Sunday, June 7, 2009

Off the Rails : Odd's Job and Beyond

Not very much happens in Bent Hamer's O' Horten, Norway's official submission for the foreign language film Oscar for 2007, but if you give it a chance it will steal its way into your heart. The story revolves around 67-year-old train engineer Odd Horten (Bård Owe) as he retires from 40 years of driving trains and spends a few aimless days as he comes to terms with retirement and getting old. With his inexpressive face and ever-present pipe Odd finds himself at odds with the world around him. When he is locked out of a friend's apartment building he decides to climb up a scaffolding and through the window of the apartment below. There he meets a young boy who wants him to stay until he goes to sleep. By that time poor Odd is also asleep and, in the morning, is faced with the prospect of trying to sneak out of the apartment without being seen by the rest of the family. He also falls asleep in a sauna and decides to take a late night naked swim, something that leads to some consternation when a lesbian couple have the same idea. The laughs are leavened with sadness as he pays a visit to his senile mother and learns of the death of an old friend. But what makes the film so rewarding is that he really does learn that there is life beyond his job, especially through the example of an eccentric old man who likes to drive with his eyes closed. Like Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler (2008), Odd Horten is a man whose identity has been entirely wrapped up in his occupation. Towards the end of O' Horten it looks like he might be planning to go out in a similar blaze of glory, taking new found recklessness a bit too far. To find out if he does, or finds a rewarding life beyond work, you'll have to watch the movie. Bent Hamer was also director of Factotum (2005), based on the novel by Charles Bukowski.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Holy Pappadums, Batman! It's a Bollywood Superhero!

This post is something I wrote a couple of years ago.

I heard on the (Cool) Shite on the Tube podcast about a new Bollywood superhero movie called Krrish (2006). So when I noticed that it was showing at my local multiplex last week I couldn't resist checking it out. I'm not big on superhero movies, but I do really like a few of them - Spider-Man (2002), Spider-Man 2 (2004), Batman Begins (2005), Hellboy (2004)... And I'd never seen a Bollywood film. Oh, sure, I'd seen films which borrow from the Bollywood style, like The Guru (2002) and Bride & Prejudice (2004), but not a real one.

For those of you who don't know, Bollywood is the name given to a particular kind of movie made by studios in Bombay, India. These are extremely popular films in India and other parts of the world with a large Indian population. They are not at all like Indian art films - Satyajit Ray's Apu Trilogy or Mira Nair's Salaam Bombay! (1988) . They don't deal with the harsh social realities of life among the poor. They are glitzy, glamourous romantic musicals. They all have big song and dance numbers regardless of whether they are comedies, tragedies, gangster films or superhero sci-fi films. And they often steal ideas from western films.

Krrish is wonderful. I may have expected it to be good for a cheap laugh, but I fell in love with the movie. I was moved by the melodrama, laughed at the slapstick comedy, grooved along to the hip-shaking song and dance numbers and felt like cheering when Krrish saved a little child from a burning circus tent. This is a fun, fun movie. Like most Bollywood films it is pretty long - 154 minutes - but never boring. Hey, it even has a comic relief orangutan in it. What more could you want? And I guarantee, you will fall in love with either sexy Priyanka Chopra or handsome Hrithik Roshan...maybe even both of them!

Krrish is a sequel to Koi... Mil Gia (2003). And Krrish 2 is due out next year.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Some Depictions of Jesus in the Movies and a Theory About the Man Himself

Almost as soon as cinema was invented people began making movies about Jesus. According to the IMDB the first was The Horitz Passion Play in 1897. Over the years he has turned up in some unlikely places : a controversial anti-war film - Johnny Got His Gun (1971) ; a John Waters movie - Multiple Maniacs (1970) ; a conspiracy theory movie - The Passover Plot (1976) ; a painfully bad burlesque with Bette Midler as the Virgin Mary - The Thorn (1974) ; a biker film - J.C. (1972) ; a couple of musicals - Jesus Christ Superstar (1973) and Godspell (1973) ; a gay porno movie - Him (1974) (see my last post) ; a blaxploitation film - The Mack (1973) ; a number of horror films - Fear No Evil (1981), Lair of the White Worm (1988) and Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter (2001) ; and, of course, a Monty Python movie - Life of Brian (1979) (where George Lazenby might have played the part if he hadn't been busy on another film).

I've always had a fascination with movies about Jesus. When I was young I had a special fondness for Jesus Christ Superstar which I saw when I was ten years old and it was in its original theatrical run. In that film I particularly liked the sympathetic portrayal of Judas as Jesus' most passionate, if critical, disciple who has to bear the horrendous burden of betraying his friend to death in order that destiny can be fulfilled.

Another film that moved me and can still bring a tear to my eye in its scenes involving Jesus is William Wyler's Ben-Hur (1959). Here the brief scenes involving Jesus concentrate on showing what the presence of this man means to those who encounter him and the crucifixion scene, which avoids all the gory details, is devastating, concentrating as it does on the horrible finality with which the base of the cross thumps into its hole.

It's a pity Mel Gibson, with his movie The Passion of the Christ (2004), didn't understand the lesson of Ben-Hur that what we don't see is often more powerful than what we do. Instead Gibson lingers voyeuristically over a whipping so severe no-one could have possibly survived it and a crucifixion scene reminiscent of something from Ilsa She Wolf of the S.S. (1975). So why did Gibson make a movie about Jesus which almost completely avoided any indication of what he stood for (we don't see any of his sermons) but lingers over his torture in a way which simply numbed or sickened sensitive audiences? Discussion board posts on IMDB from around the time of the film's release suggest the reason. The charitable interpretation is that believers wanted to see how much Jesus loved them demonstrated in a depiction of what he went through on their behalf. A less charitable interpretation comes from a belief that this movie would be a very valuable tool for winning new believers. The theory here seems to be that seeing what this man went through (reputedly for their benefit) would make viewers so guilty about not being one of his supporters that they would become one. There are inherent flaws in this argument, not the least of which is that many others throughout history have been tortured and killed for their beliefs. Why support one and not the rest? Without some indication of what Jesus stood for he is just another martyr.

George Stevens' The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965) is perhaps the epitome of the conservative, mainstream Jesus movie. Stevens' even sought advice from the Pope on how to approach his grand project. It's a very entertaining film, with its spectacle and all-star cast (of whom John Wayne as the Roman soldier is the only embarrassment.) Max Von Sydow gives a fine performance as Jesus. As with most Bible films, non-believers will have to view it as a fairy story to appreciate it, but there is much there to like. A few years earlier Nicholas Ray had directed the more modest King of Kings (1961), a film jokingly referred to as I Was a Teenage Jesus because of the youth and matinee idol looks of star Jeffrey Hunter. It's been a long time since I've seen that film, so I'm not sure how it compares. The same is true of Franco Zeffirelli's mini-series Jesus of Nazareth (1977), though I do remember that it had the visual beauty one expects of Zeffirelli's work and a very intense performance from Robert Powell as Jesus.

The first film to really break the mould in depicting the story of Jesus was Pier Paolo Pasolini's The Gospel According to Saint Matthew (1964). Pasolini was part of the neo-realist movement in Italian cinema and, as such, filmed on real locations in stark black and white and with a cast of non-actors. He first thought of casting Jack Keroac or Allen Ginsberg in the role of Jesus to fit with his view that Jesus was the great revolutionary figure of his time, but eventually settled on Enrique Irazoqui, a nineteen year old economics student who wanted to meet Pasolini after writing an essay about one of his novels. Irazoqui has tremendous presence and his Jesus stays with you after seeing the film. Pasolini was an unlikely person to film the life of Christ. As a communist and unrepentant homosexual he was very much an outsider to the Catholic church whose priests he consulted about such questions as filming locations. Pasolini's stated intention was to make the film from a believer's perspective and he dedicated the film to Pope John XXIII. Later when he viewed it he said that more of his own beliefs filtered through than he had intended. Critics often claim that Pasolini chose Biblical passages in such a way that Jesus would be depicted as a Marxist revolutionary. I don't really see that. The miracles and resurrection are there and the line about giving unto Caesar that which is Caesar's which is hardly the words of a Marxist. Certainly the Catholic Church was delighted with the film which recently appeared at No. 2 on "The Pope's Oscars" list. On the question of religious belief Pasolini said... I do not believe in a metaphysical god. I am religious because I have a natural identification between reality and God. Reality is divine. That is why my films are never naturalistic. The motivation that unites all of my films is to give back to reality its original sacred significance. An idea I will return to below. For me Pasolini's film is the most beautiful and most shocking of the films about Jesus that I've seen. At least partly because of the use of non-actors, many of whom might be considered quite ugly, the film exudes an inclusive love for humanity in all its craggy imperfection. Although Pasolini gave up his initial aim of filming in Israel and/or Jordan, he did film mostly around primitive-looking villages in Italy which give the film a feeling of authenticity lacking in Hollywood films filmed on sets or in the Nevada desert. He makes beautiful use of various kinds of music, including blues and classical. The beauty of the film is perhaps epitomised by the look of rapture on the pregnant Mary's face. No words are needed to communicate her sense of awe at the role she has been given to play and it is unlikely that Pasolini would have been able to get the same effect with a professional actor. Using non-professionals doesn't always work, but when it does you often get a naturalness that no amount of technique can conjure. But Pasolini's film also has its shocking scenes. The actress who plays Salome is only twelve. Seeing a young innocent-looking girl dancing for Herod and then casually asking for the severed head of John the Baptist is surprising to say the least. And the crucifixion scene has to be the most excruciating. Jesus being nailed to the cross is not shown in detail, but the shriek of agony from one of the thieves as the nail goes through his hand is the most convincing depiction of pain I think I've ever seen on film.

Of course the most controversial film inspired by the life of Jesus was Martin Scorcese's The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) based on the novel by Nikos Kazantzakis. According to Wikipedia, The central thesis of the book is that Jesus, while free from sin, was still subject to every form of temptation that humans face, including fear, doubt, depression, reluctance, and lust. By facing and conquering all of man's weaknesses, Kazantzakis argues in the novel's preface, He struggled to do God's will, without ever giving in to the temptations of the flesh.. Catholicism had a strong influence on the films of Scorcese, who had once studied to be a priest. Scriptwriter Paul Schrader's upbringing was strict Dutch Calvinist. One day when he disobeyed her his mother stabbed him in the hand with a pin and said, "You think that felt bad? Hell is like that, only every second and all over your body". He later became a porn addict and wrote the script for Scorcese's Taxi Driver (1976) while hospitalised for depression. This would seem to make him the perfect person to script a movie about a Christ torn between God and the temptations of the flesh. And it is a truly powerful film highlighted by a tour de force performance by Willem Dafoe in a role that was first offered to Robert De Niro. The scene that caused the most controversy was when the crucified Jesus is offered the chance to step down from the cross and live a normal life, marrying Mary Magdalene and fathering children. This is his last temptation and he resists it, dying on the cross. Given that this is a temptation no different in essence than the ones he had to resist when he met the Devil in the desert it shouldn't have been that controversial. But it contained a very tasteful sex scene and this was too much for those who see sex as essentially profane. As a drama The Last Temptation of Christ is strong stuff, but this bipolar Jesus seems an unlikely figure to become the centre of a movement which would sweep the world.

So who was Jesus really? For those of us who don't believe in the supernatural the question is how a poor carpenter in a far-flung corner of the Roman Empire, who spent a few years as an itinerant preacher and then was executed, came to have so much influence over our culture that the cross which has come to represent him hangs around the necks of hundreds of millions of people all over the world, he's been the subject of some of the world's greatest art and even those who don't believe are prone to screaming his name when they orgasm or hit their thumb with a hammer.

What seems to me the most likely theory is that truly psychologically healthy individuals are an extreme rarity in civilised societies. It is very rare that anyone has a truly ideal childhood and youth. And the reverence in which figures like Jesus, Buddha, Moses and Mohammed have come to be held is not an indicator of some magical quality of theirs but an indicator of our own state of neurosis. Let us assume that the unscarred state of the human being is one characterised by unconditional love for all humans. But we are all variously scarred, some much more than others. If you hit your thumb with a hammer you will find that your throbbing thumb becomes the center of your attention. It's the same thing with emotional hurts. When we are self-centred it is because we have been hurt. We may not feel the pain, but our character structure, our personality, takes a form that protects us from feeling that pain. The more hurt we are the less freedom we have in our mind and in our behaviour. Sigmund Freud pointed out that, when we have trouble remembering something, it is because the associations leading to the thing we want to remember have painful associations we are trying to avoid. This shows how being very emotionally hurt can make it difficult to move freely within our mind and can make us close-minded about something. And similarly with behaviour, being very hurt can lead to a situation where people feel the need to be very disciplined in their behaviour. Discipline is the defense against powerful frightening and/or painful, feelings.

I've taken this idea from Australian holistic biologist Jeremy Griffith, but it has its precedence in the ideas of German psychiatrist Wilhelm Reich, who did groundbreaking work on the biology of repression and the neurotic character structure and dealt with the non-neurotic nature of Jesus and the threat it posed to the authorities of his time in The Murder of Christ (1953), and Scottish psychiatrist R. D. Laing who said the following :

We live in a secular world. To adapt to this world the child abdicates its ecstacy.

The fountain has not played itself out, the Flame still shines, the River still flows, the Spring still bubbles forth, the Light has not faded. But between us and It, there is a veil which is more like fifty feet of solid concrete. Deus absconditus. Or we have absconded.

True sanity entails in one way or another the dissolution of the normal ego, that false self competently adjusted to our alienated social reality: the emergence of the "inner" archetypal mediators of divine power, and through this death a rebirth, and the eventual reestablishment of a new kind of ego-functioning, the ego now being the servant of the Divine, no longer its betrayer.

The further one gets from the healthy state the more important it becomes to believe that everything to do with that state is somehow divine and magical as this is the only defense against a realisation of how dire one's own state has become. Hence to try to persuade a fundamentalist Christian of the reality of evolution is to try to force them to confront the reality of how emotionally damaged they are. And this explains also how the myths about miracles would have grown up around Jesus. Someone says, "Jesus came to our wedding. It was a humble affair. We couldn't afford wine, but having Jesus there made us feel like we were drinking wine." Pass that from person to person for a while and it turns into a miracle, especially as the reteller tries in vain to capture the sense of wonder of the original teller who was still infused with Jesus personality. And Jesus message coming alive in the hearts of his apostles in response to his death would have given rise to the myth that he had risen from the dead.

And if it is only our neurotic ego structure that stands between us and the kind of awareness of the "divine" nature of reality that inspired Jesus it becomes easy to understand why a derangement of the mind either through the use of hallucinogenic drugs or mental illness so often leads to visions of God or a person believing they are Jesus. The problem of course is that the insecure ego quickly feels threatened giving way to paranoia, a "bad trip" or depression.

Why did Jesus talk so much about God? We've always had a tendency to cope with the unpredictability of life by personifying things. Before we had any knowledge of how nature works, we populated the world with gods which we thought regulated the weather and the crops, etc. The mono-theistic God is clearly also a personification, but of what? What can be said to be the underlying force of our world? God is said to be the creator of life. And God is also said to be love. Jesus said that the Kingdom of God was within us and all around us. If there is something that characterises creation in all its forms it is the coming together of two or more things. Place a seed in some soil and water it. It grows into a tree. Only when you put the three things together can the creation happen, the whole being more than the sum of its parts. And this is what happens throughout nature. Often we get distracted by the competition which forms such an important part of evolution but competition only takes place within the greater cooperative system. And the same is true in human society. We laud the athlete for running faster than everyone else, but most of what we produces grows out of the interaction of many people. Look at the internet. It is what has grown from the efforts of many people, each contributing their part to the whole, that allows you to read these words. According to Griffith God is "integrative meaning", that is a central principle of nature that parts come together to form wholes. With such an interpretation it is easy to see how "God created all life", but it is also true that "God is love" as love is the word we have for the emotion that draws us together to form social wholes. Once again we can see the reason for the varieties of religious belief which range from a belief that God is just another name for love or nature to belief in a God who sits on a mighty throne of gold with throngs of angels all around. The more neurotic we are, the thicker that concrete Laing speaks of, the more distant we feel ourselves to be from the creative principle of the universe and the more we fear it and perhaps need to give it a comforting human face.

So what did Jesus mean when he spoke about "sin"? If we use the term God to refer to the principle of unconditional love for all humans, then "sin" (that which is contrary to God's law) would be anything which is selfish. Hence the seven deadly sins - lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride - are all emotions that would supplant a selfless feeling of love for others. But clearly we all feel these things to differing degrees. Sometimes we live them out, sometimes we repress them. Sometimes living some of the out does less harm than repressing them if part of our strategy for doing so is to channel the frustration of our suppressed desires into attacking others. Historically and today our common neurosis has twisted expressions of religious belief. Very often those who are the most insecure feel the greatest need to dominate others. The inquisitors fought their own internal doubts by torturing those who thought more freely than themselves. And it should be no surprise at all that a born again Christian minister who was particularly vociferous in his criticism of homosexuals got caught having sex with another man. As Carl Jung pointed out, unless we achieve wholeness, we will end up fighting our own shadow. It is also clear why many Islamic fundamentalists insist that women cover most of their bodies. Fundamentalist beliefs are symptomatic of a particularly severe state of neurosis, i.e. emotional scarring. The more neurotic someone is the stronger the "sinful" emotions they are repressing within that unbending, often angry, character structure. A person who is not so hurt, so neurotic, can be a happy nudist. Any feelings of lust he feels are not so unmanageable that he can't interact with an attractive member of the opposite sex naked without embarrassing himself. On the other hand, an Imam who describes women who dress immodestly as "uncovered meat" who shouldn't be surprised if they get raped is giving us insight into just how desperately he is battling a lust for women comparable with that of a junkie for his fix. Just as the need to avoid confrontation with one's own neurotic state leads to the pomp and circumstance of the Catholic Church that places God far above, so the same need leads to characterising the victim as the evil temptress instead of acknowledging that the driving demon is within. What is needed above all is honesty. With honesty comes understanding, with understanding love.

John Shelby Spong is one member of the clergy who has written about the need to strip away the supernatural elements from the Biblical story of Jesus.

For more on these issues check out my other blog.

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Literary Output of Jonathan Ross (With a Digression on the Subject of The Illinois Enema Bandit)

While Jonathan Ross is an institution in the U.K., those of us who live in other countries have only seen him on our televisions sporadically. My first encounter with him was his 1987-88 television series The Incredibly Strange Film Show. He introduced me to the cinematic creations (some would say atrocities) of Herschell Gordon Lewis, Ted V. Mikels and Ray Dennis Steckler and fed my curiosity about John Waters and Russ Meyer, whose works I had only barely sampled. I think his show was also the first place I heard the name Jackie Chan. So I owe him a debt of gratitude for getting me hooked on the forbidden delights of trash cinema. Sometimes literally forbidden in Australia. Water's Pink Flamingos and Lewis's The Gore Gore Girls are both still banned here.

The first series of The Incredibly Strange Film Show can be downloaded from Surreal Moviez or you can watch both series (I think) on YouTube.

In 1993, Jonathan Ross published his first book, a belated accompaniment to this television series called, appropriately The Incredibly Strange Film Book. It's a lively, funny guide to all the varieties of trash cinema, from porn to horror, teensploitation to blaxploitation, and including a history of movie gimmicks from the flying skeletons and seat buzzers of William Castle to 3D. Exemplary films are discussed in detail and notable stars are profiled.

But what probably affected me most when reading The Incredibly Strange Film Book was Ross's account of a deranged, but surprisingly well-made, porn film he knew only as The Enema Bandit. He gave a detailed description of the film's plot, but said he could find out nothing more about it. He didn't know who made it and could only speculate on why it was made. It told the story of a man who developed an obsession with giving women enemas and would break into their houses and hold them at gun point while cleaning them out with his home-made enema kit. Ross says that, leaving aside the enema scenes, it has something of the feel of a Scorcese film. I was so intrigued by Ross's description of this film that I once embarrassed a friend by telling him about it in intimated detail while we were travelling on a crowded commuter train. I imagine people were probably moving to seats further away from us but I was so caught up in freaky film frenzy that I failed to notice. Now the internet makes finding information about sick films much easier. So it is that I discovered from IMDB that the 1977 film's proper title was Waterpower, that it was directed by one Shaun Costello (whose first film Forced Entry (1973) is equally notorious) and that the "Italian-looking, sweaty nervous guy" who plays the title role is none other than Jamie Gillis, the Al Pacino of porn. The plot summary on the film's IMDB page is actually a detailed account by Costello of how he came to make the film and how it died in the arse (so to speak) in the U.S. but was a surprise hit in Europe.

Here is a six minute condensation of the film (cleansed of its more disgusting imagery) that was posted to YouTube as a promo for a DJ mix which has been made using some of Gillis' voiceover from the movie. Some of the music used on the film's original score was lifted from Bernard Hermann's soundtrack for the Brian De Palma film Sisters (1973).

What Jonathan Ross also didn't know when he wrote about the film is that it was inspired by a true story, that of Michael H. Kenyon (aka The Illinois Enema Bandit) who in March 1966 broke into a home in Champaign, Illinois wearing a ski-mask and carrying a gun. He administered enemas to two sisters aged 16 and 18, stole $70 from their father's wallet and left them tied up. For nine years he continued to commit similar crimes. After leaving Champaign he continued his attacks in other U.S. cities ending up in Chicago where he was arrested for questioning about some robberies. The authorities might never have discovered what he had really been up to if it hadn't been for the fact that he kept talking about The Enema Bandit while being questioned. He was given a psychiatric assessment and found sane. He was sentenced to six to twelve years prison and released in 1982.

Costello's movie was not Kenyon's only appearance in pop culture. Frank Zappa wrote a song about him. The Illinois Enema Bandit first appeared on his 1978 live album Zappa in New York. While it is true that Kenyon's obsession with enema's was ridiculous, that can't have made the experience any the less traumatic for his victims, so I tend to wonder how they might have felt if they ever heard Zappa's band performing a supposedly humorous song about what was done to them. Having said that though the song is infectiously funky.

Anyway I did eventually get a chance to see Waterpower. It is a unique (if completely indefensible) film, and, it goes without saying, not for the squeamish.

With this film easily available on the black market, the Holy (or rather Unholy) Grail for the sick porn connoisseur would have to be Him (1974), a gay porn film depicting Jesus having sex with his disciples. For many years this was believed to have been a hoax perpetrated by Michael and Harry Medved in their book The Golden Turkey Awards. They admitted that one of the films described in the book was a fabrication, but now it turns out that the made up film was Dog of Norway and the existence of Him has been confirmed by the fact that Al Goldstein reviewed it in his magazine Screw and that the newspaper ad artwork has been found. However it seems unlikely that a copy will surface at this late date. There are no studio vaults or government-funded archives for obscure porn films. Companies like Something Weird Video and Alpha Blue Archives hunt for this kind of stuff in decaying warehouses and grindhouse projection booths (or did when such a thing still existed). If they haven't found it yet the chances are its just not out there especially considering the fact that there can only have been a handful of prints if it was not shown widely enough for word-of-mouth to attract religious protests.

Last year Jonathan Ross came out with another book Why Do I Say These Things? This time the subject is not the world of weird movies but the weird world of Jonathan Ross. Not an autobiography, but a series of essays on his experiences and obsessions which meander off in tangents almost as much as I have here. It would seem that if there is a wrong way to do anything Jonathan Ross has done it and isn't ashamed to tell you about the dire consequences in all their gory detail. From this book you will learn to think twice before exposing your testicles (assuming you have some) to playful kittens, treating a case of Montezuma's Revenge with the date-rape drug Rohypnol or buying pornography for a paraplegic. You will also learn more than you ever wanted to know about hair lice, the contents of Ross's wardrobe and what middle aged women sometimes get up to in optometrists' offices. The book is consistently amusing and at times fall down funny. Some of my favourite stories involve animals, especially an account of a disastrous Christmas that began with a cat eating the tinsel off the tree and just got worse from there. It's a must for any fans of Jonathan Ross, especially those of us who don't see him on the telly as often as we would like.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

When There Wasn't Even Any Hollywood

Before the fall when they wrote it on the wall
When there wasn't even any Hollywood

Steely Dan, The Caves of Altamira

This isn't a movie review blog. I don't have the patience for writing a detailed dissection of the shortcomings and strong points of the very eclectic range of movies I watch. But I am keen to express my enthusiasm for what I love, sound off about what annoys me and explore the trains of thought that particular movies or other's opinions of said movies tend to set in motion. I hope you will have fun reading my thoughts and share your thoughts with me. It would make me particularly happy if I encourage you to try a movie that falls outside your usual viewing habits, and also hope to discover some new favourites from you.

You may be wondering why I've called this blog Plato's Picture Palace. In his major philosophical treatise The Republic Plato used the analogy of a cave to describe our condition of being cut off from the universal truths. In this cave men were chained to the ground facing the cave wall so that they couldn't look behind them. Behind them burned a fire in front of which puppeteers moved their puppets causing the shadows to move on the wall. Plato felt that what we take as reality is nothing more than the shadows of something which is itself artificial, and that we have as little knowledge of reality as the cave-dwellers have of the sunlight. So in 380 BC Plato invented the cinema. And in 1999 Hollywood made Plato's cave analogy into a movie and called it The Matix.

I'm sure that all of us have at one time or another been told that we spend too much time watching movies and need to "get a life". This is probably true, but I don't mind being one of Plato's slaves... as long as I like the movie.


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