Deleuze, Take Two
I remember my first struggles trying to read Cinema One. I have read it several times now. When I first opened it I thought I had a solid grasp of many of the key terms and approaches in cinema studies. I certainly recognised and knew many of the films mentioned by the book. However, the writing and ideas did not fit within any theoretical template or schema that I could recognise. It was exciting, intriguing, sophisticated, and intimidating all at once, and certainly seemed to come from a deep appreciation, even love, of film, but what would or could you do with it? I then struggled through Bergson’s Matter and Memory, before returning to Cinema One. I looked for other commentary and found little (haven’t those times changed?), and what little there was repeated film theory’s then fascination with the pscyhoanalytic and looked past the cinema books to Deleuze and Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus.
At some moment during this second reading I found a pattern that helped me to read this book. Film theory usually works by applying a specific theoretical frame over cinema. This frame is used to help account for and explain the cinema, and is usually returned, via this intersection of theory and cinema, to the theory. In this model there is cinema as a particular sort of problem, and then an effort to find a theoretical frame that is thought to address and respond to this problem. Theory is ‘outside’ the cinema as something before it, which is then applied to understand something within the cinema via the particular fields of view the theory affords. Theory is then also ‘inside’ as cinema in turn provides evidence for theory. Deleuze, for me, radically tosses this out.
For Deleuze there is cinema first. While he certainly relies on Bergson for an explanatory schema this thinking has a filiation to the cinematic where Bergson dissolves into the cinematic, rather than the other way around. In my reading of Deleuze’s conception of the cinema the cinema thinks us, or perhaps more accurately, thinks itself through us. We are a vector or even the substrate for the cinema to undertake a cinematic thought.
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