positions: east asia cultures critique 9.3 (2001) 535-557
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3rdness: Filming, Changing, Thinking Hong Kong
Thinking(,) through Cinema
To intervene into what has been happening in the cinema, Gilles Deleuze puts forth “a taxonomy, an attempt at the classification of images and signs” to replace “a history of the cinema.” His cinema project is a conceptual attempt to depart from prevailing histories of cinemas, which leave many of their own problematics unanalyzed. As he himself proclaims in his preface to the French edition of his two cinema books, “This study is not a history of the cinema.”1 In his preface to the English edition, he reiterates: “This book does not set out to produce a history of the cinema but to isolate certain cinematographical concepts.”2 Deleuze perceives that “from Plato to Bergson, we find the idea of the concept being a matter of articulation, of cutting, and cross-cutting.”3 Via his taxonomy of images and signs in his cinema books, Deleuze not only explores new possibilities in cinema. He also extends new possibilities of thinking(,) through cinema (new possibilities [End Page 535] of thinking, through cinema; new possibilities of thinking through cinema). To him, “the task of philosophy when it creates concepts, entities, is always to extract an event from things and beings, to set up the new event from things and beings, always to give them a new event: space, time, matter, thought, the possible as events.”4 In this sense his cinema project is not simplistically an endeavor to construct a philosophy of cinema in place of existent histories of cinema in order to “extract an event from things and beings.” It is a project aiming at actualizing “the task of philosophy” by way of the medium: cinema. Such actualization in turn entails a reconfiguration of “the task of philosophy” in light of the appearances of “new events” in this specific medium.
In Cinema 1 and Cinema 2 Deleuze, on one hand, recategorizes issues of history, geography, and representation through his neologisms and, on the other hand, operates within conventional problematics, such as nationality, authorship, genres, canons, and stylistics. Through these problematics, accepted definitions and relationships are at the same time reconfigured and interrogated. Deleuze’s cinema project sets out to explore different ways of reconceptualizing cinema, history, and thinking by means of their interactions. He regards the philosopher as a genealogist, and “genealogy means both the value of origin and the origin of values.”5 The “value of origin” designates the constructiveness of origin as the entrance to creations and differences; the “origin of value” explicates the constructedness of value as a constant reminder against frozen hierarchies and essentialism. They are to be taken together in order to continue the dialectics among differences, facts, and representations. Lacking any of them would be a fixation that terminates the dialectics of the new. In this sense we can investigate how this “new event” heading toward differences can continue to be new in terms of cinematic practices.
Furthering this new event involves a reconceptualization of Deleuze’s (re)conceptualization of cinema, which I am going to explore in relation to my discussion of Hong Kong cinema. Deleuze’s project mainly concentrates on conceptualizing Euro-American cinemas, but it has also discussed non-Euro-American cinemas, such as Asian cinema, for example, including the films of Yasujiro Ozu and Akira Kurosawa, as well as the situation of filmmakers in the third world and the missing people in cinema.6 The complex [End Page 536] considerations behind Deleuze’s concentration on Euro-American cinemas make his (re)conceptualization even more insinuating. In the first part of this article I scrutinize certain foundational concepts in Deleuze’s cinema project; in the second part I attempt to push these foundational concepts to a different terrain, a possibility of renewal. Amid this convergence on Deleuze’s cinema project, we can inquire into both his (re)conceptualization and the prevalent conditions of an-o/Other terrain—Hong Kong. As an-o/Other terrain not examined in Deleuze’s cinema project, Hong Kong cinema is not just the entrance to new possibilities of Deleuze’...