Psychoanalyzing Cinema: A Productive Encounter with Lacan, Deleuze, and Žižek

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Deleuzian cinematic studies develop a schizoanalysis of cinema, which both challenges as well as supplements these past developments.

The essays within this collection explore the possibilities and potentialities of all three positions, presenting encounters that are, at times contradictory, at other times supportive, as well as complementary. The collection thereby enriches the questions that are being raised within contemporary cinematic studies.

You must be logged in to post a comment. Leave a Reply Cancel reply You must be logged in to post a comment. When the screen returns to normal shortly after this, the M. As she enters the stage, she is accompanied by the sound of wind that whistles quietly in the background.

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She represents the ghost of a woman weeping for her dead children whom she murdered after being abandoned by her lover, and her appearance is held to foreshadow death. As Rebekah Del Rio sings a cappella, her at first sight ostensibly genuine rendition is largely framed in close-ups, demonstrating the mounting intensity of her performance, as well as showing us her gaudy stage eye make-up and decorative false tear on her face, which should alert us and warn us to be on guard against Lynch's manipulation.

The song starts quietly, but as it develops the sound of her voice appears to permeate the entire theatre. The close-ups show us the perceived physicality of her performance as the sound of her voice increases in volume and expressive delivery. Interspersed with these shots are those of Betty and Rita, who start to cry as they are moved by the performance, as if the song enters their bodies, breaking down the barrier between outside and in.

In the midst of the song, Del Rio collapses as the voice continues, hanging in the air. Chion, David Lynch , Arguing from a Lacanian psychoanalytic perspective, Todd McGowan suggests that: As with the emcee, the fact that she sings in Spanish indicates that the words here are not the heart of the matter: what is crucial instead is Del Rio's voice—the voice detached from her body as an object, the voice as an impossible object. Despite their knowledge that the song is not live, Betty and Rita find themselves caught up in it anyway, unable to disavow this knowledge.

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They experience the enjoyment of the impossible object in the voice. The song moves Betty and Rita to tears because it communicates a sense of loss. This feeling of loss marks the inevitable conclusion of the female fantasy. Indeed, it was this song that led to her first recording contract. Interestingly and ironically, Del Rio first sang her version of the song live for Lynch at his studio in Los Angeles unaware that it was being recorded.

View all notes And it was this version that was used in the subsequent film, in terms that are reversed i. It is also telling that the recording technology used in Rebekah Del Rio's audition is as important as the microphone stand used in the scene in the film. View all notes And, by beautiful , Lynch means an old-fashioned, solidly manufactured microphone used by so many of his characters when singing, which evokes the emergence and heyday of pop music's electric presence in the s.

She's the original singer, of course, but even so there are singers who can't do that—the lips and the tongue and the breaths don't work. But this was perfect in every way. However, in this instance, his silences are perhaps usefully revealing and cry out for a more detailed analysis about the specificities of this song and scene within Mulholland Drive , to see if we can come to a better understanding of the specificity of this voice and this performance within the overall structure of the film.

Taking Michel Chion's concept on acousmatic sound, borrowed from Pierre Schaeffer, as his starting point, Mladen Dolar argues that: The acousmatic voice is simply a voice whose source one cannot see, a voice whose origin cannot place. It is a voice in search of an origin, in search of a body, but even when it finds a body, it turns out that this doesn't quite work, the voice doesn't stick to the body, it is an excrescence which doesn't match the body. Dolar, A Voice and Nothing More , 60—1. In still other words, the visual is tendentially mimetic, and the sonorous tendentially methexic that is, having to do with participation, sharing, or contagion , which does not mean that these tendencies do not intersect.

The Club Silencio scene is often compared with an earlier scene in Mulholland Drive when Betty auditions for a part in a proposed film at Paramount Studios and where her performance is riveting, turning a banal script into a highly sexually charged and tightly framed scene. Both of these audition performances on set are presented in a straightforward manner, recreating the appearance of the standardised commodity form of late s and early s pop songs.

Yet, even within these renditions, Lynch seems uncannily prescient at being able to pick out the strangeness of pop music. The careful coiffure, clothing, and performances of these actresses in the auditions are at sharp variance with the more unkempt performance of Rebekah Del Rio and her wilder rendition, as well as the emotional expressiveness of Betty's soap opera audition, and bring to the fore key issues in relation to the film industry and female stars within the capitalist superstructure.

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Underlying the world of sexual desire and fantasy created by the film are the machinations of the movie industry over which the film director, Adam Kesher, has no real control. The shady, amorphous, and ultimately corrupt nature of the capitalist film industry is demonstrated in the early scene in the film, mentioned above, when Adam meets the Castigliane brothers, one of whom, Luigi Castigliane, is played by Lynch's long-time musical collaborator, Angelo Badalamenti.

Vincenzo's roar is that of the law; it is a senseless bellow that does not ask for understanding but only for obedience. Dolar, A Voice and Nothing More , 52, View all notes and which Reik reads as the key to its secret in the Freudian myth of Totem and Taboo , and to which Jacques Lacan refers in his seminar on Anxiety. In this scene, Vincenzo Castigliane's bellow is a wild, diegetically acoustic roar that solely demands obedience, and the Castigliane brothers seem to be the key players who have ultimate control over the film.

However, immediately following this scene, we see one of the directors of Ryan Entertainment discuss the outcome of the meeting with Mr Roque Michael J.

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Anderson , whose voice is projected electronically via a microphone and a speaker in a glass panel. Mr Roque appears to inhabit a strange, nether space somewhere within the bowels of Ryan Entertainment's office building, and he implicitly gives the instruction that the film is to be closed down.


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Shortly afterwards, Adam Kesher receives a command to meet the Cowboy Lafayette Montgomery , seemingly displaced in modern LA from an earlier time, at a liminal space beyond the confines of the modern city. Adam Kesher's auteurial voice is thereby diminished as he has to accede to the demands of these various others in the making of his film.

The film industry thereby appears to be hard to pin down, populated by a range of shady, amorphous figures who are located off-centre, and whose relationships to each other are difficult to assess but who appear to hold significant power. In his analysis of the relevance of Karl Marx's Capital for our current times, Alex Callinicos makes a rare but astute filmic reference to comment upon alienation in capitalism when he writes that: The very alienation that workers and capitalists alike experience consists crucially in their subordination to the competitive logic of an inherently decentred set of economic relationships.

Like Walker Lee Marvin in Point Blank , what we discover as we go deeper into the labyrinths of corporate power is no secret centre from which all power radiates but an impersonal structure staffed by functionaries. Jacques Lacan considered his concept of the object a to be his most significant contribution to psychoanalysis, and that this surplus enjoyment should be thought of as homologous to Karl Marx's development of the concept of surplus value—the excess creamed off from the worker by the capitalist. No reasons are put forward as to why this Camilla Rhodes should play the part; it is a demand that must be obeyed.

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In Lacan's discourse of the master, which signifies the modern, capitalist era, the signifying operation always produces a surplus, namely, object a. The master S 1 is the agent who puts the slave S 2 , Kesher and the others involved in the film, to work; the result of this work is the surplus a that the master attempts to appropriate.

Norton, , View all notes an excess which shows itself in fantasy scenarios produced, for example, in the art of film, as opposed to the master's indifference to the commodity itself. View all notes and perhaps we could also say, for our purposes here, deaf. In our examples of different voices, of Rebekah Del Rio's feminine jouissance and Vincenzo Castigliane's roar, can we draw any tentative conclusions? Dolar points out that it is not so much that there is a battle of logos against the voice, or logos versus the voice as an instrument of otherness, but rather that of the voice against the voice.

As such, he asks: Is the voice of the Father an altogether different species from the feminine voice? Does the voice of the persecutor differ sharply from the persecuted voice? Dolar, A Voice and Nothing More , Lynch's remarkable film critiques the Hollywood film industry from inside by showing how fantasy implodes when pursued to its il logical conclusion and demonstrating the potential tragic consequences of fantasy and desire within the capitalist film industry, particularly for female stars. Rebekah Del Rio's Spanish language performance of a well-known pop song encapsulates both the veil of the voice and the gap that cannot be filled, resulting in an incredibly powerful critique of the industry and its damaging effects upon those actresses who seek to become stars within the system.

It is a pivotal point in the film; it is this song which renders the impossibility of the fantasy continuing; it brings to the fore the gap between the object voice and the aesthetics of the voice, that which commerce may seek to control although it never can.

A Productive Encounter with Lacan, Deleuze, and Žižek

It opens into the void, demonstrating the emptiness around which jouissance is based. It also wraps the spectator within the temporal, spatial, and affective complexities of the film to experience imaginatively the traumas and tribulations of the film's central characters, and the impossibility of being able to make clear sense because of the distorted lens of ideology through which the characters on screen, and the spectators in front of it, live.

Lynch stated that: The ideas for Mulholland Drive just happened to present themselves and they were about a slice of this town, and that's the best you can do. It's always a slice, but that slice can have harmonics that feel pretty good. But it's not the whole picture. And the picture always changes anyway. Francois-Xavier Gleyzon, ed. Interestingly, Lynch's next feature-length film and to date his latest , Inland Empire , provided even greater freedom to pursue these critiques further, in a practical as well as a fictional sense.


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The various and growing analyses of Lynch's complex filmic works bring together a range of critical approaches, which can act as supplementary knowledge in the on-going act of art writing, leading to a greater understanding of contemporary culture and its place within the wider social, political, and economic fields.

In relation to the various productive analyses of Lynch's work, Lacan's object a , as the object-cause of desire, provides a highly fertile means of linking together these different approaches via an analysis of the voice and sound in film, and the relationship between economic imperatives within the capitalist film industry and the aesthetic excess which goes beyond those imperatives.

Lacan's concept allows for a wider consideration of the dialectic between the public and private spheres which Lynch explores so fruitfully in this tragic tale of a lesbian starlet in Hollywood. Yet, for Lacan: The difference that lies between dialectical thought and our experience lies in the fact that we do not believe in synthesis.


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If there exists a point of passage where the antinomy closes, then it's because it was already there before the antinomy was formed. Jacques Lacan, Anxiety , In Dylan Evans, An Introductory Dictionary of Lacanian Psychoanalysis London: Routledge, , —6, the entry for objet petit a states that the term should remain untranslated, thus giving it the status of an algebraic sign.

However, most recent translations of Lacan's work, including the seminars edited by Lacan's son-in-law, Jacques-Alain Miller, tend to use the anglicised version of object a , which I have followed in this article. Heather K. Skip to Main Content.