Visual Duras: The Paradox of the Image in the Cinema of Marguerite Duras

Groff, Elizabeth, French - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Levine, Alison, Department of French Language and Literatures, University of Virginia

In the June 1980 edition of Cahiers du Cinéma (Les Yeux Verts), penned by Marguerite Duras, the writer-filmmaker declares, “je suis dans un rapport de meurtre avec le cinéma.” Her proclaimed violence imposes itself through barrages of black frames, relentless immobility, her near elimination of actors, or her filming the reading of a text that “would have been a film.” And yet the image resists. Despite their seemingly unrelenting slowness, whether it be a shot of a deserted beach or even black screen, Duras’s images require the spectator to engage with her films even more. What does happen in Duras’s films?
Despite her rather prolific career as a filmmaker, producing fifteen full-length and four short films during a period of eighteen years, scholars have only begun to explore the cinema of Marguerite Duras. Visual Duras: The Paradox of the Image in the Cinema of Marguerite Duras traverses the understudied domain of Duras’s cinema and investigates the manners in which the filmmaker goes against the doxa, challenging conventions of the medium and questioning ontological aspects of the art form. Each chapter of this dissertation investigates a fundamental cinematographic element and the immediate paradox that Duras constructs. The first chapter analyzes perception in two of Duras’s early films, Détruire, dit-elle and Jaune le soleil. In Duras’s films, conventional means of perception break down; to see is not to see. We must find other ways of conceiving perception. In light of Gilles Deleuze’s notion of affect, Chapter Two examines Duras’s concern with cinema as an art form that feels and the image’s capacity (either physical and mental, actual and virtual) to produce affect. I continue to explore the porous boundaries between interior and exterior in Chapter Three and detail the construction of Durassian space-time in La Femme du Gange and Le Navire Night. These questions culminate in the indiscernibility of actual and virtual images, which challenges cinematographic time. Chapter Four considers the images in Agatha et les lectures illimitées as direct representations of time in a Deleuzian espace quelconque. In Chapter Five I argue that L’Homme Atlantique is a virtual film – is a “film de cinéma” states Duras in Les Yeux Verts – and realizes the full potential cinematographic apparatus, which ultimately includes the spectator-reader. At every moment Duras destabilizes conventional notions of cinema all the while manipulating them; she subverts established means of understanding cinema and of approaching her work. This dissertation puts forth a new way of experiencing the work of Marguerite Duras.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
French, cinema, film, Marguerite Duras, film theory, Gilles Deleuze, image, sensation, aesthetics, affect, apparatus theory, filmic apparatus, cinematographic apparatus, paradox, hors cadre, actual and virtual, perception, outside and inside, black screen, spectator, time-image, movement-image, haptic image, atmosphere, imaginary, mental image, text-film, hybridity
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