Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Group Post #4 - Nik, Sam, and Michela

Contempt is a movie with a dynamic sexuality, and a movie with a strong inclination to narcissistic display. Do you agree that the scene with Camille and Paul celebrates desirability by utilizing the "visual dimensions" that Bersani and Dutoit discuss in their article "Forming Couples: Godard's Contempt"? Does the fact that Camille's whole body never occupies the screen disrupt the classical cinema's conventions about female sexuality? If not, what effect does this use of negative space create with respect to the sexuality in the film?

In their article "Moving Pictures," Silverman and Farocki discuss the concept of "high art" in the recreation of Rembrandt's Nightwatch as interpreted by Jerzy in his film-within-a-film. How does this painting translate into "filmic terms," and do you agree with Silverman when he says that the mobile camera "releases figures from their frozen poses" and thus invades the high art? In addition, how does the purity of the art that Jerzy is recreating contrast with the raw sexual passion inherent in the lives of the actors and filmmakers (and mainly Jerzy) off set? On a different note, what did you think about the way Godard purposefully offset the diegetic sound of conversations and the visuals of people speaking, creating a disunity between auditory and visual and disorienting the viewer?

In "The Gaze and the Limit", Restivo asserts that L'Eclisse "posits a gaze that exists on the 'far side' of the visual field presented." How does this change the way we perceive the film as a whole, and specifically the relationship between Piero and Vittoria? He also asserts that the "eruption of the gaze is in some way related to the disruptions of stable subject positions within the world" of the film. How does this translate to the diegetic portion of the film (such as when Piero and Vittoria make out in the brokerage) and the final sequence of the film, in which the diegetic structure and focus of the gaze are completely disrupted through the disappearence of the film characters? How does this figure in with our definitions of "traumatic" and "sublime"?


  1. I know it doesn't pertain to the question but I wanted to talk about Sex, Lies, and Videotape. After watching that film I was left with a lot of questions and I was wondering what other people thought about them. What is the true cause of Graham's impotency? Why can he only get off when viewing women's sexual tales? Is it the act of recording and scopophilia that gives him pleasure? Or is it his intense fear of intimacy brought on by his past transgressions? How do you reconcile Graham's fear of intimacy with his holding of Ann's hand at the end of the film? If Graham is a pathological liar why is he so candid and honest throughout the film? Or is it all a front?

  2. I think the filming of Nightwatch definitely "invades the high art." I mean, it's a strange thing for Jerzy to even want to film people posing like that, but I think it's a great way for Godard to forefront the ideas behind various kinds of art and the interactions between them, like film and painting, and undoubtedly the history they share. It's definitely meant to make you recognize that the video you're watching is similar to Jerzy's. I love the scene when the characters are parading around, the horses are riding around the tiny city streets, and the camera is plowing its way through everyone. I don't know what it says about Godard's views on "high art," but there's definitely something.

    Restivo's "fourth gaze" really takes away from the narrative in L'Eclisse, and reassigns that emphasis on "being-watchedness." Piero and Vittoria's relationship becomes a spectacle not just because it's in a movie, but also because there is that fourth gaze looking at it. If we feel throughout the film that everything displayed is in some way tied to this gaze, we can try to make a sort of narrative sense of the ending, where the characters disappear. I think it's possible that the fourth gaze merely redirects its attention, and that is where we lose the characters. They are no longer being watched, no longer subjects of the fourth gaze, and so the film ends.

    I thought it was odd, in Amy Taubin's interview with Todd Hayes, that he said he expected the viewer to believe that Dunning and Wrenwood held Carol's solution. He said that when the audience finds out about his depressing, lifeless, mind manipulation and obsession with "self-love" they will be surprised. This was based on "most other movies" at the time, and I don't know if there have been more films with a "self-help" scheme guy preying on the psychologically weak or ill, but I could definitely tell right away that he would not lead her to a solution. Does anyone agree?

  3. Sexuality, dreams and desires in Contempt are important themes of the film. Before the scene with Camille and Paul on the bed Godard quotes Bazin: "The cinema gives us a world in a accordance with our desires". Then he uses a red screen, which plays an interesting role for it refers to a mental dream screen, that functions as a step towards spectators' gradual integration into the film's dream. So the screen refers to the cinema's dream world, which operates "in accordance with our desires", thus the world of spectators' dreams and sexual desires. It appears that in this scene Godard is mocking the spectators, promising to provide a dream world of desires in the film and shattering the spectators' expectations as the film unfolds.

  4. The disunity between off-stage or extra-diegetic sound and the image is poignant in many of Godard's films; it allows for him to question the traditional assumptions of cinema and demands that we read the particular scene differently. In the traffic scene in Weekend, for example, the music ends but the camera continues to pan. The effect plays off our expectations and seems to leave the world stripped away, as if Godard is offering us an "authentic" film in which the actors are simply walking about and our eyes are free to roam the screen as they would the external world. In Contempt, the disunity between auditory and visual demands an aware spectator. It becomes further complicated by the many languages that are used throughout the film. To some extent there is a disunity between all the characters in Contempt and the disunity between sound and visual heightens the tensions that exist between the characters.
    Sex Lies and Videotape also uses off-stage auditory information, usually in that auditory precedes visual information. While often this seems to function as a foreshadow or to build spectator anticipation, I wonder if it too can be tied to the distance between characters.

  5. The eruption of the gaze is certainly related to the disruptions of subject positions in the world of L'Eclisse. Throughout the movie we are constantly forced to revise our perspective when characters walk into the frame of shots we previously assumed to be POV shots. POV shots, eye-line matches, the gaze in general, all serve to make us see the world as the characters see them and identify with them. In effect, they establish the fact that the diegetic universe of the film is determined by the autonomy of the characters. Objects within the world and even the world itself are only of significance with direct reference to the characters. Antonioni's use of extreme framing and the eruption of the gaze, however, suggest that the characters are superimposed in the world of the screen, a world that existed before them and will continue without them. In L'Eclisse the characters attain meaning in reference to their surroundings, not the other way around.


  6. In response to Adam's Comment:

    Graham is a fascinating character in Sex, Lies, and Videotapes that certainly brings up questions of honesty and perversion. He is made to seem sympathetic, and his videotapes are not depicted as a sleazy vice. Rather, his brutal upfront honesty is an essential element to his character, because he is not hiding anything and thus we, the spectator, and the other characters in the film understand his sexual obsession from a very different vantage point. Although there are many reasons for his impotence, I believe that it is linked to his honesty and past relationships. In his former relationship, he was a "pathological liar" and very violent, both traits associated with brutish masculinity. When the relationship ended, from his perspective, Graham felt that he needed to give up the things that had driven away his love, and thus, I contend that giving up lying and violence for Graham was equivalent to him giving away his sense of masculinity. In essence, by giving up these brutish masculine traits, he was also giving up his "manhood" and from that point on, he was impotent. The videotapes make sense to me from this vantage point, because the only way for him to get sexual arousal is to understand the person and directly interact with the subject. Because this more emotional connection can be considered a stereotypical female attribute of sexuality, so in essence, he is resorting to these more personal videotapes and achieving a feminine sexuality. Ultimately his impotence and "lack" of brutish masculine traits is "cured" by the direct intercourse with Annie MacDowell's character.

  7. I think i wanna talk a little more about the independent films we saw this past week. One of the main issues that kept coming to my mind (and one we briefly touched upon during section) is that of audience expectations from certain filmmakers. Like with Spike Lee, whose racial views and opinions have always been publicized, and Van Sant and Haynes, who are major figures in the new queer movement. I find it very interesting and contradictory what these expectations do. At first, these radical films and viewpoints get the directors noticed, but then they are forever typecast as thus, and critics and audiences alike seem to no longer be able to see those filmmakers' work without looking through that particular filter. I find it likely that this has a good deal to do with why Haynes' star has only gone downhill since his first film, as Professor Silverman pointed out that he purposely tried to go against making these queer films. This does have a lot to do with branding and studio bigwigs, and this is why nobody will ever think of a film like Inside Man as "a Spike Lee film" - it just doesn't fit in with the general population's view of that particular director. Of course this happens in all the arts, and i do find it very ironic that in most cases it is the thing that first makes an artist that inevitably leads to their downfall. In film this precedent was pretty much established around Hitchcock, whose name alone signified a certain kind of film for the audience. This is why Mr. and Mrs. Smith (a pretty good screwball comedy) is never mentioned among his works. This issue also seems to undermine the very notion of "independent." It seems to me that it is more or less impossible for a filmmaker to be successful (critically, financially, or whatever) and make any more than one truly independent film. Because after the initial success, there is the desire for more of the same, and the interference of the people with the money. I do think this is a problem, and i think it would also be a welcome change to see, for example, a dissertation on a Spike Lee movie that didn't talk about race. I'm also not sure whether or not having a film about a prominent gay politician (Milk) being directed by a prominent gay film figure is actually helping to fight stereotypes and prejudices or just reinforcing them, much like Spike Lee's racially-charged films. It would be nice to see them put their considerable talents to other uses as well.