I love Aki Kaurismaki, and here’s the trailer for The Man without a Past:

Best line: An electrician helps M to “borrow” power from the closest pylon and connect it to his container. When M enquires about his fees, the guy answers “Turn me over if you find me face down in a ditch one day.”


While I’m posting videos and thinking about Neruda…

Here are the Brazilian Girls (perhaps my new favorite band; incidentally, they’re neither Brazilian nor, for the most part, girls) with a rendition of “Me gustas cuando callas”:

Sadly the visuals for the above video are far from inspiring. It’s worth seeing the song live. Here’s a performance from a couple of years ago in New York:

One of the things I like here is that this rendition is something of a performative contradiction: though the poem speaks of absence and a woman’s silence, in the person of singer Sabina Sciubba we see a woman very much present and the focus of attention (while the male members of the band hide behind their instruments) and it is her voice that sounds out, rather than being hushed.

Indeed, is she telling us to be quiet?

Meanwhile, Sciubba is renowned for hiding her eyes. So while making herself the center of visual attention, she also seems to want to resist the gaze. In her words, “I can do whatever the fuck I want because nobody is going to recognize me in the street.”


A particularly fine video (amazingly, it seems it was shot with only one camera) of the Catalan tradition of building castells:

There’s much to be said here about bodies, tall buildings, sovereignty, and community. Indeed, in some ways these castles are almost literal embodiments of the famous frontispiece to Hobbes’s Leviathan. A multitude constitutes the temporary illusion of sovereignty.

So what’s fascinating is the discipline and coordination invested in the construction of these human towers. But also their inevitable precariousness.


Contemporary advertising is more about branding than anything else: it aims, as the etymology of the term “branding” suggests, to imprint the body rather than to convince the mind.

Take the current advert for John Lewis, which has quickly become an Internet sensation for the ways in which it so successfully tugs at the heartstrings, leaving its mark directly on the body.

The ad is particularly targeted at women. Heidi Scrimgeour’s account, in “Why We Love the John Lewis Ad” on Mumsnet, records (as she herself soon admits) what is a typical viewer response:

[I] watched, riveted, until a sob took me by such surprise that it turned into an embarrassed laugh, and I sat stunned and snotty on the sofa, crying in an empty house over an ad for a store I can’t even shop in without boarding a plane and flying back to England. [. . . I soon] realised I was the cliche; one of hundreds of thousands of middle England’s mummies who had watched the ad repeatedly and cried into their John Lewis scatter cushions.

More cynically (however much we’re told that “cynicism must be set aside”, which is itself surely the apogee of cynicism), in the inevitable “Making Of” video, a John Lewis marketing manager states that the “campaign is really about delivering emotion for the brand.”

This is what advertising does today: it delivers emotion for brands. There’s probably no better instance of posthegemony.

And of course, the soft-focus affect that envelops the life portrayed in the 90-second slot, in which we see a woman’s life from infancy to old age, has little if anything to do with the brand’s famous tagline, Never Knowingly Undersold”.

That, too, is now merely a matter of affect; or rather, it has been so infused with affect that it has become what Ernesto Laclau would call a purely empty signifier.

The same goes, of course, for the rather misogynist lyrics to the accompanying Billy Joel song, which are at best merely an ironic counterpoint safely (and again, cynically, “we know, but…”) ignored by the viewer.