[Marxism] Fwd: [Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist] Comment: "Reading Trotsky While Watching Kurosawa"

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Dec 29 13:50:04 MST 2014

A comment from Richard Estes:

I believe that there is something inherently socialist, inherently 
Marxist in any cultural creation that induces us to relate to people in 
their surroundings, their joys, their sorrows, their difficulties and 
tragedies without sentimentality. This is a precondition to 
understanding the experiences of people in the world around us so as to 
contemplate how to radically transform it.

Fassbinder acknowledged that there was a pessimism that ran through many 
of his films, but expressed the hope that they would encourage people to 
imagine better alternatives, alternatives that they might realize some 
day. For this, and his brilliance as a director, scriptwriter and 
cinematographer, he has always been my personal favorite. Very few have 
presented the paradoxical allure and abuses of capitalist society as 
skillfully as he did.

Among Japanese directors, there are also Kobayashi and Oshima. 
Kobayashi's "Hara-Kiri" is one of most compelling samurai social 
tendency films ever made. The father-in-law's revenge upon the clan for 
the death of his son-in-law provides great satisfaction for the 
audience, while it is simultaneously shown to be incapable of 
threatening the social order itself. As with Fassbinder, the audience 
must ultimately contemplate an alternative to the cycle of retributive 
violence. Oshima's films, such as "Violence at Noon", "Death by 
Hanging", "Boy" and "The Ceremony", among others, reveal the extent to 
which the repressive Japanese social order was able to easily integrate 
post-war capitalism. Again, rebellions are shown to be personal and 
ultimately inconsequential.

More recently, Louis has rightfully praised the cycle of samurai films 
made by Yoji Yamada ("The Twilight Samurai", "The Hidden Blade" and 
"Love and Honor"). Seeming melodramatic 19th Century samurai films with 
a dollop of shomengeki family life, they highlight how people are driven 
to scale the heights of heaven, to paraphrase an old revolutionary 
saying, because of their most intimate familial relationships. While the 
films emphasize how the emotional attachments of the family undermined 
Japanese feudal society, they also suggest how they might also result in 
challenges to capitalism, too.

Many of John Sayles' films have these features, too, which is why he is 
one of the great American directors of the last 40 years.

There are also some popular entertainments that challenge the post-9/11 
authoritarian attitude. While it can be admittedly manipulative in 
post-modern, game playing kind of way (it has been rightfully observed 
that you have watch a lot of episodes twice to understand them), "Doctor 
Who", the BBC series has broadcast a number of episodes that implicitly 
indict the notion of mass violence and collective punishment, genocide 
is a recurrent theme, serving as the centerpiece of the 50th anniversary 
broadcast. Violence is more generally treated ambivalently as something 
that has serious consequences for those who rely upon it. A usually 
non-violent, propaganda by the deed type, the Doctor periodically 
confronts that most anarchist/Trotskyite of problems, the accumulation 
of power and the exercise of it. Cultural studies concepts of the 
commodification of life and even the afterlife are commonly interwoven 
into the story lines.

Surely, if Rosa Luxemborg can have a revolution where she can dance, I 
can have one where I can watch "Love and Honor" and "Doctor Who".

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