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Post-Cinematic Effects

by Ethan Tussey

by Paul Bowman for IN MEDIA RES

Shaviro argues that the cinematic epoch is coming to a close. We are now at the end(s) of the cinematic. This is registered within cinema, and cinema remains influential across all of its inheritors. Hence, the times are ‘post-cinematic’ and not anti- or non-cinematic: gaming, all things interactive, the music video, and so forth, all remain informed by cinematography, but they move away from its technological limitations. Meanwhile, cinema attempts to incorporate the new technological advancements within itself. Accordingly, films like Blade Runner or Sim-One are not post-cinematic, whilst The Matrix and even Old Boy are. The former are about future technologies; the latter incorporate future technologies into themselves, affecting the styles of computer simulated choreographies: The Matrix employs the sharpness and precision of arcade game fights; Old Boy incorporates the two-dimensional plane of old computer games, but counterbalanced by including all the scrappiness of messy brawling that most action films sanitize.

Quite what the 'affect' of all of this 'is' is irreducibly debatable. In viewing the famous corridor fight in Old Boy, I perceived passion: Oh Dae-su enjoyed his vengeance. And this reading was consistent with the film’s themes: Oh Dae-su’s response to five years of sensual deprivation; his inability to resist, and his delight in every sensual experience. Accordingly, this fight was a continuation of that theme: a real orgy of violence. Yet, the director’s commentary later informed me that the scene was conceptualised as one of loneliness: Oh Dae-su was the loneliest man in the world; his lack of fear was that of someone who’s lost everything, fear, hope, passion...

So whose reading is ‘right’, mine or the director’s? And what is the ‘affect’? To my mind, this ‘affect’ is not ‘one’. There is not one ‘affect’, nor even one economy, ecosystem or ecology of affect(s); just as there is not one reading of one text. Post-cinematic effects, yes; Shaviro makes an important observation. But affects? I’m not so sure why or how they would be different from everything that postmodern theorists have long been saying about postmodernity. The ultimate question, to me, is whether approaching the world in terms of affect offers anything specific for cultural theory and the understanding of culture and politics.

Clip from Oldboy

Clip from Oldboy

from Oldboy (2003)
Creator: Chan-wook Park
Distributor: Egg Films
Posted by Ethan Tussey
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