By Chad T. Johnston
Todd Solondz first came to my attention when I discovered that he had enlisted the services of Belle and Sebastian, independent music’s celebrated circus of sulk from Scotland, to provide the soundtrack to his film Storytelling (2001). It was fated to be – the band is to Solondz as hand is to glove. The first song on the band’s third LP, The Boy With the Arab Strap (1998), entitled “It Could Have Been a Brilliant Career,” features a protagonist that could easily be a character in one of Solondz’ films: “He had a stroke at the age of 24/It could have been a brilliant career/Selling lies to the boys with the old Dansettes/Pulling the wool, playing the fool, it's no wonder that he is dribbling spit tonight[i]The characters that populate the band’s songs, like the characters in Solondz’ films, are awkward and gawky, repellent and reticent. Indeed, while Solondz’ characters are fundamentally different from their Hollywood counterparts, it could argued that they occupy a specific type like the Russian Formalists used.
Solondz’ latest film, Palindromes (2004), uniquely uses typage and other formal elements to defamiliarize the story of the pregnant teenager, thereby revitalizing it and infusing it with new meaning. This essay will explore these elements – including defamiliarization, creative acting, and typage – through the eyes of the Russian Formalists, focusing in particular on the works of Lev Kuleshov and Sergei Eisenstein.
Before applying the concepts of the Russian Formalists to Palindromes, however, I want to provide an overview of the film, but not a plot synopsis. I have chosen this modus operandi because the plot specifics of this film are best explored in the process of theoretical application. Additionally, a summary of the plot would be incomplete without first discussing the film’s tone, dominant themes, and surreal structure, as these elements all inform the development of the film’s narrative.
Palindromes is the fifth feature-film in Todd Solondz’ oeuvre, which includes Fear, Anxiety, and Depression (1989), Welcome to the Dollhouse (1995), Happiness (1998), and Storytelling (2001). Tonally, it occupies the same uncomfortable space as his other films, all of which seem to emphasize the “dark” in dark comedy. Additionally, it is a loosely associated sequel to Welcome to the Dollhouse, beginning with the funeral of Dawn Wiener, …Dollhouse’s teenage protagonist.
Immediately after the funeral we are introduced to the Dawn’s cousin Aviva, a young, animated black girl who radiates megawatts of childlike warmth and innocence. In a conversation that establishes the tonal trajectory of the film, Aviva calls for her mother (Ellen Barkin), crying “I don’t want to be like Dawn! I don’t want to be like her, or end up like her…”[ii] In order to comfort Aviva, her mother tells her how she differs from Dawn: “Your cousin was a troubled child … a middle child … Her parents didn’t love her the way your father and I love you … Maybe if she hadn’t grown obese, if she’d gone to a dermatologist … something.”[iii] These words are spoken with utmost seriousness, typical of the sort of sadistic satire that characterizes Solondz’ films. This comment is representative of the tone of the entire script, as Solondz has a flare for emotional alchemy, transforming horror into hilarity.
Next, Aviva confides in her mother (Ellen Barkin), “Missy told me after the funeral that Dawn was pregnant from a date-rape and … that’s the real reason she killed herself. She hated the idea of bringing another Dawn into the world. And then she said that I was just like Dawn.”[iv] Aviva goes on to exclaim, “If I were pregnant, I would never kill myself – that would be killing the baby!”[v] Finally, in a statement that reveals the heart of her character, she continues: “I want to have lots and lots of babies. As many babies as possible because, um, because that way I’ll always have someone to love.”[vi] During this conversation, her mother consoles her and lavishes affection on her. This sequence introduces most of the film’s main thematic elements: teenage pregnancy, abortion, and the familial dynamics that inevitably accompany such themes.
Within minutes of this sequence, something happens that is central to the development of the film. Suddenly Aviva, who was played in the previous scene by Emani Sledge, has inexplicably become a white 13-year-old played by Valerie Shusterov. In place of the animated, childlike demeanor of her predecessor, Aviva now has a flat vocal affect and a penchant for wearing “white trash” T-shirts that reveal her pudgy midriff. This is not simply a depiction of Aviva in the future. This is confirmed for the audience when, in the next chapter, she is played by Hannah Freiman, a gaunt girl with long, unkempt red hair that is awkwardly parted down the middle. The other characters in the film are completely oblivious to these changes, including Aviva’s parents who, by all accounts, should at least blink when their daughter goes from black to white overnight. Aviva is played by four more actresses as the film progresses.
These transitions would be more difficult to follow if the film were not divided into chapters. These chapters are designated by colorful title screens that resemble the pages of a baby scrapbook, decorated with icons of a baby’s dress and footprints, and surrounded by a lace border. Each chapter is named after a person, with his or her name written in cursive calligraphy in the midst of the aforementioned decorative flourishes. The chapters progress in the following sequence: “Dawn,” “Judah,” “Henry,” “Henrietta,” “Huckleberry,” “Mama Sunshine,” “Bob,” “Mark,” and “Aviva.” The closing credits of the film rely on the chapter titles to distinguish one version of Aviva from another (i.e. the first actress to play Aviva is referred to as Judah Aviva, the second as Henry Aviva, and so on). I bring this up because, in referring to Aviva in her various incarnations, I will use these distinctions myself when necessary.
On that note, when we reach the chapter entitled “Aviva,” something very strange happens: we encounter a reverse procession of all of the previous versions of Aviva in quick succession. The rationale for this can be found in the film’s title: the film itself and Aviva’s name are palindromes – words that are spelled the same backward and forward. In Palindromes, there are eight versions of Aviva in all. Mark Aviva (Jennifer Jason Leigh) is the lone Aviva who appears in the film only once, as she is structurally the middle of the palindrome, with seven manifestations of Aviva on either side of her. After her appearance, the reverse procession begins with Bob Aviva, Mama Sunshine Aviva, Huckleberry Aviva, and so on until the film concludes with a monologue by Dawn Aviva, who appeared in the film first.
The Russian Formalists
In discussing the Russian Formalists, James Monaco explains that “Formalism marked the burgeoning cultural life – both literary and cinematic – in the Soviet Union” in the 1920s, and was characterized by a concern with “the importance of function as well as form in art.”[vii] Because of this fascination with function and form it was “more ‘scientific’” than contemporary movements like German expressionism.[viii]
Todd Solondz never met Lev Kuleshov or Sergei Eisenstein, but when I saw Palindromes I decided it might be interesting to look at the film through their eyes. Kuleshov in particular wanted to “locate the source of cinematographic impressibility” and proceeded to do so in a very scientific manner in a workshop that he helmed.[ix] In the end, he discovered that “the fundamental source of cinematographic impact upon the viewer … is montage, that is the alternation of shots.”[x] Eisenstein, influenced by the Formalist theatrical approach of Vsevolod Meyerhold, developed his own body of Formalist theory and a directed a number of extremely influential, innovative films. In the following section I am going to explore Palindromes through the eyes of these cinematic scientists, focusing specifically on the Formalist concepts of defamiliarization, creative acting, and typage.
J. Dudley Andrew explains that the Russian Formalists endorsed a “technique of art that relied on deviation. ‘Make the object strange!’ they cried.”[xi] Beneath the bells and whistles of sadism and structure, it could be said that Palindromes mines tired territory: pregnant teenager runs away from home, finds comfort in all the wrong places, news report at five. But it is these bells and whistles that Solondz uses to defamiliarize this story – to make it strange – emptying it of cliché and infusing it with vitality.
To my knowledge, Kuleshov and Eisenstein did not use the word “defamiliarization” in their writings, but it could be argued that they both used this technique in their films. From a narrative perspective, for example, Kuleshov’s comedy The Extraordinary Adventures of Mr. West in the Land of Bolsheviks (1924) embodies the Formalist notion that “all literary techniques which we regard as artistic (irony, humor, pathos, figures of speech) function as conscious distortions of reality.”[xii] It is these distortions – these deviations – that ultimately transform the familiar into something new. Although literary form and cinematic form are two different animals, the cinematic employment of humor relies on distortion much as its literary counterpart does.
James Monaco writes that “For Eisenstein it was necessary to destroy realism in order to approach reality.”[xiii] He transformed “photographed reality” into “a stock of raw material … for the filmmaker to rearrange as he saw fit,” and used that raw material to create dialectical montage.[xiv] For Eisenstein, this meant uniting one shot (thesis) with another (antithesis) to produce a third element (synthesis), the conceptual product of the two shots. For example, “the intercutting of the massacre of the workers with the slaughter of an ox at the end of Strike” uses the dialectical relation of two concepts to synthesize something new, enabling the audience to see the massacre not only as a human tragedy, but also as a tragedy in which humans are reduced to animals meeting their ends at the hands of a butcher.[xv] This process of transforming reality into something else, seems to correspond quite well with defamiliarization.
At this juncture I want to focus on the actual use of defamiliarization in Palindromes. In doing so I am going to focus on Solondz’ depiction of teenage pregnancy itself, the way he uses the genre of dark comedy, and the use of multiple actresses to play Aviva.
Solondz first defamiliarizes teenage pregnancy, directing our attention to the fact that Aviva wants to have a baby at age 13. In the chapter entitled “Judah,” Aviva meets a socially inept boy named Judah, the son of her parents’ friends. After conversing awhile they climb into bed together with awkward naïveté, enacting a teenage version of the children’s game of playing house. Aviva asks Judah, “Do you think about sex a lot? I never do. I just think about having a baby … they’re cute. I want one.”[xvi] In the half-bored, flat affect that characterizes Solondz-speak, Judah replies “Okay then, are you ready? … Here goes.”[xvii] From this paradoxically innocent yet perverse interlude, Aviva becomes pregnant. Her pregnancy is not the result of unchecked passions or date-rape as so many teenage pregnancies are; hers results from her desire to be a mother. The result of this approach is a story that steers clear of cliché and veers instead into uncharted territory.
Solondz also defamiliarizes abortion by couching it in the genre of dark comedy. As a genre, dark comedy relies heavily on formal distortion to achieve its purposes, transforming morbidity into merriment, death into delight, perversion into pleasure. Palindromes uses the genre of dark comedy as its playground, working out its blackest impulses in the sandbox of sadistic satire. For example, after discovering that Henry Aviva is pregnant, her mother pleads for her to get an abortion, asking her “What if it turns out deformed… if it’s missing a leg or an arm or a nose or an eye? If it’s brain-damaged or mentally retarded? … Your life is ruined forever … You end up on food stamps, alone.”[xviii] Although her mother’s logic is absurd, it is delivered with utmost seriousness, and Aviva responds accordingly, asserting in no uncertain terms that she wants to keep the baby. Eventually, her mother forces her to get an abortion against her will.
In the hands of another director, this could have easily become an occasion for anger, sadness, or saccharine sentimentality. In the hands of Solondz, however, this sequence feels like it has been culled from a strange dream. Aviva’s mother’s dialogue feels like parroted, parodied pro-choice propaganda. In tailoring the topic of abortion to fit the genre of dark comedy, Solondz is “(taking) an object or activity and (wrenching) it from the flow of life.”[xix] He is freeing abortion from the space it usually occupies in our minds and calling attention to it in a completely different way. The result is a renewed discomfort with abortion, as if the evening news, political campaigns, and courtrooms had never been saturated with it in the first place.
While Henry Aviva is at the hospital for her abortion, the viewer learns that during the process she began to hemorrhage, and a hysterectomy had to be performed. Now she can never have a baby of her own, although her parents curiously omit this information from their conversation with her after she awakens from surgery. Therefore, she continues to try to conceive a child. Henrietta Aviva runs away from home, hitchhiking with a mysterious trucker, an older, stone-faced man clad in flannel who claims his name is Joe. Later that night, he takes advantage of her in a hotel room, or rather, she takes advantage of his ability to impregnate her. Again, these events are strange deviations from the typical teenage pregnancy narrative. Yes, many pregnant teenagers run away from home. But how many teenagers have abortions only to run away from home so they can conceive a child again? Furthermore, Joe’s actions qualify him as a predatory pedophile, yet Aviva welcomes and appreciates his advances. In this instance, the narrative itself defamiliarizes the story of the pregnant teenager, and the teenage runaway as well.
Defamiliarization Through Kuleshov’s Concept of Creative Acting
Finally and most importantly, Solondz defamiliarizes the story of the pregnant teenager by using multiple actresses to play Aviva. From the perspective of Kuleshov, these transitions from actress to actress in Palindromes might be seen as the application of montage to the process of creative acting. In describing creative acting, Kuleshov writes of an instance in which he “shot a girl sitting before her mirror, painting her eyelashes and brows, putting on lipstick and slippers.”[xx] He continues, explaining that “By montage alone we were able to depict the girl, just as in nature, but in actuality she did not exist, because we shot the lips of one woman, the legs of another, the back of a third, and the eyes of a fourth. We spliced the pieces together in a predetermined relationship and created a totally new person.”[xxi]
In Kuleshov’s discussion of creative acting, this process is seamless, invisible to the audience. They would never suspect Kuleshov of being a filmic Dr. Frankenstein, carefully assembling the body parts of multiple actors to create one person. Solondz deviates from Kuleshov’s conception of creative acting at this juncture, however, as his technique is not only visible, but also intrusive. Because he uses multiple people to create a person rather than using multiple body parts to create the appearance of one, his technique is jarring for the audience. His approach here seems to invoke Eisenstein, who wrote, “What then characterizes montage and, consequently, its embryo, the shot? Collision. Conflict between two neighboring fragments. Conflict. Collision.”[xxii]
While Eisenstein’s vision of collision pertains to juxtaposed shots, the spirit of this idea seems to haunt the juxtaposition of actresses that play Aviva in the film. For example, when Solondz transforms from Dawn Aviva to Judah Aviva, the transition inevitably rattles the viewer. It is the first transformation in the film, so the viewer is left to wonder how a black girl could grow up to become a white girl, or how Solondz could have missed such an obvious casting error. The signification of the event is completely unclear, and remains so until Aviva has undergone multiple transformations. It is collision that shocks the viewer when she transforms, and it is collision that paradoxically enables the viewer to connect each new incarnation of Aviva to her predecessors. That is, the same sort of collision characterizes each transformation, conditioning the viewer to conceive of each Aviva in the film as similar in some sense – as belonging to a unified whole, as in Kuleshov’s concept of creative acting.
Nowhere in the film is this sense of collision more apparent than in the transition from Huckleberry Aviva to Mama Sunshine Aviva. This happens shortly after the Joe the Trucker abandons Henrietta Aviva after spending the night with her in a hotel room. Huckleberry Aviva enters the picture, wandering like a nomad toward some unspecified end, until she discovers a blue and white plastic boat in a stream and boards it, drifting downstream. Huckleberry Aviva is a thin, waiflike, vaguely translucent Caucasian who, unbeknownst to the audience, is played by a gender-bending boy named Will Denton.
It should be noted at this point that, ever since the entry of Judah Aviva, all incarnations of Aviva have worn the same sort of midriff-revealing crop top. After Huckleberry Aviva drifts out of the frame aboard her boat, we find that she has washed ashore on the streambed, reincarnated as Mama Sunshine Aviva, an obese black woman whose image alone is alarming when contrasted with Huckleberry Aviva. Her midriff-revealing T-shirt is the textile equivalent of a boa constrictor, squeezing her intently while her bulk fights back, threatening to the rend the shirt asunder. The contrast between Huckleberry Aviva and Mama Sunshine Aviva is shocking, and the resulting sense of collision is powerful.
At this point it is necessary to summarize the remainder of the plot, both for psychological closure and to provide context for exploring typage in Palindromes. Mama Sunshine Aviva has just entered the picture in all of her shocking glory, and only a few chapters of the film remain.
When Mama Sunshine Aviva is laying on the aforementioned streambed, exhausted, a gregarious boy named Peter Paul happens upon her and offers her a helping hand. Before she can blink an eye (or transform into anyone else, for that matter), she finds herself in the care of Mama Sunshine and her husband Bo, Christian fundamentalists who seem to have adopted a number of children with disabilities, or who are victims in some way. The Sunshine family welcomes her with open arms, even providing the exhausted Aviva with the services of the family physician, Doctor Dan. This band of outsiders have their own milquetoast musical group – the Christian, pro-life equivalent of NSYNC or the Backstreet Boys. They invite Aviva to join them, and she reluctantly agrees.
All is well until she overhears a private conversation between Bo Sunshine, Doctor Dan and, of all people, Joe the Trucker, whose real name is apparently Earl. Bo gives Earl instructions to murder an abortion doctor, and Doctor Dan reveals to Bo and Earl that, while examining Aviva, he discovered that she was a “child whore.”[xxiii] In a panic, Aviva escapes with Earl, accompanying him on his mission to kill the abortion doctor. Using a rifle and scope, Earl aims at the doctor and ends up killing him and one of his young daughters on accident. This is a fascinating twist, as it challenges the notion that militant pro-life activists can ever achieve good through inherently evil means; the abortion doctor and his killer are now both guilty of killing children. The murder results in pandemonium, and Earl and Aviva hide from the police in a hotel room. Before Earl is shot and killed by the police, he reveals to Aviva that his name is actually Bob.[xxiv] At this point, Aviva returns home, and her parents celebrate the occasion with a party.
In the last chapter of the film, Aviva reunites with Judah (whose name is now Otto, a palindrome like her own name), having sex with him in a nearby forest. Throughout this final chapter, all of the actresses who have played Aviva in the film appear in reverse sequence. As Aviva and Judah have sex in the forest, for example, the camera alternates between Aviva’s face and Judah’s. Each time the film returns to Aviva, she is represented by a different actress. The film ends with Dawn Aviva delivering a monologue directly into the camera, breaking the fourth wall.
One of the obvious questions that this closing sequence begs is “What are we to make of these strange looking actresses?” Once again, the Russian Formalists offer their voices to this exploration of Palindromes. When it came to selecting actors for film, Kuleshov and Eisenstein both emphasized the importance of selecting people who were suitable for the cinematic medium. In Art of the Cinema, Kuleshov explains that “film needs real material and not a pretense of reality – owing to this, it is not theater actors but ‘types’ who should act in film – that is, people who in themselves, as they were born, present some kind of interest for cinematic treatment.”[xxv] To Eisenstein, on the other hand, these “types” could be seen as “elements within the composition of the frame which acquire meaning only through montage.”[xxvi]
Solondz’ characters seem to be frozen in the perpetual awkwardness of adolescence, regardless of their age. He achieves this affect in part by relying on the selection of specific types of people. Upon studying the visages of the girls who play Aviva in Palindromes, for example, one could produce a long list of descriptive characteristics, including “frumpy,” “homely,” “unattractive,” etc. These girls are qualitatively different than the dime-a-dozen beauties that litter the screen in today’s Hollywood films.
When it comes to contemporary cinema, I would argue that beauty has become the norm rather than the exception, like an entire field of flowers wherein the beauty of each individual flower is made indistinct by the beauty of each surrounding flower. Solondz’ defamiliarizes woman in Palindromes, trading traditional typage for something entirely different, exchanging blonde bombshells for a bland brand of breeder.
The result of this defamiliarization is the restoration of female personhood from the reductionistic realm of fetishistic scopophilia. In her seminal essay Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema, Laura Mulvey argued that “the woman displayed (in film) has functioned on two levels: as erotic object for the characters within the screen story, and as erotic object within the auditorium.”[xxvii] In Palindromes, the women who play Aviva hardly qualify as “erotic objects.” This applies even to Jennifer Jason Leigh, who achieved fame by subjecting herself to erotic objectification in Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982). In Palindromes, Aviva’s flat affect is foregrounded and Jennifer Jason Leigh’s beauty is subjected to its effects, becoming little more than background. Her physical presence, then, is like wallpaper that looks pleasant enough but becomes aesthetically unremarkable because it adorns the walls of a fundamentally tacky room.
Kuleshov states that “a person with an ordinary, normal exterior, however good-looking he may be, is not needed in cinema.”[xxviii] I doubt he could have anticipated Solondz’ particular brand of typage, but he would not be able to accuse his characters of being ordinary or normal either.
Closing Thoughts/Implications of the Film
Now that I have applied the Russian Formalist concepts of defamiliarization, creative acting, and typage to Palindromes, I think it is worthwhile to explore a few thoughts I had as I wrote this essay that do not fit into any of the above categories. Mainly, I want to explore the meaning of the film, and how it achieves this meaning. I realize as I write this that I am treading on highly subjective ground. As such, I want to emphasize that the thoughts below are by no means definitive in sorting out the meaning of the film. They are merely representative of my own interpretations.
To explore the meaning of Palindromes, it may be useful to apply Eisenstein’s theory of intellectual montage, as it proposes that “montage (is) capable of expressing abstract ideas by creating conceptual relationships among shots of opposing content.”[xxix] Each time Aviva transforms into someone else, the juxtaposition of the two dissimilar girls prompts the viewer to attempt to generate an interpretation of the event. In the end, this series of transformations is subject to viewer interpretation, as Solondz never accounts for this phenomenon, either covertly or overtly. I think the closing montage, in which Aviva transforms multiple times during sex, represents a crystallization of the transformations that occur throughout the film, as this sequence is essentially a faster, reverse reiteration of them. As such, it serves as a reminder of the conceptual ground the film has covered up to that point, and it offers an opportunity for the viewer to ruminate about potential interpretations of the film.
I personally read the film as a statement about the complexities of human sexuality, the intensely divisive nature of abortion, and the familial and social tensions that threaten to impinge upon personal freedom in American society. I think Solondz is painting with a universal brush, transforming the story of one pregnant teenager into the story of many teenagers. As a result, teenage pregnancy and abortion are no longer abstractions; they have become concrete in the various forms of Aviva. Conservative fundamentalists (like Mama and Bo Sunshine) often discuss teenage pregnancy and abortion as issues that seem to exist independent of human beings, but Palindromes firmly anchors these issues in human subjectivity. It is easy to champion moral absolutes when only abstract concepts are at stake. When humanity enters the equation, it seems that Palindromes suggests other things need to be considered.
Again, in the hands of another director this film could have made numerous cliché statements about the issues it explores. However, Solondz revitalizes these issues with techniques that would make the Russian Formalists proud.
Related Forays Into Formalism
On that note, I want to provide a brief overview of two similar films that might be worth studying from the perspective of this essay. These two films are by no means the only films that use these techniques. Rather, they are simply the ones that came to mind in the process of assembling this study.
While Palindromes is extreme in its character transformations, Solondz is not the first director to violate audience expectations in this manner. In Luis Buñuel’s film That Obscure Object of Desire (1977) the actress (Carole Bouquet) who plays the protagonist, Conchita, is unexplainably replaced by another actress (Ángela Molina) mid-film. It should be noted, however, that this was not part of Buñuel’s initial plan. The actress who played Conchita during the first part of the film suddenly quit, and Buñuel simply decided to replace her and continue filming.
David Lynch’s film Lost Highway (1997) offers a variation on this technique when Fred Madision (Bill Pullman), “who has been sentenced to death for the murder of his ostensibly unfaithful wife, inexplicably transforms into another person in his prison cell.”[xxx] The person, in addition to being played by another actor (Balthazar Getty), has a completely different name as well – Peter Dayton. At the same time, Fred and Pete’s respective lovers are both played by the same actress (Patricia Arquette), but she is a completely different person when she is with each of them; when she is with Fred she is Renee, and when she is with Pete she is Alice. All of this happens without any explanation, and the film washes over the viewer with the sort of nightmarish, nebulous ebb and flow that Lynch would replicate later in Mulholland Drive (2001). The transposition and substitution of characters and actors inevitably prompts the sort of waking-dream associations that recall the end of The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy awakens and finds herself surrounded by people she now associates with Kansas and Oz, exclaiming “You were there! Oh, and you were there!”
In both That Obscure Object of Desire and Lost Highway, it is possible to interpret what is happening not only in spite of, but because of the narrative distortions created by these breaches of character permanence. While the resulting interpretations may be highly subjective and vary from person to person, coherent interpretations are possible and even inevitable.
At the beginning of this essay, I wrote of Belle and Sebastian, the band Solondz commissioned to compose music for his fourth film, Storytelling. Despite the fact that the characters described in the band’s music could easy be in Solondz’ films, he only used a fraction of the songs the band wrote for the film, and the band ended up releasing the complete recordings from the Storytelling sessions later via Matador Records. I was initially perplexed by this, but as I thought about it more I realized that Belle and Sebastian temper their darkly comedic lyrics with deceptively happy music. In doing so, their characters are altered in some sense and no longer embody the “types” that occupy Solondz’ films. I could be completely wrong, but there is nothing wrong with hypothesizing. I think it is especially interesting in light of this essay’s discussion of the application of the Russian Formalists’ concepts of defamiliarization, creative acting, and typage to Palindromes.
[i] Belle and Sebastian, The Boy With the Arab Strap, compact disc, Matador/Jeepster, OLE 311-2, ℗ & © 1998 Jeepster Recordings.
[ii] “Dawn,” Palindromes, DVD, directed by Todd Solondz (2004; New York, NY: Wellspring, 2005).
[vii] James Monaco, How to Read a Film: The Art, Technology, Language, History, and Theory of Film and Media, rev. ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1981), 322.
[ix] Lev V. Kuleshov, Kuleshov on film: Writings by Kuleshov. ed. Ronald Levaco, (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press), 45.
[x] Lev V. Kuleshov, Kuleshov on Film, 47-48.
[xi] J. Dudley Andrew, The Major Film Theories: An Introduction, (London: Oxford University Press, 1976), 81.
[xii] David A. Cook, A History of Narrative Film (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1996), 82.
[xiii] James Monaco, How to Read a Film, 327.
[xvi] “Judah,” Palindromes, DVD, directed by Todd Solondz (2004; New York, NY: Wellspring, 2005).
[xviii] “Henry,” Palindromes, DVD, directed by Todd Solondz (2004; New York, NY: Wellspring, 2005).
[xix] J. Dudley Andrew, The Major Film Theories, 81.
[xx] Ibid., 52
[xxi] Ibid., 52.
[xxii] Sergei Eisenstein, “Beyond the Shot [The Cinematographic Ideogram],” in Film Theory and Criticism: Introductory Readings, ed. Leo Braudy and Marshall Cohen (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 21.
[xxiii] “Mama Sunshine,” Palindromes, DVD, directed by Todd Solondz (2004; New York, NY: Wellspring, 2005).
[xxiv] I find it interesting how Joe/Earl/Bob’s name changes multiple times, while Aviva’s body changes multiple times. An interesting area of future inquiry for this film would be its depiction of identity.
[xxv] Lev V. Kuleshov, Kuleshov on Film, 63-64.
[xxvi] David A. Cook, A History of Narrative Film, 148.
[xxvii] Laura Mulvey, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema,” in Film Theory and Criticism: Introductory Readings, ed. Leo Braudy and Marshall Cohen (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 838.
[xxviii] Lev V. Kuleshov, Kuleshov on Film, 64.
[xxix] David A. Cook, A History of Narrative Film, 173.
[xxx] Marek Wieczorek, introduction to The Art of the Ridiculous Sublime: On David Lynch’s Lost Highway, by Slavoj Žižek (Seattle, WA: The Walter Chapin Center for the Humanities), ix.