858 Chapters
Medium 9780861967025

Back to the Future:

Edited by Martin Loiperdinger John Libbey Publishing ePub


Devoted to the anonymous spectator who, in the summer of 2009, filled his vomit bag while watching Dr. Doyen’s surgical films.

T he tumultuous phenomenology of fairgrounds, that sense-numbing simultaneity of flashing lights, candyfloss aroma and screaming roller-coaster riders, is, in a certain respect, like the colourfully iridescent masquerade of a monomaniac functional logic. Fairgrounds, in both historical and contemporary terms, constitute nothing but an unparalleled jostling for attention. The fairground operators, of course, remain subject to the economy of money as ever. However, the surfeit of stimuli in a very enclosed space, which is typical of fairgrounds to an even greater extent than it is of urban environments, turn them into a classic arena and experimental ground for an “economy of attention”.1 If attention is defined as the recipient-side selection of stimuli, it becomes clear why a surplus of attractions and stimuli brings about a relative depletion of the anthropologically limited resource of attention.

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Medium 9780253016126

5. Memory, the Powers of the False, and Becoming

Marcia Landy Indiana University Press ePub

History progresses not by negation and the negation of negation, but by deciding problems and affirming differences. It is no less bloody and brutal as a result. Only the shadows of history live by negation: the good enter into it with all the power of a posited differential or a difference affirmed; they repel shadows into the shadows, and deny only as the consequence of a primary positivity and affirmation.

—Deleuze, Difference and Repetition (1994, 268)

COUNTER-HISTORY OVERTURNS classical conceptions of thought and practice by substituting for them a dynamic conception of connections between the body and social existence. In Deleuze’s singly authored texts, he elaborated on a philosophy of difference that he finds affirmed through the writings of Spinoza that have implications for thinking counter-historically through the powers of the false. According to Deleuze, “Life is poisoned by the categories of Good and Evil, of blame and merit, of sin and redemption. . . . Before Nietzsche, he [Spinoza] denounces all the falsifications of life, all the values in the name of which we disparage life” (Deleuze 1988a, 26). Deleuze’s engagement with these philosophers reveals how consistently he evolved concepts of affect, movement and time, virtual and actual space, and of relations between the true and the false by creating an ethic for thinking productively about becoming in the world through the body. Spinoza’s writings on affect and power offer a “philosophy of ‘life’” through which Deleuze explores the active and reactive powers of the body: its “capacity to affect is manifested as a power of acting insofar as it is assumed to be filled by passions” (ibid., 27, italics in original). According to him, when “we encounter a body that does not enter into composition with own . . . our power of acting is diminished or blocked, and that the corresponding passions are those of sadness” (ibid.). Deleuze further asserts that “only joy is worthwhile, joy remains, bringing us near to action and to the bliss of action” (ibid., 28). Joy is “inseparable from the creation of new modes of social existence” (Goodchild 1996, 41). Deleuze distinguishes between active and reactive forces. Becoming-active “presupposes the affinity of action and affirmation,” whereas “reactive-force is negating and nihilistic” (Deleuze and Guattari, 1987 68). New modes of thinking emerge that “provoke undecidable alternatives and inexplicable differences between the true and the false as adequate to time” (Deleuze 1989a, 132).

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Medium 9780253014078

9. Memory of the World: Archive Fever

Laleen Jayamanne Indiana University Press ePub

Let’s imagine that there is a theater of thought we can stage to drum up energetic rhythms in the final movement of this book. I set myself a properly cinematic task (touched belatedly by Asian theatrical conventions and textiles), invoking proper names as intensive signs to think with. They form an invocation of sorts.

In Memory of Paul Willemen (1944–2012)

Returning to Australia recently from Bali, called the “Island of Demons” in a 1933 film Walter Spies worked on, I am reminded of Basil Wright’s The Song of Ceylon (1934), about that other island known as the “island of Dhamma, Sri Lanka,” where there have also been demonic manifestations.1 At the Agung Rai Museum of Art in Ubud, Bali, where the paintings of the Russian-born German Spies are exhibited, there is a sketchy account of the life of this “late romantic” European, who lived and worked there for nearly fifteen years (1927–42). In a glass box (a cabinet of marvels, Wunderkammer, really), amidst photographs, there is a brief account of Spies’s intimate friendship with the famous German film director Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau. There is a photograph of Murnau in his study (decorated with motifs taken from Persian miniatures) by Spies and also one of Spies taken by the director, who as a bomber pilot during the First World War must surely have learned the power of dematerialization of the land and cities in a photographic flash by firepower, a power that he turned to a more creative use in cinema as one of its great luminists. The photograph sits beside a famous still from Murnau’s film Nosferatu (1922), the story of an aristocratic vampire, Count Dracula, from Transylvania (played by the music-hall actor Max Schreck, who reduced his body and movements to the two dimensions of a shadow puppet).2 He is pictured aboard the ghost ship Demeter (Mother Earth, which harbors the plague carrying vermin from “beyond the pale” to the bourgeois town of Wisborg on the Baltic sea), whose sails swell through the mysterious wind or breath of a monstrously grotesque creature with a stereotypically Semitic profile, part human, part rodent, part bird, and two-dimensional, like the Wayang shadow puppets of Indonesia. Prāna Films, the name of the short-lived production company of the film, means “breath” or “life” in Sanskrit (and also in my mother tongue, Sinhalese). This perennial silent film classic, gothic-horror-camp, by a great European director on whose films Paul Willemen wrote as a young curator at the Dutch Cinémathèque, sensitizes us to threshold moments between inhaling and exhaling, between night and daybreak, between twilight and darkness, between human and animal, and between different energies of the body itself through its work with materials, gestures, and artificial light, as well as nature shot through with its own beautiful and sublime artifice. As the cock crows, the vampire, with its long talons extended, turns away from the rays of the sun and simply vanishes in a puff of smoke, so lightly, almost imperceptibly, after his night of sucking blood from the throat of Mina who becomes Gothic Woman, who with terror and voluptuous intensity yields to it/him to save the town from the plague. She did this after having devoured, so to speak, the book of vampires, which her husband forbade her to read. She is a good wife who becomes Gothic Woman, by acting on her knowledge and learning by doing. One feels the ever-expanding threshold between life and death as the blood drains from the neck, as one sits with a loved one “taking” the last breath and letting it go, dying.

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Medium 9780253014436

2. Turning Away from “Concocted Spectacle”: Alfred Newman’s Score for David and Bathsheba

Stephen C. Meyer Indiana University Press ePub

By 1951—the year in which both David and Bathsheba and Quo Vadis premiered—the practice of supplementing box office receipts by commodifying cinematic music was already well established. This commodification took a variety of forms. Later in the decade (after the long-playing record became established as a commercially viable medium for recorded sound), “original sound track” albums became important. But in the late 1940s and early 1950s, the principal media for the dissemination of film music (outside of the films themselves) were concert music (such as the Spellbound Concerto that Miklós Rózsa created from his score for Hitchcock’s Spellbound, or the Sinfonia Antarctica that Vaughn Williams developed from his score for Charles Frend’s Scott of the Antarctic) and popular songs, either taken directly from the film or else cobbled together by adding words to prominent themes from the film score. These songs (and, to a lesser degree, the concert music as well) could then be recorded and/or sold as sheet music. Along with various picture books, novelizations, and other kinds of material, these ancillary products orbited around mid-century films like so many moons around a central planet.

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Medium 9780861967155

Chapter 14 Scarlet Woman on Film: Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome and The Wormwood Star: Kenneth Anger, Curtis Harrington, Marjorie Cameron, and Los Angeles Alternative Film and Culture in the Early 1950s

Edited by David E James and Adam Hyman John Libbey Publishing ePub

Alice L. Hutchison*

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan

A stately pleasure-dome decree . . .

A savage place! as holy and enchanted

As e’er beneath a waning moon was haunted

By woman wailing for her demon-lover! . . .

For he on honey-dew hath fed

And drunk the milk of Paradise1

– Samuel Taylor Coleridge

The last years of the 1940s and early 1950s was one of the most socially repressive times in American history. Nevertheless, it was a time when the visual and literary arts were more closely aligned and intertwined than ever, and avant-garde developments in Europe, especially Surrealism, were drawn upon by the two anomalous independent young filmmakers in Los Angeles, Kenneth Anger and Curtis Harrington. Both started making films as young as nine years old and fourteen, respectively, and both were admirers of Maya Deren, who came to Los Angeles in 1941 from New York, the same year the US entered World War II.

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