ABSTRACT

Writing about cinema’s conservative tendency to “mirror prevailing society” rather than challenge it, Siegfried Kracauer describes a prototypical narrative situation involving love, loss, sacrifi ce and tragedy and concludes that in the audience, “Many tears are shed which fl ow only because crying is sometimes easier than contemplation.”1 The ease of cathartic response, and indeed ease in general, is signifi cant to the bourgeois style, which is centered on the rejection of labor, its spirit, its energy and its social necessity, in a glorifi cation of the self that aspires to a kind of natural inhabitation of an already comfortable world. Sartre notes how in agricultural and aristocratic societies, where true luxury was “the opulent consumption of rare, natural objects by God’s elect,” the worker “fades into the background once he has put mankind in the presence of nature. Nothing remains of his work but a drop of blood, to heighten the sheen of the pearl and a little surface bloom that allows fruit and meats the better to release their scents.”2 Kracauer’s point is that movies transmogrify and glorify the practical and political realities of life-life as struggle-through a selective

exaggeration and artful juxtaposition that confi gure a domain of pure and apparently unachieved happening; but my point in quoting him is something else entirely.