Friday, 17 February 2012

Vincent and the Doctor, Together Alone (This be another one of those posts in which I “[feign] some kind of cultural superiority … even though [my] opinions and tastes are largely shite of the first water [that force most commenters to] make an effort to shaddup when [I] want to wax long and philosophical about some mainstream film [I'm] content to call art.”) I covered the palette of "Vincent and the Doctor" in my post about the Leverage episode "The Van Gogh Job," so I'll save some time and just say the wheat: The wheat: The wheat: The wheat may not seem that important—though damn do I love it—but it calls to mind Woody Allen's famous parody of Ingmar Bergman in Love & Death, which is relevant because "Vincent and the Doctor" is an episode devoted to the consequences of loneliness (felt or otherwise). The Doctor's alone because he's the Doctor; Amy's alone because (unbeknownst to her) Rory's been unwritten from existence; Vincent's alone because Vincent's always been alone; and the Krafayis is alone because it's been abandoned by its fellows. This is a story that's fundamentally about lonely people "coming together," only director Jonny Campbell doesn't shoot it that way. I bring up the visual punning on the wheat because the shots it parodies are relevant. To wit: All they're saying there is "wheat." They're together but alone—speaking but not communicating. I'm referencing the parody instead of the original because of the punned wheat, but it bears remembering that Bergman's use of this technique is equally ironic: he alienates his characters by going against the grain (ahem) of film convention (as discussed here) and including characters whose isolation is destroying them in the same frame. They're made to look more alone by being shot together. Campbell employs a similar shot at the end of "Vincent and the Doctor": It's staged like a Bergman shot, and although there's no mention of wheat in it, the moment Campbell chooses to go full-Bergman is significant: these three lonely souls have just dispatched the fourth mentioned above, but they can't come together either in victory or mourning. Their loneliness is too fundamental to their character. The can (and do) share a moment shortly thereafter, lying in the grass and seeing the night's sky as Van Gogh does: But even this moment is purely compensatory: Amy's still lost Rory; the Doctor's still the Doctor; Vincent's still going to commit suicide; and the Krafayis is now that different kind of alone we call dead. My evidence for this together-alone dynamic is, as I'd hope you'd expect, more substantial than a pun and a parody. Unlike the other episodes this season (linked above), "Vincent and the Doctor" includes more reverse shot sequences in which single characters inhabit a frame. Consider a few stills from a conversation between the Doctor, Amy, and Vincent: There's a moment when the Doctor and Vincent occupy the same frame, but the overarching structure of Campbell's direction is visible nonetheless: instead of framing these characters in a way...
The Poulos Hoax? Far be it for me, a lowly adjunct so depressed by the market he let his MLA membership lapse, to criticize Michael Bérubé, the current President of the MLA, but his summary of James Poulos’ definition of what women are for fails to account for the fact that Poulos has forwarded a very serious, thoughtful, argument that has never been made in such detail or with such care. Thankfully for all involved, Poulos decided to respond to critics of his original post with wit and aplomb. Contrary to Bérubé’s claim that Poulos thinks “tennis football running cycling swimming flying floating riding gliding conating camogie skating tennis of all kinds dying flying sports of all sorts autumn summer winter winter tennis of all kinds hockey of all sorts penicillin,” all the founding editor of The Postmodern Conservative meant to say was that: Those who would restrict officially recognized marriages to one man and one woman are seen by many gay marriage advocates as using the power of the law to atavistically reverse the partly organic, partly hard-fought progress of civilization. Civilization, you see, is composed of one part “organic” and one part “hard-fought.” Those who support gay marriage want to use the “power of law” to reverse the “progress of civilization” by employing an atavism, which we all know refers to the reemergence of an ancestral trait in a modern species. This reemergence can be genetic—like when babies are born monkeys—or it can be social—like when Buck remembered that dogs are wolves and heeded the call of his wild. According to Poulos, the desire of the gays to revert to a state of nature by finding female bodies disturbing is a social manifestation of a genetic trend, because the gays are atavisms—throwbacks to the early human societies in which partly organic men fought hard against progress by refusing to procreate with women. How they survived has long stumped evolutionary theorists, what with success typically defined in terms of how many half-genes an individual loosed upon the EEA, but Poulos is right to claim that a column that points out that a society which rejects the premise of a question about sex, gender, and natural purposes might very well have achieved a great leap forward in the progress of human civilization. That he happened to be the author of this great leaping achievement is immaterial, because “philosophers from Plato to Rousseau to Heidegger” are famous people whose names he knows.

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