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Memory and the Moving Image

Memory and the Moving Image: French Film in the Digital Era

Isabelle McNeill
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    Memory and the Moving Image
    Book Description:

    A vital rethinking of memory and the moving image for the digital age, Isabelle McNeill investigates the role of the moving image in cultural memory, considering the impact of digital technologies on visual culture. Drawing on an interdisciplinary range of theoretical resources and an unusual body of films and moving image works, the author examines the ways in which recent French filmmaking conceptualises both the past and the workings of memory. Ultimately the author argues that memory is an intersubjective process, in which filmic forms continue to play a crucial role even as new media come to dominate our contemporary experience.Memory and the Moving Image:*Introduces new ways of thinking about the relation between film and memory, arising from a compelling, interdisciplinary study of theories and films*Subtly explores the French context while drawing theoretical conclusions with wider implications and applicability*Provides detailed and illuminating close readings of varied moving image works to aid theoretical explorations*Moves away from auteurist approaches, examining work by canonical directors including Jean-Luc Godard, Chris Marker and Agnès Varda alongside that of less well-known filmmakers such as Claire Simon and Yamina Benguigui*Brings together thinkers such as Bergson, Deleuze, Bazin and Barthes with, for example, Rodowick and Mulvey, in an engaging interweaving of theories.Works considered include Jean-Luc Godard's Histoire(s) du Cinéma (1989-98), Yamina Benguigui's Mémoires d'Immigrés (1997), Chris Marker's CD-ROM Immemory (1998), Claire Simon's Mimi (2003), Michael Haneke's Caché (2005) and Agnès Varda's multi-media exhibition, L'Île et Elle (2006).

    eISBN: 978-0-7486-4220-5
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-vii)
    (pp. viii-viii)
    (pp. 1-18)

    A recurring image in Jean-Luc Godard’s eight-part video series Histoire(s) du cinéma (1989–98) shows a man and woman staring intently at a film projection, taken from an early film by Ingmar Bergman, Fängelse (1946). Along with shots of James Stewart peering voyeuristically through a zoom lens in Rear Window (Hitchcock, 1954) the image is developed through the series as a figure of cinema’s gaze upon history. Citing a line from Alain Resnais’ Hiroshima mon amour (1959), the sequence of titles inscribed upon the Fängelse image as it appears in chapter 4B of Godard’s series evokes a failure of witnessing...

    (pp. 19-50)

    What are the connections between memory and motion pictures? In order to set in motion an investigation into this question, I will need to begin at the beginning, with an inquiry into the nature of memory. How can it be defined? And what are the implications of those definitions for thinking about cinema? The first section of this chapter draws on a range of modes of thinking about memory, from the philosophical to the psycho-sociological to the scientific. However, in pursuing this subject such disciplinary demarcations become unclear. Memory, that elusive topic, seems to pervade and trouble the boundaries not...

    (pp. 51-86)

    In the previous chapter I suggested that certain films actively elicit a ‘transversal’ viewing, contrary to Metz’s suggestion that as soon as two images are juxtaposed a longitudinal narrativity is born, suppressing any such lateral movement. In this chapter I want to look at recent French films and moving image material that can be seen to summon transversal readings by drawing on an intertextual deployment of objects that resonate with personal and collective memory. To a certain extent all films can be seen to activate cultural memory in this way, especially in the age of DVD and other viewing technologies,...

    (pp. 87-122)

    In Chapter 2 I explored filmic strategies that offer alternatives to reconstruction in attempting to render the past on screen. Filmed objects were seen to contain potential pasts that generate circuits of virtuality, creating the possibility of both a temporal and spatial overflowing of the filmic text. Varda’s postcards and old strips of film, Marker’s photographs and monuments, and the myriad melodies and quotations, film clips, photographs and paintings that make up the museal fabric of Godard’s Histoire(s) du cinéma (1989–98): such memory objects, be they sonic or visual, elicit transversal readings or viewings of films. They offer up...

    (pp. 123-159)

    Level Five (Chris Marker, 1997) opens with a vision of the contemporary city that implies a complex layering of temporalities and perspectives. The camera follows the circular motion of a hand moving a computer mouse then moves upwards to the monitor, zooming in on a video image of a city at night until it fills the screen and blurs out of focus, as if we are being sucked into that city image. Almost immediately there is a cut to a mobile shot where the camera moves along a road between high-rise buildings, illuminated with the lights of a city at...

    (pp. 160-164)

    In his exploratory analysis of the subjective experience of remembering films, Victor Burgin remarks that, ‘in a scene equally available to us all, that means the same to us all, there is an opening onto a destination towards which only one of us will be drawn’ (2004: 65). I believe Burgin is right to emphasise film’s ability to create an intimate connection with the spectator, in which filmic signs bond with fragments of personal memory in unpredictable and potentially unique ways. Burgin gives the term ‘sequence-image’ to the fragment of remembered film and illustrates the concept with a description of...

    (pp. 165-167)
    (pp. 168-176)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 177-184)