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updated by elke van campenhout -- Fri 16 Apr 2010 - 12:46

jean-luc, jacques, claire

Jean-Luc, Jacques, Claire et les autres...


'There must be something of the intrus in the stranger; otherwise, the stranger
would lose its strangeness: if he already has the right to enter and remain, if
he is awaited and received without any part of him being unexpected or
unwelcome, he is no longer the intrus, nor is he any longer the stranger. It is
thus neither logically acceptable, nor ethically admissible, to exclude all
intrusion in the coming of the stranger, the foreign.'
(L'intrus, Jean-Luc Nancy, p1.)

Two people on a train. Going to Nancy. They talk for 10 minutes. About the stranger. About the necessary intrusion of the stranger into one's complacency. She is a young immigrant student, eager, posing her questions with the self-evident transparency of Anna Karina's earnest discussion with Brice Parain - Godard's former philosophy tutor - in Vivre sa vie. They talked about language then, they talk about the stranger now. The one that cannot be expected. The one that cannot be welcomed. The one that has to break himself into your life, into your sensitivities. With them, in their train cabin, is a colored man. Looking out of the window. Seemingly the focus point of their discussion, while at the same time being almost invisible to their animated encounter.

The philosopher is called Jean-Luc Nancy, and the filmmaker Claire Denis. The short film is part of the project '10 minutes older', for which 15 film makers were asked to create a 10 minute long project about time. Denis places her contribution into the time frame of a train ride to Nancy, a philosopher answering the questions of his student about 'intrusion'. Time is slow and precise in the explaining. It takes a long detour of the mind to get to Nancy. To understand about the violent gesture that has to be preserved for the stranger. For the one that is not and cannot be you. For the one not familiarized, anaesthetised, internalized into your frame of mind and body.

It is not the only time Claire Denis tackled the thinking and writing of Jean-Luc Nancy. Her movie 'L'intrus' is loosely based on Nancy's autobiographic novella, where he philosophizes about the estrangement of his own body after a heart transplant, as being under siege of an unfamiliar intruder. This biological transgression out of the philosophical mind frame of thinking the Other, is 'adopted' in Denis' strangely free-flowing narrative into a kaleidoscopic meditation on loneliness, violence, and the irretrievable journey back to one's own roots, once they have been buried in a body that has ceased to exist. She talks about the estrangement of the self, of the body becoming a stranger to your own history. But on the other hand, she also transfers her cinematographic world, usually inhabited by exiles, immigrants, sexual transgressives, and alienated city dwellers, to a new metaphor. What about the idea of the immigrant searching a way into a new 'body', and being rejected by it, out of a pure need for survival? What about the exiles penetrating the boundary of a self-contained state that, through this action, would lose its sense of identity? How does that work? And why is it more interesting to adopt the idea of 'intrusion' as a violent power, than the political correct option of assimilation as a preemptive way out of the crisis?

It is a deceivingly quiet train ride that tackles these notions. The unobtrusive camera perspective doesn't dwell on picturesque portraying or melancholic landscapes, but places us firmly in the time frame of the here and now. In the moment that thought gains its momentum of being understood, and shared, and of gaining control over the seemingly banal situation of three people talking in a train wagon. What we see is language sculpting this everyday picture into a complex trialogue, with one (almost) mute partner. The movement is not in what happens in their faces or bodies, but in the passage of thought through the situation, reshaping its outlook and expression in the mere time frame of ten minutes.

'Once he has arrived, if he remains foreign, and for as long as he does so—
rather than simply “becoming naturalized”—his coming will not cease; nor
will it cease being in some respect an intrusion: that is to say, being with-
out right, familiarity, accustomedness, or habit, the stranger’s coming will
not cease being a disturbance and perturbation of intimacy.'
(L'intrus, Jean-Luc Nancy, p1.)

In comparison, there is, at first glance, nothing deceiving about the Godard contribution to '10 minutes older'. 'In the darkness of time' is a strictly composed countdown of the last minutes of love, history, youth, silence, etc... Every choice of imagery for 'the last minutes of...' is announced with painstaking clarity: the title 'the last minutes of youth' followed by the death of Jean-Pierre Léaud in 'Made in U.S.A', or the beautiful face of Anna Karina expressing the unmistakable death of silence. Every little chapter in the film seems to light up out of a context of complete darkness, like the last remains of the history of mankind. Therefore, the fragments are very short, maybe even too short to become exemplary. The heavy repetitive music score, and the rhythmical forward pull of the montage, pulls the spectator out of his cautious, critical experience frame. Documentary pictures from the Auschwitz victims, being shoveled into a waiting van stand shoulder to shoulder to an enigmatic image ripped out of Eisensteins Ivan The Terrible. The sheer speed of the movie, unusual for the Godard approach, leaves you unprotected to the intrusion of the images. The torture scene out of 'The Little Soldier', a romantic goodbye, the eyes of Anna Karina: there is no time to distinguish between them, no time to contextualize them, to put them in the frame work they belong to. There where they would become understandable, graspable, their meaning clarified. There seems to be something vulgar about the way they are thrown together here, with the heavy underscoring of the music, unmistakably manipulating you into an emotional, affective state of reaction, rather than allowing you a more thorough intellectual view. There is no escaping them, no way to avoid being manipulated in feeling the naked image do its work on you. It feels like a violent intrusion, as if the images had been stripped of their cultural eloquence, by not having been allowed their respected time frame to do so. So, the dead bodies don't speak to me about the Entlösung, the speak of themselves, in the here and now. Just like the Eisenstein fragment in its incomprehensibility seems to refer back to some ancient exotic ritual rather than to the highpoint of formalist cinema.

It is a tricky deception Godard puts before us: he uses time, and rhythm, to make images reappear out of their context. To make them alive again, with an often heart-felt, physical impact. Emotional, visceral, unrepenting. Without cultural or political correction. There to be analyzed out of the emotion left in your stomach. The disgust of the stomach, the doubt in the mind, the irritation after the light has gone out.


'This matter is therefore what requires thought and, consequently, prac-
tice—otherwise the strangeness of the stranger is absorbed before he has
crossed the threshold, and strangeness is no longer at stake. Receiving the
stranger must then also necessarily entail experiencing his intrusion. Most
often, one does not wish to admit this: the theme of the intrus, in itself,
intrudes on our moral correctness (and is even a remarkable example of the
politically correct). Hence the theme of the intrus is inextricable from the
truth of the stranger. Since moral correctness [correction morale] assumes
that one receives the stranger by effacing his strangeness at the threshold, it
would thus never have us receive him. But the stranger insists, and breaks in
[fait intrusion]. This is what is not easy to receive, nor, perhaps, to conceive...'

In this way Godard balances between the image-ness of what Jacques Rancière in his 'The future of the image' calls: the naked image (which testifies to a reality, and therefore generally not accepted to allow for any other form of representation), the ostensive image (which speaks only of itself, of its sheer presence, and therefore dwells in radical contemporaneity), and the metaphorical image (which is the critical image, trying to play itself into the game of resembling/dissembling its commercial, everyday counterparts). Godards images refer not so much to the modernist idea of the interruption of the image flow that reigns our life, nor do they bring tribute to the historicity of everyone of them, to the shared cultural practice in which we can mirror and recognize ourselves. 'In the darkness of time' borrows images out of the great common library/shop/museum of images, wherein their image-ness is no longer defined. A photo of the concentration camps no longer plays the uncompromising part of the witness, but also talks about a shared history. The self-referential image of Karina's tears, overflows its own boundaries, by becoming the witness of an era of film making, etc.. What Rancière points out is that in the contemporary flow and recombining of images there is no point in laying out a common measurement anymore, sentencing images to a certain way of seeing or framing them. No common measurement, to Rancière, 'means that any common measurement is now a singular production and that this production is only possible on condition of confronting, in its radicalism, the measurelessness of the melange.' (the future of the image, jacques rancière, p.42)
The consitution of this melange finds its place in the 'image-sentence': in the bringing together of the phrasal power of continuity and the imaging power of rupture. It is a language that understands about the violent intrusion of the other, and doesn't try to master it. An imagery that allows for the overflow, the vulgar of the manipulation, and the cheesy of the emotional. It is the intrusion of the image that settles itself in your body, like a strange implant, foreign to you because devoid of context. A cluster of ideas that searches its way up, out of your crotch, out of your stomach, up to your head, where maybe it might still leave a rosy trace of embarrassment, upon discovering the dumb, unarticulated reaction of your body, to what has been presented to you. Only at that point to be translated again in what makes sense. To yourself, the other and the world. But by then you've walked a long way to Nancy.