Vampire collectivity

"... and then, the bat that made the move, that came up and gave the hug,  you'd see that bat try to lick at the mouth of the other bat.  And if you have a good view, you can actually see the tongue of one bat going into the mouth of the other bat."
"Like they're giving each other a kiss?"
"Very similar.  Yes."

"Yes.  By regurgitating blood."

"these were adult animals feeding other adult animals food that they could have been eating themselves.  That had not been described before..."

("And he'd do the whole starve her until dawn thing and put her back in the cage:

"She will go and beg from other individuals and weirdly instead of them saying to her, you're not my sister, bug off... what would happen is that they would hold still, part their lips, and throw up in her mouth.")


Voluntary associative mutual aid as extinction avoidance mechanism, for the period when large warm red-filled mammals disappeared very quickly.


"Because of this reliance on blood."

To be used for anything

Quand le Roy Pyrrhus passa en Italie, apres qu'il eut recongneu l'ordonnance de l'armée que les Romains luy envoyoient au devant ; Je ne sçay, dit-il, quels barbares sont ceux-cy (car les Grecs appelloyent ainsi toutes les nations estrangeres) mais la disposition de cette armée que je voy, n'est aucunement barbare.

[When King Pyrrhus invaded Italy, having viewed and considered the order of the army the Romans sent out to meet him: "I know not," said he, "what kind of barbarians," (for so the Greeks called all other nations) "these may be; but the disposition of this army, that I see, has nothing of barbarism in it."]

(Montaigne, "Des Cannibales") 

But there is a devil of a difference between barbarians who are fit by nature to be used for anything, and civilized people who apply themselves to anything.

(Marx, Grundrisse)

Maine, December

No Country for Old Men Or Somewhat Younger Men But Plenty For Teen Girls and The Libidinal Circuits of Shapeshifters

Those horses can't outrun Little Blackie! They're loaded down with fat men and iron! - Mattie

Yes, very well-crafted, finely minor tuned, restrained but old-school thrills.  Excellent performances from young ones. The Dude routed through the Duke through whiskey back to a more murderous Dude.  A meditation on revenge, coming-of-age, pluckiness, and the American Gothic.

All well and good and true.

And all leaving out the heart of the thing, which is a less restrained, prim and lusty as hell, near psychotic libidinal organization routed through and based on a shape-shifter's logic: Men into Beasts and Meat, Beasts ridden raw into Dead Meat and slithering out from Dead Men to poison the young woman who has left behind the company of men and women, boys and girls, exchange and trade and lawyers and swaps, for the grimier bestiary where The Beef wears leather, The Bad has the legs of a satyr, and a One-Eyed Rooster becomes the horse he has killed.

In a way, beyond its cleaving-close to Western heirs, its closer siblings are the weirder fair of "young woman discovering sexuality amongst senseless occurrences and things that keep changing species", a small subgenre consisting primarily of Neil Jordan's In the Company of Wolves, Jaromil Jireš' Valerie and Her Week of Wonders, and a good half of all fairy tales.

In this instance, we might start with our most literal beserker, the syllable-gargling Bear Man, a dentist and hakwer of the dead (minus their teeth) and, in an initial sight gag, a bear who rides a horse  (Ed Corbin on the role: "I got off of him [the horse] as much as I could because I felt badly for him. But mainly the horse kept looking back. You could see in his eyes that he was thinking, 'There's a bear on my back.'")  He who needs no place to stay because he's got his bear skin, at once a Bear House and Bear Man.

The bad guy who does not speak but runs through a series of animal impressions, moving from the initially logical taunting of Mattie/Rooster by acting like a rooster to his incapacity to not respond to each situation with a set of bleats, moos, and grunts.

Rooster himself, who spends the majority of the film having a hard time being human and, in what might otherwise be a heart-warming touch, only becomes a "good person" by basically becoming horse.

LaBoeuf, the fancy civilized man, is degraded up or upgraded to "La-Beef," halfway between fop and hunk.  The moment when Mattie - who, the film endlessly reminds us, is 14 and hence is supposed to not One Who Fucks in these kind of movies - first sees him on the porch is one of the more potently erotic moments I've seen in a while, from the very understated gesture of him putting his boots up on the railing, his face hidden from view, just a set of objects propped up for inspection.  The fact that he took the empty room where she belonged compounds it: The Beef has been lodged, so to speak, in your bed.

She spends the night instead with the wheezing, sheet-stealing old woman, and wakes to find LaBoeuf in her room now, watching her sleep.  After being out-talked by her, as are all men, women, animals, and stones in the film, anticipating his later biting of his tongue and thereby producing an actual, rather than figurative, speech impediment, he makes the loose-threat/come-on/deflation that he was thinking about stealing a kiss from her, in spite of her age, but given that she "withholds her sugar," he may need to spank her instead. She responds that "both would have been equally unpleasant," which, given the rest of the film, is to say: perhaps not very unpleasant whatsoever.  His spanking fetish continues, and with it the sharp discomfort of the film at the prospect of their potential fucking, when he throws her to the ground and smacks her ass before switching to a cane.  That these men don't understand Mattie, to be sure.  That the slack jawed gape of Rooster and the manic ass fixation of The Beef is a reasonable and yearning extension of those who are men but are not so human, to be equally sure.

Bodies are full of snakes: the bodies of these bears and roosters and cows and girls, they are themselves made of other bodies.  It just takes the whole being dying to reveal themselves as such, a papery frayed shirt opening over a eaten away chest to coils of what should be intestines but which unfurl, rattle, and bite you.

And which motivate the final churning climax of film's hungry looking and touching, as Mattie is bitten by a rattler, Rooster cuts a wound on top of the puncture and sucks the poison out, before taking her on horseback through the night to find a doctor, galloping endless.  Coupled with a near precious aestheticism (the snow falls slow, bodies are dark and flat, the sky is massive and navy, heads loll in poison fever, the horse's sweat swine), it is a sequence of pure exertion and exhaustion of the heart, as we watch and listen a horse, carrying a man poisoning himself to death and a girl poisoning herself to death with snakes, be ridden to death across the empty plains.

The horse itself was already a transference: in conversation with the young black stableboy who is the one who knows horses, she names the horse "Little Blackie", as she swaps out a human for a horse in anticipation of her overall abandonment of the younger set for the older men, an imbalance that persists to her narration at the end, where she is alone and "old enough," but Rooster was already too old enough, leaving her with a corpse to bury and prevent from becoming snake.

The horse, that bearer of her withdrawal, collapses in the night.  Rooster shoots it.  And in the ultimate transformation in a film riven, impelled, obsessed, and confused by them, he picks her up and begins to heave himself toward their destination, swapping himself out for horse, a man who is a rooster who is a horse, the blood straining.

He collapses with final steps in sight of the cabin where the doctor lives and draws his pistol.  And yes, he fires a shot in the air to call their attention, with a weary smile and comment about getting old.

But how can we not imagine how the film deserved to end, with Rooster  drawing the pistol as he drew it on Little Blackie, because they shoot horse, they do, and putting it to his own temple and blowing his brains out the other side of his skull, putting himself down to become not man, rooster, horse, dog, bear, not even a tangle of snakes, but meat to freeze in the night.

And Mattie picking herself up, the next in the chain, picking herself up like a corpse, to break herself like a horse, to continue that heaving drive to a fire that burns somewhere that is not here.

The Second Trojan Horse

A city was under siege.  It was a messy, rotten, idiotic affair.  Those inside the sturdy walls, built from the compressed rubble of past cities, were safe.  They had nothing but time to kill.  Deep-seated water fed the fountains.  Plenty of food.  

Then the rats got into that food, carrying a septic stain with them, and many of the besieged died, and their bodies became accidental weapons against their ex-neighbors, lovers, citizens, strangers.  But they were shoved against those walls, pressed into them, until their bodies became intentional defense, and the living got used to the bacteria and got stronger.

Then those attacking them from outside started lobbing fire in.  They didn't care what remained of the city to take, if it was nothing but that strange 17-sided exterior wall made of all the other cities that were there before.  They wanted to scorch it out from within.  But those inside took the fire and applied it to the bodies of the dead, that infected building material, and made it dark and hard.  It shone like wet coal.  Blackened even the teeth.

Then there was a giant wooden horse left outside the gate.  Its enormous flat white eyes straight across from the sentry patrolling the wall-top.   It was sturdy, with deep hammered nails and thick trunk-spoked wheels and painted chesnut with black accents.  A large red ribbon around its neck on which hung a red card.  Inside it said: SORRY.  No one was around to say about what, but it was assumed to be about the months of murdering and clattering at the walls that wouldn't come down.

They decided to bring the gift inside.  Troy had fallen 9 months prior, and although they weren't nearby, word had gotten around.  They knew very well about the Trojan horse.  It seemed their besiegers, having departed from closer to Troy on their long march, had hoped their lead-time beat the spread of the news.  The besieged decided to play dumb: why not bring the hollow horse inside and close the gate, so those hidden outside could not see, and then they would lance their spears into the horse, they would take their axes and hew it to chunks, they would saw it to bits and do the same to the warriors hidden stealthy inside the hollow?  And then at nightfall, when the plan dictated that those inside were supposed to creep to the gate and open it for the returning army to slip in, they would indeed open the gate and wait just there, to welcome their attackers into a waiting nest of blades and arrows, and finish the whole thing once and for all?

They wheeled the creaking thing inside and shut the creaking gate.

They stood around it and set ladders against it, looked over its uneven joints and sagging belly, its long flanks and piles of brush tied together and pegged to the ass to mimic a tail.  Its chiseled grimace.

They stood around it and aside it and on it, and when the cry came, they let their axes fall and shoved their spears through the wood.

Blood seeped out from the first cut.  The one who had let his axe fall saw they must be pressed close inside, all those waiting to take the city, squeezed up against the walls through which the blades and heads were tearing.

They pulled back all that steel and bronze and iron, black and red and wet now, and struck again, on the ears, the shins, the throat.

And the red began to pour.

On the fifth blow, it became obvious: there was no one hiding inside.  Just the flesh of the horse, its small ocean of blood.

It came hot, spattering and choking them.  Lapping at the walls.  The splinters bobbed soft.

They did not know how to stop and they hacked and stabbed, madly, gashing their legs in accident, breaking their ladders.  They tore and dismantled, hunk after hunk, no organs inside, just a sheer dead silence of meat and its constant pour.

They left late, stained beyond recognition.  The horse had been fully separated.  Somehow their attack had taken on a logic of its own, neatly parceling the thing out into near cubes.  The horse was now stacked in four slick, hulking piles.

And they went home and did not speak and went to sleep.  And as they did, fitful sleep to the sound of the blood that rustled in their hallways, splashed lightly around the feet of their beds, the plague it carried, the plague that had been building in their lungs and nodes, began to surge.

One by one by one they awoke and they did not move.  Limbs stiff as wood, a frantic heart.  A tongue that thought SORRY and a brain that said nothing.  They did not move and the air became still.

The four piles, sulking aimless with their plague, they did not move.

We would counsel you to carry your enthusiasm into arriers more urgently in need of it, that is to say, to your political and moral institutions.

A template for letter writing, particualrly for those that might like to be "letters of protest."  An alternate model of the old-fashioned three part dialectical duck and weave, with all the sick grace of a doomed encounter:

1) The politics of declassed, deneighborhooded dandyism concerned primarily with the bothersome disappearance of girls with which one can amuse oneself

2)  Self-inflating formality and coldness ("it is inconvenient... before we have the opportunity to visit it") of a piss-ant, cloutless group likely known best for fucking with Charlie Chaplin, declaring in the Times that urban development should be halted given that it not accord with their wishes to undertake psychogeographical experiments (read: gather fodder for future tracts, wander drunkenly, and look for girls with whom they can amuse themselves)

3) A devastating lightness, an indifferent suggestion that pulls the rug out from the feet of all involved and names all the more what has been demolished from the beginning

Yours, faithfully

The Leaky Kettle, The Black Cauldron

For those things bred of the stewing center surrounded by neon ghouls

so that I and my money perished with me


More likely to get into bad hands

Perhaps the most ridiculous thing about this whole state of affairs is that it accidentally and insistently establishes the divide between the strategic (nukes) advantage of the U.S. and the tactical (nukes) advantage of Russia.  It's almost as if they never read Debord.

(And that "reserve" of unused strategy, just sitting around, a lodestone ticking down to collective half-life, while the worry remains that some of those tactics will go missing in search of bad hands.)

Wreckers write their names only in graphs

Two more, as I'm still transfixed with a rough data capture of things I have been working on for the last year.  (Despite the likely possibility that these may lack any genuine explanatory power / correlation to "actual trends".  At the least, the real effect of Ngrams is to make Franco Moretti simultaenously the most relevant and most outmoded critic of the times, by allow everyone to play at the project.)


Shared spikes, with salvage lagging slight, at the time of world wars, when sabotage gets writ large.  (Italian not available, so autonomia fantasies of wide relevance go unproved.)  Wreckage begins to climb around the Commune.  Salvage always jagged as thrown-out teeth.

If you want the depressing one:

An idiotic beam of sunshine comes late, flares bright, and begins its plummet quick.


Again, the 1870s. That briefest scraping near kiss and cross, after Weimar hyperinflation and money is burned and Wall Street goes down:

1992, the Anglo century's greatest year of negation.

And the dwarf that has stuck around too long, bilious and repetitive in the corner, shows itself aiming for an unwanted comeback:

Finish it off once and for all.

Jazzy cartography

The art of making your establishing shots - read: driving around at medium speed through the city - oddly compelling.  The start of a film that runs parallel its '76 classmate, Rosi's Cadaveri Eccelenti, but with more blond-mustached men punching brown-mustached men as a moral corrective and with perhaps an even better sense of how to make didactic political cinema.  The city where I will live.

Who did this / Worse, who financed this

“What is amazing to me is that nobody is investing in doing a very thorough and reliable study of what is the exact supply and demand,” Mr. Galindo said.


Vandals have stolen piping, radiators, doors — anything they could get their hands on.

Wrap it up, tear it down, snuff it out

Philly (three forms of harm)

The provocation of the desire to use myself non-humanly to harm a certain human animal.

Hot Boo where no sparks fly no more.

Melodrama's guarantee: a sweetly impish child with this haircut, who fakes a limp to hold up traffic, 
will in fact end the film unable to walk again.


                not  to be  prevented  of;  but  the  death  of     
  work worlds the sorrow.

Crying pills bought on credit

[this is the talk I gave the other night in the Parsons' Fashion in Film series on Elio Petri's The 10th Victim (1965)]  

I start with what may seem a double disappointment for introducing a futurish high fashion war of the sexes, a black comedy about the bullets and saliva traded back and forth between two assassins assigned to kill each other in the "Big Hunt" competition: I'm not going to say much about fashion.  And I'm not going to say much about sex.

The former, in part, because the film so foregrounds this that it will talk plenty about it itself, and because there are some here who can tell me more about it than I'll ever hope or aim to know.

The latter, in part, because despite the ways in which this film plays at being an exploitation film there to give you the goods (the sheer startling physical fact of Ursula Andress makes this the case), it's a film about the endless deferral of getting the goods in which the prospect of cashing out never quite comes to pass, as the money passes straight through your name to the hands of your ex-wife, into a set of endlessly replaceable clothes that are not discernibly enjoyed, at most instrumentalized, into a choice of ready-made full-life furniture settings, into a game that may kill you but that has no stakes whatsoever.

    That's to say, this is a film about credit.  On death, sex, and ultra-modernism on the installment plan.  Or rather, after the installment plan, a presaged vision of the inconsequential plenitude to come.  This is a “future” film not only because it is replete with the futurish look of a certain derivation of the Italian-cosmopolitan 60s – a fact that, ultimately, marks it all the more in a present – but because if the film gave us a full info-dump (i.e. when a character or narrator laboriously explains how the future world came to be, which bombs fell or technological breakthrough led to rampaging robots), if it gave us that, it might very simply say: well, the 70s happened.  Well, there were crises and fuel shortages and there were people who called themselves communists and did things like burn banks and take over factories.  And there was a time when it seemed like this might not get better, as if certain deep tendencies of how the whole infernal apparatus worked would become as indelibly and idiotically visible as they have long been.

    But we got over all that.  Can we interest you in a line of credit?  And should you want to swap out mass violence for trading potshots with other impeccably dressed sexy ones in an execution proto-edition of Survivor, so much the better.

    Let me back up.  The film we're going to watch is from 1965.  The director is Elio Petri, not only one of the most underrated and underwatched Italian directors, from an American perspective, but one of the best political filmmakers of the century: always fierce, always misanthropic, often paranoid, always complicated and without clear resolution, and always didactic in the best way, in that it gives no injunctions of what to do other than to begin in the utter messiness of a struggle that started without you.  In this case, we face a film that's often considered more as a sexy, jazzy romp with some low-level critique of consumerism, greed, sexual relations, and the general barbarism of society at large.  That's off: sexy and jazzy as this may be, this is not a easily swallowable bit of pseudo-critical film.  The razor edge of Petri's political thought isn't dulled here, just buried inside a hip late modernist apple.  And it cuts all the more for that.

    It stars, in a flawless pairing, Ursula Andress and Marcello Mastroianni, it features a Pierro Piccioni score for which I apologize in advance, because it will haunt your head terribly, and yes, there are those costumes, designed by Giulio Coltellacci in collaboration with the Sorelle Fontana fashion house. It's based on a Robert Sheckley sci-fi short story (“The Seventh Victim”) with some noticeable differences in emphasis to which I'll return.

It is, in brief, the story of a society on the skids that's figured out how to control that drift through a game.  Faced with continual upsurges of violence, our not-named near future (Hitler is still given the example of what could have been avoided had the “Big Hunt” been around) confronts two possibilities: either violence happens because the current economic and social arrangement conditions it, (very much including the deep fuckedness of gender dynamics, particularly in its allegedly monogamous  married form), or because people are just like that.  Given the structural incapacity to think about the former, the ruling order designs the Big Hunt.

You'll get the details straight off in the film, but in short: you can sign up for a competition in which you must survive ten rounds of being alternately hunter or hunted, in which you are legally sanctioned to kill, in whatever manner possible and hopefully with as much flair as the law allows, your designated target.  The only difference between hunter and hunted being that the hunter is given full information about the hunted, while the hunted simply receives notice: your life is on the line.  One cannot just survive.  A hunted must kill a hunter, otherwise it's a life on the run.  Make the kill, make some money, make it through ten rounds, and you become a “decathlete,” win one million dollars, a number of product endorsements, and general celebrity.

    All supposedly to give an outlet to the basic brutality of human nature.  In the Sheckley story, in a manner much more explicit than in this film, there is a basic utility to the auto-destruction of “those kind of people”, as if the point of the hunt was to drag the genepool for its murderous weeds.  Here there's something else happening, where it's presumed that everyone has got a bit of this, and, in proper Adornian fashion, they libidinally displace their inaction onto the celebrity decathletes.  But the shadow of the other reason why people do this – capitalism rewards nastiness – lingers, and as such, the hunt is both a way of avoiding the confrontation with the social order and a consequence of what happens when the possibility of such a confrontation has been swept away.  One of Petri's other films is titled We Still Kill the Old Way.  That might ground title for this too: We Still Kill the Old Way, But Now It's Legal. 

    What I want to ask, though, is what goes beyond this sort of basic sense of allegory, that nodding understanding that, yes, you show a future in order to “really be about the present.”  Because given the film's release in '65, there are some aspects of it that were not yet fully materialized, elements of the years and decades to come, in which what it jokingly points toward became  a real curse of a "pointing forward", a deferral onto a future payback, that came to structure more and more of social life.
    So let's ask of this future: What kind of future (what does it look like), what's underpinning this, and why?

    What does it look like, then?  Here we get into the side of things that occasion it being watched here, namely, the style of it, its futurist look.  Or rather, as I'd prefer to call it, to differentiate from either a certain historical avant-garde tradition or from a sense of being concerned visually with a serious consideration of what might be to come, its futurish look.  There is a lot of white, both buildings and fabric.  A rough adherence to either boxy right angles (when long walls or incongruous furniture or popped collars), snug black outfits halfway between Italian tailoring and latex fucksuits, bursts of neon, unnecessary bits of fabric (see her entirely superfluous head strap there to help keep the sunglasses on).  But not all things look this way.  People are still flying Pan Am, the cars are no different, the robots we see are cobbled together more than a bit DIY, and above all, not everyone has gotten the word that you're supposed to wear Courrèges.

Regarding this last point, we should note the way that a) not everyone is clad in such fashion, and b) more forcefully, the version of the future on-display is not an imagining internal to the film itself.  Rather, it is a historically marked “futurish” style, tied specifically to Courrèges and others, such that the wearing of it – by those who make of it a project – is distinctly not of the future, but of that mid 60s moment.  And in this way, the parts of the film that look most “futurish” are the parts that have the least to do with the future, belonging instead to a very distinct moment in which one could demarcate oneself as being savvier than thou by wearing clothes that do not button, that look like they were made of oil at some point, that cling and hug and hypothetically have distinct fabric qualities that might block UV rays or go from day to neon glaring night without missing a beat.  But reading them as of the future would doubly miss the point.  We've had 45 years since then, and we're no closer to wearing neoprene bodysuits as a general population.  And such clothes never belonged to a different project of designing for a mode of future life in which such concerns for utility would come to rule the day.

    Two brief points on this overperfomance of the future.

First, when you meet the central computers in Geneva (the echoes of Swiss banks are utterly unmistakable) and they read out their newest hunter/hunted match in staccato tone to an empty room, we register that if things are really that advanced, a rough approximation of normal talking cadence should be one of the first things a supercomputer could pull off.  Rather, in trying to sound like it belongs to the future, it casts itself all the more back onto a period we've left far behind.

Second, a small note: when Ursula Andress' character reveals why a bullet has not in fact killed her, it isn't because she's wearing a teddy made of a carbon fiber weave with titanium supports.  It's because she has a damn good set of “leather undergarments,” a remnant of craft fashion that gets the job done when no number of shining white polymer dresses can do the trick.

    What's underpinning this future?  I've hinted before: it is the structure of credit, of banking on outcomes, of insurance and deferral.  Such an account deserves more time than I can give it, and as such, I'll just gesture here, in a way that the watching of the film itself will fully bear out, that the support system for this order to come has little do with a restraining of the basic human urge to murder, and everything to do with those computers in Geneva, with this death on a prescribed plan, and above all, with the decoupling of credit and wealth from a sense that real wealth is held by anyone, other than the confidence, performance, and promise of paying back.  All the more in a time when what matters is not a settling of accounts and a cashing out, but a general precarity, a living off borrowed time and living with things that you bought on credit.

Tellingly, Marcello – one of the more feted hunters in the game, albeit a bit past his prime and not quite top mark – has zero money to his name, who finds his account drained by his ex wife and unable to do anything about it, who hasn't paid his doctor or coach in a long while, who likely won't make it much longer, yet in whose name an entire new set of chic furniture can be ordered the moment his previous set is repossessed.  If the film exists in the future, it is a very near future, in the immediate decades to follow '65, after the dollar is decoupled from the gold standard and becomes the sole backing in a world of floating currencies, after manufacturing stops making so much cash, and after capital starts figuring out how to buy and bide time by extending credit to those who will never be able to pay it back.

    To the third question: why is this all the case? The answer the film gives throws it back on the more superficial terrain that it gives, even as it undermines it: it's a fucked up love story.  But not just between Marcello and Ursula, not just between the two assassins who meet their match and who are doomed to keep trying to kill one another, albeit with a weary tenderness.  Rather, between what we might call capital and labor, or, more anthropically, between classes, not because she seems better off and he's stuck hustling, but because the very dislocation of this type of conflict onto an individual, managed, and, in this film, murderous flirtation type of conflict itself refracts a story about what happened in that period following this film.

In short, in the time when Italy got hot and radical, when it started asking not the older question of why the world under capitalism is so vicious but rather how such a world is composed, how it wasn't remotely a narrative of top-down imposition of power from a state but an awful love story of dependence and desperation.  Of how those who had struggled to kill their opponent often made it stronger, of how the constant back and forth of gaining and losing an upper hand lead, increasingly, to a situation  far bloodier and with far less motion, as the 70s bled out into the 80s and neoliberalism beyond.
This isn't just a projection on my part because I think that all films should be read this way: a cursory glance at Petri's other films and, more than that, the historical situation of Italy shows us a time when insurrection was both talked about and attempted, when people stopped going to the cinema as often for being caught in a terrorist bomb blast, and when the sharper thinkers on the left started realizing that the real question wasn't how do we stick it to you? But maybe we should start seeing other people, that what had to broken was this deadlock of perpetuation, of feeling like you're the hunter on top for a bit, knowing damn well that come next round, the general structure – credit, value – that dictates the whole thing will be in place and that it'll be your turn to feel harrowed and on the run.  How fitting that the scene of the first murder is The Masoch Club, perhaps not just a cute joke on how disaffected this future time of jaded murder viewers are, but a real sense of how class antagonism is reduced to a cycle that revolves but with no revolution.  A melodrama of  stale antagonism for the era of easily available consumer credit to come.

    This film series falls under the sign of melodrama, and such a designation gives another way in to what's at stake in The 10th Victim.  What, then, is meant by melodrama? At the heart of it lies a two-fold logic: that of excess and that of sentimentality, of an inherited structure that is supposed to have real effects (i.e. romantic weepy situations making you weep) that no longer produces those effects in a “natural”, fleshed out way, such that you go through the motions, all the more figuratively and gesturally, hollow and acting out.

    The connection here to what I raised about both futurish fashion (you don't produce the effect of the future, you simply turn up the volume on the stale signifiers of that) and about radical collective violence (you don't produce effects on a future arrangement of things, you just parcel that violence out into a legitimated self-perpetuating structure) should be relatively obvious.  This is a melodramatic film because it depicts an objectively melodramatic world, one that is crowded with excess but that does not cohere, and that demands of its subjects that they feel something for which they haven't been given “adequate” preparation.

But like some others, I want to defend melodrama for two reasons.  First, because it nails, elaborates, and dwells in that very condition, of the genuine affect of being in a historical situation that has no discernible outlet for that affect.  In this way, as you watch the endless reversals and betrayals of Mastroianni and Andress, what you'll see is neither a purely cold detached mercenary logic willing to screw the enemy to put him in the ground nor an overwhelming of purpose through a flowering of real pathos, in the “falling in love was your first mistake” kind of tearjerker way.

Rather, it is a tentative, searching, genuinely perplexed and misplaced, genuine confusion of what one is to with affect and desire, particularly when that desire isn't just – or isn't much at all –  to fuck your deathmate but to fuck over the terrible world in which you live, that awful, rabid, unstable, shrill world of credit and banks, of rules and promotional opportunities, of marriages and furniture.  It is that which cannot be figured, which can only be displaced into a restricted set of individuals to kill, into the hostility of love, into a managed war of the sexes.

    The second point about melodrama is that I think what gets called melodrama – that strange hybrid of ineffective forms which resorts to manipulative measures to get its audience to feel what those forms can no longer produce on their own – is a crucial underground legacy running through the culture of late capitalism.  We might to return to debates about “modernism” or “realism” here, but we don't need to.

Rather, we can just say that if some of the fights about such a thing was about the tension between a fractured style intended to mirror the fracturing of experience as opposed to a more coherent style capable of mapping the wider social world and processes by which subjects came to be fractured like that, melodrama not only points a third way, it also points a certain historical direction – and associated ways of feeling – without which the last century and this one cannot be understood.  That is a direction, and structure, of credit, of expectation, of a promised outcome that will not happen other than through the betting on, and borrowing against, the possibility of it being the case.

And credit here means not some imposed financial structure from above, as if you could blame such a thing on some one, but a general condition, a general relationship that comes to infect and stain all things: how people think about sexual relations (consider Marcello's mistress' insistence that she has invested a lot of time in this relationship and she will kill him before she lets him default on their marriage-to-be, the future guarantee of security against which she leveraged her fucking of a married man).

How people think about clothing: one, but not everyone, invests in a present vision of what the future may be both to differentiate oneself (to profit from foresight) and to bring about the future conditions in which such a future sense may be regarded as presently compelling.

How people think about lived space: the line of credit stretched out and frozen, briefly, into a set of objects that surround you, the repossession of which is no problem, given that credit extends its arms longer than the repo man and you call up immediately and order a new set, because when you answer the question “how will we pay for this” with the future profits of one making a killing in the future, no one can say no.

How people think about history: marked out in a series of gestures that mark out the worst love story ever told, of capital and labor, in its distinctly late 20th century garb, not of those who've got the cash and those who don't, but of those who've got the cash insofar as you count what's owed to them and those who've got the cash in hand provided they pay it back in double, triple, on and on.

    Into such a stalemate walks the melodrama, with all its nervous, pacing energy, its failed attempts to play it cool.  Like all good political art, it doesn't know more than the situation it takes on: at most, it performs what cannot not be the case.  Those British Gothic scenery chewing Gothic melodramas, those Sirk weepies, this Petri defaulted credit thing that may not look like a melodrama, but that is one at the end of the day, all the more because it registers the sense that neither the expected structure nor the emergency measures of pushing your buttons is going to channel the affects of the viewers correctly: all these melodramas are a lost didactic mode.

They're part and parcel of something we think of closer to film that wears its politics on its sleeves – Russian kinotrains showing Eisenstein films, Pontecorvo showing the French how the Algerians were busy undoing colonial rule – because what they do is point a finger and say:  

see this, this future that is to come?  That isn't the present, in some allegory.  That is the present insofar as there is no present now that isn't valued in terms of what it might come to mean, a weak approximation of the future garbed in silicone sheen and dark glasses, a version that belongs only to a present that teeters on a razor's edge of future payback, and which has been teetering there for a long time, going nowhere, displacing its mass violence, making more of the same, buying it on credit, playing games, fucking around.

Who can blame such a disaster for at least wanting to look sharp?