02 mars 2010

Experiencing Self v. Remembering Self (D. Kahneman)

Compare the colonoscopy example with movie watching. Critics need to be aware that the Self enjoying/suffering through a film projection is not the same Self who will write about it! Thus the rational conflict between objectivity and subjectivity. The Remembering Self is entirely manipulated by subjectivity, not the romanticized "emotional" subjectivity, but the hindsight rationalization of a (misremembered) perception. The Self self-justifies, a posteriori, whatever discourse is intuited by the narration of the film and especially its conclusion (self-indulgent dénouement). If the film flatters our ego, brings back good memories of our personal lives, allows us to overcome (through identification) our fears and repressed feelings, which is what people call "feel good movies" (that are not always blissfully happy, but necessarily cathartic and hopeful if sad), then our remembrance of it all will inflate its positive points and minimize its negative points. We construct a "forced" discourse to serve the "perceived memory" we are left with.
This is the reason why impressionistic reviewing makes no sense to anybody else than its author, it is unique to this one-time experience, unsharable, incomparable : it uses the same ropes and tricks the movie narratives use to manipulate its viewers. Impressionistic reviewing is an equally manipulative rhetoric surfing on catchy sensations, lowest-common-denominator feelings, talking points and summary judgments. The review is built with a hook, with vague generalizations, anecdotal facts and an ending with an easy-to-read (and easy to re-tweet) binary taste, either "like it" or "like not", either "worth watching" or "not worth watching". And readers will forget about the bad prose and the absence of insights, all they will remember is the final ready-made opinion, which they will carry around like their own; just like movie goers walk out of a "good" movie believing they own all the thoughts and feelings fed to them during the projection.
Impressionistic reviewing assembles a panel of incoherent, opposite impressions from the fans and detractors who only refer to a subjective sensations, subjective feelings, subjective thoughts, subjective impressions, subjective rhetorics... These are implanted in their brains by the manipulative ending and its effect on our deceived judgment, just like a painful medical experience would be positivized with a clever spin and a deceiving procedural handling of the climax. Precisely because we forget the instantaneous moments, the sub-parts of its digested sum... a cunning built up may leave the spectators with a sweet aftertaste that is impossible to deny, that must be taken into account when comes the time to put in words this experience.

Movies are like colonoscopies, it's all about the ending.

What Kahneman says about the micro scale of memory (the immediate aftermath of the experience, when you are asked to formulate and appreciate what just happened, what you just watched) could naturally be expanded to the macro scale (our life time).
There are moments in our life when we are more suggestible, easily influenced, when we are actively seeking to pattern our opinions/taste/personality after admired figures, either by imitation or by opposition. [See : "Le désir mimétique" de René Girard]
Regarding cinéphiles, the adolescent period is particularly notable and will take a disproportionate importance in their personal Panthéon. That's why we hear so often "it was always better in my youth". Films seen during these formative years are considered THE BEST EVER, and will remain so, even compared to latter masterpieces. The critics will engage in a process of auto-justification to explain why this self-remembered was right to think, then, that the films had a tremendous impact on their unsolidified ego, even if the exact (objective) experience was long forgotten...
The formative years act as the "ending of puberty" (whether it is congruent with physiological puberty, or if it is a symbolic puberty when we discover and appropriate certain cultural landmarks to access adulthood), like a "coming of age" experience, like a first kiss...
Thus everyone rationalizes their "formative films" and give them an inflated importance in film history. Which creates the proverbial "generation gap" between generations of critics who were born in the same formative decades and critics who were not born to experience it firsthand.
And people get extremely defensive, territorial, authoritative with their "ending", these particular formative films, that school of thought that was in fashion back then, along with all the discourses and attitudes justifying its existence. They defend and rationalize their impressionable years. It's quite impossible to engage with someone about this sensitive period that is simply the foundation of their entire Self (personality, culture, taste, career...)

Aucun commentaire: