"If you could only see what I've seen with your eyes" - Roy Batty (Bladerunner, 1982)
Dialogic Cinephilia archives:
Top Films of 1966
Top Films of 2010
Top Films of 2013
Philip Wohlstetter on Zero Dark Thirty: "How does a film think? Recall the famous experiment of Lev Kuleshov. Start with the shot of an actor’s face. Vary the shots adjacent to it: a coffin, a plate of soup, a seductive woman lying on a divan. The actor’s expression will be read, alternately, as sadness, hunger, or lust. For the audience, juxtaposition creates meaning. A film is an arrangement of moments, shorter or longer, but every narrative moment is brought into relief by a significant before-moment and a significant after-moment that frames it. Let’s look at the first torture sequence in Zero Dark Thirty to see how this meaning-effect works. Significant before-moment: the powerful opening sequence, dark screen, the terrified voice of a woman trapped in the World Trade Center on 9/11, realizing there’s no help coming, she’s going to die. Central narrative moment: a detainee is water-boarded in the next scene, forced to crawl in a dog collar, hung up naked by the arms, etc. After-moment: the face of Maya, wincing as she watches the torture. I’m cheating on this last. Obviously it’s a reaction shot within a scene, but in terms of meaning, it provides a bookend to the torture moment just as surely as the 9/11 sequence bookends it from the other side. To see the truth of this, imagine an opening with the before and after moments removed. We would be watching a brutal torture scene with no comment whatsoever—that is to say, we’d be in a neo-realist film that lets us observe and come to our own conclusions, that avoids (ideally) telling us what to feel. Instead, the torture moment is framed as a reaction to 9/11, an over-reaction maybe but understandable in context and perhaps in the end—we have to entertain this possibility—excusable. Now let’s look at the work of Maya’s reaction shot (remembering that it’s precisely the reaction shot, a way to locate the audience member in the movie by offering him/her a surrogate who reacts to events the way we would given the chance—it’s precisely this key device of classic Hollywood Film that Neo-Realism rejected because it lulled us so easily into unthinking). Maya winces. We would too, humanists and democrats that we are. But she stays in the room, gritting her teeth, going against her nature. Sometimes, the film whispers, you have to make hard choices, to take hard measures—a celluloid lesson in ‘dirty hands’ moral philosophy."
Thomas Elsaesser: "As far as Hollywood is concerned, it wants audiences to interact with images, while Hollywood itself acts with the images. Which is to say, for the industry that makes them, images are instructions for actions — they trigger further moves, purchases and events — rather than pictures to contemplate or immerse yourself in, however much “immersion” might be the stated objective. In this respect, Avatar the film functions itself as an “avatar” in the larger system, of which it is the most successful representative. Hence my argument that when Hollywood films allegorize their own conditions of possibility, which are by necessity contradictory, they perform cognitive switches or enact a reversibility of roles: a master–slave relationship that never stabilizes itself."
Koutsourakis, Angelos. "Cinema of the Body: The Politics of Performativity in Lars von Triers Dogville and Yorgos Lanthimos's Dogtooth." CINEMA: Journal of Philosophy and the Movies #3 (2012)
Dialogic: Resources for May 30, 2013
Hudson, David. "Roman Polanski’s Venus in Fur: “It’s refreshing to witness a reinvigorated Polanski willing to once again delve deep into seedy psychodrama.” Keyframe (May 31, 2014)