Friday, 31 December 2010

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Important Facts about Scott Eric Kaufman (If you ventured here from that odious place, you may want to read this before you leave a comment I'll delete.) Because I have someone—likely a former student using a pseudonym or a random troll—by the name of "Eric Oden" signing me for mailing lists (Military.com and American Intercontinental University Online in the past hour) and creating an alternative email address that looks like mine and then doing generally untoward things (like making false promises to people on Craigslist). To that end, I thought I'd at least put this information out there for anyone who searches for my name: My email address is scotterickaufman (@) gmail (.) com. If someone claiming to be me contacts you from any other address—no matter how similar it is to that one—it is not me and you can either ignore it or forward it to my actual email address so I can keep it for my records. This link takes you to my Facebook account. (Feel free to friend me if you so desire.) Should someone claiming to be me contact you from any other account—no matter how similar it is to that one—it is not me and you can either ignore it or forward it to my actual email address so I can keep it for my records. This link takes you to the Twitter account I only ever use to alert readers to new blog posts. Should someone claiming to be me contact you from any other account—no matter how similar it is to that one—it is not me and you can either ignore it or forward it to my actual email address so I can keep it for my records. Sorry to write such a boring post, but because I just received an irate email about never showing up in Pomona to inspect a truck that "I" had expressed a strong interest in purchasing, I'm thinking prudence is my best option here.
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I will make you love me. The first fifteen minutes of Fight Club strongly suggest to its audience that they're about to watch a much better film than the one they're actually watching—the critique of material culture has yet to embrace to the juvenile punk resistence of the novel and the depiction of insomnia is still pointed enough to be trenchant—so when I decided to teach it in my "Confessional Narratives" course, focusing almost entirely on the opening sequences was essentially a given. The problem is that David Fincher's direction is as busy as it is effective, if only because representing a state of fevered distraction tends to look a bit frenetic. (By my count, there are 659 cuts in the portion of the film I'm going to focus on, which means that any close reading of it will either be abridged or incomplete, depending on how trustworthy you think me.) I'll attempt to discuss the pace of the editing shortly, but for now I want to discuss why we even care. There are two lines of thought being represented in the first fifteen minutes of the film: the first is that the audience is being introduced to an unlikeable sociopath; the second is that the selfsame audience is being convinced to like him. How does that work? Via relentless frontality: when the audience stares into the void behind Edward Norton's eyes long enough, the void stares back until it becomes a welcoming presence. To wit: Note that the fourth wall is never actually being broken here: in the first image Norton is staring into space; the second, at his boss; the third, at a list of group meetings; and the fourth, into space again. I point this out because frontality conventionally works to distance the audience from the characters by pulling the characters out of the diegetic world of the film and into that of the audience. Here, however, Fincher is doing the exact opposite: he's enforcing an intimacy between the audience and a character it might not otherwise sympathize with (and rightly so). The audience identifies with Norton because it has stared into the void of his eyes and recognizes in them something inelegant and desperately wanting; and it does so because Fincher has provided them with no other choice. The film simply doesn't work if the sympathetic identification isn't immediately established. Hence, the frontality.

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