18 Jan 2010

Objective Feelings




Objective Feelings


Deleuze scholar Matt Lee left a remarkable comment to this On the Waterfront cinema entry. (I recommend his web log, notebookeleven. He also is an editor and contributer to the recently published book, Thinking Between Deleuze and Kant: A Strange Encounter. His other publications are listed here.) Lee writes:

In the context of this specific clip it strikes me that the interpretation Deleuze offers seems off. The glove is picked up and held, then placed on the hand almost as an act of possession, rather than timidity. The way the man sits, his expansive hand gestures, the casual nature of his picking at the glove all seem to suggest this. The woman at one point (at 2.24 in the clip) reaches out as if to take back the glove, only finally taking it after the man has given her a back-handed compliment (you used to be a mess but 'you grew up really nice').
This doesn't, as it happens, touch on the conceptual point Deleuze is making, about the emotional handling of an object, merely on the content of the emotions in this particular content. [Matt Lee, comment, boldface mine]

This is in response to what Deleuze writes:

It is nevertheless true that the emotional handling of an object, an act of emotion in relation to the object, can have more effect than a close-up in the action-image. In a situation in On the Waterfront, where the woman behaves ambivalently, and where the man feels timid and guilty, he picks up the glove that she has dropped, keeps it and plays with it, finally slipping it on to his hand. [Deleuze, Cinema 1, 1986:163c]

Reste que le maniement émotionnel d'un objet, un acte d'émotion par rapport à l'objet, peuvent avoir plus d'effet qu'un gros plan dans l'image-action. Dans une situation de « Sur les quais », où la femme a un comportement ambivalent, et où l'homme se sent timide et coupable, celui-ci ramasse le gant qu'elle a laissé tomber, le garde et en jour, y glisse enfin sa main. [Deleuze Cinéma 1, 1985:219b]

Here is a clip of this scene:

video

At the end of the cited sentence is footnote 21 (of chapter 9; footnote 20 on page 219 of the French text).

21 Michel Ciment, by the questions that he puts to Kazan, brings out this type of image that tends to replace the close-up: Kazan par Kazan, pp. 74ff. [Deleuze, p.245c]

20. Michel Ciment, par les questions qu' il pose à Kazan, dégage bien ce type d'image que tend à remplacer le gros plan : Kazan par Kazan, Stock, p. 74 sq. [Deleuze, p.219d]

I have access only to the English version, but here is a part where Kazan discusses the glove scene:

There's another example of this use of objects in a scene that was partly accidental and partly the talent of the actor who was in it: that scene in On the Waterfront where Brando is walking Eva Marie Saint home, rather against her will; and she on the one hand is attracted to him, and on the other hand wishes that he'd leave her alone because there's a social stigma attached to him, so she'd rather lose him, and at the same time she's attracted to him and would rather keep him. (p.45d) And he, too, is attracted to her, but he's also shy, and tense about connecting with her because he was responsible for the death of her brother. But mainly Brando wants to keep her, despite her desire to get rid of him. As they were walking along, she accidentally dropped her glove; and Brando picked the glove up; and by holding it, she couldn't get away - the glove was his way of holding her. Furthermore, whereas he couldn't, because of this tension about her brother being killed, demonstrate any sexual or loving feeling towards her, he could towards the glove. And he put his hand inside the glove, you remember, so that the glove was both his way of holding on to her against her will, and at the same time he was able to express, through the glove, something he couldn't express to her directly. So the object, in that sense, did it all. (Kazan and Ciment, p.46a-b, emphasis mine).


This seems to confirm Lee's observation.


By the way, the following citation immediately precedes the above text:

How did you use objects to convey feelings?

In Wild River, for instance, Clift is coming back to Lee Remick's house. It's raining, and Lee Remick has a towel in her hand. The inside of the house is warm. Whatever shyness she had, it'd be natural for her to welcome him into the house. But she's shy about touching him except for the towel. The towel is an excuse to touch him. If it were a nice day and he'd just come in, the scene would have been impossible. One of the basic things in the technique of the Method is to use objects a lot. All objects are symbols for one thing or another. It's something you can see move from one hand to another, you can see it break, or you can see it captured, you can see it sold, you can see it bought, you can see it transferred, you can see it embraced, you can see it thrown away. That's like making an act out of a feeling, through the object. Of course, it helps actors who are self-conscious, because if they concentrate on the object they won't be concentrating on themselves.

The device of the swing in Baby Doll, that was also using an object and a movement . . .

Right . . . She would allow things on the swing that she wouldn't elsewhere. Also, on the swing she can't walk away easily, all he's got to do is put his hand across her. Also, she's a baby girl, the swinging makes her more at ease. Also, there's something seductive about the movement itself. Also, he was playing with her. I had a wonderful mood in that picture of playfulness plus some seriusness. You didn't know when he was serious or when he was playful. That's what Williams does so well - you don't know how far he means it and how far he's kidding about it, how far it's important to him, and how far it's just a tease, a joke. (Kazan and Ciment, p.45a-45d)


Deleuze, Gilles. Cinema 1: The Movement-Image. Transl. Hugh Tomlinson & Barbara Habberjam, London: Continuum, 1986

Deleuze, Gilles. Cinéma 1: L'image-mouvement. Paris: Les éditions de minuit, 1983.


Ciment, Michel. [interviewing Elia Kazan]. Kazan on Kazan. London: Secker & Warburg, 1973.





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