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Eliecer Gutierrez-Gaspar

Neo-Lumière Cinemas: Atavism, Modernity, and Hauntology

Eliecer Gutierrez-Gaspar


Peter Hutton, James Benning, Lisandro Alonso, Tsai Ming-liang, and Chantal Akerman, are included under the genre of Slow Cinema. This thesis aims to reclaim their films from Slow Cinema by putting forward a more adequate and descriptive new genre in which to contain their work: Neo-Lumière. To substantiate the Neo-Lumière as a genre, the thesis analyzes the ontological and phenomenological qualities of early primitive cinema (as described by Gilles Deleuze) and argues that they reappear as atavisms in the films of the aforementioned five filmmakers. To begin its argument for the Neo-Lumière as a genre, it focuses on the landscape films of Peter Hutton and James Benning by using Tom Gunning’s concept of the view aesthetic. It then moves to the topic of modernity by analyzing the urban film landscapes of Benning’s One Way Boogie Woogie / 27 Years, Lisandro Alonso’s Liverpool, and Tsai Ming-liang Walker series, and thereby giving special emphasis to Mary Ann Doane’s research into early film temporality and the emergence of cinematic time. Influenced by Mary Ann Doane, the thesis then proposes that actualities and comedies (and therefore their atavisms in modern cinema) also have a cinematic movement-image through phenomenology (the experience of film viewing) and by the independent duration of the film reel projection as a quasi-event in time. This, in turn, leads to an original concept of minimal montage which allows for the application of Gilles Deleuze’s concept of the crystal-image on the primitive cinema and their contemporary atavisms. On its third section, inspired in part by Chantal Akerman’s News From Home and No Home Movie, the thesis argues that due to their temporality (in pre-cinematic long takes, not the cinematic time of montage) Neo-Lumières are the best representatives of cinema’s ontology of death, which the thesis claims resembles hauntology as put forward by Jacques Derrida and cultural critic Mark Fisher. Slow Cinema began as a mid-2000s film festival orthodoxy that grouped the films of Béla Tarr, Tsai Ming-liang, and Lav Diaz together, all of which, despite their distinctive auteurisms, have a high ASL (Average Shot Length) in common. Starting in the early 2010s, Slow Cinema became a vogue term in film criticism and scholarship, which led to the retroactive inclusion of Chantal Akerman, James Benning, Peter Hutton, among others, in book surveys, dissertations, and articles dedicated to defining Slow Cinema. By tracing its relations to the Slow movement (e.g., Slow Food, Slow Travel, Slow Science) and its aesthetics of nostalgia for the 1960s art films of Michelangelo Antonioni and Andrei Tarkovsky, the thesis argues that Slow Cinema, the genre, is a logic of neoliberal capitalism and postmodernism. Contrary to that is the Neo-Lumière, which in its conclusion the thesis proposes is for an inclusive film phenomenology of mourning and contemplation.

Keywords: pre-cinematic, minimal montage, hauntology