The below is text to accompany the screening of my short essay-film, Golden Gate, which is to be screened (or if you are looking at this after 10 July 2019, which was screened) at the 2019 Film-Philosophy Conference at the University of Brighton, in Brighton, UK.

The film stands alone, but this text functions as a means of elaborating on the ideas that the film covers.

Golden Gate is an essay-film that reworks footage from 43 movies, spanning eight decades, in order to suggest that in cinema – and perhaps in the real world – the Golden Gate Bridge marks, if not the end of humanity, then the end of western patriarchal masculinity.

The film does this by weaving together scenes from these 43 films in such a way that we see how the Golden Gate repeatedly suffers apocalyptic events in movies: nuclear bombs, attacks by monsters from the ancient past, including ‘atomic creatures’ Godzilla and the giant octopus from It Came from Beneath the Sea (Robert Gordon, USA, 1955), as well as post-ecological kaiju and mega sharks, earthquakes, sun blazes, meteors and more.

More than this, the Golden Gate is also a place where congregate such posthuman entities as intelligent apes, intelligent octopuses, intelligent sharks, intelligent aliens, including Vulcans, intelligent cars, mutant humans (X-men), hulks, terminators, other intelligent machines and Supermen/Superman.

Perhaps it is obvious that this would be the case. For the Golden Gate is also a space where the desert meets the sea, with the interaction of these two elements creating unpredictable weather conditions, including fog, that connote uncertainty and amorphousness. That is, the Golden Gate Bridge is a space for all manner of unusual becomings, or what Reza Negarestani terms ‘new sentiences’ (Negarestani 2008: 92).

Small wonder, then, that San Francisco lies just next to Silicon Valley, where in the desert a silicon singularity is being beckoned into existence. Small wonder, too, that the Golden Gate marks the edge of the psychic space of the USA and perhaps of modernity itself: it is the limit of the west, and once that limit is reached… humans have few places left to go, except perhaps by evolving into new life forms, by being replaced by new life forms (or life forms that are at least new to us), by taking their own lives, or by disappearing in a flash of nuclear light.

Indeed, that flash of nuclear light heralds not just the end of man and the arrival of creatures from the deep, but perhaps also the very birth of cinema itself as a sentient being that is set to replace the human, be that as a machine apart from humans or as a cyborg symbiogenetically entangled with humans. Small wonder, again, that filmmakers like Chris Marker, Jenni Olson and Sophie Fiennes (who brings with her auti-philosopher Slavoj Žižek) all come to the Golden Gate to explore cinema’s own ability not just to touch humans, but also to think for and with itself.

And final small wonder, too, that in their essay-film about San Francisco, Guy Maddin, Evan Johnson and Galen Johnson also define the city as one defined by The Green Fog (USA, 2017), with the Golden Gate Bridge featuring heavily in this film that makes reference to the new sentience that emerges from havoc-wreaking weather conditions.

It is for this reason, too, that Golden Gate explores how early film theorist Vachel Lindsay, who in his poetry considered San Francisco to be beyond repentance, sees cinema as a prophecy machine, harking into existence these new life forms that cinema allows us to see, being itself such a life form, as is the Golden Gate, too.

One of the speakers from Eric Steel’s documentary about Golden Gate suicides, The Bridge (UK/USA, 2006), suggests that the schizophrenia suffered by one of the jumpers (Lisa Smith) meant that for them life was like having 44 television channels on simultaneously with all of them occupying equal attention.

This recalls Steven Shaviro’s claim that ‘people along the autistic spectrum are not solipsists, and they are not lacking in empathy… Their vision… “makes everything it represents exist on a strictly ‘equal footing’… fully outside any ontological hierarchy”’ (Shaviro 2014: 132).

To see and to treat equally, to achieve ontological democracy and to remove hierarchies, is perhaps to become autistic, to remove hierarchies. Perhaps Superman is thus autistic. Perhaps Spock is thus autistic. Perhaps Tommy Wiseau is thus autistic. Perhaps it is no mistake that the autistic Khan (Shah Rukh Khan) comes to San Francisco in order to live.

And as vision becomes democratised across space, so does it across time, such that past and future are also equal, such that fantasy and reality also become equal. Where truth and fiction become indiscernible, so are we in the realm of cinema, a form, a sentience and an intelligence where fiction and documentary blend. This is a reality that Golden Gate seeks to depict.

By coincidence, there is a 44thfilm that is worth mentioning for the purposes of explaining Golden Gate, and this is James Franco’s Disaster Artist (USA, 2017), which is a dramatized history of the making of Tommy Wiseau’s ‘bad movie,’ The Room (USA, 2003). For, while The Disaster Artistdoes not feature the Golden Gate Bridge (and in fact is concerned more with Greg Sestero and Tommy Wiseau’s time in Los Angeles than it is with their time in San Francisco), it nonetheless brings to mind the concept of disaster, especially as it relates to cinema.

For, as Jennifer Fay reminds us at the outset of Inhospitable World: Cinema in the Time of the Anthropocene, disaster is a pejorative from dis(bad) and astro(star), being thus ‘the catastrophe that results from planetary misalignment’ (Fay 2018: 1). It is not just that the Golden Gate suffers disasters in the colloquial sense of the word, then, but that it also is a place where humans encounter the alien, or that which is from the stars (in French, des astres, or désastres).

What is more, it is perhaps also here that humans realise that they are from the stars – and that their state is always to fall.

Indeed, Steel has compared his film to Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s Landscape with the Fall of Icarus (c1558), in which we see Icarus’ legs emerging from the sea after falling to earth (see Holden 2006).

There are many falls in Golden Gate, including that of the camera and the endless motorcade (from cadere, which means to fall in Latin) that crosses the bridge’s span. This is not just a film about trying to defy but being limited by gravity, even if the film is also about a dream of flight, as Caroline Pressley says of Bridge jumper Gene Sprague, who loosely resembles the disaster artist himself, Tommy Wiseau.

For, part of man’s flight is his flight into cinema – the flight of fantasy in which woman is not an intelligent being with whom he shares a world, but an image from which he is separate, which is like a dumb machine, and which he can control – as per Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo (USA, 1958).

The fall of man or mankind, then, is really the fall of masculinity, or the fall of the patriarchal world, which headed west, and which invented cinema in order to try to establish control over the environment, over machines, over animals and over woman. But that control is impossible.

If cinema is part of man’s attempt to control woman, then perhaps this essay-film is an example of non-cinema. Or if cinema really is a new sentience, or a new intelligence, then a non-patriarchal cinema, in which man has fallen, is really the birth of cinema proper, not the fall of man, but the rise of the machines.

Perhaps it is to be critiqued that it takes an ontological democracy of objects and subjects in order for woman finally to be given equal footing to man. Nonetheless, the future human world, which will not be a world defined uniquely by humans, will also be a world not defined by the binary distinctions of gender that traditionally have been in play. The death of man is the birth of the human, beyond merely man (super-man), and where equality is established through difference, without difference being a reason to create hierarchies (man above woman, above world, above objects, above animals, above machines). Not woman as the invented other of man. But woman as woman, woman as superman (beyond man). Humanity on the level.

Man, says experimental filmmaker Peter Rose, could not see far enough. But the Golden Gate provides a view to a kill: the end of man; James Bond saved (again!) by a woman.

And so perhaps, as per the title of Krishna D.K. and Raj Nidimoru’s 2014 Bollywood film, which features as the final images in Golden Gate, it is after the fall of western man, at the end of the west, that man will not try to control woman (as per Vertigo), but where non-western man and woman can fall in love. Where man falls, humanity might have a Happy Ending.1

Endnote
1. William Brown would like to thank David H Fleming, Matthew Holtmeier, Murray Pomerance, Clive Smith, Chelsea Wessels and Mila Zuo for their help in the creation of this film.

References
Fay, Jennifer (2018) Inhospitable World: Cinema in the Time of the Anthropocene, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Holden, Stephen (2006) ‘That Beautiful But Deadly San Francisco Span,’ The New York Times, 27 October, https://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/27/movies/27brid.html. Accessed 1 May 2019.
Negarestani, Reza (2008) Cyclonopedia: Complicity with Anonymous Materials, Melbourne: re:press.
Shaviro, Steven (2014) The Universe of Things: On Speculative Realism, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Films featured in Golden Gate
10.5 (John Lafia, USA, 2004)
A View to a Kill (John Glen, UK, 1985)
The Abyss (James Cameron, USA, 1989)
Bicentennial Man (Chris Columbus, USA/Germany, 1999)
Big Hero 6 (Don Hall and Chris Williams, USA, 2014)
The Bridge (Eric Steel, UK/USA, 2006)
Bumblebee (Travis Knight, USA/China, 2018)
The Circle (James Ponsoldt, UAE/USA, 2017)
The Core (Jon Amiel, USA/Germany/Canada/UK, 2003)
Dark Passage (Delmer Daves, USA, 1947)
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (Matt Reeves, USA/UK/Canada, 2014)
Escape in the Fog (Budd Boetticher, USA, 1945)
Godzilla (Gareth Edwards, USA/Japan, 2014)
Happy Ending (Krishna D.K. and Raj Nidimoru, India, 2014)
Herbie Rides Again (Robert Stevenson, USA, 1974)
How the West Was Won (John Ford, Henry Hathaway and George Marshall, USA, 1962)
Hulk (Ang Lee, USA, 2003)
It Came from Beneath the Sea (Robert Gordon, USA, 1955)
Land of the Lost (Brad Silberling, USA, 2009)
The Love Bug (Robert Stevenson, USA, 1968)
The Maltese Falcon (John Huston, USA, 1941)
The Man Who Could Not See Far Enough (Peter Rose, USA, 1981)
Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus (Ace Hannah, USA, 2009)
Meteor Storm (Tibor Takács, USA, 2010)
Monsters vs. Aliens (Rob Letterman and Conrad Vernon, USA, 2009)
My Name is Khan (Karan Johar, India/USA/UAE, 2010)
On the Beach (Stanley Kramer, USA, 1959)
Pacific Rim (Guillermo del Toro, USA, 2013)
The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema (Sophie Fiennes, UK/Austria/Netherlands, 2006)
The Rock (Michael Bay, USA, 1996)
The Room (Tommy Wiseau, USA, 2003)
The Royal Road (Jenni Olson, USA, 2015)
San Andreas (Brad Peyton, USA, 2015)
Sans soleil (Chris. Marker, France, 1983)
Star Trek (J.J. Abrams, USA/Germany, 2009)
Star Trek Into Darkness (J.J. Abrams, USA, 2013)
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (Leonard Nimoy, USA, 1986)
Superman (Richard Donner, USA/UK/Switzerland/Canada/Panama, 1978)
Teknolust (Lynn Hershman-Leeson, USA/Germany/UK, 2002)
Terminator Genisys (Alan Taylor, USA, 2015)
The Towering Inferno (John Guillermin, USA, 1974)
Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, USA, 1958)
X-Men: The Last Stand (Brett Ratner, Canada/USA/UK, 2006)

Other films
The Disaster Artist(James Franco, USA, 2017)
The Green Fog(Guy Maddin, Evan Johnson and Galen Johnson, USA, 2017)

Texts referenced in Golden Gate
Berger, Arthur Asa (2012) Understanding American Icons: An Introduction to Semiotics, Abingdon: Routledge.
Fleming, David H. (2017) Unbecoming Cinema: Unsettling Encounters with Ethical Event Films, Chicago: Chicago University Press.
Irigaray, Luce (1991) Marine Lover of Friedrich Nietzsche (trans. Gillian Gill), New York: Columbia University Press.
Lindsay, Vachel (1913) ‘The City that Will Not Repent,’ in General William Booth enters into heaven and other poems, Borgo Press.
Lindsay, Vachel (2000 [1915]) The Art of the Motion Picture, New York: Modern Library.
Negarestani, Reza (2008) Cyclonopedia: Complicity with Anonymous Materials, Melbourne: re:press.
Nietzsche, Friedrich (1997 [1891]) Thus Spake Zarathustra(trans. Anthony Common), London: Wordsworth.
Shaviro, Steven (2014) The Universe of Things: On Speculative Realism, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Wark, McKenzie (2016) Molecular Red: Theory for the Anthropocene, London: Verso.

Painting featured in Golden Gate
Pieter Bruegel the Elder (c1558) Landscape with the Fall of Icarus.

One thought on “Film-Philosophy 2019: Golden Gate

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s