On Radical Film

From: Bernard Roddy (email suppressed)
Date: Wed Oct 17 2007 - 07:11:34 PDT

Keeping the ball rolling . . wonderful topic.
  Judging from films studies texts, we're apparently supposed to be thinking about the different kinds of responses different groups have to media texts like film. And among the subversive moves available to viewers is taking pleasure in the wrong places. But I have lately been impressed by the writing of Paul Willemen, who is often insisting on the pleasure of intellect, of lucidity. This is particularly challenging today, because another trend seems to be an emphasis on affect (Steven Shaviro seems to be a rallying cry for this kind of analysis of the viewing experience).
  In his Looks and Frictions Willemen has an excellent essay on Third Cinema. It looks like the Latin American silence here is particularly disturbing, because if there were anywhere a genuine radical film practice it was there (forget the Soviets).
  A couple nights ago I saw Solanas and Getino's HOUR OF THE FURNACES at the University of Chicago's student screening center, Doc. Gorgeous, of course, but the film is radical in every sense of that term. If we are at risk of losing our political vision in the rush to analyse various subject positions, this kind of cinema can remind us just what it meant to take a stand.
  I mean, the film uses a lot of direct titles explaining the political situation, but then says to the audience that they are now to have an intermission to debate and discuss. This was a profound moment for me as I sat in silence in a dark theater with many others who were currently interested in this kind of political work. The very exhibition experience is somewhat problematic for whatever you might want to call "radical" cinema. I'm reminded o my friend Beatriz Flores Guttierrez, who makes work on the U.S./Mexico border and who has little patience for that exhibition format - at least where her own productions go.
  Which brings me to another dimension of this topic. I think critics do not have production in mind when they theorize the viewing experience, which helps account for why they might devote their time talking about Citizen Kane or the women's film instead of avant-garde film. Criticism seems to leave the realm of artist's production when it takes up these new approaches to response studies.

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