Perhaps because I am feeling depressed by illness, unable either to walk or work as hard as is normally needed to keep low spirits away, the world seems horribly meretricicious. I watched an episode of the Wire last night, in which an ex-prisoner was seduced back into gang life at an orgy and I thought it was a glimpse of hell. There were couples fucking in open bedrooms and on stairways; the whole thing run by coke-crazed murderers; whores, or female slaves available for the use of honoured guests: every appetite could be gratified provided it were coarse enough. This was a depiction of the barbarism that we thought we had hauled ourselves out from round about 1250 AD, and it’s back. In fact it’s become well-established as a way of life, handed on by parents to their chldren. And now it’s taking root over here.
What does the respectable world have to set against it? From the arts pages of the Guardian, a story lamenting the bankruptcy of an an arty film distributor lists “Six films that put the distributor ahead of the game”
This Belgian mockumentary about a philosophical serial killer broke new ground with its mix of ultra-brutal murder and mordant humour. …. Unbelievably nasty Japanese fetish-horror epic (the first Takashi Miike film to get a serious UK release, in 2001) that, in many ways, was an indicator of the psychotic depths the terror cinema of the far east would plumb. … Gaspar Noé’s deeply distasteful revenge fable tested audience endurance to the extreme with its nine-minute rape scene, though the ferocious brutality of a key murder was just as disturbing … Korean cinema roared past all comers in the far east ordeal-horror stakes, with this implacably violent parable leading the way. The middle section of Park Chan-wook’s “vengeance” trilogy paved the way for Hollywood’s wretched exercises in torture porn – but at least Park avoided the overt misogyny that infested the films that followed in its wake.
What kind of grotesque and decadent snobbery is this: it’s all right and “edgy” when Koreans do it, but wretched when it’s Hollywood? I don’t see why anyone complicit in the distribution of a nine minute rape scene should be allowed on the pages labelled “Art” or “Culture”. The barbarism goes from top to bottom.
At least a public execution, an event traditionally taken as the touchstone of the barbarism we had abandoned, was meant to be a morally uplifting spectacle, carrying the message that evil would be punished. We pride ourselves on abolishing public executions but instead show rape and murder as realistically as they can be shown, for profit, while left-wing newspapers think this is progress and freedom and that anything which affects the emotions must be art.
I know this sounds Bufton Tuftonish. All I can say is that it’s not a left/right point. The idea that gratifying your wants, whatever they are, is all that there could be to life, is the motor of modern capitalism. If it’s not stopped it will destroy our civilisation and with it most of our species.