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Themesicon: navigation pathArt and Cinematographyicon: navigation pathAkerman

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Between Theater and Film

The imposition of a dual register of reading on a single body creates a physicality that is of special interest in cinema. Bresson's conception of a repetition that becomes automatic, like a second nature, engenders, in its will for a pure cinema, a new form, «between theatre and film.» This assertion is not meant as a comment on Bresson's disparagement of theater and cinema. [33] His proposal of a reconstructed reality existing solely on screen suggests a fierce indisposition toward the notion of a reality to be enacted, a script to be followed—toward the idea of representation itself. Bresson seems to propose a presentational mode, one he knows cannot bypass—repetition. Flat, economical, and exact, the performance of Bresson's models—his nonprofessional actors—subverts naturalism through the automatism proper to cinema (which transfers mechanical reproduction to bodies and gestures). [34] In this new form, the filmic body as well as the performances are suffused by a sense of the mechanical, by an automaton quality resulting from massive stylization and from processes of textual inscription. In the cinema that interests us here, this quality is transferred onto


characters and performers, and accounts for an awkwardness of rhythm (of movement and speech) that is distinctly other.

The corporeal cinema I have been describing operates through excess; the superimposition of literal and figurative registers; the redundancy of the informational substratum (given verbally and visually); the imposition of multiple functions on a single body (of author and performer, actor and persona), all create a positional disarray. The choice between seeing Chantal Akerman or the performer in «Je tu il elle,» Delphine Seyrig or Jeanne in «Jeanne Dielman», or hearing mother or daughter in «News from Home», is not easily resolved. The alternatives are not displayed side by side, or one after the other, pedagogically—in the didactic effect of quotation and interruption proper to a juxtapositional aesthetic. Akerman's minimal hyperrealism not only upsets an essentialist reading of the image through its constantly flickering oscillation between literal and symbolic registers, but subverts notions of type, character, and author, creating a double register or internal disjunction in the representation of the subject.