Beyond Nothingness: A Broader Nihilism in "Cinema Paradiso" by Stephen Goss

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Stephen Goss composed Cinema Paradiso, a six-movement suite for solo guitar, as an homage to films and film directors. Goss cites nihilism as a theme in Dogville, the film that inspires the fourth movement, "Mandalay," but I assert that all the films and many musical devices throughout the piece can be read through the lens of nihilism. The first movement, "Paris, Texas," depicts the stark landscape of the opening scene of the 1984 Wim Wenders film of the same name. "Modern Times" chronicles Charlie Chaplin's slapstick-laden descent from the factory to the insane asylum in the opening sequence of his ... continued below

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Kyzer, Daniel W August 2019.

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  • Kyzer, Daniel W

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Stephen Goss composed Cinema Paradiso, a six-movement suite for solo guitar, as an homage to films and film directors. Goss cites nihilism as a theme in Dogville, the film that inspires the fourth movement, "Mandalay," but I assert that all the films and many musical devices throughout the piece can be read through the lens of nihilism. The first movement, "Paris, Texas," depicts the stark landscape of the opening scene of the 1984 Wim Wenders film of the same name. "Modern Times" chronicles Charlie Chaplin's slapstick-laden descent from the factory to the insane asylum in the opening sequence of his 1936 Modern Times. "Noir" is a tribute to the procedures of film noir: violent storylines that depict the harshness of life, dim lighting, and anti-hero characters, all accompanied by jazz. Lars von Trier's Dogville provides the movement "Mandalay" with its nihilistic meaning, but Goss writes that he invokes the musical style of Kurt Weill's opera The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny. Just as the book people of François Truffaut's Fahrenheit 451 had to pass on books orally, Goss has burned the score for his "451," forcing guitarists to learn it by watching a video and listening to a recording. Finally, the chaotic tarantella, "Tarantino" depicts Uma Thurman's heroin overdose scene in Quinten Tarantino's Pulp Fiction. By analyzing Fredrich Nietzsche's writings to form a broader definition of nihilism and applying that definition first to each film and then to corresponding musical elements in each movement, this paper argues that nihilism acts as a connecting theme throughout Cinema Paradiso.

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  • August 2019

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  • Aug. 29, 2019, 10:25 a.m.

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Kyzer, Daniel W. Beyond Nothingness: A Broader Nihilism in "Cinema Paradiso" by Stephen Goss, dissertation, August 2019; Denton, Texas. (https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc1538670/: accessed March 28, 2020), University of North Texas Libraries, UNT Digital Library, https://digital.library.unt.edu; .