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Cinema and Sensation

Cinema and Sensation: French Film and the Art of Transgression

Martine Beugnet
Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    Cinema and Sensation
    Book Description:

    This book looks at a much-debated phenomenon in contemporary cinema: the re-emergence of filmmaking practices (and, by extension, of theoretical approaches) that give precedence to cinema as the medium of the senses.France offers an intriguing case in point here. A specific sense of momentum comes from the release, in close succession, of a series of films that exemplify a characteristic awareness of cinema’s sensory impact and transgressive nature: Adieu; A ma soeur; Baise-moi; Beau Travail; La Blessure; La Captive; Dans ma peau; Demonlover; L’Humanité; Flandres; L’Intrus; Les Invisibles; Lady Chatterley; Leçons de ténèbres; Romance; Sombre; Tiresia; Trouble Every Day; Twentynine Palms; Vendredi soir; La Vie nouvelle; Wild Side; Zidane, un portrait du XXIème siècle. These films, amongst others, typify a willingness to explore cinema’s unique capacity to move us both viscerally and intellectually. Martine Beugnet focuses on the crucial and fertile overlaps that occur between experimental and mainstream cinema. Her book draws on the writings of the likes of Deleuze, Merleau-Ponty and Bataille, but first and foremost, she develops her arguments from the films themselves, from the comprehensive description of specific sequences, techniques and motifs which allows us to engage with the works as material events and as thinking processes. In turn, she demonstrates how the films, envisaged as forms of embodied thought, offer alternative ways of approaching those questions that are at the heart of today’s most burning socio-cultural debates: from the growing supremacy of technology, to globalisation, exile and exclusion, these are the issues that appear embedded here in the very texture of images and sounds.

    eISBN: 978-0-7486-2917-6
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Beginnings
    (pp. 1-20)

    A group of children at a puppet show. Engrossed in the spectacle, they are shouting, cowering and crying out. The alternation of medium and closeup shots, the humming of the sound-track that mingles with the thrilled exclamations and screaming, and the throb of the speeded-up images convey the sheer excitement of the audience, seized with delightful terror, yet eyes riveted on the spectacle that fascinates and terrifies them. Oddly reminiscent of a similar episode in Les Quatre cents coups, like Truffaut’s, Grandrieux’s images refer to the lost pleasure of the complete rapture often experienced in childhood. There is a sinister...

  5. CHAPTER 1 A ‘Third Path’
    (pp. 21-62)

    The opening shots of Tiresia (2003) transform the screen into a live mass of magma; scale and perspective dissolve into an assemblage of visions of utter chaos, dark matter in fusion filling the frame, heaving and exploding to let flows of combusting molten rocks pour out, while in a strange yet fitting juxtaposition of sensations, the expansive sound-track resounds with the classical composition of Beethoven’s seventh symphony.

    Working close to a much humbler furnace, Pizzaïolo Boni (Nénette et Boni, 1997) kneads a ball of pizza dough while fantasising aloud about the woman he desires. In one long single take, and...

  6. CHAPTER 2 The Aesthetics of Sensation
    (pp. 63-124)

    A few minutes into Grandrieux’s La Vie nouvelle, there is an image that lasts but an instant – the blurred shape of a human silhouette, running forward, as if trying to emerge from the sticky, engulfing matter that surrounds it. It is like a stain on the celluloid, moving to a distant humming sound, its distorting contours on the brink of dissolving in the trembling, snowy texture that fills the screen.

    To foreground the materiality of the film medium is to unsettle the frontier between subject and object, figure and ground – the basis of our conception and representation of the self...

  7. CHAPTER 3 Film Bodies (Becomings and Embodiment)
    (pp. 125-176)

    What kind of strange, metamorphosing figures breed in the interstices of the cinema of sensation’s fluctuating audio-visual fields? What kind of mutants does the aesthetics of chaos generate and, ultimately, what kind of monstrous film bodies? How do these various processes of filmic embodiment speak, directly or indirectly, of the most pressing issues in contemporary France, of the closely interwoven questions of identity and difference we associate with globalisation, immigration and colonial aftereffects, work and exploitation, gender, desire and possession? This chapter looks at how, where cinema becomes a cinema of sensation, the questioning about identity and otherness is evoked...

  8. Epilogue
    (pp. 177-178)

    Lady Chatterley passes the gate and her silhouette is literally absorbed into the richly patterned surroundings of the forest. As she crosses the wooded expanse that separates her husband’s house from her lover’s lodge, the film chronicles, with the meticulousness and unpredictability of a devoted but disorderly botanist, the bristling, teeming life of the nature that beckons her.

    Lady Chatterley, Pascale Ferran’s latest opus, is a sensory feast, a work in which cinema’s sensual, haptic and synaesthetic powers of evocation are explored to the full so as to invoke ‘Desire’s variable plane of immanence, as Deleuze theorised it’ (Burdeau 2006:...

  9. Bibliography
    (pp. 179-188)
  10. Selected Filmography
    (pp. 189-189)
  11. Index
    (pp. 190-192)