Cinema, Technologies of Visibility, and the Reanimation of by V. Hausmann

By V. Hausmann

Exploring the dead/alive determine in such motion pictures because the Ring, American attractiveness, and The Elephant guy, Vincent Hausmann charts the outstanding relief of psychic existence and assesses demands shoring up psychic/social areas that move physically drives to language. Drawing on expansive histories of cinema--including its relation to scientific/medical visible culture’s monitoring of the human/animal physique, psychoanalysis, phenomenology, and sexuality reports, the publication demonstrates that conceptions of psychic (re)animation stay interwoven with notions of cinematic movement, and emerge, embedded, in narratives of kinfolk between analog and electronic arts/technologies.

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Yet by examining the formal relations between the arts/technologies also mobilized in this scene, we can note how Mendes’s film aims to recoup the troubling notion of a fixed origin and to summon the totalizing teleological moves that the film has submitted to critique. This recuperative effort that proceeds in the very wake of the film’s critique becomes manifest in the account of the birth of the cinema (and of the relations among the arts/technologies that it seeks to authorize), an account condensed in the film’s self-reflexive look at the murderous trajectory of the shot delivered by Fitts’s gun.

13 This turn to a static notion of the photograph spells a retreat from the film’s nuanced, dynamic take on looking relations and signals an attempt to secure a fixed and fixing image in the field of vision by seeking to recover such finality through an arrested image or conception of a field (or fields) of vision. At the same time, the flashback sequence that returns viewers to the scene of Lester’s holding the photo marks the film’s ambivalence toward situating photography as its origin. Here, American Beauty expresses something akin to early cinema’s desire to not only invoke but also “exorcise” photography, to “wrest authority from the still picture” (BH, 78).

And even though, compared to Lester’s alienation, the colonel’s psychic malaise stems less from materialism and more from a repression of desire, his repressive response to self and others (especially his son) exhibits the kind of turn to monological or fundamentalist thinking that Kristeva traces to consumerism’s “amputat[ion] of subjectivity” (NMS, 7); moreover, the institutional response to Ricky’s breakdown and the reactions of Angela and others, who immediately recommend medication for “weird” or merely alternative thinking and behavior, attest to a wider repression, a comparable, pharmacological effort to stave off the difficult but ultimately generative work of reflection and analysis (NMS, 8), what encourages the perpetual renewal of psychic life.

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