As usual, choose one of the prompts below to compose your argument paragraph (the third paragraph of your blog response post assignment). Remember: don’t answer the prompts directly. They are meant to help you brain-storm and come up with a controversial topic that you can address, a debate that you can participate in.
An Andalusian Dog
There are a number of images in An Andalusian Dog that can be considered sacrilegious. What about religion are Bunuel and Dali attacking, and why?
The film also assails cherished notions of bourgeois morality, particularly when it comes to sex. How and why do the directors, Buñuel and Dalí, critique their society (Europe in the 1920s) in regards to sex?
The film’s plot, if you want to call it that, is based upon dream logic. This was typical of many Surrealist films. How and why does the film violate the narrative logic of Hollywood films?
The Surrealists were fixated on the psychological theories of Sigmund Freud. How does this play out in An Andalusian Dog? Why is the film fixated on Freud and his theories? (That is, I would like to see you address one or more of the controversial aspects of the Freudian psychology in the film, rather than just reiterate what I’ve written in my blog entries on An Andalusian Dog).
Based upon An Andalusian Dog, what does Surrealism say about European society in the first half of the twentieth century? What ideology or ideologies does it express and/or attack?
Like many of the works of art created in Europe in the 1920s, An Andalusian Dog hints at the destruction of World War I. What are these hints and how does the destruction of war relate to the postwar disillusionment and social upheaval that is also hinted at in the film?
Meshes of the Afternoon
Like An Andalusian Dog, Meshes of the Afternoon is open to multiple interpretations. One interpretation is that the film is about the suicide of a woman. Another is that it is about the murder of a woman by a man. Which interpretation do you find most convincing, and why?
Meshes of the Afternoon was a film made by a husband and wife team (Alexander Hammid and Maya Deren). Critics tend to give Deren the most credit for the film, while others argue that Hammid deserves more credit than Deren. Based on the visual look and the themes of the film, who deserves to be considered the true artistic author of the film?
Your textbook authors name Meshes of the Afternoon as a Surreal film. Do you agree? How is it NOT Surreal? (How is it NOT like An Andalusian Dog?) What other avant-garde film traditions might it represent instead?
Meshes of the Afternoon has been acclaimed by feminists as showing the struggles of a woman in a patriarchal world. How and why is the film feminist? (You might want to think about the title: how is the woman stuck in a mesh [net], or enmeshed, or interpellated [in your textbook glossary]?) And is the social critique undercut by melodrama?
How does the dream logic narrative of Meshes of the Afternoon compare with that of An Andalusian Dog? Or to put it another way: how does Meshes (an American experimental film ) relate to the American Hollywood film model? And how does this compare to the way An Andalusian Dog (a European experimental film) relates to Hollywood film?
Meshes of the Afternoon suggests that the border between dream and reality is porous, and that we can’t always tell them apart. What are the psychological and social ramifications of this? (Or does the film conflate the psychological and the social?)
Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story
All the characters in Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story are played by Barbie dolls. What is the social statement here (hint: feminism)? What is the artistic statement here (hint: Brechtian distanciation)? How does the social messaging relate to the artistic messaging, and vice versa?
Superstar has been called a feminist film. How (and why) is it feminist? And can you discern a “queer” (pro-gay) message in the film? (Todd Haynes, as you already know, was a seminal figure in Queer Cinema). How might the feminism and the queer message be related?
Karen Carpenter was a poster child of a wholesome, “squeaky clean” American youth of the 1970s – someone who seemingly had no interest in sex, drugs, or rock-n-roll. How does this make her counter-counterculture? How does Superstar show the damage done to Carpenter because of her clean life-style? Does the film show her to be a hypocrite, or a victim of the expectations of her family and her society?
Karen Carpenter became a huge celebrity at a young age. Her celebrity was also what, arguably, killed her at a young age. How and why was Carpenter destroyed by her own celebrity? And how does her fate resemble (or not) the way other young celebrities are still being destroyed by their own celebrity in the 21st century?
In terms of avant-garde traditions, Superstar most closely resembles a compilation film. Haynes inserts footage from Nazi death camps, anti-Vietnam War protests, and a documentary on anorexia nervosa. What does this say about the social context in which the film was made? What is the ideological message?
The film has much to say about the evils of consumerism in American society in the 1970s. What does Karen Carpenter consume that makes her ill? How is Carpenter consumed as a character in a film (hint: the Male Gaze)? According to the film, how are these two kinds of consumption related?