Posts Tagged ‘film’

Nul Bazaar for Urbz Mashup:

Edward Talkies, Dhobi Talab, Kalbadevi, Mumbai:

Be Like Water / Edward Talkies (Kalbadevi, Mumbai)

Media ecologies emerged in film theory as a critique of the technology, apparatus, aura, and circulation of the star. The present absence which reminds us of the hold, or the form of capture, which the photograph is: a present absence. I suppose what we might begin to understand is that the star was a proleptic branding technology. The star was a mode of connectivity across media platforms, a kind of variegated performance of value added. There is that great moment where Helen talks of opening a parlor in the Merchant/Ivory short biopic. Throughout those scenes we see Helen remade by her East Asian makeup artist, or remaking herself in the mirror. Her body, face, eyes become those image-connectivities that helped distinguish, make differences in her brand. This multiplication–both quantitative and qualitative, two forms of multiplicity, took its force from the potential contagion of media catching on. Its abstract diagram is what undergirds the proliferation of media streams from the internet to new FM radio channels to value added in cellphone services. Indeed, the cellphone is a kind of channel of and for the brand. These were thoughts sparked by the end of my recent film theory course. 

But the star was a kind of brand before globalization. A singular universal, a face–Garbo’s–a movement–Chaplin, Flynn–eyes–Keaton–that expresses through its absence. “The Waxing-Waning Brand Bachchan” the newsline read many years back now. What was it in Amitabh Bachchan that caught fire at a particular moment in the 70s, waned, and then toward the end of the 90s seemed to warm with every new innovation, product endorsement, hosting and acting role? Does something remain constant from that time, or have a confluence of factors–marketing, not least of all–contributed to Bachchan’s longevity. For instance, the tortured, yet fantastically enunciated Hindi that Bachchan speaks at interviews, providing such a contrast to the kinds of Hinglish his characters have made famous over the years–Anthony Gonzales, etc. The Hindi of the public Bachchan is the language of both politics (siyasat) and poetry (shair-shairi). It is as if this cosmopolitician who is so savvy about the streets, can be because he has synthesized the global and local–global ishtyle and local vernacular, but a deeper local, a local that stretches back into time. Such are the resonances of Brand Bachchan. 

But the cinema star was the first media assemblage in the information era (in the audio-visual content stream era). 


Film theory has started again. I found my way through another first day, first show. I wonder what the students made of the shorts? I was oriented to this day through the useful conversation on the ExFM (Experimental Film and Media) group of SCMS (Society of Cinema and Media Studies). The question was what are good “zero-degree” films. I though comparing Trip to the Moon, Arrival of Train at La Ciotat, and Un Chien Andalou a useful way to proceed on such a question. Recall that Gunning argues that Trip could conceivably be called the first narrative film. And Conley’s discussion of Andalou opens that text to the phatic questions of what can a film do?

These are the concerns that help us to situate film within a broader media history. Werner Nekes in “Media Magica (2): Belebte Bilder aka ‘Pictures come to life'” (1995) brings crucial aspects of this history together. He shows the experiments that were designed to give images the effect of movement. 

“About the Magic Lantern, animation on paper, object animation, illuminated panoramas and much more. Together with the research of perspective came the wish to awaken pictures to life. The magic lantern had already achieved the illusion of moving pictures and this was also used to project shadow pictures. The magic lantern is the predecessor of the film projector. This had already been described in the fifteenth century. Simple ways to create movement are also be found on paper, in the pull, push and lift mechanisms of comic picture post cards or movable picture books. Peep show pictures are perforated, pasted over and coloured from behind in order to make city views come alive through backlighting. Another simple way to create the illusion of movement are panorama pictures: picture worlds that pass before the eye of the motionless observer or where the observer himself passes along the picture, as in a carriage ride.” (psybafire, “Description”  

What is my aim in posing the “zero-film” question (what is cinema?) in this course? I hope to prepare the way for students to grasp what is at stake in thinking of media (film, peep shows, panoramas) as assemblages of bodies, perception, sensation, images, sound, and energetic and material flows. Information active in its entropic dissipation and self-organizing capacities. The forming of film form. When cinema is thought as a form coming out a continuous substance of media and perception we are confronted with the political economic questions of why this form, why this media at this moment? What enabled it, and what were its potentialities never actualized?

Which would place us within the understanding of a new media (cinema) that creates a meshwork of energy and matter flows such that particular dynamics (which are quickly revalued in the capitalist circulation of mass media) are amplified, synergies formed, and a capitalist machinery of capture built piecemeal learns again its truest lesson: It is in the “purple patch” (Horace) of sensation that value can be produced, and also pre-empted (which is a value of another sort!).  

Let us clarify to what point we have come thus far (8-28). We have presented a series of films from early cinema (Lumiere, Melies), and suggested that viral cinema, vermiculated images, self-organizing into a provocation–where a sequence can shock our grasp of, or our fixation in imagistic  (Odessa Steps), or an image can vibrate ambiguously and in that movement open itself to other desiring flows, platforms, and functions is an interesting thing to understand the relationship between an audio-visual image “catching on” or breaking, or jamming a habituation. By catching on we simply mean something whose circulation is caught and energized in a feedback between media, capital, and population-specific habituations. By habituation I mean a populational practice–a set of practices associated with the constitution of a human multiplicity: norms, pleasures, intuited reason.

In what way does one measure the habituation of Facebook (or any other social networking interface)? Time spent on it? By computers are on all the time now…Time spent attending to the informational feeds? Responding to email notices? Applications actually integrated into one’s life? In any case, habituations are racial not in the sense of biologically-fixed, but in the sense given to race by apartheid in South Africa and America: a technology of impossibly strict separation. Habits develop in mixtures with sensations, meanings, pleasures, and energy. But habituations are ways of capturing those mixing processes, and drawing out a yield of value-force. Perhaps we can say that viral media as developed in Hollywood is invested in a set of habituations that are today undergoing a phase transition, brought about by the very viruses that Hollywood spawned. 

Eisenstein as I show in On the Clinamen in Deleuze has a profound intuition in his notion of synaesthetic cinema. First, because cinema is taken out of its audio-visual moorings, and becomes an experience that causes one to pose the question of the body specifically in relation to the ecologies of energy and matter it finds itself in. A movie in a single-screen 1200 seater in Bhopal, India or a multiplex screen in Bangalore, India, or downloading it and watching it at home has everything to do with the kinds of ecologies of information and energy one finds oneself in. 

Second, Eisentstein’s notion of montage as collision, as progression, as dialectic. This is what is at stake in considering what it means to “make sense” in cinema. Sense is a collision between two potentialities (image 1 + image 2 = provocation). But it would be wrong to understand these images as representations first. Primarily, they are defined by the processes from which they emerge and in which they become (mutate).