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Dreaming of Cinema

Dreaming of Cinema: Spectatorship, Surrealism, and the Age of Digital Media

Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 280
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  • Book Info
    Dreaming of Cinema
    Book Description:

    Adam Lowenstein argues that Surrealism's encounter with film can help redefine the meaning of cinematic spectatorship in an era of popular digital entertainment.

    Video games, YouTube channels, Blu-ray discs, and other forms of "new" media have made theatrical cinema seem "old." A sense of "cinema lost" has accompanied the ascent of digital media, and many worry film's special capacity to record the real is either disappearing or being fundamentally changed by new media's different technologies. The Surrealist movement offers an ideal platform for resolving these tensions, undermining the claims of cinema's crisis of realism and offering an alternative interpretation of film's aesthetics and function. The Surrealists never treated cinema as a realist medium and understood our perceptions of the real itself to be a mirage. Reading the writing, films, and art of Luis Buñuel, Salvador Dalí, Man Ray, André Breton, André Bazin, Roland Barthes, Georges Bataille, Roger Caillois, and Joseph Cornell, and tracing their influence in the films of David Cronenberg, Nakata Hideo, and Atom Egoyan; the American remake of the JapaneseRing(1998); and a YouTube channel devoted to Rock Hudson, this innovative approach puts past and present cinema into conversation to recast the meaning of cinematic spectatorship in the twenty-first century.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-53848-0
    Subjects: Film Studies, Art & Art History, Philosophy, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VI)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. VII-VIII)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. IX-X)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. XI-XIV)
  5. Introduction: Cinema as Digital Dream Machine
    (pp. 1-10)

    How can one grasp the present? Especially a present as fast and fleeting as our own, where new digital media technologies transform our modes of perception, awareness, and experience in dizzying ways? This book grows out of a desire to understand our present age of digital media, even as that era continues to metamorphose at a pace that stuns the imagination; there is something appropriate affectively, however misleading historically, in calling the digital era the age of “new media.”¹

    My particular pathway into “new” (digital) media is through an “old” (analog) media form that clings to the present with remarkable...

  6. 1 Enlarged Spectatorship From Realism to Surrealism: Bazin, Barthes, and The (Digital) Sweet Hereafter
    (pp. 11-42)

    In “The Myth of Total Cinema” (1946) film theorist André Bazin writes, “Every new development added to the cinema must, paradoxically, take it nearer and nearer to its origins. In short, cinema has not yet been invented!”¹ In “The Third Meaning” (1970) cultural semiotician Roland Barthes states, “Forced to develop in a civilization of the signi\fied, it is not surprising that (despite the incalculable number of films in the world) the filmic should still be rare . . . so much so that it could be said that as yet the film does not exist.”² Although Bazin’s “cinema” and Barthes’s...

  7. 2 Interactive Spectatorship Gaming, Mimicry, and Art Cinema: Between Un chien andalou and eXistenZ
    (pp. 43-78)

    How do we go about mapping the complex network of connections and disconnections between “old” media, such as cinema, and “new” media, such as video games? As increasing numbers of film and media studies scholars turn their attention to this question, the concept of “interactivity,” or mutual exchange between text and audience, often defines its parameters. John Belton, for example, claims that the transition from analog to digital cinema in the theatrical context must be characterized as a “false revolution” because digital technologies have been used to simulate analog cinematic experiences rather than to provide interactive ones. For Peter Lunenfeld...

  8. 3 Globalized Spectatorship Ring Around the Superflat Global Village: J-Horror Between Japan and America
    (pp. 79-116)

    Is the world round or flat in the age of new media? Is it closer to the “global village” envisioned by the Canadian media theorist Marshall McLuhan in 1964 or the “superflat” Japan described by the Japanese artist Murakami Takashi in 2000? This chapter investigates how discourses of globalization function in the digital era by turning to the remarkably popular phenomenon of Japanese horror films in the 1990s and 2000s (a renaissance commonly referred to collectively as “J-Horror”) and their American remakes. I will argue that these extraordinary interchanges between East and West at the levels of genre, culture, and...

  9. 4 Posthuman Spectatorship The Animal in You(Tube): From Los olvidados to “Christian the Lion”
    (pp. 117-148)

    In previous chapters I have tracked the ways cinema’s transformations in the age of new media become attached to concepts such as intermediation, interactivity, and globalization. All of these concepts have attracted well-deserved attention within film studies, but another discourse that has flourished in the digital era has generated comparatively little conversation: posthumanism. According to N. Katherine Hayles’s influential definition, “in the posthuman, there are no essential differences or absolute demarcations between bodily existence and computer simulation, cybernetic mechanism and biological organism, robot teleology and human goals.” Hayles is rightly suspicious of how posthuman thought tends to valorize disembodied information...

  10. 5 Collaborative Spectatorship The Surrealism of the Stars: From Rose Hobart to Mrs. Rock Hudson
    (pp. 149-182)

    Long before YouTube made fan-produced digital videos devoted to favorite movie stars a staple of the twenty-first-century media landscape, the American artist Joseph Cornell (1903–72) created a film whose mesmerizing power seems to anticipate and complicate YouTube simultaneously:Rose Hobart(1936). Cornell constructed his film, named for the movie actress who inspired it, by reassembling a B-grade jungle adventure melodrama starring Hobart calledEast of Borneo(George Melford, 1931). InEast of Borneothe intrepid Linda Randolph (Hobart) travels into the savage tropical wilderness to find her estranged, alcoholic husband, Allan Clark (Charles Bickford), and escape the clutches of...

  11. Afterword Marking Cinematic Time
    (pp. 183-190)

    By chance, I had my first opportunity to experience Christian Marclay’sThe Clock(2010) just as I was completingDreaming of Cinema.The Clockis a remarkable twenty-four-hour film presented as an art installation, composed entirely of fragments culled from the history of cinema and television that refer to particular minutes in time. Marclay orchestrates these cinematic minutes to correspond exactly to the time the viewer watchesThe Clock. So when it is noon and you are watchingThe Clock, you are watching footage from films that take place at noon or mention the time 12:00 noon. Then 12:01. Then...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 191-218)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 219-236)
  14. Index
    (pp. 237-254)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 255-260)