Draft Conference Paper Abstract

Direct” “Action” or A disquisition on the Cinematic Projection of Power and the Problem of Realization with Constant reverence to La Commune (Paris 1871) (2000) & Et la guerre est à peine commencée (2001)

I propose a presentation examining the relationships between movies and direct revolutionary action. In Cinema II, Gilles Deleuze writes that films intended to organically move their audiences to political action faded away in the wake of World War II when the cinema took on the task of restoring human faith in the world. Deleuze focuses on a series of movies leading from Sergei Mikhailovich Eisenstein’s movement-images to the time-images flowing from Citizen Kane (1941) and neorealism; I will concentrate on films the very production of which can be understood as actions and which move their audiences by means of separations at screenings. The history of such movies can traced back at least as far as Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dali’s Un Chien Andalou (1929,) but I will focus on two examples from the turn of the last century, Peter Watkins’ La Commune (Paris 1871,) and Tiqqun’s Et la guerre est à peine commencée (2001.)

The first phase of my argument will sketch a short genealogy of the English terms “action,” “director” and the French “realisateur.” Relying in part on Giorgio Agamben’s “Notes On Gesture.” The genealogy will produce a different concept of “action” than that articulated by Deleuze in Cinema I, one tied to free indirect perception of separations rather than immediate perception of continuities.

The second phase of my argument will develop aspects the historical-material context stretching from the 2000 to the present were produced and circulated in order to understand their effects. Both films established free indirect relations with audiences in the United States and became factors in the growth of the ongoing insurrectionary occupation movement that began in late 2008. In the case of La Commune, various people involved in the production were themselves activists and the cast did their own research into the Paris commune of 1871. The production itself documents the way in which making the film the film brought together a proto-revolutionary community. Watkins’ movie connects the collective subjectivity of its makers to audiences elsewhere through free indirect images. Et la guerre est à peine commencée was also made by activists whose movements are currently restricted by the French government. The misery generated by the video can cause audiences to reject not only the movie itself, but also the state of the world within which they live. Both films articulate the groups that made they films and potentially active audiences as separated from the societies in which they find themselves.

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