Friday, May 21, 2010

A Woman Under the Influence

When writing on Deleuze and Cassavetes, I wanted to examine how Cassavetes was able to take Deleuze’s modern elements of cinema and create a highly affective film. Cassavetes has the ability to draw emotional responses from his viewers, and I used Deleuze’s writings to better understand the way in which he is able to accomplish this in his films. The following is a scene that I consider to be a solid representation of Cassavetes’ directing style. In this scene, Mabel is confronted by her husband, Nick, about her deteriorating mental state. Nick’s mother and Dr. Zepp are called to the house to help regulate the situation and enforce her institutionalization. I have a love-hate relationship with this scene each time I view it. I find it unsettling and difficult to endure because of the intensity of the acting and the subject matter. However, I don’t want to look away from the action either. This scene also exemplifies the way in which Cassavetes would force the audience to fully experience an entire situation with the actors on screen. He lingers in the scene and refused to make any unnecessary edits. According to Cassavetes, experiencing the entirety of the scene was imperative the structure of the film. “You can’t edit the film any more than you can direct the film. You’re not able to make the film play any better than it plays…Take the scene of Mabel’s breakdown, for example. We had to prolong it. The sequence was full because unless you actually see them do that, unless you actually see the continuity of that, the actual idea that he would do this and carry it through could have been weakened.” Also, it is easy to detect Cassavetes’ stance on the use of cinematography. The DP was told to follow the action he felt was important in that moment, instead of having distinct set-ups for each shot. Overall, this scene exemplifies many elements of Deleuze’s concepts of modern cinema, along with the emergence of thought and the mental-image in film.

Here are the links to the majority of Mabel's breakdown scene (my apologies for having to navigate away from the page, but uploading was not possible due to the size of the two clips):

- Stephanie Class

1 comment:

  1. I just want to point out here that there is a way to link the notion of handheld camera to phenomenology (and the notion of an embodied, situational consciousness) and, for this reason, we need to be cautious in claiming that this style of filmmaking is what Deleuze has in mind when discussing modern cinema. Of course, one shouldn't make too broad sweeping generalizations about individual techniques, but this phenomenological use of the camera is certainly how it is deployed in numerous contemporary films. (The camera is made fluid, but this is typically at the service of a protagonist-centered, action based narrative. Here the actor dictates the movements of the camera.) The question is whether this also applies to Cassavetes. For me, a good contrast to this approach to filmmaking would be the "inhuman" movements of the camera in Michael Snow's La Region Centrale, or the way that Andy Warhol accentuated the camera's "indifference" to the human objects placed in front of its mechanical eye (this indifference is not a slight on mankind, but a new way of viewing man objectively, which is to say as another object – rather than subject – in the world).