Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Godard on ABC

A clip from Breathless--just a few seconds of Jean Seberg selling The New York Herald Tribune in her yellow (gray) sweater--was shown on ABC's Nightline last night; it was a piece on how the French feel that they're losing the Champs-Élysées to American stores. What would Jean-Luc think? The archival film clip is a time-worn device of televised news narrative, a way of subtly tapping the (fictional) collective conscience; there are things we remember mostly through cinema.
Sometimes they are not even things cinema was present for. For example, cinema only came to the concentration camps after they were closed, but it's been atoning for that oversight with a half-century's worth of Holocaust movies whose television-like reliance on pre-established forms imbues the subject with a sort of boring seriousness, the distance of a news item. It's hard for us to feel about it because we've been told how to feel about for so many years, just as its difficult to feel empathy for the people on television. Rather, we process the information and then feel empathy--television language is indirect.

Another interesting juxtaposition (same channel): evening Oprah episode on wunderkinds (an Indian preteen studying to become a doctor, an Austrian girl with a photographic memory, etc.) followed by an advertisement for Harrington Learning Centers, a chain of "educational programs" to help your "underachieving child" get ahead.

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