Friday, February 18, 2005

Off the Shelf: Forms of Being

Ever disappear from your own blog less than a month after you started it? It's been a crazy week, babies. Trains and buses. Interviews. Work. Anti-corporate campaigns. Craziness.

Also, 'tis nice to say, I've been reading a book again, and a pretty good one. Leo Bersani and Ulysse Detoit's Forms of Being is a slimmish book, at 177 big-typed and small-sized pages. And especially for an academic book, these fellas aren't dithering around: no acknowledgments, a tiny intro, three chapters with not too many footnotes. Bersani has written tougher books before, like the comparably succinct but purposely provoking Homos from '96. Forms of Being feels a little like one of those books that gets cobbled together out of three essays the authors just felt like writing, about films they really like. Even if Godard's Contempt, Almodóvar's All About My Mother, and Malick's The Thin Red Line don't seem like an obvious trio for joint review, Bersani and Detoit adroitly use each film as a platform for exploring different notions of individual life and personality than the typical we-are-all-special-snowflakes ideology of most American movies (and most American rhetoric). B & D, already challenging myths of individualism by writing a book together, essentially argue that the thwarted couple in Contempt suggest the pure potentiality in all human relationships; the women in Almodóvar embody both the actively performative and fluidly repetitive aspects of identity, including the intersections between imagined ideals and concrete circumstances; and the often barely-"personalized" men in The Thin Red Line are photographed, voiced, and edited into a kind of interdependent summary group who see the world, reflect the world, are the world, and disappear from the world, all at the same time. Sound interesting? Check it out.