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TitlePoetics Of Cinema
PublisherDis Voir
ISBN 139782906571389
CategoryArts - Film
Author
LanguageEnglish
File Size15.2 MB
Total Pages66
Table of Contents
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Document Text Contents
Page 2

Cover: City of Pirates,Raul Ruiz (detail)

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POETICS

OF

CINEMA

1

Miscellanies

Translated by

B R

H 0 L

A N

M E S

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sketched out by the evocative or invocator ypantomime of the fighters.
The square becomesa thousand times more mysterious and more
terrible than the battle itself, with its inevitabl ecasualties and its
bureaucratic uproar.

Let us again tak e the samepictur e and blow it up to ten
thousand times it s original size. With surprisewe notice that like a
hologram, the picture is madeof many pictur esidentical to the first
one we hadseen. The central squareis agiant set of part icles, each
one of them representing the cent ral square. We then take one of
those particles and enlarge it to the sizeof th e origi nal picture, and
then we enlargeit up ten timesagain . We notice that this time there
are no hidden men behind the trees,there are no pools of bloodor
helicopters ;the picture is apparently the same as the first, but it is
lack ing in accidents, it doesn't have an unconsc iou s.T hen w e
examineother particles, we enlarge them too: there are no tracesof
armed men anywhe re .W e devote a long portion ofour l ives to
examining thephotographic particles one by one. Aft er some time it
becomes obvious that a certain number of particles tend toward
battle, while other particles tend toward peace. A few years later we
discove r group s of particles wh ere there are no signs of the
provinc ial square; you can only seethe battle in them. How can we
not conclude that this imagecont ains two sets, each of which works
as the other's unconsciou s?But what would happenif in the original
picture, instead of two possible sets,we had an n-number of sets,
each coupled with its particular opposite? We would then have an
image composed ofsets of image particles and of what we might call
"anti-image" part icles .What would happen if the moving image
were nothing but a continuous circula tion of images and anti-
images, l ike coupl es in a perm anent state of divorce and
reconciliation? Couldn't the rev erbera t ion provok ed by this
constant renovation of image/anti-im ageconfigu rationsbe called
" au ra" ? Why not conclude that aura andthe cinemato gr aph ic
unconsc iousare oneand the same?

Af ter such aheresy, I would like to briefly comment on a few
ideas of Abdel Kader (1808-1883) ,and to bring up a theme that
directly con cern s the corpus of involuntary signs in every
photograph : the veiled vision of divinity. Vision, veil: two themes

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that Islamic th inkers have oftenl inked together. In hisKitab al
Mawa kif - the book of halts, suspensions, and sudden stops _
Emir Abdel Kader declares: "Among the most important examples
revealing divine epiph anies we must point to polished bodies,
among them mirrors, and among those bodies, that solar machine
which is called the photographic machine, invented in our epoch."
Abdel Kader mentions the remarkable object called "photograph" in
order to develop, like Ibn Arabi, a kind of allegory of a neo-Platonic
system of the world. "A great king must become known to his
subjects, but he cannot go up and down his realm, house by house,
nor even less can he open his intimate dwelling to everyone; all that is
forbidden to him. Thus he decides to have his picture taken and make
multiple copies. We'll call the picture of the veiled king 'the original
distinction of Muslim reality,' the Reality of Realities, Absolute
Uni ty, Primary Matter of the All, etc. As for the initial negative
before it is developed, we'll call it the Original Intellect, the first
Spiritual Form flowing forth from Being, its highest Kalam, the
Universal Soul. The reproduction of that negative will constitute the
genders and species spreading across the world. The paper used for
the copies must be considered the Immutable Essence (the Greek
hyle), the Availability of the Possible."

Reading this text, I let myself drift into a reflexive bit of
reverie. Look once again at the picture of the King.If in tru th his
features are here, his reality is nonetheless hidden from the shadows
projected upon him; and we are among these shadows. I will insist
on this last notion, in a somewhat oblique reading of Abdel Kader.If
we decide that in one picture the shadows are the world, thenthey
are more real than their support, that is, than the illumina tedbodies.
When the bodies move, the shadows change places to follow them,
for the shadows are tied to these bodies. Let's call these shadows
"the real world," and the bodies that imprisonthem "simulacra in
the hermetic world" - that is, invisible figures floating in the air,
representing absent presences without relation to the real world, or
qui te literally, cinema. If we use a film with very high contrasts, for
example optic sound film, we will be able to see scenes where the
boundaries between light and shadow will be difficult to grasp.
Shadows will be more eloquent than the illuminated objects, so that
these objects lose their contours and become shadows of shadows.

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An illuminated hand will vanish into the light of a blinding window,
while the more real shadows will form a single protean body. When
we speak about the unconscious we always imagine a world of
shadows from which desired monsters seek to emerge. In the
example just described, it is unconscious light that seeks to erupt
among the waking shadows of the real world, thus unveiling its
protean nature.

Often, at the end of a movie, filmmakers feel the need for
some takes of the sky, a landscape, empty streets, and so on. There is
no movement in those shots, and the directors could simply film still
photographs. But the eye discovers this immediately, because even if
there is no movement (in either the subject or the camera) the
presence of movement always appears in any filmed image. This play
of mobility and fixity is a dwelling-place of involuntary signs. They
sketch out another field for the photographic unconscious, one I
would also like to illustrate. Let's imagine a film sequence done in
such a way that movements recurrently return to fixity.It is not a
frozen image, but a kind of fixity or immobility rendered present to
itself through an image in movement. We could say that this fixity is
the sum of all motions.It is not apparent to sight, but it makes itself
known from within the very mesh of movement. I remember an
image from my native land, Chiloe. In front of my house, wind
would move the trees. At a certain point, the wind would blow with
such regularity that one had the impression the trees were frozen in
place, bent over in the same direction. The fishermen moving
through the scene stopped short themselves, but in a posture
opposite that of the trees. Complemented by the extravagant
positions of the fishermen and the trees, that moment of immobility
gave the impression that movement and its opposite were not
contradictory . When the wind recovered its irregular rhythms, the
immob ile image vanishedin homage to movement, and everything
became normal again. But i t always could happen that the wind
would blow constantly and the landscape would return to
immobility, only to spring backinto motion some few seconds later.
This oscillation gradually gave a new feeling to the scene: when
everything moved about one saw only immobility, and vice-versa. I
told myself this was a good way to photograph wind.

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Another memory: in Canton province not far from Guilin, I
was out on a boat with some friends. We had just had lunch, and we
were lazy and intermittently napping, when somebody woke us up
saying: "Look, look, there is a Taoist monk over there." I looked,
and I saw an immobile monk on the banks of the river, in the
position of somebody getting ready to take a big leap. He was so
immobile that I had the impression that everything so apparently
immobile, like the stones, the hills, the clouds in the sky, was
teeming with movement - everything but the monk. Immobility
called for movement, movement engendered immobility. Behind
every immobile thing movement lurked. I said to myself: "These
things were falsely immobile. Immobility conceals movement"- it
is the unconscious of movement.

Back home, it is seven o'clock in the evening. We turn on the
TV and there is an interview with a survivor of some accident who
has spent many hours in a state of coma. At the moment we reach
the interview, the survivor is saying that he has seen himself from
the outside and from above, and then he says that he flew above
himself. We understand that the survivor has achieved a better-than-
everyday visualization of the virtual perspectives, of that visual
sphere with which one protects himself at all times - a form of
cinematographic unconscious that I would like to call the Gu'ardian
Angel. When we live in everyday life we see a certain number of
images and we compose other complementary images along a num-
ber of axes. Every film incorporates that teeming vision. Every
edited sequence has a multiplicity of possible angles, which are
merely suggested and which usually serve as a counterpoint tothl
sequence we are actually viewing. But in our lives these possible
montages are uncontrollable - because they are necessarily
different for every spectator. They form a type of photographic un-
conscious already mentioned here, which we could call "potential
montage."

Indeed, I have used the phrase "photographic unconscious"
to name the ghosts which hover around mechanically reproduced
images and sounds, yet do not actually touch the audiovisual object.
Sometimes they surround it, they transfigure it, they literally kidnap
it, and can even transform it into a story. But the stories we are used

6S

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Aubin Imprimeur
LIGUGE, POITIERS

Acheve d'imprimer en juin 1995
N° d'impression L 49262

Depot legal juin 1995
Imprime en France

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9 782906 5713 85

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