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Tay, Sharon Lin.
The Moving Image, Volume 3, Number 2, Fall 2003, pp. 111-113 (Article)
Published by University of Minnesota Press DOI: 10.1353/mov.2003.0021
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the Archive Mary Ann Doane Harvard University Press. Contingency. Each situation is different. Film theorist Mary Ann Doane’s new book. their suffering captured and preserved for those outside of such unfortunate circumstances. and semiology to map cinematic time. Does this implicate the viewer in all this image making? Do we make him take photographs in some of the most horrible situations we can conceive in our desire to see all of this? Frei’s War Photographer is interesting in its lack. the theory of how . but it does bring up many fascinating questions about the state of documentary work and its function in the world. the infusion of digitality and new media at the beginning of the twenty-first century sounds the death knell for the cinema as we knew it. The book harnesses various complex theoretical strands such as psychoanalysis. Are we voyeurs of a voyeur? Are we witnessing a man in the process of creating change? As he snaps photographs. but Frei leaves it alone. Books The Emergence of Cinematic Time: Modernity. Bergsonian philosophy. thus offering a new way to think about historiography. 2002 Sharon Lin Tay For some film scholars.R E V I E W S 111 extent. and some of these people do want their stories told. I am torn. Wright brings even more to the film in terms of its potential for critical dialogue. interrogates how film configures temporality—a central concern of historians and archivists—in different ways. Perhaps there is no answer here. The Emergence of Cinematic Time.” His especially honest statement contrasts with the things Nachtwey says (or doesn’t say). we see the digital display of his shutter speed and f-stop in the foreground of the frame. Is this just documentary distance? At what point is all this watching gratuitous? I maintain that we do not know from watching War Photographer. theories of visualities. It is disjointed and it is somewhat unsatisfying as a work about James Nachtwey.
and history. for the subjective play of desire. The obsession with knowledge and the rise of statistics as a discipline is evidence of the need to rationalize the contingent. film imbues its representation of time with two indeterminate features: presence at each projection. Doane argues that moving images possess a tantalizingly elusive constant of time. Doane considers how filmic materiality is unique among the vast range of media. Some scholars have pointed out a problem in film theory: the deployment of psychoanalytic methods sometimes means that the theory subsumes cinematic materiality and specificity. The Emergence of Cinematic Time questions the materiality of cinema to advance film theory into incorporating both new media and new ways of seeing. The Emergence of Cinematic Time contemplates the birth of cinema as coinciding with the emergence of modernity within the context of film’s impending demise. However. this book insists that film theory reengages historiography because both have an investment in the materiality and ontology of the cinema. thereby imbuing the historical work on early cinema with theoretical specificity. 1987) and Femme Fatales (London and New York: Routledge. 1991). then. Thermodynamism organizes time within a stable. In some ways a eulogy. In this respect. and archival is evident in the chapter exploring Sigmund Freud and EtienneJules Marey’s interventions into temporality. Recognizing a potential lost object. apprehension” (11). Doane’s original insight about the relationship between . Doane connects the film theorist’s concerns with psychoanalysis and semiotics. in other words. Tracing Marey’s problems in representing time graphically with his chronophotographic method. This important confluence of the historical. Doane elucidates cinema’s intrinsic relationship with time that eludes codification: the notion of contingency in film. and movement that performs time. The archival endeavor. The claim that early cinema evolves into the classic realist form has become a historical truism in film studies. The rise of modernity in the late nineteenth century rationalizes time according to the needs of industrialization and the commodification of labor. Time is stratified and coded in capitalist terms. Doane reconsiders the disjunction between the discourse and its object of study in psychoanalytic discourses of the cinema. the historian’s interest in early cinema. linear. With the digital revolution provoking changes in how we think about the moving image. Within the corpus of Doane’s prolific works on feminist film theory and psychoanalysis over the last twenty years in groundbreaking books such as The Desire to Desire (Bloomington: University of Indiana Press. Doane illustrates her theoretical model by juxtaposing Georges Méliès’s magic realist films with the Lumière Brothers’ linear recording of events. the image’s proximity to its object of representation. and homogeneous structure that is problematized by the necessity of difference to produce energy. For Doane. captures and stores time.R E V I E W S 112 we write and conceptualize historical practices. Doane shows how the Lumières’ linear style sets the precedent for classical narratives while Méliès’s techniques that counter theories of irreversibility are relegated to the depths of history as primitive cinema. This resulting stratification of time prohibits “the vicissitudes of the affective. Doane’s insightful juxtaposition of Freud and Marey reconfigures theory with filmic materiality. Doane contends that cinema has the potential to restore indeterminancy to time by recording the present and performing time. its visual systems. Incorporating time as a problem of difference in Freud’s work on memory. the archives’ storage of historical recordings suggests fetishism. theoretical. Although what is stored is past. She attributes the rise of classical narrative to the concept of irreversibility in theories of thermodynamism. For Doane. trauma. Doane offers a new explanatory model. pleasure. She questions the indexicality of filmic representation. anxiety. Doane focuses on film archiving as a cinephiliac enterprise with metatheoretical implications. and the archivist’s material investment in the filmic medium itself. Temporality distinguishes film from painting or photography. Doane’s attention to early cinema history sustains a historiography of the moving image as a cinema of attraction exploring the temporal possibilities of film. cinematic time traverses these joint inquiries of theory and history. a move that has been somewhat repressed in the almost three-decade-long quest to psychoanalyze filmic narrative.
Doane traces the history of ideas behind the persistence of vision and its relationship to filmic materiality. categorization. an argument that challenges its pervasiveness in feminist film theory. The Emergence of Cinematic Time considers the various nineteenth-century discourses on the persistence of vision. While Doane acknowledges the challenge new media pose to the cinema. she contextualizes the cinema as but one visual medium among many. 1899). Peirce’s sign system for the contingent of the indexical. The discursive shift evidenced in this argument is significant. Doane factors in the temporal and spatial workings of the film medium. Doane displaces signification from the female body to filmic materiality in her discussion of early cinema’s penchant to make the girl disappear in magic realist films such as The Artist’s Dilemma (Vitagraph/Edison. Doane repositions psychoanalysis as arising out of a particular historical period. Doane points to the drive to represent the contingent within a tantalizingly elusive present. Doane provides an alternative explanation of early cinema’s inexorable progress toward narrativity and heterosexual closure. it provides film historians. It suggests the need to rethink psychoanalytical undercurrents with a more materialist. C. Doane is interested in the qualitative dimension of time she calls “the contingency of the present. and film theorists with a film theory grounded in a necessary historical discourse that reorients and sharpens our questions about the selection. Although Doane announces the death of cinema. and historiographic feminist film theory. archivists. It argues that cinema satisfies the compulsion to register and store the present in time. This volume functions as a highly theoretical and necessary retrospective of film theory’s premises in relation to the cinematic medium. .R E V I E W S 113 thermodynamic entropy and narrative also raises questions about how difference relates to cinema and sexuality. contextual. the female figure remains a symptom and effect of difference in modernity. Instead. The concluding chapter is a cinephile’s homage to the materiality of film. It also reminds us to consider the materialities of the new media that currently assume so much technological and discursive space. organization. She reads the compulsion toward narrative and heterosexual closure as symptomatic of modernity’s anxieties about contingency as being congruent with Freud’s obsession. Doane counters the prevailing psychoanalytic readings that interpret this special effect as symbolic of the magician’s control over the threat of female sexuality through the mechanism of fetishism. For Doane. Psychoanalytic film theory placed the burden of signification on the female body. Italian Futurism’s celebration of photodynamism.” a mode different from internalized time. she analyzes this special effect as the magic film’s “coming to grips with a science that increasingly diminishes confidence in necessity and determination in favor of tendencies and probabilities” (135). underscoring the failure of the body to retain the present image because it invariably recedes into the past. the historical shifts we are witnessing in the transition to a multiplatform and multiple-interface media environment have actually reinvigorated both film history and the film archive as the two places where the materiality of the moving image matters. Doane’s feminist orientation inflects in this book. At the same time. Henri Bergson’s philosophy of time and memory. The imminence of cinema’s demise or. Moving beyond psychoanalysis. In other words. S. and imaginations of moving image artifacts. perhaps more accurately. In discussing the threats of sexual and racial differences spectacularly played out in early films such as Edison’s What Happened in the Tunnel (1903) and What Happened on Twenty-third Street (1901). Although muted. Citing the example of reality television. 1900) and The Conjurer (Georges Méliès. and Pier Paolo Pasolini’s penchant for the long take. Mobilizing optical theories of the afterimage. The Emergence of Cinematic Time contends that the recentering of filmic materiality remedies the elision of the cinematic medium in much of film theory. she recognizes that it is not so much the cinema’s potential for representation but the materiality of film itself that we love. its transformation paradoxically fuels an investigation of its materiality. Paul Souriau’s poetic license with graphic representations of movement.
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