IT has just logged her 1000th post. Alas, although I have thrown my typical Yankee fascist careerist advice at her – that she should be a regular writer for the Guardian, as she has a popular tone, leftist theory coming out of her fingernails, and a knack for hot button femme kultcha issues - does she listen to me? Does anybody? I think she is afraid of waking up one morning after a night of strange dreams to find that she’s been transformed into Polly Toynbee – or worse, Julia Burchill.
She’s been on a roll with her series about what women talk about in the movies, which has somehow come to center on Sex and the City. I’m not sure how the Bechdel Test, as she calls it, deals with women playing men, vide Cate Blanchett, playing Bob Dylan. h I’d urge extending the topic to misogyny in movies, partly because some kindly soul put up half of the short film by Jean Eustache, Une sale histoire, which is a story of a man who becomes obsessed with staring through a hole bored in the wall between the men’s and women’s toilet in a cafe. He tells the story to three women, one of them the amazing Françoise Lebrun, who played Veronika in La Maman et la putaine. In “A dirty Story”, this is the narrator’s explanation for the end of his brief episode of voyeurism. “I stopped because I had the impression, in the end, that everything could only be seen in the perspective of that hole.” Eustache was appalled, I think, by the way in which danger had dropped out of sex - in this he was like Mailer, who viewed the pill as another zombie move by Dow chemical to replace our vital fluids with some liquid we had to pay rent on. Eustache was appalled by the sheer sloppiness of the post May 68 left. He despaired that what had been born was nothing more than a culture of excuses for sloth, promiscuity, and the shutting down of empathy - in particular, the latter. Empathy was, after all, what held the left together for a century - an empathy between the intellectual and the worker, between the workers themselves, between the people and the party. Of course, this was a history of empathy abused, and we all know how it worked out. But the reaction to the crackup - what Eustache saw as a generation that used leftleaning themes as a sort of tinsel thrown over a bloated egotism that could as easily tip, third way-ishly, into the most brutal capitalism - killed him.
Recently, in Le Monde, the book blogger, Pierre Assouline, wrote a post (that it is impossible to imagine being printed by a major paper in the Anglosphere) which grew nostalgia for that era of diffuse energies that Eustache despised. It was an obituary for Tony Duvert, a novelist of the sixties and seventies, friend of Roland Barthes, and a pedophile. Or rather, his novels exalted the love of pre-adolescent boys, and combined that theme with a familiar gay misogyny (the kind of denigration of women that was apparently part of Foucault’s conversational repertoire, at least according to James Miller, his biographer). This, I should say, I am taking on faith from Assouline, having never read Duvert. Assouline surveys the progressive isolation of Duvert, who in the end was, apparently, without a publishing house:
Sa liberté de ton, louée dans les années de la libération sexuelle, serait intolérable. Les ligues hurleraient aussitôt à l’apologie de la pédophilie et obtiendraient leur interdiction à la vente. Il défendait un principe, le droit des adolescents à disposer de leur libre sexualité, qui serait inaudible aujourd’hui. D’autant qu’il voulait retirer les enfants aux mères et, d’une manière générale, aux femmes ; il leur contestait un droit exclusif sur les enfants. “La période d’innocence qui s’offrait aux artistes dans les années 70 est révolue : on ne peut plus parler librement de ces choses en ce moment” disait récemment François Nourissier qui l’admirait. Il y a trente ans, on pouvait le lire comme un moraliste, chose devenue impensable de nos jours où il aurait été dénoncé comme immoraliste s’il lui avait pris de s’exprimer.
I’m hoping, now that there are two of Jean Eustache’s films up on YouTube, that someone will upload his Le Cochon – which, contrary to what one may expect, is – so I have read – appreciative and lyrical of the art of slaughtering a hog. This sounds excellent to me. I think the reason that I have seen only one Hanecke film is that the one I saw is about a boy who is inspired to kill a girl after watching a video of a hog being killed – using a stun gun. We are apparently supposed to look upon this with horror. I found that so utterly meretricious that I have been reluctant to look at a Hanecke film since. I certainly don’t look on killing a pig with horror – I mean, it isn’t as if I think pork was magically transported to my favorite bbq place from fairy land. Similarly, I never felt any repulsion to the scene in Roger and Me when some down on her luck woman raising rabbits for sale kills one and skins it.
I am repulsed, on the contrary, that there is such tender feeling about the bloody everyday facts of life. I can’t help but think that our tenderness about these things is in direct proportion to the spread of factory farming. The more tenderhearted the movie audience is about elementary butchery, the more leeway agribusiness has to raise and slaughter animals any way they like to. Back when Eustache was filming a good, healthy hog butchery, in the sixties, a hog was raised right, instead of as they are raised today, in the ghastly hog concentration camps.
Hmm, I’ve gotten a little off topic...