Sunday, July 27, 2014

Hooper in the Pantheon

There is the dream: "Hooper, a cinema of pacifism."  The moral cinema that no one notices.  Imagine the spiritual book cover, two uneven squares below the title on the plain white gloss cover: the box on the left the image of Eaten Alive's gator chomping down on the little terrier dog in that moment's one insert shot of teeth-on-fur.  The one on the right The Funhouse's Marco the Magician about to take a reprovable swig from his flask before launching into his history of Vlad the Impaler.

One the image of a coarse and imposed education.  The other an image of cruelty, crude and blunt, that somehow manages to soften in light of how, with Hooper, the parameters of genera hold no sway over, or are rightly corrected by, a cinema of some morals.  Hooper imbibes and then transcends what is always clear to him the purposes of a commercial art, a cinema not in a vacuum and one that he has taken to both promulgate - for its popular purposes - and then also rectify.  The rectifying is pronounced in his chosen genre.  The image of the crocodile and the dog thus becomes indelible.  Not as a prickly horror image, but as a populist moral one, part of a film that serves to teach unfairness and kindness in equal measure.  Eaten Alive, of the commercial 70s grindhouse, does that.  A corrective cinema: one no less patched into the ultimate purposes of the cultural act of storytelling than his more successful contemporaries - those most incantatory and powerful luminaries of culture (I'm looking at you, Spielberg) - but has so internalized the virtue of fightlessness, accepted the circumstances of defeat, and embraced work that teaches and welcomes its own consequences (which includes its own defeat, its own evaporation from consequence due to the lofty aims of teaching, of a cinema "Socratic," of the taking in the poisoned Hemlock of industry pacifism.  Who else creates films so beautiful, so educating, yet so sacrificially unremembered?  One so unequipped for a business yet who throws himself into the business anyway, for, yes, the dream factory does teach as much as it makes opaque?).

... Woe to the conquered one - vae victis - but what beauty they still, with struggle, may create...

This may be a good time to quickly and quite sketchily create a personal Sarrisian, American Cinema-esque filmmaker list of excessive categorizing, not comprehensive but a quick give-away of where I place certain filmmakers - perhaps to shed light on where I see them in relation to Hooper.

It's quite clear, anyway, that Hooper would fall in the "Far Side of Paradise" category of Sarris's The American Cinema auteur deconstruction (Sarris's categorizations, my eyes, that is), putting him auspiciously alongside other seeming metteurs en scène like Vincente Minnelli and Joseph Losey (and Frank Capra and Blake Edwards... hmm...).  But Sarris's formulations brook far too much on the hegemonic relationships of compatibility with studio structures and cultural superstructure (his pantheon must have conquered the workings of the studio system, must have "branded" themselves).  Is our new pantheon really supposed to be only those who've managed to have their personal visions survive the modern studio prerequisite of bigger and bigger budgets?  Sarris compensated with "fringe" and esoteric categories, but this is not the type of separation I am interested in here.  Here, you will see, everyone is a metteur en scène and what matters is what they do with it.  It is not the authorial degree but the type itself.

This list is perfunctory (by design) and is open to splay and gain categories in event of future realizations (if I am to revisit this at all).

[The Quintessential "Caméra-stylo"/The "Visionaries"] [These are directors that are quite adamant in creating "big" things quite specifically devised to their own personal interests, such that they announce a "view of the world" quite loudly and by virtue of their "style"]
Francis Ford Coppola
Martin Scorsese
Steven Spielberg

[The Oneirics]
Robert Altman (This seems arguable, but I'll subsist.)
Werner Herzog
David Lynch
Jacques Rivette (I can't say I am much of a fan of Rivette, though, whose shaggy-dogisms tend to leak from the narratives and into the repetitive form.)
Apichatpong Weerasethakul

[The Baroque Artist]
Jane Campion
Brian De Palma
Rainer Werner Fassbinder
John Frankenheimer
Alfred Hitchcock (Another curious placement.)
Joseph Losey
Ken Russell
James Whale

[The Theoreticians]
Dario Argento
Robert Bresson
John Carpenter
David Fincher
Jean-Luc Godard
Roman Polanski
Bela Tarr

[The Stylists]
Mario Bava
John Ford
Howard Hawks
Ernst Lubitsch
Most Classical Hollywood
Quentin Tarantino

[The Emotionalists/Spiritualists]
Ingmar Bergman
John Cassavetes
The Dardennes
Harmony Korine (For comparative purposes...)
Mike Leigh
Maurice Pialat
Andrei Tarkovsky
The Neo-realists

[The Scholastics]
Joe Dante
Terence Davies
Carl Dreyer
Federico Fellini
Michael Haneke
Abbas Kiarastomi
Stanley Kubrick
Jean-Marie Straub & Daniele Huillet
Lars Von Trier (Huckster scholastic?  You decide.)

Malick and Ozu I waffled between Spiritualist and Scholastic.

[The Humanist]
Charles Burnett
Tobe Hooper
Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Jean-Claude Rousseau
Agnes Varda

The Humanists are the odd cross-breeds between the Scholastics and the Stylists.  They teach, but are humane about it.*

* humane = "populist"... less pretentious...