Re: why we shoot film/Peeping Tom/scopophlia

From: David Westling (email suppressed)
Date: Sun Mar 05 2006 - 12:24:50 PST

Dear list,
    I've just been immersing myself in that film, just day before
yesterday, watched it twice all the way through and a few key scenes
more than twice. Ah, the wonders of DVD Criterion collection. I got
a lot out of the Laura Mulvey commentary actually. My philosophical
tendencies make me want to focus on the Behaviorism/Freudianism
dichotomy so sharply sketched in the film, reducible to the breach
between science and art. Filmmaking--and scop(t)ophilia--are placed
on the side of science; the blind woman, she who relies so much on
evidence not available to the five senses, and Freud, are placed on
the side of art. (Take note, Frederick Crews!) A more thorough
indictment of the spirit of filmmaking would be hard to imagine. And
yet he made this film...perhaps his greatest achievement, and that's
saying something. One looks at what one cannot possess/experience.
An observer is not a participator, he stands aloof from direct
experience. And it takes a psychological toll. This dovetails
nicely into the notion of the implication of the audience in this,
shall we say questionable, enterprise of looking at a film. Even on
DVD the color is absolutely stunning, Eastmancolor, "associated with
the cheap horror films coming out of Britain in the 50s". Powell's
use of red in this film is most compelling. What an audacious
enterprise, almost Dadaistic in its flagrant disregard for accepted
standards of taste. I'm still amazed by that three-second shot of
that woman lying nude on the bed near the end of the film. That was
the first shot of a bare-breasted woman in mainstream English film
history (1960). The camera is, for the protagonist, a sort of fifth
(or sixth) limb; he becomes extremely upset at being separated from
it even for a short time. The young girlfriend tries to get him to
take it off for awhile at one point and she actually succeeds, but
ultimately, his connection to it is too deep and disaster is the only
possible outcome. To me, the guilt we experience in watching this
film comes not only from out intense identification with the killer
but from the hardly-acknowledged realization that our position as
mere observer, one which effectively hides us from the ongoing
action, is one that reduces us to cipher status.

And you love that??!?

David Westling
Chicago IL

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