Journal | Salon | Portal (ISSN 1466-4615)

Deleuze Special Issue

Vol. 5 No. 33, November 2001



Eleanor Kaufman

Deleuze, Klossowski, Cinema, Immobility

A Response to Stephen Arnott




Stephen Arnott

'Deleuze's Idea of Cinema'

_Film-Philosophy_, Deleuze Special Issue

vol. 5 no. 32, November 2001


As Kevin Heller and I were putting together _Deleuze and Guattari: New Mappings in Politics, Philosophy, and Culture_, I was excited to include Deleuze's short piece 'Having an Idea in Cinema', yet also regarded it as tangential to the overall collection (it was a rather late addition to the project). At the time, I would not have agreed with Stephen Arnott's extended emphasis on the exceptionality of this piece in his generous review of _Deleuze and Guattari_. After all, it does not reflect Deleuze at his most rigorous; it expresses in passing ideas (such as that of the society of control) that are elaborated more fully elsewhere. But in light of the excellent work that has come out on Deleuze and cinema in recent years (starting with David Rodowick's _Gilles Deleuze's Time Machine_), in light of the many times I have referred students to 'Having an Idea in Cinema' as an introduction to Deleuze's work on cinema, in light of the growing realization that it is the seemingly more simple writings (_Negotiations_, _Dialogues_, _What is Philosophy?_) that shelter a thundering brilliance -- in light of all these things, I concur more fully with Arnott that this piece is of 'immense import'.


Perhaps one of the ways to engage this import is to extend the argument to a terrain that has been evoked but not explicitly mapped out (not unlike what Deleuze himself does with Burrough's and Foucault's notion of the society of control). Such is the realm of immobility. If cinema is the stringing together of blocks of movements/duration, if an innovative resistance occurs when a severing takes place between what one sees and what one hears, then what cinematic idea is at stake when we find alongside sound a posed immobility (*tableau vivant*) where we would expect to see movement?


The very concept of the *tableau vivant* is fraught with contradiction and exaggeration. The *tableau vivant* opens up a network of issues that revolve around animation and immobility, gesture and pose, and above all the oeuvre of Pierre Klossowski. It might be useful at this juncture to cite the lines customarily left out of Foucault's famous statement about Deleuze in 'Theatrum Philosophicum': 'I believe that [_Difference and Repetition_ and _Logic of Sense_] will continue to revolve about us in enigmatic resonance with those of Klossowski, another major and excessive sign, and perhaps one day, this century will be known as Deleuzian.' [1] One of the most excessive aspects of Klossowski's fiction, painting, and philosophy is the way immobility highlights an unbroachable disjunction between bodies and their gestures. In his philosophical novel _The Revocation of the Edict of Nantes_, Klossowski poses the opposition between gesture and bodies by way of the Scholastic philosopher Octave's discussion of the *solecism*. Octave, who dabbles as an art critic, occupies a good third of _The Revocation_ with lengthy and pedantic descriptions of his art collection, and especially his works by the imaginary painter Tonnerre. He begins his ruminations as follows:


''Some think there is solecism in gesture too, whenever by a nod of the head or a movement of the hand one utters the opposite of what the voice is saying.' This passage from Quintilian, quoted at the head of the descriptive catalogue to my collection of paintings -- to what does it allude? . . . But if solecism there be, if it is something *opposite* which the figures *utter* through this or that gesture, they must say something in order that this opposition be palpable; but painted, they are silent; or whether, from painting the kind of scenes he chose, he was, to the contrary, trying to demonstrate the positiveness of the solecism which could be expressed only through means of an image.' [2]


Solecism, then, is a gesture -- often of the hands -- that provides a point of contradiction *within* the image: the hands, for example, seem to beckon even when the body's overall pose is one of defiance or nonchalance. Such solecisms of the hand abound in the curious set of photographs and drawings that accompany Klossowski's quasi-economic treatise _La Monnaie vivante_ (_Living Currency_). [3] Taken by Pierre Zucca, these photographs depict Klossowski's wife, Denise Morin-Sinclaire, in a series of sometimes-compromising postures that are loosely based on other fictional works by Klossowski, such as _The Baphomet_ and _Roberte Ce Soir_. [4] In one photograph a bearded man places what appears to be a crown on her head. With her body, she leans backward to accept the coronation yet with her hands extended before her torso she defends herself from some unseen onslaught in front of her, while simultaneously, and by way of a slight curvature of the right hand, gracing that same offender with a gesture of waving or beckoning. [5]


In discussing Tonnerre and the genre of the *tableau vivant*, Klossowski's Octave first asks if the *tableau vivant* is not 'the basic antecedent to every picture', and then holds up Tonnerre as exceptional in that he reverses this ordering:


'Here, in the case of Tonnerre, I am referring to the fascination exerted upon him by this in itself false genre, very much in fashion during the period. It was the reverse process that took place then; one generally drew one's inspiration from some well-known painting standing clear in everybody's mind, to reconstitute it, usually in a salon, with the help of those persons present, improvised actors, and the game consisted in rendering as faithfully as possible the gestures, the poses, the lighting, the effect one supposed was produced by the masterpiece of such and such a painter. But this was not simply life imitating art -- it was a pretext. The emotion sought after in this make-believe was that of life giving itself as a spectacle to life; of life hanging in suspense.' [6]


It is precisely this gesture of life hanging in suspense that is at the crux not only of the *tableau vivant* but of Deleuze's reading of movement and immobility in the cinema books. While the *tableau vivant* literally stages an encounter between movement and immobility, Deleuze produces such an encounter in the realms of thought and image (percept, affect, concept). In Deleuze's intricate trajectory from _Cinema 1: The Movement-Image_ to _Cinema 2: The Time-Image_, we find at once a complex Bergsonian analysis of movement and immobility *and* a movement away from movement towards time. In discussing 'crystals of time' and 'sheets of past' in _Cinema 2_, Deleuze redeploys Bergson so as to accentuate the way certain cinematic auteurs produce, through their images, multi-layered renderings of time. One example is the way depth of field gives rise to: 'two poles of a metaphysics of memory. These two extremes of memory are presented by Bergson as follows: the extension of sheets of past and the contraction of the actual present.' [7] Deleuze uses Alain Resnais's and Alain Robbe-Grillet's _Last Year at Marienbad_ as an example of how the film's cast of characters and auteurs may be situated along two different yet mutually inflected axes of time:


'The difference is thus in the nature of the time-image, which is plastic in one case and architectural in the other. For Resnais conceived _Last Year at Marienbad_ like his other films, in the form of sheets or regions of past, while Robbe-Grillet sees time in the form of points of present. If _Last Year at Marienbad_ could be divided, the man X might be said to be closer to Resnais and the woman A closer to Robbe-Grillet. The man basically tries to envelop the woman with continuous sheets of which the present is the narrowest, like the advance of a wave, whilst the woman, at times wary, at times stiff, at times almost convinced, jumps from one bloc to another, continually crossing an abyss between two points, two simultaneous presents.' [8]


What Deleuze effectively describes here is a solecism of time, in which past and present inflect one another with a contradictory yet nonetheless sustainable tension. The man's gesture extends to the past while the woman remains less fixed, and in this fluctuation captures the present. What if such an analysis were to be extended backwards to the movement/immobility locus of _Cinema 1_, as a quest for disjunctions or solecisms that haunt the dialectic of movement and immobility?


In the second commentary on Bergson in _Cinema 1_, Deleuze, in a solecism of his own, both invites and dismisses reflection on the posed nature of the *tableau vivant*. He begins by suggesting the virtual potential of both movement and the image: 'And how can movement be prevented from already being at least a virtual image and the image from already being at least possible movement? What appeared finally to be a dead end was the confrontation of materialism and idealism.' [9] Insofar as movement would be in flux and the image more fixed, their virtual coming together in the movement-image implies neither movement nor stasis as such. This suggests that, at its limit, immobility is also in flux.


By reading Deleuze alongside Klossowski we see how (like the image that is not just the image but also the disjunction of vision and sound) there is immobility, which is not just immobility but the disjunction of movement and arrested movement. That such a disjunction is imbued with a particular erotics is Jean-Francois Lyotard's Klossowskian insight in _Libidinal Economy_. Lyotard locates the 'acinema' in the non-contradictory space of 'extreme immobilization and extreme mobilization', a space which is epitomized by the Klossowskian *tableau vivant*. [10] In the lengthy passage that follows, Lyotard uses Klossowski to analyze the erotics of immobility:


'Presently there exists in Sweden an institution called the *posering*, a name derived from the *pose* solicited by portrait photographers: young girls rent their services to these special houses, services which consist of assuming, clothed or unclothed, the poses desired by the client. It is against the rules of these houses (which are not houses of prostitution) for the clients to touch the models in any way. We would say that this institution is made to order for the phantasmatic of Klossowski, knowing as we do the importance he accords to the tableau vivant as the near perfect simulacrum of fantasy in all its paradoxical intensity. But it must be seen how the paradox is distributed in this case: the immobilization seems to touch only the erotic object while the subject is found overtaken by the liveliest agitation . . . But things are not as simple as they might seem . . . We must note, given what concerns us here, that the tableau vivant in general, if it holds a certain libidinal potential, does so because it brings the theatrical and economic orders into communication; because it uses 'whole persons' as detached erotic regions to which the spectator's impulses are connected.' [11]


The intricate erotics to which Lyotard refers revolves around the tension between the corporeal and the incorporeal: 1, while posed in the *tableau*, the characters have no bodily contact either with each other or with the spectator -- while at the same time suggesting considerable erotic potential; 2, the characters are immobilized yet clearly full of life, so that, at any point, an abundance of animation and movement might be expected to burst forth; and 3, the posed immobility of the characters highlights and eroticizes certain bodily parts, namely the hands as opposed to the face. In this fashion the tension or solecism in the cinematic *tableau vivant* is not so much concerned with the disjunction between bodies and affective states as it is between bodies and their immobile placement in an otherwise mobile apparatus, here the cinematic apparatus. In _The Cinematic Body_, Steven Shaviro highlights the separation between bodies and affect:


'We cannot read [bodies'] postures, gestures, and countenances as indications of inner emotional states. We are made oppressively aware that corporeal appearance and behavior in fact precede identity, that they are the 'quasi-causes' (to use Deleuze's term for the action of the simulacrum) of which identity is a transitory effect, and that such quasi-causes are themselves incited and relayed by the presence of the movie camera, and by all the codes of cinematic display.' [12]


Following from this, we might envision the abstract category of identity not just as a 'transitory effect' of corporeal appearance but also as an effect of the interplay between bodies and immobility as it is captured in the solecism, gesture, or pose.


Raul Ruiz's _Hypothese du tableau vole_ (_Hypothesis of the Stolen Painting_) (1978) illustrates the way the filmic *tableau vivant* affords, through its reverse logic, a dizzying sensation of motion *within* arrested movement. In this adaptation that condenses several of Klossowski's works of fiction, the comically bombastic art critic-narrator (a version of Octave in _The Revocation of the Edict of Nantes_) presents a continually displaced hypothesis about why one painting in a series of works by the painter Tonnerre is missing. [13] Instead of enacting the narrative, the characters pose in mid-action as the event is being described. We hear the narration of a mesmerizingly incoherent series of events which include games of chess (between two Crusaders vying for the affections of a young page), hangings (of the very same page, hanged in a ritual ceremony), metamorphoses (in the *tableau* version of the Diana and Acteon story), and betrayals (the young girl 'O' discovering her beloved marquis conspiring against her), all while the characters at issue remain posed in a single still that stands, in one arrested set of gestures, for the entirety of the narrative. Momentous actions are here rendered in the form of silent and immobile *tableaux*, in which the characters neither speak nor touch. The extremity of the action described is at once betrayed and contained by the living immobility of the characters' poses.


Such a disparity between words and image is in fact characterized by Deleuze as a 'cinematographic idea', [14] one that derives from the cinema of Syberberg, Duras, and Straub/Huillet. He characterizes such a disjunction as an act of resistance, citing the cinema of Straub/Huillet:


'Take the case, for example, of the Straubs when they perform this disjunction between auditory voice and visual image, which goes as follows: the voice rises, it rises and what it speaks about passes under the naked, deserted ground that the visual image was showing us, a visual image which had no direct relation to the auditory image. But what is this speech act that rises in the air while its object passes underground? Resistance. An act of resistance.' [15]


For Deleuze, there is a sort of epiphany when a non-diegetic voice and a diegetic space move apart, as if two distant worlds are potentially connected by a plane of reference (here, literally the ground). In Ruiz's film the non-diegetic has a minimal presence; instead, the diegetic space unleashes an intricate array of schisming narratives from the seeming coherence of a fixed field of vision. [16]


At the beginning of _Hypothesis of the Stolen Painting_, the art critic/narrator describes an illicit 'ceremony', in which the painter Tonnerre took part and which was interrupted by the police. At one point the narrator explains that the *tableaux vivants* *are* the ceremony. He goes on to explain that, with the *tableau vivant*, it is not a matter of illusion but of showing. As he narrates these words from a seated position, the bottom half of two different paintings are barely visible in the background. But just before the punctuated ending of the sentence (after he has pronounced 'les tableaux mis en scene par le moyen de tableaux vivants ne font pas allusion'), he rises, bringing into full view a painting of a scene that at a later point in the film will become a *tableau vivant* with bodies posed and hands pointing (one where the young girl 'O' points at the marquis in an accusatory fashion). In this manner, the narrator's body rises as his voice intonates 'ils montrent' and the image descends, as it were, to meet the voice and body at a strange impasse. The voice tells us that the *tableaux* are not allusions but the things themselves, while the visible painting depicts scenes that will *become* the *tableaux vivants*. Not only is there disjunction between sound and image, live *tableaux* and inanimate painting, and movement and immobility, but also between present (the painting) and future (*tableaux vivants*). To evoke Deleuze's analysis of _Last Year at Marienbad_ from _Cinema 2_, it is as if the posed woman is once again 'continually crossing an abyss between two points, two simultaneous presents', while the narrator's prophetic statement that these paintings are not allusive (for they will soon materialize with an animated immobility) is intoned in nothing short of the most philosophical of tenses, the future-anterior (sheets of future?).


'Having an Idea in Cinema' highlights Deleuze as a thinker of disjunction, something that is more fleshed out -- literally -- in the written and visual oeuvres of Klossowski and Ruiz. Such a juxtaposition with Klossowski and Ruiz also reveals Deleuze as a philosopher of immobility no less than of movement, indeed of the non-oppositional relation of these two terms. It illuminates Deleuze's occasional qualifications that the nomad need not move, such as when he writes in 'On the Superiority of Anglo-American Literature' that: '[T]o flee is not exactly to travel, or even to move . . . Toynbee shows that nomads in the strict, geographical sense are neither migrants nor travellers, but, on the contrary, those who do not move, those who cling on to the steppe, who are immobile with big strides, following a line of flight on the spot, the greatest inventors of new weapons.' [17] Like silence, immobility -- and its attendant disjunctions -- is at once a withdrawal and a force of resistance.


University of Virginia

Charlottesville, Virginia, USA





Many parts of this response were inspired by discussions and joint writings with Renu Bora.


1. Michel Foucault, 'Theatrum Philosophicum', in _Language, Counter-Memory, Practice_, trans. Donald F. Bouchard and Sherry Simon (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1977), p. 165.


2. Pierre Klossowski, _The Revocation of the Edict of Nantes_, trans. Austryn Wainhouse (New York: Marion Boyars, 1989), pp. 97-98.


3. Pierre Klossowski, _La Monnaie vivante_ (Paris: Losfeld, 1970); photography by Pierre Zucca, non-paginated, all page numbers put in parentheses.


4. Pierre Klossowski, _The Baphomet_, trans. Sophie Hawkes and Stephen Sartarelli (New York: Marsilio Publishers, 1988), and _ Roberte Ce Soir _, trans. Austryn Wainhouse (New York: Marion Boyars, 1989).


5. Klossowski, _La Monnaie vivante_ (p. 84).


6. Ibid. (p. 100).


7. Gilles Deleuze, _Cinema 2: The Time-Image_, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Robert Galeta (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1989), p. 109.


8. Ibid., p. 104.


9. Gilles Deleuze, _Cinema 1: The Movement-Image_, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1986), p. 56.


10. Jean-Francois Lyotard, 'Acinema', in Andrew Benjamin, ed., _The Lyotard Reader_ (Oxford: Blackwell, 1989), p. 177.


11. Ibid.


12. Steven Shaviro, _The Cinematic Body_ (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993), p. 230.


13. Ruiz's _Hypothese du tableau vole_ is based on the work of Klossowski and was done in collaboration with Klossowski. While loosely depicting the story of Klossowski's _The Baphomet_, it also contains elements from _The Revocation of the Edict of Nantes_, _Roberte Ce Soir_, and _Le Bain de Diane_ (Paris: Jean-Jacques Pauvert, 1956; repr. Editions de Minuit, 1980).


14. Gilles Deleuze, 'Having an Idea in Cinema', in Eleanor Kaufman and Kevin Jon Heller, ed., _Deleuze and Guattari: New Mappings in Politics and Philosophy_ (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1998), p. 16.


15. Ibid., p. 19.


16. For a similar analysis of Chris Marker's _La Jetee_ involving a sequence of immobile images, see D. N. Rodowick, _Gilles Deleuze's Time Machine_ (Durham: Duke University Press, 1997), pp. 4-5.


17. Gilles Deleuze, 'On the Superiority of Anglo-American Literature', in Deleuze and Claire Parnet, _Dialogues_, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam (New York: Columbia University Press, 1987), pp. 37-38.



Copyright © _Film-Philosophy_ 2001


Eleanor Kaufman, 'Deleuze, Klossowski, Cinema, Immobility: A Response to Stephen Arnott', _Film-Philosophy_, Deleuze Special Issue, vol. 5 no. 33, November 2001 <>.




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