Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive! We only shake you down once a year, but when we do we really mean it. It costs a lot to keep the site afloat, and our growing audience, well over TWO million unique viewers a month, eats up a lot of bandwidth — and bandwidth isn’t free. We aren’t supported by corporate donors, advertisers or big foundations. We survive solely on your support.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Spielberg the Luddite?

by JORDY CUMMINGS

Steven Spielberg says he is a Luddite. (Economist 12-02) Though he shares his stoney beard, this isn’t an indication of any Kacyzinski sympathies. No, Spielberg is actually speaking of an issue that is near and dear to my heart, as a cinephile and analogue-geek. He is speaking, to the (clearly unsympathetic) market fundamentalists of the Economist of the spectre of digital film, digital delivery, digital projection and the like that, with the help of its unsavoury crypto-fascist weirdo spokesperson, George Lucas, will take over the industry. Of course the Economist writes him off, and, Karl himself, predict that nothing can stop the revolutionary forces of digital.

Spielberg, unquestionably a great artist and businessman in the world of cinema, is a romantic. He – and I and most film buffs, prefer the intangible, incongruities that can only be found on 70, 35, 16 or 8 millimetres of film. In this case, he was being faithful to that which the Luddites actually professed. Technology and machinery, the Luddites said, were not in and of themselves dangerous. A Bamboozled (which used the medium spectacularly) here, a Dogma film there, George Lucas acolytes everywhere. But the image of “the movies” being nothing more than a digitally created film downloaded and watched solipsistically as the dominant means of film delivery scares Speilberg. It should scare us, cultural workers and participants, too. As a Journalism school initiate, I was taught both to edit tape, and later, when some right-wing think-tank funding got us digi-equipment, to use what is known as Avid. What was amazing to me was what was once pain-staking effort – in this case in the service of utility – creating a radio broadcast – could now be down within minutes. Of course, the beautiful spontaneity of editing was also undercut by the advent of digital. A hodgepodge of meticulously connected sounds simply lost its meaning when it could be put together on an avid or Pro-Tools or some-such thing. Similarly a hip-hop DJ of the old school once complained about the proclivity of using DATs live while the DJ pantomimes manipulation of the wheels of steel.

The other day I showed my sister some of Eisenstien’s early experimental montages that are collected on a Russian film known as Eisenstien Autobiography. A terribly over-educated private high school student who knows more about Marx, Malthus and Marcuse than I, she immediately assumed it was done on a computer. This then begs the question, can digital be at all be construed as progress, considering that it has been internalized among young filmgoers as inevitable? If after all, today’s equipment renders the hours of work still done by the majority of film technicians as obsolete, will this not make digital attractive both to studios as being non-labor intensive and film-makers as a cheap alternative? Can it be partly yes and partly no?

Pandora’s boxes are great to open as long as what comes out of the box doesn’t threaten us. But the question is far more than aesthetics. Film does look better than digital. Even the crispiest overpriced wall-mounted plasma screen doesn’t look like film. Slavoj Zizek laments that modern film buffs, used to DVD – which masks film’s inconsistencies, often complain that when they see a film that they are used to as a home video, claim that it does not “look right” in a cinema. But film does look better. LPs sound better than CDs. It is not just nostalgia, I would argue it to be subjective, and somewhat even gnostic-ritualistic. Incidentally, industry types who are looking to a digital transition compare it to when music started to sell on vinyl. There is a big difference between the transference of pre-recorded material from vinyl to compact disc with the complete re-routing of the means of production to the non-human, digital sector.

I have to say that I find it particularly admirable that Spielberg has gone out on this limb. For all of his participation in the corporatization of Hollywood, Spielberg has quietly become perhaps the most arcane and speculative of America’s filmmakers. He seems to even display some Red tendencies in his last two films, one of which (AI) shows environmental and capitalist crisis as an inevitable by-product of post-post-modernity, the other – Minority Report (my pick for film of the year of 2002) is a sublimely ethical – and gorgeously shot warning of humanity’s built-in propensity to fail in its subconscious efforts to destroy itself.

While Spielberg seemed sympathetic and even patronising towards authority, technology and (American) power in his earlier films, it seems that he has recently, after making some harrowing, if over-rated World-War 2 films, found his finest calling late in his career. I remember being offended, as a Jew, by Schindler’s List–it was after all, one level a tribute to a capitalist who saved Jews just so he could get by. So what if he was redeemed? 6 million still died right? The genius of Schindler’s List is its ambiguity, and its none too subtle anti-capitalism. Schindler is not a hero at all. The heroes are the unnamed women and men marched off to the gas chambers.

It seems that of all of the late-sixties film-makers who became marketed as the new-wave, the only one who is truly carrying on that duty is also the one who has collaborated quite spectacularly in the capitalism that they all once despised. Francis Ford Coppola added some scenes to Apocalypse Now to pay his rent. Martin Scorsese is still interesting but nothing special. George Lucas is like a L. Ron Hubbard-Howard-Hughes figure. Steven Spielberg is chillin’ out with Fidel, exhibiting his films in Havana and fighting for the artistic integrity of film, “the movies” as an art form. Way to go, Comrade Spielberg. Keep it comin’.

JORDY CUMMINGS can be reached at: yorgos33ca@yahoo.ca

 

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

September 28, 2016
Eric Draitser
Stop Trump! Stop Clinton!! Stop the Madness (and Let Me Get Off)!
Ted Rall
The Thrilla at Hofstra: How Trump Won the Debate
Robert Fisk
Cliché and Banality at the Debates: Trump and Clinton on the Middle East
Patrick Cockburn
Cracks in the Kingdom: Saudi Arabia Rocked by Financial Strains
Lowell Flanders
Donald Trump, Islamophobia and Immigrants
Shane Burley
Defining the Alt Right and the New American Fascism
Jan Oberg
Ukraine as the Border of NATO Expansion
Ramzy Baroud
Ban Ki-Moon’s Legacy in Palestine: Failure in Words and Deeds
David Swanson
How We Could End the Permanent War State
Sam Husseini
Debate Night’s Biggest Lie Was Told by Lester Holt
Laura Carlsen
Ayotzinapa’s Message to the World: Organize!
Binoy Kampmark
The Triumph of Momentum: Re-Electing Jeremy Corbyn
David Macaray
When the Saints Go Marching In
Seth Oelbaum
All Black Lives Will Never Matter for Clinton and Trump
Adam Parsons
Standing in Solidarity for a Humanity Without Borders
Cesar Chelala
The Trump Bubble
September 27, 2016
Louisa Willcox
The Tribal Fight for Nature: From the Grizzly to the Black Snake of the Dakota Pipeline
Paul Street
The Roots are in the System: Charlotte and Beyond
Jeffrey St. Clair
Idiot Winds at Hofstra: Notes on the Not-So-Great Debate
Mark Harris
Clinton, Trump, and the Death of Idealism
Mike Whitney
Putin Ups the Ante: Ceasefire Sabotage Triggers Major Offensive in Aleppo
Anthony DiMaggio
The Debates as Democratic Façade: Voter “Rationality” in American Elections
Binoy Kampmark
Punishing the Punished: the Torments of Chelsea Manning
Paul Buhle
Why “Snowden” is Important (or How Kafka Foresaw the Juggernaut State)
Jack Rasmus
Hillary’s Ghosts
Brian Cloughley
Billions Down the Afghan Drain
Lawrence Davidson
True Believers and the U.S. Election
Matt Peppe
Taking a Knee: Resisting Enforced Patriotism
James McEnteer
Eugene, Oregon and the Rising Cost of Cool
Norman Pollack
The Great Debate: Proto-Fascism vs. the Real Thing
Michael Winship
The Tracks of John Boehner’s Tears
John Steppling
Fear Level Trump
Lawrence Wittner
Where Is That Wasteful Government Spending?
James Russell
Beyond Debate: Interview Styles of the Rich and Famous
September 26, 2016
Diana Johnstone
The Hillary Clinton Presidency has Already Begun as Lame Ducks Promote Her War
Gary Leupp
Hillary Clinton’s Campaign Against Russia
Dave Lindorff
Parking While Black: When Police Shoot as First Resort
Robert Crawford
The Political Rhetoric of Perpetual War
Howard Lisnoff
The Case of One Homeless Person
Michael Howard
The New York Times Endorses Hillary, Scorns the World
Russell Mokhiber
Wells Fargo and the Library of Congress’ National Book Festival
Chad Nelson
The Crime of Going Vegan: the Latest Attack on Angela Davis
Colin Todhunter
A System of Food Production for Human Need, Not Corporate Greed
Brian Cloughley
The United States Wants to Put Russia in a Corner
Guillermo R. Gil
The Clevenger Effect: Exposing Racism in Pro Sports
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail