Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Is it the Age of Vulgarity?

“Though his wife and two daughters were attentive during Disney’s final illness, he happened to die alone. Gabler quotes one of his nurses writing to the family afterward: “I took care of Walt in his final days, and just want you to know that the poor man was so fearful.” How bizarrely cruel to take the effort to point that out, but maybe she thought she was sticking up for him. By the end of the book, though, even his biographer seems tired of him. Gabler finishes his volume with a description of the Forest Lawn plot where Disney’s ashes are interred — no, he wasn’t frozen — and then concludes with, at least as I read it, the slightest hint of a sneer: “Walt Disney had at last attained perfection.” Who would have thought the story of Uncle Walt would end with such a chill in the air?”

This is the final paragraph of a review of Neal Gabler’s Walt Disney The Triumph of The American Imagination, written by Bruce Handy, of the Wall Street Journal. The reviewer points not just to a possible cruelty on the part of the nurse who informed the Disney family of Walt Disney’s final ordeal (even though he admits she might, with such information, be sticking up for Walt) but goes on, what is more important, to remark on what he calls a “slightest hint of a sneer”, on Gabler’s conclusion.
It astonishes me that the reviewer has not made any mention of the worst: Before getting to those lines, Gabler, vulture like, applies the lowest blow, something nobody can possibly do without loosing decency: to mock someone fear of death, without ever having had to prove his own courage in the face of it. To use one of Gabler’s favorite sneering verbs, he, after “crowing”: “The master of order had been so terrified of death that he hadn’t left instructions for his interment.” (pp633 Walt Disney The Triumph of The American Imagination), contradictorily goes on mentioning exactly the instructions Walt Disney had given Lillian to have him cremated in small ceremony etc.


Aside from that going unnoticed, the sneering is not a hint, but a tone that pervades the whole book. It seems to me a sneaky way of vulgarizing Disney, at the same time of being forced to name (facts are facts, after all) everything he accomplished.
The French Magazine “Telerama hors Serie”, by the occasion of the exhibition “ Il Etait Une Fois Walt Disney” held at the Grand Palais, in Paris 2006 ( I went twice, to this exhibition), published some sentences by Sergei Eisenstein, the genius of Russian cinema. Thanks to this, I came to read the whole of Eisenstein essay on Disney, published in French, by Circe. This essay is pretty unknown here, when, in fact, it should be promoted before everything else written on the subject.
Why?
Not just because Eisenstein is unanimously recognized as a genius, (that would also be enough in itself) but because of the depth of his insights.
Instead, you see Gabler’s book promoted to no end on Disney parks, of all places. Does that respond to a total, vulgar submission to marketing purposes, rather than to quality?
What would Walt Disney think of it?
It is also weird, to say the least, that the French were able to pay such a high quality, high art homage to Disney, that went to Canada but was never brought to this country.
The world is different, cultures are different, people are different. Sometimes they are op
posites.
It is amazing to think, for instance, that while Eisenstein brought out an ecstasies dimension to Walt Disney’s cartoons, (Sergei Eisenstein- Walt Disney- Walt Disney- Circe) Gabler, on the other hand, interprets Disney’s animation as Walt’s need for creating an escape from reality into a world he had total control of. What is a result of freedom, in Eisenstein's vision, comes to tyranny in Gabler's. Freedom in its mystical dimension reverts to determination in abandonment. To intuition and inspiration, the exact opposite of control, which is nothing but imprisonment in the limits of self.
Many people complain about intellectualizing the work of Walt Disney, like Eisenstein did. It is everybody’s right to complain, but before doing so, one should consider that the phenomenal appeal of the work of Disney cannot be so easily explained by the pettiness of a control need or something of the kind. As phenomenal as its appeal, is the magnitude of what Walt Disney accomplished, the complexity of his personality. The analysis of it demands a depth of thought of the same proportion. If it gets difficult, tough!
Oscar Wilde, through one of his characters, Lord Harry, in Dorian Gray, accused the nineteenth century as the time of vulgarity. What would he think of today, in view of all this????

1 comment:

lucas said...

"Good observation. I managed to find Eisenstein's book at Amazon, it is amazing!"