Vancouver Unconventional Books Message Board › Sex & the City [of Brooklyn) or

Sex & the City [of Brooklyn) or

Gerald
EyeRaLunar
Vancouver, BC
Post #: 11
Teorema (I just learnt) uses sex (it seems) to transform people, //ing a religious experience ( I think), for better or for worse...well, that is what I got from reading the synopsis. Is sex then like say, money, that can be bartered, used, given, sacrificed for better or worse? Is it just a biological impulse that we as so-called higher beings give meaning to justify our actions? Or is it just another form/strata of expression or connection with someone whom we have found some sort of connection with? Oxytocin, I think, is what is released when we bond with someone physically? So is it all just chemistry then??
James M.
user 14454827
Group Organizer
Vancouver, BC
Post #: 25
Hmmm. All good questions. The film, which I haven't seen, seems to be interested in challenging the limitations of the repressive bourgeois family structure, with sexual intimacy acting as a sort of disruptive/creative force for change, if not for good as such. I think ultimately, repression is about being closed off to the possibility of connection with others, and this doesn't always have to be sexual (I suppose Freud would disagree) but can also be any kind of honest, open encounter. Just a random thought.
Gerald
EyeRaLunar
Vancouver, BC
Post #: 15
Thank you, James, I needed a reminder to zoom out my lens to see the bigger picture (I think I'm trapped in Brooklyn...help!!)
I like that--Repression = "closed off to the possibility of connection with others"
(I had a three-layer cake experience of that growing up---mother/religious+education institutions/Government)

Problem is there are some real Big Bads out there, so it's a tricky business trying to be a sincere hedgehog...getting jabbed or worse still, eaten like a chocolate hedgehog!

Love random thoughts! wink... I have an attic full of those.
A former member
Post #: 29
You haven't seen Teorema, James? If you want, I can lend you the DVD some time.

Pasolini also wrote a book called Teorema as a companion piece to the film, spelling out his ideas at greater length. However, you're more or less batting in the right ballpark with your surmise of his themes, which engages ideas and concepts having to do with Gramscian Marxism, psychoanalytic "object relations" theory, and Gnostic theology.

Among many other things, the film is about how the modern bourgeoisie are qualitatively different from the rural peasantry and the subaltern peoples of the Third World, because the bourgeois have lost their faith in God. It is also a parable about how an unexpected, spontaneous and authentic religious experience can irrevocably transform and destroy people.

Of course, the narrative is rather cryptic and ambiguous, with both realistic and supernatural elements, leaving it open to a variety of interpretations. The Milanese bourgeois family is shown to exist in a spiritual and erotic void. Their lives are defined entirely by rigidly defined protocols and materialistic values, and as such, they are hopelessly alienated and cut off from the primal, archaic, elemental forces of nature, sex and God.

When the mysterious visitor arrives and seduces each member of the household, he acts as an agent of destruction. For he is an anarchic and unstoppable force that completely obliterates all of the false comforts and self-deceptions which constitute bourgeois life. As a consequence, the entire family is thrown into a crisis of loss and despair from which it can never hope to recover.

Having experienced real divine love and wholeness, each member of the family is now suddenly made aware of the emptiness and vanity of his/her previous life, and the loss of the visitor becomes hellishly unbearable. What is interesting is how each individual member of the family is changed and ultimately destroyed by this loss. In this sense, Teorema can be interpreted in psychoanalytic terms, as an allegory of subconscious "object relations" -- the abiding trauma caused by the loss of a primal love object in infancy (i.e., the "good breast" and the "bad breast").

The story can also be considered in Marxist terms, with the magical transformation that the visitor effects in each member of the family as a metaphor for the sudden burgeoning of a political consciousness. The final self-destruction of the family can likewise be seen as indicative of the essential decadence of the bourgeoisie. It is worth remembering that Teorema made its debut right at the height of the May 1968 protests in Paris, where it was regarded as a revolutionary work.*

Yet another view of Teorema is that it is a parable about Gnosticism...about the Demiurge who created the world and gave human beings the divine spark of life...but then, suddenly, mysteriously, abandoned His creation and left us to our own devices in a fallen state, perpetually imprisoned in our "evil" physical bodies and trapped in the "evil" world of physical matter. However, deep within each person there remains the divine spark that longs to be reunited with its absent Creator.



FOOTNOTE #1: Teorema contains an allusion to Arthur Rimbaud, Pasolini's favourite poet, when the visitor is sitting on the grass in the back of the family estate reading "Les Déserts de l'Amour", a prose-poem in which Rimbaud is pining for the love of a beautiful, enigmatic woman from the city and is finally left alone in despair. ("Les Déserts de l'Amour" would make an apt alternate title for Teorema -- as would "Seduced and Abandoned", if Pietro Germi hadn't used it first.)

Indeed, the visitor could be thought of as being like Rimbaud, who, as a teenager, had a fatal amour fou with the older poet, Paul Verlaine, when Rimbaud came to stay with him and his wife. After Rimbaud ruined Verlaine's respectable bourgeois marriage and life, Verlaine went insane, suffered horribly, became a drug addict and alcoholic, spent some time in prison and several hospitals, and eventually found God.

Rimbaud, meanwhile, had his own "Season in Hell" before finally giving up poetry at age 20 and wandered far from his provincial bourgeois origins in Charleville...to find his fortune as a gunrunner in the deserts of Abyssinia. Eventually, he returned to France and died from a cancerous leg tumor at age 37 in a hospital in Marseilles. According to his younger sister Isabelle, who was a devout Catholic, Rimbaud found God on his deathbed.

Interestingly enough, two years after Teorema, Terence Stamp played Rimbaud in Nelo Risi's 1970 film, Una stagione all'inferno ("A Season in Hell"); Jean-Claude Brialy played Verlaine.



FOOTNOTE #2: Anne Wiazemsky, who played the daughter, Odile, in Teorema, was a Parisian university student at the time with a keen interest in revolutionary Maoism. She married Jean-Luc Godard in 1967, and that same year played the lead role in Godard's film, La Chinoise, a prophetic satire about a revolutionary Maoist groupuscle discussing the necessity of terroristic violence and political assassination as a means to achieve revolutionary goals.

La Chinoise was loosely based on Dostoevsky's 1872 novel, The Devils (or The Possessed), about a revolutionary terrorist plot to assassinate the Tsar (the movie even features a character named Kirilov who makes the existential decision to commit suicide, just like in the novel).
James M.
user 14454827
Group Organizer
Vancouver, BC
Post #: 26
@ Jason - Spoiler alert biggrin I think The Devils is one of the books by FD I'd like us to read.

Reading your analysis, I'm reminded of how the mental circuitry that used to get such a workout when I was a student and lecturer has largely atrophied over the last decade - though you all have helped to revive it some. I do recall the fashion for trying to find some kind of synthesis between marxism and psychoanalysis, a/la Jameson's The Political Unconscious, among others, and these two powerful paradigms seem much more present in art then than now. Maybe it's just the noise generated by The 40-year Old Virgin and its clones. smile
James M.
user 14454827
Group Organizer
Vancouver, BC
Post #: 27
@Ee Lyn - Like to find out more about that three-layer cake sometime...
A former member
Post #: 30
@ Jason - Spoiler alert biggrin I think The Devils is one of the books by FD I'd like us to read.

Reading your analysis, I'm reminded of how the mental circuitry that used to get such a workout when I was a student and lecturer has largely atrophied over the last decade - though you all have helped to revive it some. I do recall the fashion for trying to find some kind of synthesis between marxism and psychoanalysis, a/la Jameson's The Political Unconscious, among others, and these two powerful paradigms seem much more present in art then than now. Maybe it's just the noise generated by The 40-year Old Virgin and its clones. smile

James, if you want us to read The Devils, then by all means....

Actually, the analysis of Teorema didn't just come off the top of my head. A lot has been written about Pasolini (and Pasolini was himself a prolific essayist and semiological theorist). I took a class on Pasolini 12 years ago at UBC.

In his book, A Certain Realism: Making Use of Pasolini's Film Theory and Practice, Maurizio Viano offers a purely semiotic deconstructionist interpretation of Teorema: i.e., the bourgeois family represents allegorical "signs in crisis" and the visitor is the destabilizing "Absolute", a "sort of unique God", a reality principle that the signs are forced to acknowledge. And in the film, sex is not merely sex, it "signifies transgression against the Law that regulates physical and intellectual processes alike" (Viano, p. 201).

Viano tells us that, even though Pasolini was a non-believer, he was reluctant to dispense with the idea of God in the semiological sense, because God represents "a longing for the Absolute". The desert in Teorema is like the desert in the Book of Exodus, where Pasolini believes the Jews first conceived God: the wilderness represents "reality stripped of everything but its essence, reality as represented by those who live and think of it, even if they are not philosophers" (Pasolini, Theorem, p. 197).

Viano again: "The richness and openness of Pasolini's work is the result of his intellectual piracy--that is, of his highly personal appropriation of different, seemingly contradictory, discourses, to define the role they had, and to manifest the traces they left." (Viano, p. 1).

Viano calls this set of (five) discourses Pasolini's "authorial intertext", which are Humanism, Catholicism, Marxism, psychoanalysis, and homosexuality.

1. Humanism: Pasolini was a product of the Italian Renaissance Humanist tradition, going back to the fourteenth century, which regards the individual as a progressive, self-determining agent of history and civilization (e.g., Pico della Mirandola's De hominis dignitate ["Oration on the Dignity of Man"]).

2. Catholicism: Pasolini was born and raised in the archaic peasant tradition of his mother's religion. Although he became an atheist at a young age, Pasolini was nevertheless strongly attracted to the notion of "authentic religious feelings", which one finds among the peasantry and Third World populations, as the opposite of "bourgeois materialism". He was what a philosopher of religion might call a "non-theistic sacralist".

3. Marxism: Pasolini's concern with the "anthropological degradation" of the Italian rural peasantry and urban subproletariate, as well as the subaltern peoples of the Third World, by the totalizing forces of neocapitalism is heavily influenced by Antonio Gramsci's concept of egemonia ("cultural hegemony") as a social and ideological tool which bourgeois capitalists use to legitimize their power as a natural and normal state of affairs.

4. Psychoanalysis: In the 1960s, there was a fashion among intellectuals for synthesizing psychoanalytic ideas with revolutionary Marxism (e.g., Herbert Marcuse's Eros and Civilization).

"Freudianism, like Marxism, constituted an attack on bourgeois ideology...Furthermore, Freud's emphasis on biological drives appealed to Pasolini's interest in 'physical necessities' as the source of cultural phenomena. Grounding the higher functions firmly in the flesh, Freudian psychoanalysis suited Pasolini's project of giving sexuality and the body their due. In this respect, Freud's theory of the id as something to be salvaged from the discontents of civilization runs parallel to the Marxist mythology of the heroic proletariat. Most important of all, Freud offered Pasolini a clear and coherent 'scientific' theory of the etiology and phenomenology of homosexuality" (Viano, p. 11).

5. Homosexuality: As a young man, Pasolini did make an effort to hide his homosexuality. However, this ended in 1949, when he was fired from his teaching job in the Friulian countryside and expelled from the Italian Communist Party for an alleged homosexual indiscretion at a village feast outside of San Vito al Tagliamento. Pasolini was force to move with his mother to the outskirts of Rome, where he lived among the urban subproletariate.

After long periods of poverty and unemployment, he began his career as novelist by the mid-1950s and eventually moved into filmmaking by the 1960s. During this time, Pasolini was often prosecuted for obscenity on account of the homoerotic content of his work. It is not inconceivable that, had the traumatic events of 1949 never happened, Pasolini's life and career may have turned out quite differently. Thus, Pasolini's own forced public acknowledgement if his homosexuality (his "outing", as it were) can be seen as a direct catalyst for his own emerging political consciousness as a member of oppressed and marginalized group.

Viano related Pasolini's "homosexual discourse" with his Freudianism and Marxism, and his abiding concern with representing the "reality" that existed outside of the sphere of bourgeois norms (i. e., the truly autonomous self-determining individual in the classical and Renaissance traditions, "authentic religious feelings", the Marxist proletariat, the Freudian id, the natural unspoiled physical body and homosexuality):

"If psychoanalysis provided him with the tools to talk about the body rationally, homosexuality gave him the certainty that the body is a purveyor of knowledge. Moreover, the homosexual discourse had inevitable repercussions on the way Pasolini regarded the oppressor/oppressed dialectic. It exposed Marxism's inadequacy in addressing sexual oppression and led him to highlight the private sphere as a terrain of struggle" (Viano, p. 15).


"It has been said that I have three heroes: Christ, Marx, and Freud. This is reducing everything to formulae. In truth, my only hero is reality."

--Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1969.

Gerald
EyeRaLunar
Vancouver, BC
Post #: 18
James:
Well, you shall have your cake and eat it! Tee hee!
Gerald
EyeRaLunar
Vancouver, BC
Post #: 19
Jason--YOU SAY:

In his book, A Certain Realism: Making Use of Pasolini's Film Theory and Practice, Maurizio Viano offers a purely semiotic deconstructionist interpretation of Teorema: i.e., the bourgeois family represents allegorical "signs in crisis" and the visitor is the destabilizing "Absolute", a "sort of unique God", a reality principle that the signs are forced to acknowledge. And in the film, sex is not merely sex, it "signifies transgression against the Law that regulates physical and intellectual processes alike" (Viano, p. 201).

I SAY:
I get that, Jason, and I think I can also accept that given the historical & local context of the film and Pasolini's personal struggles, this film "makes sense" and has great meaning to Pasolini himself (obviously) and merit--- I say this just based on what you've been sharing...I haven't seen the film, I don't know if I can; in other words, my brain accepts all these explanations that are neatly tied with a ribbon (or maybe leather, if that is more to one's taste). However, my heart + loins have problems with the use of sex in this manner---I know, I know, that is the whole point, me getting all destabilized, (rock my world, Pasolini) so that I will see the light. I can read about it, listen to music that is shocking and controversial, view paintings but it's just Film, this medium, is just too real for me. Having said that, maybe if I watched such films in an acadamic setting or with other people who have more control over their senses, I'll be able to handle it better. And with that, perhaps, James will be willing to consider that we do "movie nights"--book related. smile
Gerald
EyeRaLunar
Vancouver, BC
Post #: 20
@ Jason - Spoiler alert biggrin I think The Devils is one of the books by FD I'd like us to read.

Reading your analysis, I'm reminded of how the mental circuitry that used to get such a workout when I was a student and lecturer has largely atrophied over the last decade - though you all have helped to revive it some. I do recall the fashion for trying to find some kind of synthesis between marxism and psychoanalysis, a/la Jameson's The Political Unconscious, among others, and these two powerful paradigms seem much more present in art then than now. Maybe it's just the noise generated by The 40-year Old Virgin and its clones. smile

I LAUGH + SAY:
Brain atrophy...well, I feel like I had de-evolved into an amoeba but things are looking up now that I've joined this Meetup! laughing
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