lotesse: (sg1_tealc)
Effing cold. A big-ass tree fell on my roof last night, thankfully not doing any damage other than startling me out of my wits. Think I will not leave the house today.

What I am doing, though, is watching 12 Years a Slave. It's been high on my list since it came out; unlike Django Unchained, it's a film about USian slavery made by POC, albeit British POC in key positions, and that makes it need watching. Didn't want to see it in the cinema, though, because I need to be able to step away and digest. Don't see much point in getting blanked out by fear and pity. Aristotle was no revolution's friend.


-fascinated, FASCINATED, by the quiet intent focus on objects and processes in the film's opening. Solomon creates and uses technologies: writing materials, violin strings. Him making the pen and ink makes me think of Donna Haraway's points about the close historical relationship between people of color and technology, particularly communication technology; the sound of the violin keys stretching as he turns the tuning peg makes me think of social and personal tensions, grinding, pulling, groaning under the pressure-load of "civilization"

-it's SO BEAUTIFUL the way the film contextualizes the cruelty of slavery here at the beginning not through overfamiliar scenes of physical brutality, but through notation of its human costs, the way it takes away pleasure in sex, in making, in writing, in remembering, even in work which can when unalienated be a way of becoming strong

-but even in the north, note that S. is still frustrated at having to share his wife and her love and her skill with white folk; she doesn't get to keep her cooking to give only to her family, and although he takes evident pride in his musicianship he's also giving the benefit of his skills to white people

-"CREATURES FROM THE DARKEST AFRICA, UNSEEN BY CIVILIZED MAN," said deadpan unironic to fucking gorgeous Chiwetel Ejiofor looking sharp in his nice grey suit!!!

-Solomon waking in chains, intercut with scenes of the previous night's drunkenness, sets up an interesting opportunity to perceive and interrogate structures of victim-blaming; he went with men he didn't know, who seemed friendly, and had too much to drink

-(the one white slaver TOUCHING Solomon's FACE like that, stroking him, petting him tenderly - !!!)

-Jeebus the affective intensity with which they tell him he's a runaway, you can see them vibrating with the pleasure of calling him boy, n---er, needing it like it's some sort of fix for what ails them. And then in the following scene of physical brutality the crackers' faces are illuminated while Solomon's is shadowed, drawing attention to them, and to what they're getting out of their actions, and to the pleasure they take in their violence, the release. (when people fuss about whether rape is about sex or power - these men are getting off on power, there's no effing difference between the two. this is also why I find affect a more useful term than sexuality - because affect lets you talk about 'getting off' in a non-genital context)

-white woman's comfort: "Some rest, something to eat, your children will soon be forgotten"

-love the repeated audio overlays with Cumberbottom's "preaching to the slaves": the cracker's demeaning singsong, Eliza's weeping that carries across the scene break. And Cumber smiling up there with his roses and his Good Book, sermonizing. Eliza makes me think of Uncle Tom's Cabin; her weeping reminds me of Margery Kemp's in its power to disturb. She has the gift of tears

-Solomon and Eliza, god, Solomon and Eliza and their lost babies. I've heard a lot of positive buzz about Lupita Nyong'o in the wake of this film, but less about Adepero Oduye, who is seriously breaking my heart here

-as soon as Eliza's flashback started (had the favor of my master) and they show her light-skinned daughter, the one who was too Eurocentrically pretty to not get sold as a sex toy despite her childhood - oh, oh, that baby's a master's byblow, must be, hell. How the devil did they manage that cognitive dissonance, those masters who enslaved their own babies, what a fucking horrorshow. And it hammers the lesson in that none of this is new shit; she's been carried of screaming Solomon's name to someone's bed, but it isn't the first time white men have raped and used her

-one of the things I read about in reviews of this movie was Solomon's exceptionalism, the plot detail that he, unlike the others, is rightfully and legally free. He, uniquely, shouldn't be there. But I don't see it. "Legal" doesn't carry much weight when it comes to slave history; it doesn't ever mean "just" or "right"

-note to self: if I end up teaching this, remember Patsey's first face as an introduction to eyeline analysis: master looks at her, but not her face. her neck, her back, her cheek. she looks away, out, at nothing in particular - but she looks at nothing like it's something, she looks at it with determination; it's her only way left to rebel

-DAMN ALFRE WOODARD YOU TELL EM. (in the 12 years a slave with zombies remix, this is where she reveals that she's been hiding a chainsaw in her skirts and gets down to business forthwith. I would so watch/read that remix.) she's GLORIOUS.

-Chiwetel Ejiofor is a gorram superstar. I was marveling at how much his posture changes from his initial upright to his later accustomed stoop - and then I noticed that as he tries to escape master's cruelty he's shifting from foot to foot, just as he was made to do the day he was left half-lynched; it's become habitual, ritualistic, his movements showing his history. SUCH SKILL. MUCH ACTING.

-aaaand that's how you film a rape scene that doesn't eroticize the suffering of the victim but depicts the disgusting lowness of the rapist instead

OH AND THEN WHEN THEY'RE SINGING JORDAN HE STANDS BACK UP - HE STANDS BACK UP - AND HE'S SO GORRAM BEAUTIFUL I CAN'T EVEN HANDLE IT

-I'm struck by the way that the film emphasizes the physical and psychological scars of its characters. Patsey wears scars from both master and missus; and you can tell by now that there's not really going to be a happy ending for Solomon, because even when he regains his freedom he's been hurt bad body mind and soul, the man he would have been murdered away by all the things he's had to endure and do. It's not usual Hollywood, letting your pretty people get damaged for real, hurts that can maybe heal but can't ever be made better

-abolitionist Brad Pitt might dispute that n---ers can be owned, but he's sure quick to put that word on his lips. Epps ain't wrong about him liking to hear himself talk - and anyway he still works with owners, no voting with his pocketbook for him apparently. And I don't like that he keeps the high ground when Solomon starts to tell him all. Power-tripping, superior, above it all. For christ's sake don't let the man beg you, don't you enjoy his submission even a little bit and still call yourself righteous

-Jesus when he goes free the colors come up.

This is a MAJOR film, y'all. And Solomon is a great hero, an icon of gentle, wise, caring, courageous Black masculinity that is all the more precious for him having actually been real. This film creates a document of historical USian Black experience that's stunning in its awareness of the systemic nature and psychological/economic bases of racism. MAJOR performances from Black actors - the scene toward the end that's a minutes-long closeup of just Ejiofor's face, no dialogue, how unbelievably good do you have to be to be able to generate that kind of tension onscreen with just your eyes and mouth and nose and brow? Alfre Woodard was in the movie for all of five minutes and I am NEVER going to be able to forget them. I love the way they keep nineteenth-century language and cadence at key movements, giving real presence and vitality to the historical Solomon whose words they enact, bringing his ghostly presence into the piece. I love its beauty and its richness. What a magnificent text and testament!

Date: 8 Jan 2014 03:00 am (UTC)From: [personal profile] skywaterblue
skywaterblue: (art school perverts)
Saw it last night. I won't be disappointed if it wins Best Picture because of the importance of the film and its quality, but I'll be damned if I don't think Brad Pitt casting himself (he put up the money to make it as producer) as the white savior is a big flaw.

I didn't read it as Solomon having too much to drink. I read it as them roofying him with some 19th Century concoction.

A detail I really liked that even Cumberbatch's character wasn't preaching the actual word of the Gospel, and the repeated cuts to Solomon clearly being the only black face in the audience who knew it. I also got the same meaning from the repeated emphasis on scars and scar tissue. He regains his freedom but one suspects, never the confidence that he had in the beginning of the film.

daughter of the sea, oregano's first cousin

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