In this dissertation I argue that a new cinematic apparatus [dispositif] has appeared in the last three decades that ties the ontology of the medium to the precarious physical life of celluloid. I refer to this apparatus as the "new materialism" of cinema. The dissertation traces the development of this apparatus around film heritage and film restoration, and in the context of post-Fordism, that is, the post-industrialization of the global economy. I argue that this materialism, which centers on the conservation of celluloid as the material artifact of a fading era, points to significant new forms and functions of cinema. In the first half of the dissertation this argument is developed vis-à-vis several recent experimental films and in terms of what the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) calls "intangible heritage." As intangible heritage, the history of cinema takes the form of a living archive of values, norms, and communicative procedures. This archive, I argue, is becoming directly integrated into the production of capital, and of social life more generally, and thus forms a new nexus of economic exploitation and political struggle. The second half of the dissertation examines how the dynamics of heritage are crystallized in, and shaped by, film restoration. For example, in the "before and after" demonstrations featured on many DVDs of restored films the image is posited as a material remnant of the past that is absorbed into the present and made viable for new markets. This process occurs through the application of technical expertise, rather than the traditional processes of mechanical duplication. Alongside such promotional materials, the dissertation also examines restoration through its effects on film form, focusing on restored versions of Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo (1996) and Fritz Lang's Metropolis (2010). I contend that restoration creates an image with a peculiar ontology, which simultaneously invokes the authenticity of a photographic original and the interactive surfaces of new media. This image dramatically alters the construction of time in restored films and reflects structural shifts in the temporality of work. Overall, the dissertation provides both an original historical account of how cinema was re-imagined amidst pronouncements of the death of the medium, as well as a new type of historical materialism that links the details of cinematic form to emerging modes of labor.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. November 2013. Major: Comparative Studies in Discourse and Society. Advisor: Cesare Casarino. 1 computer file (PDF); iv, 277 pages.
Stoddard, Matthew Donald.
The lives of film: heritage, restoration, and the materialism of cinema.
Retrieved from the University of Minnesota Digital Conservancy,
Content distributed via the University of Minnesota's Digital Conservancy may be subject to additional license and use restrictions applied by the depositor.