The art of ordinary experience. New optimism in cinema

We received no more data to fix the world, or scenes of hate and death, or documents from the slaughterhouse. Tarantino and Anderson gave us flashes of normal survival in return

Can contemporary culture, so deeply captured by the story of “The End of Man,” admire anything else? After all, we are so used to the fact that thinking, especially thinking maturely and responsibly, is working on the complex systems of violence into which someone else has plunged us into for so long. Contemplation and feeling are accompanied by manifestations of lack of solidarity with humanity that needs liberation. It is also questionable whether culture should affirm anything today (or even want it), because the “committed being” we have become at our behest is realized primarily in the manifestations of the reform of this world.

This is life intuition

To answer these questions, I came up with the ideas of Henri Bergson, which are out of fashion today. In a short essay “Introduction to Metaphysics,” the French philosopher considered two possible methods of knowledge: the analytic and the axiom. While the former sees the world as something outside the ‘I’ and thus adopts the cognitive mind’s perspective, intuition is indeed an attempt to join in and fully engage with the stream of life. Therefore, if we try to analyze reality, it turns out that we can multiply infinitely more and more detailed terms about it, but we cannot get to its essence in this way. Intuitive perception only allows us to experience unity with what makes us known.

After all, we are so used to the fact that thinking, and especially thinking maturely and responsibly, is working on complex systems of violence into which someone else inflicted us long ago.

Bergson was not one-sided. He clearly stated that it is better to combine analysis and intuition so that one supports the other, broadening the horizon of the intellectual and spiritual experience of man. However, at the same time, he did not hide that the transmission of the most life-giving vibrations belonged to the latter. Hence the straight path towards the sensitive art of what I might call “the experience of positivity”. By this I mean works which for many years did not fit within the framework of the modern will to power, or at least different from those which wish to strip us of more illusions and hopes.

It is about a culture that celebrates the relationship between man and man without domination, cruelty, or emptiness. The sheer presence of the latter tries to convince us, for example, in Alex van Warmerdam’s “Borgman,” a postmodern tale about a tramp living in the home of a well-to-do family, exposing the good as hypocrisy and human relationships as a hidden form of violence. In the end, we are left with a world in which everything begins with the word “post”: posthuman, postculture, postfamily. Michael Haneke’s “Benny Video” belongs to the same intellectual trend, disturbing and, despite everything, ironic in the choice of means of expression, by Michael Haneke: an accusation of paternity as much as human ideas. Why should we develop trust and the danger of being with the other person, when Haneke, a semi-documentary, looks at the face of a psychopath as a representative of humanity?

Perhaps, however, we lack stories about ourselves without a banner, protection, and an evil fate. The art of contemplating life and earth, the scent of grass and the joy of the present moment. Confidence that goodwill is possible and that despite all imperfection, goodwill remains. And finally, not to ask about the existence of reality, but to directly experience it. merely.

The culture of warmth and touch

Bergson’s considerations of analysis and intuition accompanied me on the day of Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood premiere, and two years later also during a presentation of Paul Thomas Anderson’s licorice pizza. In between these films, we witnessed an epidemic and subsequent lockdowns, which gave additional meanings to the lively “tangible” seen on screen.

In the end, we are left with a world in which everything has a “post” prefix: posthuman, postculture, postfamily

One can even have the impression that these works, pierced by the sun and warmth, made a certain hole in the general perception of what is essential and deep. Because we ask ourselves directly: Could there be anything significant about running down the street, just like this, without the accompanying great idea, or even a dead line? Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is mainly about the friendship between Rick and Cliff, the old western star and his acrobatic businessman. Licorice Pizza is about Alani and Gary, a girl and boy who come and go to understand that love is more important than activity, interests, influence, or relationships. There is not much to be written about both films. Everything else is an impression and everyday life offers us, as viewers, an intuitive experience.

In the meantime, we are accustomed to the fact that ambitious cinema necessarily poses a social problem to the audience. Of course, there is nothing wrong with this duty alone. A thinker who cuts through structures of power and violence was, for example, Erich Fromm, but his books consistently aimed at man as a wonderful and loving creature. Meanwhile, the dominant in modern culture is suspicious of everything traditionally defined as our humanity, and what might constitute an area of ​​affirmation, with the passage of time stripping us of our most basic hopes, thus making us captivated by the idea of ​​doubting everyone and everything. . Anderson reversed this situation: two of his heroes repeatedly run down the street, forward, sometimes gently touching each other with their hands, and historical changes remain only a background, a fleeting, less significant thing.

Perhaps, however, we lack stories about ourselves without a banner, protection, and an evil fate. The art of contemplating life and earth, the scent of grass, and the joy of the present moment

At the same time, one can get the impression that the most popular reception of “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” and “Licorice Pizza” touched upon the problem of plot structure, which, contrary to current trends, does not suggest a typical conflict story and coherent conclusion. Instead, we got over two hours of sensual, flowing and choppy impressions, floor-covered pants, hair blowing in the wind, and conversations about nothing in particular. In response, they wrote about nostalgia for the ’60s and ’70s as a time of post-war revival, about a love letter to the golden age of American cinema, and in the worst case about vulgarity the author wanted to leave behind. Also something of personal and sentimental value.

congenital traits

So there was a temptation to see in the movie Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and Licorice Pizza some kind of aesthetic gem. Yet somewhere in all of this, a key message of Tarantino and Anderson’s latest work has been overlooked. Perhaps because it was recorded in the film’s composition a little differently than artists like Jaspar Noe or Lars von Trier, known for their harsh live chops, used to do it. We get no more statements to fix the world, the cries of hate and death, the documents from a slaughterhouse where all faith and sense are from the nobility, nor the attacks about how ugly we are all. The cold, raw meat to which a man is allegedly devalued has not appeared to us. Tarantino and Anderson gave us flashes of normal survival in return. Something that warms, invigorates you and brings you fresh air; It does not express an idea, but rather illustrates experience in its simplest and most honest dimensions. And most importantly, he does not analyze from afar, but passionately unites with the world through Bergson’s intuition and sympathy.

What is remarkable about the films mentioned here is not only the narration immersed in the body and the senses, but also the emphasis on the deep human sense, which leads to a modest affirmation of reality. These are not stories about big things. They do not talk about ideas, nor about the dismantling of our hope and our faith, nor even about the need for social participation. They do just the opposite, placing great historical and social events in the background of the everyday lives of ordinary people with their ordinary existence. As a result, it becomes brazenly subjective if by subjective we mean a simple experience of life rather than posing problems to be solved.

Although they are not religious films, in their deep structure they retain a sensitivity to the grace and salvation of the profound and incomparable value of the individual.

At the same time, both works, more or less consciously, and certainly intuitively, touched the field which I associated myself with the great theme of human salvation. Although they are not religious films, in their deep structure they retain a sensitivity to the grace and redemption of the profound and incomparable value of the individual. This is reflected, for example, at the end of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, which many viewers and critics blamed on Tarantino’s typical postmodern theatrical play with convention and semantics. It turns out – contrary to historical facts – that Sharon Tate is still alive, and there is no attack by the Manson gang on Roman Polanski’s house, because quite by chance (and in horrific circumstances), drugged acrobat Cliff deals with her. In this action, one must see something more than a detailed vent, that is, the cleansing of memory with a silver screen. It is also a picture of the triumph of life, by Bergsonovsky Ilan. With Tarantino the “Summer of Love” continues.

“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” and “Licorice Pizza” both date back to the early 1960s and 1970s. Perhaps there is some logic in this, if you look at the age of the flower children, and later disco as the last, perhaps such a great revival in culture against the postmodern disintegration of meaning. I glanced at the hippie album It’s a Beautiful Day, and the sentence on the other side of the vinyl caught my eye: “For those who love, time is eternity.” Isn’t that the narrative of both films? Free as life, without climax, stripping us of hope or assumptions. I also remember the question repeatedly asked by the protagonist of the rock opera Quadrovinia by The Who: “Is it real watching the stars fall?” Perhaps this is more important than others, more flashy and attractive. Or perhaps most importantly.