Flanerie, spatial practices and nomadic thought in Antonioni's La notte.
Walter Benjamin, Charles Baudelaire
"Nietzsche constatait la mort de Dieu. Foucault annoncait la mort de l'Homme. Le nomade est celui qui, sans lamentation, prend son depart dans cette situation extreme et qui, contournant le domaine des sous-dieux et des sur-hommes, traversant le neutre, s'aventure dans un champ de forces inedit, le long de plages insolites."
Kenneth White L'Esprit nomade
"But the essence of cinema--which is not the majority of films--has thought as its higher purpose, nothing but thought and its functioning."
Gilles Deleuze, The Time-Image
Manifestations and representations of cityscapes and urban experience have over the past decades emerged as a field of highly diverse socio-historical and philosophical inquiry. This critical topus of urban space--physical and lived; mental and walked--finds a singular model in and has produced productive rereadings of Walter Benjamin's urban writings which in their turn refers to Charles Baudelaire for sensitive perceptions on metropolitan life and cultural modernity. (2) At the centre stand 19th-Century Paris and the flaneur--the leisurely wanderer who, unaware of time but aesthetically and sensually attached to space, has become a symbol of street life, urban culture, and modern subjectivity. If both the air of nonchalance and detailed knowledge of the city invest this figure with the freedom to observe unobserved, to immerse himself in the crowd or to dwell in the domestic intimacy of the city's arcades, his inherent ambiguity enables him to form a private habitat everywhere in the city without conforming to any of its institutions or social strata. This, at least, captures the flaneur as a concept and a cultural icon we can trace back to Baudelaire's celebration of a certain "heroism in decadent ages" ("The Painter of Modern Life" 421). Benjamin's reconstruction of the flaneur's historical paths in The Arcades Project tends, however, to delineate a victim rather than a hero of times of decadence; a marginal figure whose voyeurism betrays alienation from the crowd as well as a foreboding of the anxiety Benjamin predicted would come to shape future metropolitan citizens. (3) This existential insecurity is spatially and financially explained with reference to Haussmann's reorganisation of Paris: if increasingly trafficked boulevards and the disappearance of arcades in favour of department stores would have altered the conditions for free strolling, changes in the city's socio-economic layout would have made the uncompromising libertine conform to the logic of commodity exchange and commercialise both public persona and urban expertise in the form of city writings, detection and surveillance (Benjamin, Charles Baudelaire, 51-54; The Arcades Project 21; 472). Like the prostitute--the only female urbanite Baudelaire and Benjamin grant any role of significance (4)--the flaneur ended his heydays as a metaphor for the larger commodification of the city, thus achieving a far more turbulent and inconsequential presence in the urban ambiance than has usually been acknowledged (Wilson 73). It is consequently not in the metropolis that the free-spirited voyeur's legacy has manifested itself, most vibrantly, but in the conceptual world of contemporary criticism, as a testimony to the city's invisible quality and contingency, as Italo Calvino suggests, on the eye that sees.
That this vulnerable urbanite is far more resistant and dynamic as an analytical category than as a historical figure, is demonstrated by the rising critical fortune of the flaneuse, a problematic figure whose absence in Baudelaire and Benjamin is so systematic as to imply that her existence is purely imaginary, and thus, to exclude altogether the idea that subjective pursuit of the city and of modernity could have a female anchorage. (5) The suggestive fictional accounts of the 19th-Century metropolis Benjamin discusses at length symptomatically present women as elusive objects who escape or disappear in a crowd they fail to seize as practitioners of flanerie (The Arcades Project 109-54). (6) The notion of women's exclusion from any aesthetic and sensual or even non-practical interaction with the city, finds resonance in George Sand's famous account of how she would camouflage her female identity behind male cloths in order to walk Parisian streets freely (893-94), a strategy curiously replicated by the astute Irene Adler who only by cross-dressing can venture into the nocturnal streets of Sherlock Holmes' London and ultimately outwit the invincible detective (Doyle 228). That Virginia Woolf in the 1930s still could not spend the afternoon wandering across London without a pretext (19) suggests how oppressive social conventions and power relations continued to displace honest women to the domestic sphere and deprive them of any agency within the civic and mental life of the metropolis.
It is precisely the incompatibility between gendered distribution of space and the freedom to move and look, that Janet Wolff has in mind when she argues for the invisibility, or rather, the non-existence, of the 19th-Century flaneuse. In a cultural world where female street-walking would be equated with prostitution, women would have been denied the experience of evanescent encounters and purposeless strolling and with that, the possibility to experience and to constitute themselves within modernity (Wolff, "The Invisible Flaneuse" 41-3). More recent contributions have pointed to Parisian park-life or advertising and to the emergence of department stores and forms of (window) shopping as areas where middleclass women towards the end of the 19thCentury would have achieved a public presence, (7) whereas cinema-going appears to have been the single activity up until World War II that could legitimate female spectatorship and streetwalking (Friedberg, "Les Flaneurs du Mal(1)"; Bruno, Streetwalking on a Ruined Map; Gleber). While these studies tend to modify Wolff's categorical position, none of them escape Giuliana Bruno's fundamental remark that women have had to struggle to acquire the flaneur's "'peripatetic" gaze" and liberate from its connotations of social ostracism and danger" (Streetwalking on a Ruined Map 50). To view this struggle as a female reclamation of the city accentuated by the visual pleasures of the cinema allows not merely to explore the subjective use and vision of urban space, but it also opens up for the possibility that when a woman starts to look and to wander, she may assume the very role of distinction in the city that the flaneur ultimately lost. The following analysis of Antonioni's La notte (1961) presupposes this possibility. Set to affluent inner-city areas of Milan at the peak of the economic miracle, this film may be considered a commentary on recent socio-cultural and structural transformations, and the title sequence featuring the 127-metre-high Pirelli Skyscraper compels to such an interpretation. (8) It is however not from a panoptical perspective that Italy's financial centre is focalised, but from eyes located to the ground and to a woman who immerses herself in the crowd in search for an understanding of a climate of indifference. As emotional malaise and non-belonging lead away from familiar ambiances towards hidden or unrecognised entities; towards places of the past and spaces of the future, Lidia founds a subjective, non-sedentary and dissident city by means of practices that critically challenge normative spatial and social uses of public space. While her physical and existential search reaches no other conclusion than a nihilistic self-awareness, by assuming positions of observations at the margins she creates and provokes a new thought and a new cinematic imagery of thought, calling for reflection on what in the modern world tends to go unquestioned, while also giving testimony to the present as a time of transformation opening up for new urban subjects and ways of seeing.
Two antithetical events, associated with two equally antithetical forms of culture and visions of intellectual engagement, set Lidia's exploratory wandering into motion. Firstly, the visit to her dying friend Tommaso, and secondly, the reception held to launch her husband Giovanni's new novel; the former a reader of Adorno and himself a sensitive observer of the losses involved in neo-capitalist affluence, the latter an image of a new pseudo-culture who rather than tracing the roots to creative, personal and social crisis, aligns with the logics of the culture industry (Bernardi 170). The dialectics of old and new that will come to form a structuring principle for Lidia's walk is thus anchored to two personifications of the flaneur as a man of letters before and after his commodification; as representatives respectively of the old and the new city. Lidia stands between the two worlds, but it is only now that she starts to feel her own marginality, awakened as she is by Tommaso who from the Frankfurt school has inherited not only the critique of the present, but also the elegy of memory (Bernardi 174). Seeing that his death will mark the end to a materially poorer and spiritually richer past, as well as to a disinterested devotion, far more enduring than that of her marital love, Lidia starts to reexamine her marriage as well as the culture of moral degradation, false pleasures, and superficial relations she takes passive part in. This last encounter with Tommaso, who dies the same night, ends in destructive agony. Nonetheless Lidia's escape from Giovanni's launch party immediately after suggests that it has incited a search for meaning and authenticity she can only achieve by developing new ways of seeing to reposition herself in marital as well as social life. (9) Seeking isolation from socialites engaged in presumptuous conversation, she observes would-be-intellectuals gathered to honour her husband with an attitude of sought distance and detached irony, establishing a separation between "Them" and 'T' that illustrates Henri Lefebvre's distinction between modernism and modernity, the former consisting of "triumphalist images and projections of self [...] made up of many illusions, plus a modicum of insight," whereas the latter involves an antithetical reflective process of "critique and auto-critique, a bid for knowledge" (1). If the attitude of modernism is indifference nourished by confidence and arrogance, modernity is recognised by a questioning attitude and it takes form as irony directed towards a truer way of thinking. (10) Rejecting a collective of false assurance and self-satisfaction in favour of the city's exteriors--a sunlit and welcoming urban flux of cars and passers-by she endorses and observes as if for the first time--Lidia becomes a modern Socrates who recognises her own uncertainty and seeks knowledge of what she does not know by identifying an antimodernist alternative to private and collective loss amidst the city's apparently alienating architecture and spheres.
Lidia's discovery of the city as an awakening and development of a perspective that both distances itself from and scrutinises the modern world points to her affinity, but also her substantial difference from the flaneur. Benjamin points to affinities between this figure and the idlers Socrates would engage in dialogues at the Athenian marketplace, the difference being that in times of modern capitalism and urban commodification, there is no Socrates to provoke one's potential for critical consciousness (The Arcades Project 334, "Central Park" 51). In this hesitantly emergent flaneuse, however, the idler and the philosopher are both reborn: while it is the exposure to truth that puts everything into motion, Lidia's encounter with the urban masses evolves as a search for and a revelation of urban realities. Whereas her male counterpart would abandon himself to the crowd as a kaleidoscope in which the city appears as a "phantasmagoria," thus ignoring that the visual intoxication only foreshadowed the fatally captivating effects of the commodity (Benjamin, The Arcades Project 21; Charles Baudelaire 55), she knows neither exhilaration nor the protective blase attitude George Simmel ascribed to the metropolitan subject (175). Instead, as she walks across and away from the crowd and develops a detached yet confrontational mode of voyeurism, she
deconstructs notions of the city as a unified and living "rationality," objectifying human and unanimated subjects as stimuli to critical reflection rather than distraction (Lefebvre 12). Her path moves therefore beyond and in opposition to the official "Concept-city" (De Certeau 94) as represented by the Pirelli Skyscraper--an architectural incarnation of the modernism Lidia rejects--as well as by La Scala which Antonioni featured in Cronaca di un amore (1954) and the Cathedral we remember from De Sica's and Visconti's respective accounts of the very same miraculous Milan in Miracolo a Milano (1950) and Rocco e i suoi fratelli (1960). What emerges is a cinematic city that in excluding all such landmarks privileges the type of unrecognisable, decentralised and disconnected "any-space-whatevers" that Gilles Deleuze sees as central to Antonioni's visual poetics: it is the characters' accentuated appearance that gives meaning to and interconnect these often empty and apparently insignificant spaces (Deleuze, Cinema. 2 The Time-Image 5). The demolished courtyard Lidia arrives at apparently by chance while walking along busy inner-city streets is symptomatic as it is her dwelling in and sense of identification with this residue of an already-forgotten, postwar past that communicate a sensation of something "Unheimliches," or something uncannily familiar. The relation of affinity becomes clearer when it appears that it is this moment of deja vu that makes her return, after many years, to the city's periphery and revisit an uninhabited and equally haunting house. (11) The destruction and misplacement of the first courtyard amidst new and transparent surfaces provide, however, also a material signifier for Lidia's presentiment of physical and emotional death as well as for the resistant singularity she develops in solitary and eccentric wandering.
This episode announces the inquiry into urban space that, like the distanciation from social ambiances, encapsulates the film's exploration of female subjectivity and cinematic thought. The physical interaction Lidia establishes with this sphere--for instance, she fixates a broken clock thrown on the ground and tears painting off from the old wall--aligns with the flaneur's tendency to question space and physical entities in order to establish an intensity of vision and a duree of attention that convey the character's critical function within both the diegetic and the non-diegetic world. In a contemporary review of La notte, Alberto Moravia discussed the courtyard episode as symptomatic of Antonioni's immobile, decidedly modern vision, anticipating with some 20 years Deleuze's formulation of the "time-image" and the passage from traditional to modern filmmaking. Rooted in post-war sensitivities and a philosophical revolution that since antiquity has privileged time over movement and thought over action, this image stems not from an "agent" but from a "seer" whose subjectivity is neither motor or material, but temporal and spiritual. It is therefore connected to the form of audio-visual situations we see proliferate in neorealist film and that in Antonioni tend to join idle moment and empty spaces in "objective images" wherein the events are reported but not explained (Deleuze, Cinema. 2 The Time-Image xi; 2; 47; 6-7). A "seer" who observes from the margins and fails to act, Lidia personifies this static poetics and its refusal at all levels to clarify and reassure. However, as the perceptions respectively of death and of collective frenzy lead to new perceptions--of forgotten memories, of her own lack of belonging, and of lost or not-yet-established connections to the city--she establishes a position of resistance and dissent that provokes awareness and may potentially change structures in her social milieu.
That Lidia's detached yet firmly inquisitive voyeurism may prove less static in its ultimate consequence than her contemplative attitude and languid movements would seem to suggest, was something Moravia did not consider, but he crucially recognised that the anxiety at the basis for her search derives from an awareness and a rejection of a condition that many would face with laziness and recapitulation, "una condizione d'incomunicabilita e d'automatismo" ("La notte" 23) he some years earlier had described as "noia [...] insufficienza o inadeguatezza o scarsita della realta" (La noia 7) and that he already in Gli indifferenti (1929) had portrayed as a bourgeois culture of indifference. An expression of the new subjectivity captured by the time-image, what is essentially modern about this form of existential boredom we in essence can trace back to ancient ideas of melancholy via Baudelaire's "spleen," would be an overarching sense of nullity, a "drifting here and there in the abysses of our existence [removing] all things and men and oneself along with it into a remarkable indifference" (Heidegger 101). When dawn approaches, this abyss has only grown deeper within and around the desolate urbanite, but the indifference she initially is inclined to accept--and we think in particular of the car-sequence in which neither the city's exteriors, nor Giovanni's confessed encounter with the hospitalised nymphomaniac, have any effect on her--is soon abandoned as she extends Tommaso's critical perceptions and moral conscience into wandering reflection, exploring alternative expressions of modernity and tracing the past his evanescent presence has brought forth. It is precisely to recover times when interpersonal-and social relations still were meaningful, that Lidia ends up in Sesto San Giovanni, at a 10 km's distance from Milan's centre to discover that the Community formation she left behind several years earlier is slowly adjusting to external Society structures. Clusters of anonymous houses, a fabric and a kiosk are randomly placed among barren fields, and if an archaic culture still can be discerned in the ritualistic violence of some "ragazzi di vita" she observes with mixture of horror and fascination, (12) modern influences are channelled through destruction (of the railway tracks and the old house she recognises) as well as through the racket-show organised as a collective form of amusement. These spaces of her own past prove however far more unheimlich than inner-city streets in which both the old and the new offer singular points of identification, as all they bring forth are forgotten memories and awareness that the room she once had within the still-intact collective vitality is lost. When Giovanni comes to bring her back, he fails predictably to take share both in her detached fascination and profound sense of loss: why she ended up there in the first place he cannot understand, and rather than exploring her troubled revisiting of their common youth, he prefers to retreat to unambiguous safety of their bourgeoisie apartment, ignoring what she now sees clearly: that the material destruction of their past is repeated with invisible and unspoken signs in the present.
A liminal zone where languid country and chaotic city centre live in incongruous and ephemeral conjunction, Sesto San Giovanni illustrates what Sandro Bernardi writes with regard to Italy's experiences with transformations provoked by the industrialisation of culture and the culturalisation of the industry as well as the expression such processes find in the cinematic landscape:
Accade spesso che il nuovo si unisca con l'antico, che l'arcaico e il moderno coesistano, creando formazioni ibride che in altri paesi non sopravvivono. Italia e il paese in cui tutto cambia ma tutto rimane com'e [...] questo stato ibrido in cui ogni cosa ha due volti [...] produce anche un tipo particolare di sguardo sul mondo e in questo squardo pub essere letta, ritrovata, compresa (74-5).
That everything undergoes radical change and turmoil only to retain an unchangeable essence is a certainty the film refuses to confirm, portraying city and country in a state of suspense while the protagonists remain torn between decisive break with and futile continuity of a lifeless marriage. Lidia's inclination to affront things' true nature suggests however also that times of uncertainty and in-between states may open up for new visions and shed light on ignored, unacknowledged and subversive realities that if they are allowed to emerge will challenge the Concept-city's unquestioned structures. Attuned to ambiguity, to hybrid landscapes of spatial and temporal superimpositions, her searching gaze gives life to dialectical images (Bernardi 75) wherein the past and the present come together as a momentary and flashing constellation very much the way the flaneur would have done (Benjamin, The Arcades Project 456). If this figure is granted such a privileged role in The Arcades Project wherein the historical inquiry into the origins of modernity unfolds as a philosophy of knowledge, it is for his ability to bring archetypical Ur-forms from the past into the present and reveal the cyclical repetition of history (Benjamin, The Arcades Project 456-62). Himself a dialectical image; an Ur-form of modern capitalism, the flaneur denies positivist visions of causality and progress by demonstrating an antithetical view of history as a perpetuation of exploitation, injustice and illusions of change.
Assuming the flaneur's ambiguity, his unlimited access and omnipresent lack of belonging, Lidia interconnects the vanishing and the not-yet-established. Considering the catalysing effects Tommaso's adornian consciousness had in leading her into the streets, this revisit of an expanding metropolis reveals her debt to the Frankfurt School, it also marks her identity as a Deleuzian seer; as a product of times when there no longer is a connection between perception and action. Thus, when "any spaces whatever" spaces appear in her trajectory as "dialectics at a standstill," they tend to remain still as time-images that rather than producing the ideally revolutionary shock-effects Benjamin envisioned, extend into spheres of new thought. (13) To think and provoke something unthinkable implies in times of economic miracle not to reveal the injustices of modern capitalism as was the historical city-dweller's ideal function, but to trace the roots of angst and alienation in "the permanent state of daffy banality" (Deleuze, Cinema. 2 The Time-Image 169-70); a mode of contemporary critique embedded in a way of seeing and a physical appearance that intensify the commonplace--buildings, passages, fellow wanderers, social settings, codes of marital and social life (Esposito 26). In this way, visual intensity, immobility and duration of attention become functions of a dialectical image that engages both the seer and the objects of her attention in an act of estrangement.
It is precisely in terms of defamiliarisation, awakening, and repositioning that we must interpret the moment of dwelling Lidia experiences after discovering the courtyard and before rediscovering the periphery. Giovanni has just returned to their apartment and a cut leads from the window whereby he lays down to a wide, partly shadowed, inner-city road, captured in a vertical, high-angle perspective a moment before Lidia appears. She seeks a sunlit spot close to the corner of a skyscraper and watches its plain whitewashed walls. The sound from an off-screen aircraft directs her attention towards the sky, reminding us of a similar situation in the hospital when the roar from a helicopter brought her towards the window, while it foreshadows the identically vertical gesture with which she will trace the rackets in the outskirts. In none of these episodes is the camera focused on what she objectifies--the aircrafts we do not see at all--but rather, it dwells on the curiosity and fascination in her expression as she lifts her head and follows their movements. The emphasis on the character's perception and the thought it provokes draws attention both to what exists outside of the cinematic frame and on the observing subject herself, encouraging an identification with her questioning mode of discovery. Whereas, within the diegesis, Lidia's scrutinising attitude alerts male urbanites to her act of objectification. We see this in particular when she arrives at a porch and stops to look inside--not for the purpose of window-shopping, which would have constituted a domesticated form of flanerie she rejects; but in curiosity towards the porter. Seated at his desk with his back turned against her, he is unaware at first of being observed until he is hit by what assumedly are the stimuli of her gaze and he looks up and turns towards her. Similar optical situations--in the beginning of Lidia's walk, when she turns around to observe the guardian of a parking lot and he stares back at her, and later, at the party when Roberto, a stranger who later seeks to pursue her, realises that she is watching him from above--give her role a singularly visual and discursive function that crucially reverses conventional mechanics of cinematic narration and representation.
The passage Lidia undergoes from evasion of reality to a rediscovery of her own city finds a suggestive parallel in Agnes Varda's contemporary Cleo de 5 a 7 (1961) where the fear of terminal disease brings the imperceptive and materialistic Cleo from window shopping and masquerade to flanerie and objectification. Common between the two experiences of awakening is in particular the characters' way of facing a moment of crisis by a gradual immersion into and awareness of streets to which they previously were indifferent, a situation both directors establish as the basis for experimentation with female subjectivity. While Cleo's walk remains confined to the most central Parisian boulevards, Lidia's search of a critical distance evolves increasingly among marginal spheres and constituents with which she identifies and approaches as illuminating and liberating encounters. In fact, far from being reduced to a mannequin among architectural models, as Seymour Chatman has suggested, pointing in particular to the skyscraper-scene in which Lidia is seen to be "dwarfed, alien, unassimilable" in relation to the homogeneous and linear immensity of the building (103-5), the city offers occasions of identification she fails to find in its social ambiances. Only if we approach the urban world as lived rather than physical space, can we fully acknowledge that while the vertical and descending perspective initially frames her diminutive figure as overshadowed and overwhelmed, there is nothing in her expression or physical attitude that conveys threat or alienation. Both the chosen proximity to the walls of the massive building and the searching mode of observation demonstrate an alignment with the physical ambiance, as does the harmonious correspondence between chiaroscuro surfaces and her dark hair and white clothing. Tailing her movements and discoveries and assimilating her ability to feel space, the camera reinforces this impression (Bruno, Atlas of emotion 98); the areas she selects--indefinable and marginal as herself--offer room for inquiry and rather than alienating the searching wanderer, they accommodate her needs and absorb her search of knowledge. In contrast to the foggy and deserted Milan Antonioni had featured as a stage for destructive love and criminal investigation in Cronaca di un amore, Lidia's city appears through a veil of lucidity that incites new discoveries as well as clear-sightedness, and the impression we get from this episode and the rest of her walk is ultimately that of an evolving relationship between city-walker and cityscape.
Chatman's analysis is symptomatic of the critical tendency to address Antonioni's 1960s films in terms of alienation, ennui and loss of communication; experiences that both in L'avventura (1960), L'eclisse (1963) and Il deserto rosso (1964) are portrayed as effects of life in atomised, impersonal and decentred urban centre. Whether such readings have resulted in categorical detest and complete misapprehension (Kael 181), or in the more humorous description Umberto Eco offers of an archetypical Antonioni scenario ("An empty lot. She walks away" ), this line of interpretation is congruent with the director's own concern with the need for post-neorealist cinema to relocate the analysis of social relations toward individual experiences with recent historical events (Antonionl, "La malattia dei sentimenti" 70-1). A reversal in the order of discovery--"mi accadde di scoprire prima la malattia dei sentimenti, che i sentimenti stessi" (Antonioni, Sei film xv) and a focus on the social class privileged by the economic miracle, have traditionally produced studies concerned with the existential troubles and lost emotions that in particular hit Antonioni's bourgeois universe, whereas more recent approaches have sought to question and seek alternatives to this paradigm. (14) Arguably, the complete rethinking Peter Brunette called for to grant Antonioni's cinema more relevance outside the 1960's art-house environment within which it was both produced and initially received (2) must look beyond the pessimisms of alienation in order to provide more insight into the concern with subjective experiences of urban modernity. An understanding, more specifically, of the means by which this flaneuse claims visibility can, however not, start from a rejection of existential suffering as a determining representative element, since this is what causes new perspectives on the city. A more useful solution would be to trace the nature of these ills themselves, and recognise the constructive function they may have in the formation of subjectivity and in mobilising search and projection of knowledge. More than being an untraceable quality of metropolitan life, alienation serves in Lidia's trajectory as a socially and interpersonally constituted force that leads towards physical features as alternative interlocutors when human communication fails, and that within geometrical linearity of architectural perfection discerns the assuring signs of order and meaning social and domestic ambiance no longer offer.
If we accept that to walk fundamentally is to lack a place (De Certeau 103), this also implies that a condition of non-belonging; loss of certainty and lack of meaning may crucially enable an interrogating and revealing presence in the city, a process that, contrary to what the alienation-thesis would suggest, presupposes a rejection of familiar social and domestic ambiances. The skyscraper-episode and the intercut sequence featuring Giovanni's domestic wandering are in this regard telling. In juxtaposition to Lidia's dynamic search for meaning in the city's exteriors, he moves restlessly from room to room, perplexed over not finding her home, but unable to find a more purposeful solution to his frustration than edginess and slumber. Although Lidia and Giovanni identify opposite ways to exorcise individual and interpersonal dilemmas, they do both act on the emotional distortion and lack of communication that in Antonioni's vision have come to dominate the existential life of the modern subject. In contrast to Giovanni, however, whose incapacity to leave the private circumferences of the domestic sphere confirms Benjamin's notion that the urban bourgeoisie will resort to private interiors as a compensation for the city's "absence of any trace of private life" (The Arcades Project 20), Lidia's flanerie denies the very distinction between private and public. What Lidia seeks in the anonymous cityscape is precisely a private space akin to Virginia Woolf's "room on her own;" a mental sphere in physical space wherein we recognise the universally human need to connect with what is distanced and separate from what is close (Simmel 408). This dual process of rejection and repositioning develops her initially absent and aimless wandering into a spontaneous and impressionistic mode of flanerie that whether it extends into whimsical zig-zag-walking, or dwelling and objectification, is lived as a liberating experience--not in relation to the initial state of crisis that provoked it, which will only be confirmed with the process--but as a subjective act of scrutiny that as it explores the Self and its rooms beyond constraints of normative and gendered spatial distribution, seeks the eccentric and the deviant, as an unconventional and anti-social manifestation of subjective perspectives. (15)
This juxtaposition between constructive and destructive forces indicates the complex and contradictive dynamics of modernity and suggests that times of uncertainty and disintegration also may see productive social changes, such as the emergence of previously excluded subjects that bring diverse and critical voices into the public sphere. Lidia's claim to what used to be exclusively male streets symptomatically gives visual and dramatic expression to the circumstances under which Italian women achieved access to public life. As Bruno has shown, legitimate and unaccompanied female streetwalking emerged in the mid-1950s with cinema-going--a limited mode of flanerie, but one that reproduces the city-dweller's voyeurism while also deconstructing ideals of domesticity (16)--and culminated some 15 years later when feminists would engage in collective city-walking as a strategy of protest (Streetwalking on a Ruined Map 54). Antonioni's street-walker stands between these two poles--she uses the streets to expose contemporary culture, as well as spatially expressed social conventions and power relations but, just like the flaneur's aestheticising tendency prevents his disaffection from becoming political (Fleischer 14), so does Lidia's disenchanted observation from the margins exclude rebellious opposition. Her method is dissent and resistance towards a world of illusionary certainty and, while the knowledge she achieves has a decisively revealing function, it fails to produce a concrete practical or existential transition. The "'walking cure'" against the melancholy of capitalist modernity that Anke Gleber discerns among male and female urbanites and cinemagoers in Weimar Germany (The Art of Taking a Walk 60), does, in other words, not cure, but rather, it brings her through a "transito;" a circulation of passages and transitions, a "complex tour of identification" that as a dwelling within liminal spheres denies clear-cut distinctions between inner and outer, private and public (Bruno, Atlas of Emotion 71). Superimposing, dialectically, spaces and epochs--past and present, mental and physical--this circulation crucially changes the wanderer's vision and position, distancing her from claustrophobic privacy, connecting her to the forgotten and the unofficial, and situating her distinctly and critically within the social sphere within which she constitutes herself without being connected to it by any sense of belonging.
To assume a confrontational position vis-a-vis these spheres is thus a matter of perception and repositioning that involves mobilising a previously indifferent gaze to expose the hidden and apparently insignificant. It also requires, however, movements that in their deviation from normative uses of the city oppose the Concept-city. Walked counter-discourses of this kind tend to escape a panoptical visibility--that is the premise for their existence--but "below the threshold of where visibility begins," they inscribe distinct paths within the urban text, or, they are uttered as pedestrian speech acts of dissent within the urban discourse (De Certeau 93-98). One such strategy to challenge the modernist city's uniform projection of itself is the detachment with which Lidia confronts the present, whereas another is, as we have seen, the rejection of ideals of privacy and domesticity for subjective appropriation of public space and, in particular, the use of the city's exteriors and its social ambiances for mental purposes. Significantly, the very environments we would expect to be the most welcoming--Tommaso's room, her old house, and, most importantly, her present apartment--offer scarce space for identification or reflection, whereas empty, undefined space and physical features are invested with private qualities and approached as interlocutors and revealing oracles in the urban discourse. Between these two opposites stand social events which Lidia observes with detached irony, unable and unwilling to take part in superficial interaction, but which she also uses as occasions to constitute her own distinction and gradually acquire and reveal knowledge. While the encounter with Tommaso leads her to search for alternatives to a culture of indifference and collective assurance, at the nightclub, where Giovanni is content to find distraction from domestic emptiness, she formulates the decisive "pensiero" she later will juxtapose to his boredom and disclose as a nihilistic despair over the awareness that she no longer loves him. Moving in temporal as well as spatial dimensions, she exposes the present as a time between a determined past and an already concluded future. (17)
It is ultimately during the party that concludes both Lidia's walk and the night evoked in the film's title that we best see the function of spatial strategies in establishing a position of distance and distinction. The voluminous villa of modernist architecture and its vast exteriors offer ample room for contemplation and subjective vision. The use she makes of it, moving from room to room and possessing solitary spots apt for unobserved observation, ultimately leads to a much more consequential domestic flanerie than the one Giovanni conducted earlier. While we for the most part follow her act of seeing from a perspective other than hers, the cinematic gaze is also inclined to inhabit exactly her isolated position and project the hallow party-scenery through her eyes, as, for instance, when she captures Roberto from a floor above him, and, a moment later, Giovanni's unsuccessful seduction of Valentina. However, only when their kiss is consumed and the camera withdraws and places itself behind Lidia's shoulders, do we realise that it is her unnoticed and sadly unaffected perspective that projects their brief encounter (Brunette 56-9). Interpellated to assume the solitary observer's physical and existential distance and look at collective frenzy with her detached eyes, we are also encouraged to take share in her ability to turn the lack of place into possession of space and see the significance of this act of repositioning. An illuminating parallel can again be found in Moravia's La noia where Dino, reflecting on his passivity during the ventennio, realises that what made him insusceptible both to promises and threats of fascist collectivity, was "soltanto la noia, ossia, l'impossibilita di stabilire un rapporto qualsiasi tra me e quel bando" (12). Lidia's dissociation is however not an arbitrary outcome of ennui, but rather, ennui and indifference turned into an interrogating distance where irony becomes the way of a previously oppressed sensibility to protest against senses of alienation. To continue Lefebvre's Socratic model, it is a form of irony that "goes from within towards the outside world," allowing the ironist to challenge and at the same time resist, mentally, the people and society with which she is associated (7-8).
To see Lidia's position of detached judgment in the analytical light of the ironist may, despite the obvious abstraction of this parallel, provide more insight into the individual means and social mechanisms that enable her to re-appropriate the city while refusing its processes of degradation. A focal point within Judith Butler's vast corpus devoted to the construction and performance of identity refers precisely to Socrates and more specifically to Foucault's reading of Plato's dialogues and the practice of "giving an account of oneself" as the basis for theories of the modern subject's social constitution (Giving an Account of Oneself 125). Within the classic Greek practice of parrhesia (to speak the truth in public) whereby the Socratic interlocutor is incited to self-reflexivity, becoming accountable of oneself requires to "yield to another's words, another's demand:" to speak of oneself is thus not only an act one performs according to the paradigms of a certain logos, but it is also a social exchange that more than leading to a complete or truthful narrative, becomes an occasion of linguistic and social self-transformation (Butler, Giving an Account of Oneself 125-30). Since such an ethical account of oneself can only be performed within the circumference of the social formation within which the subject is constituted, it will by necessity be conditioned by modes of address and social conventions that exclude and modify aspects of the Self. The moral questions facing the subject do therefore emerge from and are conditioned by social relations, but the incomplete and circumscribed account with which the subject responds may also in turn alter both these very ethical concerns and the social structures and relations to which they are anchored (Butler, Giving an Account of Oneself 3). What distinguishes Lidia's counterdiscourse is the increasing awareness it reveals of being constituted in relation to a community of Others, lingering, as it does, dialectically between association and dissociation. Her denial of domesticity and conformist sociability both have potentially transformative implications, as does the claim to subjectivity with which she rejects objectification and as such disputes desirability. Within these forms of protest we sense a capacity to de-constitute the most central repeated acts that, according to Butler, regulate the performance of gender and, over time, makes femininity look natural and necessary (Gender Trouble 43-4). However, if the spatial speech acts Lidia adopts are socially subversive practices that quietly denounce compulsory frames set to police the social appearance of gender, the direction her walk takes, moving away at first from normative social settings for an exploration of the marginal and the in-between only to end up in the very same ambiance and affirm her own marginality as a choice of difference, shows that subversive acts are only subversive within a social frame of reference and, consequently, that critical thought is born from ironic dialogue with the norms and usages at stake (Gender Trouble 44).
The account Lidia gives for herself is build up around non-normative spatial practices and ways of seeing that reject and expose a climate of indifference, but of equal importance are the attitudes and postures by which she communicates detachment and claim to visibility. We see little of the flaneur's sensual relationship to the city and to the crowd in Lidia's body. Instead, it assumes a discursive function as a moral statement that is emphasised by the tendency to follow her through solitary rooms and frame her at the centre of vast and bare long-takes. While this focus on Lidia's physical isolation and appearance or disappearance within the field has been read as the director's objectification of her body (Brunette 56-60), the accentuated frames that make us feel both the camera and the space she inhabits would arguably be more precisely defined in terms of the free indirect subjective shot in which Pasolini recognised the filmic equivalent to literary free indirect discourse. A stylistic device enabling the author to immerse himself or herself in and represent a world through a character (1991), this shot defines the "cinema di poesia" Pasolini illustrated with reference to Antonioni, Bertolucci and Godard (178-80; 183-4), and that Deleuze extends to include Rohmer and Pasolini himself. Standing somewhere between subjective and objective shots, the free indirect subjective perspective creates a "perception-image" that achieves free indirect subjective qualities from the moment in which it reflects its own camera consciousness (Deleuze, Cinema. 1. The Movement-Image 72). It is therefore a question of aesthetic consciousness rather than objectifying aesthetics when Lidia, following furtive observation in the mansions' interiors, walks out and the camera accentuates her entrance into a barren, grey-toned nocturnal field, fixating her black-dressed body as she approaches the piano and the dancing floor and lets slow steps of desolation extend into sophisticated solo-dance. These frames convey existential distance and distinction and they are twice subjective; while capturing the disillusioned wanderer's momentary attempt to defy what her need for clarity has brought into the light, the noticeable camera expresses an authorial disbelief in such an escape and an alignment with the languidly disheartened attitudes of her body as a revealing voice of dissent.
The impression of Lidia's body as encapsulating distance and reflection rather than ideals of desirability is reinforced by Roberto who in articulating his advances towards her, appeals to her very distinction amidst other partygoers' false spontaneity. (18) Rather than assuming the objectifying male gaze, he acts as a surrogate for the author's identification with her subjectivity, showing a sensitivity towards her introspective nature that Giovanni completely lacks. Their decision to leave the party is significant, not merely for the conversation that unfolds behind rainy car windows, giving life to the film's perhaps most poetic sequence. This portrayal of an attempted affair also visualizes a juxtaposition between Lidia's momentary search for distraction and the cinematic gaze which accentuates the futility of such an attempt. Lidia soon reaches the very same point of dear-sight, aided, this time, not by sunlit streets but by nocturnal rain and the awareness that only death can produce something new--unless, as the equally cynical but still more imaginative Valentina reminds her, it does not lead to complete nothingness instead. (19) If this sense of death and nullity so far has worked, latently, to hinder a passage from critical search to voiced dissent, or from detached observation, to scopophilia, it now deprives her of any exploratory vigour, she reaches the ground, clearly seeing but failing to react to what her walk has uncovered. That nor the "pensiero" she announces, or her thinking nature, would meet any understanding in Giovanni was only to be expected. While he in previous settings has only noticed her absence and ignored her wish to re-establish lost togetherness, a desperate attempt to conquer her tired body becomes for him the only possible way to deny the awareness of having seen her too late. It is however not the impossibility of communication that makes the film's inconclusive closure such an eloquent portrait of dead time, inert emotions and existential exhaustion, but her immobile body, expressing past and future loss with unmistakable dramatic effect. (20)
Resisting the comfortable illusion that there still is a way back; that memory can be restored and relived as present, or that the future can ever present something other than memory, Lidia responds to emotionally void desire with the burden of everyday banalities by physically resigning herself to a state of utter loss and insuperable incommunicability. More than any other of Antonioni's characters, it is this wandering seer that best incarnates what according to Deleuze constitutes the director's "method"--a "body-character" who confronts her own "weariness" and her "past," a body that more than residing in the present, contains the before and the after, tiredness and waiting:
no longer experience but 'what remains of past experiences', 'what comes afterwards, when everything has been said,' such a method necessarily proceeds via the attitudes or postures of the body. This is the time image, the series of time. (21)
Wandering in search for a place on its own, for a habitat at the border in which to wait and to contemplate the fusion of times, this body absorbs time the way it dwells in space. It is therefore within a purely temporal dimension more than through its movements, that we participate in Lidia's physical and mental discoveries. At the centre of the image and of the filmic space, this body insists on the new awareness it conveys and demands a reflection on unthinkable truths of life. For Deleuze, the cinematic body manifests itself in two polar forms--the "everyday body," trailed through its ordinary attitudes into daily banalities, and the "ceremonial body" which in contrast presents carnival or masquerade. In films reliant on time-images, the character's body will tend to elide from one pole to the other, as daily postures and attitudes are theatricalised into Brechtian "gests" and become so independent from the dramatic role they belong to as to reduce the character to this gest (Deleuze, Cinema. 2 The Time-Image 189-92). In Brecht's theory of the theatre, the gest has a socio-political function, but Deleuze's interest lays in the potential it presents for new thought and new images that may restore a belief--lost in the modern subject formed on the discontinuity between perception and action; between herself and the world--that there still is "a world"; to believe in the body as the original source to life, is to believe in a connection between "man and the world" (Cinema. 2 The Time-Image 192; 170-3).
The acts of defamiliarisation with which Lidia relates to the external world--the hand tearing off flakes of painting, the eyes fixating a broken clock, time in standstill; past in the present, an ironic look directed towards a world that still perceives of itself as an agent--are all such theatricalised expressions of the wandering body. The significance of Lidia's gests does not reside in the development they reveal in her character, since the gradual passage from tired indifference to nihilistic self-awareness takes a circular direction and brings her back in the abyss of nullity where she started. It is the non-normative nature of these gests themselves that incorporates her character's Socratic potential, questioning the unquestioned and exposing the unrecognised through strategies of dissociation and association that insist on difference and affirm discontinuity and non-belonging. Travelling the city's interiors and exteriors, crossing borders and unifying epochs, creating her own city at the borders of the Concept-city, it is not as much as a stranger that Lidia relates to her surroundings but as a nomad; as a transversal subject deterritorialised and reterritorialised in the in-between. (22) If the nomad's existence is defined less by departure or movement than by dwelling, as Deleuze and Felix Guattari suggest--in nonsedentary space that stands in a dialectical relationship with the sedentary and codified spheres of the State Apparatus--it would imply that the empty and disconnected spaces Lidia traverses and re-appropriates are nomadic like herself, in so far as they embody the defiance and distance that dissociate and associate "nomos" from/with "logos" and "polis" (380-1; 376). Forming an identity as distinct from the official city and its social laws, the account Lidia gives of herself develops as a "counter-thought" that, like the one who wanders to evade society's means of codification, is discontinuous and attests in its very lack of connections to the possibility of connecting to spaces beyond. (23) Embodying the transformative state of something that in its emergence opposes all that which is sedentary and once-and for-all defined, this thought suggests the potential of such critical practices to escape codified truths (being) and approach knowledge that constantly transforms itself (becoming) into new images of thought. (24) As an incarnation of the subject--in this case, an urban subject in the state of becoming--the body of stylised attitudes and postures contains a critical function that reaches beyond the circumferences of its social world and towards non-diegetic realities and cinematic possibilities. It is as the nomadic vertex of a cinematic city founded on hybrid and non-codified spaces of becoming, that the flaneuse finally makes herself visible, relating the cinema to new images of thought and images of new thought and creating a belief--not in an utopian future, but in an unthinkable, borderless territory of unexplored angles, unseen visions and emergent presences.
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(1) An earlier version of this paper was presented at the AAIS/AATI Convention in Taormina May 22-25, 2008 and I thank Cristina Della Colletta and Letizia Modena for their responses and suggestions.
(2) For contemporary approaches to flanerie and urban culture see Keith Tester (Ed). The Flaneur. London: Routledge, 1994; David Frisby, Cityscapes of Modernity. Cambridge: Polity, 2001; Mary Gluck, "The Flaneur and the Aesthetic Appropriation of Urban Culture in Mid-19th-Century Paris." Theory, Culture, Society. 20 (5). 2003: 53-80; and Gianpaolo Nuvolati, Lo squardo vagabdondo. II flaneur e la citta da Baudelaire ai postmoderni. Bologna: Mulino, 2006. With specific regard to female fldnerie in film and literature see Giuliana Bruno, Streetwalking on a Ruined Map: Cultural Theory and the City Films of Elvira Notari. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993; and Atlas of emotion: journeys in art, architecture and film. New York: Verso, 2002; Anke Gleber, The Art of Taking a Walk: Flanerie, Literature and Film in Weimar Culture. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999; Aruna D'Souza and Tom McDonough (eds), The Invisible Flaneuse. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2006; and Catherine Nesci, Le flaneur et les flanuses. Les femmes et la ville a l'epoque romantique. Grenoble: Ellug, 2007.
(3) See Benjamin (The Arcades Project 22). When Benjamin in The Arcades Project increasingly perceives of the 19th-Century urban masses as an alienating force and "a mere appearance," comparable to "the empty mold with which, seventy years later, the Volksgemeinschaft 'People's Community' was cast" (AP, 345), it is with conviction of how modern capitalism excludes a collective spirit in the city, but it more significantly reflects his sensitivity to political developments in 1930s Germany (see Susan Buck-Morss, The Dialectics of Seeing. Walter Benjamin and the Arcades Project. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 1990: 307. Buck-Morss would trace the above-cited passage to 1937).
(4) That Baudelaire came to see himself--a man of letters--as a "prostitute" selling his soul, is something Benjamin's observes, quoting 'La Muse venale" (CEuvres completes 14) as an example to the case (CB, 34). Benjamin, devotes a convolute of The Arcades Project to the prostitute, emphasising her affinity with the flaneur who reveals the city as the site of commodification and mass production. In this context, the prostitute appears as a dialectical image capturing both seller and commodity (10-11; 346).
(5) In her study of 19th-Century French women writers, Nesci demonstrates the "variation au feminin de la flanerie masculine" and shows the limitations of Benjamin's perspective (41) and Gleber similarly observes that when Benjamin in his preface to Franz Hessel's novel Spazieren in Berlin (1929) announces "The Return of the Flaneur" (Selected Writings, Volume 2. Ed. Marcus Bullock et al. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1999: 262-72) within Berlin's intellectual circles, he fails to acknowledge female urbanites who in the early 1920s had started to stroll both Parisian and Berlin streets (171). Both studies suggest that, if the flaneuse has remained "invisible" in contemporary criticism this is in part due to the critical tendency to filter both the 19th-Century and the early 20th-Century city through Benjamin's eyes.
(6) In Edgar Allen Poe's "The Man in the Crowd" (1840), London's masses protect young girls on return from work from inopportune gazes (Poe, Edgar Allan. Tales of Mystery and Imagination. Graham Clarke (Ed). London: Everyman, 1993, 110), whereas Baudelaire's sonnet "A une passante" describes a mysterious widow fugitively entering the poet-flaneur's field of vision before she is carried away by the crowd (CEuvres completes 88-9).
(7) See in particular Aruna D'Souza and Tom McDonough (Eds). The Invisible Flaneuse. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2006.
(8) Constructed over the years 1955-58, the Pirelli skyscraper became an emblem of Italy's recent socio-economic transformations and of Milan as its financial capital. While it was intended to respect the city's architectural traditions, designer Gio Ponti also conceived of the crystal-like purity and lightness of its transparent surface as a manifestation of modernity (see Halldora Arnardottir, "Architecture and Modernity in Post-war Milan." Eds. Robert Lumley and John Foot. Italian Cityscapes. Culture and Urban Change in Contemporary Italy. Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 2004: 90-9: 90-3.)
(9) The catalysing function this confrontation with death and moral disintegration constitutes in Lidia's mental trajectory announces, as Aldo Tassone has observed, Thomas' cynical affirmation in Blow-up (1966): "Non c'e niente come un disastro per chiarificare le idee" (I film di Michelangelo Antonioni. Roma: Gremese, 2002. 105).
(10) See Lefebvre (2-3). When Lefebvre praises irony as the discursive device of modernity, presupposing that "the great ironist appears in periods of disturbance, turmoil, and uncertainty," he merges the approaches to irony of Socrates, Montaigne, Musset and Heine (7).
(11) The frequent equation between uncanny and haunted spaces derives, as Freud writes in his excursus on Das Unheimlische, from the fact that "... many languages in use today can only render the German expression 'an unheimliches house' by 'a haunted house'" ("The 'Uncanny.'" On Creativity and the Unconscious. Ed and trans. Benjamin Nelson. New York: Harper and Row, 1958: 122-61).
(12) Both the street-boys themselves who still bear sign of what Pasolini would call a "pre-grammatical" energy and the not-yet-modern life of the borgata, echo the mythologised world of Pasolini's novels Ragazzi di vita (1955) and Una vita violenta (1959), as well as of Accattone (1961) which was in preparation when Antonioni was shooting La notte (Bernardi 175).
(13) See Benjamin, (1991, 456-62). The dialectical image constitutes ephemeral instants in which we can feel a passing moment that, according to Benjamin's philosophy of modernity, can normally only be lived as already-past (see Leo Charney. "In a Moment: Film and the Philosophy of Modernity." Cinema and the Invention of Modern Life. Leo Charney and Vanessa. R. Schwartz (Ed). Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995: 279-94). Within Deleuze's understanding of time, however, these moments have come to dominate and do no longer vanish but remain in standstill. Given the "slackening" of the sensory-motor connection for which perception no longer leads into action but thought, an instance of disconnection that breaks the "relation between man and the world" (Cinema. 2 The Time-Image 3; 161; original emphasis), Deleuze has reservations to ideas of the cinema's presumed capacity to move the masses the way pioneers such as Eisenstein (156-7) and Benjamin himself thought. The movement-image may have worked by imposing shocks, but the time image, which can only be thought and read, can only suggest a belief, not of a better world, but in this world, because "the modern fact is that we no longer believe in this world (Cinema. 2 The Time-Image 171-2).
(14) From Deleuze's notion that Antonioni criticizes not the modern world in whose possibilities he profoundly believes, but the coexistence in the world of a modern brain and a tired, neurotic body (1989, 204-5) to Peter Bondanella's suggestion that neurosis in Il deserto rosso (1964) relates to the character's inability to adjust to forces of modernity, rather than to her dehumanized and hostile surroundings (A History of Italian Cinema, New York: Continuum, 2009: 218); and from Kevin Moore's understanding of alienation in L'eclisse as "the beginning of a process which, ideally, re-places the self back into a world of its own devising and into a community of like-minded others as well" ("Eclipsing the Commonplace: The logic of Alineation in Antonioni's Cinema" Film Quarterly. 48. 4. 1995: 22-34. 23), to Bernardi's view that La notte, more than being based on nostalgia and moralistic judgement, captures change through a new city and an new human figure (171), there emerges a growing critical awareness of Antonioni's vision as leaving more room for new possibilities than what has traditionally been recognised.
(15) Outlined in less than one page of the screenplay, the improvised quality of Lidia's walk through the city-centre must be considered a reflection of the conditions under which it was shot, in contrast to the more carefully designed scenes from the Sesto San Giovanni (Antonioni, 1964, 315; 317-19; 320-22).
(16) Gleber similarly refers to female cinema-going in Weimar Germany as a claim to the public sphere and mobilisation of the female gaze (186), while Anne Friedberg takes the idea of female spectatorship to draw a line of continuity between the 19th-Century department store as a locus of female public life and postmodern cinemagoing located to shopping malls ("Les Flaneurs du Mal(l)" 423).
(17) "LIDIA: Se stasera ho voglia di morire e perche non ti amo piu [...] Ecco, questo e il pensiero che mi e venuto mentre erevamo nel night e tu ti annoiavi" (Antonioni, Sei film 357-8).
(18) "ROBERTO: Non faccia sciocchezze" (Antonioni, Sei film 345).
(19) "LIDIA: Stasera vorrei solo morire [...] Almeno finirebbe questa ango scia, comincerebbe qualcosa di nuovo. VALENTINA: Magari niente. LIDIA: Gia, magari niente" (Antonioni, Sei film 355).
(20) What Antonioni shows, Deleuze observes, "is not the drama of communication, but the immense tiredness of the body," (Cinema. 2 The Time-Image 189, original emphasis).
(21) Deleuze, (Cinema. 2 The Time-Image 205; 189) refers to Antonioni's own de scription of his "neorealism without a bicycle" ("'When everything has been said, when the main scene seems over, there is what comes afterwards' "), relating it to the junction between "idle periods and empty spaces" (1989, 7).
(22) Bruno talks precisely of Antonioni's 1960s films as a nomadic filmography driven by the "haptic sense" of female characters whose psychogeographic journeys make nomadism the "house" in which his films move (Atlas of emotion 96-7). That the nomadic is gendered as female, is something Deleuze himself notes with reference to Chantal Akherman's foregrounding of the female body and the function it plays as a revelation to men and to the larger environment" (Cinema. 2 The Time-Image 196) a view that points to one of the many parallels we may find between Deleuze and Butler (see Theresa L. Geller "The Cinematic Relations of Corporal Feminism. Rhizomes 11/12/2--5/2006. http://www.rhizomes.net/issue11/geller.html Retrieved 10/2/2012. For a comparison between Deleuze's philosophy and Butler's theories of performed identity.). For recent perspectives on the connection between Deleuze's theories of the body and of nomadology and feminist studies, see the works of Rosi Bradotti, in particular Nomadic Subjects: Embodyment and Sexual Difference in Contemporary Feminist Theory. New York: University of Columbia Press, 1994; and of Elizabeth Grosz, in particular Volatile Bodies: Towards a Corporal Feminism. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994; as well as Claire Colebrook and Ian Buchanan. Deleuze and Feminist Theory. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2004.
(23) Nomadology as treated by Deleuze and Felix Guattari in A Thousand Plateaus comprises ideas of a nomadic science residing in opposition to the State apparatus and its royal science and classic thought, as well as of the nomadic, deterritorialised subject who in its inclination towards non-sedentary zones beyond the State escapes codification and lends itself instead to transformation (see in particular 351-423; the citations appear on 381; 376). Nomadism is therefore a manifestation of the anti-universalistic "rhizome system" which, as the horizontal and decentred rhizome root suggests, "assumes very diverse forms [and] includes the best and the worst" in an eclectic and non-hierarchical system of thought and practices (1987, 7-8). In Deleuze's project, rhizomatic thinking indicates "a redefinition of the activity of philosophy as the quest for new images of thought, better suited to a nomadic disjunctive self" (Braidotti 165).
(24) See Braidotti (164-6).The distinction Deleuze and Guattari draw between Becoming and Being is illustrated by the image--conceptual rather than corporal--of the "becoming-woman [...] atoms of womanhood capable of crossing and impregnating an entire social field, and of contaminating men, of sweeping them up in that becoming" (A Thousand Plateaus 276). Drawing on these conceptions of the becoming-woman as a nomadic subject, Braidotti proposes a theory of sexual difference wherein "woman" as "an active process of becoming;" excluded in a masculine system of representation, "marks the potential for an-other system of representation" (170).
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|Title Annotation:||Michelangelo Antonioni|
|Article Type:||Critical essay|
|Date:||Dec 22, 2013|
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