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Said and Unsaid

Does the mirror have two faces?

Here are two quotes by two foreigners about America (the first obliquely-US box office return is the most important marker for studio films).

Christopher Nolan, about his upcoming film Inception:

When somebody’s spent years making a film and spent massive amounts of money — crazy amounts of money, really, that get spent on these huge films — then you want to see something extremely ambitious in every sense.    Full article

J.M. Coetzee, when asked about the significance of his novel Elizabeth Costello ending with a letter dated September 11th, said:

As for September 11, let us not too easily grant the Americans possession of that date on the calendar. Like May 1 or July 14 or December 25, September 11 may seem full of significance to some people, while to other people it is just another day.  Full Interview

What is being said here? Unsaid? Again that word ‘ambitious.’

8 thoughts on “Said and Unsaid

  1. Greg, the link to the Coetzee interview doesn’t seem to be working for me.

    The Nolan interview is fascinating for all sorts of reasons. (I’ve written about the film of The Prestige twice now, a review, and a contribution to a book as yet unpublished, so I’m fascinated by Nolan’s work.) What strikes me instantly is that the new film seems to use dream as a metaphor for the internet.

    Secondly, picking up on your reference to ‘ambition’, the interview seems to equate ambition with scale. Yet Memento was one of the most ambitious films I have seen for a long time and it was very small scale, both in terms of effects and costs. This isn’t really about ambition: it’s about throwing a shed-load of money at the film and wanting to see all of that money reflected up on the screen. That Nolan can do something ambitious within that constraint is what is more interesting.

    Thirdly, is this a quote about America, or a quote about America as an economic entity (which isn’t quite the same thing)?

    An oblique aside about the Coetzee quote: tomorrow is 7th July, the fifth anniversary of the London tube bombings, and I travel every day to one of the stations where a bomb went off. Frankly, I’d rather not own that date, if it’s all the same to you.

    1. Paul, I’ve tried the link, it is working. Google – Kultur & Noje with Coetzee, it should come up.

      Good point about Memento. Look at the Blair Witch Project. Regardless of the quality of the film, if making money is the point, which Nolan alludes to, look at what people can do with almost no money at their fingertips, no special effects. That’s ambitious.

      I think it’s debatable as to whether America and America as an economic entity don’t have some resonance. I’m not the person to debate this. I will say ‘Consumer culture’ and ‘America’ have been linked together in sentences many, many times.

      1. The link is working for me now. Some temporary glitch, no doubt.

        Surely ambition is trying to do the best, achieve the most, regardless of the tools or money at one’s disposal. The link between ambition and money that seems to keep coming up whenever Hollywood is involved is, to me, antithetical to the very notion of ambition.

        And yes, ‘consumer culture’ and ‘America’ have been linked many times, but does that mean they should be?

      2. A small aside — another way of thinking about ambition in “The Blair Witch Project” — how the filmmakers revealed the presence of the witch without revealing the witch himself. If the method is convincing (in my experience, it was) it’s a great example of the power of suggestion in art.

  2. “As for September 11, let us not too easily grant the Americans possession of that date on the calendar.”

    …and there’s “the other September 11”: the Chilean coup of ’73. Americans probably should admit some ownership to that…

    1. Yes, Michael, and it’s a point hammered over and over again by Noam Chomsky, Terry Eagleton, Ralph Nader, and too few others. Somehow, it still doesn’t get through.

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