language and/of film


i've been wanting to make films that project some vibe, some desire, and i've wanted to do it with images and music and very few words. at the same time, trying to talk about this desire to do this work (the means of support for doing it), i'm caught in the trap of using the term language to talk about words, and that's not quite right, not in terms of how my sources are using "language" and not necessarily in terms of how i'm approaching it (make time for Deleuze).


i understand also that images and music register as language, but not in quite the same way (and certainly not within rhetoric and composition studies because of how we privilege written discourse, despite rhetoric's more expansive potential/reality) and probably because of the overdetermined nature of written/verbal/lexical discourse (words) and also because of the particular nature of image and music i'm toying with.


i'm going for gestures in film work that attempt to do new things w/ image and sound, even if only things that get at new forms of what Michel Chion calls "synchresis," which is "the forging of an immediate and necessary relationship between something one sees and something one hears" (that sound usually being something other than the sound *actually* made but later edited into the timeline) (5). much of what we "know" or think we know about image and sound is about synchresis; we *think* we *know* what a bullet in the gut sounds like, but maybe, from film, we know only the sound of a lead weight dropped from an extremely high place onto/into an overripe watermelon (i am making this up . . . i don't know how the sound is made, but it resonates with something i've experienced before).


Chion goes on to talk about "added value," which is sound "at the most basic level," and that value comes via "text, or language, or image"(5). He claims that cinema is primarily "a vococentric or, more precisely, a verbocentric phenomenon," (5) a claim i so want to resist. But Chion does qualify to say that film *privileges* voice, and so here we see a distinction to a certain kind of film (documentary, narrative . . . not so much experimental films, shorts, films that attempt to go beyond convention) . . . and so i feel better. i'm also thinking about the term "added value" and considering that value is *added*, which is not to say that value does not always already exist in a scene prior to or absent sound (of course it does because of the value or power or resonance or affective provocations of image). and i'm back to intention, rhetoric that is overtly intending something for an audience, which is fine, but what of the recognition that our intentions can never be fully realized or managed or controlled? it's in that tinyspace where i find potential for nonsententious discourse and other potential affects and a space for play and possibility and something new (i know, it's romantic, but, absent that desire, why make films?). and i want to say to Chion, can we talk about how sound, like or as language, is also or may be, via Massumi, subtractive, how it overdetermines the affective experience of spectation in ways that we might consider if we are after that shinynewthing? and i think he'd be okay with this because again i suspect he's talking about making "successful" films which is to say films that pay out.


Chion critiques Chris Marker's "Letter from Siberia" (1957) (which i have not seen) because of this sort of unconventional attempt. so now i really must see the piece because just reading about it i have to object and also because i loved Le Jetee (1962) and what it did with unconventional image-flow via stills and montage and voice. Chion critiques Marker because of how Marker's LS "leads us to believe that the issue is solely one of political ideology, and that otherwise there exists some neutral way of speaking" (7). identifying w/ the *desire* for a neutral (or . . . what? . . . other?) way of speaking, i have to resist Chion, even if i recognize that there is little hope for such a space; it's the desire that must remain open, and so films like Marker's (if it does what Chion says it does but certainly for LJ) are important and necessary. Marker was by some standards successful; Kevin Hagopian, writing for the New York State Writer's Institute "Film Notes" insists that "[. . .] his [Marker's] impossible-to-classify work is central to an understanding of the French New Wave, not as a set of themes, but as a rich tapestry of forms and styles." and clearly i am drawn to the "impossible-to-classify" comment and also find irony in Hagopian's claim that this sort of work provides the key to understanding a "movement" or trend or set of textual conventions. still, theses "conventions" were often about resisting mainstream convention and despite circulation that made of them familiar moves, in their time . . . you see where this is going.


i find in Massumi the language of desire, and i find it also in Deleuze (what little i've read and what i've learned in coversations about my work w/ my friend and colleague, Christa Albrecht-Crane). i'm hoping that when i present my work at the upcoming PSU Conference on Rhetoric i will be afforded some room to account for the conceptual slippage, especially given that these are ideas "in progress" (which ideas aren't? . . . you get my meaning). and maybe i'm naive to be overly-confident, but it seems likely that my audience will at least share in my desire and thereby enable some "dangerous" ideas time and space for contemplation.


Comments