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F i l m - P h i l o s o p h y
ISSN 1466-4615
http://www.film-philosophy.com
Volume 3 Number 15
April 1999
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David Martin-Jones

A Site for Sore Eyes

'On the Film/Image'
Edited by Jim Roberts
_Enculturation_, vol. 2 no. 1, 1998
http://www.uta.edu/huma/enculturation/2_1/toc.html

'Letizia Alvarez de Toledo has observed that this vast library is useless: rigorously speaking, a *single volume* would be sufficient, a volume of ordinary format, printed in nine or ten point type, containing an infinite number of infinitely thin leaves. (In the early seventeenth century, Cavalieri said that all solid bodies are the superimposition of an infinite number of planes). The handling of this silky *vade mecum* would not be convenient: each apparent page would unfold into other analogous ones; the inconceivable middle page would have no reverse.' J. L. Borges. [1]

The emblem chosen for the cover (not that it is actually possible to speak of a cover to this e-journal), that of a three dimensional image of a cube, with celluloid trim and disembodied Deleuze visage motif, includes a statement of the e-journal's intent: '_Enculturation_ is a space devoted to theoretical approaches to discourse, culture, and society.'

It is the third dimension to the text, the space made available by the realms of hyperspace, that _Enculturation_ seeks to exploit. The experience of reading (or is it, viewing?) the e-journal is significantly different to that of reading a print journal, not only in that the viewing process is interspatial, rather than linear, but also in the toll that the viewing plays on the body; the theme of technology and its effect on the body being itself one of the major themes of 'On the Film/Image'.

This attempt to make use of a hypertextual space and the possibilities for multimedia applications that it offers, is not only achieved through the use of icons, stills from films, film posters (that which you would expect to find adorning articles in the traditional, print media journal), but also: links to other websites of relevance to the article being viewed; the ability to leap immediately to the appropriate footnote within the feature; the introduction of sound, moving images from films, and mini-videos, etc., all of which inevitably serve to make the viewing process a much more eclectic one, and a rather more time consuming project.

_Enculturation_ includes not only the features and reviews that one would expect, but also a 'Web-Bin' that contains suggestions for new links to sites concerned with rhetoric, cultural studies, critical, literary, and post-modern theory. Moreover, the site offers links to other e-journals, a gesture that points somewhat to the size of the web, and the relative (in)significance of everything on/in it. There can be little competition within infinite space, and despite the user-friendly nature of the journal's layout (abstracts of each article are provided, with a potted biography of the author, as well as the aforementioned ease of reference to other sites of interest, etc.) that makes it almost 'consumable', there is still a sense of its own worth in relation to other publications in the same field. It is very much concerned, then, not only with interaction between various innovative media and technological forms within itself, but also with the dissemination of itself through interaction with sites outside of its own particular space. The elasticity of space-time that the different links enable brings _Enculturation_ 'closer' to a multiplicity of other sites, perhaps the only way of creating a form of stability (and perhaps, identity) within what is an acentered space; attempting, as it were, the impossible task of anchoring itself within the drift, where 'each apparent page would unfold into other analogous ones'.

Jim Roberts's introduction takes up this theme immediately, with his discussion of the Esper scanner from Ridley Scott's _Bladerunner_, another in-house machine that enables the viewer to penetrate the third dimension of a two-dimensional image. The scene is famous enough not to warrant unnecessary elaboration, and Roberts is simply using the analogy to show that 'truth' cannot be found by 'moving through the image and deeper into it', as the cinematic image, far from containing meaning, creates it.

Cinema *is* in the process of becoming, and, as the image encounters the body itself in the same process of becoming, 'the body becomes a crucial site for us to inquire into the operations of the image'. The meeting of body and image in the cinema is a site, becoming, an encounter. Similarly, the body as site, sighting the journal site, creates a matrix of becoming (the interaction of the physical and the technological), which causes the viewing process to work as a meta-narrative to the journal's content.

The image is 'a dynamic principle (a matrix, a phenomenon), it is endowed with powers that demand to be deployed and reflected'.

The act of mutual interaction (becoming) takes place at a virtual site, that is not only a 'what' are we becoming, but also a 'where' and 'when' are we becoming. In the third dimension of the text supplied by hyperspace, we are a becoming virtual body.

In 'Eviscerating David Cronenberg', David Blakesley attempts to find a general theme that runs through the work of Cronenberg, an attempt, if you will, to eviscerate the body of Cronenberg's oeuvre, and thereby find the characteristic that defines the auteur. This works well as a first feature as it engages with the very problems that the journal encounters in its inception. For Blakesley, Cronenberg is attempting to rediscover the autonomous subject in the modern world, structured as it is by the technological, and the psychological. This subject is to be found in the interaction between the physical (Cronenberg's emphasis on sex) and the technological becoming that parallels and 'perverts' that of the physical. Cronenberg is recombining the division between mind and body created by Descartes's emphasis on the cogito as fundamental essence of existence. The metaphor of the exploding head from _Scanners_ is used as a very effective, if rather extreme example, to show that a body without a mind is still a body (if not for very long!).

The existence of the body as independent of the mind (if all ideology and sexual identity are socially determined, cerebral constructs) enables us to rethink our physical existence. Our bodies are not subject to the mind, but actually capable of dominating the mind, the turd-like parasite that animates the bodies of the infected in _They Came From Within_ being the stated example. As the orgies that conclude the film express: without a mind, the body becomes a fucking machine.

In _Crash_, this machine-like sexual 'drive' is seen in the refiguring of the sexual organs as automobiles. In particular, the thrusting, aggressive, technological phalluses penetrating one another in the film's climactic scenes of sex and death. It is the biological-becoming-machine, an idea already prefigured earlier in the film in Ballard's (James Spader) cyborg-like leg brace. As Blakesley has it: 'technology is the physical expression, the dream, of a body as it writes its desires on social life'.

This is illustrated yet further by Max Renn's (James Woods) body, in _Videodrome_, which plays host to the technological parasite. With organically integrated 'hand-gun' and 'vagina-like orifice in his stomach that plays video tapes', Renn's physical existence expresses the metabiology of the man-machine that we are becoming. The evolution of the technological, that which the biological itself created, as its own dream of becoming.

My only criticism of Blakesley would be that, at one point whilst writing on _Crash_, he suggests that the eroticism garnered from the car crash is primarily due to the breaking down of social codes, that by and through which the mind rules the body: 'The eroticism comes from the potential power of a car to break the barriers of normality, the 'rules of the road', proxemic spatiality, the socially sanctioned ways of acting (sexually speaking or otherwise).' Sexually speaking, would the sexual positioning employed within the film (ninety percent of which is from behind, including the car chases) not warrant a closer examination in relation to the 'rules' of suture? What transgressions of the 'normality' of the shot/reverse shot formula is being enacted by the audience in this instance? The film is not merely erotic, I would argue, due to its content, but also because of the way in which it employs filming techniques in order to transgress ideological taboos.

That aside, Blakesley's article is very entertaining to view -- plenty of graphics, the background intriguing in its virtual obscurity (all I could ever make out was a pair of legs), and a good many links to other sites, including the Jayne Mansfield site, resplendent in lurid pink, and a moving image of the _Scanners_ head explosion that actually becomes more nauseating with each repetition (so much for desensitising!). Not all the links were found by my web server however, a problem that I encountered with several of the articles, whilst the instantaneous ability to click straight to the relevant footnote within the article (again, possible in many of the features) was a veritable joy after so much frustrated wading through of print journals in search of what inevitably turns out to be an 'ibid.'. Above all, the article has enabled me to reapproach Cronenberg from a new angle, ensuring that even films like _Videodrome_ become a little less confusing to watch.

The two features on Kathryn Bigelow, by contrast, somehow fail to grasp the attention in quite the same way. Jeff Karnicky's article, 'George Bataille and the Visceral Cinema of Kathryn Bigelow', emphasises the effect of the viewing experience on cinema audiences. The effect being said to be such that: 'Cinema should make you sick, alter your body, push you into an abyss of flickering images'.

This abyss (virtual space) being exactly that which influenced many of my own reactions to several of the articles. After several hours at the computer, viewing the journal as it took me to different virtual sites, I felt a very similar feeling coming over my own body. With all the links, graphics, mini-videos, links to sound, links to pictures, etc., that the journal contained, it was impossible to just print it out and read it at a later date. The prolonged engagement of my body with the site, that its format necessitated, produced an interesting array of maladies. Sore eyes, frontal headaches, bad posture, lower back pain, and other Dickensesque, grotesque deformities. Without delving too much into the realms of ergonomics, my virtual travel within the image had induced a certain feeling of nausea similar to that spoken of by Karnicky in relation to the cinematic image. A loss of self in the becoming other of the body as the site of interaction between man and machine. As Karnicky says of the 'Squid' from Bigelow's _Strange Days_, the skull cap which allows you to experience the life of another, takes you 'beyond the visual into the visceral'. Rather like Blakesley's attempt to eviscerate Cronenberg, it is the guts of the body that react most strongly to the attempt to move beyond the physical within which we are becoming technological.

The linking of the phenomena of becoming-other to Bataille's _Pineal Eye_ is well done. In the film, a world of expenditure has been created akin to that predicted by Bataille. Voyeurism has become a property, and the 'Squid', as commodity, is the purchasability of the memories of others.

'Privacy and individuality are forgotten in the pure experience of jacking in, an experience whose only product is bodily excitation. You no longer have to be yourself.'

The rape scene in particular reminding us that this loss of individuation in cinema (and indeed, web tec(h)tonics) opens up a sphere of personal ethics concerning the loss of the body that the film somehow fails to resolve. The feeling of powerlessness in the virtual effects the viewer of both media in a similar way.

Karnicky's argument, however, for all the implications it had for my own personal viewing of it, fails to convincingly engage Bigelow and Bataille. It seems to be more a case of using small extracts from Bataille in order to add depth to Bigelow's cinema. Karnicky also pirouettes rather suddenly into Deleuzian theory during a discussion of _Point Break_, in which Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves) and Bodhi (Patrick Swayze) are seen as coexisting lines of capture and escape -- doubles that oscillate around a point of indiscernibility; the film ending with Utah's abandonment of the line of law, and Bodhi's annihilation on the line of adrenaline. This all seems a little too easy an application of the theory, which failed to really expand my appreciation of the film, or Deleuze. Moreover, nothing was said about the effect of these lines on the audience. Perhaps it is just that it is a little difficult to take _Point Break_ all that seriously, after all, a man does jump out of an aeroplane without a parachute, and survive. Surely a Nietzschean reading would have been more appropriate . . . . . the Superman?

Laura Rascaroli's 'Strange Visions: Kathryn Bigelow's Metafiction', for its part, is a very solid, disciplined, academic work, that concentrates solely on _Strange Days_ in order to illustrate its creating of virtual cinema. Perhaps the path of the dream screen is becoming a little well trodden, but Rascaroli's explanation of the background is refined, and the shift into using Vivian Sobchack's view of perception as a two way process of seeing and being seen (and the indistinguishability of active and passive subject position that this entails) does work to save the article from the twin jaws of Mulvey and Studlar. [2] Rascaroli is able to discuss the metadiscourse of the film, based upon three assumptions: film reflects the world; the film/mirror is viewed object and viewing subject; and the mirror itself is a part of the prehistory of the cinema, ensuring that the discussion of the subject position remains ideological, but without being reducible to the dialectical opposition between the patriarchal and the matriarchal as defining gaze. The analogy is then drawn between cinema and the 'Squid' which transmits images: 'Straight from and to the cerebral cortex, in a movement that doubles (or mirrors) that of human perception.'

The implication being that the cinematic mirror, when used by Bigelow (through the special camera used to reconstruct the agile movement of the eye for the 'Squid' recordings) in order to create a totally subjective vision, reduces the barrier between viewer and screen, fiction and reality, body and image. Bigelow's creation of a transparent cinema, the virtualizing of the body in the process of viewing is then reversed (revealed?) with the smashing of mirrors that concludes the piece.

Personally, I felt that it might have been more effective for the journal reader to have had _Strange Days_ scrutinised from a somewhat more esoteric angle, especially as the 'Squid' is something of a 'gimme' for film theory. Surveillance and the human body, a major theme of the film, and undoubtedly avoided due to the snare of the politics of the Rodney King debacle, might, however, have provided much more of an insight into the becoming technological, not only of our bodies, but also of our space. In this way it might have been possible to analyse not only the becoming virtual of the private body, but also of the public body. This could have then been linked to cinema and the position of subject/s within it (and indeed the web), which acts, after all, on our collective body, as much as it does on the individual.

Patricia Pisters's 'From Mouse to Mouse -- Overcoming Information' highlights a few key notions propounded by Deleuze in the _Cinema_ books. Her explanations are both clear and superficial, in the sense that paraphrasing Deleuze is a near impossible task due to the vast depths to which his theories plummet, his unrepresentability, his virtual immanence (his face that works as icon to each of the features in the journal bearing witness to the becoming-Deleuzian of the century). The fact that the explanations given could be understood by almost anyone, seems to testify to a very solid grounding in the theory.

Pisters uses a five point plan (a typically Deleuzian device) in order to discuss the immanence of the image in Deleuze's cinema theory. She discusses Deleuze in relation to animation (from Disney to Computer generated Imagery (CGI)), Eisenstein on animation, the actual and the virtual, the 'new image' (post _Cinema 2_) and finally, Luc Besson's, _The Fifth Element_ as example of the 'new image'.

The link between cartoons and CGI is drawn within the context of Deleuze's work on the movement-image, in _Cinema 1_. Rather than distinguishing between cartoon and photorealistic images (especially now that CGI makes animated images appear even more 'realistic', and therefore 'photorealistic') both types of image can be seen to exist on the same level, as becoming, as being formed (and, simultaneously, dissolved) through movement. Seen in this way, animation, by definition, is as 'valid' a part of cinema as any 'representational' image.

This fluid movement of becoming is then paralleled with Eisenstein's 'plasmaticness', the coming into being which he saw as sensation (akin to fire, water, music) and which he himself likened to animation. Moreover, the Deleuzian case of the becoming-animal is alluded to in order to illustrate that the becoming of the cartoon character is in fact a double process, one that is at once man imitating mouse, and mouse imitating man, an oscillation around a point of indiscernibility that makes it impossible to tell which is original, and which copy. This would suggest that animation actually qualifies as a 'time-image', and, if so, as one of the earliest. It might be prudent, however, not to rely too heavily on the feasibility of this conclusion until the rest of Pisters's work has been seen. This is due to the fact that the rational interval that characterises the movement-image (that on which Pisters based her initial point that animations are cinematic images) does not characterise the time-image (even if all movement-images are indirect time-images). [3] In this way, Pisters is possibly in danger of deconstructing her own argument. This slight reservation aside, however, it seems a well reasoned point, if in need of further clarification.

Pisters then goes on to explain Deleuze's emphasis on the virtual and the actual as (almost) 'replacements' of the philosophical notions of truth and falsity, notions that collapse with the becoming, time-image. A difficult task within the confines of the feature, Pisters makes use of the Bergsonian theory of time (the present that passes and the past that is preserved) coupling it to the indiscernibility of original and copy caused by the collapse of the notion of static binaries; in order to show the fall of the philosophical tradition of transcendence (Plato to Descartes) and the rise of the Nietzschean inspired 'powers of the false', that influenced Deleuze's philosophy of immanence. At this juncture, just to add emphasis to her earlier point, it is no longer even relevant whether animated images are cinematic or not, as everything is image (proliferation of simulacra) and there is no 'real'.

As for the 'new image' (Deleuze's parting shot at the close of _Cinema 2_), the idea of the silicon-image is related to Besson's _The Fifth Element_. Although a very brief closing example, it looks as though it may stand up under close scrutiny, even if it perhaps suggests a sad lookout for cinema if we are to be subjected to many more films of this sort!

Nina Zimnik's piece (''Give me a body': Deleuze's Time Image and the Taxonomy of the Body in the Work of Gabriele Leidloff') reads well if placed in conjunction with Pisters's, as it begins from Pisters's resting position, that the world is now a plurality of images. In order to think the logic of images the thinker must now be an 'imagologist' (borrowing Mark C. Taylor's defining term). The feature first attempts to link Deleuze's cinematic theory back to its Kantian roots, in an aesthetics slightly different to the modern conceptualisation of the image, and from there analyse the art of Gabriele Leidloff, the German Jewish artist. Like Pisters's article, it is an attempt to use _Cinema_ in a cross-disciplinary fashion, a task that, due to Deleuze's 'dense prose', necessitates the unravelling (through Kant) that Zimnik supplies, before allowing an application of what is then a theory of the image (rather than specifically, the cinematic image) to the 'experimental visual techniques' of Leidloff.

Zimnik brings into focus the role of the body in chapter eight of _Cinema 2_. It is the body that forces thought to think the unthought, in life itself. It is thought's outside, that which relates it to time. Once again, as was the case with Blakesley's article, we see the desire to palimpsestically overwrite Descartes's cogito, and the privileging of the mind over the body. The body has become the new home for thought, the new expression of (new thinking of) art. There is a point at which, during Zimnik's discussion of the impossibility of *thinking* art after World War II (particularly the holocaust), the term 'postmodern' is introduced. The use of this word at this point in the discussion, however, is problematic. It certainly creates difficulty when used in conjunction with Deleuze's theory, which is most definitely based within the parameters of modernist thought (Bergson, Proust, etc.). This is the danger of thinking the time-image as a solely historical phenomenon, for, although it certainly did emerge after World War II (supposedly also the advent of postmodernism), it was already in existence during the modern period, in the movement-image as incomplete time-image. Moreover, Deleuze's use of Nietzsche's eternally recurring moment denies the very possibility of the term 'post' in conjunction with his theory of cinema. [4]

Regardless of this tiny problematic -- as Zimnik proceeds to show through Deleuze, and Rodowick on Deleuze (the becoming-Bible on the cinema texts) -- the body is now the 'spatial sign of time that passes'. [5] It is the site of the nomadic mind, ensuring that the final part of the article, on Leidloff's works on the body, shows the differing ways in which this body, as potentiality, as virtual site of thought, can be seen.

Leidloff works with radiographic imaging, cat scans, and sonography, to film dummies, in a way that comments on the conventions of televisual aesthetics and narrative techniques, through the distortion created by the utilisation of medical and scientific equipment. The body, matter, is seen by the viewer, yet it is matter transferred back into 'surface' due to the equipment used. A more detailed summary of this would necessitate a re-writing of an already precise description. Suffice it to say that what is seen is the unthought in thought, the becoming virtual of the body, the technological as dream of the body's potential.

This introduction to Leidloff, an artist who seems to make use of the non-conventional and the marginal in an extremely avant-garde fashion (the real time filming of the habits of an old woman, for instance) has made me keen to see more. There was, however, one extremely major difficulty with the article, and that was that a persistent JavaScript error meant that I was unable to view the mini-videos necessary for a full appreciation of the discussion. (As this review goes to e-press the videos are now working.) As Zimnik comments herself, at one point: 'What you see on your screen largely depends on your machine's capacity for downloading.'

Yet there is little that can be done if what is to be downloaded has not been correctly formatted. Furthermore, there seems to be a missing title to one of the works, unless I am mistaken and it is actually called _ . . . _ .. If I am correct in thinking that these errors are universal, and not just local to my server, then a more careful editing process was perhaps required.

The two articles on Peter Greenaway concentrate on the complicity of the audience in the creation of the image. In 'Cinematic Violations in Peter Greenaway's _The Baby of Macon_', Marsha Gordon regards violence against the female body, and the spectator's culpability in the cinematic production of this fetish. _The Baby of Macon_ is a film that is played out as a masque, seen by an audience within the film. This metacinematic device is used to show the necessity of the audience in the creation of a cinematic image, the audience's role in the masque being just that: 'The spectator of the film watches the spectators of the play, the spectator of the film has to be seen through the camera's eyes instead of his/her own.' Once again, it is the becoming virtual of the body of the audience (its own figuring within and without the film) as a site of interaction with the image.

Primarily the article is a close reading of the film, with a tightly-knit analysis of its mythopoetic theme (that of the virgin birth, negation of the matriarchal, symbolic death of the father, and founding sacrifice of the son, Bible story). What takes the article beyond the usual 'spot the analogy' rendering, is the concentration on the body of the virgin as the site on which is played out the Kristevian idea of 'childbirth as the locus of sexual violence'. Initially the virgin's body is read as a text, the inspection of her hymen, whose 'truth' validity is indisputable (thereby legitimising the myth of the child as virgin birth) and the breaking of which would ensure that she became legitimated 'through blood as letter'. The notion of truth as somehow *discernible* is therefore called into question by the body. Moreover, it is this very notion that brings about her execution when the blood found on her body is (mis)read as evidence of the discernible truth of her own guilt. In this way, the border between what we see, as a cinema audience, and what we believe, becomes problematic, as the validity of the body as site of truth, of the 'real', is brought into question.

The rape of the virgin is then used to further disturb the usual complacency of the distanced cinematic audience. Whilst our metacinematic doubles (the audience of the masque) are distanced from the rape, the placing of the camera ensures that we are not. Becoming party to the rape, our desire to see (consume) an image being part and parcel of its being produced. As was the case with Karnicky's analysis of _Strange Days_, it is the immediacy with the event that creates our feeling of discomfort. Placed in the position of the other's body (as was the user of the 'Squid') our powerlessness indicates the symbolic rape enacted upon us by the (Dayanian 'Tutor Code') narrative, the only refusal left being the act of leaving the cinema.

Perhaps the main problem I had was that, although a very studied description of Greenaway's aesthetic ideals, it didn't really advance my knowledge of subject position theory. As Greenaway, like Bigelow, becomes somewhat done to death, it seems that there are fewer auteurs left to discuss, and fewer ways of discussing what has already been done. Even so, one might wonder if Lars von Trier's _Breaking the Waves_ might have presented a more complex example of the rape of the female body, and the culpability of the audience (religious community) in the act of desiring it. Similarly, Thomas Deane Tucker's critique of Greenaway's _The Draughtsman's Contract_ and its deconstruction of frames can't really take us much further than Antonioni already did by making _Blow Up_ in 1966.

In 'Frames of Reference: Peter Greenaway, Derrida and the Restitution of Film-Making', Tucker explores _The Draughtsman's Contract_ through Derrida's writing on framing in _The Truth in Painting_, to show the interlacing levels of framing within the film.

Derrida's theory of the *parergon* was an attempt to move away from the search for a (teleological) unitary meaning within art, a single interpretation which itself becomes an enforced frame around the work, defining it for all time. This is, to 'hegemonically regulate from the outside what can properly be called art'. Like Derrida's own work, in the fold between art and theory, his idea of the *parergon* is the deconstruction of the work of art (and, art) from both within and without the frames of both art and theory; without privileging either, yet remaining within both. This causes the outer frame to crack, and the outpouring that ensues disseminates the effect of the art work across both theory and art: 'Working within the frame of aesthetics means to detach art from theory and to reinscribe their difference within the incision.' It is to write on/in the frame, that which is both outside of, and inside of, both disciplines.

The film's theme of the contract is shown to be common to all commercial films, as Tucker suggests that initially the title has commodity value, and as such, exists outside the film. The audience enters into a contract on the strength of the title that it pays for. Yet this is then, itself, reframed within the social texts of which it becomes a property. Furthermore, in addition to its exterior existence as contract, the audience also understands the placement of the title within the film, across the pictorial image. Not only inside the frame of the film, but also working as a frame to the film.

'Thus the act of titling, both inside and outside the film-frame but 'properly' located in the space of neither, exemplifies the strange logic of *parergonality*.'

The discussion of the title as an act of framing on a metaphysical level 'complete', Tucker then proceeds to close/open the theoretical application of the theory at a narrative level. The contract drawn up in the film is itself a frame, within which, and without which, two parties exist, and/or (in the case of the draughtsman) cease to exist. The draughtsman's desire to keep his monocular frame uncontaminated is thwarted by the intrusion of foreign objects from outside of the frame. This frame is then invaginated by Greenaway's use of the camera to shoot strictly through Neville's (the draughtsman's) optical grid, questioning the originality of art through the new frame of cinema. This in itself leads to the problematics of the differences in representational techniques employed by the two media. The fragmentary nature of the film making process makes it impossible for film to remain faithful to the pictorial 'completion' of a framed work, within an art form that relies implicitly on continuous, and simultaneous, de- and re-framing, i.e. montage technique.

As was the case with many of the articles, I felt that it may have benefited from the discussion of the theory in a microcosmic aspect, a close analysis of a single scene perhaps, how the composition of the shot can be seen to de-frame it, or similar. I was also slightly puzzled by the appearance at several points of a long line of EEEEEEEEEEE's, apparently there to denote a shift in focus within the article. An extremely good piece however, if the auteur is a little too 'mainstream avant-garde' then this does not dehabilitate the journal too much, due to its inclusion of the works of the more experimental and cross-disciplinary, Leidloff, etc.

Iain Thomson's 'The Silence of the Limbs: Critiquing Culture from a Heideggerian Understanding of the Work of Art', begins (not surprisingly) with a brief overview of Heidegger's theory, upon which Thomson then proceeds to develop his own argument. What marks this feature out as interesting, however, is that it proceeds with a quirky humour that sustains the interest of the viewer amidst the oft mind-blowing (that _Scanners_ feeling) abstractions to which all theory of this sort is wont to ramble. For instance: 'Cast out of the past and projected into the future, we are 'always already thrown' (like Howard the Duck) into a world we didn't make'. Admittedly, its been a long time since I saw _Howard the Duck_, but it certainly worked as a metaphor that enabled me to keep the concept in mind.

The problem for us, is, how to interpret the world into which we are thrown, knowing little of its construction; and how can we perceive it accurately, unless we first understand the ways in which we are seeing it ('the interpretative predecisions which always already filter and circumscribe our perspectives')? How can we place ourselves, within the world?

Thomson's response is that, if Heidegger's theory of art shows that art itself works to convey the truth ('art works to construct and maintain intelligibility'), then the work of art can be seen as a social paradigm. For this reason, an analysis of _The Silence of the Lambs_ should help us to 'find' or discover our reality.

Moreover, we, the audience, will reinforce (or not) this 'being'. Realise, of course, that this is the briefest of overviews, and that the theory is put very clearly, and also covers Heidegger's theory of language, and how this is brought to bear on his thoughts on art. Thomson introduces and aligns the tension between 'world' (interpretively inexhaustible content) and that which would maintain its distance from interpretation (and, definition) 'earth'; the very tension that defines a work of art. The dimension within the work of art that allows relative truth to an interpretation, without enforcing any one specific interpretation. The never-ending process of creating 'reality'. Admittedly, Thomson does signal that, in interpreting the film as a work of art, thereby foreclosing it, he would be deconstructing his own argument, but at least he doesn't (art-i)choke on this for too long!

In the second part of his argument, Thomson also takes up the anti-Descartes banner, re-assessing the historical exclusion of the body from philosophy, 'the silence of the limbs', the privileging of the cognitive over the physical. His critique of the film then draws together the denial of the body by rationality, with the denial of the 'reality' of death that this (at least partly) entailed.

Inevitably, Thomson succeeds. Beginning with a close psycho-analysis of the symbolism of the opening scene, drawing links to Agent Starling's (Jodie Foster) double in the film (the senator's daughter being held by Buffalo Bill) in order to expand the range of the conclusions to include the American democratic system, its people. After all, what did Bill wish to become in the skin of the senator's daughter, but the senator herself? And concluding with the death of Bill (himself symbolising death) in the final showdown with Starling, as illustrative of the people's desire for the 'happy ending', as the (Heideggerian) denial of death. As Thomson points out, it is in actual fact Crawford's 'dinner date' with Lecter that provides the 'real' 'ending' to the film, the point at which the inner and the outer spaces collide. It is here that the internal, artistic space of the film spills out on to the outer sphere, the social.

By believing that we have beaten death (Bill) we allow it to walk freely among us (Lecter). It is for this reason that we visit the cinema, the happy ending. Not only is it a Heideggerian work of art, but also a dream of the public unconscious, that death will not be paying us a visit, even though he obviously will. The silence of the limbs, the denial of the body, that upon which death, Lecter, feeds, ('with a nice Chianti . . . thu thu thu thu thu . . .' etc.).

As an interesting additional piece, the 'Featured Artist' page contains 'Animations' by Rick Doble. A selection of several of his 'small animations', some of which can take a little while to download, but which are well worth the wait. _Enculturation_ is definitely taking advantage of an aspect of the electronic medium that a print journal really cannot compete with.

Doble creates 'photographic animations', a series of photographs, taken at intervals to accommodate the movement within time of the object. These are then placed in a loop, or repeated, but with asynchronous intervals between each shot. The randomness inscribed aims, Doble argues, towards the same goals as those of the futurists, or the cubists: the visualising of the whole of an object in both space and time. It is the perfect example of the way in which technological innovations change the way art is created, and, in this e-journal format, the way in which it can be disseminated and received. A particular favourite was the somewhat vertiginous 'ceiling'. The shadow of the smoke alarm perhaps tracing a visual analogy for time passing, the shadow of a sundial? Whilst 'driving', due to Doble's inclusion of himself within the shot, with its changing backgrounds coexisting with the (illusionary) unchanging position of the artist, is as good an example of Deleuze's theory in _Cinema 2_ as you are likely to find. In essence, Doble's art is akin to having your own 'flick-book' included in your print journal.

This issue of _Enculturation_ concludes with two brief, competent reviews: 'A Logic of Sense: Stupidity and the Dumbing Up of America (?)' is a comparison of 1998's two summer films, _The Truman Show_ and _Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas_. Byron Hawk approaches them as critiques of America in the 1950s and 1960s respectively, and concludes, rather scathingly, if very accurately, that the difference in popular reaction to the two films illustrates the American audience's desire *not* to be liberated from ideology. Rather than seeking out chaos (Depp's portrayal of Thomson) the audience prefers the return to the security of the good old days of the 1950's. Admittedly this is a slightly generalised view of the American audience -- after all, Scorcese still draws a crowd, now and then -- but then generalisations are, by definition, generally true.

Jim Robert's closing review of _Empty Moments: Cinema, Modernity, and Drift_, by Leo Charney, [6] is a very brief summary of the book and its look at turn of the century cinema through the theories that existed contemporaneously with the advent of modernist cinema (Proust, Husserl, Cubism, etc.). His equation of the book to Hartley's recent film _Henry Fool_ bestows on the book a very high accolade.

Aside from those few already mentioned, the e-journal's shortcomings were perhaps all the more frustrating because they could have been corrected with very little effort. For instance, there was a profusion of typing errors in many of the articles -- proof that a computer spell checker will always pass over the word 'toe' when what is meant is 'to' (and, as the body interacts with technology, we learn repeatedly that it is not computers that make the errors, but the people who use them). Also, many of the links did not seem to exist, and on a number of occasions, the site 'www.uta.edu' was itself unavailable, but this is actually no different than trying to track down a print journal on the shelves of a busy library, i.e. go back tomorrow and try again.

The above notwithstanding, the journal is fairly easy to access. The first issue is also well worth a look, for its esoteric diversity of content. Perhaps lying somewhere in-between _Strobe_ and _Screen_ (if such an analogy is permissible) the main asset of _Enculturation_ is its willingness to include varied aspects of cultural theory within its own self-conscious exploration of its textual space. This openness to different perspectives makes it something of a nodal plane, a site from which to leap off into other spaces on the web, 'the superimposition of an infinite number of planes', its self-conscious acknowledgement of which provides it with a virtual, becoming identity.

University of Glasgow, Scotland
February 1999


Footnotes

1. J. L. Borges, 'The Library of Babel', _Labyrinths_ (London: Penguin, 1962), p. 86.

2. Laura Mulvey, 'Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema', in Gerald Mast and Marshall Cohen, eds, _Film Theory and Criticism_, 4th edn (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992), pp. 746-757. Gaylyn Studlar, _In the Realm of Pleasure: Von Sternberg, Dietrich and the Masochistic Aesthetic_ (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1988).

3. 'The movement-image is in fact a time-image, but an indirect one.' D. N. Rodowick, _Gilles Deleuze's Time Machine_ (London: Duke University Press, 1997), p. 86.

4. 'In the cinema the modern is already history. But it has never been replaced.' John Orr, _Cinema and Modernity_ (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1993), p. 1.

5. D. N. Rodowick, _Gilles Deleuze's Time Machine_ (London: Duke University Press, 1997), p. 168.

6. Leo Charney, _Empty Moments: Cinema, Modernity, and Drift_ (Durham: Duke University Press, 1998).


Filmography

_The Baby of Macon_, Greenaway, 1993.
_Bladerunner_, Scott, 1982.
_Blow Up_, Antonioni, 1966.
_Crash_, Cronenberg, 1996.
_The Draughtsman's Contract_, Greenaway, 1982.
_Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas_, Gillian, 1998.
_The Fifth Element_, Besson, 1997.
_Howard the Duck_, Huyck, 1986.
_Point Break_, Bigelow, 1991.
_Scanners_, Cronenberg, 1980.
_Silence of the Lambs_, Demme, 1990.
_Strange Days_, Bigelow, 1995.
_They Came From Within_ (a.k.a _Shivers_, a.k.a _The Parasite Murders_), Cronenberg, 1974.
_The Truman Show_, Weir, 1998.
_Videodrome_, Cronenberg, 1982.

Copyright _Film-Philosophy_ 1999

David Martin-Jones, 'A Site for Sore Eyes', _Film-Philosophy_, vol. 3 no. 15, April 1999 http://www.mailbase.ac.uk/lists/film-philosophy/files/martin-jones.html

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