Hi Michael and Karin,
Thanks for a great opening post! For me, this beautifully articulated what’s at stake in the film’s multiple fluid pairings, and has given me some new frameworks and vocabularies for thinking through what Mitchell might be up to.
I’ve actually always envisioned that last scene in terms of Hardt and Negri’s Deleuze-inspried concept of the “multitude,” with its networked consciousness and unruly flesh. I wonder if you see a similar fit. Despite my own reservations about Hardt and Negri’s work, I think their discussion of post-9/11 states of exception/exceptionalism might resonate in provocative ways with some of the film’s more overt political references (the camera panning above Ground Zero in the film’s opening scene, the flashing torch of the Statue of Liberty in the closing scene, and, of course, that fantastic group performance of the Star-Spangled Banner).
One last comment – from a disability studies standpoint, I was interested in your observation that the “erotoscape draws the broken people into its ascendant rhythmic folds.” The way that the film treats the “brokenness” of its characters is one of the things I’ll be speaking to in my post on Wednesday, and I look forward to hearing your thoughts!
Michael & Karin,
Thank you for such a great post to start our theme week on JCM. I am particularly fascinated with JCM’s Shortbus as a way to understand the instability and flexibility of sexuality. What fascinates me about your post is your formulation of the "relationscape" in conjunction with the biogram. What interests me about the biogram, at least as I understand it in phenomenological readings like Brian Massumi’s, is how it occupies "in-between," dimensionless planes (such as those between the eyes and the world). But, I’m puzzled by its connections with the characters you mention. Let me take a stab at a question:
I wonder how the characters in Shortbus enter this plane when they perpetually seek sexual and social relationships, which initially appear non-normative, but return to structures that are anything but the "same old" pairings. It seems as though they remain confined by, or rather troublingly return to,normal couplings where the potentialities of the biogram and unpredictable futures recede into the background. Do you locate the provocative, non-normative, open futurities as emerging from the pulsating city? the vibrant, orgiastic body-filled scenes? I am intrigued by how we reclaim the potentialities of these "main" characters, and look forward to your thoughts!
I wondered if you had the chance to see Julian Stringer’s piece in the Film Festivals and East Asia book? I think it raises some important questions on the way in which Japanese cinema has been received in the West through the festival circuit (and its commentators).
I wish we had a clip structured in a similar way for the Asian festivals that you mention within the next year. It would be great to see what references they would choose to make, perhaps suggestion what their cinematic universe comprises of.
Curious that all the posts focus on the warm and fuzzy community building going on at the festivals. I’m waiting to see a response to the last sentence!
In a conference I attended in Montreal a few years back, which celebrated the 20th anniversary of the city’s gay and lesbian film festival, I asked what I hoped was a provocative — and what I quickly learned was an unpopular — question. With so many alternative modes of distribution and exhibition available for film and video, what precisely is a film festival for these days? It’s certainly no longer the only venue in which to see these films, nor does it represent the only space for community to develop around these media texts. My question was rhetorical, of course, as the answer to this question lies in not only the liveness of the event, but of the visibility of the event itself — in its ability to demonstrate, in a brief, fleeting moment, the impact of these films, public engagement with them, and their marketing potential. Indeed, the ephemeral nature of the film festival serves to magnify engagement with films. The importance of thinking through the liveness of the festival event means more than just thinking about what happens in the festival space, but also how that is leveraged beyond the festival and furthermore, what it might mean as distribution and exhibition changes the significance of the festival in the festival circuit altogether. Markus, your point that these are small communities is a really smart one and another crucial element in understanding how these events shift in the wake of global changes, even if the players are often the same.
Hi Markus - Nice post, and by the way, I believe I owe you something like 2000 yen (from Ginza Lion, though, not from Komian) - I had some nice times at Komian Club and hope to go back there this year. By coincidence before reading this I just happened to register at a site called Festival Scope, whose motto is "festivals on demand for film professionals worldwide." It’s a site that film festivals use to stream films they are screening; Rotterdam will put the entire Tiger Competition there, for example. It’s very convenient and it seems to reduce the need to go to a festival. If films are available online, and also given that, generally, the same films can be seen at many different festivals - what distinguishes festivals and why would people still want to go to them? One answer is the tradition of the festival get-together place, such as Komian.
Yamagata is a festival where "film people" and local people (other than sponsors or politicians) mingle to an unusual extent, and this can happen quite easily at Komian, but is unlikely to happen at any of the Tokyo festivals (or at festivals in big cities in general, I believe). This is one benefit of having festivals in smaller cities.
Thanks for the post. It brings back fond memories of all those years in the 1990s of the HKIFF when I spent days and nights (literally) dashing around on Hong Kong Island and the Kowloon side just to see films. Amidsts these crazy dashing around and queuing-up for films, I always ran into the same group of people on the road (even in public transport services) and we just chatted (note: quite unususal among Hong Kongers who don’t know each other). Some later became my friends and continued the festival friendship over the years. Indeed they were amazing moments.
indeed it seems that what Janet Harbord has called the ‘liveness’ of a film festival is one of the most important characteristics; a young woman in Spain recently said that she believes that the focus of those studying festivals should be on ‘the party’, evidently meaning the same thing. lIveness/party, or the festival as a meeting place for strangers, as you have it here — an all important feature of the festival, I agree.