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#OccupyFilm: A Timely Convergence?

I recently visited #OccupyWallStreet down at Zuccotti Park and I saw the films they were handing out (or selling?) near the People’s Library via a giant board featuring comprehensive descriptions of each film (pictured to the right):

There were some very important titles listed on the board, films that should find a wider audience, like The Corporation, and The Century of the Self.  So I’ve decided to take a look at some of Zuccotti Park’s featured films-for-sale and some of the films they may missed.  (I’ve also included some unlikely associations and connections with other iconic social movements and representative images).

The Corporation (on the #Occupy list of required viewing) is a film that identifies a corporation as a person with  “with no moral conscience,” and all the symptoms of sociopathy:

The Century of the Self is a frightening and eye-opening must-see BBC documentary series about many things involving the development of corporations and their use of advertising to “manipulate the masses.”  In the ’50’s, the advertising industry employed Freud’s theories to tap in to the American public’s innate desires and fears, distracting people with products that satiated these desires, suppressed fears, and kept everyone shopping and consuming:

I started to think about what I’ve seen so far this semester in a class I’m taking on the socially and politically relevant films of the late ’60’s/early ’70’s.  Suddenly, a convergence came to mind, and by convergence, I’m referring to Lawrence Weschler’s definition of a “convergence,”  described here on the McSweeney’s site as: “an unlikely, striking pair of images, along with a paragraph or three exploring the deeper resonances.” (The entire McSweeney’s convergence contest is worth checking out.)   Weschler’s book, Everything That Rises: A Book of Convergences, is a personal favorite:

This book of convergences ignited in me what I like to call “convergence anxiety,” a sort of image-fusing OCD.  After reading it, I had the strange urge to creatively engage in free association remix by combining unlikely images and feelings that came together to form new meanings.  I became enamored with the synchronicity of seemingly unrelated things.  This was my own way of splicing together harmony in the world.  I thought of Robert Downey’s timely and important film, Putney Swope (the subject of my midterm paper).  I made this random association between the viral image for Occupy Wall Street (present) and the 1969 poster for (what I think should be a contender for the #Occupyfilm playlist), Putney Swope (stickin’ it to “the man” up on Madison Ave):

Putney Swope is a subversive cult film that was written and directed in 1969 by Robert Downey Sr. (Robert Downey Jr.’s father).  It’s a movie that mirrors the way contemporary society revolved around materialism and mass consumption and the advertising agencies and corporations that cashed in our desires and willingness to mindlessly consume.  The entire film is in black and white with splashes of beacon-like clarity and color in the form of ridiculous commercials (hallelujah! let’s buy some soap!).  This Putney commercial, for instance, follows a flashy woman in gold, dancing callously over a homeless man on the street (selling fans to a drooling public):

Click here for an airline commercial from the film that eerily resembles an orgy, and  this is a commercial for Ethereal Cereal.  If you’re interested, check out the extraordinarily smart beginning of Putney Swope:

In terms of more #OccupyConvergences and free associations, I saw Arwen’s awesome post about The Hot Chicks of Occupy Wall Street and immediately thought of Jane Fonda’s iconic 1970 mug shot (and current Twitter avatar). Pretty faces reach across time to raise their fists in solidarity.  Go team!  #OccupyHotness:

And let’s think of more relevant and timely #occupyfilms!  Any ideas?  What about the good ‘ol days of Frank Capra when Gary Cooper stood tentatively with commanding and awkward grace for the 99% in Meet John Doe:

The last line of the film is spoken by a “John Doe” member of the 99% to a slack-jawed corporate stooge: “There you are Norton — the people.  Try and lick that!”




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