Category Archives: Academic Writings

Research Log 3.0: Mind-Maps & Detours

June 19, 2018

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from Agnes Varda’s Visages Villages (2017)

For the past few weeks, I have been engaged in the following activities:

Sorting

It has been a year ever since I collected ebooks in my Mendeley software. It’s my e-library. For the past few weeks, my goal was to run through everything I collected for the purpose of sorting out literature in their respective fields and disciplines. In total, I have 127 books to sort in my computer related to m thesis, not to mention the external books and printed reading from course works.

Critical Literature Review

Aside from sorting activities, I also did a critical review of some of the related literature to my thesis. So far, I have read the following essays and introductory chapters of the books

  1. Gerstner, D. A. (2003). The Practices of Authorship. In D. A. Gerstner & J. Staiger (Eds.), Authorship and Film(pp. 3–25). New York and London: Routledge.
  2. Koepnick, L. (2017). The Long Take: Art Cinema and the Wondrous. Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press.
  3. Henderson, B. (1980). The Long Take (1971). In A Critique of Film Theory(pp. 48–61). New York: E.P. Dutton.
  4. Derrida, J. (1994). Dedication and Exordium. In P. Kamuf (Trans.), Specters of Marx: The State of the Debt, the Work of Mourning and the New International(pp. xv–xvi). New York and London: Routledge: Taylor and Francis Group.

All of which can be found here in my blog.

Mind-Maps

time-management-mind-map-paul-foreman

Aside from reading, I also developed a mind-map for my thesis to help me assess the potential pathways of going through its framework. But there must be a caveat in doing this. It must not pre-empt or close the maps from creating other new pathways, but rather work out the contradictions that also confront the work. The mind map provides a way to write the thesis in an orderly manner, constructing a schema of arguments that serve as guides to different operations, concepts and methods to go through.

Detour 1:  “….aporetic limit…”

One of the key concepts in my thesis design is the search for aporetic limits. This is something I coined in my concept paper I showed to my adviser. After reading the opening parts of Derrida’s Specters of Marx, I felt a sudden apprehension of not actually being able to get something related to my thesis. I wanted to read something related to aporetic limit. Google algorithm led me to the book ‘Derrida and the Political’ by Richard Beardsworth, who used the exact term ‘aporetic limit’. Beardsworth (1996) wrote:

‘Rather than dwelling with the aporia of need, Marx effaces the aporia by positing the remainder of the difference between particularity and universality as the universal class of the proletariat. Marx therefore develops the aporetic ‘limit’ as a sublatable opposition between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. The gesture is Hegelian, even if Marx simultaneously simplifies Hegel’s idea of an absolute state by ‘positing’ the social universality of one class. Marx’s reduction of the aporia of need prolongs and simplifies Hegel by making unrecognized violence into an ontological principle of class struggle. The modern period of revolutionary politics which justifies political violence in the name of a social subject ensues.’ (p. 95)

Let us first discuss the meaning of aporia in relation to how Beardsworth reads Derrida. Aporia is an uncontrollable position that manifest at the time of decision, action, writing, expression, and deployment. In his reading of Derrida, for Beardsworth, derrida-and-the-politicalaporia emerges from the displacement of transcendental discourses like philosophy with empirical discourses like human sciences (anthropology, social science, etc.). An aporia is ‘neither is philosophy or outside it, one from which the future of thinking and practice is thought’ (p.5).

An aporia is what negotiates and re-inscribes, for Beardsworth, the metaphysical notion of transcendental and the empirical. It is where Derrida locates the ‘necessity of judgement and the promise of the future’ (p. 5) Beardsworth further elaborates two qualifications of an aporia: (1) it necessitates one to make a decision and judgement, (2) it necessitates one to make a decision not in the present but in the face of contingency. An aporia therefore ‘inaugurates a philosophy of judgement and a thinking of justice in relation to time.’ (p. 5)

One can see Beardsworth ambivalent position with Marx’s project. There is an attempt to privilege the concept of aporia contra Marx’s paradoxical deployment of the reversal of Hegelian dialectic. The paragraph quoted above is written under the heading of Modern Political Fate and the Suppression of the Event of Time. It starts with the elaboration of how Hegel’s last work Philosophy of Right suppresses aporia. He said: ‘The aporia of dialectic ‘is’ the aporia of time’ (p. 91). This originates from the suppression of time under the logic of dialectic, leading to a paradoxical point where recognition becomes misrecognition, in which truth (time itself) is hidden.

In the previous paragraph, Marx enters as a bad example of download (1)deploying the concept of aporia. Beardsworth wrote: ‘Marx is certainly right in the Critique of Hegel’s Doctrine of the State to criticize Hegel for deriving the institutions of the social whole from a presupposed idea. But he gives the wrong reasons when he argues for the reversal of Hegelian idealism and for the practical and revolutionary development of the material existence of the people’ (p. 94). Beardsworth outwardly state Marx’s wrong move is the appropriation of Hegel’s dialectic: ‘The problem in Hegel is not the idea of the idea; the problem is the: logic of this idea. This logic, the law of contradiction, is repeated in Marx’s materialism, turning his thinking of ‘matter’ into a logical idea.’ (p. 94) Beardsworth accuses Marx of suppressing time within the philosophy of history. Beardsworth state: ‘His very attempt to go beyond philosophy, plunging it into the matter of socio-technical history, remains metaphysical when he inscribes his thinking of time and practice within the Hegelian logic of contradiction.’ (p. 94)

Beardsworth, however, does not accuse Marx entirely of the faults of Hegel. He considers Marx’s constitution of the dialectical relation between the proletariat and the ruling class as the aporetic limit in itself, as a ‘sublatable opposition between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat’. What he points out is the replication of the logic of contradiction(?) in relation to Dialectical Materialism. Afterwards, Beardsworth move towards a moralization of violence with regards to depoliticization, or the erosion of political ontology, of nation-states. There is actually a dialectical materialist rationale behind these erosion of political ontology, that has nothing to do with the aporia that Beardsworth is trying to posture. It is the result of class struggle which is the politico-material manifestation of what he tries to efface as the logic of contradiction(?). Mao said that in his essay On Contradiction: ‘The law of contradiction in things, that is, the law of the unity of opposites, is the fundamental law of nature and of society and therefore also the fundamental law of thought. It stands opposed to the metaphysical world outlook.’ Beardsworth fails to reconcile that logic of contradiction is not a logic per se of coming to terms with reality but system of thought (a law) that allows us to think of nature and social conditions not as One but always Two. And in the recent iteration of Badiou, a Three.

With this, it is necessary to rescue aporia from the clutches of Beardsworth’s overdetermination of its metaphysical opposition by sublating it (via a negation of negation) and turning it upside down as a materialist concept. It might as well be important to read aporia in relation to a strand of thinking that can only be extracted from a Maoist lens of looking at contradiction, but also taking into account the historical importance of Derrida’s impetus to locate it at the conflicted area of materialism and idealism. Is there a way to appropriate aporia in class struggle? Beardsworth was close. He inscribed it as the sublatable opposition between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. To transform aporia into a tool for analysing aesthetic objects, this requires another long post.

Detour 2: In Search of Marx’s Method on Film Analysis, or ‘What if Marx was a Film Theorist?’

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This month of June, in between eczema flare-ups and restless weekends, I managed to gather a lot of books about the dialectical materialist methodology. In  German Ideology, in the part where Marx disses Max Stirner, Marx deploys a close reading of Stirnex’s texts, in particular his most contentious Ego and His Own, the progenitor of anarchic individualism and, to some extent, poststructuralism,  Marx was very much attentive to Stirner’s textual inscription, often making fun of Stirner’s use of metaphysical concepts etc.

Close reading can be done in films: frame-by-frame analysis, stylistic analysis, etc. But all of which has to be extended first from the base criterion of cinematic time. Cinematic images have to be analysed as temporal continuum, not as framed presences. Massumi’s idea of topological movement in Parables of the Virtual comes to mind.

The problem however is relating this temporal continuum to the story world, which contains some of the most interesting positions, expressions etc. that may reveal the ideological implications of the film. If viewed from a dialectical materialist perspective, it requires one to relate film style or film form in relation to the modes of production (the base) and the ideological superstructure. It is a basic problem in Marxist epistemology, specifically, the problem of the relation of the particular and the universal.

I have collected different references that might probably illuminate a method on ideological analysis of the aesthetic mode of production. Books like Dance of the Dialectic: Step in Marx’s Method by Bertell Ollman; a collection of essays titled Marx at the Movies: Revisiting History, Theory and Practice edited by Ewa Mazierska and Lars Kristensen which conceives the relation of cinema and Marxism from a post-Soviet historical moment; H.T. Wilson’s Marx’s Critical/Dialectical Procedure; and countless of essays that bear the term ‘method’, ‘dialectical’ and ‘materialist’ like Peter H. Sawchuk’s Dialectical Materialist Methodologies for Researching Work, Learning, Change: Implications for Class Consciousness, authors Cassia Baldini Soares, Celia Maria Sivalli Campos, and Tatiana Yonekura’s article Marxism as a theoretical and methodological framework in collective health: implications for systematic review and synthesis of evidence, and the article titled In the shadows of the dialectic method: Building a framework upon the thoughts of Adorno and Gramsci by Ulrich Hamenstadt, all of which provide you some groundwork from which you can explore dialectical materialism.

But the challenge is ‘converting’ the method as an epistemological tool to analyse films and non-filmic materials. One of the candidates for such a method is political economy of film. However, political economy is more interested in looking at the bigger relations, the industrial relations of people, not so much on the close analysis of the content.

My dilemma is actually rooted in creating a method that would bridge the universal (ideological space) with specific (the story world, the film, the modes of production of the film). Such an attempt to account for a more comprehensive while also looks at the detail led us to the next section, Badiou’s essay The Autonomy of the Aesthetic Process.

Detour 3: Crystallizing my Methodology via Badiou’s essay Autonomy of the Aesthetic Process

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Badiou’s essay The Autonomy of the Aesthetic Process, published in his recent work The Age of the Poets, was an unexpected find. Last month, when I was preparing my presentation paper for Marx @ 200, I encountered Badiou’s essay via Karlo Mongoya, fellow Marxist scholar who also reads Badiou (see his blog here). Since my essay last month is about contesting Deleuze’s notion of affect and art as autonomous, Badiou’s essay came in a surprise since Badiou is a Marxist and, assuming he had read Marx, he also knows the importance of accounting any phenomena, object, idea or a thing, as a product of social forces and relations. Badiou is a materialist dialectician, with Maoist and Lacanian influences, and would probably have read Deleuze. Deleuze is however not a materialist, but a transcendental empiricist, who emphasizes the primacy of pre-anthropocentric multiplicity – the plane of immanence – that continuously re-organizes reality. If Badiou would eventually come across the autonomy of art in Deleuze and Guattari’s book What is Philosophy?, it would most likely resonate in this essay. However, Badiou’s essay was written twenty-five years or so years before the publication of What is Philosophy?, hence, the tangent would just have been accidental.

When I read Badiou’s essay The Autonomy of Aesthetic Process, a month after accessing it, to be exact, last June 29, it felt as if all my crises about the political ontology of film style, ideology, and the author has been resolved. Badiou’s essay is an introduction to a methodology towards an analysis of representation, maybe his own methodology of doing aesthetic analysis.

His essay starts with a problem: the lazy approach of Marxist analysis of arts that assigns art work as a reflection of ideology of class. This is not Deleuzian territory. Badiou’s essay creates a corrective approach to ideological analysis. There is an obvious adaptation/appropriation of Althusserian notion of ideological apparatus as ‘a homological relation that it is supposed to maintain with the real of history’ (p. 111).

What Badiou attempted in this work was to appropriate two works of two thinkers: Mao’s critical program in Yenan Lectures and Pierre Macheray initial, unfinished attempt to think beyond the idea of art as ideological form.

First, Badiou takes on Mao’s project as part of the corrective mechanism: ‘to study the development of this old culture, to reject its feudal dross and assimilate its democratic essence in a necessary condition for developing a new national culture.’ (p.113) From there, he derives nine statements on the relation of art, ideology and science.

In the first statement, Badiou negates the usual Marxist line of critique on art as an ideological form, because, for Badiou, art’s specificity of its aesthetic process decenters the specular relation of the closed infinitude of ideology. For Badiou, ideology is a homological concept, which is a clear adaptation of Althusserian ideology as an enveloping relation. (p. 112)

In the second statement, Badiou marks the break between science and art. For Badiou, art does not affect knowledge. However, unlike ideology, Badiou states that art is closer to science than ideology because both art and science produces reality effects. However, what differentiates them are their products: art produces imaginary reality while science produces real reality. (p. 112) For Badiou, the usual lazy Marxist approach to art works as either theoretical or ideological forms must be liquidated. In light of truth, signification in the artwork is not enough to check artwork’s concealed transhistoricity and prophetic value. Hence, he proposes a proper way of looking at ‘art, as the ideological appearance of the theoretical, the non-true as the glorious envelope of the true’ (p. 113). This notion is affirmed by Lenin. Badiou therefore conclude that ‘We cannot declare at the same time that there is a democratic essence to feudal art and that this art is a purely ideological reflection, with a universal vocation, of the ‘lived experience’ of the dominant class. We cannot observe that art produces the true on the basis of the false and declare, as in a certain socialist realism that in the final instance theoretical truth conditions aesthetic validity’ (p. 114). This severs the binary opposition between art and science/ideology.

Badiou then adapts Mao Zedong’s response to this problem. In order to assess the relation of aesthetic object to the dominant class, Mao introduces four matrices of analysis: (1) class being – the class where the writer belongs, (2) class-stand or class position – the general space of the problematic of the write, or the political position for which the writer stands. For Badiou, this is the space of questions. (3) class-attitude – the approach of the writer in answering the problematic, for Badiou, this is the space of answers; (4) the class-study or class-culture – the structure of the theoretical realm, the one that structures the class stand of the writer, or in simpler terms, the power relations that structures one’s stand. For Badiou, Mao’s response to the problem is a particular decentering between aesthetic process, historical reality and ideology. This leaves us a question: what is the relationship among aesthetic process, historical reality and ideology?

Badiou then brings up Pierre Macherey for offering an answer. Macherey posits that aesthetic process is irreducible to ‘theoretical grasping of reality’ or ‘ideological process’ (p. 116). Macherey concludes that ‘the artwork is not what translates ideology, nor what effaces it: it is what renders it visible, decipherable, insofar as it confers upon it the discordant unity of a form; exposed as content, ideology speaks of that whereof it cannot speak as ideology: its contours, its limits’ (p. 117). For Badiou, the ideology functions as a closed infinity of a specular relation, ‘a closed infinity that cannot show its closure without breaking the mirror in which it is reduplicated.’ (p. 117)

In his third statement, Badiou further clarifies the relationship of ideology and art as ideology that produces the imagination of reality, and in return, art produces ideology as imaginary reality (p. 117). Summarily, Badiou notes that ‘art repeats in the real the ideological repetition of this real. Nevertheless this reversal does not produce the real; it realizes its reflection.’ (p. 118)

Badiou proposes a decentered relation between historical reality and the aesthetic process. Reading Macherey, he proposes four matrices that structures the relation: (1) the real – the global historical structure i.e. the capitalists, the proletarian class, the bourgeois, etc. in displaceable power relation, (2) the ideologies – always in series, fragmentary reflections brought about by the ensemble of pressures upon the class they represent.’ (p. 118); (3) the author – not a creative subjectivity, but a concept of place, a point of view, where Mao’s concept of class being, class stand, class attitude and class structure applies. For Badiou, the author is not a psychological concept, but a topological one. (4) the work – a donation of forms, an exhibition of limits.

Badiou however discovers the flaw in Macheray’s conception of the relation. For Macheray, the form of the art work’s presence is ideologically produced. For Badiou, this misconceives the presence effect of the artwork which, for Badiou, is the materiality of the artwork itself. This led Badiou to conclude that aesthetic process comprise of the double articulation of the signification of the artwork and its presence effect as an object of material culture. Ideology’s reversal is assigned to the signification effect, while the historical real is related to the presence effect.

Since this requires Badiou to synthesize a statement on separable ideological contents, which contains the following conditions:

  1. It produces in and of itself a complete effect of signification, without any enclaves
  2. It has a logical structure of a universal proposition
  3. It is not tied contextually to any subjectivity

Badiou gives an example by analysing Robert Musil’s unfinished novel The Man Without Qualities. From his analysis, Badiou comes up with four types of statements. Three of which do not fulfil the criteria of separable statements: (1) the I-statement of the speaker (X [d(y)]), which is enclaved in a context, with singular proposition. For Badiou, this statement does not contain any effect of signification, (2) the d(X) statements, which are descriptions of characters and objects in the story, does not have any universal proposition, (3) the X(S) statements, statements with universal proposition, but tied to a subjectivity in the novel.

For Badiou, the only statement that fulfils the three conditions are of the type S (example: The voice of truth is always accompanied by fairly suspect parasites, but those who are most interested want to know nothing about it.)

A brief segue on cinematic ‘statements’. We can actually classify shots in terms of Badiou’s classification of statements: (1) the I-statement stands for the subjective shot of the characters, (2) the d(X) statements stands for establishing shots, (3) X(S) statements stand for shot/reverse shot of a film, while the S statements stands for master shots where there is full coverage of the mise-en-scene. Hence, in cinema, a separable ideological shot involves one that is not (1) a subjective shot, (2) not an establishing shot, (3) not a shot-reverse shot, but rather a mise-en-scene shot from the third person perspective. This is an insufficient comparison, however, since Badiou formulated his theory in terms of literature, which he termed as novelistic discourse.

Badiou also reminds us that the raw materials for the production of aesthetic products are already aesthetic, hence incapable of ‘aestheticizing ideological elements’. This led Badiou to formulate the theory of aesthetic mode of production (theoretical aesthetics).

Badiou

Badiou conceives the aesthetic mode of production as double articulation of the presence-effect and the effect of signification, or the production of film-as-material and film-as-diegetic-material. I asked my thesis critic, media studies expert Ma. Diosa Labiste, on the significance of this finding. She said that this is the basic process of representation. She is also critical of the one-to-one relation of ideological series and the effect of signification and the presence-effect and the historical real, and suggested that I should Derrida Sending: On Representation, which provides another perspective in looking at the process of representation as decentered by time itself. Derrida is always critical of the deployment of presencing in the process of representation. And perhaps, in reading Badiou’s essay alongside Derrida’s notion of representation, we may be able to grasp a critical notion of representation that would undo its very notion.

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Literature Review 1.0: Authorship in Cinema

June 2, 2018

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from JLG’s Histoire(s) Du Cinema

One of the major theories in cinema that underpins my research on Lav Diaz is the theory of authorship. It is impossible to think systematically of Lav Diaz and his metaphysics without acknowledging the role of practices of authorship that predominantly crafted his subjectivity. Hence, in relation to what I presented last May 26, 2018 during the Marx @ 200 Conference titled Marx contra Deleuze: Towards a Materialist Constitution of the Cinematic Sign, the importance of reactivating the debate on the validity of auteurism concerns the following arguments:

  • Auteurism as a form of aesthetic concealment that masks the industrial nature of cinema
  • Auteurism as suspect to the ideological agenda of the film industry
  • Auteur as a cultural capital

I will be reviewing and summarizing a set of books and essays that explore the relationship of authorship and film. To start with, I will be reviewing a set of essays from the book Authorship and Film (Routledge, New York and London, 2003) edited by David Gestner & Janet Staiger.

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Gerstner, D. A. (2003). The Practices of Authorship. In D. A. Gerstner & J. Staiger (Eds.), Authorship and Film (pp. 3–25). New York and London: Routledge.

Authorship and Film

In his introductory essay titled The Practices of Authorship, David A. Gerstner sets the direction for this important book collection of essays. He puts out several valid questions in relation to authorship. I shall enumerate them:

  • What possibilities exist for the cultural producer (adapting Walter Benjamin’s concept of author-as-producer) to intervene or to resist the larger institutional framework?
  • Is it critically true to say that when a director “offends against the tricks of the trade,” he or she is simply affirming the “validity of the system”?
  • In what ways might the filmmaker-as-film author challenge rather than submit to the ideological saturation of Hollywood production?
  • Is the film author merely an ideological tool or a corporatized, homogeneous culture?
  • What critical purpose might the function of the author serve in critical theory against, on the one hand, theories that support a culture of containment or, on the other hand, the bourgeois enterprise that reifies the author position?

Gerstner’s essay as well as the book interrogates various positionalities of film studies and film practice in relation to the author or authorsip. He begins by dispensing the idea that the author is not exclusive to cinema studies alone, but the discourse ‘has evolved for centuries and can be traced from the arts’ relationship to the sacral through our contemporary period of late capitalism’ (Gerstner, 2003, p. 4). Gerstner (2003) points out that capitalism has created the ‘illusion of artist and masterpiece’ (p. 5) due to the alliance of art and the market. Gerstner also draws the complicity of the development of film theory and criticism with artist-and-masterpiece theories. The main agenda for consecrating the film-as-author in the early days of the film studies was to raise the level of cinema as an artform equivalent to painting, music and theater.

Parts of the Book

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from Histoire(s) Du Cinema

 

Gerstner and Staiger divide the book into four parts. The first part is the introductory essays of Gerstner and Staiger mapping the terrain of authorship and film. The second part, comprising of three essays, is the about the ‘ongoing fascination of the auteur in film studies’. Essays on the second part look into the idea of Dana Polan called Auteur Desire and its relation to the countless studies on cinema that directly addressed the filmmaker as the sole author of the film even though film is a collaborative form of authorship. The third part of the book, comprising of six essays, looks into the poststructuralist idea of the author in which film authorship is related to how ‘a text is consumed, appropriated and reproduced given the complicated relationships of production, reception, and spectatorship’ (Gerstner, 2003, p. 5). It looks into the complex relationship of the reader/consumer as the author of the text (see Barthe’s concept death of the author). The fourth part concerns the concept of authorship in the intersectional field of cultural studies deploying strands of political and ideological import repositing the author in a new light.

 

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Theories of Authorship in Cinema Studies

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Antoine Doinel

In the next sections of the introductory essay of Gerstner, he dispensed a narrative of the transformation of the concept of the author during the twentieth century. Gerstner (2003) posited that auteur theory in cinema ‘is rooted in the theatrics of a political gesture’ (p. 6) during the postwar cinema in France. From here, we enumerate the theories of authorship that emerged after World War II. The format will be as follows concept name, the proponent, the particular essay or book where the concept is formalized and constituted, the basic elements of the concept, and, if possible, the differences with other concepts and criticisms of the main concept by other thinkers/theorists/academics.

1. La Camera Stylo

Alexander AstrucImage result for Alexandre Astruc
“The Birth of a New Avant-Garde: La Camera Stylo” (1948)

  • Directly translates as the camera-as-pen
  • Crafted by Astruc to criticizes the current model (or a certain
  • tendency) of French cinema to overuse literary adaptation in the production of their films
  • Highlights cinema as a “means of expression just as all the other arts have been before it”
  • Indicates the director’s ability to translate his obsessions and ideas in film
  • Argues that cinema, like other arts, is a creative medium of its own with discrete creative ways

2. La Politiques des Auteurs

Francois TruffautImage result for françois truffaut
‘A Certain Tendency of the French Cinema’ (1953)

  • Also criticizes certain tendency of postwar French Cinema that favors literary adaptation than to craft their own stories
  • Truffaut called filmmakers to ‘strip away their literary sensibilities’, or the bondage with the literary word (Gerstner, 2003, p. 7)
  • Insists filmmakers to develop their films from scenario (script) to mise-en-scene (production design)
  • Asserts ‘the cinematic is expressed by the visual (mise-en-scene) not the literary word’ (Gerstner, 2003, p. 7)

Criticisms:

Jim Hillier

Truffaut’s auteur theory is ‘an essentially romantic conception of art and the artist’, as if ‘art transcended history’ (Gerstner, 2003, p. 7).

Andre Bazin

  • ‘Genius-artist is no simple matter and should not and must not be hastily determined’ (Gerstner, 2003, p. 7)
  • Truffaut and company’s polemic on the auteur ‘slid suspiciously into ‘an aesthetic personality cult’

3. Hollywood Studio Auteurs

Andrew Sarris
‘The American Cinema: Directors and Directions 1929-1968’ (1968)
‘Towards a Theory of Film History’

  • Argued that directors (from 1929 to 1968) working in the American studio system can be auteurs too!
  • Uses the criteria (1) technical competence, (2) presence of distinct visual style, (3) emergence of ‘interior meaning’ to identify auteurs from metteurs-en-sceneAndrewSarris2
  • Provided possibility for Hollywood to constitute a creative agency amidst its industrial nature
  • Advocates critics to discern directors’ personal signature styles, scrutinize mise-en-scene and avoid Hollywood clichés

Criticisms

David Gerstner

‘Sarris’ methodology slipped dangerously into overly subjective analysis.’ (Gerstner, 2003, p. 8)

V.F. Perkins

Ultimate unity of film as a coherent vision is a dubious proposition because distance between conception and delivery is great.

Pauline Kael
“Circles and Squares” (1963)

  • auteur theory is an attempt by adult males to justify staying inside the small range of experience of their boyhood and adolescence
  • refusal to exercise taste and judgment in the area of study
  • Sarris is a bad critic, lacks rigor, and undisciplined
  • Sarris’ three circles of auteur theory (outer circle: technical competence; middle circle: distinguishable personality of the director; inner circle: mise-en-scene) has conflicting implications, formulaic rigidity, reduces all films to a privileged status of art.
  • Criticism is an art, not a science.
  • Auteur theory can nevertheless be a dangerous theory because it offer nothing but commercial goals to the young artists who may be trying to do something in film.

4. Structuralist Auteur Theory

Peter Wollen Image result for “Signs and Meanings in Cinema”
“Signs and Meanings in Cinema” (1972)

  • Auteur theory not limited to acclaiming director as author of the film
  • Requires an operation of decipherment and analysis to determine whether or not a director is the author of the film using structuralist methods (see Claude Levi-Strauss’s methods)
  • “Structuralist criticism cannot rest at the perception of resemblances or repetitions (redundancies, in fact), but must also comprehend a system of differences and oppositions.” (Wollen, 1998, p. 60)
  • Stylistic expressions is equivalent to music’s notion of artist’ interpretation: though many are involved in the constitution of the film, the transformation of the artwork

5. Alternatives to Romantic Auteur Theory

Ed Buscombe
“Ideas of Authorship” (1973)

  • ‘Squeeze out auteur from his position of prominence and transform the notion of him which remain’
  • Alternative to romantic auteur theory
  • Examines the effect of cinema in society
  • Consider the effect of society on cinema (operation of ideology, economics, and technology)
  • Study the effects of films on other films
  • Offers a culturally political critique

6. Ideological/Political Readings of Auteur

Writers of Cahiers du CinemaImage result for cahiers du cinema 1971
“Cinema/Ideology/Criticism” (1971)
“John Ford’s Young Mr. Lincoln” (1971)

  • Highlights questions of ideology, spectatorship, and modes of cultural production
  • Auteur status filtered through Marxist lens
  • Considers some of auteurs’ as ideological critiques of class and social structure

7. Expanded Readings of Ideological Auteurs

Stephen Heath
Comment on ‘The Idea of Authorship’’ (1973)

  • Emphasis on authorship per se to a textual, ideological, and theoretical analysis of the subject/spectator in relationship to text

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Theories of Authorship in Critical Theory

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French philosopher Michel Foucault

Theories of authorship are also problematized in the field of critical theory. For Gerstner, ‘critical distance allowed pure critical objectivity and a shield from contamination of “emotions”’ (Gerstner, 2003, p. 11) In this way, one can critically interrogate authorship in relation to critiques of agency and intention.

1. Author-Function

Michel Foucault
‘What is the Author?’ (1975)

  • Constructed, secured and upheld by bourgeois sensibilities of art
  • Circulated as important operative of bourgeois ideology
  • Characteristic of the mode of existence, circulation, and functioning of certain discourses in society
  • Marx and Freud are founders of discursivity – they established an endless possibility of discourse

2. Author-Creator

Mikhail BakhtinImage result for Dialogic imagination mikhail bakhtin
‘Forms of Time and Chronotope in the Novel’ (1981)

  • Different from the author as a human being
  • Not dead, but speaking, signifying in the work of art
  • In mutual interaction between the world represented in the work and the world outside the work
  • Has a dialogical character in relation to the work of art
  • Has a Presence that exist tangentially
  • Built on the idea the chronotopes of the author and the listener or reader as seated in intimate relationship with the work of art
  • Reader – active participant and producer of meaning (dialogical)
  • Reconception of the author in the multilayered dimension associated with the phenomenological experience of the work of art

3. Author as Producer

Walter Benjamin
‘The Author as Producer’ (1934)Image result for walter benjamin

  • Author’s productive activity and his or her demand to think, to reflect on his position in the process of production is the key to break the illusion of ideology in the reader’s mind, transforming the reader into producers themselves
  • Author as straddled between revolutionary activity and false consciousness (bourgeois ideology)
  • Author uses bourgeois apparatus of production to assimilate astonishing quantities of revolutionary themes in order for its readers to undergo functional transformation
  • Functional transformation is when the readers become producers and collaborators of the author
  • Similar to Brechtian conscious intervention in bourgeois theatrical narrative by counteracting the illusion of the audience

4. Reader as Author or Producer

Roland Barthes
Image result for the death of the author roland barthes

‘The Death of the Author’ (1968)
‘From Work to Text’ (1971)

    • Readerly act of consumption is production
    • Reader’s active role displaces the bourgeois privilege of the author
    • Text is eternally written here and now

Text yields ‘multiple writings’, resist foreclosed interpretation

  • Reader-as-producer makes meanings to secure it for the here-and-now

5. Author as Exploited Cultural Laborer

Pierre Bourdieu
‘The Production of Belief: Contribution to an Economy of Symbolic Goods’ (1986)

  • Ideology of creation conceals the exploitation of the labor of the author by cultural businessmen
  • Author is the first and last source of the value of work (as value is exchange by cultural capital by putting the work on the market)

6. Author Position

Michel de CerteauImage result for ‘Practice of Everyday Life
‘Practice of Everyday Life’ (1984)
‘Heterologies: Discourse on the Other’ (1986)

  • author position is the nominal center where the fictional unity of the work is produced
  • Symbiotic relationship between producer and work and text create dynamics between producer and consumer

7. Spectatorial Corporeality

Gilles Deleuze
‘Cinema 2: The Time-Image’ (1986)

  • Astruc’s camera-stylo is not a metaphor
  • Machine of the cinematic apparatus intermingles with the corporeality of the spectator

8. Unknowability of Author’s Intention

Jacques DerridaImage result for jacques derrida
‘Signature Event Context’ (1971)

  • The truth of intention is unknowable because meaning is context bound and context is boundless
  • Derrida: the category of intention will not disappear, it has its place, but from this place it will no longer be able to govern the entire scene and the entire system of utterances

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Theories on Authorship as Politics of Representation

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Theories on authorship also concerns the role of the laboring body of the author. What governs the cultural production of the text are parameters and limitations of this laboring bodies and their power relations with the means of production of the text. Here are some theories that explores the intentionality of the author in relation to his body.

1. Western Orientalizing Authors

Image result for orientalism edward said

Edward Said
‘Orientalism’ (1979)

  • Occidental texts create authority by Orientalizing non-occidental phenomenon
  • Occidental text establishes the canons of taste and value

2. The Colonized Author

Abdul R. JanMohamedImage result for Abdul R. JanMohamed
‘The Economy of Manichean Allegory: The Function of Racial Difference in Colonialist Literature’ (1985)

  • An author who is inextricably enmeshed in the matrix of imperialist commodification
  • Can also be inducted to fulfill the author-function of the colonialist writer
  • In profound symbiotic relationship with imperialist practices
  • Impossible to determine which form of commodification takes precedence (colonized author or the colonialist author)

3. Author as Social or Political Representation

J. Ronald Green
‘The Cinema of Oscar Micheux’ (2001)

Pearl Bowser & Louise Pence
‘Writing Himself into History: Oscar Micheaux, His Silent Films, and His Audiences’ (2000)

Jane Gaines
‘Fire and Desire: Mixed-Raced Movies in the Silent Era’ (2001)

Constance Penley
‘Introduction: The Lady Doesn’t Vanish: Feminism and Film Theory’ (1988)

  • Author as instigator and actualizer
  • Someone who not only designs the work but orchestrates its reception
  • Auteur studies remain vital to the politics of representation
  • Biography of the author overlaps with the body of work
  • Personal experience of the author is valid, grants author and spectator/reader a cultural space where they can convene
  • Resist liberal posture of nonrace in celebratory announcement that ‘we’re all the same’
  • A caution against hasty dismissal of authority of the author for the sake of critique of power relations

4. Feminist Critique of the Author-Function

Lauren Rabinowitz
‘Points of Resistance: Women, Power and Politics in the New York Avant-Garde Cinema 1943-71’ (1991)

  • Author-function is important in understanding cultural underpinnings and enunciation of any specifically female discourse

5. Queer Authorship

Judith Butler Image result for epistemology of the closet
‘Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity’ (1990)

Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick
‘Epistemology of the Closet’ (1990)

  • Critiques essentialist presumptions about gender
  • Figuring the role of the author within its reshaping by feminists and gay and lesbian scholars

6. Biographeme

Douglas CrimpImage result for fassbinder
‘Fassbinder, Franz, Fox, Elvira, Armin and All the Others’ (1993)

  • Privileges the “I” of the text as both reader and writer
  • Reader and writer are indissoluble figures who are not much distinct and separate as much as sensual inventions of one another
  • Intermingling of reader and writer in the text
  • Abolishes individuality while animating the pleasures
  • Similar to Bakhtin’s Author-creator and Bathes’ reader-as-author

7. Entanglement of Bodies of the Author and Reader with the Text

Michael Moon
‘Disseminating Whitman: Revision and Corporeality in Leaves of Grass’ (1991)

  • Latches on queer theory
  • Author’s body can be successfully projected through, partially transformed into, his printed text
  • Author’s readers can engage in contact with the actual physical presence of the author

8. Authorial Suicide

Kaja SilvermanImage result for kaja silverman jlg
‘The Author as Receiver’ (2001)

  • Performative of the text in which the filmmaker erases himself as a bodily presence
  • A determination of author’s suicide within the work grants author a franchise on the claims for textual authority.
  • Death of Himself as the Author

 

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There are many theories of authorship in film. However, Diaz deploys a type of authorship that goes beyond its relation with a politics of representation. His politiques des auteurs may have intersected other expanded fields of inquiries. It is my goal to relate his auteurship to his own brand of cine-metaphysics.

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Marx Contra Deleuze: Towards a Materialist Constitution of the Cinematic Sign


This paper was presented during the Marx @ 200 Conference on May 26, 2018 at Malcolm Hall, University of the Philippines Diliman under the Panel on ‘Issues in Marxist Philosophy.’


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Good Afternoon!

I will be presenting a paper titled Marx contra Deleuze: Towards a Materialist Constitution of the Cinematic Sign. As a preliminary study, this paper will not delve into the details and intricacies of Deleuzian philosophy. My main purpose today is to show the general dialectical relationship between Deleuze and Marx. This paper generally argues that different philosophies of cinema must be liquidated and critique for their lack of historicity, attention to material conditions of filmmaking, and complicity to the fetishistic dimension of cinema.

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Discussion Guide

As a guide, my discussion will focus first on the general contradictions in Deleuze’s books on cinema, highlighting perhaps its metaphysics via Bergsonism. After which, we locate Deleuze’s project in the larger discourse on cinema-as-art and raise the stakes as to how Deleuze’s philosophy of cinema conceals a more important layer of cinematic mode of production. From there, we proceed in presenting a dialectical possibility of creating a materialist constitution of the cinematic sign.

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Who is Gilles Deleuze?

Gilles Deleuze is one of the most celebrated French poststructuralist philosophers of the last century along with Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida. He has written extensively on the works of philosophers like Nietzsche, Bergson, Hume, Kant; and on art forms like music, painting and cinema. Some of you might know him as the co-author of the book series Capitalism and Schizophrenia, in which, alongside Felix Guattari, they tried to sharpen Marx’s critique of capitalism through a radical re-appropriation of Spinoza, Lacan, Hume, and other philosophers. This resulted to a Deleuzian theory of the multiple, which today is popular among critical discourses in Western arts and humanities.

 

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Compre Exam Review Notes and Updates #1: Zhang Yimou/Campos/D&G/

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DAY 1 – 3: REFERENCE HUNTING

With only a few days after the orientation last January 9, I spent my few days gathering all the book needed for the review. Very, very special thanks to Rose Roque for providing more than enough reading material for borrowing, especially the Philippine Cinema section. I also bought books available at the academic press. Thanks to mother and father for providing financial contribution for the references I bought. I still have other references to look for and book to photocopy. I managed to find other references in the web and have them printed right away. I will have access to other book tomorrow @ the library.

So far, I have 80% of the required literature reading and I am infinitely astounded by the volume of readings I have read. What more if this is a PhD exams? Can I survive? I enjoy theory a lot and I enjoy reading all these texts, but given the time pressure, it’s a torture. Let’s put it in numbers: 25 books in one month. The hell with it! Let’s read them all, even at lightning speed.

DAY 4: A Day with Zhang Yimou

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JAN 14 (Sat) – I saw for the first time Zhang Yimou’s Raise the Red Lantern (1991), one of the required films for the comprehensive exams. It was astounding! The use of color red as a metaphor for so many things, but does it function only at the metaphorical level? The color red functions also as a cultural index and a territorial marker. I could go at length in discussing the geopolitics of red, and even implicate McKenzie Wark’s Molecular Red for odd reasons. Where am I going? But the delirium and poststructuralist avowal of the color red in the film reactivates the politicization of the mise-en-scene. The mise-en-scene is at work here.  More of writings on this in the next few days.

Day 5A: Campos and Crossings

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Day 5B: C

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The Nonface in Class Picture

 

[This article was published in Kino Punch (Issue 3), U.P. Cinema’s Film Critique Magazine. The magazine was successfully launched last March 28, 2015. The published form of this article has jumbled its footnote section, which is, to me, a curious result. I constructed the footnote section with its own politics. It stands as a threat to the main text, a supplement, inseparable yet removable from the text. The footnote section is the marginalized sector, the subaltern, the silenced, the underground. The dominance of the main text is, in many ways, threatened by the marginalization of the footnote. It is the main text’s undoing. Hence, this online version will preserve this political relationship. It is a modified form of the printed text.] 

The class picture.[1]

In writing about Class Picture (2011), we begin, as in any experimental work, in the middle, the between. The between is a space of liminality, the space where the image resists to ground itself in any given time, in any predetermined space. In writing and in reading about Class Picture, we inhabit this space. And we proceed by saying: an experimental work is always on the verge of transformation, never arrested by space, never stopped by time. It is always speeding towards the future, taking the present and the past with it. The tenuous forces of becoming within its body – their very placement in this space of liminality – jettison various rules of representation by transforming the image of experimentation into an unreadable set of intensities. Each image is a new island, a place to be, a dangerous strip of time and space, a rupturing force of possibilities. Each experimental image is an object of a ‘question’ that ceases to ‘be’ (if ‘be’ stands for being). For each is always a ‘becoming’.

Capturing the image – this is the task of every critic. We capture the image with words. We use language to stop its ceaseless becoming. Language has mastered its mode of reinscribing life itself in its own way – a form of regulation. Writing, any form of writing, is a form of ‘colonialism’. Its apparatus of capture is made of various sets of predetermined concepts that man has mastered through time – the traditional, commonsensical, habitual expressions in dominant language. Film criticism, as a discourse-forming machine, is populated by ‘capturing devices.’ Phrases such as ‘beautiful shot,’ ‘ugly lighting,’ ‘tremendous intensity,’ ‘great frame composition’ circulate in film journalism as ‘catchphrases’ that hold various images in captive. These ‘catchphrases’ resituate the image in a new plane of existence – the realm of dominant language – in order to achieve meaning. Only during this moment of linguistic capture can the image produce meaning. Production of meaning is always a result of image-to-text transformation. Also, we can only interpret an image the moment it reaches language.

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