Excerpted from a longer review at Big Other: [...]
...to write cultural criticism is necessarily to write back to cultural memory... [LACONIA's] use of the tweet-form dramatizes the kinds of remembering and thinking at stake in contemporary social media and the culture it informs and is informed by. How can we begin today to think about the relationship between virtual memory and cultural memory; between digital memory and embodied memory?
In an interview, the filmmaker Eugene Green said: "In my conception of cinema, it's impossible to make real cinema in digital because it doesn't capture any energy; it just gives an intellectual image of what the director wanted to put in the frame, it is not the reality, the real presence, the spiritual presence of what has been filmed; because in order to capture energy, the energy which is in matter, you need other matter, the matter of film, the chemistry of film which captures that energy. And digital image is a virtual image, there is nothing real there, so there cannot be any real spiritual presence either. Nevertheless, there is a sort of economic pressure to abolish film, to make it impossible to shoot in film."
The argument disdaining the emptiness of digital in favor of the richness of film is by no means a new one, and I have serious reservations about it, mostly to do with the race/gender/class inequalities that dictate who is typically able to use digital and who is able to use film--however, what Green is pointing out here about the crucial difference between the virtual and the material is at the heart of LACONIA. So much of what is moving in Tupitsyn's criticism is her way of locating, animating, and mourning the loss of the material, the loss of texture, the loss of the real ("abolish film, make it impossible to shoot in film")--where material, texture and realness are qualities as spiritual and moral as they are embodied; where fidelity to those qualities can be a way of calling out a culture of violent alienation and commodification...
[LACONIA offers] the kind of criticism that currently feels as sorely needed as it is sometimes sorely lacking: a deeply feminist criticism, invested in the personal and the interpersonal (and their burgeoning degradation at the hands of individualist and capitalist culture), a profound attention to how dehumanizing and exploitative gender relations and equally dehumanizing and exploitative systems of production manifest themselves in popular representation--and perhaps most of all, an attention to attention.
From careful observation of the change in Al Pacino's eyes post-1970s, to the disappointment of hearing about Sibel Kekilli's nose job (I grieved it, too!) among many others, to the gendering of time travel, to fame and the loss of intimacy, to the relationship between Mike Tyson and America, to the new-old phallocentrism of Apatow films, to the troublingly revelatory combination of Haiti, James Cameron and Lady Gaga on an episode of Oprah, to the "trope of beauty" of blond hair, to the "spirituality of accountability" in Pasolini's Teorema, to the radical optimism of Sally Hawkins' Poppy in Mike Leigh's Happy-Go-Lucky--LACONIA is testament to the daily, hourly, minute-by-minute act (each fragment time-stamped and dated) of what Susan Sontag called paying attention to the world.