D. Rodowick: What was cinema: chapters 10-12
Update: due to logistics, wireless, Brussels and timing I happened to upload a wrong ‘making of” video. Apologies – this one is way clearer…
10.Ways of Worldmaking.
In this chapter, like in the other ones Rodowick revisits photography and mirrors parallels linking this medium to film, as film is a photographic art (79), drawing many of his ideas from Stanley Cavell’s ‘The World Viewed’. Photography is a spatial art, querying displaced time – presence and absence, present and past, now and then, etc. Past time becomes spatially present – this process is defined as a kind of virtuality. Thus photography as a medium is not concerned with likeness in space, but with existences in time. These qualities of photography are fleshed out in the juxtaposition with painting. The actual presence of the photograph invokes documentation whereby exposing the automatism of photography: not only the existence of the actual medium, but the outcome of its practises. This is where the notion of moving pictures’ affordance to create an ‘autonomous’ world (54) stems from.
11. A World Past
While the oscillation between film and photography at times is confusing, this chapter moulds films’ new ontology. As a departure point the concept of the ethics of cinema is introduced which in my understanding essentially has to do with how film changes our perception of this world. This moves film analysis towards phenomenological emphasis and the need to look for new terms which could be used in film analysis (here Bazin, Barthes, Kracauer, Cavell, Panofsky, Balazs, Epstein are crucial, according to Rodowick, and I can see Deleuze sneaking through between the lines).
While photography invites us to skepticism, film accelerates this by moving pictures and ultimately becomes a quintessential medium of modernity by recreating the situation of the modern subject – to view feeling unseen (68), to gaze not at a fantasy, but a relief from ‘private fantasy, <…> [as] the world is already drawn by fantasy’ (68). Essentially movies bring us to face reality, they ‘convince us of the world’s reality’ (69).
12. An Ethics of Time.
In the final segment of the chapter the necessity to explore time in film is emphasised as it has been overshadowed by the analysis of space (time here also includes the shift towards digital in film). Significant terms here are ‘duration’ and ‘analysis of the surface/surface reality’.
In respect to the changes happening in film, Rodowick suggest that this should have the capacity to modify our perception and as any medium is about potentiality, perhaps eventually a new medium might emerge – yet not as a substitution of what we previously considered to be film, but rather as a continuation with displaced elements. ‘Digital image is more and more responsive to our imaginative intentions, and less and less anchored to the prior existence of things and people’ (86).
The text brings us back to the subject of affordance we touched upon during our last class – as revealing the potentiality and the limitations of various mediums obstructing from fulfilling their potentiality. Since I believe that film theory necessitates time travel, I suggest to address the question that follows the one Rodowick uses in his title, namely, what might digital cinema become and how it could shift our perception? Perhaps you could post some creative examples for the discussion. Mine is Radiohead’s video – moving pictures which were not filmed, but scanned. The video probes into the questions of what constitutes reality and how our perception is being challenged when traditional forms are disposed of. Ironically, the video is called ‘House of Cards’… I also include the ‘Making of’ video.