ABSTRACT

The Grandiose Subject of Cinema In his widely influential article on the "cinematographic apparatus," Jean-Louis Baudry argued for a connection between the experience of the spectator at a conventional film and the Western idea or myth of the "transcendental subject."l Baudry begins with Renaissance painting and linear perspective as precursors of the cinema's ambition to present a "total vision" that corresponds to the conception of "the fullness and homogeneity of being.,,2 The representation of plenitude not only depicts a world but constructs a "subject": the viewer of a great Renaissance painting is in some sense a master of what is displayed, a self constituted by the totalizing work of art and sharing in its claim to plenitude. The cinema immeasurably increases this claim:

In this view the spectator identifies "less with what is represented, the spectacle itself, than with what stages the

spectacle"4; identifies, that is, with the projector. The movie screen thus functions as Jacques Lacan thought the mirror did for the human infant, reflecting back to the viewer a factitious unity of self:

Just as the mirror assembles the fragmented body in a sort of imaginary integration of the self, the transcendental self unites the discontinuous fragments of phenomena, of lived experience, into unifying meaning.s

Baudry's theory at first seems to include all cinematic experience in the orbit of the transcendental subject and therefore to implicate the medium as a whole in the false consciousness of Western, bourgeois culture. But he also allows for an oppositional cinema in which the illusions of bourgeois subjectivity are unmasked:

Both specular tranquillity and the assurance of one's own identity collapse simultaneously with the revealing of the mechanism, that is, of the inscription of the film work.6