Deleuze’s “Cinema of the Seer”: Italian Neorealism and New Chinese Cinema

By Richard Letteri.

Published by The Global Studies Journal

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Article: Electronic $US5.00

This essay uses Gilles Deleuze’s notion of the “time-image” to show how New Chinese Cinema reflects similar filmic elements to those of Italian neorealism that Deleuze heralded as creating a new modern cinema. The essay will begin by explaining Deleuze’s analysis of the differences between the classical cinema of the movement-image and the role Italian neorealism played in the development of this new cinema. In its discussion of Italian neorealism, it will show how the social, economic, and cultural conditions of post-Mussolini Italy and the capitalist practices thrust upon the Italian people during the period of the “economic miracle” played a role in the development of this new filmic style. It will then offer a comparative analysis of the similarities between both the postwar social and economic conditions in Italy and those of post-Mao China and the Chinese state’s plan of economic modernization as well as between the filmic styles of neorealism and New Chinese Cinema. Finally, the essay employs Deleuze’s time-image and his sense of modern cinema as “the cinema of the seer” to examine Wang Xioashuai’s Drifters (2003).

This essay uses Gilles Deleuze’s notion of the “time-image” to show how New Chinese Cinema reflects similar filmic elements to those of Italian neorealism that Deleuze heralded as creating a new modern cinema. The essay will begin by explaining Deleuze’s analysis of the differences between the classical cinema of the movement-image and the role Italian neorealism played in the development of this new cinema. In its discussion of Italian neorealism, it will show how the social, economic, and cultural conditions of post-Mussolini Italy and the capitalist practices thrust upon the Italian people during the period of the “economic miracle” played a role in the development of this new filmic style. It will then offer a comparative analysis of the similarities between both the postwar social and economic conditions in Italy and those of post-Mao China and the Chinese state’s plan of economic modernization as well as between the filmic styles of neorealism and New Chinese Cinema. Finally, the essay employs Deleuze’s time-image and his sense of modern cinema as “the cinema of the seer” to examine Wang Xioashuai’s Drifters (2003).

In his seminal two-volume work on cinema, Gilles Deleuze argues that Italian neorealism launched a new type of film whose time-image abandoned the classical narrative structure of the movement-image, which had been organized around a protagonist’s attempt to reshape the world. Deleuze and other film scholars have recognized consistencies between the social conditions in Italy and those in nations and regions such as France, Germany, Spain, Latin America, Brazil, Columbia, and Africa where “New” or “New Wave” cinema developed in the second half of the twentieth century were influenced by Italian neorealism. This essay focuses upon the relationship between Deleuze, Italian neorealism, and New Chinese Cinema with respect to his notion of the “cinema of the seer”. It will examine Deleuze’s work on the modern cinema of the time-image to investigate the congruencies between the historical, economic and social conditions that lead to formal and stylistic similarities between Italian post-war films and Chinese films in the post-Mao era. It will conclude by offering a Deleuzian analysis of Wang Xioashuai’s Drifters (2003) to show specific ways in which Deleuze’s “cinema of the seer” is represented in New Chinese Cinema.

Keywords: Gilles Deleuze, Time-image, Italian Neorealism, New Chinese Cinema, Wang Xioashuai

Global Studies Journal, Volume 4, Issue 2, pp.95-106. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 769.048KB).

Dr. Richard Letteri

Professsor, Communication Studies, Furman University, Greenville, SC, USA

Richard Letteri is Professor and Chair of Communication Studies at Furman University in Greenville, SC. Along with courses in Media Criticism, Political Communication and Rhetorical Theory, he teaches courses in Italian film and classical rhetoric, art, and architecture. He has published articles on Chinese and American film in Asian Studies Review, Quarterly Review of Film and Video, and Film-Philosophy (forthcoming). He is presently working with Harry Kuoshu, Professor of Chinese and Asian Studies at Furman University, on a book-length study of Italian and Chinese films.

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