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Reflections on a trip to the cinema

July 26, 2011

The other day I went to see Bridesmaids, which I’d read was an important breakthrough for feminist cinema.  Being Scottish, I resent leaving the cinema before I’ve got my money’s worth, but even I couldn’t sit to the end of such awful, horrible crap.  However, before the start of the feature I saw a trailer for a film called Horrible Bosses.  The premise of the film sounds similar to the premise of a wonderful French film called Louise-Michel: a group of aggrieved employees hire a bungling hit man to assassinate their bosses.

Louise-Michel is a daring film that made me laugh in a hand over the mouth sort of way.  Long after the credits rolled, I sat staring at the screen, amazed that such a film was possible; watch it with a friend and you will find yourselves checking each other’s responses, disorientated and inspired.  It is a black comedy, a cry to action, a parody of a range of films from Calendar Girls to (the also excellent) Couscous, and, subtly, a short history of capitalism from the time that the peasantry was proletarianised.

Whether the makers of Horrible Bosses knowingly ripped off Louise-Michel is a mute point, but it’s interesting that our economic moment is generating these cultural responses (Nine to Five was an earlier film on a slightly similar theme), and it’s also interesting to note how Horrible Bosses depoliticises and neutralises the contradictions that Louise-Michel sets out to antagonise.  I haven’t seen Horrible Bosses, and I don’t intend to – like Slavoj Žižek and the reviewers at Publishers Weekly, I agree that you don’t necessarily need to see or read a piece of culture to come up with a fair critique – but it looks awful: absurd escapism in which male white collar workers crack misogynistic jokes and plot to assassinate a sexually predatory female dentist (possibly Jennifer Anniston).  Still, I’m convinced that comparing the two films might help someone cleverer than I am to better understand how culture functions ideologically in our society.

Anyway, the experience prompted me to list some favourite politically-important films.

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