Cool Men and the Second Sex (2003, New York:Columbia University Press)
By Susan Fraiman

I have argued that Tarantino’s method of administering repeated adrenaline shots may, like the Fort!/Da! game, address certain male needs. Yet the rush of feeling the shots produce also goes against the grain of manliness; culturally speaking, jolted nerves, along with penetrable cavities and dripping orifices belong to women. And although (or because) this film primarily addresses sensation-seeking men, it pays homage to the cultural norm through the scene that inspired my trope, in which the body jump-started by adrenaline is not actually male but female. Meanwhile, the masculine counterpart to this oozing, punctured feminine is represented by the much-discussed briefcase that Jules and Vincent kill for. My own answer to the cult question, “What’s inside the briefcase?” is interiority – that is, defended, mystified, male interiority. Much valued, much vaunted, and never finally shown, this radiant, indefinable softness is lost within a hard, exterior shell. Even Jules, who wants to lose the baggage of a barricaded self, walks out of the movie clutching it still.

2001 Prehistoric Monolith

(reposted from:

2001; or,
How One Film-Reviews
With a Hammer

by Donald MacGregor

The opening of 2001:A Space Odyssey depicts the sun rising above a crescent Earth while the introduction to Richard Strauss’ tone-poem, Also Sprach Zarathustra (Thus Spoke Zarathustra), plays. This music is meant to represent the wise man, Zarathustra, as he descends from a mountain to preach his gospel to the people. Only in this case, it is Stanley Kubrick coming to preach his gospel.

Friederick Nietzsche’s book, Also Sprach Zarathustra, upon which the Strauss tone-poem is based, presents the idea that mankind will one day be surpassed by the übermensch, or the superman. This theme can also be found in Kubrick’s films: Dr. Strangelove (1963), A Clockwork Orange (1971), and especially 2001:A Space Odyssey (1968), which is the subject of this paper.

the space fetus from 2001

The Nietzschean idea seems to have its origin in Darwin’s theory of natural selection. Nietzsche saw life as “a struggle for existence in which the fittest survive, strength is the only virtue, and weakness the only fault.”[1] According to Nietzsche, the evolution of man will travel through three stages: primitive man (ape), modern man, and ultimately, superman. Of this, Nietzsche wrote “what is the ape to man? A laughingstock or painful embarrassment. And man shall be to the superman: a laughingstock or a painful embarrassment.”[2] Man is just a bridge between ape and superman, but for the superman to be, man must use his will to make it happen, “a will to procreate or a drive to an end, to something higher and farther.”[3]

Read More

Parallel Universes in Mulholland Drive, by David Lynch

The theory that “Mulholland Drive” is a composition of dreams and fantasies has been the dominant one in the press lately. It’s thoroughly Lynchian, and it does makes a modicum of sense. But to me, there’s something about that hypothesis that feels too easy, too incomplete. Here’s my theory:

The blue box is the portal between two parallel universes – a motif not without precedent in Lynch’s oeuvre (remember the evil Agent Cooper in “Twin Peaks”?). Although the box represents the only direct access to each universe, each character retains vestigial memories of their parallel universe counterpart. Betty and Rita, for instance, fall into such an easy, trusting friendship since they are each subconsciously familiar with Diane and Camilla’s relationship. Rita recalls the name “Diane Selwyn.” Adam even seems to recognize Betty at the audition.

Read More