I read a Washington Post article a few days ago stating that Lucasfilm (George's production company) would be offering a free service for fans to re-edit their own versions of Star Wars in any way, with what ever content, they'd like. Sounds like a great idea, until one realizes that part of the deal is that Lucas retains all right to the content made. All of it. 100%. Of course, legally Lucas is entitled to this, he owns the copyright for the Star Wars films and can license it anyway he likes. Reading this piece, I was reminded of a moment in cinema history when George Lucas' stringency couldn't be so enforced so easily. A time when, say, an entire nation's film industry could steal copyrighted material to be used in their own productions. A time which now, in this high-tech age where any kid with a joystick can make a movie, that was long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away… Turkey, 1982, to be precise.
Ladies and gentleman, I present:
TURKEY FRIED LUCAS AND THE CINEMATIC PASTICHE
Fredric Jameson remains one of the foremost critics on “post-modernism.” That’s an impressive feat, considering that post-modernism has been one of the hardest theoretical terms to nail down. Post-modernism is the theoretical response to post-modernity, a historical state which, if nothing else, is defined by its complexity. Oftentimes critics will joke that post-modernism is defined by its undefinability. These critics have no sense of humor. Besides that, they aren’t very helpful. Furthermore, if I may opine a moment, I honestly think that these are a bunch of pansy cake tooty frooty critics who are also bogus. I think they’re just too afraid to actually put a theory out there because they are worried someone else will tell them they are wrong, beat them up, and steal their lunch money. After all, who are the people who grow up to be critical theorists? Nerds. The kids whose parents forced them into training for the National Spelling Bee and who time and again spell xylophone incorrectly such that they have a phobia about giving any answer at all. Fredric Jameson is not one of these little wimps. Fredric Jameson is bad ass. And that’s why, despite the whining from the other critical losers, people know who Jameson is and don’t care how you spell xylophone. So then, how does one paraphrase Jameson’s definition of post-modernism? Well, honestly it’s rather difficult to pin down, but there is one element that I read and appreciated: Jameson’s theory on the pastiche. The pastiche, as Jameson defines it: Is parody without irony. That is, a piece of art which parodies another without trying to be funny about it. The parody takes itself completely seriously. This, Jameson says, is a prime example of a post-modern aesthetic. If you see pastiche, you know you’re seeing post-modern art. Now, that doesn’t cover all post-modern art, of course (that’s beyond the scope of this telescope), but it does cover one legendary piece of film cinema.
The year was 1977 and an up and coming director known as George Lucas was attending the premier of his latest feature film. The film could best be described as a sushi western set in space, but it was better known as Star Wars. The film would go on to spawn massive success by blending key elements of the samurai, American western, and sci-fi film genres. One could make a good argument that in this sense Star Wars is an example of Jameson’s idea of the pastiche (it parodies these other genres, but still takes itself completely seriously… hence the prequels… shudder). But that’s not the film I’ve been alluding to. No, in fact before Star Wars itself became almost a self-parody (…hence the prequels… shudder) it was pas-stitched together by another film: The Man Who Saves the World, also known as, Turkish Star Wars.
To speak of the nation of Turkey’s movie industry would be to speak of God… if you’re an atheist. It didn’t exist. American Hollywood culture, meanwhile, was disseminated and inseminated across the globe, an Turkey wanted in on the act. This was difficult as Turkey lacked all the infrastructure, research, and development that American cinema had developed over the past few decades, especially in the department of special effects. How could they possibly compete with the American special effect blockbusters like George Lucas’ Star Wars? Simple: steal from them.
Now, I’m not just talking about stealing filming techniques, storyboards, or hell even equipment. I’m talking about stealing actual footage and placing directly into one’s own film. This is exactly what the Turks did, stealing combat scenes from Star Wars and music from Raiders of the Lost Ark and splicing them into the actual Turkish footage. The result is Turkish Star Wars, the greatest testament-as-artifact of the post-modern era.