Archive for the 'modernism' Category

Giants and Toys

November 17, 2009

Yesterday I had the pleasure to watch the 1958 film Giants and Toys (Kyojin to gangu) directed by Yasuzo Masumura.  Netflix had recommended this film to me, and I must say that yet again Netflix knows me better than I know myself.  I loved this film.  The look of it was amazing and the plot I found to be very significant in our readings of Harris and Adorno.

The film’s main character Nishi is a young employee of the World Caramel Company in the advertising and marketing sector.  World Caramels are in direct competition with two other caramel companies and it is the time of their advertising launches.  This is the heyday of product giveaways and promotions to sell a product and Nishi is learning to navigate the harsh environment.  Nishi interacts with members of his rival companies in a bar and it is through them that he learns of the realities of business.  World Caramels creates a superstar in Kyoko, a young girl with horrible teeth that Nishi sees on the street.  Kyoko and her dreadful teeth become the face of World Caramels and the promotion is settled on a giveaway of spacesuits and space toys.  Traditionally, Nishi would become the powerful in this film and Kyoko would become the used and thrown away as another postergirl was found for the product, someone fresher and more viable.  But that is not the case with this film.

I was thinking about Adorno and Harris’ ideas while watching this film.  I was thinking about the culture of advertising and Adorno’s culture industry.  Nishi is not aware of what he is getting himself into and neither are we as the viewers.  The industry here is pervasive and wicked and both Nishi and Kyoko are its instruments.

The look of this film is so wonderful.  I love the seas of businessmen in suits and the photos of Kyoko selling her caramels.  The transformation of Kyoko is remarkable as a character and also aesthetically beautiful.  She becomes something much more than caramels.  Although I love the look of Kyoko as she first appears in the film with her high ponytail, bangs and tin can of tadpoles, she is barely recognizable in her final performance scene at the end.  All of the tomboy charm and wild energy is replaced with calm and glamor.  She has truly embodied the essence of the postergirl, the it girl, the star.  The final advertising clip that Kyoko shoots for World is so strange and surreal.  She in her spacesuit surrounded by mayflower queens is a strange sight.

No matter how much Nishi and Kyoko are different from the advertising industry and the culture industry, they get sucked into it and it changes them.  As much as they believe they have control, they are controlled.

Dunkin’ Donuts Kitsch

October 28, 2009

Thanks to Julia, Lauren and Jenn for the good discussion this morning.  With the unforeseeable demise of our coffee shop, we moved to the outdoor Dunkin’ Donuts populated with students, sunshine and the radio.  Hopefully next time we can secure a place with less distractions.

dunkindonutsI guess it makes sense in a way to be talking about deliciousness and kitsch in the Dunkin’ Donuts.  I am so glad to have Lauren and Jenn join in on the discussion because it brings multiple perspectives and I believe our text to be related to all of our artworks.  I am a little sad to have finished the discussion of Harris’ book.  I really love this text and I think that it is very influential to me.  I enjoyed our discussion of bathing today as related to Harris’ chapter on cleanness.  The sexuality of the bath as a preparation for sexual acts in old advertising transforms into the bath as a place of escape from the hectic world of the modern woman.  “You deserve it!”  “Calgon, Take me away!”

3952216088_cf257d6de0The trend in advertising to acknowledge the distrust of the consumer is something that we discussed through the example of the Dove commercials now circulating the claim of showcasing real beauty.  We talked about the dual ad for Dove and Wal-Mart that uses the “Ears hang low”song which lead into the interesting topic of the real or authentic.  From there we got into a discussion of modernism versus relational aesthetics.  All in all I think it was a good ending for our discussion of Harris’ book.  I think that the ideas and aesthetics in this book will stick with me.  I know that I will return to it and relate it to future readings.  We have decided to take a break next week and then return to discuss texts by Adorno and Greenberg.