- sensation + cinema
- ---- by Constantine VerevisIn Difference and Repetition, Deleuze states that the modern work of art leaves the domain of representation in order to become pure experience: 'a transcendental empiricism or science of the sensible' (D 1994: 56). Deleuze develops this idea in Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation, suggesting that modern painting transcends the representation of both illustrative and narrative figuration by moving either toward a pure form of abstraction (as exemplified by, say, Piet Mondrian or Wassily Kandinsky) or toward what Deleuze calls (following Jean-François Lyotard) the purely figural. For Deleuze (as for Bacon, who refuses both straight abstraction and figurative illustration), the preferred option is the latter, for the abstract painting, like the figurative artwork, is ultimately directed toward ordinary thought or to the brain, whereas the figure is the sensible form related to sensation, to the nervous system or to 'vital movement'. Citing Paul Cézanne, Deleuze describes a 'logic of the senses' that is neither rational, nor cerebral, but a bodily sensation - an unequal difference between forces - that overﬂows and traverses all domains.Sensation (figure) shifts attention from the form of the artwork, be it representational or abstract, to the nature of its encounter with other bodies, and the becomings - becoming-other, becoming-unlimited, becomingintense - that they bring about. Deleuze says: 'I become in sensation, and something happens through sensation, one through the other and one in the other' (D 1993b: 187). In the case of cinema, narrativerepresentational film can be understood as a machine assemblage - a potentiality of intensities or sensations - that, on the one hand, is organised (represented) by an activity of figuration, and on the other, is reproduced - multiplied and intensified - as a creative figure of sensation. The first describes a habitual recognition where the film is familiar and banal because it is represented in terms of its identity and sameness. The latter describes a moment of attentive recognition (of dis-figuration) in which the object does not remain on the one and the same plane, but passes through different planes. This is the moment of the crystal, where past and future collide; the moment where repetition is the eternal return: difference repeating.Sensation can be related to the concept of 'cinephilia', an obsessive passion for cinema - in particular the Hollywood films of 1940s and 1950s - that developed in the front rows of the Paris cinémathèques in the 1950s and 1960s. Paul Willemen suggests that the phenomenon of cinephilia, inﬂuenced by still active residues of surrealism in post-war French culture, involves a sublime moment of defamiliarisation, an encounter with the unpresentable sublime. Willemen links cinephilia to Jean Epstein's notion of photogénie, a ﬂeeting moment of experience or emotional intensity - a sensation - that the viewer cannot describe verbally or rationalise cognitively (W 1994). As in the case of Deleuze's time-image, photogénie is a direct representation of time, a 'crystal-image', or direct sensation of a present presence. Focusing upon that aspect of cinephilia which escapes existing networks of critical discourse,Willemen describes an encounter - a 'dangerous moment' that points to a 'beyond of cinema' (241). In a brief example, one can find this potential dislocation in the films of David Lynch: the anamorphic deformity of the dream in The Elephant Man (1980), Ben's lip-synching of 'In Dreams' in Blue Velvet (1986), the lighting of a cigarette in Wild at Heart (1990).Contemporary cinephilia - which embraces not only the Hollywood films of classical cinephilia and the work of the nouvelle vague, but also Hollywood's delayed nouvelle vague (Francis Ford Coppola, Brian De Palma, Martin Scorsese), the new French new wave (Jean-Jacques Beineix, Luc Besson, Leos Carax), and international art cinema (Pedro Almodovar, Takeshi Kitano, Abbas Kiarostami) - can be seen as one of the many diverse reading strategies encouraged by recent cultural technologies. The developments include not only new storage and information technologies (television, video, internet) and agencies of promotion and commodification (reviews, advertisements, merchandise) but an associated increase in film and media literacy and a mode of viewing imbricated with an intertextual network of mass cultural discourses. Understood in this way, the reproduction of the cinephile is a type of infinite representation, an extensive function of a standardised, serial product designed to be consumed within globalised and/or specialised niche markets. But equally, the intensive experience of cinephilia, the resonance created within the proliferating, differential series, can be described as a moment of sensation, a glimpse over the edge of cinematic representation. Contemporary cinephilia thus becomes both a general economy of viewing, one which guarantees the endless circulation (sameness) of the cinematic institution, and also a point of resistance to these forms of re-presentation - the moment at which the founding principle (Idea) breaks down to become a positive event, a universal un-founding. The serial repetition of the (global Hollywood) film product, and the reproduction of the new cinephile, become both the confirmation of identity and the affirmation of multiple sensation, the return of the absolutely different.
The Deleuze dictionary. Revised Edition Edited by Adrian Parr . 2010.