￼Donnerstag, 28. Februar, 19.00 Uhr
DYNASTY, SEASON ONE, EPISODE NINE, “KRYSTLE’S LIE, PART ONE” 1981. USA. Don Medford and Philip Leacock. 46 min.
The prime-time soap opera Dynasty (1981–1989), created by Richard and Esther Shapiro, focused on the lives and milieu of the ostentatiously affluent Carrington family. Like its chief competition Dallas, which told the story of the oil-rich Ewing family, with cocky J. R. Ewing at its helm, Dynasty epitomized the operative clichés of the 1980s, including a widespread fascination with material wealth and luxury markets, and economic hedonism modeled after Gordon Gekko and his “Greed is Good” motto — byproducts of the economically inflated Ronald Reagan era. The Reagan administration’s “economic revolution” deregulated markets, ushered in tax cuts for wealthy corporations and individuals, and significantly escalated the fast-growing gap between rich and poor. Tellingly, I rarely missed an episode of either series, nor of the weekly documentary Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.
Watching the time capsule of “Krystle’s Lie” anew is immediately engaging. The near-cartoonish unfolding of family secrets and family feuds plays out in quintessential ’80s style: there are crystal decanters; Gloria Vanderbilt jeans; heavily eye-shadowed, long-maned women; plushy carpeted pearl-gray offices tastefully appointed with potted ferns; and young men with sizable mops of blonde hair wearing shirts with outsize collars, unbuttoned just a little too low. Bill Conti’s faintly regal theme song heralds each installment of betrayal in the dog-eat-dog oil business and in the Carrington clan. Krystle Carrington, typically dressed in furs, Quiana shirt- dresses, and high heels to match her peach-silk pajamas, exudes empathy with her deep-set, steel-blue eyes. Light-catching diamond earrings enhance her ash-blond coif and tanned, chiseled features. The silver-haired, conservative tycoon Blake Carrington is played by John Forsythe, of Charlie’s Angels (the television series) fame. The entertaining excursion takes us through plots of hidden homosexuality, illicit affairs, teenage pregnancy, marital deceit, and a shocking final scene I wouldn’t spoil even for my worst enemy.
Dynasty was an ironic reference for the collaborative Group Material. In 1992, the group produced an edition of a laminated publicity photo of the Dynasty cast, titled Family Photo. Group Material also used that photograph in its 1991 newspaper intervention, Cash Prize. Felix Gonzalez-Torres famously employed the same photo in a slide lecture about his work; the Dynasty image stubbornly appeared every time the artist said, “next slide please.” – Julie Ault
VERA. 2003. USA. Jason Simon. 25 min.
The protagonist of Jason Simon’s riveting documentary is an attractive and vibrant young woman grappling with the transition between a history of daunting debt, due to her habit of pathologically collecting high-end clothes and accessories (what she regards as the “artistry of acquisition”), and her new, restrained behavior that reflects her desire to control spending and get control of her life (“Now, it’s a matter of one-day escapades as opposed to a way of life.”).
At the outset of Vera, Simon poses questions offscreen, gently guiding the course of Vera Saverino’s rapid-fire monologue of frequently unfinished sentences. Nevertheless, Simon’s offscreen questions go silent after the first few minutes. The filmmaker does not present any pictorial spectacle of Vera’s material accumulation, but instead focuses on her abundant verbiage—an impressive stream of self-observation that is as remarkably good-natured as it is critically reflective. In Simon’s treatment, Vera’s obsessive-compulsive excess takes verbal form, metaphorically standing in for the tens of thousands of dollars she narrates having shelled out in order to satisfy her acquisitive hunger. Vera’s affection for and struggle against overindulgent shopping expresses an overarching ambivalence that appears to be shared by Simon, who, as director, exercises a light touch that is seemingly without judgment. Simon’s mode here essentially allows Vera to speak for herself; he simply facilitates her self-portraiture.
The head and shoulders shots of Vera take place in an generic space that could be the living room of her parent’s house, where due to financial necessity she continues to live, or, for that matter, the wood-paneled office of a psychiatrist. The set up of Vera is reminiscent of a free-form therapy session caught on tape, with the titular subject and protagonist incessantly psycho- analyzing herself. Desires fluctuate as Vera articulates her internal struggle, excitedly announcing that she still wants to be able to get what she wants, only without succumbing to financial ruin. – Julie Ault
This film is shown on the occasion of the exhibition Tell it to my heart: Collected by Julie Ault at the Musuem für Gegenwartskunst Basel.