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Spectator and Cinema - Essay Example

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Using the concept of suture, film theory explains narrative closure not just in terms of the film and its formal construction, but rather as a process of drawing in and enclosing the viewing subject in the film's textual system. The filmic concept stems from Lacan's account of how in the individual psyche a coherent, unified subject is "sutured" within a symbolic order structured by desire and governed by language…
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Spectator and Cinema
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Spectator and Cinema

Download file to see previous pages... In the mid-'70s, the concept began to play a major role in the theoretical discussions in Britain and North America, with the result that psychoanalytical studies of the viewing subject have proliferated. In my reading of Wings of Desire, I borrow from several theoreticians of suture, including some who have been at odds with each other concerning the scope and consequence of this concept.
Although my reading of Wings of Desire certainly owes much to the French scholars, claims I make concerning Wenders' film run counter to the original polemical thrust of their work. For them, suture denotes the operation by which cinema encloses the subject in ideology. Their analysis bears primarily on dominant Hollywood cinema, and they restrict the scope of suture to the ideological effacement of the cinematic code. They are reductive as well with respect to the semiotic system of suturing, positing at times the shot/reverseshot system or point-of-view cutting as the fundamental cinematic articulation of suture. Other French film theoreticians who complement a general semiotics of cinema with Lacanian notions of the subject and signification, such as Christian Metz and Jean-Louis Baudry, have avoided such a rigid application of suture to the cinematic apparatus and, nevertheless, have arrived at the even more pessimistic conclusion that cinema itself functions as a support and instrument of ideology. (Metz 1974, 39-47)
Anglo-American film scholars have expanded on these psychoanalytical theories of cinema without sharing their negative assessment of the basic cinematic apparatus. (MacCabe 1977, 48-76) However, such challenges to the original French position on cinema and ideology have pertained for the most part only to films that resist closure and foreground lack and alienation. Thomas Elsaesser's 1980 article on Fassbinder is an important example of such criticism in the area of German cinema. Focusing on Fassbinder, but also claiming relevance for New German Cinema in general (mentioning by name Herzog, Wenders, Syberberg, and Kluge), Elsaesser responds to the more radical conclusions drawn by Baudry and Metz. He rejects their implication that "the cinema is indeed an invention without a future' because it systematically ties the spectator to a regressive state, in an endless circuit of substitution and fetishization." (Elsaesser 1986, 537)
Nevertheless, suture as well as narrative closure of any kind has remained ideologically suspect. Wings of Desire provides, I think, an excellent opportunity to re-examine this bias that, in the wake of Oudart and his successors, persists against identification and narrative (closure). In the discussion of suture, the emphasis has been on processes of identification that position the viewing ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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