cinema II

In The Cinematic Mode of Production Jonathan Beller names cinema “the capital of the Twentieth Century.” The reference is to Walter Benjamin’s Paris, but whereas for Benjamin the term indicated a geographical region, Beller meant in the main the Marxist conception of capital. Cinema is the profit-motive of money.

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From Andre Bazin, to Gilles Deleuze, to Lev Manovich, to Jonathan Beller: “What is the cinema?” asked jesting Pilate, and neglected to stay for the credits.

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The coming of cinema was expected on earth.

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Something changes in a change of end-points. In the twentieth century, the costs of the medium, together with the costs of screening, meant that cinema staged itself as a mass social ritual. A diverse set of people would gather as one in a place: the film would be shown to them. Film was essentially a public art, framed by standardized protocols: the dimming of the lights, the parting of the curtain.

In a digital age, a mass audience is no-longer needed for screenings to happen, and these forms of ritual have been displaced. Something changes when it becomes possible to invite someone to see Breathless through the medium of a text-message.

At the end of a century of cinema, one film especially now seems to stand for the hope once contained the medium as a whole. Vertov’s Man with a Movie Camera has become the theoretical touchstone for a whole host of different writers; from Jonathan Beller to Lev Manovich. Why should this be?

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