Movement-image and my own misunderstandings…

The movement-image-related readings have been the most interesting for me thus far. The dissection of what an image is and what it is comprised of (by Bergson and Deleuze’s commentary which shapes it) has forced me to do exactly what I hoped this course would – re-evaluate my currently confused notion of what images are and how they are formed, their relation to one another and what that means as someone attempting to shape them. This response only superficially touches on thoughts that were inspired by the reading and has no real focus.

Though I’m not particularly a fan of Godard, this points me to a quote of his I wrote down roughly four years ago.

“I was taught to respect the good manners and therefore I try to destroy them. It’s like when you are told: Wash your hands before you eat. In my films I have made of point of not washing my hands, but first examined what a hand is and what soap is.” – Jean-Luc Godard, FLM Magazine

In my own work, I’ve felt some pull (for roughly ten years) to recreate specific moments or types of moments I’ve seen before and that I understand as “moving”. Let’s call these “ideal” moments or even possibly “poses”. Somewhat consciously I was searching to make these moments and build the rest of the story around them as mere valleys. These ideals were “beautiful” and had specific fixed meaning(s). Something felt a little missing but I held these moments in such high regard because it’s standard practice at film school to be told that making your stories universal will allow an entrance point for audiences to connect. How better to make work universal, than to recreate what you’ve already seen and that others have seen because it’s then easily identifiable (through different circumstances but retaining the “essential” nature of it). It seems most popular commercial directors (both in fiction and documentary) are the ones that are gifted at making unoriginality, look somewhat original. In the end they are only making us feel comfort in something we already “know” and reaffirming old and cliche beliefs. I took a wrong turn here for a while.

Bergson seems to think that the goal of cinema is to serve it, not use it to some other end. Deleuze, invoking Merleau-Ponty, seems to say something along the lines of “We serve cinema, cinema serves the world” (forgetting even the possible assertion of the world as cinema). Even if I am reading them incorrectly, why would I try to use cinema at every opportunity to make something ideal or universal, whatever that means, trying to copy the world or make a world rather than entertain at least a few important notions brought up by this reading. First that perception as a whole should be investigated and would greatly affect how I attempted to anchor my work and to what extent this is possible, thus changing everything about it, and also that perhaps exactly how sets and the whole are wildly different from each other and thinking about how and why rather than in terms of just scenes that make a whole film. The movement-image that Bergson gives us that is “beyond the conditions of natural perception” offers me new ways to think about how stories play themselves out and ultimately stay open to any future possibilities.

When I think about Antonioni’s work now – the bare and empty spaces and directionless characters that struck me as so unique and so beautiful – I begin to realize a philosophy more complex than I was capable of at the time of my initial screenings. Time and space (or action and perception) were completely unique to any other pictures I saw but I couldn’t quite verbalize why. To some extent I feel that Deleuze would include him in the cannon of filmmakers that associate to some degree with his beliefs. This is perhaps something I will explore in my final essay.

– J. Cohan


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