Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Marx's return and dream fulfilled

When asked if new technologies have further simplified his already technologically straightforward approach to filmmaking, reclusive French filmmaker, Chris Marker, who is now 87, replied:

"Definitely. To be able to make a film, The Case of the Grinning Cat, with my own ten fingers, without any support or outside help . . . and then to go sell the DVD myself at Saint-Blaise flea market . . . right there, I admit to feeling triumph: direct from producer to consumer. No surplus value. I have fulfilled Marx's dream."
Surplus value! Now there is a man who has spent some time in the trenches, as did I some 15+ year ago, of Marx's Das Kapital. To wit:
"Our capitalist has two objects in view: in the first place, he wants to produce a use-value that has a value in exchange, that is to say, an article destined to be sold, a commodity; and secondly, he desires to produce a commodity whose value shall be greater than the sum of the values of the commodities used in its production, that is, of the means of production and the labour-power, that he purchased with his good money in the open market. His aim is to produce not only a use-value, but a commodity also; not only use-value, but value; not only value, but at the same time surplus-value" (Section 2 of Chapter 7, of vol. 1 of Kapital "The Production of Surplus Value").

Marker's comment brought to my mind an interesting article that appeared in the New Yorker back in 1997, entitled The Return of Karl Marx.

I am very interested in thoughts about the implications of Marker's view of unsupported, straight-to-the-people, filmmaking both to culture and to economics. This is reflected a bit in the clip. Is owl to cat what angel is to man? Is the erasing of the cat from the church wall in any way equivalent to the Taliban's destruction of the Buddhas, if not, why? If so, how? Is culture only something inherited, a deposit, something passed on, or can it be added to, deepened, enriched? What constitites a legitmate addition, deepening, or contribution to culture? In other words, is there something like St. Vincent of Lérins' two rules for culture?

On a tangentially related note, for the same reasons that Lorenzo Albacete landed on the side of the atheist during a panel discussion on science and faith at NYU, I am betting with Stephen Hawking against the discovery of the Higgs Boson particle, the hypothetical particle from which the universe derived its form. According to the BBC, the hypothetical bit of matter or energy, "because it is so fundamental in shaping the universe" is called the God particle. The experiment is being conducted at the European Centre for Nuclear Research, which has a superconducting super collider of the kind envisioned in this country some twenty years ago. It is known as the Big Bang experiment.

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