Download Deleuze and the Cinemas of Performance: Powers of Affection PDF

TitleDeleuze and the Cinemas of Performance: Powers of Affection
ISBN 139780748635252
CategoryArts - Film
File Size1.1 MB
Total Pages249
Table of Contents
Introduction: Cinema and the Affective-Performative
1. Animated Fetishes
2. Choreographies of Affect
3. Dancing Feminisms
4. Kinesthetic Seductions
5. Powers of the False
Conclusion: Everything is "Yes"
Works Cited
Document Text Contents
Page 1

Deleuze anD
the Cinemas of

Powers of affeCtion

elena del río

‘A highly original and insightful contribution to the study of both Deleuze and film studies.’
Professor Ian Buchanan, editor of Deleuze Studies

‘When Deleuze’s books on cinema appeared in 1983 and 1985, some questioned the usefulness
of his abstract theoretical distinctions for practical film criticism. With the appearance of
Deleuze and the Cinemas of Performance, skeptics need doubt no more. In this compelling
analysis of works by Sirk, Fassbinder, Potter, Denis and Lynch, Elena del Río has combined
elements of performance theory, feminism and various Deleuzian concepts to form an elegant
analytic tool capable of illuminating the specific elements of a wide range of films. This is a truly
innovative book that points the way toward the continuing development of a multifaceted
Deleuzian approach to film criticism. Highly recommended.’

Professor Ronald Bogue, The University of Georgia

This book offers a unique reconsideration of the performing body that privileges the notion of
affective force over the notion of visual form at the centre of former theories of spectacle and
performativity. Drawing on Gilles Deleuze’s philosophy of the body, and on Deleuze-Spinoza’s
relevant concepts of affect and expression, Elena del Río examines a kind of cinema that she
calls ‘affective-performative’. The features of this cinema unfold via detailed and engaging
discussions of the movements, gestures and speeds of the body in a variety of films by Douglas
Sirk, Rainer W. Fassbinder, Sally Potter, Claire Denis, and David Lynch. Key to the book’s
engagement with performance is a consistent attention to the body’s powers of affection.
Grounding her analysis in these powers, del Río shows the insufficiency of former theoretical
approaches in accounting for the transformative and creative capacities of the moving body of

Deleuze and the Cinemas of Performance will be of interest to any scholars and students of film
concerned with bodily aspects of cinema, whether from a Deleuzian, a phenomenological, or a
feminist perspective.

• The first study of the interface between Deleuzian theory and
film performance
• A sustained consideration of the links between the body of
performance and the body of affect
• A re-evaluation of central concepts in earlier film theory – from
fetishistic spectacle and performativity to Brechtian distanciation,
sadomasochism, and narcissism
• An analysis of the relation of the performative body to a
feminist politics

Elena del Río is Associate Professor of Film Studies at the University of Alberta, Canada.

ISBN: 978 0 7486 3525 2

Edinburgh University Press

22 George Square

Edinburgh EH8 9LF
Cover Image: The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant © Tango/The Kobal Collection
Cover Design: Barrie Tullett



e a


e C


s o
f Per




elena del r


Page 2

Deleuze and the Cinemas of Performance

M1245 ELENA PRELIMS.qxp:Andy Q7 6/5/08 09:50 Page i

Page 124

(Grosz 1994a: 203, my emphasis). Thus, for Deleuze, the territorialization
of the body, its exhaustive classification and disciplinary regimentation,
never happens without the concurrent deterritorializing effects of a web of
vital and invisible forces that continually traverse the body.

But however similar in some notable respects, the above accounts of the
body’s fluctuation between normativity and excess depend on different
models of the body, which in turn might suggest different, and perhaps
complementary, possibilities of action/intervention available to a politically
engaged feminism. Thus, the phenomenological concept of the lived-body
rests on the assumption of an ideal coincidence between the body and the
world via the common bond of the flesh. Deleuze rejects this coincidence –
and the subject/object paradigm it still maintains – in favor of an intensive,
non-individuated body. As Grosz explains, Deleuze does not conceive the
body “as a block, entity, object, or subject, an organized and integrated
being” (Grosz 1994a: 203), but rather as a disorganizing force or intensity
operating at a microlevel of molecular processes. While phenomenology
largely operates within the realm of subjectivity – a subjectivity reconciled
with its opposite pole, objectivity – Deleuze’s transcendental empiricism
operates in a desubjectified field of forces. While for Merleau-Ponty move-
ment and affect are subjective phenomena arising out of an intentional and
individuated rapport with the world, Deleuze regards the kinetic and the
affective as material flows whose individuation and exchange do not rest
upon subjectified intentions, but rather upon the workings of a non-
organic, anonymous vitality.

Deleuze distinguishes two forms of political action: a molar politics that
works at the level of the binaries and macrostructures of social systems, and
a molecular micropolitics of desire that takes place outside or beyond the
fixity of subjectivity and the structure of stable unities. While at the molar
level, political action requires the maintenance of subjectivity, together with
its organizing and signifying supports, operations at the molecular level can
have political effects without the mediation of subjective intentionality or
agency.1 The flows, speeds, and intensities affecting minuscule particles
may “cross and impregnate an entire social field” (Grosz 1994: 206).

A Deleuzian model of the body as an impersonal flow of forces may
arguably fall short of meeting the political needs of a feminist position that
still finds it necessary to differentiate between the sexes, and to maintain a
distinct notion of female subjectivity as individuated molar identity. On the
other hand, as suggested by the work of feminist scholars such as Grosz
herself, Olkowski, Rosi Braidotti, Claire Colebrook, Moira Gatens, and
others, the latest stages in the evolution of feminism itself do suggest the
possibility of a productive alliance between the aims and struggles of

  115

M1245 ELENA TEXT.qxp:Andy Q7 6/5/08 10:46 Page 115

Page 125

feminism and a Deleuzian emphasis on the destabilization of molar,
majoritarian identities through such concepts as the body without organs
and becoming-woman.2 Given these different strategic needs, the kind of
militant feminism practiced in the 1970s, and informing the gender
dynamics and textual operations of Potter’s Thriller, is no doubt far better
served by a molar political practice reacting against blatant conditions of
oppression in the context of visible social or signifying structures.
Accordingly, my analysis of Thriller is more heavily indebted to the notion
of embodied subjectivity supplied by a feminist phenomenological model.
On the other hand, the affective-performative encounters between male
and female bodies figured in The Tango Lesson generate a less rigid, albeit
equally combative gender dynamics that befits the practice of a molecular
politics at the level of the affections. My discussion of The Tango Lesson
will thus experiment with the possibility of a feminist perspective that
can fluidly transition from the subjectively centered philosophy of embod-
ied consciousness put forth by phenomenology to a more impersonal,
Deleuzian paradigm where the (female) subject acts as the catalyst of vital
forces that have a far-reaching expressive and transformative potential.

But, despite these philosophical differences, my accounts of both these
films will underscore the importance, within feminist debates, of stressing
the body’s powers of relation and affection, whether these powers are
referred to phenomenological ideas on reciprocity/reversibility between
subject and object, or whether they are derived from the intense connec-
tivity among bodies that characterizes a Spinozist/Deleuzian affective
body. No matter the gender of the bodies concerned, or the combination
thereof, the body only exists in relation, which is to say in performance.
Prior to relation, the body is nothing but an ideal abstraction, indeed a
series of terms drawn out of a set of binary linguistic categories. It is pre-
cisely through relation/relationality that bodies become excessive with
regard to binary codifications and their mimetic repetition. The provi-
sional and shifting status of the body’s relation-ability always incorporates
a performative dimension that, in each new encounter, brings forth unsus-
pected connections and becomings. Thus, each time bodies come together,
they try out their powers of affection on each other. As a body relates to
another body, it acts out its capacity to affect, and be affected by, the other

Such powers of relation and affection, I would argue, are more tenta-
tively tapped in Thriller than they are in The Tango Lesson, mainly because
the earlier film’s inevitably defensive stance against phallocentrism does
not leave much room for the possibility of a creative relationality between
male and female. Insofar as Thriller looks upon the death of woman in the

116      

M1245 ELENA TEXT.qxp:Andy Q7 6/5/08 10:46 Page 116

Page 248

in Brecht, 68, 88
in Brecht versus Artaud, 88
emotional involvement of, 13, 70, 150
emotional and rational involvement of,

70, 151
and epistemological limitations, 151
and experience of affect, 13, 72,

as multiple ego, 175n.1
seduction of, 20, 148–9, 174
and time, 79

speed, 13, 18, 47, 53, 148, 197
and affect, 175n.4
as qualitative/intensive, 13, 20–1, 54,

164, 169, 170, 173, 175n.4, 181, 182
and slowness, 27, 82, 159, 164, 171, 172,

173, 175–6n.4, 196; see also slowness
and fastness

variation of, 81, 196, 197, 208
Spinoza, Baruch, 8–9, 11, 24n.13, 33, 43,

112n.25, 116, 133, 139, 141, 143, 164,
192, 208, 211, 212

spiritual automaton, 150, 170
state of affairs/things, 53, 184, 190, 194
States, Bert, 108n.13
Stern, Michael, 26
stylization, 67, 131, 132, 144n.5
subjectivity, 35, 97, 127

and impersonality, 3, 9, 16, 17, 20, 21,
24n.14, 49–50, 60–1, 90, 95, 115, 152,
177n.9, 207n.16, 212

subjectless subjectivities, 6, 16, 24n.12, 27,
90, 95, 96, 152, 173; see also
subjectivity, and impersonality

substance, 24n.13, 100
surface, 7, 20, 76, 152, 169, 170

versus interiority, 35, 42, 203; see also

see also abstraction, material
synesthesia, 1, 2

tableau, 76, 80, 147n.16
affective-performative dimension of, 68,

82–3, 98, 100, 131
Brechtian perspective of, 68
and mobile frame, 98–9
as static image versus affective force,

18–19, 68, 100, 111n.23, 141
tactility, 3, 20
talking cure, 77, 78
tango, 19, 130, 132, 133, 134, 137, 139,

140, 141, 142, 143

Tango Lesson, The (Sally Potter), 19,
112n.25, 114, 116, 129–43, 144n.4,
146n.13, 147n.14, 147n.15, 149–50,
162, 163, 209, 210, 211

Tarnished Angels, The (Douglas Sirk), 18,
30, 31, 51, 55–60, 65n.15

and conceptual shift to performance,

88–9, 109n.16
and convergence with film, 19; see also

cinema as performance
Deleuze interest in, 12–13, 81–2
and film acting, 7
in Petra von Kant, 89–90
and sensuous language, 91; see also

language, intensive/affective
see also theatre of cruelty

theatre of cruelty, 17, 19, 61, 67, 73, 75,
83, 88, 104, 105n.2, 105n.4, 106n.6,
109n.17; see also Artaud

Thomsen, Christian Braad, 73, 79
Thriller (Sally Potter), 19, 114, 116,

117–29, 130, 131, 132, 133, 139,
140, 141, 143, 144n.4, 144n.5,
145n.7, 145n.8, 146n.12, 176n.8, 209,

abstraction of, 63n.7
anticipation and retroaction, 205n.10
and disciplined body, 123
as duration, 21, 25n.16
as element of narrative disruption, 20
and gestural process, 12–13
as temporal alternation of registers, 15
as temporal becoming, 16, 192–3

time-image, 25n.16, 27, 28, 29, 159, 160,
174, 203

Toles, George, 204n.6
Töteberg, Michael, 73, 84
Tourette syndrome, 108n.14
transcendence, 122, 123
transcendental empiricism, 3, 37, 115; see

also incorporeal materialism
trauma, 78, 79–80, 83, 84
trauma theory, 77

unconscious, the
affective, 188–93, 203, 205n.12
affective versus representational, 18,

180, 190
Freudian versus Deleuzian, 189
Freudian/Lacanian, 21
ontological, 21, 179, 189, 190–1

 239

M1245 ELENA TEXT.qxp:Andy Q7 6/5/08 10:47 Page 239

Page 249

univocality, 37

of each performative/repetitive event,
5, 18, 22, 42

see also repetition, and difference
utopian possibilities, 88, 212, 215,


virtual, the, 49, 52, 53, 54, 90, 98, 131, 159,
180, 182, 183, 189, 190, 192, 195, 198,
201, 210, 216n.3

and the actual, 12, 176n.7, 180, 192,
204n.3, 217 n3

and duration, 90
and narcissism, 138–9
and plane of consistency, 24n.12
and plane of immanence, 25n.16,

virtual body/object, 175n.1, 203
virtual causality, 53–4; see also quasi

virtual continuity, 53, 58
virtual plane of affect, 98
virtual plane of memory, 21, 189, 191,

visibility, 128, 133, 209–10

and invisibility, 45, 46, 48, 64n.11, 137,
210, 213, 215–16

long-distance, 44
and touch, 3, 45; see also haptic

and transmission of affect, 53

Vivre Sa Vie (My Life to Live, Jean-Luc
Godard), 177n.11, 202

Barthesian grain of, 128
disembodied, 125, 127, 145n.10,

embodied, 127
female, 125
in Maria Braun, 81
materiality of, 74, 81, 107n.10
non-synchronization of, 145n.10
singularity of, 128
in Thriller, 125–9
voice-over, 19, 126, 128
see also sound

von Moltke, Johannes, 107n.9
voyeurism, 39, 45, 48, 51, 57, 152–3; see

also body, and voyeurism

war machine, 149, 214
whole, the, 90, 97–8, 99, 100, 102, 170; see

also the open; the outside
Wilke, Hanna, 113
Williams, Linda, 13–15, 24–5n.15, 26,

111n.23, 200
Wright, Elizabeth, 75, 88–9, 106n.7
Written on the Wind (Douglas Sirk), 1, 18,

30, 31, 47, 51–5, 56, 57, 58, 59, 65n.14,
96, 143, 197, 209, 210, 211, 212

Yes (Sally Potter), 208, 209
Young, Iris Marion, 63n.9, 64n.12, 85,

108n.12, 123

240      

M1245 ELENA TEXT.qxp:Andy Q7 6/5/08 10:47 Page 240

Similer Documents