Spellbound

Watching Spellbound. First time. In fact, it was one of the only Hitchcock flicks I’ve never seen. And I keep getting so lost. It’s all about Freudian analysis, which is one of those archaic things that few understand anymore. But everyone did back then. Hitchcock just assumed that a sophisticated audience in 1945 would understand the dialog. But that was half a century ago, and since then the study of the mind became the study of the brain. It’s all about neurology now, mechanics over assumptions.

So it’s kind of like trying to watch a movie based on marxist theory. As recently as the seventies a sophisticated audience would understand the basics of Marxist thought and a plot would have to explain little. It might have been excruciatingly dull, but the hip crowds would get it. Now most of us would be lost, Das Kapital in all its turgid detail finally relegated to the 19th century. Oh it hangs on in some academic circles, in literary theory and semantics, but once all those professors retire it’ll disappear, and all the Marxist allusions in fllms of the sixties will be understood only by historians. People will read about them somewhere and try as hard as they can to understand, but they won’t. Just like we can be so bewildered by Freudian pscyhobabble. It obviously meant something to them back then…but you had to be there.

I suspect that Chomsky will go the same way, relegated to philosophy courses where the elegance of a theory is more important than its scientific legitimacy. We still study Aristotle even though, face it, he was wrong about a lot of things. But the elegance and brilliance of his thought in the context (i.e., he thought it up a helluva long time ago), and the influence it had on western thought, makes it key to the study of western philosophy. Just don’t quote him in your biology class. And Chomsky’s brilliant theories, so simple (unlike his prose) will be studied as a key to language…even though the neurological evidence is a little light so far. I mean his generative theory should hold up (although there have been some doubts thrown up there too…namely the language of the Piriha in the Amazon) but there is no center of universal grammar uncovered so far; we are not born with all the grammar in the world set in our head, like some perfectly formed language homunculus.

Of course no one makes movies based on Chomskyan theory. The dialog would drag. “For any transformation which is sufficiently diversified in application to be of any interest, the fundamental error of regarding functional notions as categorial appears to correlate rather closely with nondistinctness in the sense of distinctive feature theory” she says breathlessly, her nude body glistening…..they couldn’t even show that on Sundance.

Anyway Spellbound is nearly over. Gregory Peck is in the clutches of the police, and Ingrid Bergman is still gorgeous. But I dunno, somehow Ingrid’s saying “People fall in love, as they put it, because they respond to a certain hair coloring or vocal tones or mannerisms that remind them of their parents.” doesn’t have quite the same punch as “Kiss me. Kiss me as if it were the last time.” That Bogie could understand.

Uh oh. Surprise ending. I won’t say who or what. No spoiler me. But Ingrid figured it analyzing dreams. Something symbolized a revolver. Voila! The killer revealed. Dreams, you know. Last nite I dreamed that my wife and I had to take two separate submarines across the East River to get to Brooklyn. Obviously the submarines are phallic. I don’t know about the East River, though. Whatever.

Anyway Bullitt‘s up next. That one I can understand. Gunfights, car chases, Jacqueline Bisset in a miniskirt and gogo boots. Maybe she’ll be in my dream tonite. Of course I won’t remember even if she is….I almost never remember my dreams. Not even dirty ones. Submarines I remember. And without Freud, a submarine is just a submarine.

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