In a recent article published in the Melbourne Age‘s lifestyle supplement, The Good Weekend, Jean-Luc Godard castigated Steven Spielberg, and by extension the Hollywood Dream Factory, for using cinema to entertain rather than pursue truth. For Godard, it is not that “the movies” are an illusion, but that they’re a(n ideological) deception. His powerful Les Carabiniers (1963), which confronts the role of representation in the psychology of war, will never be seen by the audience intended for Saving Private Ryan (Spielberg, 1998). Both in their own way condemn the brutality and stupidity of war. An important difference lies in whether or not they make the spectator aware of him or herself as part of the process of imaging a world. The Hollywood modus operandi is, of course, to efface self-awareness. It offers the pleasure of self-oblivion, a moment of forgetfulness – categorically other to the real world we inhabit and to which we return. In essence, it offers an experience that can be enjoyed without commitement. Good, bad or indifferent, we know that it is “just a movie”. Occasionally, we have exaggerated instances of individuals who fail to make the distinction. Despite the mass killer with the collection of Rambo videos and action hero posters, apologists of Hollywood’s freedom to entertain (in a tolerant society) continue to argue that for normal people there is no demonstrable connection between the film world and reality as we know and experience it. Unfortunately, the call for self-regulation by some sectors of the American entertainment industry post-September 11 that have been reported in the media is at best moral rather than philosophical (that is, they’re more inclined to question the type of movie they should be making rather than the practice itself), at worst driven by the box-office. As a result, whilst the cinematic images of the attack on the World Trade Centre momentarily made the interdependence of reality and its representation apparent, Hollywood image-makers, in the name of entertainment, will work full-time to re-induce that forgetfulness. The deception will succeed not because we cannot distinguish between reality and illusion but because we think we can.

About The Author

Bernard Hemingway's film review site is Cinephilia.

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