Cubitt, S ~ The Cinema Effect

Cubitt, Sean

Elaborates on the types of cinema that exist in the western world (mostly Hollywood)

“”The urges to disorder and totality of the competing modernities of the 1920s, dreams/projections then, seek generalization, institutionalization in the mid-1930s. They seek to control the social gaze—in short, to govern.””

“”an aesthetic of astonishment,” but also that the subjectivity it promoted was not only flexible and mobile but also significantly social. The dynamism of the cinematograph as event, rather than narrative, induces its spectators not to anchor themselves as the narrated objects of a screen performance, but to mobilize themselves as hectic and excited participants in an event that leads them not to contemplation but to sharing. It is a brief moment of innocence before the regulation of cinema into an industrial formation, an Eden from which the stories of good and evil would soon eject it. But it is vital to an understanding of cinema’s utopian capabilities that we acknowledge how, in this formative instant, it was able to activate rather than absorb its audiences.”

“the Lumière cinematograph was anchored not in literary or popular genres of the novel and theater but in the crowd. Social, public, and active, the event of cinema articulated the modernization of urban experience.”

“[The other scenes of the Lumières] are resolutely scenes of everyday life in the modern world among the bourgeoisie, showing their work and their leisure, with a strong emphasis on technological achievements.”

“Alternatively, in a familiar if by now largely discredited argument, we might perhaps be tempted to see the Lumières as the fathers not of film but of documentary.”

“Film not only opposes the presumption of a “natural” vision that sees the “real” world as an assemblage of objects: it proposes another, synthetic vision.”

“Narrative, then, is not an essential quality of film, but only a potential and secondary quality arising from the production of time in the differentiation within and between frames.”

“By the same token, the cinematic event, as a process of perpetual change, does not depend on a prior external world.”

“The cyborg process that transforms living labor into fixed technologies allows the skills of all the dead to participate in the creativity of the present.” Black Book film idea
“The stolen labor of those lost, anonymous artisans comes back to life when the frame itself begins to move.”

“film’s visual coherence depends on suturing light, eye, and brain, optics, physiology, and psyche”

“The ending of the well-made film structures everything that went before.”

“if it is the case that a film is a product of social forces, then film scholarship cannot ignore the critical importance of individuation as a result of social process, however unwanted or illusory.”
“”If the artist’s work is to reach beyond his own contingency, then he must in return pay the price that, in contrast to the discursively thinking person, he cannot transcend himself and the objectively established boundaries”
“the passage through the individual author actually strengthens the claims of art to communicate the social, something it could not do if it were free of the individuation that so deeply marks contemporary society.””
“”every idiosyncracy lives from collective forces of which it is unconscious””

“Where the ancients disputed the necessity of ontegeny with theories of autocthony and parthenogenesis, since the birth of cinema we moderns maneuver at the unclear frontier between human and machine.”

“The idiosyncracy of the line as a trace of its maker and the idiosyncracy of infinitesimally graduated differences in interpretation are the social grounds on which cinema moves from the presentation of objects to the stimulation of concepts.”

“At some point in the near future when historians recognize that the photomechanical cinema is a brief interlude in the history of the animated image, representation will become, like narrative, a subcode of interpretation rather than an essence of motion pictures.” Because everything will be digital and everybody will be empowered to manipulate content if he wants to, the motion picture will not (and already isn’t) a representation of truth. If at all, it represents an idea of the creator(s), but not reality. Lessig’s focus on remix.

“A norm offers itself as a model for subsequent makers, a stable structure that can hold good for decades, like the three-minute pop song, or longer, like the Petrarchan sonnet. Norms legitimate particular practices and sanction deviations.” Many motion picture norms are being challenged at the moment!
“The double contingency of cinematic norms is indeed a function, as Parsons argued, of relations between interlocutors.”

Definition Total Film:
“Total film aspires to bring to the audience a diegesis that can be understood, mentally appropriated, totally. By making the world a theme, it calls the audience to possess it as a whole, and to identify their thought with the world imaged on screen rather than with individual figures, though often enough a protagonist, Christ or Tom Cruise, will provide the rhetorical gateway through which absolute possession can be depicted.”

“Their fear was partly that the scale of investment required to wire hundreds of thousands of cinemas worldwide, coincident with global economic depression, would cause studios to go for the safest and most standardized forms of entertainment.”

“”the montage combination of a series of segments is not interpreted by the mind as a certain sequence of details, but as a certain sequence of whole scenes—and scenes, moreover, which are not depicted but arise within the mind in image form””

“Eisenstein’s challenge in the years after the 1928 “Statement” is no longer to invent a dialectical form of cinema in which sound and image would, through their conflicts, produce an art form of an entirely new kind. Instead, total cinema must face the necessity of their coexistence and act as if with the knowledge that their struggle has already been resolved. At this stage, totality has been achieved by nominating music as the pinnacle of the sonorous hierarchy and the graphic, compositional line as the governor of the visual, thus finding in the analogy between the moving lines of melody and of graphical cinema the core of a newly harmonious and whole filmmaking practice.”

“In some of his earliest writings Eisenstein had already decried narrative along with the star system and the individualist ethos of Hollywood. We should not be surprised that a director who once dreamed of making a film of Marx’s Capital should produce a film that takes the form of a well-formed thesis rather than a well-made play.”

“Sixty years later, the montage of effects has become the montage of affects, and total cinema serves no longer the needs of the anti-Nazi struggle, but the perverse desire for the simulacrum that permeates the contemporary blockbuster.”

“television, with its ability to transmit live, had usurped the critical priority of cinema. […] broadcasting usurped the documentary role of cinema”

“In any film, the diegetic world is often more cogent, more coherent than the everyday. When the film is a fiction, the diegesis will also be more symmetrical, more logical, and more just than we know our world of experience to be. As a result, something radically unstable filters into realist narrative diegesis, a competition between the demands of verisimilitude and those of formal elegance.”

“So realism runs between two risks.” “realism is “concerned to make cinema the asymptote of reality—but in order that it should ultimately be life itself that becomes spectacle, in order that life might in this perfect mirror be poetry, be the self into which film finally changes it.”” “”realism in art can only be achieved in one way—through artifice”, a “necessary illusion,” but one that “quickly induces a loss of awareness of the reality itself, which becomes identified in the mind of the spectator with its cinematographic expression””

“Hollywood was trying, in the later 1930s, to image success.”
“Some studios did achieve something akin to a stable house style. The characteristic sound libraries built up by individual studios clearly marked their products with an authorial stamp.”
“Though RKO is often pointed out as uncharacteristic in that there was no single genre or stylistic language that singled out its product, its lack of house style and apparent disinterest in searching for one is typical of classicism.”

“Films enact rather than depict social change, especially the evolution of media and communications technologies.”

“RKO’s task in the 1930s was to make new objects, to be ahead of the crowd while still in touch with them. It wanted to change cinema, not the world. RKO, like Hollywood in general, inherited a rapidly evolving consumer in the wake of the Jazz Age and the Depression, but it was happier following trends than assuming ideological leadership.” RKO was a bit like the first entarch might be soon.

163 footnote 2
“Sound-on-film technologies were seen as an extension of these existing technologies.” The technology was patented and hindered innovation. Freed from these hurdles sound evolved as an integral part of motion pictures, before it was just an extension. Today’s new technologies are used as extensions as well, but need to become integral parts of a bigger whole.

RKO (?): “Formed out of the combined strengths of the Film Booking Office (a small studio established by Joseph Kennedy) together with RCA (the radio division of General Electric) and the Keith-Albee-Orpheum chain, prime sites for film release in major cities, Radio-Keith-Orpheum had interests in telephones and telegraphy, music publishing and recording, the vaudeville circuit, and the NBC chain of radio stations. Not surprisingly, the company turned to the musical.”
Flying’s [the movie Flying Down to Rio] most elaborate dance number is the Carioca, and one can imagine RKO’s flagship theater, the 6200-seat Radio City Music Hall, opened in 1932, encouraging visitors to take it up as the latest dance craze.”

Today, films take on postcinematic lives on television, cable, video, and DVD, and so live longer than the time it takes to make them, with important implications for their stylistics. But in the heyday of the Hollywood system, production was long and distribution mercilessly short. To exist in the arc light for those few burning hours lent the films something of their passionate innocence, their innocent criminality, the ease with which they evoked and dismissed poverty, disease, prostitution, addiction, and shame. Where Eisenstein sought to rouse in the name of the nation and Renoir bowed to the preeminence of the world, Hollywood had nothing to present but its own illusion. Its only value, the ground of its existence, was entertainment. Hence the mayfly brilliance of its films; hence their mayfly-brief life.

Altman and Williams both argue that recorded sound doesn’t reproduce a real world: it represents it. But the Hollywood soundtrack doesn’t even represent the world: it orchestrates a diegesis.”

“Sobchack’s point, or a part of it, is that we never see with any other than our own eyes save when we see through the eyes of the cinematic apparatus itself.” Not sure I understand.

“Narrative depends on symmetry-breaking: ultimately, there is narrative because the universe is expanding.”
“Through these distinctions and differentiations established by breaking the pure symmetry of zero, the chaos of becoming can be bound into stability.” Not sure I understand.

“repetition is primordial, and things or events repeat themselves as ever-renewed copies of an original that does not exist” In the end there are but a few original stories.

“With Leone’s 1960s Western cycle (A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, Once Upon a Time in the West), the European vision returned to the U.S. market in hybrid form: an Italian film based on a Japanese original made in Spain with German money and a Californian star.”

“In its competition with television, its pursuit of adult themes and expanded horizons, greater explicitation and more persuasive spectacle, cinema in the 1960s abandoned classical restraint in favor of a televisualization of the profilmic. This is how time is metamorphosed in the new Hollywood, in accordance with its rival, sister medium.”

“The Wagnerian ambition for cinema to become a Gesamtkunstwerk, a total multimedia experience, has not been lost: it has been dispersed. The film offers only one part of an experience, the second part of which is provided by the soundtrack, promoted as a discrete item.”

“Toys, computer games, fan fiction and Web sites, novelizations, comics, soundtrack and concept albums, fashion accessories, and collectibles, many of them manufactured by wings of the same horizontally integrated corporation, extended the reach of the event film while reducing the cinema premiere to the status of product launch for a raft of brands on a synchronized lifestyle marketing strategy.” -> entarch

“Contemporary cinema is more ambitious than contemporary philosophy, but neither undertakes to understand the universe any longer.”

“It is not, then, that the world has become simulation, but that cinema events have become spectacle, addressing atomized audiences intrapersonally, turning their gaze inward as the supposed triumph of consumerism decays into poverty, injustice, and ecological catastrophe.”

What makes moving pictures move, as both affective and narrative devices, is conflict. Resolution of conflict may be commercially necessary, ideologically desirable, and rhetorically acceptable as a way of stopping that movement, but it is rarely the privileged moment that reveals the film’s motivations.”

“The concept of “culture,” like its offspring “tradition” and its parent “civilization,” today blocks rather than facilitates the communication of change.” -> painful creative destruction
“History films invite us to inhabit our own societies, cultures, and nations, but to do so they must construct all three. That is the history effect in cinema.”

“The task of cinema is to deliver audiences to films, and the task of audiences is to constitute films as objects of consumption.”

Buying the ticket and entering the auditorium are acts of surrender to the economic and filmic machinery of cinema. Watching (as opposed to necking or walking out) is a surrender to the film itself. Ethnographic research on film, however, is always after the fact, never conducted where spectatorship happens, in the cinema itself where any attempt to elicit a response ruins the experience it tries to capture. Cinema has its own uncertainty principle.” The difference between film and the film industry!

“Informationalization is the process through which economic domination becomes information domination.”

“”space and time becoming more and more expensive in the modern world, art had to make itself international industrial art, that is, cinema, in order to buy space and time””

“Cinema responds by aiming not for endurance but for extension: to universalize itself in space, rather than to secure its survival in time. Here at last it becomes quite clear why special effects must always be cutting edge: because they are not designed to endure, merely to expand. In that expansion, they will form a void at their heart, a void that sucks in souls, in which the audience audiences, a singularity of blinding energy, in which existence is momentarily obliterated, that we call the sublime.” Not sure I understand.

“No technique is essentially avant-garde, progressive, or subversive: every technique is capable of becoming merely technical, a tool for further and repurposed productions.”

“Neither total nor infinite, the struggle for twenty-first-century cinema is the struggle for not yet finite, not yet infinite, ecological, human, and technological community. If beyond the dimensionless plenum of the commodity there is to be a cinema effect, it will arrive as an art of time, the struggle to construct what no one ever lost: the future.” Not sure I understand.

About the author

Woitek Konzal

Producer, Consultant, Lecturer & Researcher. I love working where technology meets media in novel ways. Once, I even won an Emmy for digital innovation doing that. Be it for a small but exciting campaign about underground electronic music collectives or for a monster project combining two movies, various 360° videos, 72 ARG-like mini puzzles, and a Unity game, all wrapped up in one cross-platform app – I have proven my ability to adapt to what is required. This passion for novel technologies has regularly allowed me to cross paths with tech startups – an industry and philosophy I am all set to engage with more. I intensely enjoy balancing out my practical work with academic research, teaching, and consulting. Also, I have a PhD in Creative Industries, a M.Sc. in Business Administration, and love to kitesurf.

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