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Laura Harring (#110 of 3)

"You Mean, Like, Chasing Amy?" Maria San Filippo’s The B Word: Bisexuality in Contemporary Film and Television

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”You Mean, Like, Chasing Amy?”: Maria San Filippo’s The B Word: Bisexuality in Contemporary Film and Television
”You Mean, Like, Chasing Amy?”: Maria San Filippo’s The B Word: Bisexuality in Contemporary Film and Television

Immediately upon picking up a copy of Maria San Filippo’s The B Word, one can’t help but be skeptical of its survey-suggestive subtitle: Bisexuality in Contemporary Film and Television. Too often these sorts of book-length inquiries result in thin reasoning, a lack of sufficient theoretical foundation, and become, essentially, a cataloguing of film titles or scenes that help affirm the author’s central thesis. This brand of indexical scholarship is tired and, aside from a resource, ultimately worthless in terms of further explicating the trends and nuances of a given subject. Perhaps that’s why San Filippo’s book is a joy to actually read and not just glean information from. Much like Daisuke Miyao did with The Aesthetics of Shadow: Lightning and Japanese Cinema, released earlier this year, San Filippo structures her scholarship with storytelling sensibilities; the analysis is provocative and wholly considerate of its area of study, but also proceeds with a glee and determination that produces new, exciting avenues for future study within queer theory.

As such, San Filippo consistently relies on case studies to elucidate these viewpoints, but does so anchored under a few precise and playful lines of inquiry. For example, the book’s opening introduces San Filippo’s term “bi-textuality,” which involves the “negotiation of unfamiliar terrain by way of a familiar route,” and helps to enliven the book’s predominant thesis—that bisexual sensibilities are present in many mainstream American films, not just in terms of content but also marketing strategies—by way of wordplay. The term’s creation helps found exactly the ways in which San Filippo wishes to proceed and affirms that she’s looking for far more than merely instances of latent bisexuality; more compellingly, she demonstrates “the ways in which bisexuality is already present, if obscured—hidden in plain sight—by modes of representation and reading confined within monosexual logic.” The films/shows under examination are wide-ranging; even the staunchest of post-structuralists would have to raise an eyebrow at the book’s mentions of Pandora’s Box (1929) and A Shot at Love (2007-2009) in the same sentence! Yet, San Filippo is no fraud when it comes to effectively juxtaposing these kinds of texts. Whereas a lesser author might offer such a comparison to feign cosmopolitan interests, San Filippo’s deft navigation of how these texts do interact with one another borders on remarkable, in expressing macrocosmic cultural sensibilities as it relates to bisexual representations, both explicit and implied.

The Conversations: Mulholland Drive

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The Conversations: Mulholland Drive
The Conversations: Mulholland Drive

Ed Howard: David Lynch is a filmmaker who has haunted my mind since the first moment I saw one of his films. This is especially true of Mulholland Drive I vividly remember my confused, stunned reactions the first time I saw this film. It was in the afternoon, and when I stumbled outside afterward, into bright daylight, everything looked strange, somehow subtly changed. I’d spent over two hours in Lynch’s world, and in the time I’d been lost there it was as though the real world had been infected with Lynch’s unsettling aesthetic. It was a unique experience. I can’t remember another film that shook me up and destabilized me so thoroughly, and I’ve returned to it, and to Lynch’s work in general, compulsively ever since.

Strange What Love Does: David Lynch’s Inland Empire

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Strange What Love Does: David Lynch’s <em>Inland Empire</em>
Strange What Love Does: David Lynch’s <em>Inland Empire</em>

“A little girl went out to play, lost in the marketplace as if half-born…” — Reflection of an old Polish folk tale

Reflections and rhymes abound in David Lynch’s Inland Empire. Consider its first image: the light of a film projector glaring (and blaring) outwards. For a brief moment, just before the beam angles sideways to illuminate the all-caps title card, the very screen we are watching is a perfectly aligned mirror—fact projecting fiction, fiction projecting fact. The extra-textual meaning is clear: this is Lynch’s first feature on Digital Video (shot entirely on the Sony PD-150 consumer camera) and so we must adjust our expectations accordingly. Fact the first: Inland Empire, with its muddy, grain-laden textures and sensuously bleeding hues, does not, as some have said, look ugly; it looks like it was shot on a camcorder, which is a crucial and necessary distinction. Fact the second, simply put: Lynch’s previous film, Mulholland Drive, was about a failed actress; Inland Empire is about a successful one. And even that’s too much of a reduction, a near-futile attempt at codification, which might very well inspire the writer/director to crinkle his nose and proffer, as he did with maximum sincerity to an explanation-obsessed audience member at a recent New York Film Festival press conference, that “the words coming out of your mouth are very beautiful.”