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Wednesday, 12 December 2012
And here perhaps we get the negative side of the thousand plateaus of bliss and transport celebrated by the lovers of discos endlessly dilatory pleasure principle (also fuelled by coke of course). The male phallic pleasure model of build up, release, recuperation may produce bad old rock but in some ways it places limits, a boundary a no-moreness( because I can't). The (apparently) liquid, endlessly flowing, polymorphous pleasure that men envy in women, the unlimitedness of desire, dovetails into the retail therapy, the endless euphoria of the shopper's paradise, your infinitely flexible friend, the sense that you always want, need deserve and can manage more. That is what being liberated means.
Once you've got the idea of premeditation you begin to watch everything through that lens, especially if you have been watching lots of films that deal with America's relationship with Japan in the Eighties and its largely negative depiction of the Japanese.
Interesting to note then, watching films on the plane on the way back from England, that one of the big flops of 2012 Battleship is a film in which the Americans and the Japanese are friendly if rivalrous team mates battling an alien technologically advanced power in an around the South Pacific, long predicted and increasingly proving to be an arena of major conflict over the next century.
Two days after I arrive back the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands' dispute hits ugly new heights.
One idea that becomes entrenched throughout the Seventies and Eighties is that Japanese workers have more say in the production process and that the less hierarchical approach allows for greater efficiency through feedback, something which has developed out of Japan being a "consensus" society. This is a highly questionable notion, Japan is intensely hierarchical and more than anything, as with the other Asian tigers (though more notionally democratic”) it resembles a country still run on a war footing. In a sense like the Japanese soldiers of legend, the whole country has never come out of the foxhole. As one of the commentators puts it in John Pilger’s Japan behind The Mask “This is not a consensus society, that's a western invention,t hey do what they are told.”
America and Japan do share one overarching characteristic, they both believe in their own myth. Japan is not, nor has ever been an especially equal country in terms of income distribution (and clearly the US is one of the world's most unequal countries), in research done to establish the relationship between real equality as measured by the Gini coefficient and subjective perceptions of inequality both the Japanese and the Americans see their countries as being more equal than they actually are.
An irony here is that although creative destruction is believed to have its roots in asian culture, the idea of the phoenix rising from the ashes of the old, Japan itself is constantly criticised by orthodox economists for propping up zombie banks and companies through deficits and a Zero Interest rate Policy (rather as the west is now doing) and within Japan itself as it sees its position in Asia usurped by china and approached by Taiwan and South Korea there is much soul-searching about the loss of the warrior spirit, the lazy modern-day generation and the greater zeal and inventiveness of workers abroad, along with moaning about the artificially low rate for the Won and the RMB and so on. In other words exactly the same set of moralising and culturalizing assumptions about what underlies economic success that pay no attention to cyclical or contingent factors, but do allow for the pleasures of self-righteous indignation. The attitude toward Filipinos for example, now the country is undergoing surprisingly strong growth is shifting, from lazy and backwards to a hard working and forward-looking people.
The Warriors, it should be said, remains one of the strangest films ever made, a kind of childlike febrile fantasy of the death of law. I am tempted to call Walter Hill a great surrealist, the way that the end of The Warriors mysteriously seems to parallel the end of La dolce vita, the extravagant homo-orientalsim of the opening sequence of Red Heat, the film from which an impressionable David Cronenberg surely stole the bath house fight in the underrated Eastern Promise. The Warriors urban fantasy land is touched with real Utopian promise, a post-patriarchal city in which the gangs divide up the territory between themselves and a form of anarchic, liberated play can reign. The gangs themselves in their flamboyant dress and exaggerated mannerism along with their pop cultural references back to the films two most obvious predecessors A Clockwork Orange and West Side Story are as delightfully camp as anything in Rocky Horror. Sheer Fabulousness.
Like much of the contemporary ruin-porn around Detroit, the legacy of de-industrialization also serves to cast declining cities as objects of fascination, post-apocalyptic arenas in which the ancient and ultra-modern intermingle and a whole genre of gang-related and cyberpunk (B) movies are also due to proliferate.