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Review: [untitled]

Author(s): Jonathan Rosenbaum


Reviewed work(s):
Cinema and Language by Stephen Heath ; Patricia Mellencamp
Source: Film Quarterly, Vol. 38, No. 1 (Autumn, 1984), pp. 52-53
Published by: University of California Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1211885
Accessed: 10/01/2010 14:55

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the unchannelledenergy of the pulsion finds spaces are those of nightclubsor circusesor
a socially acceptable form; for example, cinemasor otherspots of entertainment).
Fuller'sprimitivesoften find a belief to weld L'Image-Mouvement is filled with myriad
theirrawenergyto. thoughtsabout film rangingfrom broadphil-
Deleuze opens with the declaration that osophicreflectionto close analysis(for exam-
L'Image is not a history, but a first attempt ple, a discussionof shadowandlightin specific
at a taxonomy of film-one whose study of filmsof Von Sternberg)to randommeditation
movementhe promisesto follow witha second (for example, an intriguingcommentaryon
volume on time. And yet, a subtle historical Method Acting and the Actor's Studio). The
argumentdoes underlie Deleuze's classifica- book is a virtuosoperformance,especiallyfor
tion. Althoughhe arguesno necessaryhistori- people outside the disciplineof film studies,
cal relationshipbetweenthe four centralclasses but that veryvirtuositymay well be the source
of image-movement,his book ends with a dis- of the majorreservationI haveaboutL'Image-
cussion on the "crisis of the image-action" Mouvement:it tries to do too much in too
in which he treats the postwar break-upof short a space. Frequently, one wishes that
realist narrative in American, Italian, and Deleuze would slow down and explain why
Germancinema. Wherethe image-actionde- he's bringingin a certainargument;although
pendsupon a preciseestablishmentof protag- theoretical,the book lacks an explicit meta-
onists in their situating environmentand so theoreticalanalysisof its goals, its methods,
offers the spectacleof a certainrealism,post- its desires. For example, Deleuze announces
war developments create an anti-narrative that he has little interest in psychoanalytic
cinemain whichsituationbecomesinessential. or linguistic(i.e., Metzian)approachesto film
Deleuzeisolates five qualitiesof this new his- but, exceptfor a few throwawaycriticismsof
toricalpossibility:the dispersionof real space the ways these approachesseem to him to
into a non- or fragmentedspace(as in Altman reduce and distort their objects of analysis,
where multipleactions break up the unity of he provides no extendedjustification of his
dramaticspace); the weakeningof dramatic disavowal;to be sure, some of the justifica-
logic (as in Cassavetes);an increasedemphasis tion derivesfrom the argumentof Anti-Oedi-
on wanderingand a motion that arrivesno- pus but since psychoanalysisand semiotics
where(as in Easy Rideror Lumet'simagesof may be the dominantmethods in film study
continuouscomings-and-goingsin a film like today, it would have been interesting for
Dog Day Afternoon); the recognition that in Deleuze to turn his mere assertions about
a worldof non-actionand of the lack of indi- thesemethodsinto articulatedarguments.
vidual initiativethe only centerof power lies And yet, any criticismsmust be relativein
not in individualsbut in the proliferationof light of the extremehistoricalimportanceof
media signals, cliches from on high (as in the book (althoughone can hope that Deleuze
King of Comedy or Nashville or Network); might make his theoreticalinvestmentmore
and a paranoid fascination with notions of explicit in volume 2). The appearance of
conspiracy(as in Lumet'sNetwork,Anderson L'Image-mouvement is an exciting event for
Tapes, and Prince of the City). Thus, in a few film study and one that well deservesserious
pages, Deleuze presents a panorama of the attentionand commentary.
new form of energyin the new Americanfea- -DANA POLAN
turefilm. Butperhapsevenmoresuggestively,
he goes on to examine Italian neorealismin
the same light and finds in that cinemanot a CINEMA ANDLANGUAGE
naturalismor a realismbut a kind of modern-
ist anti-realismin which space has no real Editedby StephenHeathand PatriciaMellencamp.Frederick,MD:
Publications
of America,1983. (American
existence(as he notes, the frequentimage of University Series,Volume
Monograph
FilmInstitute
1.) $25.00cloth,$10.00paper.
rain in Italian films works to render space
insubstantial);in which individualagency or As someone who attendedthe "Cinemaand
projects have no force; in which the guiding Language" conference held at Milwaukee's
light in peoples'slives is not theirown will but Centerfor TwentiethCenturyStudiesin 1979,
a will imposed by media and mass culture I recallit as a livelyeventthatwas
intellectually
(hence, in Fellini, the most clearly defined a good deal more scatteredthan the Milwau-
52
kee conference devoted to "The Cinematic THE
SUBJECT
OFSEMIOTICS
Apparatus"the previousyear. In contrastto NewYork:Oxford,
ByKajaSilverman. 1983.$35.00.
the smaller numberof participants,UN-like
seatingarrangementand greaterconcentration "Semiotics":the term has wreakedhavoc at
of the earlierconference, "Cinemaand Lan- film conferences, university campuses, and
guage" was ultimatelysomethingcloser to an publishinghouses acrossthe country.Its very
internationaltrade fair in academic theory, elusiveness-is it a mode of inquiry, a disci-
with an alluring sidebar of films and film- pline, a theory?-has made it the object of
makers(rangingfrom Akerman,Benningand much energeticdebate. Some people are un-
Burch to Gordon, LeGrice and Mangolte) abashedlymessianicabout its methodological
whichwerethemselvestoo scatteredto mingle possibilities.Still others know that they must
verymuchwith the theoreticaldebatesor with come to terms with it, but find themselves
eachother. dragged kicking and screamingthrough the
The first volume in the AFI's invaluable tortuous (not to say torturous)defiles of the
monograph series devoted to media theory signifier.And thereare those who have made
conferences-produced, like the others, a virtue of an adversaryposition, producing
thanksto the admirabletenacityof Ann Mar- counter-discourseslike rabbits out of a hat.
tin priorto herdeparturefrom the AFI's Edu- If only someone would write a book that ap-
cation Services-is, as co-editors Stephen proachedthe materialwith clarity,grace, and
Heath and PatriciaMellencamppoint out in precisionof thought, a book whose serious-
their brief preface, only "one record" of the ness and subtlety of analysis would provide
conferencethey co-directed.(Oddly enough, an accessibleexplicationof the terminology,
the same prefaceneglectsto mentionthe one a lucid illustrationof its procedures,and a
film shown-Noel Burch'sCorrectionPlease, critical assessmentof its usefulness! In The
or How We Got into Pictures-which con- Subjectof SemioticsKajaSilvermanhas given
ceivablyhad the most to do with the confer- us just that.
ence's statedtopic.) But if this recordremains Silvermanoffers her work as a supplemen-
necessarilypartial,it is neverthelessquite use- tary or explanatorytext to the currentpost-
ful for what it does offer. While three of the structuralistdebates within the discoursesof
papers-by StephenHeath ("Language,Sight anthropology,linguistics,literatureand film.
and Sound"), DudleyAndrew("The Primacy The prefatory quote (from Benveniste)situ-
of the Figurein CinematicSignification")and ates this work withinlanguagefrom the start:
Paul Willemen ("Cinematic Discourse: The "It is in and throughlanguagethat man con-
Problem of Inner Speech")-have already stitutes himself as a subject . .. 'Ego' is he
been publishedelsewhere,there are ten more who says 'ego'." Thus Silvermaninitiatesher
appearinghere for the first time, all of them task by attestingto the inextricabilityof the
of interest:studies of spectatorialplacement twin enterprises(psychoanalysis-the science
by MaryAnn Doane and MalcolmLe Grice, of the unconscious,and semiotics-the science
a theoreticalfeminist overviewby Teresa de of meaning)which govern the book. But far
Lauretis("Froma Dreamof Woman"), Mel- from being a simple primer,the book is rich
lencampon "Jokes and TheirRelationto the with imaginativeinsights and illustrativeex-
Marx Brothers," Philip Rosen on "Subject amplesfrom film and literature,for it is Silver-
Formation and Social Formation," three man's purpose to constantly articulate the
paperson Japanesecinema (by Burch, David reciprocalrelationsbetweentexts and theory.
Bordwelland Don Kirihara)and two on Un Perhaps most important, though, in distin-
Chien andalou (by Laura Oswald and Linda guishingthis book from otherswhichhave set
Williams,who engagein a debateon theirdif- themselves a similar project, is Silverman's
ferences). Of particularinterestis Kirihara's emphaticreferenceto the question of sexual
"Kabuki, Cinema and Mizoguchi Kenji," a differenceas a constitutiveorganizingprinci-
fascinatingstudy of the stylisticbracketingof ple in all of significationand sociality. Thus
kabukiin The Story of the Last Chrysanthe- while she lucidly explicatesFreudand Lacan
mums (1939), perhapsthe most neglectedof (amongothers),she does so froma perspective
Mizoguchi'smasterpieces. which acknowledgesboth the centrality of
-JONATHAN ROSENBAUM paternalvalues in the currentculturalorder
53

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