Unreal Nature

October 2, 2014

What It Is to See

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:49 am

… This is the power of the ‘false’ as such; the power to create untruths, the power not to correspond (with the old ‘truth,’the formulaic truth), but to respond to the world of change by instantiating it anew.

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

… The question set at the end of [Deleuze’s] Cinema 1, portentous though it may seem, is whether cinema can ‘attack the dark organization of clichés.’ Can cinema extract a new image from our clichéd world at the end of the movement-image? For the cliché is not just bare repetition, it also marks out our ‘mental deficiency,’ ‘organized mindlessness’ and ‘cretinization.’ The crisis for cinema, then, is also one for our culture and philosophy, for our ability, fundamentally, to think anew.

In What is Philosophy? Deleuze makes it the artist’s task to struggle against the clichés and repetitions of opinion. And, after Hitchcock, after 1945, cinema certainly seemed in need of a new artistic image. Would one emerge to save it? Would film survive to fight the good fight against cliché?

… So what does it do? In a reflexive move typical of modernism, the time-image [of Deleuze’s Cinema 2 ] thematizes the lack of creativity in the movement-image [of Deleuze’s Cinema 1 ], the historical exhaustion of the movement image. The cliché is embraced in order to be resisted, by taking a failure of form as new content. The five characteristics of the new image, then, are ‘the dispersive situation, the deliberatively weak links, the voyage form, the consciousness of clichés, the condemnation of plot.’ Together, they transform a vice into a virtue, wrestling a new image from the bare repetitions of Hollywood. It can do this because, by thematizing a failure, the time-image gives us a direct representation of what reality is like itself: time as breakage, as wound, as fissure, as crack, as differential — all the features that Deleuze’s process philosophy explores across its corpus. Time out of joint is true time, for time really is what puts things out of joint, what Nietzsche, James, Bergson and Heidegger said before him: when somehting breaks, when a habitual act fails to find its target, it emerges (as it really is) into consciousness. When vision fails, we see (the truth of) vision, we see the searches in L’Avventura or Ladri di biciclette. We don’t see the thing, but what it is to see (or not see) the thing. We see the process of seeing.

… The new time-image was needed to meet the challenge of the cliché. It was born to restore our belief in the world, to awaken us from our cynical, hackneyed lives.Where the movement-image weakened itself in formulaic, ‘false’ movements, it is superseded by and subordinated to the time-image. This is the power of the ‘false’ as such; the power to create untruths, the power not to correspond (with the old ‘truth,’the formulaic truth), but to respond to the world of change by instantiating it anew. Cinema tries to restore our belief in the world by creating reasons to believe in this world: ‘we need an ethic or a faith … a need to believe in this world.’ How is this done? By inventing new relationships between sound and vision, new types of space, and even new kinds of body (that correspond to a ‘genesis of bodies’ rather than fixed organic coordinates). The power of the false is the power of creation, invention or novelty.

… The curious fact about Cinema 2, however, is that the most powerful embodiment of the time-image throughout the book is not an image at all but the lack of one: the irrational cut. Indeed, the irrational cut is the paradigm case for Deleuze. It is more than just false continuity; though, for such cuts come in diverse forms, be it

the steady form of a sequence of unusual, ‘anomalous’ images, which come and interrupt the normal linkage of the two sequences; or in the enlarged form of the black screen, or the white screen, and their derivatives.

What matters in each case is that the cut now exists for itself, no longer for what it conjoins, but for its own disjunctive value. The cut, being itself now cut through and broken (irrational), gives us a vision of real time. It captures the essence of how the movement-image differs from the time-image, the disjointedness of the latter being rendered fully in a mutilated joint.

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

-Julie

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