segunda-feira, 27 de abril de 2009

Com a palavra, Tag Gallagher:

In response to your invitation to elaborate, may I quote a long footnote from my book about John Ford, dealing with Jean-Marie Straub's assertion (to the fury of Richard Roud, who loathed Ford and adored Straub) that Ford is more Brechtian than Brecht? This was written in reaction to the "diammetrically-counter" academics.

Here we go:

When Straub made this remark to the author in 1975 (after seeing Pilgrimage and Donovan's Reef) he was referring not so much to Ford's acting style—in that sense no films are truly Brechtian—as to Ford's manner of stripping naked social ideologies that are elsewhere unacknowledged. To Joseph McBride, Straub said Ford is the most Brechtian offilmmakers, "because he shows things that make people think... by [making] the audience collaborate on the film" (McBride and Wilmington, John Ford, p. 108). McBride analyzes Fort Apache in this light, pointing out how Captain York donning Colonel Thursday's hat at the end is a Brechtian device [like the cardinal donning the pope's robes in Brecht's Galileo], and that we see clearly that an insane system needs the dedication of noble men to perpetuate itself.) Less simply, one might call Ford Brechtian because every element in his cinema is engaged diaIectically with every other element (whether one speaks of elements of—or between—style, content, myth, ideology, or whatever), with the result that Ford's films are self-reflexive and transparent in their workings.

This notion—essentially the thesis of this book—flies violently in the face of a recent critical tendency to regard the “classical” cinema of Hollywood as a monolithic system that sought to mask its "codes" (e.g., its montage) in order to create an apparently unmediated representation of the real world; it sought to entertain passively and left unacknowledged its own governing ideology. (Cf., Stagecoach: my argument with Browne ("Spectator-in-the-Text"); also Burch, Distant Observer; Robert Phillip Kolker, The Altering Eye [New York: Oxford, 1983]; Thomas Schatz, Hollywood Genres [New York: Random House, 1981]). “Modernist” (i.e., some post-1960) cinema, on the other hand, subverts our absorption in emotion, story, or character, and exposes its "codes" (e. g., by showing the camera, discordant editing, having an actor speak directly to us), in order to force us to relate intellectually rather than through emotional identification.

In these circles, Straub is admired as epitomizing 'modernist' cinema, while Ford is often derided (although not by most of the above-named critics) as a sentimental reactionary. Thus Straub's comparison of Brecht and Ford caused considerable head-shaking. It is, of course, generally agreed that many films cater exclusively to an audience's desire for passive spectacle (e.g.. Star Wars, some of Hitchcock); and all research shows that audiences generally watch movies in order not to think. Nonetheless, the fallacies of "modernist" critics are multitudinous (even including their arrogation of the label "modern"). Firstly, their premise of a monolithic classical system is a pure fantasy that reveals little sensibility for the complexity of pre-1960 cinema and almost no acquaintance with the actual films themselves. Secondly, they naively assume that audiences can be forced to think, whereas "modernist" techniques soon lose their initial shock and audiences happily re-immerse themselves into the fictional worlds of even the most determinedly antipathetic movies. Thirdly, because their basis is exclusively materialist, they, like Grierson and Aristarco before them, distrust emotions and aestheticism and would destroy the art of cinema in favor of a cinema of political propaganda.

An examination of Brecht’s 1930 table, in which he gave cursory comparison between the (bad) "dramatic" and the (good, Brechtian) "epic" theaters, will, in the light of Straub and this book, show Ford very much on the "epic" side—the "modernist":

Dramatic Theater * Epic Theater

plot * narrative
implicates spectator into drama * makes spectator an observer
wears down his capacity for action * arouses his capacity for action
provides him with sensations * forces him to make decisions
provides experience * provides a picture of the world
involves the spectator * confronts the spectator
suggestion * argument
feelings are preserved * feelings are propelled into perceptions
man is assumed known * man is the object of inquiry
man unalterable * man alterable and altering
suspense about the outcome * suspense about the progress
each scene exists for another * each scene for itself
linear development * in curves
evolutionary determinism * evolutionary leaps
the world, as it is * the world, as it becomes
what man ought to do * what man is forced to do
man as a fixed point * man as a process
his instincts * his motivations
thought determines being * social being determines thought

(Brecht did not intend, obviously, that epic theater be absolutely one way and not at all the other way; it is a question more of tendency.)

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