Jason Horsley's Blood Poets: A Cinema of Savagery : Remarkable and Compelling Critique from an Independent scholar and world traveler
~It is impossible to protect children from certain cultural artifacts without, on the one hand, restricting and censoring the culture itself, and, on the other hand, restricting the behavior - the freedom - not only of children but of adults as well. Horsely, Blood Poets
I have had the remarkable good fortune to become acquainted with author Jason Horsley, whom I met on British author Anthony Peake's blog last year. I have been reading Volume One of his Blood Poets: A Cinema of Savagery, 1958-1999, and all I can think is, Why is this man not even better known than he is? and how can I do justice to such a modern day Zarathustra? His critique is bold and compelling; his writing is stark but elegant. He is a Nietzschean, with the Nietzschean marrow in his bones. I can only hope that he will write and write, and grant us his insights about our present film and culture.
Horsley argues for Freudian repression of unconscious contents to be released from this ego-comprised dungeon. He is an enemy of the sentimental. He correctly understands violent American cinema as a sort of quasi-therapeutic venue. Sentimental films contain truths, but they are not therapeutic ones. Horsley comprehends the complicit relationship between film maker and audience: In his remarks on Hitchcock's Psycho, he understands that the audience was compelled - unconsciously, and thus all the more strongly - against their volition to partake in the film makers secret animus, which moved him to side with the killer, and to take a Nietzschean glee in all his perverse acts. It is the return of the repressed par excellence. Some of the films explored in Volume one of this text are Midnight Express, Blue Velvet, Death Wish, First Blood, Die Hard, and Cape Fear, among dozens of others. It would appear to be my fate, as of late, as an unwilling member of the Boomer generation, to encounter works written by Generation X (those born after 1964, according to Howe and Strauss) and Horsley is one such Xer, and writes with the wholeness which distinguishes that generation. (By way of a brief aside here, I was curiously moved and saddened by the author's depiction of himself, alone in his room with his VCR, at the tender age of 16, watching gore and violence as avidly as a young male gazes at pornography. It is the sadness of his generation. In Kurt Cobain's words, which are the melancholy refrain of "Smells Like Teen Spirit": "Here we are now, entertain us." Surely Generation X is like no other has ever been on this earth: technologically savvy orphans and waifs. SMK)
In analyzing Wes Craven's first film, (Last House on the Left, 1972) Horsley points out that the violence and rape which is inflicted on the victims, gets revistied on the aggressor. But there is something deeply disturbing to me - and has been since my adolescence - about this counter-vengance which is supposed to make "everything alright" for the audience. I agree with Nietzsche that there is an "unspoken agreement" to return always to the point of view of the status quo. This leaves all as it was before. Why not rather admit the justified anger at women, due to their divisiveness within our culture, and their unwarranted dominance? Then, once acknowleged, build a more unifying scenario of gender relating. I have always agreed with Paglia that too much of cinema winds up "babysitting" the masses. I think Horsley would agree with me here.
I have been particularly taken aback, moved, as it were, by Chapter 3, "1971: The Year of the Anti-Hero". ( Indeed, Horsley astutely grasps the meaning of his own birth in that particular year: Orpeus Descending is the banner over the Anti-hero and the infamous Generation X as such en masse.) In it, Horsley - with that drop of golden and pure sentiment which Nietzsche knew was contained only within the souls of the hardest men - explores the mythos of the '70s anti-hero, Clint Eastwood. In passages of suggestive power and beauty, Horsley grasps the saintly quality of the lonely and wayward male. Herein lies the crux , I think, of the underpinnings of a new morality. It is the American mythos of the New Adam, and it is a uniquley American dream of the raw new beginnings contained within the rugged individual who has been disenfranchised and set loose from his cultural and moral moorings. Lost, without compass or map, he is in that position which Ortega y Gasset called "the pure moral authenticity of the shipwrecked": Horsley sees this with his shrewdness and masters the analysis with prancing Nietzschean "light feet".
A synopsis of the chapters and their respective themes will be forthcoming on this blogsite this month. For now, let me say that Horsley's writing, his skills of critque and analysis are remarkable, and beautiful. His argument - of the deep meaning and authenticity of the perverse and the violent, which wells up from the recesses of the human psyche and delivers its products to our culture, masked as "enetertainment" - is defended beutifully, and with modesty and grace. This text is an important one, and there is no question that I will read it whole, and order the second volume. It should be taught as part of American Studies in academia, and indeed, made part of the core curriculum, for it argues for wholeness, in a culture which seems hell-bent on fragmentation and alienation. I thank Horsley for writing so well and so passionately, and I am honored to know him, and to have him as a member of this blog. He has comprehended that man, as Hamlet cried, "crawls between heaven and earth". Both volumes of Blood Poets are available @Amazon.com; I highly recommend this book to all who are interested in American cinema and culture, and in the depths of our collective humanity. Horsely writes poignantly and treats his subject with a rare respect and dignity, and reverses many of our fervant expectations. In so doing, he plays the role not only of film critic but of healer, and there is little as noble as that.