All posts filed under: Cinema

Representation and the Communitarianization of Cinema

A spate of recent cinema releases—Wonder Woman, Black Panther and, most recently, Crazy Rich Asians—have all been hailed in an almost repetitive, automatic way as ground-breaking. They are all fairly good films, but the reason for this excitement is not their artistry, or even their individual politics, but, at least with left-leaning critics, their portrayal of “powerful women,” “blackness,” and “Asian-ness,” respectively, within a mainstream Hollywood film. For the Left, the mere fact of representation—meaning the depiction of minority experiences and interests, or, more generally, seeing people who look like you—elevates these works to the position of cultural milestones­­­­. ­­­ In the view of the Left, to recognize a diversity of identities in art and culture is to enable self-empowerment and nurture a sense of collective solidarity. Black Panther, the recently anointed poster-child of representation, was even spoken about in spiritual terms when it was released. In an article entitled “I Dream a World: Black Panther and the Re-Making of Blackness,” Renée T. White wrote that “T’Challa [the hero] is a gateway to the past …

‘The Apartment,’ Authority, and Consent

This essay contains spoilers. What can a film made in 1960 tell us about the sexual mores of the present? I found myself pondering this question as I rewatched Billy Wilder’s award-winning drama The Apartment recently. The year of its release is important: as The Guardian’s Andrew Pulver notes in a recent appreciation, the story unfolds during a peculiar cultural moment “on the cusp of the permissive era”; prevailing norms were being questioned rather than taken for granted, and the uncertainty casts the characters adrift in a confusion that almost kills them. But this uncertainty, and the consequent effort with which the characters must navigate shifting standards, offers a complex portrait of human sexual relations and courtship. This is a topic of particular pertinence to our own cultural moment and it makes The Apartment a fascinating artefact worth revisiting. The Apartment‘s intellectual value and emotional urgency are generated, in large part, by the contrast between the film’s two main characters and their surroundings. The traits that make Shirley MacLaine’s Fran Kubelik lovable are those that leave her alienated …