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Motion(less) Pictures

Motion(less) Pictures: The Cinema of Stasis

Justin Remes
Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 216
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  • Book Info
    Motion(less) Pictures
    Book Description:

    Conducting the first comprehensive study of films that do not move, Justin Remes challenges the primacy of motion in cinema and tests the theoretical limits of film aesthetics and representation. Reading experimental films such as Andy Warhol'sEmpire(1964), the Fluxus workDisappearing Music for Face(1965), Michael Snow'sSo Is This(1982), and Derek Jarman'sBlue(1993), he shows how motionless films defiantly showcase the static while collapsing the boundaries between cinema, photography, painting, and literature.

    Analyzing four categories of static film--furniture films, designed to be viewed partially or distractedly; protracted films, which use extremely slow motion to impress stasis; textual films, which foreground the static display of letters and written words; and monochrome films, which display a field of monochrome color as their image--Remes maps the interrelations between movement, stillness, and duration and their complication of cinema's conventional function and effects. Arguing all films unfold in time, he suggests duration is more fundamental to cinema than motion, initiating fresh inquiries into film's manipulation of temporality, from rigidly structured works to those with more ambiguous and open-ended frameworks. Remes's discussion integrates the writings of Roland Barthes, Gilles Deleuze, Tom Gunning, Rudolf Arnheim, Raymond Bellour, and Noel Carroll and will appeal to students of film theory, experimental cinema, intermedia studies, and aesthetics.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-53890-9
    Subjects: Film Studies, Art & Art History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-IV)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. V-VI)
    (pp. VII-X)
  4. 1 INTRODUCTION: The Filmic
    (pp. 1-30)

    Larry Gottheim’s filmFog Line(1970) begins with a still shot of a landscape covered in dense fog. All that can be seen through the fog are the outlines of a few trees intersected by four high-tension wires. The setting is subtly beautiful, and the complete lack of sound creates a space for meditation. Minutes pass. Apart from some slight shaking, the camera does not move, nor do any elements within the mise-en-scène. The trees and telephone wires become easier to make out as the fog lifts, although the fog’s retreat is so gradual that its movement is not perceived...

  5. 2 SERIOUS IMMOBILITIES: Andy Warhol, Erik Satie, and the Furniture Film
    (pp. 31-58)

    In 1893 Erik Satie composedVexations, a delicate and haunting piece of music that would eventually come to be seen as his most radical composition. While the sheet music at first appears relatively straightforward, it includes a bizarre performance note in which Satie suggests that if the performer decides “to play this phrase 840 times in a row, it will be as well to prepare oneself in advance, and in the deepest silence, through serious immobilities.”¹ While there is nothing at all unusual about the use of repetition in music, Satie’s uncompromising and unrelenting repetition was entirely unprecedented. It anticipated...

  6. 3 STASIS IN FLUXUS: Disappearing Music for Face and Protracted Cinema
    (pp. 59-84)

    In the Fluxus filmDisappearing Music for Face(based on an idea by Mieko Shiomi) the spectator is confronted by a single static shot of a mouth filmed in black and white (see figure 3.1). Since most of the face falls outside the shot, the mouth dominates the screen. The shot is intentionally off-center, and consequently, only the left side of the face (including the cheek and a prominent dimple) is visible. The mouth is frozen into an open smile, revealing a significant gap between the front teeth. Minutes pass. Nothing seems to change. One begins to wonder if the...

  7. 4 BOUNDLESS ONTOLOGIES: Michael Snow, Wittgenstein, and the Textual Film
    (pp. 85-110)

    Marcel Duchamp’sAnémic cinéma(1926) is one of the most unusual films ever made, even by the standards of the early European avant-garde. It is partly composed of a series of filmed “roto-reliefs,” vertiginous rotating spirals moving at a variety of speeds. If this wereAnémic cinéma’s sole content, it would be a compelling abstract film in the tradition of Walter Ruttmann’sLichtspiel Opus I(1921), Hans Richter’sRhythmus 21(1921), and Viking Eggeling’sSymphonie diagonale(1924). However, the shots of the roto-reliefs are interspersed with shots of ostensibly nonsensical written text: spinning phrases replete with alliteration, puns, and sexually...

  8. 5 COLORED BLINDNESS: Derek Jarman’s Blue and the Monochrome Film
    (pp. 111-136)

    In 1955 the French artist Yves Klein worked with a chemist named Edouard Adam to create a new kind of blue pigment, a saturated, otherworldly ultramarine that would suggest infinitude. Once it was perfected, Klein christened the new color IKB (International Klein Blue) and patented it to prevent imitation. The artist presented eleven seemingly identical IKB monochromes at the 1957Proclamation of the Blue Epochexhibition in Milan and sold them for different prices. The fact that the works seemed to be perceptually indistinguishable was irrelevant to Klein, who claimed, “Each blue world of each painting, although the same blue...

  9. 6 CONCLUSION: Static Cinema in the Digital Age
    (pp. 137-144)

    “No one goes to the movies anymore.” This is one of only a few lines of dialogue in Tsai Ming-liang’sGoodbye, Dragon Inn(2003), a melancholy, visually arresting film about a large dilapidated movie theater in Taipei that is screening its last film (King Hu’sDragon Inn[1967]).¹ The theater is eerily empty, although one feels the weight of the thousands of people who once populated it. (As one man tells another, “This theater is haunted. Ghosts.”) There are only a handful of individuals watching the King Hu film at any given moment, and while a few spectators seem genuinely...

    (pp. 145-148)
    (pp. 149-152)
  12. NOTES
    (pp. 153-192)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 193-202)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 203-206)