Sunday, 25 July 2010

Vicky Cristina Barcelona: what’s that all about, eh? Part four*

So I’m still finishing up my trawl through my thoughts about Woody Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Having failed to make sense of the film’s surface, I looked for other readings of it which might explain what critics saw in it. I discussed the first possibility — that it was a film about the inherent paradoxes and limits of making a film like Vicky Cristina Barcelona. A social comedy about social comedies, that is. Now I move on to . . .

Two. The only other possible reading of the film to my mind is as an unknowing satire on unknowingness — completely naive in its composition but deeply sophisticated in its end-result. Most pointedly, the film can be read through the prism of the Iraq invasion. Or rather, as a metaphorical trope of the Iraq invasion. Not Rumsfeld’s unknown unknown** but an unknown known — a self-structured blind-spot. The inability to comprehend the other’s otherness — except as undifferentiated otherness***. Which brings us, of course, back to Freud and the unconscious.

By this light, Vicky Cristina Barcelona is the film Jean-Luc Godard would have made ‘about’ Iraq — much as Weekend was ‘about’ Vietnam. Well, not quite. That would have been a knowing satire on unknowingness.

It can, then, I guess, best be read as Woody Allen’s own, unknowingly made rumination on both Woody Allen’s strictly bounded conception of the world and his sad and rueful — though unknown to him — knowledge of those limitations and their significance as virtually unmediated reflections of American narcissism.

I hesitate before I write this but I’m coming to think of Vicky Cristina Barcelona as an inadvertent masterpiece, a kind of automatic writing which — quite unconsciously — creates and develops the most vivid and perceptive view both of the workings of the unconscious (in particular, the operation of projection) and of the myopias of an imperial state of mind.

* Of four. Plus postscripts

** Don’t get me wrong. I’m a big admirer of Rumsfeld’s riff about the limits of knowledge. I think it’s one of the smarter things I’ve heard a politician say in many years.

*** Hence, for example, early Rolling Stones records. To ‘love black music’ is to departicularise it, depersonalise it. To truly appreciate it — real, mature love, if you like — you have to acknowledge your wish to destroy it, too. Or, at least, your capacity for treating it with off-hand disdain. Hence the wonders of later Rolling Stones records****.

**** The psychoanalytically inclined might notice my larceny of Winnicott’s 1947 paper Hate in the Counter-transference*****.

***** The psychoanalytically inclined might also notice that my larceny and warping of Winnicott shows a true appreciation of his work******.

****** The non-psychoanalytically inclined have probably had enough. Even the psychoanalytically inclined, too, I reckon.

Next up The postscript. Well, postscripts, actually.

Meanwhile . . .

Les Them, a young woman called Gloria and . . . a donkey

The little known martial artistry of Red Bull cannery