Anthropological Cinema

Saw A Man Called Horse, 1970, last night. Not Jan’s kind of movie, but mine for sure. I’ve been big on cultural variety, superstition, magic … since Lionel Trilling assigned us Sir James Fraser’s The Golden Bough (when I was a junior). I read a bit of the assignment in 1958 or so, a bit more in the 1960s, then obsessed over the whole book in the 1980s (while traveling, writing my novels, living in my car).

Ritual of Pain
image borrowed from Soundtrack Central

(I’d wanted Jan to see more Richard Harris (and I was due for a bit more myself) (and we’d also been comparing roles of his son, Jared Harris!))

I’ve attempted to see a bunch of Fraser-influenced movies this past decade, movies by Pasolini in particular: without much luck. I tickled one out of NetFlix, then a couple out of Blockbuster, but the supply seems to be limited: artificially limited, I don’t doubt. Fraser pissed people off in 1890, his work still pisses people off. (And I’m proud to report that mine does too! I must be doing more than a little something right!)

Fer’instance: a few years back, I’d ordered Medea! Pasolini opens his version of the Greek tragedy (Euripedes) with the ritual murder of a scapegoat. The poor son of a bitch is all smiles as everyone fusses over him, he cooperates as they put his head in a yolk, then snap his neck: just as he’s beginning to realize that something is wrong!

Medea, Pasolini, Callas

I don’t know what I’ll add here over time, but for now, beyond just establishing my claim that there are such movies (Fraser-derived!), let me emphasize: Fraser tried to treat magic and ritual objectively, scientifically. Before 1890 all we had were theological imperatives. I don’t think science will ever take hold in the human mind, but nobody ever tried better to make it happen that Sir James Fraser!

Note: I gained access to the one volume version in the 1980s when I was befriended by the librarian in charge of the Environmental Library in Naples FL. She gave me that library’s copy on permanent loan (the way my brother in law, tenured at Maryland, gave me UMd’s copy of Korzybski! Permanent loan, no paperwork: no record of where it had gone! UMd may have the Korzybski as checked out to Professor Baker; I doubt that Naples has any record of it being checked out at all). (I’d return both books now, if it were convenient: or if they wanted to come and pick them up. Expecting me to deliver them would be a bit like Rome requiring the resurrected Jesus to bring the nails back to Golgatha.)

Note further: I recall the Lakota ritual where braves have their breasts pierced, then hang as gravity tears their flesh being taught us kids in grammar school. Yikes! Never expected to see it enacted in a film.
If you know a reliable source for Pasolini DVDs, please post a note here.

I love the above pic of Callas walking with Pasolini, smiling at him. Pasolini was justly famous as a great writer before making any of his own films. And in no way is he in the same class of director as Fellini or Antonioni. But I sure love his films anyway, even when one has to suffer a bit watching them.
And if ever there were a case for straights accepting queers, just look at that same pic: Callas and Pasolini!

I doubt though that humans, however liberally societies pose, will ever accept their oddballs gracefully. We’ll be lucky if we survive a bit longer despite the Passion, despite the Church, despite the dominance of fascists over the modern world …


About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
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