Friday, May 9, 2008

Deleuze and film theory: An excerpt

Another semester has come to a close, and once again I have completed a paper that probably deserved a great more attention and reflection than I granted it. Although I may continue working on it, it was "officially" complete when I handed it in earlier this week. What once was a clean, unmarked collection of pages will soon become a sea of red, with a single letter at the end, determining the significance of the past four months of reading and study. Already, I see at as an incomplete work that will most probably be abandoned (although hopefully not).

Nevertheless, I see the paper (at the very least) as pregnant with possibilities. Which is why I have included an excerpt from the opening section of the paper. It essentially lays out the questions and thoughts that drove my research, and it suggests the beginnings of a thesis that may or may not have come together by the end of it. It doesn't, however, provide a full angle of the core analysis, which focuses on psychologistic models of film criticism --specifically psychoanalytic film theory and cognitivism-- and the implications of their respective rhetoric and positioning in relation to one another in the spectrum of academic film criticism. Approaching this relationship from a Deleuzian perspective was the point of emphasis of my theoretical exploration.

I honestly don't know if I was able to bring together all those elements and construct unique pathway of theoretical inquiry into cinema. I think I need more time away from this paper to really understand whether it has anything significant to offer. In the meantime, here's the introduction, which, as I said, presents the underlying questions and conflict. For me at least, the introduction nicely sets up a number of potential conflicts and relationships, and although much still needs to be addressed, it leaves me with the thought that Deleuze and film criticism may be more conducive than I previously thought.

I'm eager for feedback, so please feel free to volunteer your thoughts:

"Gilles Deleuze is known as a philosopher by some, a theorist of the cinema by others, and even an artist by his most ardent followers. His writings are ubiquitous, and his concepts unorthodox by the standards of philosophy, cinema and media studies, and art criticism. Despite the rising relevance of his two Cinema volumes in film scholarship, Deleuze’s place in the broader institution of media and cinema studies is oddly situated. Adamantly rejecting the claim that he was a “critic” or even a theorist, Deleuze constructed what he termed a philosophy – or logic – of cinema and movement. Film theorists who consider Deleuze’s concepts significant often draw on this logic, as rendered in Cinema 1: The Movement-Image, and Cinema 2: The Time-Image. Meticulous in its description of spatiotemporal properties of movement and sensation, Deleuze’s philosophy of cinema at first appears to glide along the lines of neoformalist theories. Yet while Deleuze provided dense descriptions of action-images, affection-images, and perception-images, his concepts decidedly subvert the methods of dominant psychologistic models that now constitute a large amount of scholarly film theory.

While Deleuze’s Cinema volumes are gaining prominence, many theorists harness his principles of sensation as means for explaining or defining the cinematic image in a new way. However, this “application” of Deleuze is a fundamental misunderstanding of his concepts. In spite of their systematic detail and intricate design, Deleuze’s writings on cinema are not a critical model for evaluating or critiquing films, but the foundation for a larger inquiry into movement and sensation. For Deleuze, the cinema is not a communicator of messages or medium for delivering sights and sounds (Deleuze, 1983). And it is most certainly not a representational narrative or aesthetic device. Instead, the cinema is the site of pure immanence and sensation (Deleuze, 1985); it is quite literally its own reality. The image is not something projected onto a screen, but is instead the manifestation of pure thought.

Placing Deleuze in relation to existing theories of cinema is a complicated task. It’s not easily accomplished by employing his concepts as an extension or deviation from various established critical models. Deleuze’s logic of sensation lays the foundation for a fundamentally different engagement of cinema. This logic may provide the theorist with a different kind of criticism, or, moreover, a spectrum of theoretical possibility for engaging and seeing cinema. And yet, to grapple with this new vision of cinema as the basis for a new critical inquiry, one cannot simply stand outside the pillars of theory that have attempted to encapsulate and explicate cinematic motion and sensation. Exploring the possibility of a Deleuzian criticism requires that theorists actively engage the established theories, by analyzing the assumptions on which they are built and the values under which they operate, and situatating them in relation to Deleuze’s mapping of cinematic movement."

1 comment:

Cibbuano said...

If he believes that the cinema is a manifestation of pure thought, I'd be interested in what he thinks of CGI, which has the potential to replicate any thought that you might have onscreen.