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Revolution, ideology and the eye of cinema: El cometa as mise en abyme

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Abstract:

Among the many films made about the Mexican Revolution, El cometa embeds a retrospective look at this historical event within what Walter Benjamin calls the fore- and after-histories that surround it, revisiting what the term 'revolution' might imply for the twenty-first century. Deploying innovative technologies of image making as well as citations of previous productions, the directors juxtapose what Benjamin explores as the transfixing aura of the photograph with the decay of aura produced by the cinema to give spectators privileged insight into Mexico's precarious transition into modernity through war and technology or, for some, a war with technology. The cinematograph, marketed by the Lumière brothers for the entertainment of the masses and crucial in the shift to a potentially radical form of documentation, is the fascinatingly powerful object of material culture through which the political and technological torches are passed between generations. The ideals, myths and symbols of a social class that have become the 'normal' way of seeing things then might be viewed differently, as what is politically and aesthetically 'revolutionary' provides new forms of knowledge for audiences.

Keywords: Lumière cinematograph; Mexican Revolution; aura; image afterlife; modernity; photography

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1386/shci.8.1.37_1

Affiliations: University of Rochester

Publication date: January 30, 2012

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