A research blog come hypertext that is about Gilles Deleuze's cinema philosophy. Exegetical, pedagogical, writerly, (yes rhizomatic, though to claim hypertext is rhizomatic in the 21st century is a bit like declaring that water is wet). An experiment in method, process, and thought.
I'm Adrian Miles and I teach cinema, hypertext, and interactive cinema in the Media Studies degree program at RMIT, Melbourne, Australia. I am a researcher in emergent media pedagogies at the InterMedia research lab, University of Bergen, Norway. [email@example.com | firstname.lastname@example.org]
conceptsmethod | C1 Chp1 | Any Instant Whatever | Glossary | Privileged Instants
archives1.2003 | 12.2002 | 11.2002
written and published in Tinderbox 1.2.3
In short, cinema does not give us an image to which movement is added, it immediately gives us a movement-image. It does give us a section, but a section which is mobile, not an immobile section + abstract movement. [C1.2]
The cinematic image provides slices of time that are not mechanical, and they are not still images or slices of varying length to which movement is then added via an apparatus. The sections of time that the cinema provides us with are mobile in that they are already qualitative sections where their duration represents or is qualitative change. To cut a section (i.e., via editing) would then be to effect a qualitative change rather than merely a quantitative change, so that a one minute shot that is cut in half is now not just a thirty second shot, but is in fact (at least for Deleuze) a qualitatively different thing in terms of duration.
Clearly cinema is a mechanical process, and so like all mechanical processes is subject to (and its technological development is premised upon) standardisation; 35 millimetre film, 24 frames per second, and so forth. The manner in which this standardises time (rate of recording and rate of projection) is mechanical and abstract and so would appear to be quite distinct from duration as qualitative change. However, even before Deleuze introduces the significance of montage as effecting qualitative change in and between cinematic mobile sections, it is important to recognise that Deleuze has already attempted to establish that cinematic movement is not about the representation of corporeal movement (filming someone walking and representing this on screen) for cinematic movement is an immediate given and not an addition.
A film that I believe may illustrate this is Chris Marker's 1962 La Jetée. Here most of the film (though not all) is made up of filmed photographs, yes the camera sometimes slowly zooms into the photograph, or pans across the image, but broadly speaking it is a film composed largely of stills. Now, then you view La Jetée it is clear that you are watching a film, it is not a slide show, and the experience of the work while you're watching it is dramatically different to what you would experience if it were a slide show, even with dissolves and fades between slides. This is an example I will be returning to, but at this point I would like to simply make the following observation, or claim, that here is a film that is obviously a film, yet there is no movement within the cinematic frame. This needs to be carefully qualified at this point, there is no record or representation of movement of the world (objects, characters) within the frame, so we don't see people walking, talking, leaves, water or clouds moving. But there is movement. That I think it is trivial to agree that there is movement for me begins to provide a concrete way of thinking about what Deleuze is claiming. If there is movement in La Jetée, indeed if we can agree that it is a film and not a slide show, then this movement is not the record or derived from the record or perception of ordinary movement in the world.
Oh, and we should remember, 'abstract movement' is pretty much time being treated as equivalent to distance covered, and while this formula clearly works in all sorts of contexts (to calculate how long a drive may take, or how fast a car is travelling) it is not time as qualitative change, which for Deleuze is genuine time, aka duration. Movement as duration cannot be recovered by rejoining or describing the space covered, movement as duration as a qualitative change happens elsewhere. This is not to discount or remove simple movement as ordinarily conceived, only to recognise that it is inadequate to account for change.
[Tue 7 Jan 2003]
Deleuze concludes the opening section of Chapter One in Cinema One by introducing the three major features that the cinema would develop that are the ways it begins to approach duration as duration. It does this via montage, the moving camera, and a mobile point of view.
Montage begins to establish qualitative relations between shots, and between the shots and the whole film, so that shot change begins to be an expression of a qualitative change.
The moving camera shifts cinema away from the fixed view and frame of primitive cinema and so in its very movement dynamically establishes continuing qualitative relations within the frame.
The mobile point of view provides the camera with some agency so that what it sees, how, and where from, is no longer defined or constrained by an anthropomorphic phenomenology, regardless of how much the colonisation of cinema by narrative may attempt to recover its mobile view into a rationalised real.
[Tue 7 Jan 2003]
Privileged instants are one illusion that misjudges movement as a transcendental pose. Deleuze describes this via an ancient conception of time and movement where the pose is understood to be the pure moment or essence that expresses (and contains) that which is the summation or encapsulation of a pure movement as moment. Things like the piéta immediately spring to mind, don't they? Those sorts of Platonic ideas given a form that though it may never be pure are premised on the ideality of a pure expression of an ideal moment.
The need for such poses (dance is an example that Deleuze uses) is premised on the idea that the material of the world is in flux, a sort of fallen materiality (the Platonism here ought to be obvious) where the potential of the ideal form (or idea?) need material embodiment, yet by being material they of course lose their ideality. Movement in this view then becomes a series of movements, regulated as or by a series of poses (no wonder the Greeks came up with the Olympics) where the transition between poses is subject to regulation.
Early photography, at least portrait photography, would appear to have attempted something like this with its highly mannered poses. Of course much painting and sculpture has also pursued the pose, and I suspect much religious iconography could be thought about in terms of a theological pose. In each case the pose is an abstraction that expresses an ideal and so in its formalism wants to rarefy itself within the aura of that ideal so as to approach a transcendental purity. Or something like that.
This does not have to mean still moments, only those moments within movement that encapsulate and sum that which the moment is thought to express of the enduring where that which endures is not the contingent or the accidental but the almost sublime. The infant's glance to Mary, Mary's glance to the infant, or perhaps those moments imagined during movement - the throw of the discuss, a horse galloping, or even perhaps a discus thrower.
[Sun 12 Jan 2003]
[Mon 10 Feb 2003]