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Pretentious, high-brow, dribble
on May 23, 1999
When Sontag analyzes the film making style of Leni Riefenstahl, she makes numerous references to the use of the "fascist aesthetics." Sontag's book, Under the Sign of Saturn, drones on about the use of this style of filmmaking employed by both fascist and communist regimes. This genre displays a "preoccupation with situations of control, submissive behavior, extravagant effort, and the endurance of pain; they endorse two seemingly opposite states, egomania and servitude. The relations of domination and enslavement take the form of characteristics pageantry: the massing of people/things around an all-powerful, hypnotic leader figure or force. The fascist dramaturgy centers on the orgiastic transitions between mighty forces and their puppets, uniformly garbed and shown in ever swelling numbers. Its choreography alternates between ceaseless motion and congealed, static, 'virile posing. Fascist art glorifies surrender, it exalts mindlessness, it glamorizes death" (New York: Doubleday, 1980, p. 91). To her credit, Sontag goes on to point out that films such as Disney's Fantasia, Berkeley's The Gangs All Here, and Kubrick's 2001 all fit the fascist art form. At least, she admits that not all films that fit this style are made under dictatorial governments. The tone of her attack on this genre of film would lead one believe, that she was a student of Siegfried Kracauer. Someone blindly lumping all film together as commentary on their society and neglecting to take into consideration their entertainment or commercial value. In fairness to Sontag, one must consider when she made her observations of Riefenstahl. In 1980, the United States was still reeling from the affects of the Viet Nam conflict. Susan Sontag is most probably a product of the 1960's anti-establishment, feminist movement that views anything organized or male oriented as fascist. In the 1999, Sontag's self serving opinions and criticisms seem as antiquated prohibition was as solution to public drunkenness.