Coffin Joe: Artist, Exploiter, or Both?

Let’s reflect further on the question of Art vs. Exploitation from today’s class.  Please reply to this blog post by referring to one film example that makes a case for Jose Mojica Marins as a serious artist, and another example that suggests he is a showman selling cheap thrills for profit.  After careful reflection, where do you come down on the question I pose in my title?  Is the director an artist, an exploiter, or both?  Explain.

32 thoughts on “Coffin Joe: Artist, Exploiter, or Both?

  1. I believe Jose Mojica Marins can easily be placed in either category of artist or exploiter. As a director, he straddles this line very carefully, especially in “Awakening of the Beast.” His exploitative side is shown through the sexual encounters between men and women, which are included to show how drug use can affect the psyche, but are gratuitous to the actual plot line of the film in regards to the four main drug addicts. However, Marins’s “scene from hell” during the LSD trip displays obvious avant grade characteristics which does support the claim of him as an artist. So, while he takes many liberties, especially in “Awakening of the Beast,” I feel it pays off greatly in displaying his talent in its different forms.

    • Jose Mojica Marins seems to be an artist who uses exploitation to his advantage. Exploitation instills the idea of using Cinema of Attraction in a very authentic way because exploitation films use a narrative to jump from money shot to money shot. However most artists and serious directors, successful or otherwise, are generally trying to create a narrative, or a piece, which allows them to convey a very specific message. Marins film “At Midnight I will Take your Soul” has a very subtle but constant image of modernity as being evil, and Coffin Joe literally personifies the monster of modernity, but within the film Marins uses money shots and exploitative methods such as showing the hand snake up the skirt in the rape scene, and the overly bloody violence in the bar fight to draw people in and reinforce his message. Therefore I believe that Marins is an artist who simply uses exploitation as a medium.

    • Jose Mojica Marins created an artistic moment in Awakening of the Beast when he used technicolour for the scenes in which the test subjects used LSD. However, in that same film his explicit and excessive porn scenes made him appear like a a showman selling cheap thrills for profit. This latter evaluation is the way that I view him. Both of his films that I’ve seen aim for shock value through violence and immorality as depicted quite explicitly. Rather than using technology such as technicolour to enhance films, he does not seem to feel a need to explore artistic possibilities.

  2. I have come to the conclusion that Jose Mojica Marins’ films have fallen into a trap not unlike Camp films in which his movies, while they may have been created with the intent to be art films, have instead been labeled as trash due to the gratuitous use of sex and drugs within them. In “Awakening of the Beast,” a notably artistic scene is when a woman is tripping on LSD (it marks the film’s transition into technicolor and takes advantage of multicolored lights and intense music to enhance the mood), but this is lost among the excessive sex scenes and disjointed plot line of the rest of the movie.

  3. Jose Mojica Marins’s could easily be argued for either side, artistic or exploitive. In “At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul,” the beginning scene with the fortune teller talking directly to the camera could be seen as artistic, in the way that cinema of attraction would be considered art. The technicolor shift in “Awakening of the Beast,” as mentioned in the above comments, could also be seen as artistic and avant garde (as many art forms are). However, that only makes up a small portion of his films. The rest of the film deals in exploitative material, and the primary scene that comes to mind is in the beginning of “Awakening of the Beast,” where a woman dies by orgasm after penetrated by a very large stick.

  4. I think in many ways Jose Mojica Marins straddles the line between being an exploiter and being an artist. The sexual nature of the Coffin Joe character in “At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul” is purely for vaginal intercourse, he wants to reproduce and have a child, by whatever means necessary. Combined with the shocking violence, that film leads itself to being more towards exploitation, this evil man doing unspeakable things to the people around him. The sexuality in “Awakening of the Beast” is softer, it does often lead to death, but it is framed in a more sensual way, the nature of the sexuality is more deviant, more artistic.

    • I agree with this, I think his intentions are artistic. He makes attempts at cinematography that might be aesthetically pleasing, but it doesn’t quite get there. His films also represent the cinema of attraction and Freud’s primal impulses at their core, but the approach isn’t always one that comes across the right way. I think “Awakening of the Beast” was more successful at an attempt to be artful than “At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul” which is more unintentionally camp.

  5. I believe that Jose Mojica Marins would be considered both an artist and an exploiter. In his film “At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul” he tries to explain the dangers of becoming to modern and with doing this Jose Mojica Marins would be considered to be more on the artistic side. Because unlike exploitation films it actually tries to say something of importance. But his movie “Awakening of the Beast” would be on the exploitation side, with the massive amount of drugs and sex in the movie that are used just to bring viewers in.

  6. I would argue that Marins is an exploiter. His films seem packed with intended shock, violence, and sexual encounters. In “Awakening of the Beast,” the scene of the woman defecating in front of men highlights his exploitative nature, along with various violent scenes in his films from close ups of characters injecting drugs, to inflicted injuries on characters seen in “At Midnight.” An artistic example could perhaps be the psychedelic scene he fits into “The Awakening,” which at the time would have been considered very avant garde. In my opinion, Marins is less of an artist and much more a fan of shock and the exploitation of women.

  7. I believe that Jose Mojica Marins can be considered both an artist and exploiter, as art and exploitation are not mutually exclusive terms. From what we’ve seen of his filmography, Marins definitely uses both artistry and exploitative elements in his films. In “Awakening of the Beast”, there is a gratuitous amount of sex and drugs which can be argued was done to bring in more viewers and make money. That said, the vivid surrealism and avant garde nature of the film, specifically the LCD trip sequence, shows that Marins did not just purely focus on exploitation and getting an audience.

  8. It is difficult to say whether Jose Mojica Marins’ films fall under the categories of art or exploitation. I think that his treatment of sex and drugs is more on the exploitation side of the line. On the other hand, the way that “Awakening the Beast” is multiple narratives within a narrative and the use of color in the LSD sequence is more artistic. While it can be seen as artistic in some aspects, I think that “Awakening the Beast” is more exploitive than not because of the use of sex and drugs. I believe that as a director, Marins is both an exploiter and a serious artist.

  9. I would argue that overall the director falls under the category of showman rather than artist. However, I also think despite the gory and sexual nature of his films, there are moments wherein real truths and fears are exposed, as often seen within art. I don’t think we can entirely discount his work or brand him as totally irredeemable for his use of showmanship to garner attention. Within Awakening Of The Beast we see many instances of graphic sexual or violent moments which fall under the cinema of attraction, cheaply and unsympathetically presented only to achieve some kind of stimulation. One could argue that even ugly or aggressive subject matter can be a kind of rebellious art form, but I feel as if the director comes from no artistic motivations and only seeks to exploit certain issues for economic gain. Despite this, in At Midnight I Will Take Your Soul and the above movie, also suggests maybe in his world of cheap thrills, there is a real anxiety and concern for the wellbeing of his country hidden between the brutality, which seems a bit like artistry. Ultimately I think it’s difficult to discern between artist and showman, as both share many similar qualities. To achieve this distinction I think we also need to define what can or cannot be considered art in society.

  10. Jose Mojica Marins has birthed pieces that display different facets of filmmaking. Certainly he is an artist, as “Awakening of the Beast” contains too many complex features (religious metaphors, psychedelic thoughts) to be considered a movie of “cheap thrills.” However, the blunt sexuality and ridiculousness of the film makes it as entertaining to any old joe as well as to a refined and educated viewer. In “Awakening of the Beast” Marins is both an artist and an exploiter, as his audience can take various forms. His film “At Midnight I Will Take Your Soul” has less artistry, and is more of an exploitation of superficial, gut-wrenching scenes. The two films combined create a scenario in which Marins’ exploitation outweighs his art – his is both the artist and exploiter.

  11. Even though there are points in Jose Mojica Marin’s films where his artistic ability is visible, he ultimately falls short and as a result his films come off as being exploitation films made purely for gratification. As we see in “Awakening of the Beast” during the supposed LSD fueled scene, Marin chose to use technicolor, which worked well for what the scene was portraying. However, having the scene drawn on for several minutes became tiring and the artistic ability that would have been shown was lost. As far as exploitation goes, Marin certainly knew how to appease to the Id of the audience, especially in “Awakening of the Beast”, with several instances of sex and violence, often coupled together. It is clear that Marin was in a position to use his artistic ability to comment on social issues present in his films; however, any commentary was lost in the sea of sex and violence in every other scene.

  12. The films we have seen so far in this class have made pinning Jose Mojica down as a serious artist or an artist of exploitation very difficult. On one hand, he is very creative with some of his shots, almost going into the sphere of art movies in “Awakening of the Beast”. On the other hand, that movie is filled to the brim with scenes of exploitation through the use of sex and drugs often combined together. In my personal opinion, I consider Jose Mojica an artist of exploitation. The films we have seen so far all center around exploitation and I believe Jose Mojica wouldn’t have it any other way.

  13. In my opinion, Jose Mojica Marins is an exploiter who thinks he is an artist. Both of his films “At Midnight I Will Take Your Soul” and “Awakening of the Beast,” clearly exploit women and sex, appealing to the basic impulses to sell tickets. On the other hand I think that he firmly believes he is an artist. This is demonstrated in the moments before the four test subjects participate in the LSD experiment. All of them state that Marins had an impact on them as an artist whether they liked it or not. The drug trip that followed could be considered “artistic,” but clearly appeals to the drug-exploitation movies at the time.

  14. Jose Mojica Marins can be considered both an artistic and an exploitative filmmaker. However, I argue that he falls more closely under the exploitative label. As seen in “Awakening the Beast,” there are elements of both artistry and exploitation. On one hand, the presence of sex and drugs is very excessive and gratuitous. On the other, though, the LSD scene displays more artistry with the use of Technicolor. But when taking into account “At Midnight I Will Take Your Soul,” which very clearly exploits sex and violence, it reinforces the exploitation film label given to Marins.

  15. I think Jose Mojica Marins is more of an exploiter than an artist. There were very few art forms, yet there were numerous forms of exploitation through sex scenes. At first, I thought there was no point behind the random sexual clips of the character’s lives besides showing something that would bring in the audiences. As the film went on though, we see the reasoning behind showing their risqué lives, which was to explain their participation in the LSD experiment. The only place that I thought was art was the plot twist that there was no LSD and their reactions were from hypnosis.

  16. Although it can be argued either way, I believe that Jose Mojica Marins is an exploitist. His films clearly exploit female sexuality for no plot purpose. This is espeicsally clear in “At midnight I will take your soul”, which exploits primal instinct of sex and violence. However “Awakening of the Beast” is more of an avante garde film, that could fall into artistry. Even in this film Jose Mojica Marins exploits human sexuality, his artistic side is shown through his use of technicolor with the LSD scenes. In my conclusion his films are more explotative then artistry, but they try to be more artistic because I believe that is what Jose Mojic Marins wanted his films to be. However much like camp, it can’t be an intentional thing.

  17. I think Jose Mojica Marins is an exploiter who occasionally executes artistic moments. Much of “Awakening the Beas”t is exploitative, most notably in its use of nudity. Before the psychologist reveals his plan for an experiment on the four drug users, the film lacks a plot; it’s a series of vignettes centered on highlighting the female body through the male gaze, which Marins does by lingering on shots of the female body. Furthermore, Marins doesn’t show any male nudity. However, the film does feature some artistic moments. Marins breaks the fourth wall to show the audience he knows he’s grabbing their attention through exploitation. Acknowledging this allows him to use the fourth wall to comment on the current moral state of society (specifically, its fixation on sexual desire).

    • Despite its moments of very real human fears are illustrated; Jose Marins is more of an exploiter. His extremely gory and sexual films appeal to pure gratification. The prolonged use of Technicolor in “Awakening of the Beast” and the grotesque sexual violence in “At Midnight I Will Take Your Soul” outweighed any artistic content in the films. For example, in “Awakening of The Beast” a woman dies in the first twenty minutes after being penetrated by a branch. While it appears that Marins intended the films to have some artistic content his work is, in my opinion, more reliant on the shock factor.

  18. One could undoubtedly argue for either side that Jose Mojica Marins is an artist or an exploiter, as he seems to straddle the fine line between the two. However, in “Awakening of the Beast,” the film seems to focus more on the exploitation side, which prioritizes the cinema of attraction. Due to this, I consider him an exploiter. For example,\ in the beginning of the film, a burlesque scene comes on when a woman does a strip tease to several men in the room. This is done not for the artistic substance but for the cheap thrill that the audience experiences. Although I could argue that his use of music throughout the film is very artistic and adds on to the essence of the whole, it is extremely drowned out by the excessive use of sex and drugs.

  19. I would consider Jose Mojica Marins to be both an exploiter and an artist, however leaning more towards the exploiter side. In his film “Awakening the beast” he clearly exploits sex and drugs. The gross scenes in particular the beginning couple were hard to watch. The worst being where a post is shoved in a teenage girl as a sexual act. It is disturbing and uncomfortable to watch but is exactly fulfilling of Marins goal. His most artistic and redeeming scene is the supposed acid trip which really turns out to be hypnosis, however it is shot in technicolor.

  20. While there are artistic moments in Jose Mojica Marins’ films, “Awakening of the Beast” and “At Midnight, I Will Take Your Soul,” particularly in the descent into hell and graveyard scenes, respectively, the overall trend of his movies is exploitative. The excess of sex and drugs in “Awakening” most distinctly shows the exploitative nature of his work. While “At Midnight” is less drastic in its use of lust and violence, it lacks the artistic elements of Avant-garde film. While Zé in “At Midnight” is undoubtedly deviant, he is the anomaly in the community, which fails to challenge the social norms of the time.

  21. While he does have his artistic moments, I would argue that Jose Mojica Marins is an exploiter. In his film “At Midnight, I take your soul” his trip to hell displays many Avant Garde features, which forces one to notice him as an artist. On the other hand, in “Awakening of the Beast,” though he does have some drug induced scenes, which could be seen as artistic, they are overlooked because of the excessive amount of sex. I would consider him to be an exploiter since he pushes everything to the extreme – even having a woman die after a large stick causes her to orgasm.

  22. I believe that there is a line between exploitation and art that cannot exactly be discerned. What one individual may see as art could be seen as exploitation to another. This is the realm in which Jose Mojica Marins makes his films. I fully believe that he thinks he is creating art, and that in and of itself could be enough to categorize his work as “art,” even if it is not in the traditional sense. Scenes like the sex scenes in “Awakening of the Beast” may not be as colorful or eye catching as the LSD trip scene in the same movie, but both could be considered art or exploitation in their own way. Jose Mojica Marins, then, could be seen as an “exploitation artist.”

  23. I would describe Jose Mojica Marins films as exploitation films that include touches of artistic film qualities in them. I see his films as exploitation because of the excessive amounts of both sex and violence that crowd the film and make the audience at times uncomfortable. These scenes tend to mask moments that can be seen as quite interesting and artsy. Scenes that I find artsy in his films are the drug trip scenes because you cannot take your eyes off of the screen and there is a campy factor to them as well. The colors and shapes presented in these LSD scenes were so different from that of the sex and violence, especially in “Awakening of the Beast”.

  24. I can easily tell how Marins can be considered both an artist and exploiter. The scene from hell featured in “Awakening of the Beast” was experimental and creative, employing a use of imagination that would have to be considered artistic. However, the salacious depiction of women and drugs in the teenage hippie scene at the beginning of the very same film reflect Marins’ tendency towards exploitation. What it comes down to for me is his intentions. His product can be seen as both art and exploitation, but if I had to chose, I would call him an exploiter because of his self-indulgence and revelry in the chaos of his creations.

  25. I would consider Jose Mojica Marins films to be much closer to the definition of exploitation than artistic. In “Awakening of the Beast”, Marins uses techniques that place the film into a “camp”-like category. His use of technicolor to depict the effects of LSD seemed overdramatic, yet the method was successful in getting the point across. Marins also included pornographic and controversial scenes that did not add to the plot but rather seemed to beg for the viewers attention. His inclusion of these scenes is what makes me lean towards branding him an exploitation director.

  26. I think that the line between artist and exploiter can often be blurred and that the two are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Jose Mojica Marins while certainly trying to appeal to the primal desires of humanity exploiting sex and drugs and violence to do so uses extreme at times over the top theatricality. There is an avant-garde nature to “Awakening of the Beast” that he obviously had to put thought into, the music and the switch from black and white to Technicolor were very deliberate and served to increase the visual artistry of the film.

  27. I think that Jose Mojica Marins is both an artist and an exploiter because the two films that we watched of his are different in what the content and messages are. In “At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul,” the message is a warning of the dangers of modernity and the community- isolated character of Coffin Joe play out that message. That film lets Marins be artistic while in “Awakening of the Beast” Marins is being an exploiter of a popular style of film for the purpose of drawing viewers. The message of that film is a warning against drugs but in a time where drugs are being heavily used. So Marins is an artist and an exploiter: it just depends on the message of the film.

  28. Coffin Joe: Or, The Artist Who Exploits HIMSELF…
    Jose Maria Marins’ film “Awakening the Beast” is a wickedly charming film that has, and will, defy any snappy attempt to pin it down. The “Charlie Rose” like interview at the conclusion of the film (complete with a hilarious Haleluliah chorus) exhibits Marins’ cynicism to the INDUSTRY of selling films as entertainment products. The fourth wall address is a technique Marins’ seems to adore as a Brechtian disruption of the specator’s trance like experience of film watching. In the final scene, accompanied by a Brazilian anti-war ballad, Marins literally winks to the auidence and commands the ‘cut’ to his own film. The maudlin protest song seems at odds with Marins’ intoxication with anarchic destruction guiltlessly for its own sake and opnely refusing to bow to bourgeois ethics to justify any redeeming aesthetic or ‘higher’ value whatsoever.

    It is one the one hand fully exploiting the mass curiosity about psychedelic drugs among youth in the 1960s (popularized by Timothy Leary, Dr. Hoffman, the ‘Sargent Peppers’ album et al.) and on the other hand already bored with the easy thrill of youthful transgression against bourgeois idiocy. Marins’ objectives seem to look at psychedelic drugs as instrument to go beyond cheap hedonism and explore new psychological, and therefore, moral spaces. This metaphysical dimension to marijuana, but especially LSD, is an instrument for Marins to cast his misogynist hypnosis of women (the spectator?), so that upon their willing slavery he may elevate a spiritually superior (demonic?) MALE who is beyond good and evil. Marins’ seems to have incorporated a great deal of Nietzche’s ideas about modern decadence/weakness/spiritual impoverishment, but also his contempt for the women of the human race and modern democratic life in general. The fourth wall address to the spectator by Coffin Joe/Marins is reflective of his intoxicating megalomania which both is aware its cheap advantageous exploitation of the drug fad of the day, yet speaks with such conviction (with raised cape and laughter) that a spectator is aware that not just drugs, but this cinematic sequence itself, is an attempt to overwhelm reason and open doors to something beyond it.

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