- Mischa Dols
sHoWEr tHouGhT about cinema (and representation) meow
Updated: Jan 29, 2022
When it rains it pours, but when it showers it showers.
Why is cinema so stuck in representation? It's always a movie about this or that. Not just.... the movie. Would you ask Aphex Twin what his music is about? The material is the music, the music is the material. Death Grips doesn't make music about dread, online perversion and anger, the music is those things, or at least produces them, becomes them. Does Arca make music about post-human bodies, no the music itself is a post-human body of work, that is what the sounds produce, directly.
So we have an internationally renowned "masterpiece" Parasite by Bong Joon-Ho (hey, and all power to him, I'm not hating on the guy), this film is about wealth/class inequality and the urban structures associated with it, it's about the idea of a parasite (on society) that is found in all characters in some way, it's about family and (mis)trust. But is this film in any way parasitic itself, in its production does it express the hardships of the lowest caste. No. It can only represent it, address it only symbolically: the apartment of the poor family is a semi-basement. Yet when their house is flooding we get a luscious, dramatically lit steadicam shot of them running down the stairs in their film-set constructed neighborhood that you can copy into an expensive car commercial and it would still fit.
Does it show the lavish riches of the upper-class? Maybe the film production is closer to that arena, but still the lavishness is reduced to a traditional cinema language, it is shown only in the confines of the Arri Alexa 65. The shots produce the Arri Alexa 65 more than that they produce the lavish fruits of class exploitation. The sound design does a slightly better job, introducing a cinematic space with ambivalence and absurdity but often falls in the trap of producing sounds that just entertain.
Another example would be Dune. Does Dennis Villeneuve even realize he made a perfume commercial starring Zendaya (A New Fragrance By Channel: Arab Dreaming)? Like FUCK, F-U-C-K, we really can't do better?
Shane Denson made a good simple point in his book Discorrelated Images about another Villeneuve spectacle. He poses the famous sex-scene in Blade Runner: 2049 as an exploration of the experience of discorrelation when the virtual clashes with the actual (in a more practical sense), but only through cinematic representation, the image itself is barely discorrelated.
He then poses CLONE by Yvette Granata.
Shane Denson has this to say about CLONE:
"...but true to xenofeminism's stated aims, alienation of an almost Brechtian sort seems to be precisely the point, disengaging attention from the representational level and redirecting it to a sort of higher-order parable of discorrelation. The mottos, mantras, and images are not thereby erased or rendered superfluous, but they are endowed with a sort of material irony that resonates with the video's obstinately foregrounded modes of production, mediation, and reception - the half-finished 3D models, the imperfect animation, and the clunky VR interface of a smartphone in a Google Cardboard headset.
As a result, Granata's clones are much more radically alienating than the big-budget artificial women I considered earlier in this chapter [referencing Blade Runner 2049 ]. "
It is a simple but essential point; the mode of production matches the (subject) matter. Maybe there are examples found in cinema. I have to think of work by Harmony Korine, or Beau Travail by Claire Denis. Maybe Climax by Gaspar Noe. Maybe The Act of Killing. If you have any good examples please let me know. In the end it seems rather rare, too rare.
Cinema should absolutely reflect on a culture of images and sounds, but through its own medium. It can produce images and sounds and that is what it should produce. So in an audiovisual landscape of constant artificiality we cannot avoid showing the construction of the image and sound, we have to be transparent, we have to show the construction to not fool ourselves and audience alike to fall for the tiresome detour of representation.
It was a nice shower, first I had in three days.