An aside, or: digressions on the photographic agony #6


We do not die twice. In this respect, a photograph does not have the power of film; it can only represent someone dying or a corpse, not the elusive passage from one state to the other. In the spring of 1949, you may have seen a haunting documentary about the anti-Communist crackdown in Shanghai in which Red 'spies' were executed with a revolver on the public square. At each screening, at the flick of a switch, these men came to life again and then the jerk of the same bullet jolted their necks. The film did not even leave out the gesture of the policeman who had to make two attempts with his jammed revolver, an intolerable sight not so much for its objective horror as for its ontological obscenity. Before cinema there was only the profanation of corpses and the desecration of tombs. Thanks to film, nowadays we can desecrate and show at will the only one of our possessions that is temporally inalienable: dead without a requiem, the eternal dead-again of the cinema!

--André Bazin, 'Death Every Afternoon' (1958), in Rites of Realism (Duke UP, 2003), p.30-31.

1 comment:

Matthew Flanagan said...

Image: Histoire(s) du cinéma 4B: Les Signes parmi nous (JLG, 1998).