Given my recent piqued interest in contemporary feminist issues, Laura Mulvey’s writings in Death 24x a Second resonate with me deeply. Beyond her discussion of the cinematic lens as a sort of defaulted voyeuristic window that flattens and objectifies the female form — the “male gaze” — she is very thoughtful about the dimension of time in film, which has always been the most intriguing aspect of moving image art to me. Even in the title, she indicates that each frame necessitates the death of the last frame — its submission into the viewer’s semiotic memory system, and a forced acceptance into his/her unconsciousness.
“The photograph’s freezing of reality, truth in Godard’s definition, marks a transition from the animate to the inanimate, from life to death,” she writes. “The cinema reverses the process, by means of anillusion that animates the inanimate frames of its origin.”
To approach film from this perspective of persistent “death” is extremely provocative to me, because A. it does not deny the artist’s hand in the film making process of necessarily disrupting the moving image, but rather emphasizes it, and B. it suggests that perhaps the extension of time through ellipsis has a slow and meditative morbidity that both suggests and transcends reality. “Rather than a masking of cinema’s essence, fiction can introduce the level of imaginative time that, once delayed, contributes to rather than detracts from cinema’s aesthetics,” Mulvey writes.
Central to Mulvey’s writings are her to experimental films; (nostalgia), for example, is a piece by Hollis Frampton that for her seems to embody the central paradox of cinema: that is, in her words, the “co-presence of movement, stillness, continuity and discontinuity.” Keith Sanborn’s work, on the other hand, interprets the practice of rewinding and fast forwarding film as a method of dissolving the state of fiction of cinema and continuity; it is in that way a nihilistic attempt to detach spectator from reality. At the same time, this method can force the piece into a stance of neutrality, as in his piece Operation Double Trouble, which is a functionally “safe” critique of propaganda.