This Week You Will Learn:
- How to peek in on strangers’ food
- The meaning of “pajamafication”
- How Céline Sciamma uses the “female gaze”
- What you could show in the early ’30s but not the later ’30s
- Which navel-gazers are just too darn hard to read.
Thanks to scb0212 and Ruck Cohlchez for contributing this week, we gaze upon their beauty. Send articles throughout the next week to ploughmanplods [at] gmail, post articles from the past week below for discussion, and Have a Happy Friday!
Elif Batuman in The New Yorker takes a tour of France, memory, and filmmaking with Céline Sciamma:
What Sciamma has discovered is a serious, disciplined way of doing what you want. The discipline comes from being strong enough to not do what you don’t want. The principle operates even on the level of process. Sciamma begins work on a screenplay by drawing up two lists: a “desired” list, of the images and the lines that made her want to make the movie in the first place, and a “needed” list, of the scenes necessary to advance the plot. She then merges the lists, mapping the desired elements onto the needed scenes. She used to make a point of shooting any leftover needed scenes. Now she just crosses them off. By following this procedure, she says, you can end up “in a position where you have two scenes you want, without the bridge you need.” Confronted by such chasms, in the absence of bridges, Sciamma has discovered new ways of cutting, new rhythms, and new narratives.
After Maus gets banned by a school district in Tennessee and subsequently reaches the bestseller list, Gwen C. Katz speaks against the “pajamafication” of teaching the Holocaust and other atrocities (compiled from her twitter thread):
The broad trend is destruction and recreation of history: The actual events, as narrated by the people they happened to, are declared unacceptable in their current state, and are replaced with books tailored to modern sensibilities, which are then declared the “correct” account. These modern books can still depict bigotry and so on, but the angle will be changed just enough to make modern audiences not feel weird or gross. The primary source works will then get rejected for the crime of…making people feel weird and gross. We need to reject this trend whenever it occurs in all areas of history. We must read and teach true accounts written by the people who really experienced these events. There is no other honest account of history.
The New York Times gets into this Year of the Month’s spirit with Beatrice Loayza’s celebration of pre-Code Hollywood movies:
Pre-Code actresses no longer played merely vamps or ingénues, those twin feminine archetypes that dominated the silent era. And without the kind of Production Code meddling that would eventually regulate and censor, among other things, the expression of female desire and sexuality, their characters were often ahead of their time, undermining the notion that American movies have gotten progressively more open-minded since then. The women of pre-Code Hollywood were not only more sexually liberated than their Code-bound successors, they were also unapologetically independent and skeptical or outright dismissive of norms and institutions like marriage in ways that went unpunished.
Solute favorite Michael Schur has written a book on morality and philosophy! Gawker‘s Morten Høi Jensen is not a fan. Solute Book Club pick, anybody?
Even if Schur’s sunny brand of silliness is to your taste — even if you actually like his TV shows — How to Be Perfect’s condescension to the reader ought to occasion some reevaluation. In her blurb on the book’s jacket, the actress Kristen Bell, star of Schur’s sitcom The Good Place, asks: “Have you ever wanted a friend to explain ethics so that you could understand the subject completely with minimal effort on your part?” In other words, here is a book that assumes its reader is either unbelievably stupid or incorrigibly lazy. Walking through Aristotle’s arguments in the Nichomachean Ethics “takes a little patience and time,” Schur at one point cautions us. “Some of the thinkers we’ll meet later have theories that can be decently presented in a few sentences; Aristotle’s ethics is more of a local train, making many stops. But it’s an enjoyable ride!”
And finally, John Saward at Mic pens an ode to the Random Restaurant twitter bot that picks a random restaurant somewhere in the globe and juxtaposes the four most recent photos uploaded from that site:
The account sometimes has the same feeling of intense vulnerability as watching someone scroll their camera roll to find a picture they want to show you. Strange outtakes, things not intended for a mass audience, scenes that are not spectacular but an essential fragment of your biography, a selfie while your date was in the bathroom. It is affectionate without having to say so, someone’s aunt half out of the frame as she chases a bold toddler who’s losing its patience. It feels like a receipt in the pocket of a heavy jacket you don’t notice till you put it on next winter. There is loneliness in some of these scenes but also triumph, exhaling after work on a folding chair, under collapsible umbrellas in Vietnam, on the edge of town eating street cart falafel.