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Title: The art of seeing - the art of listening : the politics of form in the works of Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet
Author: Böser, Ursula
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2000
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The work of Straub/Huillet questions received notions of the essence of cinema. Against the background of the dominant stylistic paradigm of classical film style, their films challenge both the viewing and listening skills of their audience. In seeking to grasp the nature of this challenge, this thesis focuses on a feature which is common to all of Straub/Huillet's works. Taking recourse to a broad variety of representational forms, the filmmakers always engage with the specific properties and representational forms of existing works of art and documents. On the basis of four films, the formative impact of a variety of art forms and source materials is analysed. The selection includes 'Chronik der Anna Magdalena Bach' in which the music of J.S. Bach provides the dominant aesthetic material; 'Einleitung zu Arnold Schoenberg's Begleitmusik zu emer Lichtspielscene', a work whose origins lie in a piece of film music for which no film had ever been made; 'Klassenverhaltnisse', an adaptation of Franz Kafka's novel fragment 'Der Verschollene'; and 'Paul Cezanne im Gesprach mit Joachim Gasquet', a film in which Cezanne's paintings are presented both as physical objects and theme. In combination with a number of other materials which feature in the films, the polyphonic music of Bach, a serial composition by Schoenberg, the prose style of Kafka and the pictorial style of Cezanne, provide the aesthetic material for the interplay between film and other art forms, which is formative of Straub/Huillet's oeuvre. A common feature emerges from the analysis of this formal and material diversity. Drawing on the distinctive features of their selected sources, the filmmakers evolve various strategies for the overt cinematic enactment of this material. A palpable split between the source material and its cinematic representation results. Stylistic operations are not merely vehicles for the transmission of meaning, but come to the fore, bringing time and space and the material features of the sounds and images to our attention. Highly unconventional forms of cinematic representation are generated in this process and classical stylistic devices are appropriated to serve new functions. A more nuanced formulation of the political nature of the work of Straub/Huillet. than it has frequently been put forward by its critics, is proposed as a result of the study's findings. This political aspect cannot be reduced to thematic concerns expressed in their works, it predominantly resides in a film form which fractures the fixed connection between modes of representation and a predetermined meaning. Inviting us to engage with the material inscriptions of human existence and history, Straub/Huillet seek to renew our perception of reality, and sensitise us to the Utopian potential in the materials they present us with.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available