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TitleEuropean Cinema: Face to Face with Hollywood
PublisherAmsterdam University Press
ISBN 139789053565940
CategoryArts - Film
File Size8.1 MB
Total Pages567
Document Text Contents
Page 1

ISBN 90-5356-594-9 PB

ISBN 90-5356-594-9

9 789053 565940

Amsterdam University PressAmsterdam University Press


In the face of renewed competition from Holly-
wood since the early 1980s and the challenges
posed to Europe’s national cinemas by the fall
of the Wall in 1989, independent filmmaking in
Europe has begun to re-invent itself. European
Cinema: Face to Face with Hollywood re-asses-
ses the different debates and presents a broader
framework for understanding the forces at work
since the 1960s. These include the interface of
“world cinema” and the rise of Asian cinemas,
the importance of the international film festival
circuit, the role of television, as well as the
changing aesthetics of auteur cinema. New
audiences have different allegiances, and
new technologies enable networks to re-
shape identities, but European cinema still
has an important function in setting criti-
cal and creative agendas, even as its eco-
nomic and institutional bases are in flux.

Thomas Elsaesser is professor of Media
and Culture and Director of Research, Film
and Television Studies at the University of
Amsterdam. Among his most recent publi-
cations are Harun Farocki – Working on
the Sight Lines (2004), and Terrorisme,
Mythes et Representations (2005).




Amsterdam University PressAmsterdam University Press






















* pb ‘European Cinema’ 10-06-2005 19:00 Pagina 1

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European Cinema

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from a notion of non-alienated labor, and an ideal of aesthetic production de-
rived from the negativity and minimalism of high modernism, itself a nostalgic-
heroic evocation of a mode prior to the division between mental and manual

However, to argue from the de-facto reversal of production and consumption
in societies which do not produce for need and use, but create need as desire
and use as semiotic play, is a tactical advantage that may itself come to be seen
as the blind spot of cultural studies’ critical system, as it comes up against two
historical changes: in Eastern Europe, the reshaping of both high and popular
culture’s role in the struggle for national identity and social democracy in the
wake of Stalinism, and in Western Europe, where in the name of deregulation
and harmonization, a realignment of the production apparatus is proceeding
apace, which models culture (its objects and its forms of reception) on the com-
modity and the service industries: no longer Adorno’s Culture Industry, but the
“culture industries” dedicated to generating diverse forms of consumption (dif-
ferent material and immaterial aggregate states of the “work” or “text”: videos,
CDs, T-shirts, badges, toys), in order to sustain production.

One casuality of this process may be the various theories of spectatorship.
Cultural studies, aiming to rescue the popular-as-progressive from radical theo-
ry’s disenchantment with both high culture and mass-entertainment, has rightly
emphasized the sophistication and discrimination (the traditional hallmarks of
educated taste) of popular reading strategies, as well as their subversive, inter-
ventionist and deconstructive potential. Cultural studies, at least in Britain,
conspicuously circumvented or abandoned the psychoanalytic paradigm, stres-
sing instead the openness of any cultural text towards different meanings and
pleasures, and the social, ethnic and gender diversity of spectators, whose dy-
namics are often group-oriented, family-centered or collective rather than invol-
ving the subject’s (individualized) desire and its symbolizations. The fact that –
despite notions of struggle and contradiction – cultural studies lacks a concept
of the unconscious as an operative term, may well be one of the reasons why it
appears often in danger of becoming entangled in the discipline from whose
embrace it tried to free itself, namely empirical sociology. At the same time,
theories of film spectatorship developed around the sign and symbolization, as
well as the psychic and the unconscious (identification, subject, gender) have
tended to be so heavily centered on the specular that their relevance to televi-
sion – a predominantly verbal and aural medium, with its direct address, its
performative modes, its multiplication of voices, its manipulation of the image
– has become too problematic to be ignored.

In the following I want to take up some of these points, but perversely per-
haps I want to argue that, despite the increase in the “instrumental” side of tele-
vision viewing through the VCR, time-manipulation, the remote control, the

282 European Cinema: Face to Face with Hollywood

Page 284

push-button choices, it may still be useful to think of television viewing as a
practice situated in an imaginary, an imaginary to which correspond certain
manifestations of the symbolic. For the crisis in both film and television theory
may well stem from the recognition that we are unable to construct a unifying
symbolic which would hold in place the various imaginary subject positions
typical of television and cinema: bourgeois ideology, renaissance perspective,
the cinematic apparatus and patriarchy no longer seem to provide the single
coherent articulation they used to give to film theory. At the same time, with
the collapse of socialism in Eastern Europe it is difficult to maintain a historical
or theoretical reference point from which capitalism could be named as the uni-
fied symbolic, however much it continues to be, in Jameson’s phrase, an “un-
transcendable horizon.”How, then, to figure the relationship between a practice
situated in the imaginary (say, that of television, become total, global, self-refer-
ential and self-validating) and the symbolic underpinning it, which may well be
heterogeneous, fractured, but as global capitalism, possesses its own material-

As many theorists of television have pointed out, flow and interruption are
dialectically intertwined as necessary constituents of television’s spectatorial re-
gime. And even if one feels that desire – in the way feminist theory understood
the term – is not an appropriate concept for analyzing television viewing, I
would suggest that mis-cognition is still a key dimension of television spectator-
ship. For it is here that I detect one of commercial television’s most powerful
subject effects: namely, the answer to the question “why does television talk to
me as if I were part of us?” The question can be mapped onto a formulation that
I think gives us a clue to the nature of television’s symbolic: “Television does
not deliver programs to audiences, but audiences to advertisers.”

I would like to think of this syllogism as something of a Lacanian formula-
tion, insofar as it posits a double structure of mis-cognition symmetrically re-
lated, much along the lines of Lacan’s schema “objet petit a” for the structure of
the subject (S) in relation to the Other (A). S would stand for audiences, A for
advertisers, in relation to which the program or television text situates itself as a
– a, the axis of the Imaginary. In trying to account for the nature of desire in
television, without direct recourse to film studies’ concept of (male) oedipal
identity, I would take issue with cultural studies’ notion of “subversive plea-
sures” and instead argue that television does not produce a commodity at all,
but instead cements a relation – that of mis-cognition, and thus one charged
with psychic investment quite different from that associated with “desire as

In order to pursue this further, a detour may be necessary. I want to return to
where I started, namely the particular paradox facing anyone thinking about
British television. The simplest way may be to say that television, whether com-

British Television in the 1980s Through The Looking Glass 283

Page 566

Film Culture in Transition
General Editor: Thomas Elsaesser

Double Trouble: Chiem van Houweninge on Writing and Filming
Thomas Elsaesser, Robert Kievit and Jan Simons (eds.)

Writing for the Medium: Television in Transition
Thomas Elsaesser, Jan Simons and Lucette Bronk (eds.)

Between Stage and Screen: Ingmar Bergman Directs
Egil Törnqvist

The Film Spectator: From Sign to Mind
Warren Buckland (ed.)

Film and the First World War
Karel Dibbets and Bert Hogenkamp (eds.)

A Second Life: German Cinema’s First Decades
Thomas Elsaesser (ed.)

Fassbinder’s Germany: History Identity Subject
Thomas Elsaesser

Cinema Futures: Cain, Abel or Cable? The Screen Arts in the Digital Age
Thomas Elsaesser and Kay Hoffmann (eds.)

Audiovisions: Cinema and Television as Entr’Actes in History
Siegfried Zielinski

Joris Ivens and the Documentary Context
Kees Bakker (ed.)

Ibsen, Strindberg and the Intimate Theatre: Studies in TV Presentation
Egil Törnqvist

The Cinema Alone: Essays on the Work of Jean-Luc Godard -
Michael Temple and James S. Williams (eds.)

Micropolitics of Media Culture: Reading the Rhizomes of Deleuze and Guattari
Patricia Pisters and Catherine M. Lord (eds.)

Malaysian Cinema, Asian Film: Border Crossings and National Cultures
William van der Heide

Page 567

Film Front Weimar: Representations of the First World War in German Films of
the Weimar Period (-)
Bernadette Kester

Camera Obscura, Camera Lucida: Essays in Honor of Annette Michelson
Richard Allen and Malcolm Turvey (eds.)

Jean Desmet and the Early Dutch Film Trade
Ivo Blom

City of Darkness, City of Light: Émigré Filmmakers in Paris -
Alastair Phillips

The Last Great American Picture Show: New Hollywood Cinema in the s
Thomas Elsaesser, Alexander Horwath and Noel King (eds.)

Harun Farocki: Working on the Sight-Lines
Thomas Elsaesser (ed.)

Herr Lubitsch Goes to Hollywood: German and American Film after World
War I
Kristin Thompson

Cinephilia: Movies, Love and Memory
Marijke de Valck and Malte Hagener (eds.)

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