by sexual imbalance, pleasure in looking has been split between active/male and passive/female. The determining male gaze projects its phantasy onto the female figure, which is styled accordingly (p. 309)*. Clover (1992)--

(White (1998), who I will be citing in a potential feminist critique section, actually cites Clover, a staple of this blog since phase two began. If I actually make it to Lacan today, White should return.)

--writes about the I-camera used to represent the killer in slasher films, and the same general concept, if not its actual execution, remains true when many a film--and, indeed, this one--focuses so much of its male gaze on the display of feminine sensuality and sexuality. Clover does admit that "the hand-held or similarly unanchored first-person camera works as much to destabilize as to stabilize identification" (p. 45). In Moulin Rouge!, surely, the camera serves to pull us into the world of the Moulin Rouge, and Christian is the audience surrogate, our introduction into that world, our doorway, our guide, and the character through whose eyes we view the action. There are a small number of notable scenes that do not include Christian--Satine with the doctor, Satine with the Duke, Satine with Zidler--and they serve both to raise the stakes of the tragedy and to further the visual representation of the patriarchal hegemony at play in this world; Satine's choices are entirely dictated by her involvement with the various men in her life. This is the sexual imbalance to which Mulvey refers.

And, that might make a reasonable segue into the feminist critique--White, for instance, referencing Mulvey, writes, "Because psychoanalysis makes sexual difference its central category, feminine thinking can use it to understand women's exclusion from the realms of language, law, and desire..." (p. 117)*. She goes on to reference Lacan so maybe I can fit it, but I will deal with that when I piece these sections together later. In the meantime, the point is that Satine is excluded from the Freudian law, and from her own desires; she is not even allowed to make her own life choices because she has accepted (or may have even once sought out) the label of Courtesan. In terms of my upcoming paper, it would be difficult to transition from Freud to feminism and then back to Lacan when both the Freudian angle and the Lacanian come from Mulvey. But, really I'll worry about the transitions later.

In the meantime, Lacan... Actually, the idea of Christian as audience surrogate may serve as a segue into Lacan's mirror stage. Let's try that. (And, I'll get to use that "show-girl" bit I didn't think I'd have room for.)

While Freudian scopophilia suggests we merely enjoying looking at, my own extrapolation of Lacan's mirror stage suggests we enjoy even more being able to look through. If Christian is our surrogate, we enjoy looking at the other characters, particularly Satine, and the events within the film from his point of view. Mulvey describes the usual separation within film:

Traditionally, the woman displayed has functioned on two levels: as erotic object for the characters within the screen story, and as erotic object for the spectator within the auditorium, with a shifting tension between the looks on either side of the screen. (p. 309)*

The usual understanding, then, is that another character looking at the female on display is a separate entity from our looking at the female on display. But, then Mulvey counters with a particular female character type quite befitting discussion of Moulin Rouge!; she writes,

For instance, the device of the show-girl allows the two looks to be unified technically without any apparent break in the diegesis. A woman performs within the narrative, the gaze of the spectator and that of the male characters in the film are neatly combined without breaking narrative verisimilitude. For a moment the sexual impact of the performing woman takes the film into a no-man's-land outside its own time and space. (ibid)

Look at Satine's introduction on the stage at the Moulin Rouge--she is on display for hundreds of men in the audience, for Christian, and for us in the audience. One becomes the other and we are mirrored in Christian, and Christian in us. While Lacan's mirror stage involves children being able to recognize themselves, in terms of the cinema, I argue that the same effect happens when we recognize ourselves in the characters up on the screen. Burke's identification in the movie theater...

And, I'm near 1200 words and the movie is nearly over and I've got a play to go see. So, more of Lacan, perhaps, tomorrow. Or I'll get into the feminist critique, or whatever else I said I might use, maybe test out a Marxist critique...

Works Cited

Clover, C.J. (1992). Men, Women, and Chain Saws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Mulvey, L. (1989). Visual pleasure and narrative cinema. Screen 16(3), 6-18.*

White, P. (1998). Feminism and film. In J. Hill & P. Gibson (Eds.), Oxford Guide to Film Studies (117-131).* New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

* Note for anyone attentive: the page numbers in the text above may not match the page numbers in the source because, for the purposes of my class paper, I'm citing the page numbers from the copy the instructor provided (without complete information in the case of many of the readings) and, for the purposes of proper citations, I have found, where I could, the original source. The Works Cited entry should be the original source.

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