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October 1998, Week 1


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"Edward R. O'Neill" <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Sun, 4 Oct 1998 20:12:57 -0700
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There's another way of looking at the idea of the
action-image vs. time-image distinction as historical.
I.e., there is a difference between an historical concept
and a descriptive concept which may be embodied in different
historical eras.
Namely, even if Deleuze uses historical markers as points of
reference, this no more means that the concept he's
articulating is historical than the fact that any of the
other kinds of images he analyzes are drawn from specific
national cinemas, directors, movements, and films.
E.g., what Deleuze calls "liquid perception" is either drawn
from or embodied by French poetic realism--it's very hard to
tell which.  Might Deleuze have invented the concept had
cinema not formed it?  Unlikely.  It's from certain films in
a certain period that Deleuze claims he draws this concept.
Yet this concept is not a "theory" of French film in the
1930's.  It is something of a description of a certain body
of films, but it is not therefore an historical description,
even if the films which embody the concept are taken from
one particular period.
And so on for all the other concepts Deleuze outlines.  His
examples may be historical, national, or generic--the 'small
form' is found in comedy, the 'large form' in the
western--but this does not thereby convert the concepts he
gives, which are abstracted descriptions, into histories,
nations or genres.
That is:  the 'small form' may be found in comedy, but one
cannot therefore substitute for a definition of comedy "the
small form."  Chaplin may use in the 'small form,' but this
does not make the concept of the 'small form' identical with
the historical period from which Deleuze draws his examples.
The selection of examples may be one of necessity or
convenience, but the concept illustrated using the examples
does not thereby become wholly identical with the examples
cited.  (Compare:  "When I say the color orange I mean
something like this orange sitting on my desk."  "Oh, you
mean when something's on your desk, it's orange!"  "No!")
The intellectual problem is similar to that of defining
styles which can also be seen as movements and which are
dominant in given historical periods--e.g., Romanticism,
Modernism, etc.  Such terms may be used to refer to periods
or they may be used as shorthand for stylistic markers.
They describe movements which emerge during eras, but once
they are synonymous with a style, they are no longer purely
historical terms.
Deleuze may describe the emergence of a new kind of image in
a certain period, and one might even think of filmmakers who
specialize in this image as a kind of 'movement,' but this
does not mean that the concept is then one that summarizes
an historical event.
The initial assumption that the concept *itself* is
historical produces all the further contradictions which
then need to be 'ironed out.'
Damian Peter Sutton writes:
> I'm still not convinced, Ed, (and other 'listers')
> Deleuze makes himself clear, in the preface to Cinema 1, that
> his job is not a historian's, that point is not in dispute.
Okay, so this much should be clear:  the cinema books are
not a history; they are not articulating concepts which are
identical to historical periods.
> Nor is the fact that Deleuze himself muddies his own water by
> analysing Renoir and the time-image after he had placed the
> 'break' in film development at WWII.
But Deleuze doesn't "mudd[y] his own water" because Deleuze
never said he was giving a history.  That's *you* who insist
on taking it that way and then become upset when it doesn't
pan out.
> However, he _does_ make the break, and sets this out in the
> preface to Cinema 2.
But what do you mean by "break" here?  And, more
importantly, what does Deleuze mean?  After WWII it become
more possible to produce the time-image.  The action-image
did not disappear.  It had not been as possible before to
give such a direct image of time.  That is Deleuze's claim.
NOT that the action-image 'takes place' before WWII and the
time-image after.
Each subsequent species of time image is not thereby
synonymous with a period.  I.e., the concept of a time-image
is not itself an historical concept.
There may be historical reasons why the time-image become
more possible at this point, but Deleuze does not address
this question because he is not in fact writing a
history--as you wish to make him out to do.
> On the whole, he is not absolutely clear.  (most of the
> Hitchcock films his praises as being classic movement-image
> stuff are in the post war period[....]
Actually, Deleuze is quite clear.  But when you refuse to
follow what he says, he becomes "not absolutely clear."
>[....] The point I
> would make is that Deleuze contradicts himself, and that this
> should be seen as an opportunity to view his work as
> presenting a history.
But Deleuze doesn't contradict himself in the details while
giving an historical picture.  It is you in reading who
refuse to accept his qualification that he is not offering a
history, and it is only then that the text can be seen as
contradictory.  It is you in reading who have made the text
contradict itself by refusing to read its patent sense.
>When Deleuze says that he is not going
> to write a film history, I do believe he means that a
> categorical history based on arbitrary points of invention
> and social incident is not his intention. I don't think that
> he would ever have been interested in such a project.
No, Deleuze doesn't want to write that kind of film
history--nor the kind you want to make him write, either.
Edward R. O'Neill
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