The Creative Evolution of Cinema
There are a couple of remarks in the first chapter or two of Gilles Deleuze's Cinema 1: The Movement-Image that we might wish to pause on and to open up. Though the philosopher predicates the book on Henri Bergson's three theses on movement, drawing mainly on Matter and Memory, almost buried within this complicated idea is another much simpler one. He suggests in a couple of remarks that film didn't start with the movement-image at all, but a movement within the image. In this primitive state of film, what we had was movement within the frame but not yet movement of the image itself. That would come. "The evolution of the cinema, the conquest of its own essence or novelty, was to take place through montage, the mobile camera and the emancipation of the viewpoint, which is separate from projection. The shot would then stop being a spatial category and become a temporal one, and the section would no longer be immobile but mobile." (Cinema 1: The Movement-Image) Early cinema thus resembled the theatrical at one remove. The frame mimicked a proscenium arch but the viewers were in a different time and space from the images themselves. But then cinema quite quickly learned to leave theatre behind by generating movement not just in the characters moving within the frame, but in moving the camera as well. This gave birth to a movement-image and something close to the perceptual possibilities available to the human as he or she goes about their business, and can be seen as consistent with the sensory-motor system. The movement of the camera captures well our own perceptual curiosity and need to generate action. But Deleuze also sees that while we can have the fixed shot with movement within it, and the moving camera with action within it, we can also have a movement of the camera that needn't mimic, follow or copy the action within the frame, but can separate itself, if you like disembody itself, from our ready perceptual faculties. This often calls into question the movement-image and at the same time allows the possibilities in what Deleuze will call in his second book, the time-image. As Deleuze draws analogies with cinema's evolution and his belief that Bergson's theses on movement developed over time and became more nuanced, so he sees that cinema possesses its own equivalent of what Bergson calls creative evolution. For us, two comments of Bergson's come to mind. "Suppose we wish to portray on a screen a living picture, such as the marching past of a regiment. There is one way in which it might first occur to us to do it. That would be to cut out jointed figures representing the soldiers, to give each of them the movement of marching..." But there would be the impression of movement without movement. Alternatively, we can "take a series of snapshots of the passing regiment and to throw these instantaneous views on the screen, so that they replace each other very rapidly. This is what the cinematography does." (Creative Evolution) Our second comment comes from still later in the book as he discusses how philosophers have generally regarded fixity more highly than movement, but he believes it should be the other way round. "Experience confronts us with becoming: that is sensible reality. But the intelligible reality, that which ought to be, is more real still, and that reality does not change. Beneath the qualitative becoming, beneath the evolutionary becoming, beneath the extensive becoming, the mind must seek that which defies change, the definable quality, the form or essence, the end." Hence classic philosophy's interest in the Forms and the Ideas. Central to Bergson's philosophy, vital to Deleuze's take on cinema, is to counter such assumptions.
To understand an aspect of this cinematic evolution we can first look rather superficially and generally at silent film before moving on to how modern filmmakers have taken full advantage of this evolutionary aspect of cinema, and perhaps to help explain why anyone who believes that television is the place to look for interesting image-making is taking a rather naive approach to the history of the image while failing to see the number of its possibilities. When Steven Soderberg for example thought that television was doing more interesting things than cinema, he could say so only from the point of view of a narrow notion of what Hollywood seemed to be producing; that it had lapsed into predictable movement-images without generating new possibilities. Television wasn't usually generating new possibilities either, but at least within those predictable images it was working with more 'meaningful' content. As Soderberg would say: "I think that the audience for the sort of films I grew up liking has migrated to television. The format really allows for the narrow and deep approach I like." (Guardian) However, it was more the range of possibilities was not being accessed there either but the infantilisation of the image (in numerous sequels and franchises) was being forestalled.
But back to cinema's early years. When watching The Great Train Robbery, A Trip to the Moon or the Workers Leaving the Factory, the generally fixed frame records events but it doesn't quite film them. There was the suggestion that moving the camera would confuse people and a fixed perspective would be a more privileged one. It was perhaps a bit like getting a seat at the theatre and expecting to stay in it throughout the performance rather than being moved around. Cinema was theatrically contained rather than cinematically released, and it wasn't until around 1908 that the elements which Noel Burch would associate with the Institutional Mode of Representation came properly into being, moving beyond the primitive mode prior. By the end of the twenties, as sound came in, the moment-image was unequivocally in place and in numerous manifestations. In 1903, for example, even The Great Train Robbery uses a panning shot as the gang goes off with the loot. Within fifteen years, Birth of a Nation and Intolerance had developed into a cinematic art, and not just a theatrical art recorded, as Griffith used cross-cutting, numerous camera movements and close-ups to make visually dramatic the events he depicted. In the mid-twenties, the two great Russian directors, Sergei Eisenstein and V.I. Pudovkin argued over how cinema could be more cinematic still. For Pudovkin, a car crash could be cut into segments but all the elements of the crash should be included in the scene. For Eisenstein this wasn't necessary the film only needed the shots required for creating the scene in the audience's mind all the coordinates didn't need to be on the screen and taken from the situation filmed. Indeed, there was no reason why some aspects couldn't be missing and others repeated for a greater cinematic impact, evident in the repetitions we see in Battleship Potemkin when we witness a woman's reaction several times, a moment of atrocity more than once.
Cinema was creatively evolving at a rapid pace, but even Eisenstein's innovations were generally consistent with a movement-image unless we include what might be seen as his failures. Eisenstein had so much confidence in what the viewer would perceive that he reckoned the conjunction of the pro-filmic image (the elements in front of the camera) were very much of secondary importance. But film can be stubborn. Attempts to film images metaphorically were not so successful as Eisenstein drew together in montage form images of a character that resembled a monkey and dissolved between the two (Strike), and a character strutting around like a peacock with a cut to a peacock that has nothing to do with the diegesis (October). Yet Christian Metz would later call these moments non-diegetic inserts as filmmakers from Godard to Resnais found ways in which to incorporate these 'weaknesses' in the movement-image into strengths of a different kind of emphasis that Godard and Resnais were interested in invoking, and that nobody more than Deleuze has explained and explored by utilising the term the time-image.
For Deleuze the time-image was an evolutionary development, but this has little to do simply with the developments of techniques that would allow cinema greater complexity, nor viewers who would develop skills with which to comprehend a more complex image. These aren't unimportant, and usually central to many a reading of cinema's progress, and never more evident than in the sort of cognitive studies practiced most famously by David Bordwell in a book like Figures Traced in Light. In Deleuze's formulation, the viewer doesn't become more sophisticated but perhaps even the opposite more capable of opening themselves up to the inarticulacy and confusion that cinema can generate rather than codes which we can master. When early on Deleuze says we should think of cinema as an "information system rather than a linguistic one" (Cinema 1), vital to this would be that we don't increase our vocabulary, mastering the language, but find ourselves willing to accept the manifold nature of an image that we might never quite be able to 'read'. Any sophistication we accumulate through the image should be met with an equal amount of incomprehension in the face of it. "If we see very few things in an image, this is because we do not know how to read it properly; we evaluate its rarefaction as badly as its saturation." Yet central to the problem of our poor capacity to make sense of an image rests on the sense that is so often expected of us. Films generally cue us to comprehend the information they offer because they have a story to tell and an audience to entertain as they expect us to follow the film's pertinent events. Whether the image is more or less empty or full doesn't matter. North by Northwest offers the more or less empty in the spray-cropping scene; Boogie Nights full during a party scene where a character dives into the pool and the camera follows him. Neither is likely to leave the viewer confused about what is going on. But the empty shots that conclude The Eclipse, or the dense closing shot of Sergei Loznitsa's Donbass are likely to do so, and no amount of training will allow us to retrieve from the image what we find accessible in North by Northwest or Boogie Nights. Any notion of creative evolution has to entertain the impossibility that the image may contain. Thus Deleuze notes at the end of Cinema 1 that "it was necessary, on the contrary, to want what Hitchcock had constantly refused. The mental image had not to be content weaving a set of relations but had to form a new substance. It had to become truly thought and thinking, even if it had to become 'difficult; in order to do this."
What Deleuze asks for isn't a new level of sophistication, where we would apprehend the image with a novel skill set, but that we acknowledge that we have to contribute to the thinking of the image itself. In the early years of cinema, this wasn't necessary: the purpose was to master the skills so that filmmakers and viewers would know what they were making and what they were getting. Thus Burch astutely saw this as the period during which cinema became conventionalised: "I see the 1895-1929 period as one of constitution of an Institutional Mode of Representation...which, for fifty years, has been explicitly taught in films schools as the Language of Cinema, and which, whoever we are, we all internalise at an early age as a reading competence thanks to an exposure to films (in cinemas or on television) which is universal among the young in industrialised societies." (Life to Those Shadows) Few filmmakers more than Hitchcock have been central to adding to this development, but that is partly why Deleuze sees the English filmmaker who moved to Hollywood as vital to the further reaches of the movement-image. Yet Deleuze also sees that this was the end of an evolutionary process that led indeed to a crisis in the image, and that in this crisis lay too a crisis in the viewer watching the films of Straub, Godard, Resnais and others. There was no longer a contractual agreement between the filmmaker and the audience, as filmmakers refused to abide by it. Speaking of how his own book came into being, Burch says, "I should point out that the book was also conceived in the penumbra of a broad aspiration shared at the time by certain film-maker theorists (the most prestigious of whom were Godard and Straub), an aspiration to practises breaking with current standards..." Such filmmakers are of course vital to Deleuze's second volume, but let us stay for the moment on the early stages of the first and see how the movement-image came into being, how the early years of cinema developed. For Burch, in its very early stages, film and photography weren't so very different from other areas of scientifically, technologically driven tools like the microscope or the radiograph. It wasn't there to entertain but to offer a new means of description. "Indeed, if the researches that culminated in the invention of photography corresponded in immediate awareness to an ideological drive, it is just as clear that this new technology objectively answered a need to the descriptive sciences of the period (botany, zoology, paleontology, astronomy, physiology." Deleuze is less interested in this pre-cinematic stage of film, and as we've proposed focuses much more on how cinema developed into a movement-image, how it evolved from fixity to mobility and draws analogies with Bergson in the process of doing so. "The upshot of the third thesis is that we find ourselves on three levels: (1) the sets or closed systems which are defined by discernible objects or distinct parts; (2) the movement of translation which is established between these objects and modifies their respective positions; (3) the duration of the whole, a spiritual reality which constantly changes according its own relations." (Cinema 1) Deleuze sees in this what he calls the profound thesis at work in Matter and Memory: that there are not only instantaneous images, immobile sections of movement, but also movement images which offer mobile sections of movement. Finally, there are time-images: "that is duration-images, change-images, relation-images, volume-images, which are beyond movement itself." (Cinema 1)
Thus we can see how the very early years of cinema offered pre-movement images, fixed frame shots would have movement within them but wouldn't have movement coming out of them. As we've noted, the film shot was like a stage, with actors moving within it but when they left the frame they were gone until they once again entered the frame or the film cut to another shot. Cinema would then evolve into movement-images that incorporated shots where actors could move and the camera would follow. But films could also indicate that the camera could move without relying on the agency of the actor within the frame, giving cinema a capacity far beyond the theatrical even if the filmmaker might contain in other ways an aspect of it. Renoir may have often been a very theatrical filmmaker, but Deleuze notes that "it was always a great moment in cinema, as for example in Renoir, when the camera leaves a character, and even turns it back on him, following its own movement at the end of which it will rediscover him." (Cinema 1) Yet we might believe that such shots can invoke a new time-image in film or can simply (or complexly) create a greater elegance and brilliance to the movement-image itself. There are numerous ways in which this can happen without quite going beyond the movement-image. Hitchcock often does this, in Shadow of a Doubt, North by Northwest and Frenzy for example. In Shadow of a Doubt, the camera offers an apparently unmotivated high angle shot as two men chase our central character Charlie through the streets, when at a certain moment the camera moves to pick up Charlie now up on the roof. The apparent lack of motivation becomes a very strong reidentification: we see Charlie has outwitted them and Hitchcock's camera aligns with the outwitting. In North by Northwest, the camera leaves Roger Thornhill and pans towards a couple of men who we will soon kidnap him after overhearing the name Kaplan. In an example Deleuze gives, in Frenzy, Hitchcock shows a murderer entering his flat door and instead of following he and the victim into the apartment, Hitchcock reverse down the stairs, comes out onto the pavement, and crosses the road as the silence of the stairwell gives way to the busy sounds of the city. Hitchcock chooses to make clear a murder is being committed, but chooses not to show it. Yet as Deleuze says at the end of Cinema-1, "a new substance had to be formed, something that could be truly called thought and thinking."
To understand an aspect of this substance, let us go back to Bergson, and Creative Evolution. "The cerebral mechanism is arranged just so as to drive back into the unconscious almost the whole of this past, and to admit beyond the threshold only that which can cast light on the present situation or further the action now being prepared in short, only that which can give useful work." Some pages later, Bergson says, "real duration is that which gnaws on things, and leaves on them the mark of its tooth. If everything is in time, everything changes inwardly, and the same concrete reality never recurs. Repetition is therefore possible only in the abstract: what is repeated is some aspect that our senses and especially our intellect, have singled out from reality, just because our action, upon which all the effort of our intellect is directed, can move only among repetitions." (Creative Evolution) In such repetitions, the movement-image often moves as it concentrates on the necessary action. Now obviously movement-images are still being not only created (most films still use them )and many of Deleuze's examples in Cinema 1 in different ways can prove central to the time-Image, but also elaborated upon, becoming ever more sophisticated and ingenious. When watching a recent two and half hour film using one take, Victoria, the gap between the early years of cinema with its fixed frame, and the capacity for movement in one shot over a whole film well over a hundred years later is enormous, but this still only reflects a formal and technological revolution, not an ontological one no new substance, in Deleuze's terms is being made.
Hence when critics have recently talked about impressive long-takes and how innovative they happen to be, we might wish to differentiate between innovations that are loosely technological or ontological do they go further than previous takes technically and formally, or do they generate a new question within their innovation? Howard Fishman notes "Two recent Nordic filmsTuva Novotny's Blind Spot and Erik Poppe's Utya - July 22 take this concept to its extreme. Both movies were shot, in their entirety, in one take. Multiple actors, multiple locations, one camera, one shot. And, though there are a handful of other directors who have also used this tightrope-walking approach in recent years (Alexander Sokurov, in Russian Ark, and Sebastian Schipper, in Victoria, to name a couple), Blind Spot and Utya feel different." He reckons, "rather than the method being the message, some daredevil stunt worthy of our awe and intellectual admiration, in these new films, the one-take technique is used as a means to a higher artistic end: to create work that is uniquely aligned with the razor-edge sense of peril that has been created by this particular moment in history." (The New Yorker) Also of note, in Senses of Cinema, a critic discusses the influence of Virtual Reality on contemporary films, seeing for example Alfonso Cuaron's Children of Men as an important work that absorbs elements of VR into cinema to make it more experientially vivid. These are fair claims, but it would seem the writers see the long take within the context of only one type of image the movement-image in Deleuze's terms. The manner in which Russian Ark and Victoria are conflated indicates this, even if we would be more inclined to see Sokurov as one of the important modern filmmakers working within the possibilities available in the time-image, with Russian Ark a notable addition to the question but a work like Mother and Sun even more significant since the question isn't about time as space the amount of space covered in the process of in-camera movement but of time evoked. Such a point is for later in the article, but for the moment all we need say is that the long take, no matter how brilliantly done, no matter how ingeniously created, does not in itself create a new substance.
What is behind this new substance Deleuze invokes how does cinema evolve; how does it generate its own creative evolution? To help us here let us mention not only Deleuze but that other great philosopher of film, Stanley Cavell, no matter if the latter was much more inclined to work within the realm of what Deleuze sees as movement-images rather than images of time. Nevertheless, Cavell could see that film as a medium, whether it chose to address the question itself, or managed to provoke in the perceptive, thoughtful viewer him or herself, a capacity to understand an ongoing philosophical problem that film helps us to comprehend. In Pursuits of Happiness, a book about films that are anything but 'difficult' (screwball comedies of the thirties and forties), Cavell says, "the 'whole of things' cannot be known by human creatures, not because we are limited in the extent of our experiences, but, as we might say, because we are limited to experience, however extensive." Cinema as a rule, and cinema as a movement-image, respects this idea of being limited to experience in a quite interesting way. Generally, film does not offer a first-person perspective that is limited to our experiences (attempts like The Lady in the Lake and La femme defendue remain exceptions), indicating that our cinematic purview can contain a far greater breadth of perceptual possibilities than our own vision. Yet equally when a film so completely leaves behind a character's perspective, or breaks with our usual perceptual coordinates, it can prove disconcerting: indeed, difficult. It is here where the creative evolution most obviously takes place even if it might not easily have arisen were it not for innovations elsewhere.
The examples are many if still a very clear minority in films by Antonioni, Bergman, Bunuel, Resnais, Godard, Haneke, Sokurov and Bela Tarr and we can differentiate this creative evolution from a more obviously formal evolution we find in Hitchcock, Welles, Ford, Penn, Tarantino, Almodovar and Fincher. All the directors mentioned are figures we admire to varying degrees, and a number of the latter have made films and created images that fall within the realm of creative evolution too (Scorsese especially in Taxi Driver; Welles throughout his work, and Fincher hints as it in Zodiac). Sometimes a filmmaker will offer more creatively evolved possibilities early in their work and retreat from them as they go on (Scorsese); others working in reverse order (as we find with Paul Thomas Anderson). Some directors move between the two possibilities, like Gus Van Sant, innovating in Gerry and Elephant, conservative in Milk and Good Will Hunting.
Our purpose is to look more specifically at the work of many of the above filmmakers and see why all the scenes indicate a clearly evolved approach to the medium of film, without all quite passing for a creative evolution that also invokes thought in the viewer. Hence when in Jackie Brown Tarantino very cleverly adopts a split-screen to show the bail bondsman's surprise when he goes into the glove compartment and sees that his gun has gone, it is an original way of dramatising what would have been done either by indicating that Jackie stole the gun earlier in the film, or by cross-cutting to show the bail bondsman's realization. The moment is a very witty, clever and knowing use of split-screen but Tarantino's work is generally the opposite of disconcerting. It affirms the conventions of cinema rather than counters them. When in Reservoir Dogs the director pans off-screen as the cop's ear is lopped off we can see this is very much in the tradition of Hitchcock's moment in Frenzy, but given a self-reflexive twist as some might recall the earlier film, and many others see that there is irony in generating off-screen horror well aware that we can still hear the cop's screams, and knowing too that in more innocent times it was quite common for a director to eschew the representation by a discreet retreat. Tarantino's clever coyness is a nod to earlier cinema while the viewer is very much aware that he could have shown the violence if he so wished after all we have seen Tim Roth's character already covered in blood in the back seat of the getaway car.
Tarantino takes further what Deleuze would see as the cliches in post-classic Hollywood cinema. "The answer is simple: what forms the set are cliches, and nothing else. Nothing but cliches, cliches everywhere..." as he mentions Nashville, Taxi Driver and King of Comedy. But we can distinguish between the naive cliches of the characters in such films and the form adopted towards them, and the sophisticated cliches of the form in Tarantino and the stereotypes adopted to contain them. In other words in Taxi Driver, Nashville and The King of Comedy, Scorsese and Altman enquire into the nature of the American cliche: what it means to possess a Western mindset in an urban environment, to think and dress like a cowboy in a hip milieu, to want to make it in showbiz in Nashville and The King of Comedy even if you are almost entirely without talent. This wouldn't be to mock the characters' ambitions, but to mock something in ambition itself to muse over the false consciousness of the American Dream. The films don't generate useful action but hint at contemplation. What are we to make of this America? So suspicious of the American Dream, so wary of perpetuating it rather than questioning it, the American bicentennial in 1975 struggled to find a film to represent it. J Hoberman mentions Jaws scriptwriter Carl Gottleib saying that a prominent Nixon supporter James Reston had buttonholed him at a party asking why Hollywood wasn't interested in doing more to celebrate the wonders of the bicentenary. Hoberman reckons "what Reston couldn't know was that Jaws would be that celebration." (The Last Great American Picture Show). Jaws was the recuperation of cliche in standard form without too many of the questions behind it. Jaws is a fine American film of the mid-seventies, but it ushered in an era that did indeed wish to make American great again. There may have been many disaster films in the early seventies (The Towering Inferno, Earthquake, The Poseidon Adventure) but, they were seen as examples of decadence and decay. Pauline Kael said of Earthquake: "what we really know when we watch this movie is that the destruction orgy on the screen is only a jokey form of the destruction behind the screen, and we begin to take a campy pleasure in seeing the big-name actors, and the old poly-situations...totaled." (Reeling) America collapses with its cliches, but Jaws came along and many inferior films followed, exacerbating the conventions and pumped up the patriotism. If Spielberg famously admitted, in an aptly-titled interview, 'Pimal Scream', that he directed "the audience with an electric cattle-prod" (Sight and Sound), then has Tarantino just found a more sophisticated form in which to do so? The substance is the same, just the form more evolved.
In this sense we can see that so many filmmakers are footnoting Hitchcock, remaining within the realm of the movement-image and thus concerned chiefly with the narrative equivalent of Bergson's useful action. If we are correct, then the major counterforce to Tarantino would surely be Michael Haneke. He too can claim he is interested in manipulating audiences (and never more so than in Funny Games), but though some might see bad faith in his need to generate stock situations all the better to undermine them, it would surely pass for a much more complex form of mauvaise foi, one that insists on its contemplation rather than its acceptance. Haneke frequently generates situations that indicate conflict but then positions us in the context of that conflict as onlooker rather than participants. Tarantino certainly makes identification more complicated than many an inferior film that his work resembles, but the useful action is always pronounced. In the early scene from Inglourious Basterds where Christophe Waltz's Nazi Jew hunter comes knocking on a farmer's door, Waltz goes through some formalities before revealing his real reason for being there. Halfway through the scene, the camera moves from the table to below the floorboards as we see a Jewish woman covering her mouth afraid to let out a breath. The shot may initially appear unmotivated as it descends but it quickly finds its motivation in the fear of those in the basement aware that a Nazi enjoys a glass of milk above them. Tarantino literally milks the suspense here as it seems Waltz is ready to go when he asks for another glass of the farmer's delicious beverage. Will he discover the Jews underground we wonder, as Tarantino offers a classic suspense scenario that owes so much to Hitchcock that we wouldn't even begin to regard the film as central to a new substance that comes into being. Instead, Tarantino acknowledges that he is working in a tradition which he needs knowingly to play up as the opening few shots bring to mind Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West, while one shot near the end of the sequence echoes the closing image of The Searchers, where Ethan leaves the homestead and is framed by the door from the darkness inside.
In contrast, Haneke seems to seek out this new substance if we accept that his work does not usually lead to useful action. In The White Ribbon, the film opens with a riding incident: a doctor arrives at the village and a tripwire fells his horse and it lies in agony. Who is responsible for this deed, and in turn numerous others that take place in this Austrian village before WWI? The voice-over informs us that this was the first of many such incidents, as it introduces to us an enigma: "I don't know if the story I want to tell you is entirely true. Some of it I only know through hearsay. After so many a year a lot of it is still obscure." The voice is clearly that of an older man and he speaks as if of further atrocities and terrors as the film closes on the eve of the first World War. The film hints at the future to come with a sense of impending dread, while Tarantino's looks back with a nod and wink. Shortly before the end of The White Ribbon, Handke too will utilise a shot similar to the one in The Searchers but with rather more ambiguity as though in Tarantino's film it is a homage; in Haneke's an opening up of the question the shot instigates in Ford's film. It comes very near the end of the film and is a shot from inside an arch entrance to the manor house. The voiceover tells us that Austria has declared war on Serbia, Germany on Russia and France. WWI was beginning. Haneke is usually interested in a symptomology of violence, in trying to understand how violence works beyond the deed itself; Tarantino novel ways of registering central conflict, or what in Deleuze's terms would be the action-image. As Deleuze says, "the action-image inspires a cinema of behaviour (behaviourism), since behaviour is an action which passes from one situation to another, which responds to a situation in order to try and modify it or to set up a new situation." (Cinema 1) What Tarantino often does is take an aspect of the Method that Deleuze invokes when saying "the sensory motor link must be very strong, behaviour must be truly structured..." but where in the Method films like On the Waterfront, East of Eden and Baby Doll the behaviour retains an internal pressure, "only the inner counts" (Cinema 1), we can see that in the behaviour of a Tarantino film only the outer counts. Waltz has no inner motivation in Inglourious Basterds, no turmoiled self that finds outer expression, just as Michael Madsen has no inner motivation when he lops the ear off in Reservoir Dogs, or Samuel L. Jackson shoots the kids in Pulp Fiction. They are simply having fun within the context of the action-image as basic conflict. Tarantino's purpose is to emphasise the conflict and to find novel ways of expressing it.
But returning to Haneke, the action-image which has strong sensory motor links gives way to an image of society that has far weaker ones. There are plenty conflictual scenes in Haneke's work, from the French-Arabic boys on the metro insulting Juliette Binoche in Code Inconnu to Daniel Auteuil caught in an argument with a young man on a bike in Cache, from the boys intruding on the family home in Funny Games and abusing the family, to a beating we witness at a distance in Happy End. But these are not conflicts that involve us in a desire to act, as we might hope the cop wriggles out of the rope holding him to the chair, or the Jews in the basement finding a way out of the farmhouse. In such situations, there is no symptom to be addressed, just a conflict to be resolved. Tarantino's skill is in making that conflict ambivalent (utilising charismatic villainy), but not to ask us what variables are available in the very situation. The image affirms itself; it doesn't call itself into question. When in Code Inconnu the boys spit on Binoche, nobody coming to her rescue will resolve the scenario set up, even if an older French/Arab man eventually intervenes. But he does so not heroically but ethically as if to shame the boys into recognising a heritage that indicates such values have nothing to do with those the boys are presently practicing. To have given the boys a good beating would not have been the answer; it wouldn't have done justice to the symptomatic problem Haneke seeks to address, one that concerns the conflict of interests in the social sphere when a comfortably off bourgeois woman finds herself harassed by a couple of obviously poorer teenagers. Haneke's camera remains aloof a long-take aesthetic that asks us to look on rather than engage and identify. In most of Haneke's films violence and aggression are not engaging but disengaging scenes we must mull over rather than figures with whom we identify. Tarantino might reduce the comfortably ensconced identification of many a film, but it is identification nevertheless a point he makes clear when he brilliantly creates a conflict of identificatory interest in Pulp Fiction. In the scene where Butch (Bruce Willis) returns home, the person he must kill as he comes out of the bathroom is Vince Vega (John Travolta) our ambivalent hero from earlier in the film. If Deleuze reckoned Hitchcock took the movement-image as far as it could go, then few filmmakers more than Tarantino have indicated it could go that little bit further. Post-modern irony allowed for a set of new possibilities without at all generating a new substance.
Haneke might be no less aware of the Hitchcockian than Tarantino happens to be, but while Tarantino insists on staying within the limits of the movement-image, retaining those Hitchcockian coordinates as post-modern play, in several of Haneke's films (in Funny Games, Cache and Benny's Video especially), he has found the means to generate the troubling thought rather than its easy confirmation. He manages to open his films up to the thought that forces us back onto our own contemplation rather than the film's diegetic elaborations and expectations. In Benny's Video, Haneke will take the famous problem in many a Hitchcock film of the transference of guilt and insist that this must be transferred beyond the limits of its diegesis. A teenager kills a girl on camera and the parents will go to great lengths to cover up the crime, determined to rescue the boy's appalling deed from the ruinous future that awaits him if he is found guilty. What is interesting is that this ruinous future isn't strictly incarceration, but more especially one of jeopardised middle-class entitlement that such an act shouldn't be expected to counter. Haneke is interested less in a guilty son and the suspenseful devices required to keep the authorities from finding out who did it; more in examining the assumptions that sit behind a modern bourgeois family. By the end, the question isn't at all whether Benny will be found out, but what questions the film has posed in its reflexive account of technology and the self. There is something very morbid indeed about Benny getting away from it all, as his mother takes him to Egypt while the father stays at home disposing of the body, but still taking with him the very video camera that recorded the murder. In Funny Games, we don't wonder at a certain point how the family will escape their captors, the film forces upon us instead the question of what happens when a gated community becomes a means of one's own entrapment. The reflexive rewound footage makes clear the family cannot escape the diegesis as Handke shows one of the intruders using the remote control to dictate the story after it seems the family has turned on their captors. No escape is possible even if the family appears to get revenge. The rewound footage indicates that Handke wants to destroy the diegetic contract and the audience's hope that the family will escape. In Cache, where again footage is rewound as we call into question the status of the images we are watching, it doesn't matter so much who is sending the tapes to Georges and his family; what counts is the lengths to which Georges is willing to practice denial. In all three films, the technology turns on itself, becomes a means by which to play with the viewer in an exercise in ostensible knowingness, but proves, finally, if anything the opposite: a reflexive exercise in the unknowable as Haneke cannot pretend to hold within his parameters a given epistemological position. "If one of Hitchcock's innovations was to implicate the spectator in the film, did not the characters themselves have to be capable of in a more or less obvious manner of being assimilated to spectators?" So Deleuze wonders, and we can see it in Rear Window, Vertigo and Psycho in different manifestations, but these remain within an embodied perspective. Who, at certain moments in Cache, is doing the looking becomes the question, one that queries within the diegesis who might be sending the tapes but finally goes beyond it as Handke asks us to implicate ourselves in the images he creates and the society out of which they come. Hitchcock's notion of guilt is transferred between the characters and implicates the viewer as spectator within the story. But Handke's notion of culpability broadens out beyond the film itself to ask the viewer how implicated they may be in the broader society out of which the story comes.
Though for various reasons both Bunuel and Bergman find themselves chiefly in Cinema 1 (Bergman receives no mention at all in the second book), we can contrast them with Ford and Penn to understand an aspect of the image generated by movement and an image motivated by time. Central to Bergman's presence in the first volume is that Deleuze is utilising C. S. Peirce's notion of firstness, secondness and thirdness loosely, immediacy of affect, conflictual possibilities and the nature of relations. From a certain point of view, Bergman tests the limits of firstness just as Hitchcock tests the limits of thirdness. In other words, if Hitchcock could show that what mattered was the relationship between things rather than the thing itself (hence the famous McGuffin where we don't really need to know what is on the microfilm; what matters is that everyone is chasing after it), he would nevertheless leave the viewer aware that what was on the microfilm didn't really matter as long as the plot details were worked out. In Bergman's work what matters is the immediacy of the experience not the abstract relations one of the most obvious reason for Bergman's intimacy versus Hitchcock's rational coolness.
Now central to firstness, and what Deleuze calls the affection-image is the close-up, as the philosopher traces it through silent and early sound cinema in the work of Griffith and Eisenstein, and sees how it works off either power or quality. From the point of view of a creative evolution, Griffith innovated within the close-up as a general procedure, while Eisenstein asked of it a new politics within the aesthetic. But Bergman more than most made the close-up a proper aesthetic possibility. If Griffith established the close-up as a means by which to identify more immediately with a character, Eisenstein insisted we comprehend a situation and thus could be deemed more analytical, objective and thoughtful. This would be Eisenstein's own take on the differences, even if Deleuze reckons the Russian's claims are too partial: that there are pensive, subjective moments in Eisenstein's Alexander Nevsky; there are intensive moments of wonderment in Griffith's Broken Blossoms. If we accept that the close-up is important to the development of cinema as a means by which to create a proximity theatre cannot generate, and that the early years of cinema didn't think necessary or that viewers might find confusing (a sudden shift in scale), then in Bergman's work the close-up takes on an aspect close to independence. After all, as Deleuze notes, "what compromises the integrity of the close-up in this respect is the idea that it presents to us a partial object, detached from a set or torn away from a set of which it would form a part." (Cinema 1) Deleuze quotes Bela Balazs who sees that the close-up isn't part of a whole but intelligible in itself. A close-up of a foot or a hand doesn't work in the same way as a face (part of Robert Bresson's genius is to force it to do so), and though Deleuze argues with Balazs on this point, this addresses nuances we needn't entertain for the moment.
What matters to us is how the close-up of the face works in Penn, Ford, Bunuel and Bergman how it shows the evolution of the close-up, on the one hand; how it indicates different functions on the other. In this sense, Ford is a continuation of Griffith, and in turn Penn an advancement on Ford. In Stagecoach, made in 1939, there is a scene where water is passed around the various passengers on the titular vehicle. Ford makes full use of the constrained, compact environment to work plenty of meaningfully emphatic close-ups that wouldn't quite have worked in medium shot. When one woman receives a cup full of water from a silver goblet she pauses for a moment after drinking from it and wonders if she has seen it before, in a particular house. The passenger who gives the cup to her says he doesn't know - he won it in a wager. When John Wayne's character Ringo insists the other woman on the coach (a 'fallen' woman) should get some water too, Dallas's (Claire Trevor's) face lights up and she plays a little with her hair, happy with the kind gesture and clearly attracted to Ringo. Beside her sits a dubious banker disapproving of the deed as he twitches in irritation. Passing the water to him he refuses it indignantly. These are all conventional close-ups of the period, yet also contained within a very 'realist' milieu as the shots are motivated by the narrow confines of the stagecoach. Later, when they are all staying elsewhere, the fallen woman has helped deliver a baby and the film offers a close-up of Ringo and Dallas that suggests a 'grammatical throwback': it is like the close-ups in silent cinema, indicating a feeling far more than it suggests a delineation of space. The shots don't quite cut together but there is little doubt that this is the moment the characters acknowledge a love they feel for each other. The Searchers, made almost twenty years later, is very far from silent cinema, but Ford still sometimes uses the close-up with a clear point and purpose. At one moment Wayne looks on as a woman who had been kidnapped by the Comanche Indians has clearly lost her mind. Ford offers a close-up of Wayne half in shade; half in light though obviously aware that what has happened to this woman may well have happened to the niece he is searching for and who was kidnapped by Indians too. Ford's close-ups are classically motivational and emotionally expressive they indicate what somebody feels and what they are likely to do with these feelings. It may be towards love or hate, desire or destruction, but Ford knows precisely what he expects a close-up to register and one can do worse than see Ford's form as exemplary from the point of view of the action-image as Deleuze clearly does when he says the world Ford offers "has become cosmic or epic the hero becomes equal to the milieu via the intermediary of the community..." (Cinema 1). They may of course then have to leave the community (as in The Searchers and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance) they have altered. Nevertheless, they are more than equal to it and heroic within it.
In Arthur Penn's work, it isn't just that Penn was working out of revisionist genres and in New Hollywood, it was also that he worked hard calling into question the Fordian close-up, generating more than most an evolution of the device without of course quite generating durational images out of their use. Commenting on Ford, Penn reckoned "John Ford is goddamned good...but he doesn't know anything about how to direct actors. He has them doing prototypical behaviour...you can predict every single piece of human behaviour." (The Film Director as Superstar) This would be Penn offering a variation of Deleuze's take on strong sensory motor links but while Penn is consistent with Kazan, in some ways a disciple, Ford retains strongly his link to Griffith in his use of types. If Ford's films are predictable in a classic sense, Penn's are unpredictable in a modern one. When Jack Crabb (Dustin Hoffman) starts his life as a gunfighter in Little Big Man it is the dude cowboy as fake, all dressed up in black but incapable of the mean look to accompany the image. He enters a bar and gets into conversation with Wild Bill Hickok (Jeff Corey) as Penn offers a shot/counter shot that allows Jack to register the magnitude of the name. His eyes dilate and he gulps on his Adam's Apple. He settles down for a drink with Hickok as the camera offers an amusing image of nonchalance (the camera allows a bold close-up of their heels as they put their feet up on the table) before a series of tense moments instigated by the slightest untoward noise. Eventually, a gunfight does kick-off as Hickok takes out a man who he sees going for his gun in the mirror, and the scene ends on an extreme close-up of Crabb lowering his head in horror. The scene is both comedic and horrific as Penn quickly knows how to turn the former into the latter, using the close-up to indicate the magnitude of the deed done. It is unpredictable but no less moral for that. Penn updates Fordian morality for the times, but it is an ethos nevertheless just a less predictable one.
A more famous example comes from Bonnie and Clyde after JW parks brilliantly but incompetently. He manages to squeeze the vehicle into a very tight space but this is also the getaway car, so when it comes to working his way out of the tight corner he parks in we amusingly see him struggling to pull out. Eventually, he does so but in the process, the bank manager has exited the building and jumps on the car a close-up on Clyde (Warren Beatty) looking frightened and determined leads to him shooting the manager in the face through the glass, the window is shattered and the man's face a blood-spattered mess. Penn uses the close-up as a means by which to access the two poles of power and quality in Deleuze's formulation but in a very original way. The emphasis is on fear that might indicate passivity but activated for the purposes of violence. It is partly what makes Penn's films unpredictably violent that he takes the close-up to a place that doesn't first and foremost indicate power and prowess (this is partly why we can see Tarantino as regressive within his reflexivity: what Penn says of Ford could also be said of Tarantino) but fear and neurosis. After all, Clyde isn't "much of a lover boy" and though Penn is rightly suspicious of symbols, he nevertheless gives to events their symptomatic import. When Penn says, he tries to avoid symbolism he also admits "symbols are implicit. They jump out at you even when you haven't consciously set them up. It can happen merely through the arrangements of scenes or the placement of actors or props in the editing process." (The Film Director as Superstar) Ergo, when a character acknowledges impotence and the film registers violence, there is a reasonable assumption that we will draw a link between the two. But we should be wary of seeing symbolism (a clear link between act and abstraction) and instead see no more than symptomization (a creation of a filmic world that acknowledges how an impotent man might find release through violence). The close-up for Penn doesn't symbolise behaviour, it symptomises societal and cultural problems that the film tries to capture. When we see Gene Hackman's face in close-up at the end of Night Moves we are witnessing frustration, anxiety and futility, a sense in which the close-up cannot contain resolution but instead uncertainty and despair. As the film concludes on cuts to Hackman's bloodied visage, after a convoluted plot has led him out into the middle of the ocean, so the film cuts back to extreme long shots of the boat tiny within the frame. The individual and the social cannot work in conjunction Penn seems to be saying, with man lost to designs greater than he happens to be able to dictate. As he would say when asked if Night Moves was a personal film: "yeah, and, you know, I had worked with both Kennedys. I had served as a TV advisor to Jack Kennedy's campaign, During the Nixon-Kennedy debates we were in the Kennedy camp using the medium in a way we thought made for a better presentation." Penn adds, "it was personal in that respect, but it's also despairing in that I just felt "Oh God, this country..." I mean, those assassinations - Jack Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr - were just crushing to people who'd been involved in those movements. I'd been involved in the Civil Rights Movement up to my ears." (Cineaste) It might seem a big claim linking the despondency at the end of Night Moves to the Civil Rights movement but all we would wish to say is that Penn's aesthetic cannot incorporate progress within its form as he ends not at all on the triumphant close-up but a horribly lost long-shot. Hackman's close-ups don't register comprehension, a world it has the measure of as we see in the typical forties detective played by Bogart, but instead the collapse of value. As Deleuze says, "the criminal conspiracy, as organisations of Power, was to take on a new aspect in the modern world, that the cinema would endeavour to follow and show." (Cinema 1)
To simplify Deleuze's ideas on power and quality we might note that if Quality can register a feeling (from Glenda Jackson's hard, resistant rigidity in Women in Love) and Power indicate a force (Orson Welles' face in Citizen Kane), how does a film create in the close-up an evolutionary dimension that acknowledges the face can no longer stand firm (Hackman's collapse), and that power is no longer registered in the close-up of a singular authority, but lost in the most distant of long-shots? It is no surprise that the assassination or its attempt was so frequently evident in New Hollywood (The Parallax View, Nashville, Taxi Driver, Network) a combination of technology meeting the political, indeed where the technology allowed for the political and back again. (The president between 1974 and 1977 was the now little known Gerald Ford, who survived not just one but two assassination attempts. John F. Kennedy's assassination was a 'long shot' (the assassin using a sniper rifle) and in turn the telephoto lens can become the means to show the inadequacy of the close-up: the idea that quality and power can reside in the face. When Griffith built on the close-up, when Ford adopted it in turn, they could believe the close-up was the manifestation of American selfhood in the face. Penn cannot. Yet Penn is still in this tradition, still making films that continue the search for meaning through the violent. Penn is well aware of its limitations but his films push the manifest destiny of the American way of life (individuality, the rule of the gun and the vastness of the country) into the meaningless. He turns the close-up against itself so that it has neither quality nor power.
In Bergman and Bunuel by contrast, the close-up does take on a new substance, even if Bergman makes it the core of his work while for Bunuel it remains very subsidiary. Deleuze is of course right to note that "ordinarily, three roles of the face are recognisable: it is individuating (it distinguishes or characterises each person); it is socialising (it manifests a social role); it is relational or communicating (it ensures not only communication between two people, but also, in a single person, the internal agreement between his character and his role." (Cinema 1) In Bergman's work, Deleuze notes, it loses these three elements as he reckons there is no longer a close up of the face; the close up is the face. The space surrounding it is often obliterated or at the very least secondary. Deleuze gives as the most obvious example of this, Persona: "the faces converge, borrow their memories from each other and tend to become mixed up. It is fruitless to wonder, in Persona, if these are two people [the nurse and the actress] who resembled each other before, or who begin to resemble each other, or on the contrary a single person who splits in two." (Cinema 1). But obviously the problem plays out in various manifestations in other films as well, this sense that the face is capable of losing its individuality. In The Silence, when one of the sisters, Anna (Gunnell Lindblom), goes out, after they've exchanged a few angry words in this mainly dialogue free film, the camera moves in on Ester (Ingrid Thulin) as her face expresses what may be rage but could also be collapse. It is a face that expresses affect but does not register feeling, a face that indicates enormous internal tension but would be unable to put that tension into words. Bergman often sees in the face the internal conflict that is there partly due to the external conflict of demanding others cohabit our psychic spaces. When Anna says "to think I've been afraid of you" it could be a line in many a Bergman film, the sense in which one person occupies the mind of another and that the face is the manner of registering that mental occupation. This seems subtly different from a preoccupation which indicates a fascination without segueing into obsession or collapse. A preoccupation can use the general film vocabulary as it acknowledges the external nature of the enquiry evident so often in voyeuristic films that can move between the close-up and the long lens, from Rear Window to Monsieur Hire. But mental occupation cannot be countenanced by closing the gap between one person and another; that gap is usually already too small.
In The Passion of Anna, it is as though all four leading characters are trying to impose themselves on others as if in fear others will impose themselves upon them. What might seem like an opening up of the soul can often in fact be the swallowing up of someone else's. Bergman is very aware of an egotism that isn't about social hierarchies and positioning (authority has little place in his work as a given) but as a porous weakness in the self that can be colonised suddenly and inexplicably. In The Passion of Anna, there is a scene when Anna (Liv Ullmann) talks about her marriage and the car crash that killed her husband and son. The film shows us the burgeoning couple, Andreas (Max von Sydow) and Anna, walking in long-shot as the voiceover tells us that she talked about her marriage, then cuts to a close-up of Anna doing just that. At no stage does the film cut back to Andreas: Bergman holds to the close-up throughout. After she talks, the film shows us the letter that Andreas had earlier surreptitiously read a letter from Anna's late husband where he talked of physical and psychological violence. Is Anna in this scene opening up, or opening up another in the process of speaking? Bergman takes the Catholic notion that the flesh is weak and turns it into a Protestant claim that it is the mind which is not strong. How to show that weakness but in the close up of the face to show how vampirically one mind can draw sustenance from the other and leave the other in a state of desolation? When Ingmar Bergman talked about working with Ingrid Bergman he said he had always found her attractive but this "had nothing to do with her body, but in the relationship between her mouth, her skin and her eyes" (Ingrid Bergman: My Story), as though what draws us in is always a question of the visage. What Bergman insists upon is giving substance to the face, making of it a new type of image that is consistent with the movement-image, from the point of view of Peirce's firstness, but, like so many filmmakers Deleuze invokes in the first book (Bresson, Rohmer, Bunuel, Pasolini and Dreyer), where the invocation of time and the new substance of the cinema is frequent.
Yet how does this work with Bunuel? Deleuze also sees the Spanish director in the context of the affect, but while for Bergman it need never extend into action, Deleuze sees Bunuel as an important example of naturalism in cinema, exploring his significance as a director of the affect extending into action but of a particular sort. "He injects the power of repetition into the cinematographic image." (Cinema 1) One can see both fetishism and failure often in Bunuel's work the need to turn a detail into immense value and the repetition that comes from it. In The Life of Archibald de la Cruz, the title character explains, to a nun he is about to kill, that his mother was shot dead and he felt responsible for it as the flashback closes in on the mother's corpse, her skirt ridden up and her stockings and suspenders on show. It is a typical Bunuel close-up very distinct from Bergman's. If Bergman could say of Ingrid that it was her face that was the object of desire, in Bunuel it is almost always legs and feet. Whether the foot obsession in Diary of a Chambermaid, the wooden leg in Tristana or the feet of the central character's future wife at the beginning of El, Bunuel sees the close-up as an occasional device that registers the need not for exploration but for repetition. The fetish must be reiterated no matter the damage it might do to the practitioner. Bunuel's camera style can sometimes be close to Hitchcock's but for very different ends. As the camera moves from the central character looking on to his future wife's feet in El, so the camera lingers for a moment on those feet before travelling up the legs and showing us her face. In Hitchcock this might be a late moment of plot revelation; in Bunuel it is an early moment of character revelation one notices that our central character is indeed a fetishist. While Bergman's close-ups annihilate the face, leading to an identificatory collapse literally in the face of another, in Bunuel the close-up turns the other into synecdoche, showing the person not as the sum total of their being but instead turns them into a partial object of contemplation.
In The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeosie, Bunuel indicates it is a class problem as well as an individual fixation, with the director showing a certain type of commodity fetishism at work. As in the earlier The Criminal Life of Archibald de la Cruz and El, Bunuel's approach to the close-up is mobile: he often doesn't cut to the close-up but mobilises the camera towards it. We can think of the camera moving into the chauffeur drinking the dry martini in one go in The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, or the way the camera pushes towards a bone china object on the sideboard, with ornamental bone china fruit on either side, in the same film. There happens to be a gun inside the object but Bunuel films it so that we see the wealth as readily as the gun. Such a shot wouldn't be out of place in Hitchcock's work, but in Hitchcock, the gun would be the thing; in Bunuel it is more the objects that surround the object of suspense, not the suspenseful object. His close-ups usually inform us of the socio-political situation; they rarely indicate plot. Deleuze says that, "the impulse must be exhaustive. It is not even sufficient to say that the impulse contents itself with what a milieu gives it or leaves to it. This contentment is not resignation, but a great joy in which the impulse rediscovers its power of choice since it is, at the deepest level, the desire to change milieu, to seek a new milieu to explore, to dislocate, enjoying all the more what this milieu offers, however low, repulsive or disgusting it may be." (Cinema 1) While in Hitchcock the characters are often curious figures caught in a situation that they must alter (the niece discovering her uncle is a murderer in Shadow of a Doubt, the wife discovering her husband in Notorious is a Nazi, The Wrong Man in the film of that name trying to prove his innocence), Bunuel's are often incurious (exemplified in That Obscure Object of Desire where the character cannot distinguish between the physical differences of Conchita as two distinct actresses play the one role) with habit and fetish ruling unless an impulse breaks in. Bunuel's often darting camera, moving from a medium-shot to a close-up, is an elegant yet troublesome movement that captures this impulse well. What we see in Bergman and Bunuel are two very different ways of utilising the close-up, giving to it the property of a new substance.
One of the ways in which new substances are made is by reacting to three assumptions of the film image: that it is based on recorded reality, that it is a narrational form and that it resembles a language. If images aren't properties of the cinema but of the world, if our brain is constantly witnessing images and then giving them shape or being shaped by them, then there is no reason why we should fall into accepted patterns when we can constantly create new permutations. This is one of the reasons why Deleuze isn't interested in depth, in trying to understand what a film means by unravelling its inner workings, its deeper mythological or symbolic structures, but instead insists on seeing film generating new and constant possibilities. Thus in utilising Bergson he talks about the interval: "and the brain is nothing but this an interval, a gap between an action and a reaction, the brain is certainly not a centre of images from which one could begin, but itself constitutes a centre of indetermination in the accented universe of images." (Cinema 1) It is partly why Bergson can talk about memory not being in us but we being in memory. The point isn't that we store memories, but that the world is made up of images that we access in the process of the interval, creating new perceptual aggregates. To do otherwise is to fall into convention or cliche. These are not the same thing but the latter might be exhausted examples of the former. The convention that works for Ford can no longer work for Penn, so the choice opens up between replenishing the image or finding oneself in the cliched image. Central to the revisionist cinema of the seventies was the complicated process of finding ways to renew the convention, well aware that the cliche threatened. We have seen that Penn did so on Ford's terms admirers of Ford could easily also be admirers of Penn, seeing in the latter's films a renewal of the earlier work. But Bergman and Bunuel create a new substance for the image, a new set of possibilities. Though we have shown that, from a certain point of view, Bunuel's camera moves a little like Hitchcock's, it would be absurd to suggest that Bunuel is in the tradition of Hitchcock or is indebted to him (not least because they were more or less the same age and both started in silent cinema). If Penn is a much more interesting filmmaker than Brian De Palma it rests on Penn's capacity to draw on filmmakers like Ford without at all aping them, while the often formally brilliant De Palma works frequently as a reflexive version of Hitchcock, making the conventions he utilises escape cliche chiefly through knowingness. The substance isn't remotely accessed and the renewal is minimal.
Deleuze puts both Welles and Resnais under the time-image and next to each other as he discusses peaks of present and sheets of past, but he also says that while "Resnais is perhaps closest to Welles, his most independent and creative disciple" he "transforms the whole problem...and it is in relation to this fixed point that all the strata or sheets of past coexist and confront each other. Now the first novelty of Resnais is the disappearance of the centre or fixed point." (Cinema 2) From our perspective (though not necessarily Deleuze's), Welles is a filmmaker a little like Hitchcock who remains within the coordinates of a classical image of cinema without quite laying ruin to it and demanding a new substance. When in Citizen Kane we have numerous angles on who Kane happened to be, it isn't important that everyone agrees with each other but is of import that the film doesn't create a maddening ambiguity in the process. We have the montage sequence, the person investigating and finally the sled all grounding us in an enigmatic man, one who nevertheless needn't make very enigmatic the narrative of which he happens to be a part. In Lady from Shanghai, the film concludes with us in little doubt about the roles the characters are playing within the film manipulative femme fatale, fall guy and rich, jealous husband. It could be argued that later works including The Trial, The Immortal Story and F for Fake generate greater epistemological problems, and they are no doubt much more 'European' works, but Welles' most emblematic films remain Citizen Kane, The Magnificent Ambersons, The Lady from Shanghai and Touch of Evil; Resnais' Hiroshima mon amour, Last Year at Marienbad, Muriel and J'taime, J'taime, and the less often discussed My American Uncle, rather than On Connait la Chanson, Smoking/No Smoking and Not on the Lips, where ambiguity became less prevalent. In other words, Resnais's most important films, versus Welles's, represent more clearly the different substance that Deleuze discusses, which indicates Welles, like Hitchcock, was still interested in fixed points, and thus would often work within, but pushing beyond, the confines of the movement-image. Yet while for Hitchcock such containment that was being tested often relied on the question of space, in Welles it was more a question of time, and hence one of the reasons why it would make sense to see Welles as a filmmaker very close to Resnais. No matter the temporal complexity of Vertigo, so well explored by Chris Marker in Projections, Hitchcock is usually a geometric director of problem-solving present tense situations. There are of course flashbacks in one form or another in various Hitchcock films (Spellbound, Marnie and Stagefright) but they usually further the story rather than explore the past. In Citizen Kane, Magnificent Ambersons and The Immortal Story the past is the story, with Welles interested in the irony of temporal tragedy rather than dramatic resolution. As Deleuze says, "if montage...remains the cinematographic act par excellence in Welles it none the less changes its meaning: instead of producing an indirect image of time on the basis of movement, it will organise the order of non-chronological coexistences or relations in the direct-time image." (Cinema 2) Time becomes a property in Welles' work while we could say it usually remains a function in Hitchock's, just as it becomes a substance in Resnais's. There isn't a plot to be worked out in Citizen Kane, Magnificent Amberson's and The Immortal Story, and even when there is (in The Lady from Shanghai and Touch of Evil for example) it is as though Welles is more interested in the baroque nature of time than the problems of plot as if Welles borrowed from the serpentine narrative that was forties film noir for his own ends. In one scene on the yacht in The Lady from Shanghai, Welles constantly offers tilted angles, tight close-ups and odd camera positioning as the crippled villain Arthur Bannister tries to persuade Welles' Mike to become his employee. Mike is interested in Arthur's wife not his money, but Arthur explains how important money happens to be, talking about people he managed to best because of the cash, and those he has helped. Speaking of the maid who serves them, he says: "Her salary means happiness. It means a home. Three rooms for two families. Bessie is a grandmother and a widow, and only one of the sons is working..." Bannister adds that Bessie prays to God that she will never be too old to earn the salary Bannister pays her. Instead of closing in on Bessie, Welles' camera glides over Bannister's wife Elsa, a woman who may also have a problem with age when might she be too old for Bannister, who is already too old for her? Obviously, vital to the scene is Welles' ongoing fascination with power, but there is also in the baroque images Welles adopts the entanglements of time as Bannister tells the proud Mike to come around in five years and see me as he suggests Mike will be begging for work. Time matters in Welles' films and the baroque approach to the form often generates a time that is very different from the immediacy of a problem solved, or a situation dealt with. In Citizen Kane, we don't just have flashbacks, we have the precariousness of their positioning. When the journalist interviews Kane's once good friend, Jedediah Leland (Joseph Cotten playing old and doddery) the film gives us a couple of minutes where Leland rambles on and looks like he might become a very unreliable narrator indeed. Time has worked on him as he becomes an old man, and in turn we may wonder how much time has disintegrated the reliability of his memory too. Welles doesn't so much ease his way into the flashback as preface it with digressions and hesitations from Leland that makes us wonder where indeed the story can be found in time past.
Yet these images have enough coordinates to make us question Leland's reliability without calling into question the film's, without indicating that Welles cannot access the entire story if he so wished, even if he can't access the private thoughts and feelings of all his characters. Time is a problem for understanding Kane but it isn't a problem in understanding the film, and we can usefully quote Marie Claire-Ropars: "...The language of Resnais, Varda or Rouch - like that before it of Jacques Tati or Robert Bresson - is situated on a plane which is not drama, beyond action or event. Hiroshima's characters neither meet nor part, nor do they worry much about it; Resnais has himself said that he systematically cut, during the film's editing, anything that smacked of anecdote, so as to leave only detail. Ropars quotes Agnes Varda: "I don't like telling stories', says Varda, 'but rather what takes place between the key moments of a story; that's what Antonioni does with his weak times. I'd like to deepen those moments where we expect nothing - moments that reveal themselves to be more touching than all the rest. Claire-Ropars adds, "Weak times, dead times; the important thing is between acts', what is drawn out right across time and remains incomplete - like this interminable parting in Hiroshima, these sixteen hours of time to kill, during which the man and woman wander through the city - waiting room, tea room, river's edge - leaving and refinding each other without us ever knowing the why or wherefore of these moments..." Ropars concludes: "Neither La pointe courte nor (especially) Hiroshima mon amour tell a story; they chiefly show two characters, in each instance, invaded by a time and space that isn't quite theirs, overcome by a world which is no longer that of a classically-oriented drama, but generates disorientation, a form of drama which is integrated with man (and woman) in order to disintegrate him." (Rouge) Thus when Deleuze says, speaking of Antonioni, Godard and others: "is this the reason why modern cinema has such need for neurotic characters: to sustain the free indirect discourse...", to indicate that the stories told are so close to the characters that no clear distance, no objective story, can be extracted from them? In this sense, Citizen Kane is still consistent with the coordinates of classic cinema. It may be telling much more than a story, but its telling doesn't create problems in the telling, only in the ambiguity of Kane. What Ropars suggests is that when the emphasis becomes so clearly on space and time, rather than character and story, the substance changes. It may help explain Varda's remarks about the difficulties she often has talking to American filmmakers. "I have not seen a woman director in American I could speak to that I could speak to as I can speak to European woman directors..." (Agnes Varda Interviews)
But our interest for the moment is Resnais rather than Varda, and how he differs from Welles. If power is a vital question in Welles' work, and one that can still allow often for the coordinates of heroism and villainy to show itself in the material (both Bannister in The Lady from Shanghai and Quinlan in Touch of Evil are great baddies), Resnais's films don't allow for the fixity of character or situation to generate such certitude. Resnais' films are concerned with something much more nebulous than power: the nature of memory, its properly unreliable workings, and the difficulty of its accessing. More especially this theme falls under a problem with the brain, with Deleuze noting that "...memory is clearly no longer the faculty of having recollections: it is the membrane which, in its most varied ways (continuity, but also discontinuity, envelopment etc.), makes sheets of past and layers of reality correspond, the first emanating from an inside which is always already there, the second arriving from an outside always to come the two gnawing at the present which is now only their encounter. (Cinema 2) Deleuze sees Resnais' project as no less important than that carried out by Proust or Bergson. And we can see how if we think of this passage in Matter and Memory: "the afferent nerves bring to the brain a disturbance, which, after having intelligently chosen its path, transmits itself to motor mechanisms created by repetition. Thus is ensured the appropriate reaction, the correspondence to environment adaptation, in a word - which is the general aim of life." Bergson notes that a living being needs no more than this, but at the same time "this process of perception and adaptation which ends in the record of the past in the form of motor habits, consciousness as we have seen, retains the image of the situations through which it has successively traveled, and lays them side by side in the order in which they took place." Bergson talks here of their useful combination (which is one way of looking at narratively focused cinema), but what would their 'useless' combination look like? A bit like a Resnais film if we think of both Hiroshima mon amour and Last Year at Marienbad, but also his most obviously Bergsonian film, the later My American Uncle. In Hiroshima mon amour it is as though far more of central character Elle's (Emmanuelle Riva) mind is in the past than in the present, acting on memory more than on present stimuli. It can give to her movements an indecisiveness and her voice a far-away aspect that leaves the present weak. Yet still the past, while weak, remains assured in its pastness. When Elle starts recalling her experiences during the war to her Japanese lover, we might wonder how much this is based on the intricacies of memory rather than actualised past given film form by Resnais' use of properly flash-backing flashbacks but in Last Year at Marienbad the tenses commingle in a chaotic incomprehension that obliterates motor memory. The past, present and future become entangled as the story refuses to separate out clearly the sheets of past and the peaks of present. One scene shows us the man telling the woman he insists he met last year at Marienbad about various events and the camera pans to the left, away from the couple and towards others, before picking up the man in the same shot as he now looks on at the woman who is standing on a balcony. Sheets of past and peaks of present aren't distinguishable as they are in Citizen Kane. When in Welles' film the reporter Jerry Thompson starts investigating the life of Charles Foster Kane, the film cleverly moves from the white page to the white snow of the boarding house as the film details the roots of Charlie's wealth and also his alienation. The peek of the present becomes a clear sheet of past as the sheet of paper becomes a sheet of snow. Welles shows his mastery, as metaphor is skilfully deployed all the better to move us from one-time frame to another. But the image remains coherent; time is fractured but it isn't quite out of joint and Welles remains a key figure for filmmakers interested in virtuosity without ambiguity. When Kubrick shows the bone thrown up in the air and cuts to the spaceship in 2001, this is the opposite of Welles as Kubrick moves from the past into the future, but its virtuosity rests on the certitude of the gesture. Though Resnais' camera movement could also be seen as influential on the work of Angelopoulos, Garrel and even Antonioni (the way the camera shifts between the present and into the past in one shot as Locke listens to the tapes with Robertson in The Passenger), we might say this is less about certitude than doubt. Taking off from Resnais these other filmmakers determine to unsettle us, Welles and Kubrick brilliantly settle us. Other famous examples in the wake of Welles' film include A Canterbury Tale as a bird becomes a plane, and of course we can think of Cary Grant hoisting Eve Marie Saint up from Mt Rushmore, and the cut is matched as he pulls her onto the train bunk in North by Northwest. There seems to be a substantial difference between the shots in Resnais and Antonioni, images that justify Deleuze's claim about a new substance to the image. Welles, Kubrick and Hitchcock (and indeed Powell and Pressburger), are very important filmmakers, no less great than Resnais and Antonioni, but while they might suggest the possibilities in a new type of image they don't quite generate that new image itself.
One can see this question as very confusing, and though nobody more than Deleuze has done so complete a job of classifying the film image to understand an aspect of this problem, the problem remains. After all, Welles (and Kubrick) very understandably find themselves in Cinema 2. How could they not when Deleuze says of Welles's importance to this new image: it all begins with Citizen Kane", or when he sees Kubrick as no less important a director of the brain than Resnais: "for in Kubrick, the world itself is a brain, there is identity of brain and world, as in the great circular and luminous table in Dr Strangelove, the giant computer in 2001: A Space Odyssey, the Overlook Hotel in The Shining." But we may see in Welles and Kubrick, if in quite different ways from Hitchcock, a need to threaten a break with the sensory-motor system but retaining a strong link with it. In Welles these are the fixed centres Deleuze invokes; in Kubrick, it is the genres that he consistently works out of and transforms without destroying: the war movie (Paths of Glory and Full Metal Jacket), the sci fi (2001 and A Clockwork Orange), the horror film in The Shining. We can say of Kubrick's relationship with genre that it isn't the stories which genre generates that interest him but the boundaries a genre can create and out of which he can work. Our point here though isn't chiefly to talk about Kubrick but Resnais, and chiefly show how Resnais differentiates from Welles, if also, in turn, Hitchcock and Kubrick. Things are not easy to disentangle. This is where it is very useful to draw on one of Resnais' most underrated films and yet the work one may wish to look at to understand the distance between Resnais and other filmmakers who remain within the substance of the sensory-motor system: My American Uncle. In this film that works through the ideas of biologist Henri Laborit, Resnais places Laborit within the context of a fictional film that keeps accumulating modes of being as it also attends to the root source of our existence. It follows three characters (played by Gerard Depardieu, Nicole Garcia and Roger Pierre), who are in turn influenced by three stars they grew up watching (Jean Gabin, Jean Marais and Danielle Darrieux), and who are all outgrowths of mineral life in an opening that shows the evolution of existence from mineral to plant to animal. My American Uncle might be a more accessible film, in common parlance, than Last Year at Marienbad, but it is also more accessible than almost any film before it in laying out and identifying the stratum of selfhood in myriad manifestations. Deleuze notes that "Resnais goes beyond characters toward feelings, and beyond feelings towards the thought of which they are the characters." (Cinema 2) It is an odd idea: the thought of which they are the characters but entirely consistent with Resnais' work and no film more so than My American Uncle. When Deleuze talks about this new substance of the image then such formulations make sense. Characters don't so much think as thought thinks character, that thought often starts when automatic memory fails or opens up to circuits far beyond its own limited capacity. If in Last Year at Marienbad and in Hiroshima mon amour Resnais wonders how memory fails or incapacitates, how for example Elle wonders around in the present while her body language indicates her simultaneously in her mind nervously attached to the past in Nevers, then in My American Uncle the circuit is opened up not only or especially to the past that invades the present and vice versa, but the widest circuit available. "Rene Predal has shown the extent to which Auschwitz and Hiroshima remained the horizon of all Resnais' work..." (Cinema 2) but this horizon also contains the circuitry from brain cells to power cables. The film introduces Laborit to us through a series of photographs as married with five kids, a decorated veteran of WWII, and an author of books on biology of behaviour, as the film then cuts to Laborit who refers to himself in a decidedly modest third person, saying he has adapted well to the culture in which he is situated and has been well rewarded and that he uses the gas and electricity of the nation, which shows his patriotism. Laborit offers here less false modesty than the self's contextualisation: he has adapted well to his environment as the film will go on to explore characters who try to adapt in turn. But while many a film shows adaptation (indeed a vital component to the action-image), very few show what that means in the broadest possible context. If Elle in Hiroshima mon amour struggles to adapt after WWII in the wake of a Nazi occupation in which she could be seen as complicit (falling for a German soldier) and faces that failure years later in a city, Hiroshima, which suffered terribly from the bombing, then in My American Uncle the circuits are greatly widened as Resnais illustrates how people can and cannot adapt to circumstances according to their nature, human nature, and the environment. Resnais is a great director of the new substance of cinema because he constitutes being from a decentred aspect that then allows story to fall into it. Welles, like Kubrick, even if the latter pushes it into indeterminacy and never more than in 2001, usually insists that the centre must hold.
There have been various writers including John Orr, Anna Powell and David Martin-Jones who have seen the time-image in films that would seem to us far removed from Deleuze's account of what it happens to be. But perhaps this is because Deleuze's account is quite tortuous as we find numerous examples of what from most perspectives might seem movement-images in Cinema 1 and time-images in Cinema 2 and vice-versa. While few will doubt that Fellini's films invoke the problem of time, others might see Max Ophuls' work (set next to Fellini's in Cinema 2) clearly working within more conventional models of temporality: that they don't generate a crisis. There seems to be an enormous difference between Tarkovsky's Mirror, Zanussi's Illumination, and Ophuls' Madame de and Lola Montez, but all four fall under not only the time-image but more specifically still 'the crystals of time'. Here "the crystal is expression. Expression moves from the mirrors to the seed. It is the same circuit which passes through three figures, the actual and the virtual, the limpid and the opaque, the seed and the environment." (Cinema 2) Yet it would seem to us that many a crystal image easily gets absorbed back into the given substance of cinema that is still generally practiced, and then there are films like Mirror, Illumination and Herzog's Heart of Glass that do not. However, Deleuze grounds deeply his distinctions, a paradoxical situation where the reasons for inclusion are very strong but that at the same time can seem to create conceptual disarray. Yet Orr, Powell and Martin-Jones don't move towards clarifying that confusion, they greatly exacerbate it. Orr sees Almodovar's Live Flesh and Bryan Singer's The Usual Suspects as examples of the time-image, seeing in the latter a 'powers of the false' and in the former a crystalline time-image. (The Art and Politics of Film) Powell discusses Donnie Darko, saying "in applying Deleuze's power of the false to Donnie Darko, I am conscious that, in its movement-image generic components, the film lacks both the stylistic sophistication and the overt philosophical complexity of my earlier examples of crystalline description" (Deleuze, Altered States and Film) like Heart of Glass. Martin-Jones in Deleuze, Cinema and National Identity includes Sliding Doors and Memento. None of the writers is simply naive in their claims it is just that we are reminded how much Deleuze's film books are works of taste in a very deep sense of the term. One can argue in a Deleuzian manner the films might be deemed time-images but it's as if the argument could be made but the aesthetic properties of the films somehow ignored. Martin-Jones may say "thus, in Sliding Doors, we see how the moment image's plane of organisation takes the both/and of the time-image and reterritorializes it into an either/or, along with the labyrinthine possibilities for national identity that it could conceivably enable." (Deleuze, Cinema and National Identity) But that seems an application of sociological justification on top of a film that creates no more than a narrative gimmick in its either/or story based on someone catching or missing a metro. Compared to Kieslowski's similar Blind Chance, the film feels narratively plotted rather than metaphysically thought through.
At least Almodovar seems to us to test the limits of conventional form rather than taking advantage of it for the most minor of affects. We may say the same of David Fincher as we conclude by contrasting the two filmmakers with Sokurov and Bela Tarr, while also looping back in time to indicate just how important Antonioni and others have been in creating a new substance to film that the former pair remain wary of and that the latter pair absorb. Ostensibly, Fight Club might seem a far more original and temporally challenging work than Zodiac, but while Fight Club insists on playing havoc with our sense of perception, Zodiac is more likely to test our patience. Yet testing our patience can sometimes be much more demanding than a film that manipulates our perceptual faculties. If narrative cinema wants to test us it can do so by leading us by the nose or by allowing us to follow our own. In this sense Fight Club speeds everything up, Zodiac slows everything down. In the former film, Fincher fools us into believing that the narrator (Edward Norton) and Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) are distinct individuals, as the daring Tyler involves the narrator in increasingly dangerous and eventually terroristic activities only for us to discover that Tyler is a figment of the narrator's imagination. If the narrator's mind is playing tricks with his mind, Fincher wants to play tricks on us too. The idea of the unexpected ending (Seven) or the manipulative use of narrative reversal (The Game, Gone Girl), suggests Fincher's strength is seeing cinema as a mode that tells us what to think, and then tells us to think the opposite. However, just because a film asks us to think again, to think differently from what we initially thought, that doesn't mean the film makes us think. It just means the film is doing our thinking, and then our counter-thinking for us. Indeed what counts in Fight Club is not so much the thinking we can do but the attitude that we can share. In one scene the narrator details the job he does as a 'recaller'. We see him looking at a car completely destroyed; all its passengers dead, and hear that the teenager's braces are wrapped around the rear seat ashtray as someone says it might make a good anti-smoking ad. We are also told the father must have been huge as someone points out how the fat's burnt to the clothes and the polyester seat. "Very modern art" someone says as the characters' cynicism would seem to meet the film's. Fincher shows us a close up of the seat which gives credence to the comment. It does look like modern art. At a stretch, one could claim Fight Club tests our humanity but it seems more to allow us to assume an identity to play hyper-cool in the face of the gruesome and grotesque. We know what to think even if the film tells us at the end that we have been misled. Plot-wise, the film has told us we have been wrong believing the narrator and Durden are different people, but attitudinally we have been right as long as we go along with the tone of wry cynicism we have been on track.
Zodiac doesn't ask for such a response and the case the film bases itself on was never solved, a series of killings in the seventies. While Fight Club asks for a knowing response to the events, Zodiac instead generates an ever-increasing paranoiac permeation, leaving us wondering not only who the killer might be but also at what moment violence might strike. Yet this isn't the punctuated killing of Fincher's earlier serial killer film Seven, but a permeative sense that violence leaks into the mise en scene so that even innocuous moments can be full of dread as the case impacts emotionally on all three of the film's leads: Mark Ruffalo, Jake Gyllenhaal and Robert Downey Jr. A scene can turn from one about asking questions of a witness to wondering suddenly whether the person interviewed may be the killer. There is a scene when journalist Gyllenaal speaks to someone about the person Gyllenhaal suspects to be the murderer, and the man reveals quite openly that he always did the posters and not the man he is being quizzed about. Gyllenhaal's nerves become fraught as he feels his life endangered. The man insists Gyllenhaal checks out the basement with him and there Gyllenhaal goes, no longer so interested in what the man has to say, but chiefly worried about what the man might do. Nothing happens as Gyllenhaal gets out of the house safely, but when he returns home he finds his family is missing, only to discover his wife has taken the kids to her mother's. The film could be working here with cheap suspense as it shows Gyllenhaal frightened all the better to put the frighteners on the audience, but the point isn't to offer punctuated false suspense as in many a generic horror, but to indicate that the fear has permeated Gyllenhaal himself. As the film plays up the darkness of the basement, the light and shadow as Gyllenhaal wonders if the man might be the murderer, as Gyllenhaal takes off up the basement stairs and goes to the front door only to find it locked, and as the man appears as we first see him in the mirror when he approaches Gyllenhaal, so the film generates a tension that pushes the conventions of narrative to its outer limit. Fincher plays with narrative in Fight Club, but he attenuates it in Zodiac, finding in narrative suspense a deeper value when it invades the bodies of those investigating the murders. We sense it will be a very long time before Gyllenhaal will get the story out of his system, as if there are stories that cannot be confined to their narrational boundaries.
Almodovar also of course often plays with narrative, seeing in it post-modern possibilities of regeneration, taking the thriller, the family melodrama (All About My Mother), the historical melodrama (Volver), the hospital melodrama (Talk to Her), the horror film (The Skin I Live In), the prison drama (Live Flesh) and the mystery (Julietta) and making them his own: hence the term Almodorama to describe his serpentine, semi-ironic narratives. In Volver, there is a scene shortly after Penelope Cruz has killed with a knife her abusive husband and someone knocks on the door. As they talk he notices that she has a bit of blood on her neck and she replies it just happens to be women's troubles. It is an absurd moment playing up the ignorance of men towards women's menstruation, the fact that her dead husband is indeed now a woman's problem, and that Almodovar is working in a 'permissive' period, so to speak, where such things can be talked about in film. Almodovar's is a cinema of the explicit rather than the implicit, and so he has no interest in generating a new substance in film except in its most vulgar components. Periods, bowel movements and ejaculations are all evident in Almodovar's work and his purpose is to find the ways and means to incorporate real life and real feeling into artificial environments and exaggerated stories. In one scene in Volver we see Carmen Maura getting emotional watching Visconti's Belissima on TV as the director isn't afraid of saying that his films are made up of other films, with Penelope Cruz's character a little like a more glamorous Anna Magnani. She is the strong woman holding the family together. But Almodovar would also say that just as films are made up of other films, how can we pretend that a person today isn't made up of films too?
If Almodovar and Tarantino are the most successful exponents of a post-modern cinema that acknowledges everything contains an aspect of pastiche and homage, they take the post-modern in very different directions. Tarantino generally expects a weakening of affect; Almodovar its exaggeration. We don't expect to cry at a Tarantino film we could easily do so during an Almodovar movie. The tears may be self-reflexive but they are tears nevertheless as the Spanish director offers preposterously labyrinthine plots all the better to ensnare us in feelings we can't see coming. Just because previous melodramas like Stella Dallas, Mildred Pierce, Imitation of Life and hundreds of others have accessed the lachrymose, that doesn't mean Almodovar can't do so too. If we can say that people now act with the full awareness of cinema impacting on their life and their behaviour, then part of the impact can also be the feelings we've got used to cinema activating. In an article on emotion dealing with Talk to Her, Paul Julian Smith quotes Martha Nussbaum speaking about Proust: saying of the magic lantern and its capacity for a simile of emotion, that it was "colouring the room one is actually in with the intense images of other objects, other stories." ('Emotional Imperatives') Almodovar doesn't want us to find his films risibly self-reflexive, but asks that in the viewing of them they become internal parts of our lives just as other works before them have become integral as well. When he was asked about the references to All About Eve or A Streetcar Named Desire in All About My Mother, Almodovar said: "...it would be wrong to see them as film quotes. A Streetcar Named Desire or Truman Capote are not cultural signs, they're simply things which form an intrinsic part of the story." (Almodovar on Almodovar) What matters is how something marks one's life emotionally rather than the cultural capital gained from quoting a sign. Almodovar doesn't draw a line between art and life but insists that we are in a circle that incorporates both. Equally, when we cry at a film we can be crying the tears not only of our own grieving but also those of the films we have watched that have allowed us to access such emotion. There are of course dangers to such easy accessing but that isn't Almodovar's concern part of the utopian aspect we might find in watching the director's work rests on the notion that all our tears are somehow worthy of real feeling, whether activated in the suspect soap operas Almodovar sometimes shows within his films, or the apparently more significant emotion accessed through a Tennessee Williams play or a Mankiewicz movie.
Yet what Almodovar doesn't do is create a new substance to the image. He instead replays often brilliantly the images we already have and adds a further self-reflexivity to the process. Speaking of All About My Mother, he talks about the figure of Lola who changes sex. "Lola changes her whole way of being, her entire body, yet something inside her remains intact. Why that moves me, I couldn't say." (Almodovar on Almodovar) In a Bunuel film it might be that why which would permeate the material, creating a question greater than the film could answer, but though Almodovar wouldn't deny his Bunuelian heritage (acknowledged for example in the TV screening of The Criminal Life of Archibald de le Cruz in Live Flesh), Almodovar retreats from the substantial shift Bunuel was vital to introducing into cinema. We do not find creative evolution here. When he says "Hitchcock is always present" (Indiewire) it is a remark numerous filmmakers could make, as if Almodovar, like Tarantino and indeed Fincher, lives not so much in his shadow as within his parameters, those parameters Deleuze acknowledges when he discusses Hitchcock taking the movement-image to its limits. If Hitchcock did so through pushing the question of relations, Almodovar does so by retreating from the crisis Deleuze sees in the generation of cliches as the movement-image appeared no longer to be sustainable. Yet there were ways in which to extract what Deleuze calls an Image from the cliches: the director "has the chance to extract an Image from all the cliches and to set it up against them. On the condition, however, of there being an aesthetic and political project capable of constituting a positive enterprise." (Cinema 1) In this we can say that Post-Franco Spain is that project for Almodovar, as he proved one of the key figures in what was called La Movida the term commonly used in association with post-Franco pop culture. But this was a socio-political movement Almodovar cannily made his own as he took the rough-hewn aspects of it (also evident in his own early work) and generated out of the movement a polished narrative complexity, one that emphasised the politics of identity as sexual opportunity and material accoutrement reflected in a new Spain. But Almodovar did so by making sure that he stayed within the parameter fence of narrative convention, however mind-bending the time shifts and gender-bending the characterisation.
Other filmmakers of his generation were more inclined to produce a properly new image, including Bela Tarr and Alexander Sokurov. The image didn't rely on cliches brilliantly reworked, but on indicating that there were still many new images capable of production. There is no reason to assume that the image-structures have been exhausted. As Deleuze says, "we already have...four kinds of images: firstly movement-images. Then, when they are related to a centre of indetermination, they divide into three varieties - perception-images, action-images, affection-images. There is every reason to believe that many other kinds of images can exist." (Cinema 1) Deleuze here indicates that cinema no matter the many arguments put forth by amongst others David Denby and Susan Sontag about the Death of Cinema needn't remotely be valid, no matter Sontag's insistence that cinema was in "ignominious, irreversible decline." (The Decay of Cinema) Indeed, Bela Tarr happens to be one of the filmmakers Sontag invokes when discussing what cinema can be into the new millennium and thus rather than writing about new films that may or may not be using time-images, better surely to see how directors are generating new image systems. When Martin-Jones uses Sliding Doors to talk about time-images we needn't only resist because he applies a complex notion to a simple film but also because it can seem too easy a way to indicate the 'new' as if Peter Howett's film should be rewarded for jazzing up the time-image when in fact it seems to us a stale example of the movement-image that works up a bit of narrative pleasure from popular science to explore parallel worlds. It takes indeterminate zones and makes them very determinate: a ploy we have seen in numerous films of the nineties (The Usual Suspects, Pulp Fiction, Memento, Run, Lola, Run) where good films and bad have found ways in which to innovate within the image but not to test it or expand it. Some might insist that narrative cinema is not the place to offer such expansion; that such innovation must exist in the realm of experimental film. Yet if there is one thing Deleuze's books have taught us is that the notion of experimentation per se is of far less importance than the philosophical possibilities that images contain. Narrative is as good a place as any to explore those possibilities, without having at the same time to fall into narrative.
We might return to a couple of Deleuze's remark about narrative and character: that narrative doesn't dictate montage in Griffith but the other way round, and the question of neurotic characters that a new type of image appeared to require. In each of these instances, narrative isn't rejected but it is given a perspective that shows us why the films don't fall into their stories. How does this work in Bela Tarr's cinema, and what centre of indetermination does he manage to open up, what accented zone does he find? We can think here of Deleuze's comments on the perception-image and the Heideggerian notion of Mitsein, the camera's capacity to be with a character, beside the character, an idea which shares similarities with Pasolini's notion of free indirect subjectivity in film. One way of looking at this in the context of Tarr's work would be to invoke a common idea of an angel on one's shoulder and see it instead as a monkey on one's back. How does this free indirect subjectivity manifest itself in film, and are we not saying that Tarr has merely found another angle on Mitsein perception, a more malevolent way of doing free indirect discourse? Few will deny that Damnation, Satantango and The Turin Horse are amongst the bleakest films in cinema but it is more what that pessimism indicates, what hole it seems to be working out from. Deleuze can see the importance of Robbe-Grillet films from this radical angle when he says, "the essential point rather appears if we think of an earthly event which is assumed to be transmitted to different planets, one of which would receive it at the same time (at the speed of light), but the second more quickly, and the third less quickly, hence before it happened and after. The latter would not yet have received it, the second would already have received it and the third would be receiving it, in three simultaneously presents bound into the same universe." (Cinema 2) Deleuze sees Robbe-Grillet generating a new relationship with time, and with the time-image, by offering images that are from one point of view non-sense but the problem is our insistence on seeing them from that one perspective rather than all three simultaneously. This is a brilliant example of an acentred zone, one that loses its earthly coordinates and can only be comprehended within other, temporally cosmic frameworks. It would be science fiction phenomenologically but not generically: an impossible enterprise perhaps but a properly radical decentring.
Bela Tarr seems to ask us if we can imagine the world from the position of a vortex, as if life is constantly in danger of being sucked into an enormous black hole that we cannot see and cannot comprehend but which will dictate our behaviour nevertheless. It is much more than a disbelief in God, though that would be part of it too. Even if Bela Tarr consistently says he isn't interested in metaphysical questions, Fergus Daly and Maximilian Le Cain press him on this, noting he once said he was "trying to look at things from a cosmic dimension." Tarr replies by saying first you find yourself dealing with 'social problems in this political system maybe we'll just deal with the social question.' And afterwards when we made a second movie and a third we knew better that there are not only social problems. We have some ontological problems and now I think the whole pile of shit is coming from the cosmos." (Senses of Cinema) This is a radical decentering quite different from Robbe-Grillet's but one of the ways, like Robbe-Grillet, the image can be regenerated. When we think for example of many science fiction films that invokes the cosmos (from Contact to Event Horizon) the invocations are contained within generic imagery: the perceptual apparatus remains narrowly human even if the special effects are cosmically spectacular.
We might wonder then how Bela Tarr creates not so much a human perspective on the cosmos, but a cosmic perspective on the human. Deleuze's gripe with phenomenology rests partly on the centred zoning of the school as opposed to the decentred demands of Bergson, and the fact of it in cinema. Cinema doesn't at all limit itself to the point of view of a character who wanders around the diegesis; it is constantly offering long -shots, close-ups, high-angles, low-angles and so on. "If the cinema does not have natural subjective perception as its model, it is because the mobility of its centres and the variability of its framings always lead it to restore vast centred and deformed zones." (Cinema 2) Yet the innovation of these possibilities are of course linked for Deleuze to a philosophical problem that films address, to certain first principles film wants to explore. Hence his remark at the beginning of Cinema 1: that filmmakers "can be compared to thinkers." Creating fresh ways in which to show us an image isn't in itself enough; the image needs to contain an ontological underpinning that gives meaning and purpose to that freshness. In The Turin Horse, for example, the camera is positioned at the back of the room. The room is in darkness and light slowly appears as we begin to see an outline of the space. The camera is fixed, though swaying ever so slightly as we notice the grown-up daughter move around the still half-darkened area. When she is about to go outside the camera moves towards her, follows her out the door as she draws water from the well in front of the house, and retreats back in front of her as she returns. It is of course an impressive single-take, but also much more than that as it manages to invoke other more conventional shots without mimicking them, and finds within their usage a property of mystery that justifies the term cosmic. Initially one might see such a shot in a horror film as the point of view of a mysterious and troublesome presence, and when the camera starts to move, that indeed this presence might attack the daughter. As she goes out the door, the moment resembles the great shots in The Searchers from inside the caves or the homestead (which we have already invoked in the context of Haneke and Tarantino) which work a contrast between interior darkness and exterior light. The daughter's efforts with drawing water indicate a neo-realist sense of struggle, or an American man against nature film. But to reduce The Turin Horse to any or all these elements, to suggest we understand the film because we have some inkling of how the shot has been utilised in other films in different ways, and that Tarr brilliantly combines them, would do a great disservice to his achievement. Such an approach would still be incorporating him into old image structures however wonderfully entwined, rather than seeing how he finds a new image structure because he has found a new problem: that he and his coworkers (especially editor Agnes Hranitzky and screenwriter Laszlo Krasznahorkai) have found a way of exploring a cosmic crisis through an aesthetic approach. Halfway through Cinema 2, Deleuze says, "this is what we have been trying to say from the beginning of this study: a cinematographic mutation occurs when aberrations of movement take on their independence; that is, when the moving bodies and movements lose their invariants." In the descriptions we offered about the horror film that might use a vaguely similar shot, the image would quickly return us to the nature of the perspective: a villainous presence waiting to announce itself to both the character and the viewer. In Tarr's acentred image there is no point of view accessible even if we feel a perspective nevertheless, and hence the cosmic.
In Damnation, the film tells an almost conventional story of a love triangle and a smuggling operation, but the telling is quite different from the filming, with Tarr determined to find a means by which to film the telling to find the root despair in the environment rather than just the despair that comes out of the events. Again a Mitsein operation is at work as we see the central character Karrer framed by a perspective far great than his own agency. A good example comes a third of the way through the film as Karrer stands in the pouring rain looking on. He seems to be watching the lover's husband in the distance who is outside his car and who then walks away. Within the same lengthy take, a woman comes over to him sheltered from the rain by an umbrella and speaks of the Old Testament, where those in the country will die by the sword and those in the city will perish of plague and famine. As she speaks the camera drifts away from the conversation as we see the husband returns to the car and drives off. Karrer then walks away in exactly the direction the woman arrives from and the woman is now against the wall that Karrer was standing against at the beginning of the scene. It is a brilliantly composed sequence based on symmetrical entrances and exits, on dense sound design and careful blocking, but what interests us especially is the scene's capacity to indicate a camera consciousness beyond the characters. When we first see Karrer looking on, the camera doesn't offer a shot/counter-shot: someone looking at another in the distance and then a cut back to the person doing the looking. Tarr stays behind Karrer, the camera looking at Karrer looking on. Tarr says that "you want to see behind things. You cannot tell the same thing in the same form. The form is always changing, but I'm always thinking about poor people and human society and the human condition, as in my first movie [Family Nest]." (Bomb) Tarr's talking here of moving from more clearly socially-oriented films to more abstract works, but sees that the link between them is strong, just as the images are somehow always the same they come directly from reality as a work of literature does not. Disagreeing with the interviewer's use of metaphor in his work, he says, unlike the writer "you can write 20 pages about the ashtray, with metaphors and symbols, you can say a lot of theoretical things, because everything depends on the imagination of the reader. But I am filmmaker; I have just the concrete, definitive ashtray." (Bomb)
There is much that could be said about this statement, and a great deal of theoretical writing from Eisenstein to Metz that would argue with Tarr's claims. But his point is a clear one and an important one: what he films doesn't stand in for something else; it is too concretely present do that. Anyone who insists that the car we see is a symbol of the freedom of the husband should first attend to the fact that he has a car and Karrer doesn't. As the husband drives off in the vehicle, so Karrer wanders off on foot in the rain, too impoverished it seems to possess even an umbrella. What matters is not so much what the objects signify but what the camera shows. It is the choices Tarr makes which manage to convey to us metaphysical properties within the concrete details and this resides on lenses and camera movement. "What I have are just some lenses, which are objective." (Bomb) A claim easily contested of course but putting that aside we can see what Tarr means by this. You don't create unnecessary abstractions when you can film the concrete but instead find an angle on that concreteness. A writer doesn't record what they see they create it with symbols on a page. Literature starts with symbols, film records reality. That doesn't mean it isn't a distortion of that reality but it remains existentially associated to it in ways that seem very important to Tarr. "Film itself is quite a primitive language. It is made simple by its definiteness..." (Enthusiasm) What we see in this sequence from Damnation is indeed simplicity and at the same time immense complexity as it manages to convey the hopelessness of Karrer's predicament but indicates as well that this is man's tragedy more generally. How is this achieved? Tarr does so by putting the camera beside Karrer rather than identifying itself with him by indicating Mitsein rather than Dasein. Putting the camera in front of him as a point-of-view shot and then reversing the angle would have been to put him in the shot and the agent of it. By putting him inside the frame and viewing events from a perspective beyond his purview gives the film a freedom he doesn't possess and puts the notion of freedom into the aesthetic rather than symbolically in the characters and the objects, as with the car.
A proper creative evolution of film, if we can bring together Deleuze and Tarr, acknowledges not what cinema does badly, language in its numerous manifestations, but what it does well, taking blocks of sound and image, working with time and space, and formulating possibilities out of them. Tarr's comments don't seem too far removed from Pasolini's and Deleuze makes clear his own sympathies are with the Italian director over the semiotics of the people he was arguing with: Metz and Umbero Eco. As Deleuze says, while wary of Pasolini's arguments no matter if he is in far more sympathy than with Eco's claim that the director was "semiologically naive", "this language system of reality is not at all a language system." (Cinema 2) Rather than seeing cinema as made up of the paradigm and the syntagm, rather than seeing it as a narrative system (the syntagmatic line) that then creates choices within it (the paradigmatic line), better to see it as a system of information that finds ways to make sense of our reality on terms that need not be so tied to narrative and linguistic principles. Hence, Delezue says that there are two aspects to the movement-image: one consists of the whole that changes which means we understand the images in film as we understand the world. There are changes in shots, camera movements and objects within the frame; not units of narrative information that choices are made on top of. Secondly, we have in movement-images intervals: "if it is referred to an interval, distinct kinds of images appear, with signs through which they are made up, each in itself and all of them together (thus the perception-image is at one end of the interval, the action-image at the other end of the interval and the affection-image in the interval itself." (Cinema 2) Rather than seeing cinema either as a language system, a narrative system or a phenomenological one, rather than seeing film as a means by which one masters its form, masters its storytelling possibilities, or shows how we are embodied in the filmic experience, Deleuze indicates instead that what matters is constantly findings new possibilities in image making in a creative evolution of cinema rather than an innovation in storytelling techniques, formal shifts and viewer positioning. It is when we come to look at the difference between for example Almodovar and Tarr, or Welles and Resnais that Deleuze's radical approach to film becomes so significant. For many, cinema is great when it innovates within a set of givens and this is central to numerous theories of cinema and the assumptions of viewers. If David Bordwell (and Kirstin Thompson) for example is so successful a theorist, so popular in schools and colleges, it rests on this innovative rather than creative evolution of film. As they say in On the History of Film Style: "before directors wish to convey ideas or moods, evoke emotion or themes, transmit ideology or cultural values, they must take care of some mundane business. They must make their images intelligible," and adds, "people scan pictures, pausing on areas of high information content." In Narration and the Fiction Film, Bordwell believes "any theory of the spectator's activity must rest upon a general theory of perception and cognition" as he adopts a Constructivist theory of perception based on among other things various cues, and that "perception becomes a process of active hypothesis-testing..." Bordwell and others are very good at explaining why films work in cause and effectual ways, but central to Deleuze's project is escaping from such assurances and looking at the problem the work generates and not the means by which it works for us. The viewer looking for a comprehensible evening of entertainment is of no interest to Deleuze. What does interest him is how works evolve, how they come into being and generate new modes of being. When Bordwell looks a Tarr's work there will be no talk of metaphysics, ontology or the cosmos but instead about formal influences, whether Tarr cares to acknowledge them or not. When Tarr says he draws on life and not from other films, Bordwell doesn't see this as a Bergsonian challenge but as piece of truculent nonsense: "...even if there wasn't any direct influence, Antonioni and Jancso paved the way for Tarr; they made such walkathons as Satantango and Werckmeister Harmonies thinkable as legitimate cinema." (Observations on Film Art) It is not that we would entirely disagree with Bordwell here (after all an evolutionary approach to film assumes shifts and transformations), but feel that he cannot account for what is distinctive in Tarr because he falls back on norms and genealogies. He doesn't acknowledge a qualitative difference and instead offers quantitative ones instead. The length of the shots, the absence of close-ups, the eschewal of crosscutting all well and good and not unimportant. But the creative originality for Bordwell is secondary to innovative similarity. The image is always matter and never spirit, when part of what we find so astonishing in Tarr's work is how he manifests deadness of spirit in the matter that he shows us.
In this sense, we might see Sokurov as the reverse of Tarr but no less interested in cosmic, ontological and metaphysical questions, and equally determined to draw out differences between literature and film. "There is a huge distance between literature and cinema. I would say that they have nothing in common...so it's impossible to put a novel on screen...in cinema we have to start from the beginning, without words" (Film Comment), he says, despite adapting Goethe, Platonov, Flaubert and others. What might seem like a superficial and obvious contradiction can be viewed as quite the opposite if we keep in mind film as life. We needn't see this as a naive approach to realism, that film records reality, but life as the vital force Bergson insists upon when noting in Creative Evolution that all living things have this need to evolve, hence the famous elan vital. While Sokurov acknowledges that great literary works cannot be improved upon ("it's impossible to make a cinematic transposition of Hamlet or King Lear. Because Shakespeare has said all of what he wanted to say") they can give to film a principle, a question, a mode of enquiry that cinema can draw upon rather than fall back on. The difference between a Sokurov adaptation and a James Ivory account of an E. M. Forster novel is whether the vital force of life can find its way through the work or retreat into it. The same is true of Skurov's approach to biography, examining the life of Hitler in Moloch, Hirohito in The Sun, and Lenin in Taurus. And too to 'adapting' painting with Mother and Son and Moloch strongly influenced by the work of Caspar David Friedrich. Yet what differentiates Sokurov from Ivory, from Richard Attenborough in biographies like Gandhi and Cry Freedom, and Peter Greenaway, drawing upon Hals for The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover, de La Tour for example in The Draughtsman's Contract, is a vitality in various manifestations. Sokurov insists on an organic quality to the image which gives his films a sense that people are coming out of the world primordially, that life, death and ambition are all contained by a mineral acknowledgement which makes agency seem beside the point. Hence in his films about Hitler, Hirohito and Lenin he isn't interested in their ambition but in their entrapment, noting "I can see that they are the most unfree people in the world. They have no freedom at all." (Film Comment) But though this is especially exemplified in the biographical films, it is indicative of Sokurov's vision, one that suggests becoming is a very slow process indeed, as if there isn't a great deal of difference in the movement of a human body and a geological structure. In Moloch, Hitler isn't controlling the world but in retreat from it, a figure enthralled by the ideas of a German Romanticism that can rule the planet, but framed by Sokurov as small against the Romantic tradition a man who can destroy millions of lives but at the same time is no more than a creature living on a rock (his hillside retreat at Kehlsteinhaus), dwarfed by the mountains surrounding him and that he occasionally ventures in to. Part of Sokurov's provocation rests on presenting a hapless Hitler, but rather than seeing the Russian director as whitewashing a dictator's reputation, better to view it as Sokurov's interest in seeing that even the most ostensibly powerful of men, the most destructive of human forces, are still weak next to geological reality. The human is like a gnat; it moves quickly but briefly. A Mountain moves at a rate of time that is so slow that it takes us thousands of years to notice a change. The constantly perishing human is but a moment in time no matter how horrendously significant a dictator may be in our history. The Thousand-Year Reich lasted little more than a decade, but even a thousand years is nothing next to the mountain that they discuss it on. "The Thousand-Year Reich is no more than the biblical reign of the Just for a thousand years" Goebbels says, as the characters crawl along and lie against the rocks. But this is indeed a blink of the eye next to the cold stare of nature. In one shot we see Eva Braun and Hitler tiny against the landscape as Sokurov invokes Friedrich not at all in a knowing homage but by seeing that landscape painting helps us to understand the human place within the geology of life. If Tarr manages to convey to us that our actions are perpetrated by a cosmic force that we cannot understand but that the Hungarian director must find a way to film, the more benign Sokurov indicates that an evil so much greater than any act indulged by a Tarr character be framed through a lens which suggests that even Hitler is a minor figure. A Guardian interview titled its piece "Sympathy for the Fuhrer", while the interviewer Fiachra Gibbons expressed surprise that there hadn't been more of an outrage on its release. Sokurov said what interested him was that he wanted to explore "an unhappy leader [who] has huge power in his hands, so one man can be the reason for the unhappiness of millions. Unhappiness creates unhappiness." But temporality can also put unhappiness in its place, contextualising the unhappiness of millions generated by one man by alluding to the millions of years that this man is contained by. This is not at all to trivialise the atrocities, of course, but instead to magnify the question of geological being that contains ourselves as a small aspect of it.
In Mother and Son, the geological is equally present, though power gives way to love when a son looks after his mother as she moves towards death. Again the film offers a geological sense of time with a severe rock face hanging over the mother's house. The house which from a certain perspective looks like an old dacha, indicative of history and tradition, from another looks precariously contemporary next to the rocks behind it. Using distorted lenses that give the events he films a timeless quality, Sokurov takes a predictable term like 'timeless' and gives it its depths. The mother will die in these depths, removing any sense of tragedy by instead indicating inevitability. Everything passes away, but few things more quickly than the human life. Sokurov's film is a testament to temporal difference, with the house new next to the trees, the trees new next to the rocks, and the human a perishable creature the newest of all as being will continue in their absence. Near the end of the film, Sokurov shows the son weeping against a tree and shortly afterwards we see him lying next to the body of his mother, with flies signifying her death. Her arm is like the twisted branch of a tree as he tries to blow a feather away from it. There is no plot to Mother and Son, no attempt to indicate that the death could be otherwise or that it could be medicalised: it is a pure death contained by what will continue long after she has gone. It is a loss for the son, of course, but he too will no doubt perish shortly in this film that happens only to be 73 minutes long but contains within it a sense of millions of years before and possibly after.
Mother and Son is a proper time-image in various senses of the term. It surrenders sensory-motor action to the passivity of acceptance. We watch time in pure form as no action intrudes upon it, no sense in which events can be changed. This could have released memories, recollections and fantasies, as we find for example in Resnais's fine film about a dying man, Providence. But not even memory is activated, as though for Sokurov it would still centre on the human mind instead of seeing the human as a form within life. Resnais' approach was to see how the mind generates images out of the images it is faced by. Resnais' film is one of numerous very fine works that take an aspect of Bergson and generate what we can call time-images out of them. Whether it is Eternity and a Day, Time Regained or Providence, we see how the memory captivates the object and doesn't utilise it but generates memory out of it. A person goes for a swim but find themselves transfixed by the sea as they recall their childhood; someone passes them a cup of tea and they don't take a sip but are reminded that the cup is the same that they would have at home many years earlier as the memories are activated. As Bergson says "perception is never a mere contact of the mind with the object present; it is impregnated with memory-images which complete it as they interpret it." Most perceptions are completed by earlier images but not complicated by them. Usually, we swim in the sea and drink from the cup, and likewise most film images offer a variation of this pragmatic approach to existence. But what Resnais, like numerous other filmmakers of his generation insisted upon (from Antonioni to Fellini, from Bunuel to Bergman), was turning that cinematic immediacy into modes of contemplation: the memory image wasn't quickly completed; it was often temporally opened up with flashback or with dead time. It was part of an evolution of the image that could take the flashback structure so popular in the forties and the fascination for 'dead time' opened up by Ozu, Rossellini and Antonioni in the fifties, and show how memory could be either activated or alluded to. In La notte, Jeanne Moreau passes a disused clock on the ground but we are left to muse over what she might be thinking as she seems to be thinking nevertheless. It isn't an object she utilises. In the earlier mentioned The Passenger, Jack Nicholson replaces the details on his passport with those of a man who has recently died, as the film within one shot moves into the past when we see them talking together. In one instance time is dead and slow; in the other reactivated. Yet both these examples from Antonioni would be images of time, and evident of an evolution in cinematic possibilities. If we see both Tarr and Sokurov (if in different ways indebted to Tarkovsky) taking further the time-image it rests on the amount of time activated. Tarr indicates the cosmic catastrophe that Antonioni had shown as a modernist crisis. The time Antonioni registered would have been perhaps no more than a hundred years; Tarr indicates a generally collapsed communist despair opening up a primal problem of evil. In Moloch, Sokurov shows that evil contained by a geology which makes a mockery of even the most humanly monstrous, and in Mother and Son illustrates the momentary nature of human death. In both filmmakers' work, if in different ways, immediate agency, the sensory-motor relationship between memory activated and action executed, is dissolved into the cosmic and the geological. This suggests a proper evolution of the image acknowledges the existence of matter in its most manifold forms, as if the dead centre of cinema (human agency) is but a very small part of its ongoing creative possibilities.
© Tony McKibbin