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Out of Time

Out of Time: Desire in Atemporal Cinema

Todd McGowan
Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    Out of Time
    Book Description:

    In Out of Time, Todd McGowan takes as his starting point the emergence of a temporal aesthetic in cinema that arose in response to the digital era. Linking developments in cinema to current debates within philosophy, McGowan claims that films that change the viewer’s relation to time constitute a new cinematic mode: atemporal cinema.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-7686-6
    Subjects: Art & Art History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. INTRODUCTION: The Origins of the Atemporal Film
    (pp. 1-34)

    The fundamental theoretical effort of the twentieth century was the attempt to integrate time into thought. Though there were anticipations of this effort in early centuries, the twentieth century is the époque when concern for time comes to the foreground across disparate intellectual and cultural arenas. This effort did not simply take time as an object of thought but instead worked to reveal the intrinsic temporality of both thought and being. Time had to become a matter of form and not just content. This theoretical endeavor manifested itself from the novels of Virginia Woolf and Marcel Proust to Albert Einstein’s...

  6. CHAPTER 1 Temporality after the End of Time in Pulp Fiction
    (pp. 35-58)

    WithReservoir Dogs(1992) andPulp Fiction(1994), Quentin Tarantino began the contemporary wave of atemporal cinema. This position at the front of the trend might seem to suggest Tarantino’s radicality: as the first, he offers the most decisive step that later filmmakers modify and thereby dilute. But Tarantino’s innovation, though it opens up widespread acceptance of the atemporal mode, actually remains focused on temporality rather than the break from it. In this sense, Tarantino does not belong to the atemporal mode proper but instead remains within traditional cinema’s privileging of the forward movement of time. He is the bridge...

  7. CHAPTER 2 Not the Worst of All Possible Worlds: Sacrificing the Object in Butterfly Effect
    (pp. 59-82)

    The disruption of linear chronology inPulp Fiction(1994) allows Quentin Tarantino to emphasize the contingency of the events that take place and to hint at the existence of other possible worlds in which things took a different course. The use of the atemporal mode to explore multiple possible worlds becomes explicit, however, in Eric Bress and J. Mackye Gruber’sButterfly Effect(2004). WhereasPulp Fictionlinks alternate possibilities to the temporal nature of subjectivity,Butterfly Effectuses possible worlds to insist on the trauma that resists the ameliorative effects of temporality. In this sense, it marks a clear departure...

  8. CHAPTER 3 Eternity without Sunshine: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and the Hopelessness of Love
    (pp. 83-110)

    The ending ofButterfly Effect(Eric Bress and J. Mackye Gruber, 2004) depicts a radical break in the form of desire through the turn to the embrace of loss; Michel Gondry’sEternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind(2004) appears to move in the opposite direction. When first examined, it seems to be one of those films ruined by a compromised ending. Despite its narrative and aesthetic inventiveness, the film concludes with the image of a romantic couple that places it squarely within the ideology—and the temporality—of Hollywood cinema. As Raymond Bellour argues, the creation of the romantic couple...

  9. CHAPTER 4 The Path to Politics in The Constant Gardener
    (pp. 111-134)

    The reconception of cinematic romance inEternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind(Michel Gondry, 2004) undermines the typical fantasy that allows romance to serve an ideological function. But Gondry’s film leaves romance as the concern of two individuals. The love between Joel (Jim Carrey) and Clementine (Kate Winslet) undoubtedly has political implications, but the film doesn’t explore them. Instead, it focuses solely on configuring romance through antagonism rather than by attempting to surmount antagonism. This focus lies at the heart of the film’s effectiveness, and at the same time creates an opening for another film to lay out the political...

  10. CHAPTER 5 “Something Is Lost”: The Ethics of Absolute Negativity in 21 Grams
    (pp. 135-156)

    When Lee Edelman launches his incisive and ultimately compelling attack on the prevalence of a reproductive ideology—an ideology that views social and physical reproduction as the fundamental goal of our existence—in contemporary American society, it is not surprising that the main target for his critique is the cinema. InNo Future, he contends, “the image of the Child, not to be confused with the lived experiences of any historical children, serves to regulate political discourse—to prescribe what willcountas political discourse—by compelling such discourse to accede in advance to the reality of a collective future...

  11. CHAPTER 6 Timeless in Space: Placing Eternity in 2046
    (pp. 157-180)

    In theTimaeus, Plato insists on an absolute distinction between time and eternity. The two are distinct to such an extent that they demand different forms of description: one should never employ the term “is” when talking about the temporal world in which everything becomes, just as one should never use “was” or “will be” when speaking of eternity in which nothing changes. Careless deployment of verb tense, according to Plato, leads to blurring the absolute nature of the distinction. Yet Plato nonetheless envisions a relationship between eternity and time in which time is “a moving image of eternity.”¹ Eternity...

  12. CHAPTER 7 Affirmation of the Lost Object: Peppermint Candy and the End of Progress
    (pp. 181-206)

    The interconnection of individual development and the evolution of a nation has served as a subject for cinema since the birth of the feature film. From D. W. Griffith’sThe Birth of a Nation(1915) and Sergei Eisenstein’sThe Old and the New(1929) to Zhang Yimou’sTo Live(1994) and Ken Loach’sThe Wind That Shakes the Barley(2006), filmmakers have used the development of a particular individual or individuals as a way of telling the story of the nation to which the individual belongs. For D. W. Griffith, the trajectory from blissful peace to tragic suffering to radical...

  13. CHAPTER 8 The Temporal Flight from Trauma: Irréversible and the Critique of Experience
    (pp. 207-230)

    Gaspar Noé’sIrréversible(2002) bombards spectators with the immediacy of traumatic experience. At the time of its opening, it occasioned critical derision and prompted audience members to walk out at Cannes because of its unrelenting assault on the senses. J. Hoberman’s famously negative review in theVillage Voicecontends that the film indulges in “intentionally and successfully repellent nastiness” for no other point than nastiness itself.¹ In a review tellingly subtitled “Gaspar Noé’s Cinematic Rape,” David Edelstein claims thatIrréversible“wants to violate you in the most lasting ways imaginable.”² Even to this day, screenings of the film give rise...

  14. CONCLUSION: An Infinite Memento
    (pp. 231-238)

    Grasping the foundational status of time requires acceding to finitude as our ultimate horizon. Just as artists, scientists, and philosophers of the twentieth century tried to integrate time into thought, they also attempted to affirm the inescapability of finitude. We reject temporality because we cannot accept finitude, and we construct the idea of eternity in order to avoid it.¹ Major philosophers and physicists of the twentieth century explain the denial of temporality in this manner. InThe Direction of Time, for instance, physicist Hans Reichenbach contends that our failure to properly understand time stems from our flight from death. He...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 239-278)
  16. Index
    (pp. 279-285)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 286-286)