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The Fall of the House of Usher film clip


Epstein quote:

“I would describe as photogenic any aspect of things, beings, or souls whose moral character is enhanced by filmic reproduction. And any aspect not enhanced by filmic reproduction is not photogenic, plays no part in the art of cinema […] I now specify: only mobile aspects of the world, of things and souls, may see their moral value increased by filmic reproduction.” (Epstein 1923, p314)


 The French original implies something closer to ‘metaphysical’ rather than ‘moral’ in the above quote.

Poe and Epstein both place weather, landscape, mood, emotion and vagueness of emotions ahead of narrative markers of plot logic, place, and temporality. Both centre their narratives on the interconnection of sight and knowledge, and its relation to power. The narrator is sceptical and frequently doubting of what he sees. Epstein adds to this a dusty eyeglass and ear horn to further emphasis a deficiency in regard to the human beings ability to perceive the ontological world. In contrast, Roderick Usher possesses unexplained qualities of sensitivity that seem to be affected by and affecting of the environment around him, both temporally and spatially. Part of Roderick’s enhanced sensitivity is his ability to imbue his artwork, the portrait of his sister Madeline, with life. It needs to be noted that it is through an obsession with looking, iterated by Epstein’s constant return to Roderick’s gaze, that this sensitivity and ability manifests itself.

Roderick’s line of sight is a motif, constantly returned to and interrogated. The object of the gaze oscillates between objects, their interactions with the environment (space and time) and Madeline’s portrait.

It can be seen that Epstein is articulating the limits of knowledge and perception by framing and presenting his characters and their points of view in fragments. People, objects, locations and the relations between are all obscured by unstable editing transitions. Spatial relationships are not clarified. This is perhaps one of Epstein’s most visible authorial signatures. Close-ups are imbued with meaning and mysticism and wide shots speak to a more mundane reality.

Not only are spatial relationships distorted, but temporal relations as well. Books fall from the shelf, the drapes are blown by the wind, and the inner workings of the grandfather clock tick and note time all in slow motion as once again the environment subsumes any ability the characters have to rationalize or apply reason to the events that take place in the house. Inanimate objects have somehow taken on an inexplicable agency within the narrative. They are imbued with meaning and significance.

How does this visual palette reflect or articulate the tenet’s of Epstein’s ideals: photogenie as a film and aesthetic system? The first thing to decipher is the experimental nature of the film. Every shot is another camera experiment; another exploration of space and time. The narrative is woven together by hundreds of fragments. There are no long takes, though there are elongated moments. Meaning is hard to pin down, yet feelings and moods are overwhelming.


Mulvey uses psychoanalysis to assert that fascination with film, and taking pleasure in watching film, is reinforced by pre-existing patterns of fascination already at work within the individual and the social conditions that have moulded him.


She asserts that sexual difference is socially constructed and interpreted (the status quo being hetero-sexuality), and that this interpretation controls images, erotic ways of looking and spectacle.

“Psychoanalytic theory is thus appropriated here as a weapon.”

Mulvey’s aim with this article is to subvert the ordinary persons enjoyment in the experience of the cinema and turn it back on them as a reflection of the dominant ideology and therefore a tool of oppression used on those who do not fit the traditional. hetero-normative structure of society. This essay is a landmark in the ideological theorisation of the arts circa 1975.

Phallocentrism depends on the image of the castrated woman to give it meaning.

What is phallocentrism?

The woman’s lack of a phallus gives the phallus symbolic presence and meaning. The woman symbolises ‘the’ castration threat (lack of phallus) (assuming that there really is a castration threat). Mulvey then makes an enigmatic comment about the woman raising her child into the ‘Symbolic’. This is then the end of the woman’s meaning. She takes her place in memory; signifying maternal plenitude and lack of penis. The woman can exist only relation to castration and cannot transcend it. The woman is bearer of meaning; not maker of meaning. This is the central tenet of feminist film theory as it applies to the Classical Hollywood cinema.

“Alternative cinema must start specifically by reacting against these obssessions and assumptions.” Radical cinema is by definition a counterpoint to the classical cinema’s aesthetic. The classical cinema is underpinned by the erotic. Erotic pleasure is coded into the classical system and concurrently into the language of the dominant patriarchal order. Mulvey states that she intends to destroy this pleasure through analysis of it. To expose it is to wake up the spectator from their phantasy dream. Her goal:

” … to make way for a total negation of the ease and plenitude of the narrative fiction film.”


To take pleasure in looking. Children engage in voyeuristic activities. They seek to make sure of the private and unknown/forbidden: curiosity. The active instinct of the human being being needs to be delineated from narcissistic pleasure and behaviour. Mulvey is invoking Freud to assert that these childhood formations are the origin of pleasure in looking. It can be seen here that at the extreme, these formative behaviours could result in perversions, peeping toms and even serial murderers: it is the objectification and eroticisation of the other (that which is forbidden) that could lead to such outcomes. Mulvey asserts that the cinema feeds this desire; it is a re imagining of the childhood curiosity for that which is private and unknown for the adult. The spectator engages in an illusion of looking in on a private world. Furthermore, in the classical system, emphasis is placed on the human form. Scale, space and stories are all anthropomorphic. This is synonymous with Lacan’s mirror phase of the child, wherein, the child recognises his own image in the mirror. The child’s recognition of his image precedes the development of his motor skills and so the child assumes that the image in the mirror is somehow more complete. Visa-vi the adult in the cinema is recalling this insecurity and interpreting it as a nostalgia; a type of pleasure. Self-awareness and looking are intertwined.

What is Mulvey’s new language of desire? With claims such as these Mulvey has to also produce the alternative.





Quote taken from Hjorth, L. 2007 ed., Waiting for Immediacy Catalogue, Yonsei University: Seoul.

“It is as if the storing, just like the whimsical nature of digital media that can so easily be deleted, is not necessarily for the actual return and reviewing. It is not about leaving a trace in the world like analogue photography, but instead it is about the process of affect that marks the moment by a series of gestures. Click, view and store – that is the experience of everyday life to a theatre of spectres that haunt the hangover of visuality. In the 21st century, the visual is overruled by haptic as an experience and sense of place. This is the dance of waiting … for immediacy.”

Immediacy is about capturing and celebrating the moment. It is ritualistic. It is not meant to be stored as historical artefact or proof of life – or perhaps in some ways as proof of identity on social media. It is about focussing all phenomenological possibilities into one distilled click and capture. A phenomenological focus. A focus on things-as-idealised there and then. These moments therefore must necessarily be connected to our desires and forward projections of how we see ourselves in the world. They are world-affirming.

In my recent mobile video practice I have for various vague reasons decided to work on things out-of-focus. Perhaps I could pitch my video practice as anti-immediate?

In reference to Douglas Gomery’s ‘The Hollywood Studio System: 1930 – 1949’ and questions such as: ‘does mass culture give the people what they want, or convince them to want what they get?’ I have drawn on Post-Modern analysis and history to collate some thoughts:

From Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy –

“The later nineteenth century is the age of modernity as an achieved reality, where science and technology, including networks of mass communication and transportation, reshape human perceptions. There is no clear distinction, then, between the natural and the artificial in experience {…} A consequence of modernism is what postmodernists might refer to as de-realisation.  De-realisation affects both the subjects and the objects of experience, such that their sense of identity, constancy, and substance is upset or dissolved {…} Kierkegaard, for example, describes modern society as a network of relations in which individuals are levelled into an abstract phantom known as ‘the public’. The modern public, in contrast to ancient and medieval communities, is a creation of the press, which is the only instrument capable of holding together the mass of unreal individuals ‘who never are and never can be united in an actual situation or organisation’. In this sense, society has become a realisation of abstract thought, held together by an artificial and all – pervasive medium speaking for everyone and for no one.”

Quotes taken from Kierkegaard, Soren; 1846, The Present Age, Alexander Dru (trans.), New York: Harper & Row, 1962.

Notes from

Globalization; or the logic of cultural hybridization: the case of the Korean wave. (Woongjae Ryoo 2009)

The article states: ‘… that local cultures are now thoroughly interfused with the global’. (p138) – this is a good starting assumption to premise the need for change in Australian film aesthetic and production. The argument will also need to refine the idea that globalisation – global culture – somehow homogenizes local values. There is a pervasive fear in the discourse – as i’ve encountered it thus far – that minority voices and values somehow get lost under the weight of (or be transcended by) a ‘mainstream’ grand narrative. This is post-colonial/postmodern theory.

Article is otherwise narrow and provides not much insight into structures of cultural/economic development in Korea. It has an anti-capitalist tone and doesn’t fully engage the positive aspects of competition and a creative economic drive.

Korean State Cultural Policy

“The government, for example, brought in a registration system for film producers between the early 1960s and the early 1980s. Only registered film producers could produce motion pictures and import foreign films” (Dal Yong Jin citing Korean Film Commission Research Report, 2002) This created a monopoly which stifled growth.

Q: to extent does Australia’s funding processes replicate such a control over the means of production and in turn to extent is there a monopoly, government or otherwise, over the film industry.

The impact of direct distribution from Hollywood – distribution and trade practices.

transnationalization of the Korean film industry – active foreign investment in the domestic market – i.e. Hollywood distributing directly into the Korean market without a domestic go-between.

What was the structure of the relationship between foreign forces and domestic forces in the growth of the national film industry?

” … the government enacted the Motion Picture Promotion Law in 1995 … ” to provide incentives for cooperate capital to enter the film industry.

“The government reclassified the movie business from a service industry to a manufacturing industry in 1994. As a result, for the first time in decades, Korean film producers could easily finance their films by borrowing from banks.”

The question of cultural identity in film

Rather than a policy of cultural identity, a screen quota system is essential to maintaining cultural sovereignty:

‘ … the government did not want to change the screen quota system on the grounds that films should be excluded from free trade principles because protecting the Korean film industry is tantamount to maintaining Korea’s cultural identity.’

The issue needs to be framed not as an ideological and cultural issue but as an economic issue.

“The Wall Street Journal observed that the Korean government acknowledged that cultural industries, including films, could boost the economy in the late 1990s”


August 28, 2014 — Leave a comment

“Light is meaningful only in relation to darkness, and truth presupposes error. It is these mingled opposites which people our life, which make it pungent, intoxicating. We only exist in terms of this conflict, in the zone where black and white clash…”

Louis Aragon, Paris Peasant