The Spaces Of Cinema Daney Burch And Gardies

The three writers to be dealt with in this section have in common a preoccupation with the spatial dimension of cinema. Clearly this forms part of any serious approach to the medium, but for the major figures considered thus far it is largely subsumed under ontology: cinema's relationship to the 'real world' (Bazin), cinema as signifying practice (Metz) or, as we shall see below, cinema as movement in/through time (Deleuze). Burch and Gardies in different ways articulate something like a theory of cinematic space, in which considerable importance is given to off-screen space in particular. Daney's theoretical remit is far more modest; indeed, it may be questioned whether he should be called a theoretician at all, since his books are in fact anthologies of journalistic reviews and articles, and he never produced a text with the overarching general pretensions habitually associated with the term 'theory'. Yet there is little doubt that for 20 years and more, renewing an earlier type of discourse we saw with writers such as Delluc as well as with Bazin, he was the most influential writer on film in France, as is attested by the gathering together of so many of his writings in book form, from La Rampe (1983) to the posthumous L'Exercice a été profitable, Monsieur (1993). That he speaks, in the Preface to La Rampe, of cinema as 'the place of the off-screen, of montage, of stitching-together, of the "spectator's position", in a word the opposite of theatre' (Daney, 1983: 10) is sufficient to indicate a concern with filmic space quite as thorough-going as that of the other two, more overtly theoretical writers.

La Rampe brings together many of the key texts Daney wrote for Cahiers du cinéma between 1970 and 1982. This was a period, as we have seen, of major change and self-scrutiny for the journal, and one in which 'embryos of theory lie side by side with now stale polemics, wild evaluations sit next to a little droning pedagogy, and so on' (Daney, 1983: 11). Perhaps as interesting as the individual reviews and articles are the historical comments and contextualisations with which Daney prefaces each section. The post-1968 Cahiers was almost obsessively concerned with what he calls 'representation as violence' (Daney, 1983: 16), seeing any representational cinema, which of course meant the vast majority of what was actually produced, as complicit with the capitalist system of illusion they sought to overthrow. The fascination with Godard typical of this period, and persisting to this day, becomes comprehensible in the light of his work's unceasing interrogation of the processes and mechanisms of representation; Daney was to be a major interlocutor for much of Godard's later, more experimental, film and video work. Perhaps Daney's greatest importance for the history of film theory, or at any rate serious writing on film, will turn out to have been the fact that he ceased to be primarily a film critic. Where a previous generation of Cahiers critics had moved from writing on to writing in film, Daney's evolution took him successively into the world of the non-specialised press (he wrote editorials and pieces on tennis as well as film reviews for the centre-left daily Libération), and thence to the foundation of a new independent journal, Trafic. The collections Le Salaire du zappeur (1988) and Devant la recrudescence des vols de sacs à main (1991), the latter subtitled 'cinéma, télévision, information', represent a uniquely sustained attempt at interrogating the difference between watching a film in the cinema and on television or video, the latter of which ensures that 'coming generations will discover the cinema at the same time as they lose it' (Daney, 1991: 11). The mourning of a certain cinematic space (evoked in the title of Devant la recrudescence des vols de sacs à main, with its allusion to the warnings against thieves posted in French cinemas) is indissociable from the discovery and production of its successor. Daney's avowal that 'there was more pleasure for me in writing about an old film, even a lousy one, which was shown on television and seen by a great many people than about a worthy new one shown in an empty cinema' (Daney, 1991: 107) marks the simultaneous death and rebirth of 'cinema' which, in a manner reminiscent of Bazin in its concern with the role of the spectator and of psychoanalysis in its preoccupation with the importance of desire, his later work articulates and anatomises.

Burch's Praxis du cinéma (English translation: Theory of Film Practice, published in 1973) was published in 1967 and reissued in 1986 with a severely self-critical Foreword by the author, in which he accuses himself of responsibility for the epidemic of formalism in Film Studies, notably in the USA, and of 'ignorance of the whole theoretical space which was being developed at the time' (Burch, 1986: 15). It may seem surprising to devote space to a text branded by its begetter as at once excessively formalist and theoretically undernourished; but space, precisely, is what Burch's book emphasises and foregrounds as few theoretical texts had done before. The text deals successively with the different ways in which cinema articulates space and time (a question to be covered in much more detail by Deleuze), with the deployment of off-screen space, in which Renoir's silent classic Nana (1926) is seen as a pioneering work, with the importance of dialectic interplay between on- and off-screen and with the use of sound, until then taken largely for granted. Burch's use of the term 'dialectic' often verges on the all-embracing and the work generally seems, as he himself suggests, to inhabit a curiously self-enclosed conceptual bubble. Yet it remains of great historical importance in opening up areas of discussion that writers such as Chion, in his interrogation of the significance of sound, and Gardies, in his elaboration of different types of space in cinema, were to develop.

Gardies' L'Espace au cinéma (1993) not only offers a comprehensive analysis and typology of the different kinds and uses of cinematic space, but views that space as an active participant in the production of meaning in cinema. Its approach is centripetal, beginning with an analysis of cinematic space in its broadest sense, and moving via diegetic space (the 'world' of the film) and narrative space (the story or stories it tells), to a consideration of the construction of space by and for the spectator. Cinematic space, for Gardies, includes the physical parameters of the cinematic institution, the spatial reality of'going to the cinema' that, as Daney recognised, is in the process of being irrevocably undermined by other modes of viewing, but remains of fundamental importance in any historical, or even biographical, perspective. The spectator is defined as being enclosed in what Gardies terms a 'spec-tatorial bowl' (Gardies, 1993: 29) made up of two conjoined semicircles: on the one hand the eye of the spectator, on the other the space of the diegesis, which Gardies then goes on to analyse. Off-screen space is important here because of its kinetic interplay with on-screen, into and out of which it constantly flows.

The space of the diegesis is seen as, in the first instance, the product of a contract with the spectator. There is a renewed emphasis on the view, important in filmic analysis since Bazin, that cinematic space always exists for someone, while, in a bold appropriation of Saussure's theory of language as a signifying system issuing in individual paroles or speech-acts, 'space' is defined as the 'language' of which the individual 'places' of/in (a) film are paroles. It is not only the visual perception of the spectator that determines his/her construction of cinematic space, but what Gardies calls 'cognitive perception' (Gardies, 1993: 98), by which he means the spectator's broad cultural competence and his/her recollection or evocation of other spaces not currently shown on screen. A filmic shot or sequence derives its sense from its combination with other shots or sequences, so that it is appropriate that Gardies then goes on to consider narrative space, using an analysis of the opening of Hawks' Rio Bravo to demonstrate that 'each story, in its particularity, deploys a spatial order, more often than not an essential factor in its coherence' (Gardies, 1993: 108). The final section in a sense, and appropriately, brings us back full circle to the spectator's space first constructed at the beginning when Gardies speaks of the 'cleavage in the subject' (Gardies, 1993: 18) produced as the spectator pays for his/her ticket and takes his/her place in (the) cinema. The work's final paragraph evokes this circularity along with the role of cinematic space in constructing the spectator as well as vice versa:

In this way; just as in order to see the film I had to take my place in the space of the auditorium, rigorously controlled by the cinematic institution, so I now realize that to be able to read a film I have to take my place within the ludic space of textual enunciation. It is on this condition that I can become a *good' spectatorial subject. (Gardies, 1993: 209)

Gardies, writing after the advent of video, is able to provide a plethora of close sequential or shot-by-shot readings far less readily accessible to Burch, one reason over and above those cited by Burch himself why Praxis du cinéma now appears in many respects dated. Daney's itinerary, as we have seen, is in a sense that of the supplanting-cum-renewal of cinema by other uses of the moving image, the reconfiguration, it could be said, of filmic space already figured by that space's ceaseless redefinition of itself from shot to shot and film to film. Other prominent non-French theorists, most notably perhaps Stephen Heath and feminist writers such as Susan Hayward and Teresa de Lauretis, have contributed to this, as virtually since its inception has Godard's work on/in the moving image. Space takes its place along with movement and time as one of the key axes in cinematic theory.

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