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Sexuality

Ingmar Bergman's Persona

Persona‘s women fall into each other, like fingers interlaced, so similar that one cannot distinguish herself from the other. The two share fair hair, soft features, light skin, a resemblance emphasized by a veil of black and white film. Liz Ullman’s Elisabet Vogler, emphasis on her plump, expectant features, is silent. Alma, nurse to the now-silent actress Elisabet, chats incessantly while the two stay alone together in a beachfront home. The home belongs to Elisabet’s doctor, a stern chain-smoker, who hopes that her employee Alma will convince Elisabet to speak again. Before long, it is clear that Alma has become more of a patient than Elisabet is. After a career of tending to other’s needs, she is relieved to use Elisabet as her psychoanalytic outlet. In a thick night of never-empty drinks, Alma, who once claimed total fidelity to her fiance, admits to an orgy with strangers, a woman and two young men. Perhaps Alma hopes that her sincere confessions will shake Elisabet into speech. Her inebriation, however, implies another motive. How light it feels to talk, how good, when one’s audience is sure not to judge verbally. As Alma shares her story, curled in an armchair with Elisabet lounging across the room, she fidgets and demurs. She adopts flirtatious mannerisms shared by sheepish girls talking about their first kiss at a slumber party. Recalling the story brings back old arousal for Alma, and her eyes search Elisabet’s for sympathy, understanding, or any of the other emotions for which we wait after telling a story exhibiting us at our most primal. There is no absolution for Alma the confessor, however, not from Elisabet. She grants no validation of Alma’s lust-driven spontaneity. The women lurch toward real intimacy but never achieve it, in spite of their isolation together, and Elisabet only smirks when Alma tacitly begs for some sort of appreciation for her outpouring of honesty. Now Elisabet, having played so many roles on stage and at home, is the audience as Alma expresses the doubt and self-consciousness putting her in tension with the wholesome nurse persona she usually performs.

Elisabet denies Alma a critical element of communication. For all of the talking Alma does, Elisabet never reacts to what her nurse says. While Alma felt relieved to finally burst free with all of her sins, she did not feel any better afterward. She perhaps expected Elisabet to be compelled by such soul-baring to speak, to tell her nurse “You are OK. You are not a bad person. That must have been hard for you.” Instead, mute Elisabet smirks knowingly, as though her nurse’s tawdry but banal story does not surprise her at all.

No one else witnesses their unidirectional communications, save the viewers of Bergman’s’ film. Elisabet’s mute lips and constant smirk create conditions approaching solitary confinement for Alma. Delusions dance across days of living death for the frail-minded nurse. How can you confirm what you experience is true without any communication, tacit or explicit, of it being so? Consider when Alma hears Elisabet say “You ought to go to bed, or you’ll fall asleep at the table.” Elisabet denies speaking, but we viewers and Alma heard her do so. Alma feels a whisper of madness, remembering the physical and mental reality of Elisabet’s brief words but having no way to ascertain whether they occurred. Elisabet has an incredibly amount of control over Alma, in this regard, and it would be easy for her to engineer further breakdowns for her nurse. As the only two characters with whom we viewers are intimate blend together, it becomes even harder to tell what is true and what comes from paranoia and our scrambling toward logical consistency. We become as mad as Alma, as pliable in the hands of Elisabet as the lost nurse is.

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Sometimes the internet still provides.

My boss asked me to look up some examples of toy packaging, so I googled “Playskool”. Nothing too useful came up, so I set the image size to large.

I scrolled down, but had to stop when I found this:

Years of internet what-the-fuckery behind me,  I still paused at this. Don Glut, I learned, is known as a DD movie director and dinosaur fanboy. We should really think of him as a producer and scholar of dinosaur lore. His Dinosaurs: The Encyclopedia (1999) is 1,088 page monolith of dino knowledge. Amazon reviewers approve:

If you are a serious dinosaur lover with some money to spend, this is the book. At the time of publication, every classified species was included, along with pertinent details and from 1-3 pages of write-up. It talks of the holotypes, it has 1-2 photos on every page, it gives it all. It is exhaustive, well written, and just simply outstanding. Put it this way, paleontologists and reconstructionist-artists keep this on their desk like the military folk keep a copy of Jane’s.

It’s a ringing endorsement you’ll need, since the book costs nearly $300.

Or, if you’re a pervert like me, just browse his site. Remain in awe at the bright-eyed and enthusiastic looking girls Glut has wrangled into his geek haven. Though each could have made a quick career out of American Apparel modeling, and I’m sure some have, they’ve chosen to pose for Glut. Now, I know he was a film director, but even he admits that the ones he made from 1953 through 1969 are “unwatchable” now. Sure, maybe some of these girls were promised parts. Perhaps they thought they’d’ become the muse to inspire him to pump out one more movie. To me, however, it seems like they just wanted to be there. In age of dirty and alienated internet porn, there’s something truly refreshing about these eager softcore posers. I  suggest starting with this gallery, where you’ll find quite a few gems.

 You’re still getting an education here. In each set of photos, a young lady poses with a collectible, rare, or simply curious piece of dino culture. In the photo to the left, our female guide poses with a “Mechanical head of a “prehistoric” giant gorilla  made by Messmore & Damon  for their “World a Million Years Ago” attraction at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair. This ape, like King Kong, seems to like the ladies.”  Each link takes you to a historical account of the object displayed, and Glut often explains how he obtained it too. It’s a rabbit hole of information, the likes of which I haven’t found since discovering young Wikipedia.