Film-Philosophy Conference, Film-Philosophy Conference 2012

Time and Temporality in Recent Hispanic Cinema

Belén Vidal, Tom Whittaker, Steven Marsh


Abstract


This panel addresses the multiple ways in which time and temporality emerge as key motifs in recent Hispanic cinema. These papers all focus on time as a mode of filmic representation and each, in different ways, poses a disturbed worldliness or cosmopolitanism as an alternative to traditional (and identitarian) critical approaches to cinema in the Hispanic Atlantic and Spain. All three discussions turn on questions of continuity and discontinuity; on the traces, fragments and contours of historical undercurrents as exemplified in Spanish-language film by asynchrony, by rhythm, by time delayed, lagged, elliptical, truncated or interrupted, and technologically manipulated. These papers seek to raise ontological and epistemological questions regarding time and technicity, cultural and national identity, or a purported common heritage. Further, the panel seeks to theorize the overlapping spatial and temporal economies of mise-en-scène and montage, of dispositif and the filmic apparatus.

 

‘Asynchrony and the cinephilic quotation: notes on the new essay film from Spain’

— Belén Vidal (Kings College, London)

This paper explores the status of the cinephilic quotation as a significant epistemological and historiographic tool in the new essay film emerging from Spain. I situate my discussion in the general context of the rebirth of cinephilia as a shared language of love, appreciation and analysis of film. Unlike the historical first wave of cinephilia, however, this second wave is post-cinematic, and is generating hybrid objects and transcultural readings. In this context, I will look at works by Catalan filmmakers José Luis Guerín and Isaki Lacuesta, and in particular their use of the fragment and the variation around existing films as tools for a creative reflection on the film medium and its history. Cinema itself becomes the subject of Guerín’s essay films Innisfree (1990) and Train of Shadows (1997), and of Lacuesta’s short film The Marker Variations (2007) and the feature-length TV documentary The Night that Never Ends (La noche que no acaba, 2010; re-titled All Night Long for international circulation). These works use sonic and visual cinephilic quotations to actively interrogate the viewer’s relationship with the film image in affective but also historically situated terms.

Drawing on the work of Christian Keathley (Cinephilia and History, 2006) and Laura Mulvey (Death 24x a Second, 2006) this paper highlights the cinephilic quotation as an asynchronous effect that de-naturalises the relationship between background and figure, foregrounding the vanishing points and gaps in interpretation that arise from the shift between different temporalities. With their practice, Guerín and Lacuesta expand a mode of filmmaking with little previous tradition in Spain. Via cosmopolitan connections (Alain Resnais, Chris Marker, or Jonas Mekas), their essay films enable transcultural and historically displaced readings of their original objects of cinephilic affection.

 

‘Mundane rhythms in Whisky and Blue Eyelids

Tom Whittaker (University of Liverpool)

Ingmar Bergman has written that ‘film is mainly rhythm; it is inhalation and exhalation in continuous sequence. Music works in the same fashion: I’d say there is no art form that has so much in common with film as music’. This paper explores the musicality of film rhythm in two recent offbeat Latin American films, Whisky (Rebella and Stoll, 2004) and Blue Eyelids (Contreras, 2007). The films are vividly shaped by the mechanistic rhythms of repetition and routine, the ordinary and the dull. In closely examining the films’ sound design and the movement of objects and actors within the frame, I argue that their rhythmic contours – both musical and kinetic – serve to illuminate the broader social practices of neoliberal labour in Latin America.

This paper will draw on the work of musicologists Jacques Attali (Noise: The Political Economy of Music) and Robert Fisk (Repeating Ourselves: American Minimal Music as Cultural Practice), as well as the writing of Ben Highmore (Ordinary Lives: Studies in the Everyday) and Michel Chion (Audio-Vision). In light of their writing, this paper demonstrates how the musicality of the films might be a striking illustration of what Jacques Attali terms ‘the repetitive society’ of late capitalism.

 

 ‘Turns and Returns, Envois/Renvois: the Postal Effect in Recent Spanish Filmmaking’

— Steven Marsh (University of Illinois at Chicago)

Alain Bergala writes, “Every letter is motivated by an absence that it seeks to fill [….] that of the presence of the other.”  This paper focuses on the filmic encounters of a group of Spanish filmmakers with various counterparts from other countries, which, under the rubric of “The Complete Letters: Filmed Correspondence,” recently screened at exhibitions in Barcelona, Madrid and Mexico City. It argues that these asymmetrical epistolary exchanges pose a challenge to the association of filmic practices with national or regional origins, identities and histories; that they destabilize the concept of national cinema and its canons. The examples discussed here raise questions regarding origin and destination, address and response, temporal disturbance, the materiality of film, the philosophical implications of technology, self and other, presence and absence. The work of these filmmakers, that is, draws attention to the evolving status of the moving image as representation.

 Drawing on the work of Jacques Derrida (The Postcard and Echographies of Television), Jean-Luc Nancy (The Ground of the Image and The Creation of the World or Globalization), and Serge Daney’s Postcards from the Cinema, this paper proposes the ‘postal effect’ in film as an ‘international’ cinema that in its very cosmopolitan character undermines traditional modes of identification and classification.

 


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About the Presenter

Belén Vidal
<p>King's College London</p><p>&nbsp;</p>
United Kingdom

Lecturer in Film Studies.                                  Department of Film Studies.

Tom Whittaker
University of Liverpool
United Kingdom

Lecturer in Spanish and Film Studies.                        School of Cultures, Languages and Area Studies.

Steven Marsh
University of Illinois at Chicago
United States

Associate Professor of Spanish Film and Cultural Studies,
Director of Graduate Studies,
Dept. Hispanic and Italian Studies.