time-image
  ---- by Tom Conley
  The time-image is what tends to govern cinema from the end of World War II until the present. It is the title of the second or dexter panel of Deleuze's historical taxonomy of film. It designates images that Henri Bergson qualified as imbued with duration: a component of time that is neither successive nor chronological. Seen less as matter than felt as pure duration time-images relate a change in the configuration of the world. They draw attention to the qualities of their own optical and aural properties as much as the signs or matter they represent. They tend not to favour narrative or beg the spectator to identify with their content. For Deleuze the time image is apt to be read - it is a legible image - as much as it is seen or given to visibility. It prompts the spectator to think through the signs with which it articulates narrative matter.
  In the régime of the movement-image, intervals are vital to the perception of motion, sensation, affection and change; in the time-image, perception becomes a 'perception of perception', offering a shift of emphasis that is witnessed in the image itself rather than the linkages (or cuts) between images. What this means is that when montage, the foundation of classical cinema, loses its hold time begins to be increasingly spatialised. For instance, in film noir the past or narratives that tell a person's life-story through his or her point of view is shown in flashbacks. This classical device gives way, in the era of the time-image, to a perpetual duration that cannot be located in one moment or another. Memory elides temporal distinction in ways such that only 'is it in the present that we make memory, in order to make use of it in the future when the present will be past' (D 1989: 52). The time-image frequently becomes a site of amnesia where waves of action turn the world at large into a matrix in which personages seem to float indiscriminately. Certain films, such as Jean Renoir's La règle du jeu (1939) or Orson Welles' The Lady from Shanghai (1946), suggest that subjectivity can only be felt through the perception of time: humans, be they spectators or characters in film are determined by the environs of time in which they are held. Deleuze calls the effect that of a 'timecrystal', a way of being that is discovered in a time inside of the event that allows it to be perceived. In La règle du jeu the time-crystal might be the illuminated greenhouse or the chateau in which the characters are held. In Welles' film it would be the hall of mirrors in which the characters shatter the narrative to pieces.
  The time-image (and its crystals) is often discerned in deep focus photography, the model par excellence for Renoir and Welles, for whom montage is folded into the spatial dynamics given in a single take. Yet it acquires legibility in Godard's cinema, such as Pierrot le fou (1965) in which a 'depth of surface' is created by patterns of writing or abstract forms painted on walls against which human players seem flattened. Timeimages are seen in nappes or 'sheets' in what Deleuze calls 'mental cartographies' of cinema (D 1989: 121). In Alain Resnais' Hiroshima mon amour (1959) the past is a matte surface on which traumatic memoryimages are reflected and meld into one another. Time is bereft of dates, thus inhering in the body and soul of the two lovers estranged in the places where they happen to meet.
  In this continuum, cinema becomes a site where thought itself acquires a force of becoming unknown to historical time. It is a power of the irrational or unthought that is essential to all thinking: something incommunicable, something that cannot be uttered, something undecided or undecidable. Where the movement-image represented time, the timeimage is 'no longer empirical, nor metaphysical; it is "transcendental" in the sense that Kant gives the word: time is out of joint and presents itself in the pure state' (D 1989: 271). Through the concept of the time-image Deleuze (with Guattari) notes that the question at the basis of all film theory - 'What is cinema?' - that André Bazin posed turns into the question 'What is philosophy?'. The time-image demonstrates that cinema is a new practice of images and signs for which philosophy is summoned to construct a theory and a conceptual practice. Thus, with the corresponding concept of the movement-image an enduring inquiry into the nature of cinema is set in place.
  Connectives
   § becoming
   § cinema
   § duration
   § event
   § memory

The Deleuze dictionary. . 2010.

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