Barcelona: Laertes y Nadie como Godard Buenos Aires: Manantial y El maestro ignorante Barcelona: Laertes. Eso siempre pasa. Todos los estudiantes, toda la gente, expresa ese placer al ver los filmes. En el cine, un realizador nunca va a tener todo en su cabeza, nunca va a ser infalible.
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The strong, obsessive, blind desire belongs to the man. Judy never really manages to express her own desire. The major difference with Vertigo is that here it is a matter of incest — meaning blind adhesion to the Imaginary — leaving the Law off-screen. As in Vertigo, the lured man does not know that another man his partner is the cause of the staging of the return of the same, and that the returning person is manipulated by a third party to signal the singularity of his desire.
It is the evening of the apotheosis of this successful couple that everyone envies: ten years of marriage, social success, an adorable little girl — and still desire and love between them, like on the first day.
But the little boy dies, whereas everything even her mother and rival bends to the desire of the little girl in Obsession. If her father gives bundles of white paper rather than real bills to her kidnappers, it means that, in his eyes, she is worthless. Here, value has no general equivalent, and bonding with her father, outside the authority of the Law, overcomes any scale of value — the only thing that counts, to these indistinct subjects, is the perfect symmetry of their desires.
It is her, and not LaSalle, who is the true stage-manager of this story. There are, however, two characters who pay for this father-daughter bond with their life: the mother — who they ultimately both wanted dead so as to be able to wed in peace — and the third party who is both manipulative and bothersome, LaSalle. Michael kills the person who comes to take them out of their dream, out of the imaginary father-daughter bond, allowing them to return to this shared dream.
Everything happens like in Ada or Ardor, where Nabokov plunges us into the delights of the imaginary, of the landscape of Ardis, of innocent sexuality, of a guilt-free insolence and joyousness — because in this novel, too, incest is accepted by the brother and sister, and almost by their real father. But in Ada or Ardor, as in Obsession — and for the same reason — these deaths elicit no remorse; death does not exist in the imaginary. Obsession is all pleasant, dreamy, suave emotion created through music, cottony images, complaisant signifiers and a docile script.
Do we have a right to like this kind of cinema at face value, without a cultural alibi De Palma is an auteur or an analytic one it is useful to analyse every object? Is this an unworthy pleasure? Rossellini, Godard, Pialat, Kiarostami, a fortiori Straub and Huillet — in short, our major filmmakers of choice — fiercely refuse this almost ontological complaisance of cinema to the imaginary, to fantasy, to dreams.
For them for us? It is not for nothing that late Fellini, despite its obvious genius, has always posed a problem to those for whom cinema must operate on the encounter of the imaginary a world that is supremely in accordance with our desires and reality in its roughest form a resistant world. Because, after all, the gentle, enveloping warmth of the imaginary is also what readers of romance novels are looking for.
Their goal is, in the end, the same as that of the cultivated cinephile who plunges with delight into Obsession. When and how does a film functioning in the pure imaginary go back to being a possible good object, worthy of our love for cinema?
Can we today enjoy a film that only functions in the imaginary, without mixing with the roughness of reality? Must we be ashamed, then, of loving Obsession? First appeared in Jacques Aumont ed. Translated from the French by Ted Fendt. Reprinted with permission of the author.
The answer would rest partly in one of the many conclusions Bazin came to: that cinema is a form that needs to be understood without assuming that the form itself is the thing. This is partly why Bergala very understandably insists that the teacher must retain a degree of creative freedom in the teaching itself. A classically inclined teacher might insist that the low angled shot registers intimidation, a high angled shot weakness, a close-up intense feeling, and a reaction-shot social approval or disapproval. Often that happens to be the case, but cinema is not a given formula; it does not have its Periodic Table. By emphasising the freedom available in choice, placement and approach, we do not turn teaching into rote exercises but into imaginative possibilities.
The Cinema Hypothesis