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Introduction White Magic: Baudrillard and Cinema Jon Baldwin
London Metropolitan University
The greatest magician would be the one who would cast over himself a spell so complete that he would take his own phantasmagorias as autonomous appearances. Would not this be our case? -Jorge Luis Borges, 'Avatars of the Tortoise'
Curiously perhaps, for an influential thinker whose work was so concerned with issues of the image, illusion, the sign, spectacle, and representation, this is the first collection of essays on Jean Baudrillard and cinema. When discussions have been made of Baudrillard and film the orientation has predominantly been around notions of simulation and postmodernity. Necessary corrections and additions now begin to outnumber the early and popular conception of Baudrillard. Whilst there certainly is something to be said regarding simulation and film, this can result in an imbalance. What is often missing is the flip side of the core duality in Baudrillard's thought and consideration of that which antagonises simulation: namely symbolic exchange, seduction, and radical alterity. Seduction is diversion from one's path, a taking aside: Doel speaks of the ‘almost absolute proximity of the “play” of seduction in Baudrillard and the “play” of différance and dissemination in Derrida’ (Doel 2010, 187). The virtue of investigating this dimension of Baudrillard’s philosophy is evident in, for instance, Hunter Vaughan's contribution. Here he claims that the ‘unique and unexplored
Film-Philosophy | ISSN: 1466-4615
and without belief or superstition’: thus you thump your chests – alas. and history. Zelig (1983). Clarke: ‘a more sophisticated appreciation of Baudrillard’s thought on simulation and its relation to seduction carries significant. The mocking of Nietzsche's Zarathustra is appropriate here: ‘For thus you speak: ‘We are complete realists. even without having chests!’ (Nietzsche 1969. Consideration is given to Baudrillard's use of Film-Philosophy | ISSN: 1466-4615 2 . Derrida. the loss of its ‘magic appeal’ (Baudrillard 1993. Lacan. In so doing he provides a vast overview of Baudrillard’s fascination with cinema. Once Upon a Time in the West (1968). Žižek).’ The ambition of the collection can be summarised in the words of David B. Levinas. 143) Coulter makes apparent Baudrillard’s suspicion of technology and through a discussion of the ‘good’ Stasi officer from Das Leben der Anderen explores the role that film is playing in the collective understanding of history. The Wizard of Oz (1939). The Student of Prague (1926). Vertigo (1958).Film-Philosophy 14. Clarke considers the relative scarcity of comprehensive Baudrillardian studies of cinema and explores his mobilisation as a representative of postmodernism in readings of films such as Blade Runner and The Matrix. Mediated technologies of virtualization and the ‘obscene’ pursuit of realism are problematic to the quality of the cinematic image. 33).’ These essays share this concern despite their disparate subject matter (such as Das Leben der Anderen (2006). 33). Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) ) and other theorists employed (Deleuze. Rancière.2 2010 insight’ offered by the notion of seduction can be core to ‘the central arguments of film-philosophy for what cinematic form may provide for renewing our conceptualization of the world and our experience of it. Gerry Coulter produces a refined appreciation of simulation and focuses on technology. and the movement from ‘the most fantastic or mythical to the realistic and hyperrealistic’ (Baudrillard 1987. There are certain limitations to such literature and Clarke provides a fuller account of Baudrillard’s conception of cinema by moving from simulation to seduction. realism. untapped potential for film theory. David B. Baudrillard mourns the loss of cinema’s mythic qualities. Home of the Brave (2006).
but as a form owes more to the transformative and playful semiology of the pre-modern.2 2010 the 1926 German silent film. In the Valley of Elah (2007) and Stop-Loss (2008).Film-Philosophy 14. The returned soldiers in Home of the Brave come to realise that America values have become a ‘Starbucks and SUV’ lifestyle. Following a reading of Once Upon a Time in the West. A fuller appreciation of seduction is also considered necessary by Hunter Vaughan who claims that in most theoretical assessments of Baudrillard’s work ‘there is little mention of Seduction’. The reason for the commercial failure of these films is explored considering the trauma and abjection depicted. and Vertigo. and by utilising Baudrillard’s notion of indifference. The films Film-Philosophy | ISSN: 1466-4615 3 . ‘but instead to encourage the diverse and radical employment of its abilities. This is at the heart of western culture and fundamentally implicated in the dynamics of the Iraq ‘war’.’ Vaughan follows the lamentations of theorists such as Gilles Deleuze and Jacques Rancière in his focus on the betrayal of cinema by its industrial and commercial preference for traditional regimes of representation despite film's sensory capacity to move away from these. These themes come together in the paper by Kim Toffoletti and Victoria Grace. Toffoletti and Grace focus on recent big-budget films which respond to terrorism and the ‘war’ in Iraq such as Home of the Brave (2006). The Student of Prague: 'a remarkable illustration of the processes of alienation'. The move to seduction and illusion dissuades the dismissive assessment of film qua simulation. Vaughan suggests that this text offers an insight into the dichotomous and contradictory nature of cinema ‘which as an instrument of popular culture acts according to the modern logic of production. When cinema and terrorism are emptied of their symbolic qualities the result is a certain indifference. Clarke concludes with discussion of Baudrillard’s notion of disappearance and the distinctiveness of photography.’ Baudrillard considered the two elements of mass fascination in the twentieth century to be the white magic of cinema and the black magic of terrorism (Baudrillard 2002. 29-30). Vaughan concludes that the subversive nature of seduction can be used not just to critique visual culture.
postmodernist. and 'allergy to culture with a big C'. Perhaps this appearance is appropriate for a thinker who had claimed ‘I would rather see a second-rate American film than a French film’ (Baudrillard 1993: 33). Cholodenko. Baudrillard's notions of destiny and radical otherness are applied through a journey into Oz. The last resort of power is dramatised with the wizard's demand: 'Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain'.2 2010 and their reception echo the futility of America’s military activity and reflect the inability of the West to respond to the symbolic singularity and challenge of the terrorist act. deemed originary. and utilisation of Derrida. and anti-feminist. Baudrillard's fate was to have a hollowed out. hyperreal film 'increasingly simulates Film-Philosophy | ISSN: 1466-4615 4 . the B movie is. copy of his Simulacra and Simulation appear in The Matrix. First is a discussion of simulation: the defining aspect of the third order (simulation) and fourth order (virtualisation) is that 'they are devoid of the imaginary' which thereby thwarts the eruption of symbolic exchange. not of ‘identity’. the schlock/kitsch/hack films that are usually deemed the most 'critically disreputable films in cinematic history'. An alternative and singular reading of the film is produced: Dorothy exists in a state of ambivalence and radical otherness. with caution. Cholodenko's paper speculates upon the B movie. There is import here for the consideration of relational ethicality. probes the moral and aesthetic judgement and re-evaluation made upon such cinema: might the effort to ‘redeem trash’ and preserve second-order reality be a nostalgic one? The B movie morphs into the hyper-B movie. and confirmation of Baudrillard's challenge to the liberal paradigms of identity politics and cultural populism. as an acknowledgement that Baudrillard's preference is for B movies. paracinema.Film-Philosophy 14. Following discussion of Maxim Gorky's 1896 paradigmatic review of a Lumiere Bros program. in more ways than one. The Wizard of Oz is read by William Pawlett and Meena Dhanda in two-fold fashion. in a certain sense. whereas the title page of Derrida's Of Grammatology appears in a montage sequence in JeanLuc Godard's Le Gai Savoir (1967). Alan Cholodenko takes this sentiment. In so doing revision is made to the popular caricature of Baudrillard as a relativist.
Nietzsche. and Baudrillard. Jean (1987) The Evil Demon of Images. Baudrillard Jean (2002) The Spirit of Terrorism. the 'singular theorist of the hyper-'. Smith. Ed. Trans. especially the infallible David Sorfa. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. Baudrillard. London and New York: Verso. Jean (1993) ‘I Like the Cinema’ in Baudrillard Live: Selected Interviews. Mike Gane. Film-Philosophy | ISSN: 1466-4615 5 . Chris Turner. Ed. is proposed as the 'extreme' French theorist of aesthetics. contrary to those who would cite Bourdieu or Barthes. and all at FilmPhilosophy. Trans. (2010) 'Seduction' in The Baudrillard Dictionary. Edinburgh University Press. London: Routledge. Bibliography Baudrillard. Richard G. Doel. Sydney: Power Institute of Fine Arts. Paul Patton and Paul Foss. In so doing Cholodenko reveals what I consider to be the virtue of the collection as a whole: the taking of his ideas to places Baudrillard might not have anticipated himself. Acknowledgements: I would like to thank the contributors. Friedrich (1969) Thus Spake Zarathustra. Marcus A.2 2010 film'.Film-Philosophy 14.