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SHAKESPEAREAV  July 2010

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Subject:

JC reference in Nicholas Ray's Bigger than Life (1956)

From:

"Burt,Richard" <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Discussion list for audiovisual Shakespeare project <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Fri, 9 Jul 2010 20:02:16 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

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Fairly early on in the incredibly good, so amazing it is doomed to fail at the box office in 1956 film Bigger than Life, the overworked schoolteacher (played by james Mason) with a bad heart who takes the then experimental drug cortisone to survive asks a not too bright student what Cassius means when he calls Julius Caesar a "colossus."  Mason is called away and put the student whom he asked the question in charge of the class, now relieved that he doesn't have to answer, and we then hear him from outside the class, repeating Mason's question.  he reference to JC sets up Mason's dictatorial and fascistic fantasies about how to teach  the "moral midgets" who attend elementary schools and, on the domestic front, his dictatorial, tyrannical  treatment of his son and wife (who is herself something of a cold, distant, and occasionally violent beeyotch).  More specifically, the JC scene reveals Mason's bad judgment of people:  he puts a poor  student he kept after school in an earlier scene in the role of teacher, teacher defined as the student who takes dictation and dictates in turn to other students.

Bigger than Life is out on Criterion on DVD and Blu-ray.  I have the blu-ray.  Image and sound quality are near perfect.  

The extras are unusually good as well.


		
Professor Richard Burt
Department of English and Film and Media Studies Program
4314 Turlington Hall
P.O. Box 117310
University of Florida
Gainesville, FL
32611-7310
Phone: 352 373-3560
http://www.clas.ufl.edu/~burt/burtindex.html
http://www.clas.ufl.edu/~burt/Citations.html
And yet reading must find its rhythm, the right measure and cadence.  In the measure, at least, that it attempts to bring us to grasp a meaning that does not come through understanding.  Let us recall the epigraph to Allegories of Reading: "Quand on lit trop vite ou trop doucement on n'entend rien.' Pascal." (When one reads too swiftly or too slowly one understands nothing.) One should never forget the authoritative ellipsis of this warning. But at what speed ought one to have read it?  On the very threshold of the book, it might have been swiftly overlooked.
--Jacques Derrida, Memoires for Paul de Man, Revised Edition, note 3, p. 88
But this very understanding was gained through the suffering of wanting to publish but not being able to do it.
--Søren Kierkegaard, deleted from the posthumously published The Point of View on My Work as an Author, 214
Differences of speed do seem to be determining.  The rhythm differential counts a lot for me; it governs practically everything. It’s not very original when it comes down to it, you only have to be a driver to know this:  knowing how to accelerate, slow down, stop, and start up again.  The driving lesson applies just as well to private life and accidents are always possible. The scene of the car accident is imprinted or overprinted in quite few of my texts, like a sort of premonitory signature, a bit sinister. That said, I don’t believe that speeding up on the political highway has been, as you suggest, the result of media pressure.
--Jacques Derrida, “Others are Secret Because They Are Other” Paper Machine, 153
We can all remember personal versions of such a fall from grace, of such a loss of innocence.  (I for one remember trying to drive down a Swiss street after having just read, in a local newspaper, that for every 100 metres one drives one has at least thirty-six decisions to make.  I have never been able to drive gracefully since.) 
--Paul De Man, "Aesthetic Formalization in Kleist's Uber das Marionettentheater," The Rhetoric of Romanticism, 277

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