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Cinema, thought, immanence: Contemplating signs and empty spaces in the films of Ozu

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In his two-volume study of the cinema, Deleuze develops a novel conception of film in terms of its relation to the intensive becomings of thought. Great directors, for Deleuze, are those who invent images that stage disruptions to the habits of ordinary perception, forcing us to think and feel differently. It is precisely in terms of the production of a different style of cinematic thinking that we might frame encounters with the films of director Ozu Yasujiro¯ , who I argue inaugurates a cinema in which contemplation replaces the primacy and certainties of action. Following Deleuze’s ([1968] 2004) rethinking of ‘contemplation’ as immanent event rather than subjective transcendence, I explore how Ozu’s cinema generates transformative modes of thinking the city, uncoupling urban spaces from the requirements of dramatic action such that they become expressive sites of indeterminate signs and affects. By dramatizing these immanent thresholds of affective and spatial becomings, I argue Ozu’s contemplative cinema directs us towards new possible openings of thought to a politics of the virtual.
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Keywords: Gilles Deleuze; Ozu Yasujirō; Tokyo; affect; cinema; contemplation; signs

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Bristol

Publication date: 01 March 2016

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  • Cities have been increasingly at the forefront of debate in both humanities and social-science disciplines, but there has been relatively little dialogue across these disciplinary boundaries. Journals in social-science fields that use urban-studies methods to look at life in cities rarely explore the cultural aspects of urban life in any depth or delve into close readings of the representation of cities in individual cultural products. As a platform for interdisciplinary scholarship from any and all linguistic, cultural and geographical traditions, the Journal of Urban Cultural Studies prioritizes the urban phenomenon in order to better understand the culture(s) of cities.
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