Yes, classical Hollywood is certainly fetishised here, as in all Nikolaidis’s films. In fact Nikolaidis has a fetish with the medium. He was very much influenced by Hollywood, and mostly by film noir. His films are very personal so he uses the cinema that he loved and which he was brought up with in order to talk about the forthcoming ‘death’ of cinema in general, and the ‘death’ of Greek cinema in particular, but also in order to talk about his disappointment that no such films are made any more. Nikolaidis pastiches Hollywood genres and specific films in the majority of his films.
Thanks so much for this Daniel. I also have a strong investment in this remarkable work. For me, one of the really fascinating things about THIS IS NOT A FILM is the way Panahi insists so vehemently on focusing on cinema in spite of and instead of the urgent nature of his predicament; and how, in turn, his attempts to avoid the legalities of the situation are always thwarted. The realities of his case keep creeping back into view in literal (the phone calls), suggestive (the paranoid moment with the trash collector), and metaphorical ways (the animals seem to hold a symbolic value related perhaps to the surveillant nature of Tehran).
It seems to me that this struggle between life and cinema is one of the key themes that unites all our concerns this week, and rarely is it explored/demonstrated (this dilemma in word choice is another symptom of the work’s indefinability) more strikingly than THIS IS NOT A FILM.
I completely agree with you Maria. It’s very interesting to see two posts about Greek films in the ‘Movies about Movies’ week. Both ‘Morning Patrol’ and ‘Dogtooth’ make clear allegorical reference to national politics which are central in the films’ narrative. Also, as you’ve noted, although Nikolaidis’s pessimism for the future of cinema and his antiauthoritarian ideology are deeply inscribed in his introverted films, he has a more ‘romantic’ approach to these issues than Lanthimos does, and this has certainly to do with the current Greek situation and with the situation of Greek cinema before ‘Dogtooth’ and the the ‘Weird Greek Wave’ that followed ‘Dogtooth’.
Thanks for your post Maria. I haven’t seen either film so I am only musing upon the issues raised by you and our fellow curators for this week. What strikes me, as noted already, are tropes that give coherence to the way these isolated young people use and learn from film: the masculinism of the narratives and the corresponding violence along with the function of re-enactment as a coping and socializing mechanism. It is interesting that in the past when spectatorship of this sort has been represented it has tended to be feminine and feminized and (de)valued as escape—I am thinking off the top of my head of Purple Rose of Cairo as an example, and also the scene of moviegoing in Pennies from Heaven. Even when spectatorship is suggested only metaphorically, as in Rear Window, the spectator may be male but is very obviously if symbolically castrated, the ideal spectator according to psychoanalytic screen theory. So I want to pick up a thread in your response, Maria, where you say the masculine fandoms suggests the reach of (late 20th century and 21st century) Hollywood as well as the gendered construction of audience. Are you consequently reading these films as symptomatic of the limitations of both Hollywood’s global reach and its interpellation of a masculine audience that finds its subjectivity and social identity through violence, or as commentaries about this phenomenon?
Thank you, Daniel, for leaving us on such an inspiring note with this post about “the enduring power of film.” Not to conflate the very real dangers that Panahi faces with more benign modes of censorship and control, I find his way of using restrictions to inventive ends reminiscent of Dogma’s Vow of Chastity, and, more broadly, figuratively indicative of the risks any filmmaker takes when resisting regulatory regimes of content and style. Your post also provokes me to think further about my own reference to films whose characters are spatially entrapped but cinematically liberated.
Thank you both, Daniel and James, for your insightful responses. Indeed it is critical that both ‘Dogtooth’ and ‘The Wolfpack’ refer to films that promote, as Daniel notes, masculinist violence. Whereas the father in ‘Dogtooth’ rules all films forbidden (with the exception of home videos he himself directs), it is less clear in ‘The Wolfpack’ who curates the brothers’ extensive film library. That these isolated siblings’ taste seems to dovetail with that of popular masculine fandoms (from ‘Lord of the Rings’ to Scorsese and Tarantino) suggests Hollywood’s reach as well as that of gendered constructions of audience. The question of representational violence’s effects is also critical here, as you both suggest, for illuminating how complex and contextualized audience responses necessarily must be. I appreciate your giving me more to think about in this regard.
Thank you for reframing our themes, leading us to question the activities of spectators after viewing. In both, it seems, context (or lack thereof) determines our (varying; even skewed) perceptions of meaning. For me, this offers a severe reappraisal of cognitive approaches to films: we can’t speculate upon an ahistorical, predesignated spectatorial response. DOGTOOTH, it seems to me, uses the dispositif of self-reflexivity in order to challenge normative forms of reception in every way.
Thank you for raising this very interesting film! I wonder to what extent classical Hollywood is being fetishised here. Why does MORNING PATROL focus primarily on such a distinct, canonised body of film to speak for cinema proper?
Thanks for that intriguing post. I’ll have to look out for The Wolfpack when it comes to theaters.
I wonder what it means that both a fictional Greek film and an intimate social documentary are using aggressive American films as centerpieces for their storytelling. On one hand, it may make viewers reflexive about their own acts of cinematic spectatorship and critique the vicarious pleasures they may get from watching the disturbing circumstances of both the Dogtooth and Angulo siblings. But it’s also telling that the titles screened in the two films all promote a certain kind of glorified masculinity and largely gratuitous bloodshed. Perhaps this helps the Dogtooth and Angulo siblings forget the slow, embedded violence they face on a daily basis through spectacular bursts of onscreen violence.
In an entirely welcome coincidence, we’ve both posted on Greek films about films. I’ll leave it to scholars more well-informed about contemporary Greek politics (check out Alex Lykidis’ essay “Crisis of sovereignty in recent Greek cinema (2015),” for one) to unpack the resonant connections. But the backdrop of authoritative power structures in both ‘Morning Patrol’ and ‘Dogtooth’ clearly make allegorical reference to national politics as well as to cinematic spectatorship. Though I don’t see either nostalgia or film’s future (or the lack thereof) as informing ‘Dogtooth’ to the extent that you find it central to this film’s concerns, and interestingly the rebirth that this sequence stages suggests that Nikolaidis’ post-apocalyptic vision may be more optimistic than the ambiguous note on which ‘Dogtooth’ ends. Again, I’ll leave it up to those who know better to parse whether these films’ respective releases in 1987 versus 2009 hold allegorical significance on that count. But certainly it’s illuminating to see how both filmmakers invoke associations of Hollywood with escapism to imagine the rebirth of their female protagonists.