Deleuze, G.  (2000) ‘The Brain Is The Screen: An Interview with Gilles Deleuze’, in Flaxman, G.  (Ed).  The Brain is the Screen: Deleuze and the Philosophy of Cinema, London: University of Minnesota Press: 365--76.

[This was originally in the form of an interview in 1986 after Deleuze had completed his two books on cinema.  The interview first appeared in Cahiers du Cinema. NB again-- after reading lots more stuff, I think all this material about communicating directly with brains might well be a reference to the work of G Tarde,  who saw in it the basis of human interaction. Deleuze likes Tarde, as do lots of other French theorists like Latour. Even so, to reproduce it like this without question still leaves Deleuze open to the lashing I've given him here].

Deleuze attended cinema before and after the war.  In the later period, he was already a student of philosophy, and noticed one immediate ‘conjunction’: he had already begun to see the point of introducing movement of thought in philosophy, and he saw that the cinema introduced a real movement into the image.  He saw some immediate link, so that one could go directly from cinema to philosophy and vice versa.  In particular, cinema showed not only behaviour but ‘spiritual life’ [in a debates, thoughts and so on—‘the domain of cold decision, of absolute obstinacy, of the choice of existence’ (366).  He didn’t just mean ‘cinematic catholicism or religious kitsch’.  Rohmer even seemed to divide existence into spheres—aesthetic, ethical, religious [so a kind of early hint of different planes?].  This immediate connection means that ‘Cinema are not only puts movement in the image, it also puts movement in the mind [since] Spiritual life is the movement of the mind’ (366).

Neither linguistics nor psychoanalysis contribute much to cinema [because they are focused on static images and universal processes?], but the ‘biology of the brain’ does, since ‘thought is molecular’, operating at molecular speed.  The circuits of the brain are traced by ‘stimuli, corpuscles and particles’, and cinema does the same thing, ‘it makes bodies out of grains’.  These linkages exceed simple associations of images, since they also indicate motion.

There are deficient brains, however, as well as creative ones.  Music videos began by indicating new linkages and real images, but soon ‘collapsed in pitiful twitches and grimaces, as well as haphazard cuts’ (367).  These examples travel through circuits in the lower brain, as seen by the ‘violence and sexuality in what is represented’.  Real cinema also has violence and sexuality, but it is ‘molecular’, not localised, and can help compose movement images [the example here the characters in Losey].

The link between philosophy and cinema or is not a matter of one reflecting on the other, but rather discovering that there are similar problems to be solved.  This permits comparative criticism, the only true kind, much better than criticism that closes in on the cinema as a ghetto.  Thus Godard shows the problems of painting in Passion, constructs a ‘”serial cinema”’ [apparently a musical term in which ‘components are arranged an arbitrary order, which then serves as the basis for development’, so says note five, 373], and even a cinema of catastrophe, as in the mathematics of Thom.  All work links up like this, ‘in a system of relays’: in his case, philosophical problems ‘compelled’ him to look at cinema (367).

[The interviewers point out there are lots of classifications and taxonomies in the cinema books {even more in the dreaded anti Oedipus}].  Deleuze finds them ‘fun’ [he definitely as OCD], as an essential part of preparation.  He admires the classifications in natural history, in Balzac and in Borges.  Classifications are creative and flexible, and some categories are empty.  The process of ordering things with very different appearances ‘is the beginning of the formation of concepts’ (368).  The usual classifications of cinema are insufficient, based on similarities of signs not general forms.  Proper classifications are symptomologies—they help formulate a concept as an event not an abstract essence.  In this way, the different disciplines should be seen as ‘signaletic’ [collections of signs?  To be interpreted to produce symptoms?].  This is what cinema is, not language but ‘signaletic material’ (368).

Thus light can be classified in cinema—an impassive milieu; an indivisible force that clashes with shadows; ‘a white of principal opacity’; a light that alternates, to produce ‘lunar figures’ [with examples of prewar French cinema].  New events of light can also be created, for example in Passion [which shows paintings being composed in the classic realist style, using the effects of light to produce depth and perspective—the examples look a bit like Rembrandt or Caravaggio].  We could also produce an ‘open classification of cinematic space’—organic or encompassing spaces for example in westerns; ‘functional lines of the universe’; the flat spaces of Losey; disconnected spaces with undetermined junctions [Bresson is the example here—Deleuze especially likes his Trial of Joan of Arc for its disconnected spaces—see Cinema two]; empty spaces as in Ozu; ‘stratigraphic spaces that are defined by what they cover up’, so that we can read the space [the Straubs]; the topological spaces of Resnais' (368-9).  Many other spaces are possible.  The lights and spaces can combine in different ways.  Some of these classifications belong to the cinema, and yet they also refers to science or art [I think this stuff is a lot more useful than the attempts to define cinematic signs in the impenetrable Glossary of Cinema one].

[The interviewers asked if there were still auteurs]

It is important to maintain the distinction between the commercial and the creative, although it is fashionable not to do so.  When we merge the two, we are succumbing to one of ‘the demands of capitalism: rapid turnover'(369).  Advertisements are not poetry, since ‘no real art tries to create or exhibit a product in order to correspond to the public's expectations', no matter how shocking this might seem.  Art, by contrast, is produced 'from the unexpected, the unrecognised, the unrecognisable.  There is no commercial art' (369) [pretty standard Bourdieu concept of elite vs. popular culture revealed here then?].  The same form can be used both in arts and commercials, however—great novels and bestsellers both appear as books and are sold in a market, and the market favours quick turnover.  '...worse, the bestseller will aspire to the qualities of the great novel, holding it hostage.  This is what happens in television, where aesthetic judgement becomes that’s  tasty,", like a snack, or "that's too bad," like a penalty in soccer' (369).  There is a tendency to promote from the bottom, to make all literature mass consumption. There is an interest in blurring the commercial and the creative

The concept auteur refers to artwork, and is essential if we are still to distinguish between the commercial and the creative.  Cahiers did much work here.

‘Every [truly creative piece of work], even a short one, implies a significant undertaking or a long internal duration' (370) [another classic hallmark of elite taste, to shun any hint of industrial production.  This is the aesthetic that valorises 'primitive' art, according to Clifford.  Incidentally, the  set of square brackets in this quote is original].  Art always involves creating new spaces and times, not reproducing naturalistic or predetermined ones.  Thus rhythms and space-times can appear as characters in their own right.  Syntax is far more important than vocabulary. Cinematic syntax involves linking and relinking of images, and also relating sound and visuals.

 'If one had to define culture, one could say that it doesn't consist in conquering a difficult or abstract discipline, but in perceiving that works of art are much more concrete, moving, and funny than commercial products…  There is a multiplication of emotion, and liberation of emotion, and even the invention of new emotions.  This distinguishes creative works from the prefabricated emotions of commerce' (370) [with special mention of the cinema of Bresson and Dreyer].  [This does point to one omission in Bourdieu, I think, who tends to see emotional involvement as exclusively a matter of the popular aesthetic.  There are clearly elite forms of emotional involvement as well.  They obviously refer to the ‘higher’ emotions of course—pure love, divorced from any nasty sexual excitement, duty and obligation to abstract ideals, and the rest. This discussion of the auteur must surely also raise the issue of the humanist subject again. Auteurs seem above to escape the various determinations that make the rest of us mere spokepersons for ontological forces? How come?  Natural gifts rise above these forces that constrain all the rest of us?]

Auteur cinema has its own circuit [in France], and is not required to compete with commercial cinema.  It also permits the creation of new films, and gains capitalist funding.  'In this sense maybe cinema isn’t capitalist enough' (370).  It has a financial circuit of its own.  This corresponds to capitalist funding of ‘fundamental research now and then’.  (371).

[The interviewers suggest that the main scandal of the cinema books was the importance of the time- image and the denial of the present as the dominant tense]

Images represent the present, but there is more, 'an ensemble of time relations' (371).  The image reveals these linkages in ways which is not seen in ordinary perception.  An image might show a man walking along the riverbank, which depicts ‘three coexistent "durations”, three rhythms.' (371).  [I would have liked more clarity here—I can see there is a present, hints of a past which got the man to the riverbank, but what is the third one—the future in that he is clearly heading somewhere?].  Examples include 'a still life in Ozu, a travelling shot in Visconti, and depth of field in Welles'[the last one at least is comprehensible, and well discussed and illustrated in the cinema books e.g. Cinema 2].  Simple things are represented in these examples, but they should also be seen as images—‘Ozu’s still life is the form of time that doesn't change, even though everything changes within it…  The car in Visconti’s film is embedded in the past, and we see it at the same time as she travels through space in the present…  The character in the image is literally embedded in the past, or emerges from the past' (371). 

Once cinema breaks with Euclidean space, it can convey new relations with time.  Resnais points to 'the coexistence of heterogeneous durations', regardless of actual flashbacks; ‘false continuity or the disjunction between speaking and seeing in the films of the Straubs, or Marguerite Duras, or even the feathery screen of Resnais, or the black or white cuts of Garrell' (372).  None of these stick with the present.

Cinema doesn't reproduce bodies but creates them, 'with grains that are the grains of time' (372).  It is still just exploring these possibilities.  Television by contrast 'clings to images in the present…  Except when it is directed by great cineastes.  The concept of the image in the present only applies to mediocre or commercial images.  It's a completely ready made and false concept, a kind of faked evidence' (372).  Overall, 'the present is not at all a natural given of the image' (372).

[The informative notes at the end describe Deleuze’s books on cinema as ‘producing concepts that explain movement', but also delineating 'each auteur’s place, his proper aesthetic configuration relative to key concepts: light, space, time, and signs' (372)]

Deleuze page