She stuttered (Il nuovo caso Matarazzo, 1)

 Working on a long project on Italian melodrama with my friend Erik.  In particular, I have been spending a lot of hours with Rafaello Matarazzo, who is

a) very Catholic, in the full spectrum of allegedly incompatible tendencies that fall beneath that,

b) deserving of posthumous shot to the mouth,

c) a lynchpin figure in making sense of a post-war period in which national cinemas tried, consciously or lumbering, to forge a language that was not identical to that shilled out by Hollywood's relative dominance of cinematic export (particularly dramatic in Italy in that period, which had only a few years of self-imposed development before the war, and largely due to a fascist conception of autochthonous film industry),

d) should be watched by any and all, considering that these are some of the most arduous, maddening, and somatically effective melodramas made (if not producing tears, as they don't for me, then producing a voice, a voice that finds itself talking to a screen with all the urgency of the standard don't open the closet! warning)

and e) around whom the long-circling debates - above all, on stupidity, the popular, and on whether or not the work of negation finds a better point of departure with self-authorized critical cinema or with cinema that fully, and perhaps unabashedly, embodies the contradictions of capitalist culture - are still crucial.  They found a reappraisal by Jacques Lourcelles and other French theorists (around Positif and Presence du Cinéma) and were picked up again in '76 Italy in what came to be called il caso Matarazzo - the Matarazzo case, as if set before revisionist judge and jury - and bore on the sloppy intersections of genre film and realism, particularly of the neo- bent.

 There's more to be said, all the more now, even if not "about now' - as in, while fully rejecting that ever-awful move, what does Matarazzo tell us/communist theory/film studies/formalists now?".  (Here's a hint, particularly when folded into that list of "us" is "The Left": nothing whatsover.)  Better, as ever to ask: what do we want to tell ourselves, that we wouldn't if we didn't have that particularly dissolve, that dog hiding his face, that storm, those wipes that pass through the frame like night trainsWhat have we not known needed saying, whatever its scale or consequence?

As such, this is the first in a short series of posts on those films.  And to start things right and lay a first grammar:

This is what should be meant by a dissolve.  (Dissolute lust unrequited and spurned by the schemings of bad mothers <---> torch-bearing mob of quarry workers led by the count who owns the quarry, in search of the woman who won't be found, even though her image is still there and walked through by their horror movie antics.)

And this is what will be meant by a wipe, of a shot away, but not cleanly, by the same figure set elsewhere, barging in.  A stutter.

1 comment:

Miguel Cardoso said...

Your brief methodological comments, or questions (What have we not known needed saying...) seem particularly suggestive pointed and urgent. Your habitual present perfect here is oddly adornian, I thought, (beyond the intended or not gloss on/détournement of Adorno's comments in the beginning of Hegel: Three Studies): the pounding deictic pronouns (even if Adorno be suspicious of them, and put on the brakes), the warping of particularity by negativity and injunction, the emphatic and vague needed, the implicit refusal of ironic dettachment. And they are also, of course, adornian oddly, given the smash and grab thrust which keeps them away from any kind of mourning, steers ethical imperatives in the direction of something fierce yet congenial, refuses being tragic and ponderous and, of course, is hit in somatically in the gut by wipes and dogs hiding their faces. A kind of squaring the circle (of historicism formalism marxism etc) by giving it sharp blurry egdes, I guess. Will keep it in mind. And Adorno would indeed stutter if chained to a chair and be put on a looping force-fed diet of visceral melodrama. He would of course enjoy it, viscerally, and would howl for not quite being able to recruit that feeling for the forces of quiet negation.


PS: The translation of the Roman letters is going slowly but going. Will send you an email about them sometime.