Closed Circuits: Screening Narrative Surveillance by Garrett Stewart

By Garrett Stewart

The fresh uproar over NSA dataveillance can imprecise the truth that surveillance has been a part of our lives for many years. And cinema has lengthy been conscious of its energy and strength for abuse.

In Closed Circuits, Garrett Stewart analyzes a extensive spectrum of movies, from M and Rear Window via The Conversation to Déjà Vu, Source Code, and The Bourne Legacy, during which cinema has articulated and played the drama of inspection’s unreturned glance. whereas mainstays of the mystery, either the act and the expertise of surveillance, Stewart argues, converse to anything extra foundational within the very paintings of cinema. The shared axis of montage and espionage with modifying designed to attract us in and make us put out of your mind the omnipresence of the narrative digital camera extends to greater questions on the politics of an oversight regime that's more and more distant and robot. To the sort of international technopticon, one telltale reaction is a proliferating mode of digitally stronger surveillancinema.”

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The genre consequences of the broader tendency are obvious enough in the rough, though in a given case sometimes elusive, with the detective figure morphing into surveillance engineer—­and vice versa. And not just elusive, but at times ethically as well as epistemologically dubious. This troubled stance has a rather pointed narrative history. 8 But it was the surveillance, there, of hero (or his precincts) by villain, rather than the other way around: the located target sniffed out (and sometimes snuffed out) by an external threat.

8 But it was the surveillance, there, of hero (or his precincts) by villain, rather than the other way around: the located target sniffed out (and sometimes snuffed out) by an external threat. To turn that inherent aggression of spying and oversight into a badge of honor or a brandished weapon of heroic defense requires a deliberate narrative rechanneling of the folktale via the new nineteenth-­century invention (Edgar Allan Poe and Charles Dickens) of the detective quester narrative, mutating eventually into the surveillance film, whether its plot involves the military-­technological bureaucracy bent on locating a defector or the odd-­man-­out bent on hacking back in—­or of course, repeatedly, both.

For suture theory’s mythic prehistory and passive axiom—­the lost primacy of vision despoiled by narrative scene—­appears to inform a notable recent commentary on M, concentrating as that account by Rancière does, however, on the fixed-­frame (and hence idealized) shot of a pivotal sequence whose ocular mood ends up wholly violated by the ensuing frame changes unexamined by Rancière, including the film’s most aggressively sutured countershot. But before considering Rancière’s attempt (contra suture) to extricate looking again from editing, ultimately vision from narrative, we need to explore the visual (rather than theoretical) preparation, indeed the inter-­art context, for the scene on which he concentrates.

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