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Seen and Not Seen: Confessions of a Movie Autist Paperback – 30 Jan 2015
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About the Author
Jasun Horsley is an author, independent scholar and transmedia storyteller. He lives in Canada.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program)
There couldn't be a more relevant book for our times. Through a relentless process of individuation, where all layers of culture are shed like snakeskin, Jasun emerges with eyes wide open. It begins (where else?) in his childhood, where with the wisdom of hindsight, Jasun examines his "obsession" with fantasy, in comics and Clint Eastwood movies. Ever-present throughout is the idea of trauma and how it creates a dissociation in our psyche and how we seek meaning through the mirror of entertainment. Rene Girard's mimetic theory is introduced. Autism, or neuro-diversity, is explored. The book is more autobiographical than anything, the author baring himself before us. We learn of his complicated and tragic history with his brother, Sebastian. Earlier works of his (The Blood Poets) are re-examined, elaborated upon. It's easy to see there will be a sequel (and it keeps getting better).
Certain films are highlighted, like Taxi Driver and Blue Velvet. Mostly, movies that explore darker regions of our culture's unconscious. You simply won't be able to watch a movie in the same light after reading this book. Once upon a time, we would eat our buttery popcorn and hold hands with our loved one, and stare mindlessly at the vapid screen. Jasun's penetrating perspective pierces the veil and reveals our complicity, our guilt in the abduction of our very consciousness. Yet it seems he is chasing after a Macguffin; he even seems aware of this. After all, he is admittedly writing another book about movies.
The perplexing thesis (maybe) presented in the book is that we must see our way not out but through. We must account for our obsessions, our heroes, our enemies. Who is writing our script? Hollywood is the mythic template for such a herculean task.
These ideas aren't new or even radical; in fact they are totally logical, and dare I say inevitable. Yet somehow, this is a rarely approached subject. Probably because it is too controversial, too personal. We want to watch movies to take our mind off things, but our mind is being taken. Kudos to Jasun for raking the muck.
Seen and Unseen is autobiographical, the author admits. But it is also a struggle with autistic tendencies that urge him to carve out a space for himself in a kaleidoscope of movie magic. “I was drawn to [film] works that mirrored my own internal psychological conflict,” Horsley says. His adolescence, for example, was seduced by Western heroes like John Wayne and Clint Eastwood whose fictional narratives portray loneliness, longing, and isolation.
The autist's identification with Taxi Driver’s Travis Bickle is intense and superbly written. In his theater of violence, Bickle “takes control” and refuses to be a “passive victim.” Yet his disconnection with manners and propriety normalizes taking a date to a porno flick. Doesn't everyone?
Interspersed along the path of Horsley’s psychological and emotional journey are engaging and richly told accounts of people who have influenced him, Pauline Kael most notable. Additionally, there are realizations and revelations that have shaped his film autuerism. Most fascinating is his explanation of the Hollywood Revenge Fantasy, a manipulative Tinsel town subterfuge that excuses on-screen brutality. According to the author, the “audience’s emotion” is built up to a point where they insist on a tension-slaying violent act to relieve their discomfort. In a brilliant analysis, Horsley reveals the fantasy as a player in the clever package of science, art, and advertising he identifies as "Hollywood crock."
Embedded in this revenge fantasy is Hollywood’s social message, it is okay to kill as long as “the right people get killed.” The mechanism exploits the audience’s “fear of anarchy and social collapse” as pure justification. Who better to illustrate that than Clint Eastwood, the quiet avenger, the American hero? Horsley reminds us the revenge fantasy “mythologizes the past” and “romanticizes the present,” not to mention laying down a road map for future representations.
With brutal honesty, the book's conclusion is an intimate look at Horsley’s multilayered engagement with his family. His brother Sebastian, a drug overdose victim who brutalized him as a youngster, and his grandfather are given no-holds-barred eulogies.
In the meantime, there is much more within the three hundred plus pages: sexual violence, masturbation, action heroes, and Roman Polanski just scratch the surface. Incidentally, the author frequently refers to an earlier work of his, The Blood Poets, taking brief snippets from it to illustrate how he has evolved in his self-analysis. A reading of that book may be a good bet before tackling this one.
Nevertheless, there is a bit of magic about Seen and Unseen. The best part, undoubtedly, is Horsley's style. The book is a series of essays that pass as chapters in which he is really sitting down and discussing things with you, the reader. It’s a very personal conversation, sort of like Dante following Virgil and readying himself to meet Beatrice.