Category Archives: Video

Saturday Night at the Movies: “Metropolis”


It’s been an especially good week for the super-rich.  They’ve seen record corporate profits while Republicans continue to lobby tirelessly to prevent the Bush tax cuts from expiring for the top percentile of earners.  And all the while these happy few have been on the receiving end of hundreds of billions of bailout dollars to sustain the financial market they collapsed two years ago by way of a greed so rapacious that the market did not (as all true believers believe it must) “self-correct.”  There’s also the trillions of dollars worth of “quantitative easing” now working its way through the system in a last ditch effort to keep the whole crazy scheme ricketing along like the Rube Goldberg contraption it really is.  As economist Nouriel Roubini and others have noted, we now have socialism for the rich and capitalism for the poor.

The consequence is that tens of millions of people are chronically unemployed, stripped both of income and their remaining wealth:  Ireland, Greece, and maybe Portugal are poised to go under, and perhaps take the rest of the world’s economy with them.

Don’t worry about the super-rich, however.  In the U.S. alone, prior to the 2008 crash, they owned about 34% of the nation’s wealth; they now own about 38%.  And while many millions of people must do without any income at all, the top 1% take in 25% of it.  One assumes that they are doing so while curing cancer, resolving the suicidal impulses that drive global warming, and selflessly developing a free-of-charge vaccine for avian flu.

Tonight we’re running a restored version of Fritz Lang’s 1927 masterpiece Metropolis. Poetry, Auden says, changes nothing.  And yet it still might serve as a reminder just how much everything can change because it ought to be changed.

Here’s Frye in conversation with David Cayley on being a “bourgeois liberal”:

Cayley: You’ve described yourself as a bourgeois liberal and even said that people who aren’t bourgeois liberals are still “in the trees.”

Frye: Or would be if they could.

Cayley: I don’t quite understand what you mean by that.  This seems on the face of it a strange statement for a social democrat and a Methodist and a populist to make.

Frye: Well, the bourgeois liberal to me is the nearest analogy I can think of to a man who is sufficiently left alone by the structure of authority in his society to develop his individuality.  Because he’s a liberal, he doesn’t become an anarchist, that is, he doesn’t grab all the money and corner all the property in sight.  He’s a person who can relate to other people. He doesn’t withdraw from society or become a mass man.

Cayley: So the emphasis is not the same as Marx gives the term “bourgeoisie” when he uses it to signify the hegemony of a certain class?

Frye: The bourgeois liberal is capable of seeing himself as having a certain position in society.  He’s also capable of seeing something that that situation puts him into.  You can’t avoid being conditioned, but you can to some extent become aware of your conditioning.  (CW 24, 971)

The rest of the movie after the jump.

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Remembrance Day


The lament playing over this footage from the First World War is “Sgt. MacKenzie” by Joseph Kilna MacKenzie

Here’s Frye in “Hart House Rededicated,” delivered on the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of Hart House, University of Toronto, November 11th, 1969.  As so often happens with Frye on public occasions, somehow everything comes together with a resonance that is immediately recognizable.  In this instance, the elements are the anniversary of Hart House, Remembrance Day, and our hard won — and too easily lost — sense of community.

Since 1919, a memorial service at the tower, along with an editorial in the Varsity attacking its hypocrisy and crypto-militarism, has been an annual event of campus life.  Certainly I would not myself participate in such a service if I thought that its purpose was to strengthen our wills to fight another war, instead of to fight against the coming of another war.  That being understood, I think there is a place for the memorial service, apart from the personal reason that many students of mine have their names inscribed on the tower.  It reminds us of something inescapable in the human situation.  Man is a creature of communities, and communities enrich themselves by what they include: the university enriches itself by breaking down the middle-class fences and reaching out to less privileged social areas; the city enriches itself by the variety of ethnical groups it has taken in.  But while communities enrich themselves by what they include, they define themselves by what they exclude.  The more intensely a community feels its identity as a community, the more intensely it feels its difference from what is across its boundary.  In a strong sense of community there is thus always an element that may become hostile and aggressive.

It is significant that our memorial service commemorates two wars, both fought against the same country.  In all wars, including all revolutions, the enemy becomes an imaginary abstraction of evil. Some German who never heard of us becomes a “Hun”; some demonstrator who is really protesting against his mother becomes a “Communist”; some policeman with a wife and a family to support becomes a “fascist pig.”  We know that we are lying when we do this sort of thing, but we say it is tactically necessary and go on doing it.  But because it is lying, it cannot create or accomplish anything, and so all wars, including all revolutions, take us back to square one of frustrated aggression in which they began.  (CW 7, 397)

Georges Jacques Danton


The execution of Danton from the 1983 biopic.  French with English subtitles

Today is the birthday of Danton, French revolutionary leader of the Jacobins (1759-1794).  As with many in the revolutionary leadership, it did not end well: Danton went the guillotine in 1794, saying to his executioner, “Don’t forget to show my head to the people. It’s well worth seeing.”

Frye citing Edmund Burke on the Jacobins and the Terror in A Study of English Romanticism:

Coleridge was more belligerently Christian in insisting that the primary imagination was an existence repeating the infinite “I am” of God, and in feeling that every argument he advanced on the point was one in the eye for atheism, scepticism, and “psilanthropism.”  In Burke we see, much more clearly than in Coleridge, that this new sense of [romantic] identity does have a real enemy.  Burke identifies the enemy with the Jacobinism of the French Revolution.  Burke’s view of the French Revolution itself, however, is not very rewarding: what is important is his prophetic vision of the kind of society where the sense of the continuity of tradition is annihilated, and where the general will of society is unconditioned by any reference to a goal beyond the immediate objects of those in power.  (CW 17, 203-4)

John Lennon: “A Hard Day’s Night”


How it looked and sounded when it all began.  The movie was supposed to be a bit of exploitative ephemera — a quick cash-in before the fad passed, but it never did.  There are undoubtedly many millions of people who still feel the thrill at the sound of that opening chord. . .

Today is John Lennon‘s 70th birthday.

Since this is our regular Saturday Night at the Movies spot, A Hard Day’s Night seems an appropriate way to celebrate.  I’m glad to say that both the video and the sound are of excellent quality.

Frye on the Beatles here.

A couple of earlier Beatles posts here and here.

The rest of the movie after the jump.

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Howl (part 1)

On this date in 1955 Allen Ginsburg read his poem Howl in public for the first time in San Francisco.

Frye in “The Renaissance of Books”:

The great poets of the first half of this century — Eliot, Yeats, Pound — had the somewhat aloof authority conferred by their erudition, even though they often felt the pull of the desire to be genuinely popular.  We have the Eliot of Sanskrit quotations and the Eliot of practical cats; we have the Yeats of Rosicrucian symbolism and the Yeats of the luminously simple ballads of the Last Poems.  Allen Ginsburg’s Howl is usually taken as the turning point towards a neo-Romantic poetry which has been popular in a way hardly known to previous generations.  Much of this poetry has turned back to the primitive oral tradition of folk song, with the formulaic units, topical allusions, musical accompaniment, and public presentation that go with the tradition.  (CW 11, 145-6)

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