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Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Magic Thing: The Artist, The Book of Illusions and The Violence of the Image

When asked about his motivation for making The Artist, Michel Hazanavicius replied that he simply tried to answer two questions. Why do we love movies? What made us fall in love with them when we were kids? It took ten years to make a movie in the format not used since the twenties.

It’s a challenge, of course, but it makes the story more powerful, more poetic and lyrical. Language is useful, but just that, useful. Yet it reduces communication as well. When a baby who can’t speak smiles at you, it touches you differently from an adult’s smile. Even with people you love, you don’t always use words to express important things. When you don’t need to talk it’s really powerful, I think.

In Auster's The Book of Illusions, Daniel Zimmer, a husband and a father prior to one plane crash, watches by chance a silent movie clip with a captivating star of the forgotten silent era, Hector Manning. Never a movie person, Zimmer is a professor to whom words have always been much more potent than images. And yet, in the midst of playing dead in his now empty home in Vermont haunted by his wife's smell and his sons' toys, paralysed with grief and loss, the sight of Hector's twitching moustache makes him laugh his heart out.

Cinema was a visual language, a way of telling stories by projecting images onto a two-dimensional screen. The addition of sound and color had created the illusion of a third dimension, but at the same time it had robbed the images of their purity (...)
It struck me that I w
as witnessing a dead art, a wholly defunct genre that would never be practiced again. And yet, for all the changes that had occurred since then, their work was as fresh and invigorating as it had been when first shown. That was because they had understood the language they were speaking.
They had invented
the syntax of the eye, a grammar of pure kinesis, and except for the costumes and the cars and the quaint furniture in the background, none of it could possibly grow old. It was thought translated into action,
human will expressin
g itself through the human body, and therefore it was for all time (...) The flat screen was the world, and it existed in two dimensions. The third dimension was in our head. (The Book of Illusions, p.15)

And Baudrillard knows the heart of the image cult, the total visibility and total elimination of secrecy that has become so inherent in the fibre of our lives it goes mute and unnoticed.

The specificity of the image is that it is in some way a parallel universe - another world, another scene, in two dimensions - not to confuse with our universe in three dimensions, our real universe, the world of representation. This dimension less makes its magic and its power of illusion. All what reintegrates the image in the third dimension is a potential violence done to the image. Not only the spatial dimension of relief and stereoscopy, but even that of movement, of time (in the movie), or that of meaning and message - all that reintegrate the image in our world and destroys it as a parallel world. (The Violence of The Image)

Resist the noise, the perpetual rumour of the world, through the silence of the image. Resist movement, flow and acceleration through the stillness of the image. Resist the moral imperative of meaning through the silence of signification. Above all, resist this automatic overflow of images and their perpetual succession. Recover the "po-ignant" detail of the object, the "punctum", but also the moment of acting, of taking the picture, immediately passed, and always nostalgic. Opposite to the flow of images produced in "real time", indifferent to this other dimension of the becoming-image of the object : the time itself. The visual flux of actuality does not know anything but change, it does not know the concept of becoming, which is radically different from change : in this flux the image does not even have time to become image (as in the sphere of information thought has hardly the chance to becoming-thought) ... For this is the price of making objects appear: the disappearance of the subject. (The Violence of The Image)

Make yourself disappear

Pandora's Box

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