Titane (2021) | Notes

Some definitions

Titane: A metal highly resistant to heat and corrosion, with high tensile strength alloys.
Love Is a Dog from Hell: Charles Bukowski, 1977 – a raw, lyrical, exploration of the exigencies, heartbreaks, and limits of love.
Mechanophilia: a paraphilia involving a sexual attraction to machines such as bicycles, motor vehicles, helicopters, ships, and aeroplanes. [Picabia, Marinetti]

The atmosphere at the cinema

The rules about the empty seats during the pandemic were removed today at the film theater. All the seats were occupied. There were some high-pitch laughs and one or two deep breaths en mass. When the film ended, the general audience’s attitude was wry. Not affected by the film but joking about it. It might also be a defense mechanism towards the tactile experience that film offers that is hard to swallow and digest. Maybe we all will encounter Alexia in a transient dream sequence or during a real-life moment, where she passes by and hopefully does not kill us.

Reminiscences

I’ll start with personal reminiscences about the other films to avoid writing and thinking about them. Some of them might be the first references for the others:

  • Les garçons sauvages (2017, transformation not with metals but with nature)
  • Rundskop (2011, steroids, needles, muscles, the father)
  • Crash (1996, almost all the other Cronenbergs, cars, sexuality, and body)
  • The Elephant Man (1980, the gaze of the others, monstrosity)
  • Gräns (2018, alienation, still finding your love and peer)
  • Teströl és lélekröl (2017, a romantic and calm version of this love story)

Notes

For me, it was a film about heavy transformation, strangeness, uncanny desires, acceptance, and love. The transformation was between sexes and from flesh to metals. Despite starting like a Fast and Furious movie, the desire to fuck cars, to kill people, to hate dad, to have something bushing out in the body subverts the protagonist. And the subversion opens up new spaces for her.

Since it’s a French arthouse sci-fi thriller gore drama, there are some tricks taken from genre movies that cause sudden laughter (how many more people do I need to kill?) or make the fur fly (hit the nose, Jack). They don’t add to the exploration that the film is after but perhaps helps it be more audience-friendly.

The soundtrack is from Jim Williams, the interpretation of Sarabande was shivering. The soundtracks had become more and more impressive for me lately, maybe because I re-started to experience them in the movie theater again. It was similar in my childhood too, I was dreaming about shitty movies just because they had such seductive trailers, with tempting audio design. Years later, I’ve learned about the marketing tricks in the trailers. Nevertheless, before the film, we watched the trailer of House of Gucci, which also had a tantalizing soundtrack. Recently, Matrix IV also hit it with the White Rabbit, the holy song mentions even a chessboard.

I related with Alexia and the firefighter guy who adopted him. The narrative of the characters dealing with their body or the filmmaker dealing with how the characters are dealing with their bodies is a rare topic to find in the stories. Most of the time, the great bodies of the actors and actresses are already given and they don’t disintegrate throughout the film. That’s why I thought of Rundskop. For example, one of the popular bodily transformations that took place before the films such as The Machinist (2004) or Monster (2003) felt like the easy ways while watching Titane [my browser extension that helps me for writing in English tries to correct Titane as Titanic].

As an addition to this bodily transformation, how Alexia is handling the changes in her body was adventitious. In general, when people encounter negative changes in their bodies —I don’t know what they do when they see positive changes, probably praise themselves— they ask others and finally see a doctor. However, I believe, it’s also not really rare that people taking action on their bodies to fix or delay these symptoms. Scratching the skin/tissue might be the first and foremost instinctive attempt. Nevertheless, once you damage the body or it’s transformed weirdly itself, then you need to hide it. The silk gauze or different kinds of creams step in at that moment. However, this practice of hiding is never eternal, it plays an intricate game with distance and intimacy. I won’t forget the traces of the cloth on Alexia’s body.

I tried but couldn’t reach the core of the story which is probably —getting help from Docornau’s interviews— about the possibilities of being human and seeking/finding connection and love. One of the reasons that I liked the film was its resourcefulness in terms of some fundamental themes. Let me list those and say goodbye: gruesome child play with the father, paternal guilt, alienation, hurting oneself, unconditional protection and love, extraordinary coincidence, unconscious violence, burning the house, hiding in the hoodie, dancing under the flags, needle in the butt, metal in the spine. The images that last.

Minari (2020) | Notes

The Rollberg chronicles: Minari. 7.5 on IMDB, 98% on Rotten Tomatoes. 6 Oscar nominations and the great grandmother Youn Yuh-jung wins the Best Supporting Actress Award, surpassing Colman, Close, and Bakalova.

At its simplest, it felt like a well-formed melodrama of a migrant Korean family trying to make a good life for themselves in 1980s, Arkansas. The beauty of the film was probably in its modest details. The mundane chick sexing job, frustration about the trailer house (maybe marking the idea of groundlessness in popular culture, together with Nomadland), concerning heart problems of the little kid, idiosyncratic grandmother were the constituents that made the film unique.

Was the cross-carrying sidekick Paul a second-level metaphor of Jacob’s farming dream? By any means, the film challenged the question of the community for me, with the funny but requisite church scenes.

A dramatic fracture in the film was triggered by a fire. That reminded me of an old friend telling a story about the youthfulness that concluded with yet another fortuitous fire. It’s probably a common theme in literature and film. Steven Yeun knows it better, from the Burning, probably.

Some recent books on cinema (I)

I’m still copy-pasting the shallow content that I gather from my recent Google searches here — to the desolate library. Day by day I’m getting more and more superficial. One day I’ll melt into the air. Like many other things that I haven’t been doing in the last few years, I wasn’t also reading any books on cinema or watching many films. The latter, I kind of restarted lately, warming up now. I also visited Odeon in Hauptstraße and wailed while Mr. Hopkins was looking for his watch or his daughter’s painting. It will stay next to the other play-like films I’ve seen in the past like Sleuth (1972), My Dinner with Andre (1981), The Man from Earth (2007), Carnage (2011), The Sunset Limited (2011), or Amour (2012). I guess we’ll see way more family drama by Florian Zeller in the future.

Then I thought I can do some book searches with ‘cinema’ in their titles and shortlist some books to take a look at in the indefinite future. Every once in a while these kinds of random searches end up with little treasures. I was honestly expecting more books with a theme like ‘the death of the cinema’ but I didn’t encounter that particular branch per se, not sure if it exists anyway. There are some ‘crisis’ books though.


Chateau D., Moure J. (2020). Post-cinema: Cinema in the Post-art Era, Amsterdam University Press.

“Post-cinema designates a new way of making films. It is time to ask whether this novelty is complete or relative and to evaluate to what extent this novation represents a unitary current or multiple ways. The book proposes to integrate the post-cinema question within the post-art question in order to study the new way of making filmic images in new conditions more or less remote from the dispositif of the theater and in closer relationship with contemporary art. The issue will be considered at three levels: the impression of post-art on “regular” films; the “relocation” (Cassetti) of the same films that can be seen using devices of all kinds, in conditions more or less remote from the dispositif of the theater; parallel to the integration of contemporary art in “regular” cinema, the integration of cinema into contemporary art in all kinds of forms of creation and exhibition.” [from De Gruyter]

PART I A Tribute to Agnès Varda
PART II The End of Cinema?
PART III Technological Transformations
PART IV New Dispositif, New Conditions
PART V Transformations in Film Form
Part VI Post-cinema, an Artists’ Affair


Lahiji, N. (2021). Architecture, philosophy, and the pedagogy of Cinema: From Benjamin to Badiou, foreword by McGowan, T., Routledge: London & NY.

“Philosophers on the art of cinema mainly remain silent about architecture. Discussing cinema as ‘mass art’, they tend to forget that architecture, before cinema, was the only existing ‘mass art’. In this work author Nadir Lahiji proposes that the philosophical understanding of the collective human sensorium in the apparatus of perception must once again find its true training ground in architecture.

Building art puts the collective mass in the position of an ‘expert critic’ who identifies themselves with the technical apparatus of architecture. Only then can architecture regain its status as ‘mass art’ and, as the book contends, only then can it resume its function as the only ‘artform’ that is designed for the political pedagogy of masses, which originally belonged to it in the period of modernity before the invention of cinema.” [from the book]

1 Returning to the philosophy of masses: Benjamin and Badiou
2 From the photographic moment of critical philosophy to the optical unconscious
3 Mass art and impurity: Reading Benjamin with Badiou
4 In and out of Plato’s cave
5 Theory of distraction: Tactile and optical
6 Poverty of experience
7 Dialectics and mass
8 The proletarian mise-​en-​scène
Epilogue: The art of the masses in the age of pornography


Attfield, S., (2020), Class on Screen: The Global Working Class in Contemporary Cinema, Palgrave Macmillan.

This book provides an analysis of the global working class on film and considers the ways in which working-class experience is represented in film around the world. The book argues that representation is important because it shapes the way people understand working-class experience and can either reinforce or challenge stereotypical depictions. Film can shape and shift discussions of class, and this book provides an interdisciplinary study of the ways in which working-class experience is portrayed through this medium. It analyses the impact of contemporary films such as Sorry To Bother You, This is England and Le Harve [sic] that focus on working class life. Attfield demonstrates that the global working class are characterised by diversity of race, ethnicity, gender, religion and sexuality but that there are commonalities of experience despite geographical distance and cultural difference. The book is structured around themes such as work, culture, diasporas, gender and sexuality, and race. [from Palgrave]

1 Introduction
2 Work and Unemployment
3 Working-Class Culture
4 Immigration and Diaspora
5 Gender and Sexualities
6 Race and Class in Australian Indigenous Film
7 Afterword


Kalmár, G. (2020). Post-Crisis European Cinema: White Men in Off-Modern Landscapes, Palgrave Macmillan.

This book explores the cinematic representations of the pervasive socio-cultural change that the 21st century brought to Europe and the world. Discussing films such as I, Daniel Blake, Cold War and Jupiter’s Moon, it puts distinctively “post-crisis”, gendered representations in a complex, theoretically informed and socially committed interdisciplinary perspective that maps the newly emerging formations of masculinity at a time of rapid socio-economic transition. Kalmar argues that the series of crises that started with the 9/11 terrorist attacks changed some of our fundamental expectations about history, debunked many of our grand narratives, and thus changed the cultural logic of our (thoroughly globalized) civilization. The book focuses on the ways cinema reflects, interprets and shapes a rapidly changing world: the hot issues of the times, the new formations of identity, and the shifts in cinematic representation. This is an interdisciplinary research that is equally interested in what new the 21st century brought about, most specifically to Europe and to its white men, as in film and its responses to these socio-cultural changes. [from Palgrave]

1 Introduction: Post-Crisis Europe, White Masculinity and
Art Cinema [The Post-Crisis and the Off-Modern, White Masculinity, Post-Crisis European Cinema]
2 Rites of Retreat and the Cinematic Resignification of European Cultural Geography [The World Is Big and Salvation Lurks Around the Corner, Delta, Suntan, Conclusions: Men in Retreat]
3 Unprocessed Pasts [Amen, Days of Glory, Cold War]
4 Addiction and Escapism [Billy Elliot, T2 Trainspotting, Kills on Wheels]
5 Narratives of Migration [Terraferma, Morgen, Jupiter’s Moon]
6 The Lads of the New Right [The Wave, This Is England, July 22]
7 Angry Old Men [Tyrannosaur, I, Daniel Blake, A Man Called Ove]
8 Conclusions


And some other interesting books that have a rather specific focus:

  • Turquety, B. (2019). Danièle Huillet, Jean-Marie Straub:” Objectivists” in Cinema, Amsterdam University Press.
  • Lewis, I., & Canning, L. (ed., 2020). European Cinema in the Twenty-First Century, Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Baer, H. (2021). German Cinema in the Age of Neoliberalism, Amsterdam University Press.
  • Papanikolaou, D. (2021). Greek Weird Wave: A Cinema of Biopolitics, Edinburgh University Press.

 

German Literature Book Prizes

I took note of the recent awards for the literature written in German. Only some of them are translated to English for now.

German Book Prize [web]

Year Author Book (DE) Book (EN) Publisher
2020 Anne Weber Annette, ein Heldinnenepos Matthes & Seitz
2019 Saša Stanišić Herkunft Where You Come From Luchterhand Literaturverlag
2018 Inger-Maria Mahlke Archipel Rowohlt
2017 Robert Menasse Die Hauptstadt The Capital Suhrkamp
2016 Bodo Kirchhoff Widerfahrnis Frankfurter Verlagsanstalt

Leipzig Book Fair Prize – Fiction [web]

Year Author Book (DE) Book (EN) Publisher
2021 Iris Hanika Echos Kammern Literaturverlag Droschl
2020 Lutz Seiler Stern 111 Suhrkamp
2019 Anke Stelling Schäfchen im Trockenen Higher Ground Verbrecher
2018 Esther Kinsky Hain. Geländeroman Suhrkamp
2017 Natascha Wodin Sie kam aus Mariupol Rowohlt
2016 Guntram Vesper Frohburg Schöffling & Co.

Swiss Book Prize [web]

Year Author Book (DE) Book (EN) Publisher
2020 Anna Stern das alles hier, jetzt Salis
2019 Sibylle Berg GRM. Brainfuck KiWi-Taschenbuch
2018 Peter Stamm Die sanfte Gleichgültigkeit der Welt FISCHER Taschenbuch
2017 Jonas Lüscher Kraft Beck C. H.
2016 Christian Kracht Die Toten The Dead FISCHER Taschenbuch
2015 Monique Schwitter Eins im Andern FISCHER Taschenbuch

The Georg Büchner Prize [web]

Year Author Praise
2021 Clemens J. Setz loading…
2020 Elke Erb Ihr gelingt es wie keiner anderen, die Freiheit und Wendigkeit der Gedanken in der Sprache zu verwirklichen…
deepl: She succeeds like no other in realizing the freedom and agility of thought in language….
2019 Lukas Bärfuss …der mit hoher Stilsicherheit und formalem Variationsreichtum stets neu und anders existentielle Grundsituationen des modernen Lebens erkundet.
deepl: …who, with a high degree of stylistic confidence and a wealth of formal variation, constantly explores the basic existential situations of modern life in new and different ways.
2018 Terézia Mora …ihre eminente Gegenwärtigkeit und lebendige Sprachkunst, die Alltagsidiom und Poesie, Drastik und Zartheit vereint.
deepl: …her eminent presence and lively linguistic art, which combines everyday idiom and poetry, drasticness and tenderness.
2017 Jan Wagner …dessen Gedichte spielerische Sprachfreude und meisterhafte Formbeherrschung vereinen.
deepl: …whose poems combine a playful joy of language and a masterful command of form.
2016 Marcel Beyer Seine Texte widmen sich der Vergegenwärtigung deutscher Vergangenheit mit derselben präzisen Hingabe, mit der sie dem Sound der Jetztzeit nachspüren.
deepl: His texts are dedicated to the visualization of the German past with the same precise devotion with which they trace the sound of the present.
2015 Rainald Goetz … der sich mit einzigartiger Intensität zum Chronisten der Gegenwart und ihrer Kultur gemacht hat. Er hat sie beschrieben, zur Anschauung gebracht und zu Wort kommen lassen, er hat sie gefeiert und verdammt und mit den Mitteln der Theorie analysiert.
deepl: … who with unique intensity has made himself a chronicler of the present and its culture. He has described it, brought it to view and made it speak, he has celebrated and condemned it and analyzed it with the means of theory.

Some Article Abstracts on Houellebecq’s Serotonin

It’s been some time since I read Houellebecq’s earlier novels. A week ago, I read Serotonin (2019) with bewilderment and discomfort. While trying to gather my senses, I thought I can store some ideas about his literature here, maybe to come back in the future. His interview after the publication of the novel in Denmark was also interesting. I was unable to notice the weight of the agricultural crisis in France in the novel before encountering the interview. Also, the story of the initial disappearance from one’s own life overlapped with the villain of the documentary I recently watched, Don’t F**K with Cats: Hunting An Internet Killer (2019).

Random keywords: depression, sexuality, capitalism, agriculture, commodification, memory, Europe


Article: Gut feelings: depression as an embodied and affective phenomenon in Houellebecq’s Serotonin
Author(s): Jenny Slatman, Inge van de Ven
Abstract:
Current debates about the possible causes of depression reinforce the age-old body–mind dualism: while some claim that depression is caused by psychological or societal stress, others underline that it results from a shortage of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the central nervous system. This paper shows that Michel Houellebecq’s latest novel Serotonin can be read as an account of depression that goes beyond this body–mind dualism. Moreover, we will argue that his way of narrating invites us to reconsider the restorative power of narrative in ‘pathography,’ a genre that is a primary focus within medical humanities. The first section of the paper discusses, while drawing on Wilson’s work on new materialism, that although the title of the novel Serotonin may suggest that Houellebecq takes sides with those who believe that depression is a brain disease, the protagonist of the novel suffers mainly from his gut feelings, which affects his entire embodied existence. Against the background of Merleau-Ponty’s philosophy, the second section specifies this existential disruption in terms of an embodied ‘I cannot.’ In the third section, we make clear how Houellebecq’s way of narrating—plotless and episodic—reinforces these embodied feelings of incapacity. The final section, then, traces how Houellebecq, by means of his style of writing and his choice of themes, succeeds in transferring gut feelings onto the reader. If illness narratives aim at sharing experiences of illness, the ‘narrative’ of depression, so we argue, had better take the form of an anti-narrative or a chaos story. Indeed, Houellebecq’s anti-narrative succeeds in passing on to the reader the experience of a debilitating gut feeling, and a gradual loss of grip that manifests itself as a temporal and spatial disorientation.

Article: À la recherche de l’amour perdu : Sérotonine de Michel Houellebecq
Author(s): Eva Voldřichová Beránková
Abstract: Serotonin (2019) undoubtedly represents Michel Houellebecq’s most “Proustian” novel. His narrator, a forty-six-year-old agricultural engineer, who became desperately impotent by a regular absorption of “new-generation anti-depressants”, scrutinizes his “phallocentric memory” to revisit all his missed appointments with the great Romantic Love that could have saved him. Our analysis proves that Serotonin is not just a “prefiguration of the Yellow vests movement”, an “illustration of European agricultural crisis” or a “conservative flirt with Christianism” (which commentators are accustomed to identify in Houellebecq’s work) but also a somewhat astonishing reflection on the functioning of memory and the mechanisms of love.

Article: Sérotonine ou la quête du bonheur selon Michel Houellebecq
Author(s): Ruth Amar
Abstract: In this article I will analyze the quest of happiness in Serotonin, the latest book by Michel Houellebecq. But first, it will be necessary to consider the aspects of happiness as they appear in his work. Being an avid and intellectual reader, Houellebecq summons many authors in his novels, which he quotes more or less literally. Two of them, namely Auguste Comte, the father of positivism, and Schopenhauer, the spiritual master of Houellebecq, are seemingly the major influences of the conception of happiness in the work. Apparently, these two philosophers have nothing in common, but it is possible to identify some similarities in relation with the idea of happiness expressed in Houellebecq’s novels. In his latest book Serotonin, the interest in happiness is even more precise, but this time, it is no longer a question of philosophy: the scientific title emerges in the form of a hormone: a neurotransmitter influencing our mood, used in antidepressants for better mental health. Does this mean that Houellebecq has given up? Or is it, on the contrary, a new effort of resistance? In this article I will try to answer the question and understand if the quest for happiness persists in his latest novel.

Article: Get Hard or Die Trying: Impotence and the Displacement of the White Male in Michel Houellebecq’s Sérotonine
Author(s): André Pettman
Abstract: Taking up Paul Preciado’s theories in his book Testo Junkie (2013) concerning contemporary biocapitalism, this essay argues that Michel Houellebecq’s latest novel, Sérotonine (2019), represents a radical move away from the hegemony of the white cis-male, heterosexual body depicted in his earlier literary corpus. The narrator of Sérotonine is stripped of his sexual capacity by an antidepressant that makes him impotent. Once unable to escape the stimuli and commodities designed to incite pleasure, thus leaving the body in a constant state of arousal, Houellebecq’s male subject is now unequivocally portrayed as being flaccid. Rather than disclose a sense of reconciliation or resignation with the market, the novel reveals an expulsion from it entirely. The narrator’s futile attempts to reinstate his male dominance further demonstrate the totalizing presence of sex, pleasure, and pharmaceutical drugs in Houellebecq’s novels and attest to the notion that the once-hegemonic male body of his literary universe is now simply hanging on to life itself as contemporary biocapitalism careens forward on its never-ending quest to maximize pleasure and desire.

Article: A Matter of Life and Death: Michel Houellebecq’s Vibrant Materialism
Author(s): Gai Farchi
Abstract: Michel Houellebecq’s fiction is often perceived as essentially materialistic, in the sense that it follows the decline of humanity in the loss of transcendence, while every human interaction, including love and sex, is reduced to the logic of the capitalist market. Taking on a new materialistic approach, this article aims to challenge this presumption with readings that emphasize the vibrant, subversive nature of materiality in Houellebecq’s fiction, particularly in the novels La carte et le territoire and Sérotonine. Drawing on recent new materialistic thought, I show that the shared destiny Houellebecq ascribes to both humans and objects under the logic of late capitalism makes, at times, this interdependence challenging to political economy. Vibrant matter, or the ex-nihilo rise of the “thing” from within the “object”, becomes the ultimate rescue of both the human and the non-human in his novels. This perspective enables us to conceive of Houellebecq not merely as a pessimistic voice lamenting the decline of the human, but one that presents affirmative posthuman ethics, undermining the circulation of commodities, and of people as commodities, from the margins of the system itself.