A thought experiment on “contemplative cinema.”
As I mentioned in my previous post (towards an exploration of contemplative cinema) on the subject, I see contemplative cinema producing a distancing effect, but not in terms of the politics of the image, as one finds with Godard. In other words, not in terms of power. I see the distancing effect being much more subtle and ultimately inviting – a kind of drawing one into the subtext of the film by way of “asking” the viewer to contemplate the object (film, image, etc.). Contemplative film is, in this way, highly connotative. The reason I bring up Godard by way of comparison is because his work is such a good example of one kind of of disanciation, and I want to foreground the other. One side of distanciation pushes the viewer back, making her aware of the contingent and contrived nature of cinema, of the power of the cinematic image, and the ability (even necessity) of subverting that image by the viewer. The other side is to see the process helping the viewer to more fully and consciously participate in the philosophical and artistic implications of the cinematic image. For the contemplative film I believe those implications are frequently grounded in the sublime rather than the political.
[Note: I use the term “political” in a structuralist/post-structuralist sense developed within screen theory which treats filmic images as signifiers encoding meanings but also, thanks to the apparatus through which the images are projected, as mirrors in which, by (mis)recognizing themselves, viewers accede to subjectivity. In my view, contemplative cinema is concern with other things.]
In this light, I wonder what connections to other arts can we make. I believe that comparisons can be a good way to zero in on the topic. One thought is in the comparison we can create by placing two painting genres side by side: abstract expressionism and pop art. I see these two painting genres to be somewhat similar to the differences we find between contemplative cinema and what we might call, more or less, political cinema. It seems to me that New York, N.Y. by Franze Kline (1957) can be compared with Takka Takka by Roy Lichtenstein (1962) along similar lines as one might compare, for example, The Mirror by Tarkovsky (1975) and Deux ou trois choses que je sais d’elle by Godard (1967). I don’t have the time at this point to go into a full analysis (I would love to if I could), but I think there are a few salient points. I think it is fair to say that both paintings call attention to themselves, that both point to something beyond the obvious features of each, and that Takka Takka sets one back on one’s heels bit while New York, N.Y. calls for attentive, yet quiet contemplation. That is the difference, as I see it, between two possible intentions of distanciation.
This kind of comparison seems valid to me, but I am curious as to how others see it. I am also curious as to other contemplative cinema comparisons with non-cinema stuff, such as landscape archtecture or poetry. I welcome your comments.