What comes at the end of cinema?
Not what comes after cinema—a good question for marketing gurus like Spielberg and Lucas and Cameron to lock themselves in a room and argue until they expire, choked on their own hot air—but right there at the end, in death tranquil or terrifying or both, as the movies take stock of a lifetime of failures (and, okay, more than a few successes). As a moment, it’s the end of both the particular (the last movie) and the universal (the cinema): the world-as-projector clicking senselessly onward, the projectionist long gone (or maybe never around to begin with), and the cinema-as-film caught in the stasis of perpetual motion, run through, ass-end slapping ceaselessly toward disintegration against its one true companion. When that delivery finally comes in the form of a complete formal breakdown—the comfortable order of the classical style churned into a maelstrom of frames and pixels (cf. Film socialisme )—will the unifying force of Bazin’s trusty old ontology hold? “Now, for the first time, the image of things is likewise the image of their duration, change mummified as it were.” If one accepts that the cinema will come to an end before the world does (i.e., as long as there’s still duration; figuring out what comes after duration is the real question of what comes after cinema), then there’s no reason to think otherwise—even a radically decentred cinema, one whose tatters are sent flying off in infinite directions, both analogue and digital, would still hold together around this core of mummified change. It might finally be a real big bang for the movies, which is to say that as long as there’s a world, what comes at the end of cinema isn’t an end at all: it’s cinema.