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Page history last edited by PBworks 17 years, 1 month ago

Tonight, during a screening of Eleanor Antin's "The Man Without a World" (n.y. times capsule;

press packet from Milestone Films), I couldn't help wonder about a few things. Although the premises of the film (a Yiddish melodrama about shtetl life) and its fictional Soviet-exile silent-era director (Yevgeny Antinov) are brilliant conceptually -- as are the attendant "origin" myth involving American (and other) financiers who bankroll the project in late '20s Poland but end up pulling the plug because they couldn't stomach the political subplots and the rediscovery of a pristine print after the advent of Glasnost -- some things just don't add up in terms of the craft. I mean, this film was ostensibly made by a "controversial" Soviet director -- someone who supposedly gained his reputation working alongside Eisenstein, Vertov, Kuleshov and Pudovkin -- but the style of the film rarely rises above that of standard Hollywood melodramas of the time (or even some years earlier). Instead of the dynamic and energized compositions of the early Soviet era -- stuff that makes the viewer feel like they'll fall over unless the imagery keeps running forward at breakneck pace -- we get somatic theatrical tableaux with few cutaways and only a nod to the neo-expressionists (the angel of death, for instance, makes frequent appearances looking something like a stern Jewish undertaker hovering about, and sometimes wrestling with, characters who are about to die). My sense is that, given his supposed history, the fictional Antinov would have piled on the special effects and multi-tasking metaphoric imagery in order to cover up his subversive intentions. Instead, we get an easily digestible revisionist view of Jewish cultural mysticism -- a perfectly valid undertaking, but one that doesn't quite jibe with the fake history.


I also need to take issue with a scene early in the film wherein a boy is reprimanded for chasing a pig through the market. In response, the boy says something like "Are you MESHUGGE? It's just a pig." Given my understanding of the proper usage of the word, a boy would NEVER tell an adult that he or she is meshugge; it just wouldn't make sense. It's the sort of word that an adult would use to point out to someone younger is making a foolish decision; this context suggests no such thing. If anything, the boy is saying something like, "What's your problem? It's just a pig!" Only a very sophisticated postmodern Jewish kid on a G-rated sitcom (played by, say, Raven Simone, once upon a time of the "Cosby" show) would call an adult "meshugge." (And, gosh, wouldn't it have been cute?)


(Full disclosure: I'm inclined to be critical of Eleanor Antin for two reasons: She's apparently good friends with my self-serving autocratic anti-muse; and I've heard from a more or less reliable source (who knew of Antin as an UCSD media grad student in the late '90s) that Antin completely trashed a friend of my source in a critique -- a mean-spirited, unsympathetic abuse of academic power. But, no, I don't know any of the details (what the work was about; what Antin didn't like; whether any criticism would have been "fair"; etc.) Nonetheless, WATCH OUT VISITING ARTIST SEMINAR!)

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