Academic journal article CineAction

The Local and the Global Revisited: Un 32 Aout Sur Terre

Academic journal article CineAction

The Local and the Global Revisited: Un 32 Aout Sur Terre

Article excerpt

In a smoke-filled Montreal cafe, the sound of an electronic pager causes the otherwise cool patrons to scramble in comic-ritualized sameness for the electronic leash until one identifies the alert as directed at him. This scene sets up the context of mediated communication between the main characters in this film and in turn reflects something of the remapping of spatial relationships facilitated through the global flows of capital, people, and culture. One defining characteristic of globalization is the privileging of selected urban centres as nodal points through which international networks of capital are organized--cities such as New York, Tokyo, London, Hong Kong are some of the specific sites where transnational exchange is directed, with secondary cities such as Toronto and Montreal striving to identify as players in this elite network, in part by promoting economic activity in such areas as finance, telecommunications, and cultural production over the traditional base of industrial manufacturing. The consequences of this shift include an increased instability of employment as higher-wage unionized jobs are replaced by a more mobile service-sector and an increased class division between managerial professionals and workers.


This class division is, in turn, reflected in the spatial process of intensified development in selected areas (within the city and throughout the world) and systemic underdevelopment, or marginalization, in others. Of course, these class and spatial divisions are hardly new, Marx's Capital is, among other things, a primary text in the study of globalization in the form of international market expansion through the shift from feudalism to capitalism. Marx demonstrates how capitalist wealth creation requires continual change, yet ruling-class interests seek stability and that this is a key contradiction of capitalism for which ideology emerges as a force of stabilization. With respect to spatial production, stability is regulated through private property and this has become the dominant system through which political economy is organized. Marx illuminates how this system precludes the fulfillment of real human needs. One function of ideological texts such as mainstream cinema is to naturalize relations of production and historically specific approaches to the production of space. Globalization is the intensification of this spatial practice identified by Marx, but it is shaped by a multitude of contradictions in the coherence of local and global needs--contradictions articulated in specific cultural texts such as Un 32 Aout Sur Terre and more generally in considerations of national cinema.

Mike Featherstone points out that in addition to elite finance, legal, and management professionals the category of "design professional" is also located in these key urban centres of globalization. Together, the habitus and interrelation of market-directed activity with cultural production contributes significantly to the production of dominant ideology and it is articulated through cultural texts as much as through political action. As Featherstone indicates:

  It is the integration of the particular services located in
  particular quarters of these world cities which produces
  transnational sets of social relations, practices, and cultures. The
  process of globalization is therefore uneven, and if one aspect of it
  is the consciousness of the world as a single place, then it is in
  these select quarters of world cities that we find people working in
  environments which rely upon advanced means of communications which
  overcome time-space separation. (1)

But what of those Montreal cafes? Featherstone's argument is set against the simple binary distinction between a global homogenous culture dominated by American media and local particularity that is more rooted, unique and "genuine." Instead, local cultural practices may emerge and be understood as unique precisely in response to the intensity of global flows of exchange. …

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