The body. The fragment. The flow.


Authour / Giuseppe Colonese - Evergreen Film

the body

We often talk about the “the death of Cinema”. 
His passing would have been determined by the advent of new digital technologies that thanks to the cost-effective production and the significant lightness of means, have replaced, or can replace, the outsized cinema devices on film. It is also believed that these new technologies will favour, or will be able to favor and increase the possibility, both in public places and private homes, to set up real and tailor made screening rooms. Even the biggest film producers, in their vision, are creating an increasingly direct and economically advantageous link between the cinema market and the home-entertainment.

The Central Region (Michael Snow – 1970)

Invisible Cinema (Peter Kubelka – 1970) Photo Michael Chikiris

I believe, however, that the semantic expression cinema death has a really different, supposed or right, meaning that distances itself from aspects such as market, functionality and economy. 

By analysing cinema in its pure essence of object, body, matter, media, device, process, it will be possible to see how it has never really been “alive”. The filmed image, as such, inevitably shows its tendency as something already seen and experienced. 

As a played back object, on screen it specifies its posthumous entity, its double nature as a fragment, a ruin, a memory, as passage and history. The movie manifests its dual thingly nature of film-image and surface-image.

 It is already an image in itself, pure iconography, it is the image of being an image, it is the metonymic expression of cinema: content and container of what is shown. 

In the cinema, the movie, as an image, is probably always the portrayed, it constantly reverse the notions of content and container, image and media. Movie and image are essential entities, they are the same thing.

Meshes of the Afternoon (Maya Deren 1943)

Arnulf Rainer (Peter Kubelka – 1960)

During projections, the film is subjected by time and use to a natural decay. We figure out the evanescence and transparent nature of its thin, standard, wavering, transitory body by the clear sign of strain on it. The cinema is fragile and diaphanous in its constitution, as a pane of glass or as an unrepeatable moment.

During the shooting, all the delicate poetry of non-permanence, of the incessant and unconditional change, of the world as perishable and erasable became image, thanks to it. 

The cinema collects the image of things from the biological mortality of life and then makes it die in its theater, in its home, in its own kingdom made of light and silence: the film.

Decasia (Bill Morrison – 2002)

Mothlight (Stan Brakhage 1963)

The cinematographic device, with the logic of its twenty-four frames per second, proceeds by separation, division; like a killing machine: once started, with its cynical mechanics, it reduces and fragments everything into pictures (the frames). 

It breaks, cuts, duplicates, like a guillotine; it tears the visual body of the filmed object and packs it into portions, in frames. Everything goes through the rigid structure of its microediting, from the machine that fragments and arranges time in adjacent layouts. In the logic of contiguous frames, the whole (profilmic) becomes parts, frozen, forced from the sliding mechanics to reconstruct the original set of which are parts. 

The static is paradoxically impossible in the cinema because it exists only as part of a whole (frame); but it can be achieved by the illusion of a movement generated by the rapid alternation of these single elements, of these frozen pieces of space-time.

Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock – 1960)

Un Chien Andalou (Luis Buñuel – 1929)

The cinema proceeds by deconstructing reality, move forward by dragging, decomposing and reassembling; it make progress through segments, through systematic portions of images. 

The minimal unit of its structure, the frame, take part of the movement but is not  movement in itself, it is the fixed image of a passage, it is the instant of static moment of  motion in a precise unit of time.

 The movie is made up of a chain of immobile moments (cf. Eadweard Muybridge when, with the chronophotographic system, shot the distinct phases of a horse’s gallop*), whose parts are the snapshot, that is to say the visible tracing of the continuous movement of the whole, the interrupted form of the natural improvement of things.

The Horse in Motion (Eadweard Muybridge 1878)

The cinema device shot and separates the unit, arranging it along the sequential strip of its metric body, in the time-space of its twenty-four graves per second.

 The movie builds its reality and its time with the logic of continuous fragments. Cinema, by its nature, is not really alive: it cames to life in a succession of images of death.

 In its progress it is similar to taxidermy: it captures the profilm reality by embalming it in the thin layouts of its body made of dead chemistry, where everything turns into silver oxide and condenses into the celluloid parceled frames.