"One Single Mystery of Persons and Objects": The Erotics of Fragmentation in Au Hasard Balthazar

By Balsom, Erika | Canadian Journal of Film Studies, Spring 2010 | Go to article overview

"One Single Mystery of Persons and Objects": The Erotics of Fragmentation in Au Hasard Balthazar


Balsom, Erika, Canadian Journal of Film Studies


Résumé: Cette analyse détaillée d'Au hasard Balthazar (1966) de Robert Bresson explore la préoccupation du film pour l'immanence des sensations, inversant ainsi deux interprétations dominantes pour lesquelles le travail du cinéaste se comprend en termes de transcendance ascétique ou par le biais du formalisme. La lecture examine l'emploi du fragment en posant que la relation de la partie au tout, telle qu'elle est mise en place par le film, trace la voie d'un engagement affectif qui figure plutôt que représente l'érotique. Cette figuration permet l'émergence d'un genre différent de plaisir du texte qui ne repose ni sur l'identification au personnage ni sur l'absence de structure formelle déterminée, mais qui est issue de la surface sensuelle même du film et de la texture de son indétermination.

In place of a hermeneutics, we need an erotics of art."1 The final proposal of Susan Sontag's 1964 essay, "Against Interpretation," echoes outward from its firm entrenchment in the programmatic modernism of its day to warn contemporary writers of the violence that lurks within the critical enterprise. Sontag writes, "The modern style of interpretation excavates, and as it excavates, destroys; it digs 'behind' the text, to find a sub-text which is the true one."2 Today, despite the lessons of poststructuralism's textual plurality or postmodernism's refusal of depth, the hermeneutic machine continues its geological work of uncovering the essence behind appearance, and the latent behind the manifest, to posit the truth of a text as being hidden beneath its noisy surface. Texts are routinely made to do the work of theoretical paradigms external to them, reduced to little more than an illustration of this or that academic vogue. In this regard, one might think of the veritable industry of Zizekian readings (whether by the master himself or his epigones) of Hitchcock, Lynch, and others. As an alternative to such claustrophobic enclosures of reading, Sontag burrows up to the blinding light of the surface. What would an erotics of art look like? How might it be constitutive of a different kind of critical practice? For Sontag, certainly, there is the return to form. But formalism can run the risk of a critical violence equally harmful to that of hermeneutics, as its hermeticism seals off the text into contentless patterns of repetition and variation. It seems that a possible resolution might be found in taking Sontag's proposal of textual erotics seriously, and interrogating the concept of sensuousness, which recurs throughout "Against Interpretation." If one takes the task of criticism to be to "reveal the sensuous surface of art without mucking about in it,"3 thinking about eroticism and form together can perhaps provide a way to move beyond the reductive enclosures of both hermeneutics and formalism to question the ways in which a text might formally figure the erotic rather than merely represent it. To think not only what the form of a work ts, but what it does and the desire it produces might open a new space in which to consider the generation of a textual pleasure that would be grounded in the sensory, affective experience of the work of art and would be reducible neither to mechanisms of character or identification, nor to the vacancy of pattern.

To examine the state of criticism surrounding the films of Robert Bresson is to encounter both types of critical violence and reductionism that a textual erotics would seek to remedy. Despite the obdurate resistance of these films to the workings of metaphor, symbol, and biography, one finds constant attempts to cloister their sensuous surfaces with truths, be they deep or transcendent. Paul Schrader's Transcendental Style in Film: Ozu, Bresson, Dreyer insists on the sublimation of the material world in Bresson's films, transfiguring the films' enclosed spaces into a metaphor of "freedom and restraint... the fundamental body/soul dichotomy."4 Schrader's further assertion that Bresson engages in an "abjuration of the body"5 seems untenable after even a cursory viewing of a film such as Un Condamné à mort s'est échappé ou le vent souffle où il veut (1956). …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

"One Single Mystery of Persons and Objects": The Erotics of Fragmentation in Au Hasard Balthazar
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.