Introduction. “An Invention without a Future”
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1 INTRODUCTION “An Invention without a Future” The cinema is an invention without a future. —LOUIS LUMIÈRE, AUTHOR OF THE FIRST FILM MANIFESTO To forge oneself iron laws, if only in order to obey or disobey them with difficulty . . . —ROBERT BRESSON, NOTES ON THE CINEMATOGRAPHER THE FOURTH COLUMN Manifestos are typically understood as ruptures, breaks, and challenges to the steady flow of politics, aesthetics, or history. This is equally true of film and other moving image manifestos. Paradoxically, film manifestos pervade the history of cinema yet exist at the margins of almost all accounts of film history itself. An examination of this elision raises not simply the question of whether manifestos have changed the cinema (even if their existence has often been marginalized in film history) but whether the act of calling into being a new form of cinema changed not only moving images but the world itself. For this proposition to make any sense at all, one cannot take moving images to be separate from the world or to be simply a mirror or reflection of the real. Instead, one must see moving images as a constitutive part of the real: as images change, so does the rest of the world. By way of introduction to Film Manifestos and Global Cinema Cultures, I examine what exactly a manifesto is, consider the role played by manifestos in film culture, offer an overview of some of the film manifestos and manifesto movements covered in the book, and map out a critical model of what constitutes a film manifesto and a manifestostyle of writing. My aim is to outline a theoretically informed counterhistory that places film manifestos, often neglected, at the center of film history, politics, and culture. Film manifestos are a missing link in our knowledge of the history of cinema production , exhibition, and distribution. Often considered a subset of aesthetics or mere political propaganda, film manifestos are better understood as a creative and political engine, an often unacknowledged force pushing forward film theory, criticism, and history. Examining these writings as a distinct category—constituting calls to action for political and aesthetic changes in the cinema and, equally important, the cinema’s role in the world—allows one not only to better understand their use-value but also the way in which 2 • I N T R O D U C T I O N they have functioned as catalysts for film practices outside the dominant narrative paradigms of what Jean-Luc Godard pejoratively calls “Hollywood-Mosfilm.” Yet manifestos and manifesto-style writing have also greatly influenced, and indeed regulated, narrative cinema, especially that of the classical Hollywood period. One of the other goals of Film Manifestos and Global Cinema Cultures is to reconsider the status of the film manifesto in film theory and history. Part of my desire to do this stems from my coming of age, as an academic, during the “theory wars” of the 1990s (nowhere near as sexy as the “Clone Wars” but similarly populated with mutterings about the “dark side”). Many of the most contentious essays at the center of the “theory wars” are better understood not as theory qua theory, in some empirical sense, but as manifestos—calls to arms to change, destroy, and reimagine the cinema. Certainly, this is the political and aesthetic power that lies behind a multitude of central writings on the cinema, from Sergei Eisenstein’s “The Method of Making Workers’ Films,” and Dziga Vertov’s “WE: Variant of a Manifesto” through Laura Mulvey’s “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” and Claire Johnston’s “Women’s Cinema as Counter-Cinema” (indeed, some of the writings from the analytic side of the debate by Noël Carroll and Gregory Currie can be read as manifestos for film theory itself).1 To get tied up in positivist arguments about the empirical nature of these texts is to miss the means by which they functioned as catalysts for writers and filmmakers alike to reimagine the cinema. Film Manifestos and Global Cinema Cultures brings together film manifestos from the global history of cinema, constituting the first historical and theoretical account of the role played by film manifestos in filmmaking and film culture.2 Focusing equally on political and aesthetic manifestos (and the numerous ones that address the relationship between aesthetics and politics), Film Manifestos and Global Cinema Cultures uncovers a neglected yet central history of cinema through the exploration of a series of documents that postulate ways in which to reimagine the medium, how...


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