Musical spectacles are excessive and abstract, reconfiguring time and space and creating intense bodily responses. Amy Herzog's engaging work examines those instances where music and movement erupt from within more linear narrative frameworks. The representational strategies found in these films are often formulaic, repeating familiar story lines and stereotypical depictions of race, gender, and class. Yet she finds the musical moment contains a powerful disruptive potential.
Dreams of Difference, Songs of the Same investigates the tension and the fusion of difference and repetition in films to ask, How does the musical moment work? Herzog looks at an eclectic mix of works, including the Soundie and Scopitone jukebox films, the musicals of French director Jacques Demy, the synchronized swimming spectacles of Esther Williams, and an apocalyptic musical by Taiwanese director Tsai Ming-liang. Several refrains circulate among these texts: their reliance on clichés, their rewriting of cultural narratives, and their hallucinatory treatment of memory and history.
Drawing on the philosophical work of Gilles Deleuze, she explores all of these dissonances as productive forces, and in doing so demonstrates the transformative power of the unexpected.