Postclassical reading method

More or less the same dilemma confronts us in our definitions of the 'post-classical', and especially when we try to turn the economic-technological analysis of contemporary Hollywood's mode of production, and Pfeil's formal-cultural definitions of postmodern cinema, into a 'method' for the stylistic analysis of post-classical films: post-classical, we now want to propose, are above all those moments in a classical film when our own theory or methodology suddenly turns up in the film itself, looking us in the face: either gravely nodding assent, or winking. In subsequent chapters - especially those on Chinatown (Chapter 4), Back to the Future (Chapter 8), and Silence of the Lambs (Chapter 9) - we shall encounter a similar phenomenon, and each time we will try to make it productive as the moment where a different method or paradigm can make its entrance. In the present chapter, in which we try to describe these déjà vu's and uncanny encounters in some detail, it will not lead to a different paradigm, but to a sort of action replay of our own classical analysis, to see how we can recapture these moments of nodding or winking.

• We shall begin by once more looking at the narrative structure, probing it to see what else it might reveal.

• We shall also reconsider our heuristic distinction between surface and depth, to find that the film takes it more literally than we would want it to be taken, especially with respect to its Oedipal logic.

• This will allow us to comment on race, gender, and the male body, arguing that certain areas of taboo, cénsorship, and indirection in the classical mode of representation (of bodies, genders, and races) have been 'opened up', although possibly with the result that 'transgression' itself has become a mere 'surface effect'.

• In the section on the transnational/post-colonial/globalization theme we shall be arguing that a double perspective envelops the film's sociopolitical themes: while the story is clearly about certain aspects of transnational capitalism from an American point of view, the film knows that it is itself also very much part o/this globalization, a situation it seems to address by becoming a sort of two-way mirror of national clichés in a multicultural setting.

• What holds the mirror in place and the spectator in the picture, we shall be concluding, is the film's penchant for punning: from the star's trademark wisecracking to visual jokes and structural ironies, elaborated around tag-lines or riddling phrases, Die Hard keeps us on our toes without giving us a firm foothold, thanks to what we are calling its sliding signifiers.

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