The Outlaw Machine, the Monstrous Outsider and Motorcycle Fetishists: Challenging Rebellion, Mobility and Masculinity in Kenneth Anger’s "Scorpio Rising" and Steven Spielberg’s "Duel"

Authors

  • Kornelia Boczkowska Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.18778/2083-2931.09.05

Keywords:

independent film, avant-garde and experimental film, road movie, masculinity, „Scorpio Rising”, „Duel”

Abstract

The paper analyzes the ways in which Kenneth Anger’s Scorpio Rising (1963) and Steven Spielberg’s Duel (1971) draw on and challenge selected road movie conventions by adhering to the genre’s traditional reliance on cultural critique revolving around the themes of rebellion, transgression and roguery. In particular, the films seem to confront the classic road movie format through their adoption of nomadic narrative structure and engagement in a mockery of subversion where the focus on social critique is intertwined with a deep sense of alienation and existential loss “laden with psychological confusion and wayward angst” (Laderman 83). Following this trend, Spielberg’s film simultaneously depoliticizes the genre and maintains the tension between rebellion and tradition where the former shifts away from the conflict with conformist society to masculine anxiety, represented by middle class, bourgeois and capitalist values, the protagonist’s loss of innocence in the film’s finale, and the act of roguery itself. Meanwhile, Anger’s poetic take on the outlaw biker culture, burgeoning homosexuality, myth and ritual, and violence and death culture approaches the question of roguery by undermining the image of a dominant hypermasculinity with an ironic commentary on sacrilegious and sadomasochistic practices and initiation rites in the gay community. Moreover, both Duel’s demonization of the truck, seen as “an indictment of machines” or the mechanization of life (Spielberg qtd. in Crawley 26), and Scorpio Rising’s (homo)eroticization of a motorcycle posit elements of social critique, disobedience and nonconformity within a cynical and existential framework, hence merging the road movie’s traditional discourse with auteurism and modernism.

Downloads

Download data is not yet available.

Author Biography

Kornelia Boczkowska, Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań

Kornelia Boczkowska is Assistant Professor in the Department of Studies in Culture at the Faculty of English, Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań. She holds a PhD in English, and an MA in Russian and English. She is the recipient of several research grants and author and co-editor of two books and over twenty other publications on independent, experimental and avant-garde film in addition to space art and documentary film. Her current research is on landscape, travelogue and city symphony forms in the postwar American avant-garde and experimental cinema, and is funded by the National Science Center post-doctoral grant (no. UMO-2018/31/D/HS2/01553).

References

Aldiss, Brian. “Spielberg: When the Mundane Breaks Down.” This World and Nearer Ones: Essays on Exploring the Familiar. Kent: Kent State UP, 1979. 173–80. Print.

Alford, Steven E., and Suzanne Ferriss. Motorcycle. London: Reaktion, 2007. Print.

Allison, Deborah. “Kenneth Anger.” The Occult World. Ed. Christopher Partridge. Oxon: Routledge, 2015. 459–63. Print.

Auty, Chris. “The Complete Spielberg?” Sight & Sound 51.4 (1982): 275– 79. Print.

Baker, Brian. “The Occult and Film.” The Occult World. Ed. Christopher Partridge. Oxon: Routledge, 2015. 446–58. Print.

Bianculli, David. “Interview with Steven Spielberg.” Starlog 102 (1986): 18–23. Print.

Brothy, Philip. “Parties in Your Head: From the Acoustic to the Psycho- Acoustic.” The Oxford Handbook of New Audiovisual Aesthetics. Ed. John Richardson, Claudia Gorbman and Carol Vernallis. Oxford: U of Oxford P, 2013. 309–24. Print.

Buckland, Warren. Directed by Steven Spielberg: Poetics of the Contemporary Hollywood Blockbuster. New York: Continuum, 2006. Print.

Cohan, Stephen, and Ina R. Hark. Introduction. The Road Movie Book. Ed. Steven Cohan and Ina R. Hark. New York: Routledge, 1997. 1–14. Print.

Corrigan, Timothy. A Cinema Without Walls: Movies and Culture After Vietnam. New Brunswick: Rutgers UP, 1991. Print.

Cott, Jonathan. “Anger Rising.” Sunday Ramparts 7 May 1970. Web. 3 Jan. 2018.

Crawley, Tony. The Steven Spielberg Story. New York: Quill, 1983. Print.

Derry, Charles. The Suspense Thriller: Films in the Shadow of Alfred Hitchcock. Jefferson: McFarland, 2001. Print.

Dyer, Richard. Now You See It: Studies on Lesbian and Gay Film. London: Routledge, 1991. Print.

Elsaesser, Thomas. “The Pathos of Failure: American Films in the 70’s.” Monogram 6 (1975): 13–19. Print.

Fonda, Henry. American Film Institute: Dialogue on Film. Volume 3. Number 2. Beverly Hills: Center for Advanced Film Studies, 1973. Print.

Friedberg, Anne. “Urban Mobility and Cinematic Visuality: The Screens of Los Angeles—Endless Cinema or Private Telematics.” Journal of Visual Culture 1.2 (2002): 183–204. Print.

Gordon, Andrew M. Empire of Dreams: The Science Fiction and Fantasy Films of Steven Spielberg. Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield, 2008. Print.

Hammond, Michael. “The Road Movie.” Contemporary American Cinema. Ed. Linda Williams and Michael Hammond. Maidenhead: Open UP, 2006. 14–20. Print.

Ireland, Brian. “American Highways: Recurring Images and Themes of the Road Genre.” The Journal of American Culture 26.4 (2003): 474–84. Print.

Kendrick, James. Darkness in the Bliss-Out: A Reconsideration of the Films of Steven Spielberg. New York: Bloomsbury, 2014. Print.

Klosterman, Chuck. Eating the Dinosaur. New York: Scribner, 2009. Print.

Laderman, David. Exploring the Road Movie: Driving Visions. Austin: U of Texas P, 2002. Print.

Le Gall, Michel and Charles Taliaferro. “The Recovery of Childhood and the Search for the Absent Father.” Steven Spielberg and Philosophy: We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Book. Ed. Dean Kowalski. Lexington: UP of Kentucky, 2008. 38–49. Print.

Lounsbury, Myron. “The Bleecker Street Cinema.” Newsweek 25 Apr. 1966. Web. 15 Sept. 2017.

Lowry, Ed. “The Appropriation of Signs in Scorpio Rising.” The Velvet Light-Trap 20 (1986): 41–47. Web. 29 Dec. 2017.

Lynes, Adam. The Road to Murder: Why Driving is the Occupation of Choice for Britain’s Serial Killers. Eastbourne: Waterside, 2017. Print.

Mekas, Jonas. “On the Baudelairean Cinema.” Movie Journal: The Rise of the New American Cinema, 1959–1971. New York: Macmillan, 1972. 85–86. Print.

McBride, Joseph. Steven Spielberg: A Biography. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1997. Print.

Mills, Katie. The Road Story and the Rebel: Moving Through Film, Fiction, and Television. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 2006. Print.

Moore, Rachel O. Savage Theory: Cinema as Modern Magic. Durham: Duke UP, 2000. Print.

Morris, Nigel. The Cinema of Steven Spielberg: Empire of Light. London: Wallflower, 2007. Print.

Mottram, Eric. “Blood on the Nash Ambassador: Cars in American Films.” Cinema, Politics and Society. Ed. Philip Davies and Brian Neve. London: Reaktion, 2002. 95–114. Print.

Murphy, Bernice. The Highway Horror Film. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014. Print.

Musser, Charles. The Emergence of Cinema: The American Screen to 1907. Berkeley: U of California P, 1994. Print.

O’Pray, Michael. Avant-garde Film: Forms, Themes and Passions. London: Wallflower, 2003. Print.

Orgeron, Devin. Road Movies: From Muybridge and Méliès to Lynch and Kiarostami. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007. Print.

Osgerby, Bill. “Full Throttle on the Highway to Hell: Mavericks, Machismo and Mayhem in the American Biker Movie.” Underground U.S.A.: Filmmaking Beyond the Hollywood Canon. Ed. Xavier Mendik and Steven Jay Schneider. London: Wallflower, 2002. 123–39. Print.

Pirie, Dave. “A Prodigy Zooms In: A Child Cineaste Who Now Makes Movies and Money With Equal Facility.” In Time Out Interviews 1968–1998. Ed. Frank Broughton. London: Penguin, 1998. 104–06. Print.

Rowe, Carel. “Myth and Symbolism: Blue Velvet.” Moonchild: The Films of Kenneth Anger. Ed. Jack Hunter. London: Creation, 2002. 11–46. Print.

Sitney, Paul. Visionary Film: The American Avant-garde, 1943–2000. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2002. Print.

Sontag, Susan. “The Aesthetics of Silence.” Styles of Radical Will. New York: Dell Publishing Company, 1969. 3–34. Print.

Sterritt, David. Mad to be Saved: The Beats, the ’50s, and Film. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 1998. Print.

Suarez, Juan A. “Pop, Queer, or Fascist? The Ambiguity of Mass Culture in Kenneth Anger’s Scorpio Rising.” Experimental Cinema: The Film Reader. Ed. Wheeler W. Dixon and Gwendolyn Audrey Foster. London: Routledge, 2002. 115–38. Print.

Taylor, Philip. Steven Spielberg: The Man, His Movies, and Their Meaning. New York: Continuum, 1999. Print.

Verrone, William. Adaptation and the Avant-Garde: Alternative Perspectives on Adaptation, Theory and Practice. New York: Continuum, 2011. Print.

Wasser, Frederick. Steven Spielberg’s America. Cambridge: Polity, 2010. Print.

Downloads

Published

2019-12-30

How to Cite

Boczkowska, K. (2019). The Outlaw Machine, the Monstrous Outsider and Motorcycle Fetishists: Challenging Rebellion, Mobility and Masculinity in Kenneth Anger’s "Scorpio Rising" and Steven Spielberg’s "Duel". Text Matters: A Journal of Literature, Theory and Culture, (9), 81-99. https://doi.org/10.18778/2083-2931.09.05