Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The future has already happened. It just hasn't happened yet.

Check out this post at ads without products, on short-horizon futurity, imagination, Children of Men, narrative, and even literature departments. A quote:

It is tough, though, to know exactly what to make of this development - the foreshortening of the future from way, way out there to quite soon to almost now down toward in selben Augenblick. On the one hand, of course, it marks a foreclosure of the concept that the world might be radically otherwise, as there will never be any time for it to radically change. On the other hand, the whole scenario calls to mind Benjamin's "Theses on the Philosophy of History" and its resistance to the Social Democratic concept of progress as a "progression through a homogenous, empty time" in favor of a "notion of a present which is not a transition, but in which time stands still and has come to a stop."

At any rate, perhaps this sort of issue is exactly the sort of thing that the present day literature department should take up as a task. We English professors love the conjunction of the aesthetic and the political. But something has happened that makes it nearly impossible (save through pseudo-blog) to make this argument publically.

Also follow the embedded link to the YouTube trailer for Next, a preview that uses medieval-ish choral music to emphasize the scariness of its nuclear-blast-destined future.

PS In the department of "The last one to see Children of Men, please turn off the DVD player": I finally watched the film this weekend. It reminded me so much of Y tu mamá también, with its background full of historically loaded images and narratives that crowd away the main story -- Eileen and Zizek were right on this. Weirdly, a power outage at my son's school gave the two of us the chance to watch Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, another Alfonso Cuarón film. He certainly has a signature style: streamlined main plots dwarfed by boisterous mise-en-scène. It's as evident in a light kid's film (which actually has many a dark subcurrent) as it is in his excursions into speculative fiction and historical romance.


Matthew Gabriele said...

It's symptomatic of apocalyptic time. "Imminent" apocalypticism, in this case perhaps (but just perhaps) secular, is the nearness of the future. From "God is coming" to "God is ALMOST here."

Richard Landes' work on western chronography in the early Middle Ages talks about this a lot (although his earlier stuff is better than the more recent).

Anonymous said...

As i watched the preview for "Next," I was struck by the sensory metaphors used to describe the epistemology of the future. Nicholas Cage's character can "see" the future, but the future "holds" unexpected events for him. I wonder if it's worth thinking about the agency of these phrases: seeing seems somewhat impotent, at least in this preview (he can see it but he can't quite change it...). Holding, however, seems more powerful: death is always imminent. What to make of these metaphors? For some reason, Milton's PL jumps to mind. If I recall my Milton, Michael shows Adam the future, of the Old Testement, through visions. However, he tells Adam the future of the New Testement, since adam's eyes are "weary" from the sights. The sensory shift marks a change in futurity; in PL it emphasizes typology. Given Next's main conflict, i.e. dude versus the future, does the choral music work to aurally underscore the crisis between seeing and touching the future?

Anonymous said...

Hey! Thanks for the post!

Jeffrey Cohen said...

mattgabe: good thought and thanks for the bibliography -- will check it out.

hd: great mapping of the clip. I like very much how you emplace the shift in sense metaphors within a shift in kinds of futurity; it makes good sense to me, and will probably stand as the most complex thing ever written about the film. It's funny how Nicholas Cage can bring a movie's total IQ down so quickly.

As to touching the future ... as you know, I've just been re-reading Dinshaw's Getting Medieval, which uses a tactile bridge to the past to envision a more capacious (short-horizon, liberally inclusive) future.

cr: thank YOU for the post.

Anonymous said...

jjc, i forgot that dinshaw employs touch... seems like it might be worthwhile to scan through that text again. thanks.

p.s. poor nicholas cage and his unfortunate career and hair.

Karl Steel said...

It's funny how Nicholas Cage can bring a movie's total IQ down so quickly.

What? Moonstruck? Adaptation? The trailer for Werewolf Women of the SS in Grindhouse? Valley Girl?

Exceptions, I know.

Jeffrey Cohen said...

Karl: you can also add Raising Arizona to this short list of films immune to the dumbifying presence of Nicholas Cage -- there, dare I say it, he is brilliant.

Jeffrey Cohen said...

hd: you make me wonder, did Nicholas Cage's thespian talent dwindle with the receding of his locks? Could he be the Actors Guild version of Samson?

Michael O'Rourke said...

Dare I mention Derrida's Memoirs of The Blind which has seeing, holding, touching, the event, Milton, and Samson, but sadly not Nicholas Cage. One more exception would have to be Wild at Heart.