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Lecturer:

Originally Taught: Unknown

Please note that this course has been withdrawn from the Evening School program.

Deleuze in Hollywood continues investigations begun in the 2021 MSCP Winter Course, Classic Films for Teenage Girls, which presented a Deleuzian reading of the “woman’s film” of the 1940s. This 12-week course will extend its analysis to major and minor Hollywood genres and consider how Deleuze’s “cinema books” accounts for the notion of genre from the point of view of his ontology of cinema’s movement- and time-images.

The course is divided into three parts, each part focussing on concepts introduced in Deleuze’s philosophical engagement with the cinema. Our aim is to understand the nature of Deleuze’s taxonomic classifications with respect to Hollywood cinema and how his analysis of the “great cinematographic genres” fits within this approach. We test his hypotheses regarding the organic conception of American montage inaugurated by D. W. Griffith and the sensory-motor grounding of classic narrative film in the realist mode. We broaden the base of examples provided within the text, drawing on genre films from the Hollywood studio era to the present day.

This course is motivated by a desire to understand how film genre might be both more and less than it seems. It is incumbent upon Deleuze to address the importance of the great cinematographic genres just as he relies upon analyses of great Hollywood directors. “And that’s the difficulty: you have to have monographs on auteurs but then these have to be grafted onto differentiations, specific determinations, and reorganisations of concepts that force you to reconsider cinema as a whole” (Negotiations).

The course will follow this narrow path between analysing genre and the directors who specialised but were by no means confined to one genre over another. It’s true, particular directors might dominate a genre—Ford’s name is synonymous with the western—but B-grade pictures and B-directors influenced certain generic cycles and developments in their turn. Where would film noir be today without films like Edgar G. Ulmer’s DETOUR (1945) or the horror film without the ingenious innovations of Jacques Tourneur’s CAT PEOPLE (1942)?

Finally, we ask, what does genre do for us today? Why, in spite of Deleuze’s claim that the soul of cinema lies elsewhere, do filmmakers continue to revisit genre just as genre itself appears to revisit us?

Course Program

The course will draw heavily from Deleuze’s “cinema books” as well as other Deleuze texts and sources. Film references will range from those cited in Deleuze and from other Hollywood genre films including some contemporary evolutions.

I: The Great Genres: Large-Form Action-Image

  1. Adventure: The American Empiricist Tradition
  2. Western: The Living and Its Milieu
  3. Melodrama: Vital Illusions
  4. Gangster: Pathological Milieux and Cracked Behaviours
  5. Epic: The Limited Horizon of History

II: Small Form Reversals

  1. Neo-Western: The Broken Line of the Universe
  2. Detective: The Powers of the False
  3. Screwball Comedy: Schizophrenic Conversation

III: Complicating the Action-Image

  1. Romance: Virtual Conjunctions
  2. Musical: Trapped in the Dream of the Other
  3. Noir: The Shadow and Its Shadow
  4. Horror: The Non-Organic Life of Things

References:

  • Gilles Deleuze (1986) Cinema 1: The Movement-Image, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam, The Athlone Press
  • Gilles Deleuze (1989) Cinema 2: The Time-Image, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Robert Caleta, The Athlone Press
  • Georges Canguilhem, ‘The Living and Its Milieu’ from Knowledge of Life
  • Fredrich Nietzsche, ‘On the Uses and Disadvantages of History for Life’ from Untimely Meditations

Recommended viewing:

Each week, a number of key films will be explored related to the specified genre or subgenres. These films may be exemplary for the period under examination, or significant in relation to Deleuze’s exegesis. Contemporary examples of the genre will also be introduced where helpful and participants are invited to think about the concepts in relation to films they know from any period or region.

I: The Great Genres: Large-Form Action-Image

—What constitutes realism is simply this: milieux and modes of behaviour, milieux which actualise and modes of behaviour which embody.

  1. Adventure: The American Empiricist Tradition

—The milieu and its forces incurve on themselves, they act on the character, throw him a challenge, and constitute a situation in which he is caught.

  • CAPTAIN BLOOD (Michael Curtiz, 1935)
  • LOST HORIZON (Frank Capra, 1937)
  • BEAU GESTE (William A. Wellman, 1939)
  • THE SEA HAWK (Michael Curtiz, 1940)
  • THE MARK OF ZORRO (Rouben Mamoulian, 1940)
  1. Western: The Living and Its Milieu

—The organisation of the film, the organic representation, is not a circle, but a spiral where the situation of arrival differs from the situation of departure.

  • STAGECOACH (John Ford, 1939)
  • THE OX BOW INCIDENT (William A. Wellman, 1943)
  • MY DARLING CLEMENTINE (John Ford, 1946)
  • WAGON MASTER (John Ford, 1950)
  1. Melodrama: Vital Illusions

—a community is healthy in so far as a kind of consensus reigns, a consensus which allows it to develop illusions about itself.

  • STELLA DALLAS (King Vidor, 1937)
  • THE FOUNTAINHEAD (King Vidor, 1949)
  • ON THE WATERFRONT (Elia Kazan, 1954)
  • EXECUTIVE SUITE (Robert Wise, 1954)
  • THERE’S ALWAYS TOMORROW (Douglas Sirk, 1955)
  • BIGGER THAN LIFE (Nicholas Ray, 1956)
  1. Gangster: Pathological Milieux and Cracked Behaviours

—Are we to conclude that society is made in the image of its crimes, and that all milieux are pathological, and all modes of behaviour are cracked?

  • LITTLE CAESAR (Mervyn LeRoy, 1931)
  • THE PUBLIC ENEMY (William A. Wellman, 1931)
  • SCARFACE (Howard Hawks, 1932)
  • ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES (Michael Curtiz, 1938)
  1. Epic: The Limited Horizon of History

—The ancient or recent past must submit to trial, go to court, in order to disclose what it is that produces decadence and what it is that produces new life.

  • THE SIGN OF THE CROSS (Cecil B. DeMille, 1932)
  • CLEOPATRA (Cecil B. DeMille, 1934)
  • SAMSON AND DELILAH (Cecil B. DeMille, 1949)
  • THE ROBE (Henry Koster, 1953)
  • CLEOPATRA (Joseph L. Mankiewicz,1963)

II: Small Form Reversals

—A representation like this is no longer global but local. It is no longer spiral but elliptical. It is no longer structural but constructed round events.

  1. Neo-Western: The Broken Line of the Universe

—It is no longer the encompassing stroke of a great contour, but the broken stroke of a line of the universe…

  • RED RIVER (Howard Hawks, 1948)
  • WINCHESTER ’73 (Anthony Mann, 1950)
  • THE BIG SKY (Howard Hawks, 1952)
  • THE NAKED SPUR (Anthony Mann, 1953)
  • MAN OF THE WEST (Anthony Mann, 1958)
  • RIO BRAVO (Howard Hawks, 1959)
  1. Detective: The Powers of the False

—It is the blind gesture which shatters the completely black situation, tears away the shreds of the situation.

  • THE MALTESE FALCON (John Huston, 1941)
  • LAURA (Otto Preminger, 1944)
  • THE BIG SLEEP (Howard Hawks, 1946)
  • WHERE THE SIDEWALK ENDS (Otto Preminger, 1950)
  • THE BIG HEAT (Fritz Lang, 1953)
  • BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT (Fritz Lang, 1956)
  1. Screwball Comedy: Schizophrenic Conversation

—there is always something mad, schizophrenic, in a conversation taken for itself…

  • THE AWFUL TRUTH (Leo McCarey, 1937)
  • BRINGING UP BABY (Howard Hawks, 1938)
  • HIS GIRL FRIDAY (Howard Hawks, 1940)
  • THE TALK OF THE TOWN (George Stevens, 1942)
  • ARSENIC AND OLD LACE (Frank Capra, 1944)
  • PEOPLE WILL TALK (Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1956)

III: Complicating the Action-Image

—'Time is out of joint': it is off the hinges assigned to it by behaviour in the world, but also by movements of world.

  1. Romance: Virtual Conjunctions

—enter a virtual conjunction which forms an affect as powerful as a weapon crossing space…

  • PETER IBBETSON (Henry Hathaway, 1935)
  • HISTORY IS MADE AT NIGHT (Frank Borzage, 1937)
  • LOVE AFFAIR (Leo McCarey, 1939)
  • RANDOM HARVEST (Mervyn LeRoy, 1942)
  1. Musical: Trapped in the Dream of the Other

—the dream becomes space, but like a spider's web, made less for the dreamer himself than for the living prey that he attracts.

  • ROMANCE ON THE HIGH SEAS (Michael Curtiz, 1948)
  • AN AMERICAN IN PARIS (Vincente Minnelli, 1951)
  • SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN (Gene Kelly, Stanley Donen, 1952)
  • BRIGADOON (Vincente Minnelli, 1954)
  • BELLS ARE RINGING (Vincente Minnelli, 1960)
  1. Noir: The Shadow and Its Shadow

—The shadow extends to infinity.

  • DOUBLE INDEMINITY (Billy Wilder, 1944)
  • DETOUR (Edgar G. Ulmer, 1945)
  • THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE (Tay Garnett, 1946)
  • OUT OF THE PAST (Jacques Tourneur, 1947)
  • THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI (Orson Welles, 1947)
  1. Horror: The Non-Organic Life of Things

—a frightful life, which is oblivious to the wisdom and limits of the organism.

  • DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE (Rouben Mamoulian, 1931)
  • THE INVISIBLE MAN (James Whale, 1933)
  • CAT PEOPLE (Jacques Tourneur, 1942)
  • THE LEOPARD MAN (Jacques Tourneur, 1943)
  • I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE (Jacques Tourneur, 1943)
  • THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY (Albert Lewin, 1945)