August 04, 2008

Quote of the day: Orphée aux Enfers

The phantasmagoria of capitalist culture attains its most radiant unfolding in the world exhibition of 1867. The Second Empire is at the height of its power. Paris is acknowledged as the capital of luxury and fashion. Offenbach sets the rhythm of Parisian life. The operetta is the ironic utopia of an enduring reign of capital.

—Walter Benjamin, "Paris, the Capital of the Nineteenth Century"
(1935 version, translated by Howard Eiland and Kevin McLaughlin)


rbonotto said...

Very apropos. But, going off the rails a bit, the phantasmagoria of capitalist culture depends in part on its accessibility.

By a kind of mind-association, seeing your Cocteau-Orphee-shot reminded me of Cocteau's quote (I'm paraphrasing here from the great, 6-hour documentary "Cinema Europe"): "Just as there was painting before and after Picasso, there was film before and after (Abel Gance's) "La Roue."

Which is nice, except you can't find anywhere --even on YouTube-- anything more than a clip of that film. (However, Newton Library *does* have Gance's 1938 film of Charpentier's "Louise" -- which, in terms of 19th century Paris, leads us right back to where we started from!

Matthew said...

It is certainly not insignificant that copyright in Benjamin's time (and, even more so, in the previous eras he was fascinated by) was a far cry from today's more stringent code. In a way, it's a reversal—what Benjamin saw as a cultural underground pushing up into the capitalist mainstream is now a mainstream cultural market pushed underground (Kazaa, PirateBay, whatever the kids are using these days) by capitalist control. (Discussion question: which market is more "free"? And how does that affect the perception of the "free market" as efficient?)

Speaking of Gance, YouTube also turns up a nice chunk of his Beethoven biopic.