Cinema of Mediocrity - The Representation of 1920s Mass Culture in King Vidors The Crowd

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The Silent Era: Crash Course Film History #9

In doing so, the film does not charm or arouse passionate feelings. On the contrary, it functions as a mirror and leaves the spectators frustrated about the meaninglessness of modern life and their own ambitions for success and consumption. With its depiction of everyday middle class life and its critique of modern mass culture, The Crowd also challenges reductionist perspectives of the 'roaring twenties' as a permanent orgy, of wild flappers and frenzied Jazz parties, as is still prevalent in popular discourse today.

The alternative view it offers, is that of a decade characterized by rising corporate power, the pressure to adjust and the powerlessness of the individual against an increasing standardization in the work and leisure sphere. Thus, in this paper I will examine, how the The Crowd differs from the mainstream Hollywood productions of the time and in what way Vidor's film can be interpreted as a critique of s mass culture.


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They are, and continue to be, without a clear break or horizon, insisting on study and motion, beyond the either-or fallacy of complicity and flight. They are done with the doctrine. Escaping from the pull of relativism, nihilism, learned helplessness and reflexive impotence, against the acute paralysis of will and sheer vacancy of imagination, they are inventing their own subjectivity, finding their own way of being in the world and translating that in their cinematic and intellectual adventures.

They know that they have to start imagining that they can be more, that they can do more, that they can change, that they can be changed. One step at a time, in their stuttering and stammering, they are slowly gaining the confidence to let go of what keeps them at bay and head in a direction which noone can know how it will turn out. In the face of indifference and at the risk of incomprehensibility, they continue to fight to come to exist, to be the future that happens. While reading the writings of filmmakers like Jean-Luc Godard, Glauber Rocha, Pier Paolo Pasolini and Jean-Marie Straub, we are astonished by the vigour with which they shared and disputed their films and thoughts with one another, as members of a self-made internationalist community of cinema activists.

Whether in awe or frustration, we keep on. For a while these cinematic microsystems seemed to closely resemble their time: burning with desire, brimming with resistance. Even though we often feel their sense of restlessness echoing with ours, we know we have to search for other models of thinking and doing. We know that cinema is no longer the noble popular art it used to be, that it has been cast out by television, hollowed out by publicity, bought out by the dream machine, walked out on by its audience.

We know it is no longer the medium that captures the imagination of the masses, that it has been captured by the logic of the market; that we, as spectators, hardly ever feel addressed any more, at least not as individual human beings all the more as cultural consumers , and that it has become rather difficult to attribute a cinematic work to a desire all the more to a strategy. We know that cinema has sought refuge elsewhere and that it has been increasingly compartmentalized, musealized, formatted, fragmented, dispersed over different spaces, contexts, platforms and networks.

And it might be true that it no longer has the power to generate the intense debates that it once did. Perhaps cinema can be a space where we can face the fear that many of us are experiencing, a fear that is caused by that which we are told we do not have and can never have, a.

1. Introduction

Perhaps through cinema we can make common cause with our sense of disorientation and trepidation, as something that can draw us away from the logical and the logistical, the envisioned and the positioned. No preaching, no teaching, just paying heed to what is sensed individually, reinventing it in the direction of our desires and transposing it into a language so it can be shared collectively.

To connect a capacity for sentience to a capacity for exchange.