” Cult of Distraction” by Siegfried Kracauer

In the beginning of Kracauer’s essay ” Cult of Distraction” he seems to make a clear distinction between what he calls “picture houses” and “movie theatres.” He makes this distinction by saying that calling the former a “movie theatre” would be disrespectful ( Kracauer 323). He characterizes these “picture houses” as almost spiritual or godlike, specifically calling people who go to them a ” community of worshipers”( Kracauer 323). To me he specifically used the term worshipers to lead into his next point about how these picture houses create a culture of distraction that appeals to the masses ( Kracauer 324).  Specifically referring to the masses who frequent these places and shows seems to impart some sense of a spiritual or ritual like importance. Kracauer also examines these viewing places through a very social/ economic class oriented way which was very interesting to me. Kracauer says ” Critics chide Berliners for being addicted to distraction, but this is a petit bourgeois critique” ( Kracauer 325). Kracauer goes on to explain how this is not necessarily a bad thing or even the case when it comes to Berlin. He believes that the audiences in Berlin are actually acting more truthfully than supposed people who have more refined taste ( Kracauer 326).  Kracauer believes the shows aimed at distracting contain the same externalities that  the masses experience in there everyday lives.  The distraction appeals to the masses because it shows the disorder of everyday life and this concept that one random day it could all fall apart, the masses demand this tension from their entertainment( Kracauer 327). Kracauer outright says “distraction is only meaningful as improvisation, as a reflection of the uncontrolled anarchy of our world” (Kracauer 327).  He calls for the actual places where films are watched to stop trying to mimic the theatrical trappings, they only draw away from films power. Kracauer mentions the two dimensional  illusion of the physical world that film is able to create, it does not need help to do so, on the contrary if real physicality is displayed next to a film the illusion is destroyed ( Kracauer 328). He advocates that film must be separate from  all three dimensional surroundings or the illusion has no chance to work ( Kracauer 328).  My question lies( and it could just be my own confusion) in how Kracauer believes distraction can be used in cinema. Does he think that the use of distraction to “expose disintegration instead of mask it” will lead to better film in general? Or does he think it will lead to films that can better present ideological arguments? I guess I am trying to think through all of his references to social class and differences in taste between the classes he distinguishes as working class and bourgeois middle class, a question of his arguments scope. Does this exposure of disintegration to the masses lead to overall cultural reform or just strictly reform in cinema?

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