Film-Philosophy Conference, Film-Philosophy Conference 2015: The Evaluation of Form

Looking outwards to look inwards: filmic form and interstitial life-writing in Vincent Dieutre’s Jaurès (2012)

Tom Cuthbertson


In the recent work of the French director Vincent Dieutre, the subjective curation of interpersonal experience and the aestheticized mise-en-scène of remembrance emerge as defining features of a highly individual filmmaking practice. The director’s 2012 film Jaurès offers a compelling model of autobiographical life-writing preoccupied with the place of the individual in the social and the encounter of the self with the other. For most of its duration, Jaurès takes the form of a disparate archive of assembled footage filmed from the window of a Parisian apartment building. The film foregrounds the formal constraints of its production to highlight the ways in which looking outwards at the evolutions and rhythms of the world that surrounds us can mirror our interior lived and affective experience. This essay will discuss the ways in which the film’s conditions of emergence and formal composition lead the spectator towards a mode of relational ethics for structuring and contextualising our encounters with the world. This essay will go on to show how the film’s form leads the spectator into engaging with a subjective mode of autobiographical life-writing that treads the line between fiction and reality as a means of giving a more malleable and reflective account of lived experience. Manipulating sound, animation and the temporalities of its filmic medium, Jaurès aims to keep past experience mobile; open to repurposing and reinterpretation. Dieutre’s film questions the indexical fixity of the filmic archive and develops an interstitial form of life-writing where dissonance and discontinuity become generative of new meaning.

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About the Presenter

Tom Cuthbertson
University of Oxford
United Kingdom

Tom Cuthbertson is a DPhil candidate in French at the University of Oxford. He is Lecturer in French at Balliol College, Oxford, having previously lectured at the École Normale Supérieure de Lyon. His research examines modes of life-writing in contemporary francophone cinema and visual media. Drawing on theoretical conceptions of Archive, his current research project examines the innovative life-writing modalities potentially offered by the formal specificities of filmic media. Engaging with a wide body of filmic texts, the project advocates expanding our understanding of the possibilities of life-writing in order to better give account of the felt intensities of experience.