Craig Simpson

'La Passion du réel': Visions of the Apocalypse and the search for authenticity in some contemporary Hollywood cinema

Year: 2008

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Trinity College Dublin
(at time of presentation)

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My particular focus: Hollywood  and its use of special effects where the dominance of apocalyptic scenarios in American film demand -"the formalised spectacle of destruction, of cataclysm, a sort of Late Roman Empire consummation of murder, cruelty and catastrophe: these are the obvious ingredients of current cinema" -Alain Badiou –

Are these  formal predilections linked to a deeper ideological agenda? –a passion for the Real? Authenticity?' la passion du reel' in all its violent harshness is as Zizek contends, in his own reading of Badiou, opposed to the everyday social reality since authenticity resides in the act of violent transgression. I would argue that this act of violent transgression is perhaps one way that the subject attempts to combat a time that Badiou claims is "devoid of world" ('intervallic') and that a kind of postlapsarian quest for authenticity via a violent 'connection with the real' dominates (again?)  much of the work coming out of  Hollywood at this present time.

-This violent backlash against a perceived postmodern ennui results from the feeling that we now live in a universe of ‘dead conventions and artificiality’. All we are left with now is Morpheus’s desert of the real (The Matrix). Is Hollywood now decreeing that the only way to combat this is via some extremely violent, shattering experience?

–look at this as a kind of terrorism or kulturpessimisus rebelling against a high tech culture of simulacra  -"heres an end to all your talk of the virtual-here is something real!" (Baudrillard in reference the 9/11 terrorist attacks) –the Baudrillardian simulacrum has replaced what is felt to be the real thing-‘a copy of a copy of a copy’ (Fight Club)-a postlapsarian, atavistic urge to fight back against this postmodern malaise is initiated via the physical reality of the human body in extremis –this metaphysics of the physical, where the body ousts the etiolated postmodern mind, a body that knows its mortal boundaries through ritual mascochistic violence-examine this gothic-sadistic passion for the real in films like Fight Club, Passion of the Christ,  American Psycho , Memento, The Matrix A  Scanner Darkly etc..

is this search for the authentic or real experience and the concominant recourse to the body in extremis a Badiouian 'emancipatory politics' where the subject attempts to make new Master Signifiers that would provide sufficient cognitive mapping in this 'worldless' age?

-Or is this passion for the real is in fact just another manifestation of white male ressentiment, a reaction to patriarchy’s waning dominance in a postmodern age that has ushered in ‘fluid subjectivities’, minority gains in the workplace and an imperative to embrace the ‘alterity of the Other’?