Thursday, January 04, 2007


"Vertovian cinema releases what Simmel sees as the condensed accretion of historical cognition in matter. This cinema provides cognitive enrichment of what Simmel calls "an objectively valid truth." All the tools and operations present in Man with a Movie Camera are embodied structures produced and producing at a particular moment in social and technological development. They all occupy various niches in the cycle of production, and all are necessary for, on the one hand (as production), the objectification of human beings in their materials and, on the other hand (as cinema), the subjective understanding of this social process as such. Cinema is the fusion of the objective and subjective dimensions of production. The film shows that the same technologies are at work at all levels of society and that, at each level, activity can simultaneously be cognition. The levels presented may be distinguished as thoe that directly involve the production of society as a whole, "(s)"; the individual, "(i)"; and consciousness, "(c)." Each of these different levels of production embodies forms of movement, that is, patterns of repetition and circulation, that are repeated throughout these levels of social production. Because these levels all are shown to be on a continuum, "the blade," for example, functioning as an ax (s), a razor (i), and a film splicer (c), or "the wheel," function as a train (s), an automobile (i), and the crank of the camera (c), index particular technological forms or abstract machines (cutting and rolling) in multiple applications that characterize production in this industrial period. Thus, "the cut," whether of an axe or a film-splice and "spatio-temporal translation," whether of a railroad car or sprockets in a movie projector, constitute at once abstract and historical forms, themselves the accretions of the inventive labor and consciousness of humanity. The similar tools and procedures shown in operation at all levels of society establish not merely the interrelationship of different undertakings to one another but also the historicity and collective aspect of these undertakings. Their differentiation and their unity testify that technology is the collective historical achievement of humanity."

-- Jonathan Beller, ch. 1, The Cinematic Mode of Production (p. 40-41)

Suggested recent corollaries: Chabert (Beller) & Andy (Vertov).

Vertov's impulse to include the populace in its engagement with the cinema (rather than hiding its elite production and selling it to the people via stars, sensationalism, and spectacle [vernacular sense]--corporate culture hideously disguised as "mass" or "popular" culture) is rare in the cinema. Upon initial reflection I don't think it crops up very often in in Euro-American productions: the examples I keep thinking of are from, say, Cuba (Memories of Underdevelopment; One Way or Another), Brazil (Rocha) or Senegal (Sembene, Mambety), where films really do feel like they can be complex, rich works of art that must connect with people, urgently, fundamentally. There is popular militant cinema of course, which can exist (as resistance, not front-and-center features) in the West--like Groupe Medvedkine (France), California Newsreel (US), as well as Jorge Sanjinés and Grupo Ukamau, working among/with the indigenous in Bolivia. In these latter cases, it's not a formal operation we're talking about (the films are rarely as formally sophisticated as Vertov gets), but a certain profound forthrightness--'here's the perspective from which we speak, from which we present to you our images.' It invites collectivity even as it demands things of those who watch from positions of privilege.

I've been having a hard time writing the last few weeks ... please bear with me if I turn out mediocre content, or none at all.

1 comment:

James said...

At least you're not obscure and just string together thinly associated images and words without rhyme or reason, refusing to explain anything at all.