Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Film Analysis from Point Zero, Part 3

 Part 3 of 3...

... film analysis from position zero is not to imagine a space where there is no intervention on the part of the cultural theorist, the idea that one might remain entirely objective, the supposed/ illusory non-intervention of the ethnographer.
To start from position zero is to not-have-experienced-previously, while bringing one's past experience to to the film --

-- like a zero in a multiplication, an example taken from Zizek's Less Than Nothing, it is present and it changes the entire equation -- everything multiplied by zero becomes zero, creating something new in one's hands.

The new creation is the combination of the film observed and all of the valid associations that emerge at point zero -- at the rough draft stage, associations could include connections/ connotations /denotations that one does not intentionally desire to make, they just happen. Associations that come to mind could have links to personal experience or themes in the film one is watching -- the issue is that, as long as one can write about the way in which the associations are linked in a convincing way to other readers, the associations are valid and in a sense, beyond critique. Like the memorable reminder at the end of Ratatouille (Bird, 2007) --

"In many ways, the work of a critic is easy.
We risk very little, yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment.
We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read.
But the bitter truth we critics must face is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so."

With transnational analysis in mind, where there is still a lot of room for theoretical creativity and spontaneity, connections that might link films from across the globe -- without appealing to universals; in contrast once could locate precise networks of capital or particular representations of time -- could appear suddenly logical even though in other circumstances one would think such connections should not/could not be positioned together within a single analysis.

A model for this type of inquiry, as I see it, can be found in an article by Emily Davis entitled “The Intimacies of Globalization: Bodies and Borders On-Screen.” In this essay, Davis analyzes a diverse set of visual filmic narratives in order to explain the relationship between representations of migration, sexual identity, and commodification in narrative film. For example, she asserts that Dirty Pretty Things (Frears, 2002), Maria Full of Grace (Marston, 2004), and the “Badlaa” episode from the X-Files TV show depict how globalization has commodified the body. Davis proves her point when she examines the inhumanity of the organ trade in Dirty Pretty Things and the power of xenophobia to propel a narrative of alien infiltration in “Badlaa.”

Such an analysis might include the particular and the universal at the same time. 

To say "no!" to such creative connections in film analysis would be equivalent to denying Sergei Eisenstein his dialectical montage.

The end result is useful, a load-bearing wall, a well-engineered bridge.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Film Analysis from Point Zero, Part 2

Jack Kerouac said that each paragraph is a poem, so maybe these entries are just attempts at poetry after all -- didn't Richard Hugo once say: poetry may not be factual, but it does convey truth.

So maybe everything in my initial post on Point Zero is not factual -- the no-forest in Dante's Inferno exists (its not zero/nothing [0]), the no-geographical location exists, the metaphorical space exists... for these abstractions, generalizations about an idea or entity exist...  or perhaps they exist as nothing (which is still something, not less than nothing).

Point Zero:

-- is poetry, because it stems from a desire to use both emotion and the intellect to their fullest potential simultaneously, shattering mundane conscious experience, leading us to consider that we never really understand reality; rather, we simplify reality to make it manageable or comprehensible:

                                   "For the way of comets
                                    is the poet's way. And the blown-apart
                                    links of causality are her links.
                                    ... she is the one that mixes up the cards
                                    and confuses arithmetic and weight,
                                    ... the one who altogether refutes Kant,
                                    the one in the stone graves of the Bastille                                  
                                    who remains like a tree in its loveliness."
                                                       --  Marina Tsvetaeva, from "The Poet"

-- is a place, like a point break. It requires preparation to get there so that one can let go.

-- can be understood in some sense as the Taoist Way, it is empty and desires nothing.

In a practical sense, there remains a fruitful possibility for the one starting from Point Zero in terms of transnational film analysis, for in a comparative framework, the idea of film analysis from Point Zero allows one, or can lead one, to compare films that come to mind without a pre-established hierarchy of expectations, high/low, north/south/east/west/, male/female. I guess I'll never be able to, or refuse to entirely start at Point Zero because I can't abandon the historical-material conditions of our age.

Yet the ideal end result would be to allow a spontaneous set of associations to emerge (ex nihilo) without necessarily looking for them -- a set of associations that are each connected to historical-material, historical-particular spaces (locations, experiences, cultures) of origin -- that flow consciously and unconsciously to the observer due to/stemming from the content of the film.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Film Analysis from Point Zero, Part 1

(first a preface, which ended up being longer than the entry itself...)

This entry, the first of three, is a reflection on an ideal starting point when analyzing film, literature, culture, etc. These entries in a sense present nothing new -- one of my favorite lit. professors as an undergrad proposed, as I remember it at least, that it doesn't necessarily matter whether or not one likes a work of fiction, what matters is that one uses a fictional text to respond to the questions that the text itself asks -- rather than, conversely, imposing one's ideology onto the text. (An ideological imposition onto/response to a text could look like this: "I don't like film x because it does not conform to my preconceived/learned/inherited understanding of reality.")

What I am basically attempting is to respond to texts on their own terms. In addition, I've been thinking about Charles Seife's Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea and Slavoj Žižek’s ideas in Less Than Nothing.

So, these entries on Point Zero are probably works of fiction more than anything -- for, just as others have concluded, Terry Eagleton has nicely negated the possibility of a non-ideological reading of a text in Literary Theory. Starting an analysis from Point Zero is impossible. I guess that's what I like about it.

My desire is to meditate on this fraction of a second, or series of fractions of seconds, that occur at the initiation of a writing about/response to cinema. I'm interested in these two questions: Isn't a response to cinema a work of creativity, just as the film itself is a work of creativity? And from what starting point does one's response emerge?

-- -- -- -- -- --

My (hope is that my) film analyses start at position zero: emptiness, nothing, absence, invisibility, no-expectation.

Film analysis from point zero emerges from a place of no-substance, no-place, from a darkened theater or living room -- like the forest in Canto I of Dante's Inferno which is no-forest, no-geographical location, a metaphysical space -- when the electric shadows and sound waves begin, each cinematic artifact registers an affect, emotional, or intellectual response that connects one attuned (the viewer at status zero) to a visual environment ...

... the visual environment of the film is a series of ones (1's) and zeros (0's)... as in The Matrix, a reality comprised of zeros and ones. Each number greater than one a combination of ones rather than individual numbers in their own right ... all we are/have is ones and zeroes ...

From position zero, creation begins, both in terms of the production (out of nothing) of a film, and in terms of film analysis (out of nothing) -- the end result is a new entity, a new series of ones out of zero. Ex nihilo.