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Andrew Grossman


Andrew Grossman is the editor and coauthor of the anthology Queer Asian Cinema: Shadows in the Shade (Harrington Park Press, 2001), and has written book chapters for the anthologies Chinese Connections: Critical Perspectives on Film, Identity, and Diaspora (Temple University Press, 2004), The New Korean Cinema (Edinburgh University Press, 2004), and 24 Frames: The Cinema of Japan and Korea (Wallflower Press, 2004). His writing also appears in The New Dictionary of the History of Ideas (Scribner and Sons), Senses of the Cinema, American Book Review, and elsewhere.

Muscle and The Bedroom

Unlike Sato Hisayasu’s Muscle, whose multiple references to Pasolini form an interesting springboard for the film’s examination of homosexuality, performance, and artistic framing, the allusion to Warhol in The Bedroom seems an underdeveloped afterthought. Incidentally, both Muscle and The Bedroom are based on plays (by Yumemoto Shiro). Andrew Grossman--http://www.brightlightsfilm.com/36/pinkfilms1.html.html

Pink Movies [...]

Of the vast numbers of corporate-made genre films that flooded Japan in the 1970s, Donald Richie once remarked that the "West knows nothing of these pictures, nor should it."1 For many years, Richie’s dictum remained almost unwritten law, and throughout the 1960s, ’70’s, and ’80s, there had been no more conspicuous lacuna in the West’s knowledge of Japanese genre filmmaking than the softcore pink film (pinku eiga), whose daunting superabundance, destitute budgets, anarchic politics, and penchant for rough sadomasochism had traditionally impeded any wide distribution abroad. But as the elitist auteurism of the 1960s gave way to the populist, mock-anthropological genre studies of the 1980s and ’90s, as fringe sexual demographics have tentatively emerged from their scarlet-lettered closets, and as Asian chic curries more currency than ever before, the pink film has finally made its entrance onto commercially distributed video and DVD. Synapse Films has recently released pinku eiga guru Wakamatsu Koji’s Go, Go Second Time Virgin (1969) and Ecstasy of the Angels (1970), and now the British company Screen Edge2 gifts us with three more recent (and less political) pink films: Sato Toshiki’s Tandem (1994), Sato Hisayasu’s The Bedroom (1992), and Zeze Takahisa’s The Dream of Garuda (1994). -- Andrew Grossman, http://www.brightlightsfilm.com/36/pinkfilms1.html

Otto Mühl [...]

For over four decades, Mühl’s work has been the subject of agitated, often venomous debate in Germany, Austria, and France, but has become in North America — to use Mühl’s own word — a “vortex” of speculation, misinformation, and tenebrific rumor, to which I have fallen victim as much as anyone else. I am no expert in actionism — if I were, I would have little to discover here, and little interest in this encounter. Not having been privy to the politico-artistic throes of 1960s Austria, my first impressions of Mühl came mostly from Amos Vogel’s seminal picture-book cum leftist primer Film As A Subversive Art (1974), and from Mühl’s autobiographical appearance in Dusan Makavejev’s Sweet Movie (1975). Yet Vogel unintentionally subverts his own intentions at subversion by insisting all art conform to the narrow assumptions of humanism, and Mühl is quick to distance himself from Sweet Movie, whose sensationalism he dismisses as “downright kitsch.” -- Andrew Grossman http://www.brightlightsfilm.com/38/muhl1.htm [May 2004]

Andrew Grossman on camp

We need a precise definition of camp. This statement probably sounds paradoxical, impossible, and totally futile because camp�s very power is its indefinability, its coy, catch-all polymorphousness, its reconstitution of seemingly all extroverted extremes into a marker of oppositional style — regardless of whether those extremes result from intentional artistry or unintentional buffoonery. Susan Sontag�s playful list of artifacts in Notes on Camp spellbinds mainly because her artifacts� many mutual exclusions gloriously prove and broaden camp�s indefinability, ecstatically releasing us from the academic burden of an objective definition. The casual, interchangeable vocabularies we lazily rely upon have always implied that camp, though probably definable, shouldn�t be defined, lest we regain our innocence only to lose it. It isn�t clear if many humorously descriptive, onomatopoeic words we use — hokum, kitsch, schmaltz, cheese, corn — are subsets of camp or alternatives to it, and even if they are subsets, our subjective, amorphous definitions sabotage any attempt at a taxonomy. For me, hokum is Powell and Pressburger, kitsch is Offenbach, schmaltz is (of course) Rachmaninoff, cheese is Lehar, and corn ranges from the nourishing Shadow of a Doubt to the dyspeptically flag-waving The Sands of Iwo Jima. But who�s to say hokum isn�t The Merry Widow, cheese isn�t Rachmaninoff�s Second Symphony, and constipating corn isn�t The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp? Even if we accept Sontag�s claim that florid, puffed-up Richard Strauss is camp (is she thinking of his queer Josephslegende?) and grumpy, grandiloquent Wagner isn�t, can�t ring-thieving dwarves, pointy helms, and magic rainbows still be described as hokum or kitsch, as ably demonstrated by an effeminized Bugs Bunny and infantile Elmer Fudd? --Andrew Grossman, Blood Feast Revisited, or H. G. Lewis as the Keeper of the Key to All Erotic Mystery, http://www.brightlightsfilm.com/44/feast.htm

Grossman on Deleuze in relation to Blood Feast

In his essay “Coldness and Cruelty,” Gilles Deleuze identifies the politicized literatures of Sade and Masoch not as pornography but as “pornology,” or works whose “erotic language cannot be reduced to the elementary [i.e., pornographic] functions of ordering and describing.”18 He continues:

However [pornology] can only be accomplished by an internal splitting of language: the imperative and descriptive function must transcend itself toward a higher function, the personal element turning by reflection on itself into the impersonal…Hence the well-known apathy of the libertine, the self-control of the pornologist, with which Sade contrasts the deplorable “enthusiasm” of the pornographer.”19

What Deleuze is describing is an intellectualized self-alienation, a coldness that apperceives sexuality only to be unmoved by it (the “higher function”), and in that unmoving discovering a “self-control” that places both author and reader willfully above the aesthetic conventions through which they both operate. How this “higher function” would work in film is unclear, since film literally demonstrates the sexuality that literature only describes; but, if we take Deleuze’s ideas loosely, isn’t the intentional camp of Blood Feast 2 a pornology rendered in the stale terms of self-reflexive irony? Doesn’t camp, splitting nostalgic-temporal experience as pornology splits language, alienate us from the campy object by prompting us to turn experience from the personal into the impersonal? Hasn’t Lewis, now self-split and alienated, become an “apathetic” and “self-controlled” parodist instead of the “enthusiastic [and wonderfully deplorable] pornographer” he once was? But self-alienation, alas, is only half of Deleuze’s equation: unlike pornology, camp has no “higher function.” Camp is enamored of playing with convention (not rebuking it), its assumption of moral superiority is, as we have said, illusory and false, and it does not question its literary or cinematic medium in the way Sade or Masoch erotically, tensely confront the sensory limits of what language can express. Camp exists for its own ritual sake and loves not having a higher purpose. We frequently delight in this defiance — until we realize that the lack of higher purpose too often results in the bankrupt intentionality of a Blood Feast 2.

18. See “Coldness and Cruelty” in Masochism. New York: Zone Books, 1991. Page 18. The essay is primarily concerned with debunking the psychoanalytic construct of sadomasochism, which Deleuze sees as an illegitimate conflation of sadistic and masochistic symptomologies, and raising Masoch and Sade to the level of mutually exclusive literary ideologies.

19. Ibid, pages 22 and 29. --Andrew Grossman, Blood Feast Revisited, or H. G. Lewis as the Keeper of the Key to All Erotic Mystery, http://www.brightlightsfilm.com/44/feast.htm

Queer Asian Cinema: Shadows in the Shade - Andrew Grossman

  • Queer Asian Cinema: Shadows in the Shade - Andrew Grossman [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]
    The editor correctly bemoans the lack of materials that discuss both queer theory and Asian filmography. This anthology discusses the topic as it affects numerous Asian countries. However, the articles are throat-deep in academic babble. This book is strictly for semiotics majors and academics. It's a shame too because many gay and/or Asian film buffs would have enjoyed a more understandable book on the topic. Additionally, this book is a special issue of the Journal of Homosexuality series. Usually, those writings are accessible to experts and laypeople. This was not the case here. Besides, the films discussed probably had extremely limited releases, thus Asians, gays, and especially Asian gays (or Asian-American gays) will have no idea about what the authors are analyzing so difficulty. Readers are better off watching "Farewell My Concubine" and "Fire" and coming to their own conclusions on the matter. --amazon.com

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