Next week, I will be presenting part of my research on Cinematic Philematology at the 17th annual SERCIA conference, held at the Université de Bourgogne, Dijon.
The conference title is Cinema of Intimacy and/or the Intimacy of Cinema. In the presentation text, organizers states that “Unlike literary studies, film studies have rarely focused directly on intimacy as such … and English-speaking cinema might itself seem an unlikely candidate for this topic. Most film scholars and critics have tackled the question indirectly, by studying, for instance, the representation of the family or specific genres such as the biopic in which private lives occupy center stage. And yet as a photographic and aural medium that enables us to see and hear the bodies of actors, cinema is very much based on intimacy, although perhaps intimacy of a different nature from the kind literary scholars examine when studying letters and diaries as expressions of a human subject’s inner life. Clearly, what is at stake in the question of intimacy in cinema is the relationship between outside and inside, the outer and the inner life, the body and the self, the private and the public. This concerns not only the medium itself, but the industry as a whole. With its star system and movie tie-ins, including everything from Marilyn Monroe biographies to Luke Skywalker pyjamas, cinema undoubtedly occupies an intimate place in people’s lives, although, television, as it is positioned at the heart of domestic life, might arguably appear a more intimate medium.
Keynote speakers will be Thomas Elsaesser (University of Amsterdam) and Marc Vernet (Université Paris 7 – Denis Diderot).
Sherlock Jr. (Buster Keaton, 1924)
Avanguardia passionale del corpo, le labbra condensano la forza vitale ed espressiva della persona nell’atto del desiderare e dell’amare. Se poi al cinema, dove spesso accorriamo per vivere avventure che altrove non potremmo, assistiamo al bacio fra due personaggi, allora è possibile persino che la scintilla di quel contatto fatto di sole immagini accenda il fuoco sulle nostre labbra. Per la poderosa capacità di coinvolgimento del cinema, vedere un bacio sullo schermo può vuol dire in qualche modo anche poter baciare o essere baciati. Nell’articolo L’arte del bacio. Assaggi di storia e teoria del bacio cinematografico pubblicato sul n. 173 di Segnocinema provo a tracciare una (rapida e parziale) storia del bacio cinematografico e a interrogarmi sulle modalità con cui la teoria del cinema può spiegare la magia sensuale e la carica erotica che trasmette il desiderio dallo schermo al corpo dello spettatore. La storia corre ovviamente da The May-Irwin Kiss, film Edison del 1896, attraversa l’epoca del codice Hays con la sua censura, spesso occasione per scovare modi originali (e sensuali) di aggiramento, come in Notorious (A. Hitchcock, 1946) e, di bacio in bacio, giunge fino alla contemporaneità. A partire da una sequenza chiave di The Reader – A voce alta (S. Daldry, 2008), passo poi in rassegna gli approcci teorici possibili con cui si può affrontare un analisi del bacio filmico: dalla psicoanalisi all’antropologia, dalla semiotica alla filosofia. Il cinema, insomma, come arte e scienza del bacio…
I am attending the Film Summer School “Cinéma & Art Contemporain 3 / Cinema & Contemporary Art 3“, hosted by the Université Sorbonne Nouvelle Paris 3 from June 28th to July 9th 2010. My paper continues the reflections I started at Cuny in New York City on a philematology of moving images, that is, the science or the art of experiencing a cinematic kiss. By adopting both an aesthetic and an experimental-psychological perspective, I take into consideration a corpus of significant recent video artworks and I analyze the modalities in which the spectator experiences the sensuous sense of the kiss. The figures of the shadow, the veil, and the glass as surfaces of mediation between the kissers reveal an intimate implication between contact and separation, visibility and invisibility, transparency and opacity, private and public dimension.
First Kiss by Costel Chirila and Ioan Pricop (2005)
The Kiss by Denise Callender, Neil Hunt and Kye Wilson (2006)
Le baiser/Il bacio by Luca Serasini (2006)
My lecture has been video recorded and you can watch it here.
The moment just before a kiss between two film characters is a climax of strong sensual elicitation and erotic condensation. At a narrative level, the kiss has both a transformative role (rebirth, reawakening, betrayal) and a resolutive role (completion, conquest, farewell). Let us concentrate on the perceptual/cognitive/emotional functions of the filmic kiss as an (em)pathetic elicitor of the spectator experience. Adopting a phenomenological approach, I am trying to focus on the moments that precede and prepare the encounter of the lips, and to argue that kissing scenes are used as a strategy of desire loading. Such a strategy is constructed upon a complex and composite progressive engagement that is both physiological and psychological: reduction of physical distance, organization of gaze trajectories, delay, and hesitation. In kissing scenes, individual body parts (eyes, lips, tongue, nose, head, neck, hands) act as corporeal characters in an autonomous micro-narrative structure based on the principle of causality: the kissers’ lips run aftereach other, slip, escape, meet, fall across each other, and so on). The bridge between the internal and external sides of the body is provided by voice modulation, breathing intensification and synaesthetic stimulation. The bodily action is supported by corporeal modalities of audiovisual representation: revolving camera movements, extreme close-ups, intensified editing, swelling background music, etc. Such a multilevel strategy involves the viewer’s embodied perception and his/her empathetic system, transforming him/her into the kissing/kissed subject. The moments just before the kiss function as a desire arousal,acting just as erotic elicitation acts at the neurobiological level, i.e. unleashing hormones. Nonetheless, drawing on both the spectator’s past experience of love and sex, and on his/her superior cognitive activity, the sensory-motor and sensate layers of the experience interact with each other.
The Reader (Stephen Daldry, 2008)