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Belief in the Body: Philippe Garrels
Le Rvlateur and Deleuze
PATRICK FFRENCH
Abstract:
In Cinema II Deleuze proposes, via early lm theorists, that cinema can
realise the potential inherent in art to act directly on the nervous system.
Cinema had the sublime capacity to shock thought into activity, and awaken
the spiritual automaton in us through vibrations and affects, rather than
representations. Deleuze nds a variant of this argument in the writings of
Artaud on cinema, in which lm forces the realisation of an impotence
at the heart of thought. Deleuze then proposes that the only response to
this impotence is belief in the connection between man and the world, as
expressed and realised in a corporeal cinema of gestures, the prime example of
which, in his view, is the work of Philippe Garrel. I will address Garrels lm
Le Rvlateur in relation to these propositions, focussing also on how the lm
works primarily at the level of sensory and gestural dynamics, rather than
narrative or representation.
Keywords: Gilles Deleuze, Philippe Garrel, Antonin Artaud, automatism,
belief, gesture
I rst encountered Philippe Garrels extraordinary lm Le Rvlateur in
the lower gallery of the Muse National dArt Moderne at the Centre
Georges Pompidou in Paris, where it was screened in an enclosed and
darkened space set aside from the ubiquitous white space of the main
gallery. Curtained openings at either side of the room allowed the
visitors to wander in and out or simply through the centre of the space,
so that any viewing of the lm was accompanied by the passage of
bodies and of shadows in front of and across the screen. The lms
silence doubtless added to the transitory nature of its audience in this
instance and to the mufed and sepulchral quality of the atmosphere
of the room, peculiar to screening spaces in galleries. Like those other
works of lm or video art which occupy a liminal space between
cinema and gallery, the lm was screened continuously with little
transition between the end and the beginning of its 67 minute runtime,
so unless the spectator were committed or obstinate enough to sit
Paragraph 31:2 (2008) 159172
DOI: 10.3366/E0264833408000175
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or stand through the entire lm, he or she would not be drawn to
its viewing through the promise of narrative resolution or sequence.
The lm did not hold the gaze, then, because of the qualities of its
representation or of its narration; its hold on the senses was something
to do with the emergence of the bodies and fragments of bodies from
the almost constant black of the screen, which the intermittent passage
of other bodies complemented rather than disturbed.
Le Rvlateur is a 67 minute black and white silent lm shot in the
German countryside near Munich on 35mm, directed, produced and
written by Philippe Garrel, lit and shot by Garrels collaborator Marcel
Fournier.
1
Its three protagonists, a man and woman and a child, are
played by Laurent Terzieff, Bernadette Lafont and Stanislas Robiolle,
then 4 years old, whose extraordinary performance is unique, to my
mind, in the history of cinema. Garrels seventh lm, after Les Enfants
dsaccords (1964), Droit de visite (1965), Anmone and Marie pour mmoire
(1967), La Concentration and Actua I (both 1968), Le Rvlateur was shot
in the last days of May 1968, Garrel having lmed the events sur le vif
in the now lost lm Actua I. In the 1970s Garrel would direct a series
of experimental, non-narrative lms before a return to narrative with
LEnfant secret in 1979. He has recently returned to the events of May
1968 with Les Amants rguliers, a response in many ways to Bertoluccis
The Dreamers of 2003. He belongs to the generation of 1968, having
been twenty years old at that time, and to the generation of the post-
Nouvelle vague, his name coupled with that of Jean Eustache (who was
nevertheless 10 years older) as inheritors of the legacy of the Nouvelle
vague. The association with Eustache is illuminating, not so much
because of the explicit links between the two directors (Les Amants
rguliers is dedicated to Eustache) but because of the formal correlation
between their lms. In a review of Garrels LEnfant secret Serge Daney
wrote that the place and role of speech in Eustache and Garrels lms
was the same, but inverted:
In Eustache, characters spoke to the point of vomiting, they were always deciding,
they died from speech, carving out a zone of mortal silence at the heart of a
French that was expelled from itself. With Garrel it is the same, but inverted. The
characters keep silent too much, every word is clumsy, no-one knows how to
decide.
2
Le Rvlateur is the inverted complement to Eustaches La Maman et
la putain (1973). The ination and hysterical exhausting of speech in
the latter lm nds its exact inverse in the almost total absence of
reference to the human body as a speaking body in Garrels silent lm,
both lms in this sense proposing equally powerful responses to the
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Belief in the Body: Philippe Garrels Le Rvlateur and Deleuze 161
prise de parole of May 1968. But both Eustache and Garrel, along with
Chantal Akerman, Patrice Chreau and Jacques Doillon, are named
by Gilles Deleuze in Cinma II: LImage-temps as the proponents of a
cinma du corps, rather than a cinema in which language and speech
are the central issue. Deleuzes proposition that it is Garrel who goes
furthest in this direction, that Garrel is one of the greatest modern
authors,
3
and his particular emphasis on Le Rvlateur, fortuitously
encountered subsequent to the viewing I described above, suggest that
one look to Deleuze for an account of the specic sensory qualities
of the lm, outside any mediation through representational content or
narrative structure.
For Deleuze the cinema of the body responds to a demand specic
to the historical and in some sense ethical situation of cinema and
of contemporary humanity. If post-war cinema, in Deleuzes well-
known thesis, enables the perception of time in its pure state this
is because the connection between the visual eld and movement has
been interrupted. The individual now nds him or herself confronted
by a vision to which the body no longer has the capacity to react.
While on the one hand this paralysis opens the door to the cinema of
the time-image, with which much of the second volume of Deleuzes
Cinema is concerned, on the other hand, it is also a crisis and a blockage
for the cinema of the movement-image, the focus of the rst volume.
It is overly simplistic to see the two volumes as indicating a purely
historical progression; the second volume also returns to the question
of movement and traces other modes of response to the crisis. Thus
in the chapter Thought and Cinema Deleuze returns to the early
theorists of cinema such as Epstein, Elie Faure and above all Artaud, to
elaborate what they saw as the potential of early cinema, establishes
the reasons for the failure of this promise, and poses the challenge
to which the contemporary cinema is called upon to respond. This
challenge situates a cinema of the body and of the senses as a different
line of development from that of the cinema of the time-image,
foregrounded in Resnais or Antonioni. It can be expressed in an
aporetic formulation: given the interruption of the link between man
and the world, the impotence of the thinking body in its world, we
need specic reasons to believe in the world and in the body, and
this belief is engaged precisely by virtue of this interruption and this
impotence:
Man is not himself a world other than the one in which he experiences the
intolerable and feels himself trapped. The spiritual automaton is in the psychic
situation of the seer [voyant], who sees better and further than he can react, that
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is, think. Which, then, is the subtle way out? To believe, not in a different world,
but in a link between man and the world, in love or life, to believe in this as
the impossible, the unthinkable, which none the less cannot but be thought (. . . ).
It is this belief that makes the unthought the specic power of thought, through
the absurd, by virtue of the absurd. (Cinema 2, 170)
It is in Artaud that Deleuze nds the most coherent expression of
the notion of a thought that proceeds from the recognition of its
own impossibility, or of a thought which is incessantly born from a
paralysis at the heart of thought. Initially, however, Artaud is linked to
those early theorists of cinema who saw in its revelation of automatic
movement the possibility of provoking the awakening of a spiritual
automaton; producing a shock to thought, communicating vibrations to
the cortex, touching the nervous and cerebral system directly; the early
theorists of lm saw in the cinema this capacity to have an immediate
effect on thought and on the brain, produced through the automatic
movement of the image (Cinema 2; 156). The image was no longer
a representation of something, or, as in choreography or dramatic
performance, its movement the result of an external cause; it moved
by and in itself: Because the cinematographic image itself makes
movement, because it makes what the other arts are restricted to
demanding (or to saying), it brings together what is essential in the
other arts; it inherits it (Cinema 2; 156). The cinematographic image
was a being of sensation which could have an unmediated effect on
the nervous system, produce a shock to the body and to thought, seen
as co-extensive; this is a non-representative theory of the cinema which
resonates with what Deleuze will also write on the paintings of Francis
Bacon; distinguishing the gural from the gurative, he writes: The
Figure is the sensible form related to the sensation; it acts immediately
on the nervous system, which is of esh.
4
Indeed the notion of art as
the creation of sensations, rather than the representation or narration
of something external to the painting, or the sculpture, or the lm
itself, is integral to the philosophy of art elaborated by Deleuze and
Guattari in Quest-ce que la philosophie, where they write: That which
is conserved, the thing or the work of art, is a block of sensations, that is
a composite of percepts and affects.
5
The function of art, for Deleuze
and Guattari, is to invent and to conserve sensations independently
of the individual who experienced them and of the context of their
perception and affection; art is thus non-representative, and the work
of art, whether painting, sculpture, music or literature, is a being of
sensation, and nothing else: A work of art is a being of sensation
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Belief in the Body: Philippe Garrels Le Rvlateur and Deleuze 163
and nothing other; it exists in itself (Quest-ce que la philosophie, 155).
Insofar as the artist is thus in the position of giving material form to
a sensation that does not relate to something anterior, s/he has the
role of a physician or diagnostician, identifying and naming the as yet
unidentied symptoms of the body; for Deleuze, in Essays Critical and
Clinical, the artist is a symptomatologist, the work of art the diagnosis
of the physical, sensorial and affectual capacities of the body.
6
But this
diagnostic activity remains non-descriptive and non-representative in
that what is at stake is not the body as it is but what the body can do,
according to Spinozas Ethics.
7
The artist is thus the symptomatologist
of the sensation of the body in becoming, in its capacities to affect and
to be affected by other blocks of sensation.
Ostensibly, then, Artaud provides an account of cinema as
susceptible of producing this immediate sensorial effect and of thus
stimulating thought. Artauds conception of the cinema or rather of
its potential emphasizes its sensory action, and its direct impact in
the brain. He writes: I think the cinema can only admit a certain
type of lm: those in which all of the sensory means of action have
been used and The cinema is a remarkable stimulant. It operates
directly on the grey matter of the brain.
8
This vision requires that
cinema be rigorously separated from the theatre, from the depiction of
psychological situations, and that its own language be allowed to come
to the fore without any mediation via language itself, via the language
of words.
9
This is also a radically non-representative conception
of the cinema:
There is in cinema a kind of physical intoxication which communicates the
movement of images directly to the brain. The mind is set into upheaval beyond
all representation. This hidden power of images tracks down potential forces in
the depths of the mind that have never before been activated.
10
There can be no question of translation, since the cinema, in Artauds
estimation, is made with matter itself, and has the capacity to constitute
a visual language of the shocks and collisions proper to the movement
of matter as such:
The cinema possesses a specic element, which is truly magical, truly
cinematographic, and which no-one up to that point had thought to isolate.
This element is distinct from any kind of representation attached to images
and participates in the very vibration and deep, unconscious birth of thought.
Underground images arise, and ow not according to their logical meaning or
order, but from their mixing, their vibration and their shock. (Oeuvres; 256)
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Artaud thus seems to locate the magical quality of cinema in the
succession of objects or forms, the dynamic relations between them;
the transubstantiation of forms that is produced visually in the lm
corresponds, through a kind of osmosis, to the movement of thought:
The human skin of things, the epidermis of reality, this is what cinema deals with
rst of all. It exalts matter and makes it appear in its profound spirituality, in
its relations with the mind from which it issues. Images are born, are deduced
one from the other and as images impose an objective synthesis which is more
penetrating than any abstraction, creating worlds which ask nothing of anyone or
anything. But from this play of appearances, this kind of trans-substantiation of
elements is born an inorganic language which moves the mind through osmosis
and without any kind of transposition in words. And from the fact that it plays
with matter itself, cinema creates situations which derive from the simple collision
of objects, of forms, repulsions, attractions. It is not separate from life but nds
something like the primitive disposition of things. (Oeuvres, 248)
The cinema does not require any form of mediation via language,
any explanation through the means of sub-titles or explanatory texts.
Accordingly, Artaud takes a stand against the talkie: talking Cinema is
a stupidity, an absurdity.
11
He argues for a rigorous separation of image
and sound which he considers as two radically distinct languages,
proposing that while the play of images takes us out of the space
of the cinema itself, that of sounds is tied to it. He imagines the
possibility of technical progress such that the cinema, in colour and
with depth of eld, could reproduce the density and perspective of life
itself, but expresses anxiety about the potential uses of such a medium.
He conceives of the cinema to come as a spectacle which few would be
able to withstand, since individuals with the tension of mind capable of
supporting such a hallucination are not yet, in his view, available. The
cinema thus exposes the absence of certain capacities.
12
It would
be better, in this situation, Artaud thinks, to return to the strictly silent
lm. Artaud thus conceives of lm as a medium for the manipulation
of the mass; due to its capacity, through technical means, to give
an exact reproduction of the real, it would in turn threaten life and
overcome it. In formal terms Artauds preference is for lm to offer
the exploration of a visual language independent of language and of
sound, and for the language of sound to be explored independently
itself.
For Deleuze, however, the most telling reason for the importance
of Artaud as concerns the modern cinema is elsewhere. Artaud is
not any different from Eisenstein, for example, in the proposition that
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Belief in the Body: Philippe Garrels Le Rvlateur and Deleuze 165
cinema can have an immediate effect on the nervous system. Where
he differs from someone like Eisenstein is in the constant recurrence
in his scenarios of the gure of a man whose thought escapes him,
whose body is as if paralysed by the theft or ight of his own thought;
as if predicting the contemporary spectator, he writes of the gure of
Dix-huit secondes that he is reduced to seeing nothing come in front
of him but a parade of images, a surfeit of contradictory images without
obvious relation one to the other.
13
The dilemma, from which Artaud
himself suffered in his body, and which the entirety of his work
expresses, lies in the lack of relation between thought and the body,
such that the body suffers from the impotence of thought, is the site of
the paralysis of thought. But thought, as such, is nothing other than this
constant confrontation with its own impotence and paralysis; what the
cinema might thus have awakened is the spiritual automaton as a gure
of inarticulacy, aphasia and atrophy, whence Deleuzes proposition:
The spiritual automaton has become the Mummy, this dismantled,
paralysed, petried, frozen instance which testies to the impossibility
of thinking that is thought (Cinema 2; 166). The body that this
conception of cinema encounters is the senseless body, an avatar
of Deleuze and Guattaris body without organs; in its intermittent
gurations of the sensorily deprived bodies of the somnambulist, the
vigilambulist, the Mummy and various automata cinema would thus
propose a double for the spectator to which it had given birth.
14
But just as the interruption of the sensory-motor capacity had
enabled the development of the image of time in its pure state, the
paralysed, senseless body which the cinema both gures on screen and
requires as spectator provides, in Deleuzes terms, the conditions of a
higher birth. In the same way that Francis Bacon must efface the clich
from the canvas, in order to create a space for the Figure, Deleuze
conceives of the cinema of the body as relinquishing or effacing the
representation of the world, or the narration of the world, of what has
passed for thought, in order to create a space for the emergence of a
new body.
Deleuze nds in a contemporary essay by Jean-Louis Schefer
15
a
conception of the cinema close to that of Artaud, which is concerned
with the ways in which the cinema operates a suspension of the
world, thereby addressing: that which does not let itself be thought
in thought, and equally ( . . . ) that which does not let itself be seen
in vision (Cinema 2; 168). The world, in Schefers conception, is not
represented in the cinema, but suspended; the visual eld is troubled
rather than opened, but this suspension paradoxically makes possible
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the emergence of an improbable, unpredictable body. The cinema
interrupts or suspends the world as representation, and the certainty of
the bond between sensory perception and movement the sensory-
motor link producing a mummied and inorganic body, does so
only in order to make necessary a faith (croyance) in the possibility of
the body as the vehicle of an unrecognizeable life; Deleuze writes:
We must believe in the body, but as in the germ of life, the seed which splits
open the paving-stones, which has been preserved and lives on in the holy shroud
or the mummys bandages, and which bears witness to life, in this world as it is.
We need an ethic or a faith, which makes fools laugh; it is not a need to believe
in something else, but a need to believe in this world, of which fools are a part.
(Cinema 2, 173)
Deleuze proposes that this conception of cinema (that of Schefer, who
is close to Artaud) nds a complete match in the work of Garrel
(Cinema 2; 168). While Schefers examples are taken from Dreyer,
from Kurosawa and Hollywood B-movies, the emphasis he proposes
on lmic images of sensory indistinction, which are nevertheless not
abstract but constitute a whole this side of the image (tout un en-de
de limage)
16
images which Deleuze, paraphrasing Schefer, describes
as these dancing grains which are not made to be seen, the luminous
dust which is not a preguration of bodies, the akes of snow and
blankets of soot
17
also exactly pertains to the world of Garrels
lms, especially Le Rvlateur, to which I now turn.
Garrels lm takes place in a space and time before discourse,
not simply through the subtraction of speech and of sound but
through a corresponding emphasis on the gestural quality of the actors
movements. What it gives us is not bodies whose voices and whose
language is lacking, not yet having been given or having been taken
away, but these bodies before speech and discursive action, in what
Deleuze calls pre-hodological space.
18
Discourse is subtracted, not
from the actors who would in some sense be gagged, but historically;
if cinema has the technical capacity to offer synchronized sound and
thus approximate further its representation of the world, Le Rvlateurs
anachronistic silence forces the emergence of the body before the
word, in a return to silent cinema which is also futural in its exploration
of the as yet unrecognizeable capacities of the moving body. And
insofar as it is prior to the discursive, the attention of the spectator
is riveted to the gestural level, before these gestures take on the xity
of meanings. This is to say that the lm does not communicate as
the gestural illustration of a script the spectator might imagine; the
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Belief in the Body: Philippe Garrels Le Rvlateur and Deleuze 167
bodies do not mime an absent script or a silenced verbal commentary.
No script, then, which would mediate the spectators reception of the
images, such that the spectator is obliged to view the lm with his or
her body, the gestures and movements of the protagonists on screen
as if offering the actual double of those performed by the spectator
virtually.
Deleuze distinguishes, in the cinma du corps which describes
post-Nouvelle-Vague French cinema, the everyday body from the
ceremonial body (Cinema 2, 190). The bodies of the man, woman
and child of Le Rvlateur are best ascribed to the latter, although the
gestures they perform lighting a cigarette, going to sleep . . .
are perhaps more pertinently seen as everyday gestures that are
becoming ceremonial through the purication of context, through
their isolation and their repetition. The gestures are those of ritual
and ceremony, but before they have attained the rigidity demanded
by the ceremony, before it becomes a spectacle and their meanings
are ordained by scripture or allegory. They are everyday gestures, but
gestures nevertheless liberated from habit and functionality. It is not
only the fact that the lm centres on the child, and that the child is the
gure in relation to which the movements and postures of the man
and woman are permuted, which suggests that the gesturality of the
lm be associated with infantile play. In other words the association
with play is not ascribed uniquely to the visual content of the lm, it
is also because the space of infantile play exactly corresponds to this
eld between the everyday and the ceremonial.
The ceremonial body is not the gure of myth. For Deleuze, the
ceremony at stake is an initiation which prepares the body for its
transformation. Thus Bacons gures are initiatory bodies in prepara-
tion for the ceremony of their dissipation. Indeed, the ceremony
may never arrive; we witness the making sacred of the body before
the event of sacrice. Were the sacrice to take place we would
have already entered into the post-ceremonial space of representation,
in which the bodies we see would be metaphorical substitutes for
the sacriced and thus mythic body. Deleuze insists on the idea
that the cinma du corps, and especially Garrels oeuvre, explores the
body before the myth, before the name. Le Rvlateur may adopt or
come close to the guration of the story of Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
or Oedipus, Jocasta and Laius, but it resists the pull of narrative and
myth. What we see is the gest, the affections of the body independent
of story or plot,
19
and thus in Garrels Le Rvlateur the vanity of
seeking to impose a narrative structure on the silent sequences. The
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apprehension of the lm is pregnant, inevitably, with such structures,
with hermeneutics; the gurative has a certain pull. But this reects
more on the desire or neurosis of the viewer, anxious to fall back
on the established channels of meaning which posit an always-lacking
desired resolution and prevent any confrontation with the sensation of
the affective body. The positing of lack as such is desirable. But in Le
Rvlateur story emerges from the gestures of the bodies, rather than
being representative of a pre-established plot structure expressed
through gesture. In Le Rvlateur, ceremonies or small rituals structure
the way the bodies relate to each other. The ceremony also gives them
something to do, but they are not oriented towards narrative resolution
or its lack. The child moves towards the mother, who adopts the
posture of crucixion. The parents run after the child, who ees them,
or is indifferent. The child circles the mother and father asleep, but
the stratication of Oedipus is disturbed: the mother also circles the
child and father asleep, the father the mother and child asleep. The
nal relations of the three bodies have not yet been found or decided,
and it is in this period of rehearsal, of the para-theatrical, that the
possibilities of what a body can do are explored and experimented:
what is a mother? what is a father? what is a child? what are the as yet
unthought capacities of these bodies? what are the bodily affects and
corresponding gestures that correspond to the relations mother-child,
father-mother, child-mother, child-father? Le Rvlateurs characters
do not yet know and have not yet decided. They experiment with
different permutations and objects a cigarette, bootlaces, an aerosol:
the child crucies and decapitates the parents, the father puts the child
in a box. The relations of bodies are permutational or combinatorial,
sometimes accidentally falling into those we may construe according
to myth Mary and Joseph, the ight from Egypt, Oedipus,
but deforming the myths in the movement of uid permutation.
Nevertheless, the myths, the stories, are not arbitrary or irrelevant,
since both relate to that element which Garrel explores, where, as
Deleuze writes, The child appears as the undecideable point in terms
of which the attitudes of a man and a woman are distributed (Cinema
2; 199). Le Rvlateur concerns as much the perspective and affections
of the child for play, sleep and warmth as that of the parents,
their perplexity and their question: what do we do with it? The
child, absent or not, conrms the absence of sexual relation and
provokes the question: what do we do with each other given that
the child exists? The child is also the suspension of the (adult) world of
representations, the child inects the lm towards the pre-hodological
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Belief in the Body: Philippe Garrels Le Rvlateur and Deleuze 169
space in which the sensory-motor schemata are suspended and the
potential and genesis of what bodies can do is experimented.
Le Rvlateur is a lm in black and white, but not as subtracted from
colour. Again the purging of colour as an element of the sensorial
effect of the lm is productive rather than negative. Artaud noted
that the possibility of colour along with synchronized sound in lm
would tend towards the representation of the real in its totality, and
offer a hallucinatory spectacle which would threaten to supersede life
as such.
20
Film in colour always has the potential to be confused
for a straightforward representation of the real. The exploitation of
primary colours by Godard, for example, would evidently counter
such a tendency. But the answer offered by Le Rvlateur is to make
of the absence of colour a productive and generative factor in itself.
Paradoxically, for the viewer the absence of the sensation of colour
allows the lm to play at the level of the senses far more than a lm
in colour content to simply represent the perceptual experience of the
world. Black and white, here, are the genetic principles by virtue of
which the visible is distributed, the poles of black and white function as
the absent totality out of which the bodies are generated and in relation
to which the postures and gestures of the body emerge. Deleuze writes:
In any case, we believe that what Schefer seeks rare examples of in the history of
cinema, in Dreyer and Kurosawa, is what Garrel draws on, not for a systematic
recapitulation, but as a revitalizing inspiration which means that cinema thus
coincides with its own essence, at least with one of its essences: a proceeding,
a process of constitution of bodies from the neutral image, white or black, snowy
or ashed. (Cinema 2, 201)
Garrel alternates between the black background against which parts of
the body are shown as contrasted white, and the white background,
sometimes a vertical stripe down the canvas or an illuminated patch
within it (reminiscent of Bacons rounds), against which the body
appears only as silhouette. In the rst instance, the face, arms or the legs
of the mother or father running are all that appears against the black,
against what Schefer calls the experimental night;
21
black is the
matrix of the potential of the visible, and of the improbable bodies that
emerge from it. In the second instance, Garrel employs overexposure in
order to white out the background, to strip it of the redundant clichs
of the representative, rather in the same manner as Deleuzes Bacon
scrubs out the bodies and faces of his bodies in order to prepare for the
emergence of the Figure, the ceremony. The doorway, the window, the
trunks of trees, the bed or a wall function as the white space against
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which the posture of the gestural body can be made visible. Black,
however, is the fundamental ground in which what becomes visible is
either the body cut out in the isolated patch of overexposed white, or
against which the reected white of the body becomes visible. The
light source either exposes the bodies and its objects from the front, or
ssures the black from the back either way, the background is the
totality.
Is pre-hodological space, is the Figure an exploration of pure
sensation, with a temporality in the pure state? Le Rvlateur was
made during the month of May 1968, at the very time of the events
in Paris with which Garrel was closely involved, and which his most
recent lm Les Amants rguliers recalls in semi-autobiographical mode.
Le Rvlateur, as we have noted, returns to a time of genesis and birth,
as if the protagonists had emerged from the primordial night of the
black screen. Is then a cinema of the sense and of gestures necessarily
ahistorical? Perhaps not, if we consider that history is present in the
lm in the very mode of its absence and of its erasure. Without being
representative of their historical moment, Bacons painting or Garrels
lms propose the sensory effect of history as if in the very weight of the
spectacle or the clich that has been erased from the canvas, covered
by the black screen, or whited out. The camps may be felt in Bacons
paintings; May 1968 may be felt in Le Rvlateur. The weight of the
State is felt oppressively in Le Rvlateur, not only in a sequence in
which the child walks past the gates and fences of an army base, but also
in the other spaces from which that of the lm is consistently isolated,
the unseen menace from which the protagonists intermittently ee.
The potential liberation offered by May 1968 is also felt in the lm,
rather than represented, in the centrality of the child and the sense that
the movements of the man and the woman are ordained in relation
to the child and not vice versa. The man and the woman are in a
situation of unpredictability with relation to the child, they are in the
state of having to ask what do with it, what is made possible by it
and what to do with their own bodies given that the child exists.
Le Rvlateur makes its historicity felt as possibility and event rather
than as development or evolution through this very unpredictability.
Deleuzes notion of pre-hodological space pertains exactly to this
situation of unpredictability, in which the paths that bodies can or will
take have not yet been decided nor been mapped out. Hodological
space is a mapped space of paths, radiating outward from the child
and moving through the parents as part of its trajectory outward and
around. While the childs movements in Le Rvlateur certainly resonate
July 28, 2008 Time: 01:55pm para017.tex
Belief in the Body: Philippe Garrels Le Rvlateur and Deleuze 171
with this activity of path-forming and mapping, the distinction of the
lm and the space it creates, the impact on the senses it proposes, are
more appropriately within the pre-hodological space before decision,
before the distribution of roles. Within the history of cinema, and
perhaps in the political context of 1960s France and its legacy, the
space that Le Rvlateur carves out for itself, in which is marked a
plurality of ways of being present in the world (Deleuze, Cinema 2,
203), is also one of possibility and chance, the possibility precisely of
different decisions and different bodies. It is also therefore a space of
belief.
NOTES
1 Le Rvlateur, available on VHS (Secam) from Re:voir (www.re-voir.com),
with a 30 page booklet including essays by Sally Shafto and Emeric de Lastens.
Le Rvlateur was nanced by Sylvie Boissonnas and Anne Hliat, under the
loose rubric of Zanzibar lms.
2 Serge Daney, Cin-journal Volume II: 19831986 (Paris: Cahiers du cinma,
1998), 6. All translations are my own unless otherwise indicated.
3 Gilles Deleuze, Cinema 2: The Time-Image, translated by Hugh Tomlinson and
Robert Galeta (London: Athlone, 1989), 201.
4 Gilles Deleuze, Francis Bacon: logique de la sensation (Paris: Seuil, 2002), 39.
5 Gilles Deleuze and Flix Guattari, Quest-ce que la philosophie (Paris: Minuit,
1991), 154 (in italics in the original).
6 Cf. Daniel W. Smith, Introduction: A Life of Pure Immanence: Deleuzes
Critique et clinique Project, in Gilles Deleuze, Essays Critical and Clinical,
translated by Daniel W. Smith and Michael A. Greco (London, New York:
Verso, 1998), xvi. See also Gilles Deleuze, Nietzsche and Philosophy translated
by High Tomlinson (London, New York: Continuum, 1986). Deleuze
also assigns this function to philosophy: The whole of philosophy is a
symptomatology, and a semeiology (sic.), 3.
7 Cf. Gilles Deleuze, Spinoza: philosophie pratique (Paris: Minuit, 1981), 2833,
and Cinema 2, 189.
8 Antonin Artaud, Rponse une enqute (1923) in Artaud, Oeuvres (Paris:
Gallimard, Quarto, 2004), 41.
9 Cf. We are in pursuit of a lm of purely visual situations whose dramatic
force would ow from a shock made for the eyes, taken if I dare say it from
the very substance of the look, and not deriving from essentially discursive
psychological circumlocutions which are nothing but visually translated text
Cinma et ralit (1927) in Oeuvres, 248.
July 28, 2008 Time: 01:55pm para017.tex
172 Paragraph
10 Artaud, Sorcellerie et cinma (1927), Oeuvres, 257. Translated by Stephen
Barber in Stephen Barber, The Screaming Body: Antonin Artaud: Film Projects,
Drawings and Sound Recordings (London: Creation Books, 1999).
11 Artaud, A Madame Yvonne Allendy, Oeuvres, 304.
12 Artaud, Rponse une enqute (1928), Oeuvres, 3078.
13 Les Dix-huit secondes in Oeuvres, 101. Cf. also in Oeuvres, the unrealized
scenarios Description dun tat physique(11012), Les 32 (295304), La
Rvolte du boucher (31013).
14 Cf. Deleuzes discussion of automota in cinema and cinema as automaton in
Cinema 2, 263-70.
15 Jean-Louis Schefer, LHomme ordinaire du cinma (Paris: Cahiers du cinma,
XX).
16 Deleuze, Cinema 2, 168, quoting Schefer, LHomme ordinaire, XX.
17 Deleuze, Cinema 2, 1689, quoting Schefer.
18 Deleuze discusses pre-hodological space in relation to the lms of Jacques
Doillon, but in a manner which is very resonant with Le Rvlateur.
Hodological space, relating to paths and routes, pertains to the cinema of
action, while the cinema of the body explores a pre-hodological space:
It may be here that the cinema of the body is fundamentally contrasted
with the cinema of action. The action-image presupposes a space in which
ends, obstacles, means, subordinations, the principle and the secondary,
predominances and repugnances are distributed: a whole space which can
be called hodological. But the body is initially caught in a quite different
space, where disparate sets overlap and rival each other, without being able to
organize themselves according to sensory-motor schemata. ( . . . ) This is space
before action, always haunted by a child, or by a clown [pitre], or by both at
once. It is a pre-hodological space, like a uctuatio animi which does not point
to an indecision of the spirit, but to an undecideability of the body. Cinema 2,
203 (translation modied). Cf. also What Children Say in Essays Critical and
Clinical, 617.
19 Cf. Cinema 2, 198.
20 Cf. Oeuvres, 307.
21 Schefer, cited by Deleuze, Cinema 2, 201.