Cinematic Identities...        GENDERED GAZE


The Beauty of Gender Sin: Politics of Representation and

Gender Masquerading in Yugoslav Auteur Film


Abstract

The article (a fragment from my Ph.D. thesis, entitled Cinematic Gaze and the Construction of Gender in Yugoslav Film: 1945-1991, ISH, Ljubljana, 2009) re-visits Yugoslav auteur film, focusing on the analysis of gender relations and identities as cinematically constructed in films that received notable critical acclaim and popular success during the existence of Yugoslav country. This question of representation was not tackled in film criticism of the epoch. Detailed analyses aim to demonstrate that, although this younger generation of cineasts introduced both aesthetic innovations and the socio-political critique of the dominant ideology, the cinematic strategies employed are much more patriarchal than anti-communist. Their images still rest almost entirely on the re-presentation of female characters as visual spectacle of sexual commodity.

The feminist concepts of masquerade are explored and further extended to male-authored cinema in search of possibilities of (re-possession of) female gaze, especially in the case of Živko Nikolić's film-making, which foregrounds the cinematic strategy of reversed gender masquerading. Finally, by provoking a reading "against the grain", the film analysis might contribute to raising the spectator's awareness of how Yugoslav visual narratives worked to sustain symbolic patriarchal capital, continuing the patriarchal phenomenon of complete male authorship and instrumentalization of women as images to be displayed and looked at.

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Sažetak

Tekst (dio moje doktorske disertacije Cinematic Gaze and the Construction of Gender in Yugoslav Film: 1945-1991, ISH, Ljubljana, 2009.) predstavlja pogled unazad na jugoslovenski autorski film, sa fokusom na analizu filmski konstruisanih rodnih odnosa i identiteta u filmovima koji su doživjeli značajan uspjeh kod kritike i publike za vrijeme postojanja jugoslovenske države. Tadašnja jugoslovenska filmska kritika se uopšte nije bavila ovim pitanjem reprezentacije. Izložena analiza pokazuje da, iako je tadašnja mlada generacija cineasta uvela i estetske inovacije i socio-političku kritiku dominantne ideologije, upotrijebljene kinematografske strategije su bile više patrijarhalne nego anti-komunističke. Slike ređane na ekranu su se najčešće oslanjale na re-prezentaciju ženskih likova kao vizuelnog spektakla seksualne robe.

Analiza primjenjuje feminističke koncepte maškarade na filmove muških autora, u potrazi za mogućnostima (preuzimanja) ženskog (filmskog) pogleda, sa posebnim osvrtom na filmove Živka Nikolića,

 

koji ističu filmsku strategiju izokrenute rodne maškarade. Provocirajući »suprotstavljajuću inter-pretaciju« (u de Lauretisinom smislu), ovakva analiza teži podizanju gledalačke svijesti o prikrivenim procesima jugoslovenskih vizuelnih narativa, koji su istrajavali u održanju simboličnog patrijarhalnog kapitala, nastavljali patrijarhalni fenomen potpunog muškog autorstva i instrumentalizovali žene kao slike za pokazivanje i gledanje


The Beauty of Gender Sin: Politics of Representation and Gender Masquerading in Yugoslav Auteur Film

Seeing is the prototype of knowing
(Braidotti, 2006: 85)

Some differences are playful; some are poles of world historical systems of domination.
Epistemology is about knowing the difference.

(Haraway, 1991: 157)


Gender difference and politics of re-presentation

Socialist feminist criticism has emphasized the significance of the relationship between female subjectivity and class identity, and has redefined differences relating not only to sexual but also racial, economic, and cultural categories of analysis1. Sexual difference serves, as a paradigm permitted by patriarchal global consesus, as an excuse for, not only subordination of women, but also for all other forms of exclusion, exploitation and repression. These are achieved by historical process of naturalisaton, essentialisation of a subordinated member of dichotomy which shows itself, from the beginning and in abstract ways, as symmetrical2. Thus, sex difference has always historically sexualized all other differences and relations in a society, and the mystery of its permanent success and persistance lies in its portrayal of this difference as 'natural' and therefore, 'unchangeable'3.

Although the notion of nation is most often iconographically represented by a female figure, the national hero is, by definition, male and nation is the highest degree of patriarchal organisation based on the male principle. "Yet the relation between nation/collective identity and women/gender identity is certainly much more complicated, (and far from being positioned in women's sheer creativity, subversion and innovative feminism). A national collective expanded several strategies of forcing, negotiating or compromising with women, in order to strengthen collective cohesion. The figures of the mother and the sister were used not only to accommodate women in the modified patriarchy of the nation-state but also to make women fight for, work in, and be representative of the national collective narratives. Our women, if the narratives succeeded, were one of the most powerful ideological, cultural and propaganda weapons in all the processes of forming nation-states in the area"4.

In the immediate post-World War 2 period, Yugoslav socialist system and its artistic products worked on reconciling the heritage of traditional culture with the ideology of gender equality, united in the ideal of "new man", before these emancipatory processes produced "a moral panic", entailing re-domestification of women in the predominantly rural and patriarchal society. Film, thus, became not only a propaganda weapon, as in the earlier period, but a heuristic procedure which conveys the collective national feeling.

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1. de Lauretis, 1987: 14
2. Ivekovic, 2000: 10
3. Ibid.
4. Slapsak, 2002: 153

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