Mediated Associations: Cinematic Dimensions of Social Theory

By Ashton, Dyrk | Canadian Journal of Film Studies, Fall 2003 | Go to article overview

Mediated Associations: Cinematic Dimensions of Social Theory


Ashton, Dyrk, Canadian Journal of Film Studies


MEDIATED ASSOCIATIONS: CINEMATIC DIMENSIONS OF SOCIAL THEORY Daniel O'Connor Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2002, 209 pp.

Daniel O'Connor's Mediated Associations draws heavily upon Gilles Deleuze's Cinema 1: The Movement-Image and Cinema 2: The Time-Image. O'Connor's project is based on Deleuze's theory of movement and time, drawing out the inherent social characteristics of the cinema books, while interjecting aspects of social theory to support and expand upon Deleuze's work. This reading of the cinema books as social theory, combined with O'Connor's employment of contemporary film examples, offers some valuable contributions to film studies.

O'Connor is concerned with the effect that cinema has on society due to its devices of power, control and discipline. Following Deleuze, he claims that it is in the very functioning of cinematic images and montage that these devices operate. O'Connor's political agenda is no more radical than Deleuze's, but certainly more pointed. For O'Connor, the cinema exercises a form of power that is public and commonplace; he states that "perhaps the most insidious forms of power are those that control everyday associations, that operate right before our eyes, in the open, and in full public view." His approach works outside of the usual methods of inquiry into the discursive nature of the cinema that are based in psychoanalysis, linguistics or narrative. Film scholars may be somewhat put off by O'Connor's entry into this discussion of film theory without mentioning other writers who have taken up this topic, but Deleuze himself is open to the same criticism.

Deleuze's cinema books are first and foremost works of philosophy, and not of cinema theory per se. He uses the cinema to illustrate, or even stand in for, the philosophical concepts he wishes to describe, and he creates a taxonomy of images as they appear in the cinema to aid in his explanatory process. By the same token, O'Connor's is a work of social theory, and not a work of film theory per se. He utilizes many of Deleuze's names for images, but changes others and fashions a few of his own. Deleuze's "images" can manifest themselves as part of a shot, a series of shots, the film as a whole, and perhaps most importantly, the "world" of the film.

O'Connor's approach concentrates more on montage than on the plethora of intricately categorized images described by Deleuze. In the cinema books, the movement-image and the time-image are the two major classifications of images, and other types of images fall under each classification. For Deleuze, different types of images function as ways of thinking or modes of consciousness on the level of pre-language: the "enconcable," or "utterable," that has not yet become language. The movement-image contains the sensory-motor link which operates as cause and effect, or action and reaction. The movement-image and its most representative form, the action-image, embody systems of judgment, conventions of common sense, and linear modes of thought-in short, the ingrained ways of thinking that have dictated life for centuries in much of the world.

O'Connor delves more deeply into and expands upon the spatial dimension of Deleuze's theory of movement and time, developing a conceptualization of the relationship between the "power of the social imaginary" and the "nature of [cinematic] images." He takes Deleuze's attention to the functioning of types of images as modes of thought, and turns this into a focus on methods of montage as developing "forms of sociality" which create a "habitus, or manner of looking, in the broad sense of the term." For O'Connor, the cinematic apparatus operates as social apparatus, and the cinematic interface operates as a social interface. O'Connor defines the cinematic interface, "which occupies time rather than space," as "a transitional moment in the interval between seeing and the seen. …

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