Unreal Nature

September 18, 2014

Different Kinds of Time

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:44 am

… the embrace of affect within the analytico-cognitivist paradigm comes mostly by way of cognitivizing affectivity as a well-structured, problem-solving and object-related mode of mentation … [W]hat is precisely affective about affect — the subjective qualia themselves — has been lost.

This is from Philosophy and the Moving Image: Refractions of Reality by John Mullarkey (2009):

Bordwell’s is a perceptual-cognitive model of film comprehension, a ‘problem/solution model … [that] invites us to reconstruct decisions made by active agents, and it treats persons as concrete forces for stability and change (or both)’. In other words, the story of film spectatorship told by Bordwell is quite like the stories told in certain movies themselves, with a central plot composed of questions and an agent who propels it in search of answers.

… Within Bordwell’s approach, the principal tenet is the endurance and universality of the classical Hollywood style of narration, one that demands a naturalistic justification. The clear use of events and actors; individuated characters who are psychologically rather than socially motivated; linear chains of cause and effect; the division between main and secondary plots; the use of mostly unrestricted narration, itself structured with a beginning, middle and end; the provision of a proper (often happy) resolution at the end; and the use of continuity editing — all of these principles are firmly rooted in the Hollywood mode of filmmaking, such that even the more experimental strategies of plot and style found in recent Hollywood output, actually only deviate from the norm at their margins.

… the taming of the aesthetic dimension of cinema, be it in terms of transgression or excess, is absolutely necessary for Bordwell when isolating narration as a cognitive process.

… Claims by avant-garde filmmakers themselves, for instance, that new forms of realism are being innovated through film, are dismissed by him as merely attempts to ‘justify novelty’ and cultivate ambiguity. The real offering of the art film is to inform the spectator of its reflexivity — it is a metalevel communication only; ‘put crudely, the procedural slogan of art-cinema narration might be: “interpret this film, and interpret it so as to maximize ambiguity” ‘. For a science of film such as Bordwell’s, therefore, ambiguity in film cannot be realistic because reality really is clear cut. If there is any ambiguity in the film, it must be because the film is saying something about itself.

Bordwell sees it as his task to reveal the filmic and perceptual mechanisms that generate meaning immanently (including the false meanings of the ideologues). In essence, Bordwell follows Samuel Goldwyn’s famous dictum that ‘messages are for Western Union’: films should be analysed for what they do, not what they mean – even when a part of what they do is facilitate the making of meaning. The object, scientific approach must relinquish any a priori ascriptions and focus only on what film does empirically, how its formal devices interact with the viewer’s perceptual-cognitive mechanisms to create a story. [ … ] The brain, in this cognitive paradigm, must be seen as an ‘inferring machine’ that works with its own dynamic set of internalized ‘story schemata’ (clusters of knowledge that guide our ‘hypothesis making’), utilizing them in its ‘algorithmic processing’ of the cinematic information it recovers.

[ … ]

… when has a film ever represented ‘real,’ continuous time when it has involved more than one continuous shot?

The answer, of course, is ‘never,’ but not because film lacks the ability to capture real time, so much as film itself being just one instance of the myriad forms of time. There is no pure, single, continuous time to capture; or rather, real time just is the host of different kinds of time being made continuously.

[ … ]

… despite such evidence for the mutability and porosity between nature and culture in both directions, Bordwell insists on a fixed continuum with easily learnt, hardwired and disposition-friendly effects at one end (‘dissolves or fades; most acting styles; and most stylistic innovations such as cross-cutting’); and culture-specific acquisitions at the other end that need more exposure to acquire (such as the artful playing with narrative time). We would not dispute that there is, at any one time, a continuum. But what is on the continuum itself is not fixed; rather, it is always itself moving (and, as we’ll see, resting on another, equally mobile, continuum).

… the embrace of affect within the analytico-cognitivist paradigm comes mostly by way of cognitivizing affectivity as a well-structured, problem-solving and object-related mode of mentation, as the title of the prominent collection of essay, Passionate Views: Film, Cognition, and Emotion, clearly attests. Emotion becomes a form of representation about the film-object or world. Hence, it is arguable that what is precisely affective about affect — the subjective qualia themselves — has been lost.

My most recent previous post from Mullarkey’s book is here.

-Julie

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