Director Peter Watkins on the Hollywood Monoform
November 3, 2008 9:29 AM   Subscribe

Director Peter Watkins' web site describes the filming, distribution and critical reaction to each of his controversial films, including Punishment Park, the rock star satire Privilege, The War Game, La Commune and more. He also offers a 10-part critique of "the media crisis" that marginalizes non-mainstream ideas via the Hollywood monoform and the Universal Clock, a style he claims structures almost all of the messages delivered to the public, but which sharply limits the range of relationships possible between media producers and audiences. posted by mediareport (7 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
Heh. The American media is not controlled by the state, it's controlled by short termism, stupidity, greed, and laziness. That the American state happens to be controlled by those too is just a coincidence.
posted by Artw at 10:12 AM on November 3, 2008 [2 favorites]

Huh. I don't think Privilege's problem was that it was too controversial. I thought it was pretty looking but really shallow. It was like an "artsy" but much less daring version of Wild In The Streets (which, I'm aware, came out a year after Privilege). Watkins seems to me to be hiding behind this "I'm hated because I'm not mainstream" cloak in order to ignore any valid critiques of his work, which is a pity.

That being said, I thought Punishment Park was pretty good.
posted by queensissy at 11:07 AM on November 3, 2008

Nobody said that American media is CONTROLLED by the state. It's just a part of the state... From Watkin's website : In a word, the American MAVM (mass audiovisual media) now hold precisely the same position regarding Washington, as Dr. Goebbel's propaganda machinery held vis-à-vis the Reich Chancellery in Berlin, and the Nazi Party. They have become nothing less than the propaganda arm of the state. Thus we saw 'embedded' journalists from CNN, Fox Network, ABC-TV, etc., reporting directly from Iraq, wearing their 'objective' USA combat uniforms - and having precisely the same role as the German Wehrmacht cameramen who stormed across Poland, bringing newsreel images of the blitzkrieg to non-critical and manipulated audiences throughout the Third Reich.
posted by njohnson23 at 11:59 AM on November 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

Watkins offers some interesting ideas -- and I kept thinking about the Blipverts from "Max Headroom" in his essay on the monoform.

Ultimately, though, it's hard to separate his personal grievances from his critiques. It comes across as a little nutty.
posted by ardgedee at 12:04 PM on November 3, 2008

I remember our politics teacher showing The War Game in school when I was about 13 or 14. It was quite exciting, because we knew it had been banned by the BBC for the last five years or so, so we were all hoping for at least some tit, or some ultraviolence, my droogies.

I recall being kind of disappointed when we actually saw it. It seemed to be a sober, reasonable critique of nuclear war, but I found it a lot less horrifying than the concentration camp scenes (NSF anyone really, but don't let that stop you .) that they showed in the World at War, for everyone to watch on Sunday afternoon or Sunday teatime.

The outcome of a nuclear bomb is pretty horrific, but it is just a single act. There's something about the repeated, systematic torture and destruction of a whole civilization that scarred the adolescent psyche in a way that nothing else I've seen or read or watched has, before or since.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:35 PM on November 3, 2008

Wow that "Hollywood Monoform" article is some straight-up nonsense. It's almost TimeCube-esque, but seems to boil down to this:

Rapid pacing, in and of itself - e.g., as exemplified in cinematic montage - obviously has its own place in the language of the audiovisual media. The amazing juxtapositions by early Russian filmmakers Eisenstein and Pudovkin, for example, are one possible and complex use of fast-moving images. (The juxtaposition of two seemingly disparate images to create a third image in one's mind was a startling break from the rigidity of the traditional narrative process at that time.)

which I translate as, "when it's done by the filmmakers I like to namedrop to prove I went to film school and am better than you, it's art. When the filmmakers you like do it, it's manipulative trash which somehow involves a grid and potatoes.
posted by drjimmy11 at 2:26 PM on November 3, 2008 [2 favorites]

"when it's done by the filmmakers I like to namedrop to prove I went to film school and am better than you, it's art. When the filmmakers you like do it, it's manipulative trash which somehow involves a grid and potatoes

He has a point. Early montage such as that developed by Eisenstein or Pudovkin is constructed on Hegelian principles in the service of argumentation — that is, the aim is to encourage thought. (Well, OK, to hasten the inevitable march of the glorious proletariat, but this in itself is an idea.) Much current MTV-style editing aims at nothing higher than appetite, spectacle, sensation, consumption — in other words, the body. I don't think it's in any way controversial to point out that there's currently a preponderance of the latter over the former or to suggest that the roles they conceive for their respective spectators are radically divergent.
posted by Wolof at 4:00 PM on November 3, 2008

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