Brave (2012) & Aladdin (1992)
Been watching Disney films with Olivia for the past months. Instead of commenting on each, will probably just lay down a general observation for both.
Disney films, for better or for worse, have been great showcases of white American contemporary culture. Contemporary, being contemporary for each of the films’ releases. There is of course a significant difference between representations of women on Brave and Aladdin. Brave being one with all the strong-woman archetypes, and Aladdin as a film in-transition embracing a more liberal value with regards to choice. It is within this framework of historicization that we can understand Disney films older than these two. Just think that the older the films are, the more conservative white they are.
Their general weakness is their heavy dependence on cinema as representation. The same weakness of the more mainstream/populist Hollywood products in general. I think I’ve been addressing here on several occasions the weakness of this dependence of representation: that it does not really address any kind of root problem. Especially in contemporary times where there’s an overabundance of representation that images flow with other excess in the semio-sphere.
American liberal/populist left seem to ride on this representative-driven aesthetics too much that they became the target audience. Regardless of actual audience drive, the flak caused by “misrepresentations” and “incorrectness” seem to shift capital flow from conservative to liberal spectrum. It is not that these are actually radical. We can go on a stretch that there’s really not much difference between them, that liberalism, being more rigid than conservative with their demands, is much the same as conservatives. Political correctness buys better social capital, still, in the era when the culture industry is running on zombie mode.
In this ghoulish reality, where does critique place itself? In this constant rewind of history of representation, cultural critique becomes more and more a supplement to the industrial entertainment complex.
At first, the glitches incorporated within the runtime of Salvage seem to be one of self-conscious effort to bridge between the logic of the camera-tool and the logic of the supernatural. But then again, there’s too much glitch that I begin to wonder whether this would still work if these are actually salvaged footage. So, let’s drop the technological awareness.
This is the kind of a film Salvage is: one that has given up the more interesting aspect of its grand concept for the benefit of the other. Sure, there are interesting aswang sequences. There’s probably an excess in aswang sequences for that matter. The first-person/found footage aesthetic work for the chase scenes: it gave us a sense of space and the entrapment the characters in the film found themselves in despite the vastness of the forest. But that’s probably it, the majority of the film is a chase. If anything, it leaves out another important aspect in found footage film which is its sense of exploration. Weirdly enough, these are journalists, and most of the characters on screen don’t seem to be interested in doing anything.
Well, there’s very little to explore. Its probably because of its fascination for the supernatural that gets in the way for anything intellectual to intercede with anything. Sure, it works for its own good, and a lot of scenes are interesting, but it is left to that sense of interesting (interesting for whom, is of another question) other than something which is meant to be there in the frame to be something. The end of the film does not really add up to any other thought of being or becoming but rather, only piled up with its interesting-ness. The end sure, is interesting. The cast is interesting, the sub-cast is sure more interesting. But it’s nothing more than that.
Big Trouble in Little China (1986)
John Carpenter’s macho-led satire films are perhaps a genre of its own. In Big Trouble in Little China, Kurt Russell is portrayed and will be remembered as this stereotypical white truck driver which has no other redeeming qualities even in a fistfight. In its own way, it provides a refreshing take on this position in power of the white image. Still, he poses as the protagonist, then again, what did he really do?
The film can only be taken for all its goodness: sloppy Chinese martial arts and magic, conflict which bridges hell from Earth, and an insurance-troubled truck driver. It is culturally inappropriate? Sure. For both sides. Big Trouble… take on all these stereotypes, make them hypervisible, to make them even less believable, to attain a different level of fiction. After all, what else can you do with them?
This self-consciousness of fiction as final-product of cinema makes this film worthwhile. It’s telling you right from the start: this has magic, this has martial arts, this is a fictional world. It is less serious about its representation than it is for cinema.