Laughing Hysterically Across the Universe

Julie Taymor’s new film, Across the Universe, is a visual explosion.  It is unashamed, pushing the imagery to the utter maximum.  Restraint is only exhibited in the scenes of “real life,” where this Puritan virtue wants to reign and does.  The film is fearlessly beautiful.  Each frame is artfully considered down to the most minute detail.  The colours, seemingly chaotic, are purely psychedelic tripping out your eyes making for a viewing experience unlike any other – well, of course unless you came of age in that exciting era.   In fact, the imagery’s power raised the bar for other “art” and “indie” films.  If I am not not mistaken, I thought I was watching art move. 

I think the real testament to the success of the film lies in the numerous “surreal” “psychedelic” moments which are not the kind of half done quick clip out of body experiences that we have all come to enjoy from Scrubs and Ugly Betty.  These scenes were unapologetic in their length consuming you like a terribly wonderful daydream.

However, there is a dark side to this flamboyantly enjoyable love story other than the Vietnam War and numerous tragic assassinations.  Julie Taymor, one of the few female directors in Hollywood has been surrounded by controversy regarding the editing process of the film.  There are a few things I would like to point out.  Firstly, I would like to note that Joe Roth, executive of Revolution Studios (whom produced the film), stepped in personally to oversee the final editing of the film.  How often is that done ever done?  Is that normal?  This New York Time article (cited below) tries to explain it away by comparing her to ‘the too long ago for living memory to appreciate genius’ Orson Welles.  I guess that makes it okay.  Right.

Second, I would like you to read Roth’s statement regarding the disagreement:  “And he [Roth] warned that the conflict could hurt the movie. “If you work off her hysteria, that will do the film an injustice,” he said. “Nobody wants to do that. She’s worked long and hard, and made a wonderful movie.”  


Men still describe grown Women as ‘hysterical’ in 2007. 

The history of describing women as hysterical has a long history.  If I am not mistaken, I ran across the idea of hysteria as an outdated psychological diagnosis during my abnormal psychology class at Stanford five years ago.  Not to mention, hysteria had been, as in – is no longer, categorized as a medical term.  Regardless of hysteria’s genre the definition remains the same and usually prescribes the same treatment.  Hysteria was the card pulled when a woman was “making trouble,” originating in its modern form during the age of Victoria, eventually taking off with Freud’s psychoanalysis, then crashing and burning with the sexual revolution of the 1960s.  Not much more needs to be said now that we can place “hysteria” in its proper historical context, but I will carry on if you still need to be convinced.  Roth described Taymor as “hysterical” once conflict arose whilst advocating for her version of her film.  She did not quietly acquiesce as women should, but advanced her position ending in I don’t know who’s version of the film. 

His statements clearly laced with misogyny, strike that familiar cord I call irony.  The movie with the taglines such as “They Lived Without Rules, They Loved Without Fear,” needed some cutting – some genital mutilation – if you may, because this film sets out to tackle a love story during the backdrop of that turbulent decade in which second wave feminism was just beginning to take off.  I think Taymor is about to take off.  She deserves props for maintaining her repose and grace while on the front. 


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