”I’m sometimes frightened when I watch his films. Frightened because of some absolute perfection in what he does. This man seems to know not only the magic of all technical means, but also all the most secret strands of human thought, images, ideas, feelings…. He creates somewhere in the realm of the very purest and most primal depths.” ( Sergei Eisenstein )disney7
In our present age, or in cinematic parlance, ”scenario” , the emergence of computer generated images as central to cinematic presentation warrants some discussion; a certain critical  ”gaze” to comprehend what  we are viewing and its origins. Gilles Deleuze ( 1925-1995 ) stresses the issue  that it is aesthetics and the creative force that will decide if cinema will overcome information. It’s an internal ‘battle’ that first of all depends on aesthetic force, or will to art,  that does not depend on technology,even though it uses it.

Disney,Eisenstein. 1930. Fascination with projection of Utopia.

Disney,Eisenstein. 1930. Fascination with projection of Utopia.

The most fundamental claim of Deleuze’s philosophy is the claim of immanence. Gilles Deleuze is a philosopher who places himself in an immanent tradition of thinking. Following Hume, Spinoza, Bergson and Nietzsche, Deleuze argues that everything there is is contained in this world, or in ‘a life’, as Deleuze states in one of his last texts “L’Immanence, une Vie.”  Contrary to the transcendental tradition in philosophy, that runs from Plato, to Descartes and Kant, Deleuze thinks that there is nothing outside the life we have. He does recognize transcendental moments, but this transcendental field is always the product of immanence: an actualization of what is virtually already there.

Eisenstein, Disney.

Eisenstein, Disney.

In his cinema books, Deleuze proposes also an immanent conception of the image. According to Deleuze an image has internal (immanent) qualities that have certain effects on us. Images are not representations of absent Ideas or original models. By the same token, according to Deleuze we are not in front, or above images, but we are surrounded by images, we live in images and images live in us. Images can affect us and make us think. This immanent conception of the image seems to be very important in respect to new media and technology.

There is a connection between animation, new images and Deleuze’s film philosophy. The relationship can be seen with Sergei Eisenstein’s work on Disney and Deleuze’s film philosophy and his concept of ”becoming”. In his immanent conception of the image, Deleuze makes the distinction between the virtual and the actual. There is a profound connection between traditional animation, a la Disney, and computer generated imagery, or CGI, whether in current cinematic form such as Avatar or high end games.
”What cartoons and CGI have in common is that they are not limited to the confinements of photorealistic analogue images that have constituted film and media theory so far. This is also the reason why animation has generally been considered as a footnote in serious film theory; animation was something other than photographed film. However with the increasing technical possibilities of CGI, animated images become more and more photorealistic. This ‘realistic’ quality of animation, makes it necessary to reconsider the traditional cinematographic image and the status of the image as well.”…Deleuze doesn’t seem to be bothered by the ‘unrealistic’ or ‘unfaithful’ qualities of animation. It is the continuity of movement that makes that animation is part of cinema as a whole. Deleuze can make this claim because he does not see cinema as a ‘spatial representation’ but considers the cinematographic/audio-visual image as moving matter, changing through time;” Deleuze is regarded as a philosopher of time.

Disney, Steamboat Willie, 1928

Disney, Steamboat Willie, 1928

Eisenstein had a fascination for Disney based on the art form’s inherent continuity of movement and change. He terms this the ” protoplasmaticness” of the image which he found to be analagous to the inexplicable attraction to water, fire and music; animation was spoken of as ”ecstasy”; something which was intangible and a pure sensation.“Bambi, of course, must not be ignored. Bambi is already a shift towards ecstasy—serious, eternal: the theme of Bambi is the circle of life, the repeating circle of lives.No longer the sophisticated smile of th twentieth century towards totems. But a return to pure totemism and a reverse shift towards evolutionary prehistory.Bambi crowns, of course, the whole study on Disney.The greatness of Disney, as the purest example of the application of the method of art in its very purest form. “ ( Sergei Eisenstein ) The utopian ideal of communism in Eisenstein found expression in its flip side; Disney’s capitalist utopia based on a  utopian promise of freedom within the relationship between humans and nature.

In 1944 Sergei Eisenstein wrote: “Walt Disney’s work is the most omni-appealing I’ve ever come across. In terms of material, Disney’s pictures are pure ecstasy  bearing all the traits of ecstasy (the immersion of self in nature and animals, etc.). Their comicality lies in the fact that the process of ecstasy is represented as an object: literalized, formalized.” . In his theoretical project Method  which Eisenstein initiated in Mexico, he devoted a chapter to Disney. In the manuscript of this unfinished book, he examined modernity in its relation to archaic structures and analyzes artworks as reified imprints of pre-logical mentality, as collective dream images. The ecstatic state induced by art is an important starting point for his investigation and Disney becomes a central object of this analysis, as in his work the plasmatic qualities of form, color, and rhythm, are combined with animism and totemism.

Then too there’s the dynamism and grace of the animation, which remains unsurpassed; the metamorphosis and shape-shifting integrated into audio visual spectacle. For Sergei Eisenstein, Disney exemplified the contagious power of expressive movement on the screen.”There are so many aspects of Disney’s art that need attention: the skill with line and contour; the sort of soft caricature that some consider cutesy but has enormous bounce and vibrancy; the ingenious use of color; and of course, Eisenstein’s “synchronization of senses” between image and music.”

Disney, Snow White. Technicolor. 86 mins.

Disney, Snow White. Technicolor. 86 mins.

Many have derided Disney with the pejorative, “Mickey-Mousing,”with regard to the close matchup between a film image and the accompanying music,seen as a form of simplistic empty rhetoric. But Eisenstein saw this as “synchronization of senses,” a primal, visceral unity that could move the spectator involuntarily. He sought this subconscious synchronization in his own sound films, such as Alexander Nevsky, which was part of his own effort to formulate a new aesthetic for sound film , which he saw as a completely different medium from silent cinema; Disney was an inescapable influence on Eisenstein in his search for a definitive theory of cinema.

”Another way to get closer to Disney’s art is to just look at things more analytically. How does Disney create that expressive movement that Eisenstein admired? Partly, it seems, through having his figures move all over, and at the same instant. Reacting to a line of dialogue, a character can twist his waist, arch his back, swivel his shoulders, lift his head, arch his eyebrows, and raise a forefinger–all in a second or two. Two successive frames from Melody Time show Johnny Appleseed’s guardian angel in action, working his legs, arms, shoulders, jaw, and eyeballs simultaneously.” ( David Bordwell )

Animation offers the senses a feeling of everything still being possible or the element of coming into being and becoming related to the concept of time as duration and change. Because of time, everything changes; everything is in constant flux. Everything becomes. Is man an image in the form of an animal or simultaneously both. With regard to Disney, Mickey Mouse is both plastically both human and mouse. Animation makes it impossible to decide who is imitating who. Is man the mouse or vice-versa. There is an ambiguity between the model and the copy since becoming is constantly in transition between two polarities. This undecidability means becoming puts ”truth” in crisis. If separation and distinction between original form and copy, the clone, or true/false, right/wrong the established axioms of Western thought, or transcendental thinking, must ultimately be weakened and collapse.

Deleuze undelines the importance of a different distinction, and proposes a duality that he called the  virtual/actual. They are both real but not everything that is virtually contained, or immanent in this world is, or becomes actual. Dreams, memories, imaginations, phantasms, the virtual, are real insofar as they have an effect on us, but the virtual insists, and is dependent on the actual to support itself. To Deleuze The difference between the actual and the virtual is a difference in time; it is the present that passes that defines the actual, and the virtual is defined by the past concerned with conserving itself.

The first, and central consequence is related to the fact that the true and the false, or real and unreal, can no longer be distinguished. In respect to cinema’s new images we can no longer tell whether the dolphins in Titanic are real or created by the computer. And the dawn is upon us where we can no longer distinguish between real characters and computer generated ones.It already happens with special effects of mutilations and certain depictions of graphic violence. What are the forces in play and the general considerations useful to have na understanding of? , what Deleuze would refer to as a coherent evaluation of ”the powers of the false”.This does not mean that there are no longer any values or that everything is fake. It means that there is no longer an Ideal Model, only one that is abstract and absent, that can gives one the criteria for a general judgement about what’s real/unreal and good/ bad.

According to Deleuze , everything needs to be evaluated on its intrinsic qualities, actually and physically effecting/affecting us, virtually containing a multiplicity of forces. Related to this,as a consequence of the virtual/actual distinction is that a Deleuzian aesthetics permits thinking of new ways of conceiving narration. As Deleuze and Guattari state in A Thousand Plateaus, narratives are “permeated by unformed, unstable matters, by flows in all directions, by free intensities and by singularities”. As such, narratives obtain the status of an event. No longer is narrative only a geometrical analyzable space, but also and maybe even more an ungraspable event in time that involves all senses.  Deleuze’s immanent conception of images allows for a continuation, not a break, between analogue and digital cinema; between old and new images. The distinction he makes between the virtual and actual can offer useful strategies for conceiving new images where borders are constantly crossed, where the power of the false forces us to think differently about the real/unreal and true/false opposition and where energetics and multiple forces turn narratives into events in themselves that assume their own lives.

It still like a homing pigeon, comes back to Eisenstein’s perceptions of animation and cartoon characters as interpreted by Deleuze. It is often said that in modern  and postmodern  cinema,from Bresson and Godard to Besson and Tarantino, characters act like cartoons. Considering characters as new spiritual automata, that express speech acts, this becomes understandable, and not necessarily a negative quality.What are the implications? With every new type of image, new psychological automata come into existence.

For the electronic image Deleuze argues that actors are no longer psychologically motivated persons, but more like ‘puppets’, like mechanical automata that express pure speech acts.Also, The screen is no longer a window, or a painting, but constitues a table of information, an opaque surface on which are inscribed ‘data’. Information replaces nature, the overloaded brain-city replaces the eye of nature. The reference to the brain, connected in multiple ways to the surrounding images, is another important aspect that Deleuze has to offer to more traditional film theory.Finally, The new images have no longer any outside, our out of field importance, nor are they part of a larger whole; they are the object of a perpetual reorganization, in which a new image can arise from any point whatever of the preceding image. The organization of space loses its privileges directions in favour of an omni-directional space. Andre Gibsons writing about the loss of a unitary space in his ”Narrative Theory”  also concedes  changes the status of narrative into an ”ungraspable event in time that involves all senses”.

As late as 1946, [Sergei] Eisenstein noted Disney ‘as an example of the art of absolute influence — absolute appeal for each and everyone, and hence a particularly rich treasure trove of the most basic means of influence.’ Eisenstein was developing his theory of “intellectual montage.” Behind this theory was an idea that two shots edited together can produce a third, new meaning which derives from a “collision” between the two original shots. Thus, a filmmaker can in effect use film shots as a kind of hieroglyphs, which make up a new language. Using this linguistic aspect of cinema, according to Eisenstein’s theoretical writings of the 1920s, provides a filmmaker with an ability to influence the viewers’ thought processes, guiding them in a premeditated intellectual direction.The antithesis of this were the proponents of a natural temporal flow within individual shots as the main formative element of cinema. For them, editing did not bring out a new quality, but rather, amplified a quality already inherent in the shots that were being joined. Thus, an individual shot, which could last for several minutes without a single edit, was given priority over montage.

”Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs – the first feature-length animated movie – is among those films that becomes more remarkable when you discover its story: that 750 animators worked on it for three years; that other studios nicknamed it “Disney’s Folly” before it hit theaters; that critics thought 84 minutes would be too long for an animated picture and that Technicolor, an investment which had required Disney to mortgage his house, would hurt people’s eyes over such a sustained amount of time. The two people most quoted in regard to the film are Disney’s wife Lillian and Soviet director Sergei Eisenstein. Lillian Disney famously said, “No one’s ever gonna pay a dime to see a dwarf picture.” Eisenstein famously proclaimed it the “greatest movie ever made.”

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  1. Paola T. says:

    Probably sometime to me will have the luck to read at you article about human values… For example at cinema.

  2. Mark Lukas says:

    The phrase “human values” makes sense when people are more than two.

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