La caméra-stylo. Alexandre Astruc. “What interests ine in the cinema is abstraction.’ (Orson Welles). One casinot help noticing that something is happening in the. Influenced by the introduction of the revolutionary 16mm film technology; French Filmmaker and critic Alexandre Astruc predicted a. Alexandre Astruc’s canonical essay, ‘The Birth of a New Avant-Garde: La Caméra -Stylo’ (), is considered a key precursor in the study of cinematic.
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Secker and Warburg,p. But it takes on fresh importance when placed in dialogue with recent developments in film and media theory, from the film-philosophy movement of the past decade to the work on technics by Bernard Stiegler and others. It is exactly this contact, according to Astruc, that allows us to discuss cinema not simply in terms of art but also philosophy: Bringing Astruc and Stiegler together can help foreground the importance of understanding the fundamental co-dependency of technology, artistry and industry in the evolution of the cinematic medium.
Astruc begins his essay by suggesting that something qualitatively new is happening in the cinema. The latter to be understood in a number of ways: Astruc bornnow 92 had already published a first novel Les Vacances, when he wrote this essay. He would return to his literary beginnings in the s, writing axtruc series of novels even as he continued to develop film and television projects. This emphasis is not a mistake. This is what leads him to his strongest auteurist claim, a few pages later: Or, at the very least, that the shooting stage should be understood as the true starting point of cinematographic writing, with etylo editing and sound as the final stages in the generation of emotions and ideas.
Cinematographic writing begins when the camera is brought into play, when it is brought into proximity with a set of pro-filmic elements — and a film is allowed to form of this encounter.
We could say, in this context, that Truffaut offers his readers a useful reminder of the etymology of the term cinematography itself: University of California Press,camefa. The link between Astruc and Truffaut can be taken further. As Dudley Astru notes, Astruc and Bazin were quite intimate during the immediate postwar years. All three filmmakers are essential figures for Bazin as well.
To the extent that this notion of the camera-pen is a metaphor, Astruc can be seen to be making a very similar — in fact, interchangeable — argument with Bazin in his piece on Welles and Citizen Kane.
Alexandre Astruc – Wikipedia
But Astruc does not stop there. Although his specific examples are all feature-length narrative films, shot on 35mm, he also mentions the proliferation, in the post-WWII period, of ashruc cameras, and how this increased availability of film cameras can facilitate the continued growth of the new mode of cinematic writing.
For the work of filmmakers including Kenneth Anger and Stan Brakhage was made possible precisely because of the wider accessibility of 16mm cameras manufactured during WWII and then sold in second-hand shops at discounted rates in the s. In the future, Astruc believes, not only will more people have access to cameras, but they will also have more flexibility in how they screen a film.
He envisions a future. Oxford University Press,pp. Routledge,p. This prediction not only evokes our recent past, when we used to go to video shops to rent, first, VHS tapes, and then DVDs and Blu-Rays, but also styli present, where cinema has lost its singular meaning.
In a similar vein, we can easily extend his comments on 16mm film to the emergence of digital video cameras, which now make it easier than ever for individuals to write with the camera — literally so. Astruc begins with a quote from Orson Welles: It becomes clear that Astruc relates abstraction to language — and language to thinking. Language is a mode of abstraction since it converts our everyday perceptions into concepts or signs.
Introduction to “The Future of Cinema” by Alexandre Astruc — The Third Rail
These concepts or signs allow us to reflect upon our experiences, to come to a new understanding of their meaning and relevance. In these terms, to say that language is an abstraction should not be understood exclusively in negative terms, for abstraction is not simply a subtraction, extraction or reduction of experience.
It also has an productive even creative function: When Astruc discusses thinking and language, he does not mean that filmmakers should transport linguistic ideas or linguistic signs into cinema. To the contrary, cinema must continue to develop its own non-linguistic form of language, which does not necessarily discount speech or the written word as if this were possible ca,era, but neither does it rely on speech or words as the primary source of cognitive engagement and understanding.
The epistemological possibilities of film are directly tied to the temporal status of cinematographic images, their dynamic or dialectical qualities — although Astruc objects to the way Sergei Eisenstein equates dialectical thinking with montage. Ideas are created not simply through the juxtaposition of shots but in the relations established, within a single shot, between the various figures distributed across the frame, human or otherwise.
What is different between the two processes is that, in traditional writing, the same instruments are used at each stage of composition; whereas film involves different instruments or tools, each of which has its own range of potentials, and its own way of influencing the course of action to be taken. Born inBernard Stiegler studied philosophy with Jacques Derrida, astrucc influence is evident in his writing style, his attraction to neologisms, as well as in his skills at deconstructing the texts of other philosophers.
He was incarcerated asgruc five years for armed robbery. It was while he was in prison that he began studying and practicing philosophy through a series of ascetic reading and writing exercises. This is how Aztruc initially trained for a life in philosophy. He defended his dissertation inand, since then, has published more than a dozen books — a number of them organised around a common theme, as in the three-volume Technics and Time series, published in France between and In this seriesStiegler reflects on the encounter, or non-encounter, between philosophy and technology.
From the beginning, philosophy has ignored or repressed technics, a consideration of which is deemed to be outside the purview of philosophy.
The evolution of mankind over ayear period does not occur despite technology but because of it. According to Ben Roberts: There is a similar methodology on display in the work of both philosophers: To this notion, Stiegler adds a discussion of the new time-based media of the 19th and 20th centuries the phonograph, cinemawhich not only duplicate the flux of consciousness but also — because of their mechanical reproducibility — have the ability to repeat it.
Such a consideration, Stiegler suggests, would have challenged Husserl to refine his ideas on temporal objects and the challenges faced by the phenomenological subject in the twentieth century. Leroi-Gourhan’s thesis is that while the cortical system of the human brain has remained largely unchanged since the Neanderthal period, the human being has continued to evolve because of the relationship he develops with technics. So, in the case of the human, biological evolution and technical evolution are necessarily intertwined.
It is such bodily advances that lead to the development of speech and language, both of which are made possible by the peculiar features of human anatomy. Technics are not only fundamental in the development of human knowledge, but are also significant in the creation of a non-biological form of memory.
Whereas Kant proposes that the a priori coordinates of understanding are somehow innate, Stiegler argues otherwise: This inheritance is the result of technics that allow for the preservation and dissemination of cultural memory.
The shift is from technics that facilitate memory to those that store it. Mitchell and Mark B. University of Chicago Press,p.
The MIT Press,p. For more, see Bernard Stiegler trans. Stanford University Press,pp. Descartes, we could say, had an instrumentalist view in regards to technology: Edinburgh University Press, In either case, we have a clear example of the way technics not only facilitates knowledge, but also allows for its extension and transformation. To ignore the conjunction of human and technology is thus not only to leave unremarked an essential component in man’s evolution, but also to leave technology in the hands of technocrats and industrialists.
They develop technology for their own purposes, to suit their own specific economic needs or interests versus how it might have developed otherwise, had philosophers seen technology as a philosophical concern, directly related to ethics, aesthetics and questions of knowledge.
Stiegler attempts to rectify this error. What he makes clear is the extent to which even the work of Gilles Deleuze largely ignores this dimension of the medium: I would go further: Either the emphasis is placed on the auteur or on the film-as-text or on the historical and technical history of the medium; but what rarely occurs is the attempt to think through these topics in relation to one another ; to see these elements as inter-dependent and co-constitutive, the result of an encounter between a number of elements, human and non-human, technical and industrial.
Oddly enough, a similar thing happens in Stiegler, for even as he promises to address cinema in volume three of Technics and Timehis focus is less on films or filmmakers, or on the aesthetic potential of the medium, than on developing a sophisticated, but also largely negative, argument about cinema as an emblematic instance of the capture of modern technics by forces of power and control.
Hence, the subtitle of volume three: Cinematic Time and the Question of Malaise. The possibility of an individual response, the expression of a true individuality, becomes increasingly rare. Instead, there is a bland uniformity, a complacencya conformity. This is directly related to the fact that most filmgoers and television viewers have no access to equipment, and no ability to participate in these media except as spectators.
At the same time, the temporal images produced for films and television become the foundation, the memory bank or archive, for future generations of mankind — thus allowing for the replication of the same ideas and beliefs, and the same debased notions of community and individuality. Stiegler is not wrong to suggest that film and other related media technologies have troubling components; after all, cinema does evolve into big business that attempts to maximise profits through a set of principles or rules that function to delimit the uses to which the technology might be put.
But the history of cinema is not as singular as Stiegler suggests.
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astrkc This unpredictability is the result of a number of factors, and they are not all part of the same industrialisation or corporatisation of the medium. The existence of the Nouvelle Vague to cite just one exampleand its continued ability to inspire future generations of filmmakers, belies the claim that cinema develops along a single course, with everything assimilated into a single, hegemonic form.
There are, and have always been, alternative practices of cinema, and these practices utilise the medium otherwise, pursuing a path that Stiegler does not seriously consider in Technics and Time. Daniel Ross, Screening the Pastissue 36 June.
Kant acknowledges the subjective nature of human experience while also providing it with an objective basis, since this subjective experience is objectively true of all humans. Objectivity is thus relocated in us rather than in the world.
Stiegler, by contrast, argues that our shared subjective experience is largely the result of a cultural memory that is preserved and disseminated; our subjective experience is objective. But as soon as we acknowledge this fact, we also have to acknowledge the tendentious nature of these cultural memories.
We have to ask: Stiegler, in his more recent writings, has taken a somewhat more positive view on the question of technics related to the rise of new technologies digital, the Internet that provide new opportunities for consumers to become producers; to utilise technics such as video cameras for their own education and edification.
Let us not forget, in this context, that the Technics and Time series was written in the s. This is not to say that the majority of works produced in the past ten years have attempted to utilise technics in such a fashion; quite the contrary, for the most part, the majority of users simply wish to replicate the cinematic and televisual forms that they are familiar with, and which they recognise however falsely as their own.
The majority of users will do nothing special with these technologies, their lives will carry on more or less the same; but what is important is the transformative value these technics may have for one person, for one individual, who transforms the device, allows it to evolve, while also transforming themselves — as well as those who come into contact with their work in the near or distant future. The majority of prisoners do not transform their life, or like him become philosophers.
But there was the possibility that this might occur, through this individual encounter with technics. It is through his encounter with a series of technical instruments — the alphabet which gave him access to words and languagepen and paper which allowed him to articulate his ideas in an exteriorised form — that Stiegler was able to develop his thoughts and transform himself from a convict into a philosopher.
It is this kind of singular experience that sets the stage for true individuation, one whose outcome cannot be known in advance. But there is a time and place for polemics. There was a time and place for it inand there is a time and place for it inin the age of digital and the Internet.