Things I left out of a note on cinematic time

How can the replay of duration cancel out duration? This is the question I left hanging at the end of the note on cinematic time where I promised to get under the hood of what is happening in the relation of life to the moving image in general. At issue was the contrast between a mathematisable time and natural processual time.

Complicating the issue is that Russell on one hand makes use of the example of cinema, of the cinematograph as a fair enough version of what mathematisable time is. On the other, I say that cinematic time is duration. It has to be, since time as duration going by what Bergson says is presupposed by mathematical time.

Mathematical time is time as measurable. Duration is not. There is time being ratiocinated and time being intuited.

I hoped to point out in that note that the tendency of spatialising time that is Bergson’s target is not what’s going on with Russell’s version. I believe Russell is picking up on what has become, since cinematographic time, a more profound habit of thought. This is, because the moving image moves of itself, to identify its time with real time.

Bergson cannot defend this thesis unless he is read back into cinema, into its early history in particular. There Schonig can help him out and help us out who read him by showing the first film genre to take as its subject natural time. I called this in the note the mystery of the shot and looking at what I said about it I don’t think I’ve been clear enough.

I feel this mystery to be at work in all of this, from the unbelievable swiftness of cinema’s spread to the present fixation with AI. Deleuze’s philosophy gives me leverage on this material but I can’t say for sure that I have lifted the hood. The reason for the present writing, the motor has not been fully revealed.

The motor is contingent motion. This is what I discover from Schonig but I hesitate to call it Schonig’s discovery. His interest is in one effect, one direction that the motor of contingent motion takes cinema.

He signals it in his subtitle, CGI. I find this to be one proof of what the motor is. I mean that cinema as it has developed since the use of computer-generated imagery, in the 1970s and 80s, has become an industry invested above all in contingent motion.

Contingent motion is running the show. It’s a bit like the hard problem of consciousness is for neuroscience and not unrelated. The problem is how to reproduce digitally what the shot naturally reproduces.

When I say the shot, I mean cinema. The problem drives the investment in a technology like Barbershop that the money is still behind and that is still being developed. Barbershop came about to animate Kong’s hair realistically in Peter Jackson’s 2005 remake of King Kong.

A nice 2017 article by Ian Failes, “How King Kong Movies Changed VFX History, Over and Over Again” gives the details of how Barbershop enabled 30,000 to 40,000 clumps of hair on Kong’s head to move independently. That is, in contingent motion. Hair has become an obsession on an industrial scale.

Simulation supervisor Claudia Chung and her team spent three years developing Merida’s hair for the animated feature Brave, 2012. The digital hair had to move and catch the light like real curly red hair. You might say this effort is about finding the noncontingent means to arrive at pure contingency.

The fully digital scenery currently deployed in live-action films, if they are set in some version of biological nature, multiplies the problems for CGI of contingent motion. The leaves on the trees have not only to be made they have to be made so that they are moving.

Neither CGI nor animation are under any obligation to reproduce the contingent motion of leaves, hair, smoke, clouds, nature with any realism. The commercial imperative can even go in the opposite direction. Films that offer more schematic renderings of characters and mises-en-scène can make more money for studios.

A special example is Studio Ghibli. The mises-en-scène have a high degree of verisimilitude whereas the characters are generic. They are schematised, big eyes and heads, rudimentary bodies and expressions and it is the contrast between characters and mises that holds audiences, as of two contrasting levels of time, historical time and the time of the characters’ inner experience, where what happens to them matters more than how realistic they are. This would be how the problem of contingent motion for CGI relates to the problem of consciousness for neuroscience.

The mystery of the shot has become the problem of contingent motion. For CGI the problem is deeply embedded in mathematics. It is, whatever the parameters, how mathematically to generate randomness.

Although natural processes engage entropy and entropy relates to energetic systems, the natural world being an open system, the world of digital graphics a closed one, the problems are different. The leaves moving on the trees is not about entropy, it’s about the wind, the light, the time of day and the immeasurable quantity of details both large and small that are visually captured. No quantity can be fixed for what is in the shot. It is purely a quality, and one of duration, I would say.

It is so for the digital image in a completely different way, in the contingent motion of the little lights, the pixels, that go to make it up, belonging to the screen. These are qualities of screens and eyes. The specific duration, entailing what endures onscreen, is of screentime.

In the note on cinematic time I referred to this duration as an interval and the shot, cinema, as what relates the interval to the indeterminacy of contingent motion. For this indeterminacy I said that a noncontingent time is needed. I meant the interval.

If there is an apparent contradiction here it has to do with the ambiguity of the word contingency. Perhaps I didn’t put enough stress on this in the note. Contingency means both dependent and independent.

The noncontingency of the time of the shot is its independence. It comes as a function, for both digital and analogue media, of the image moving of itself. The contingency of the motion caught on shot has the same independence, so it is contingent in that sense, but for the digital image it never can be.

Yes, the digital image moves of itself but the hair does not. The image digitally produced, the computer-generated image, moves of itself, in screentime, but the leaves do not on the digital trees. The graphics, the smoke, the particle fields, cloud, atmospherics in being digital effects are contingent on digital production.

They can only give a more or less near approximation of randomness. What is noncontingent, indeterminate and open in the digital moving image is screentime. That is, screentime shows contingency of motion as the independence not of what’s on the screen but of the screen itself, its effects of light being the effects of light’s movement, movements belonging to the present.

Are the movements of light, of the light emitted by little lights constructing the screen, confined to belonging to the present? If so isn’t any imagery shown on a screen also confined to the present of when it is viewed? I think the time captured of the natural world is open at both ends.

At one end it is open to the present of when it is captured, at the other to the present when it is viewed. This is unlike the computer-generated image that comes from a closed system and is the result of a process. The digital image is not still in process and in it since the processing has finished when we see the image that process has no duration.

It does not endure. In the terms I used in the note, upon rendering it is inert. What’s alive is the light from which it’s made.

To say it does not endure is not about durability. Although Bernard Stiegler, a philosopher of technics, links the evanescence in the present of digital imagery, its passing, to the passing of a whole regime of learning and knowledge. There is a link between the internal duration of what endures, is not inert, to knowledge, but I think it has to do with the closed loop between temporalities that contingent motion attests to, therefore to the contrast I am still pursuing between what has been made of cinematic time and what it really is.

How to figure out what it really is? The answer is always going to be the leaves are really moving on the trees. That means they are caught in the passage of time passing, that it really is and we can see it again and again, and we can slow it down, speed it up and even wind it backwards.

This is true of every moving image with the added manipulability that the generation of digital imagery by computers brings and this imagery, thanks to the little lights, the pixels, is always moving. So from it is inferred the real time we actually see in contingent motion and here the problem starts again. It is one of reference and inference.

The motor is driving nonetheless. The digital image is no less than the analogue image. What becomes apparent in the history of its development is also what has ceased to be obvious in the analogue image. This is that the passing of real time is in the autonomy of the movements, their contingency as being independent of whatever mechanism of capture is used.

It’s funny when you think about it. What fuels the obsession with simulcast, simultaneity, liveness with no lag, processing power and speed, is what the moving image refers to, time. The exorbitant wasted effort of exporting the problem to digital simulation is equally as ironic or terrible when you consider that all the Lumières needed to do was point a camera at a tree.

The digital is like a forest enchanted under the spell of contingent motion. Then we, its spectators are captive as well. I am suggesting that what we are captive to is time.

The question is what time holds us. Different dimensions of time have so far been noted. There is the time that Zeno challenges with his paradoxes. Because it refers movement to space Bergson calls it space and not time.

Then there is the time of scientific measure, the mathematical variable t. It comprises states of events in a succession one after another that is said to take up time. Bergson’s criticism is that science misses the time taken internal to any state that is like a fingerprint, a unique quality or, it may be said, image.

There is further the time challenging the independent and constant variable of t. This is Einstein’s spacetime. Now t is relative to t2 and t2 to tx. For Bergson this remains a measure external to duration of inert quantities.

It only seems to be supported by cinematic time. It is only so if the cinematic image does not have a unique quality that is like its fingerprint. I am arguing that it does and that the proof of this is contingent motion as well as the proof Bergson is right and what he’s right about is that the time of duration does exist.

Duration is either another dimension of time or is as Bergson says absolute. It would appear we get as far as cinema and, by complicating the relation between scientific and natural time, it adds a complication. Cinematic time is either duration and duration absolute or a fourth dimension of time.

Schonig doesn’t follow up on his own lead and find in the purely at random movement of naturally occurring phenomena being captured on film proof of cinematic duration. Instead he follows it up with our aesthetic appreciation of contingent motion as it resurfaces in the digital attempt to reproduce it. The other reason then he doesn’t pursue the lead he finds is that he looks to Immanuel Kant, whereas I go to Bergson and Deleuze both Kant’s critics.

Bergson’s take on Kant is that he doesn’t get past his prioritisation of space and so succumbs to an illusion. I touch on this in the note on cinematic time. The illusion is the same one that Deleuze places at the start of Cinema 1. It is the result of the evolutionary and individual-developmental idea, of the body being centre of action, that is instinct in the human.

It’s imperative for me to see my body as centre of action. If I’m going to learn to walk I have to see things the right way up and what obstacles there are. Are they things I can put in my mouth? Are they things I can pick up and use on other things? Can I climb on them or up them or do I have to go around them?

The principle of utility arranges things for us. Their arrangement arranges our senses for us. That and the actions of others who might regard themselves as centres of action also arrange our faculties for us, our sense of justice and our moral senses, our understanding and our reason. Still, we can dream and in our dreams suspend what is in our environment made imperative.

Deleuze’s take on Kant is exactly of him allowing a transcendental illusion. He does this in an entirely positive way and in this way reverses Kant. The illusion becomes both guarantor and arbiter of truth.

Any correction reproduces it. This enables duration to be covered by duration. More importantly for cinematic time Deleuze takes, says he takes the temporal figure from Kant of a broken time.

This is when duration breaks cover. For cinema you’d think it does in the cut and this is how Deleuze proceeds. He defines the shot by the cut.

The shot is what cuts and I agree but not for Deleuze as it cuts to another shot or runs out and in this running out we get an inkling of how Deleuze conceives the time-image. It’s in a long shot that can cut, by Michelangelo Antonioni or that is a long take, like those of Michael Haneke, two different eras of film but in common they have a kind of objectivity. The shot lingers or dwells regardless and also full of regard for having cuts or letting go.

It’s a strange kind of objectivity because it lets go of the mechanism, a mechanism that is inferred. It lets go of the control and the shot is then not out of control. It doesn’t go wild but the opposite.

Neither the movement of the action nor the movement of the camera are important. What comes to the fore is staying or sitting with, as if we have to hold our breath or the camera is. It’s not to see what happens because what is happening happens without our gaze mattering. Without care for us looking on the time which is that of the mise-en-scène and therefore of an historical time goes into suspension. It has then the proper dimension of the shot itself and we can infer again that we are the characters looking on or that there are no characters, actions without characters and actions without consequence.

What I am trying to get at is the problem of our and of the characters embeddedness in historical time, in sequence and in succession, being an illusion. Animating the shot is a time out of sequence and that breaks its succession with the interval. Brought to our attention and, it’s possible although we no longer see it through them, the characters’ attention, is the interval itself.

We no longer see it through the characters’ eyes, this duration inside the shot, this interval, simply because they are not what matters. They are usually what matters, in contrast, because we care about what happens to them, usually because the plan of action of the film gives access to their intentions, desires, expectations, disappointments, anticipations. These all belong to an inner duration, another interval, in the characters that is separate from the mise-en-scène.

Between mise-en-scène and character is a distinction of temporality between historical running-out time and cinematic unrolling time. To cinematic time belongs indeterminacy. It’s essential to the film holding us that it capture even if by a thread, through a window cracked open, the breath of fresh air that makes the whole thing undecidable, creating its conditions as it goes along.

I am taking note of the strangeness and unusualness, what is remarkable about when the film is not compelled by its action. What compels it then, some artistic intention of the film-maker? I would say it’s what compelled the earliest audiences that film-makers return to in what Deleuze calls time-images, the mystery of the shot.

The time-image shares in Deleuze’s cinema books something of that mystery, has a kind of mystical aura of the transcendental. I would say, paraphrasing Deleuze himself, that cinema fulfills in these books the conditions of philosophy. From Difference and Repetition on there is Deleuze’s transcendental empiricism, an objectivity about the transcendental plane, that here is the part taken up by cinema.

It is also the part taken by cinema. There is the coincidence of titles, of Jacques Bazin’s Qu’est-ce que le cinéma? with Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s Qu’est-ce que la philosophie? thirty years later, where the problem recurs of what seems to arise in the earlier work by Martin Heidegger, Was Heisst Denken? in translation, What is Called Thinking? Where is this problem raised? Where does it recur but on the transcendental plane that in cinema is the shot. In French the words coincide, le plan means any one of plan, plane, shot and all at once.

My note on cinematic time linked élan vital with duration as a creativity, the creative energy of time itself. I believe this to be Bergson’s problem enlivening the three absolutes of duration, consciousness and evolution, while for Deleuze they are all relative to, relative movements or speeds of, a transcendental plane, plane of consistency or immanence. This leads me to a plan vital as an image of cinematic time that is not found in Deleuze or Bergson but is their child.

Characters work out problems that are on a plan vital unless or until there are no characters and we have shown the plan vital. What gives the greatest distinction to a plan vital is the absence of action. There is movement.

This movement is the signature of duration. It is the movement of the moving image. The moving image is a unique, temporal singularity.

It disproves our embeddedness in historical time as it shows that the shot’s is also illusory or false. The shot cuts time out of time. Where Deleuze’s bringing Bergson to the cinema to show the cinema has always been philosophical is timely, in my reading Bergson in light of cinematic time is untimely.

Being untimely is for me its strength and from the earliest instances of cinema has been, since the untimeliness of those leaves moving, that cloud of dust from a wall’s demolition, the water swirling in random patterns, the waves. These shocked audiences and so film-makers provided them with more.

The whole power of cinema is in those first shots. Does it then get lost? Does it get lost due to the narrative exigencies placed on film and those serving to advance action?

It’s lost inasmuch as it slips from both our sight and our grasp but not inasmuch as it is diminished. It increases and holds us increasingly captive. As data-cows we are milked through our eyes by the moving image.

Deleuze is not with me on this except in the way that his terms migrate. The modulation he attaches to the moving image reappears in his “Postscript on the Societies of Control.” Modulation refers to a moulding that occurs through time and is then a shaping and grooming of behaviours and a keeping score on ourselves.

This could refer to our engagement with cellphones and other devices and to the moving images on them but need not. In that engagement, in the participation with them always seeking our attention, is always a disengagement and nonparticipation. Since with them, through them we have access to the untimely, the guarantor and arbiter of our performance in a time-based world is not of this world.

It’s not of this world or its time because the time that this world avows is the time of action and the vital plane, plan or shot engages our direct participation in inaction. Our attention is actively turned to the inactive.

Belonging, in Schonig’s terms, to contingent motion, we are contingent on as well as contingent to the plan vital. This then is another plane or dimension of time. Like the day-to-day relation of events to cinema as they roll out before us, like the relation of fractal events as they fracture into pixels to the digital moving image, it is also specific to cinematic time.

The fact that we don’t grasp our own inaction as anything but the most important kind of doing-our-jobs points to the two-sidedness duration has taken on, that it has taken on through our becoming inured to it. Our familiarity means we don’t see it. We don’t see it until it breaks cover.

Now I’m trying to grasp it and hoping that you can without too much of sliding from one side to the other. Sliding however is inevitable given its filmy nature. This nature is of where Deleuze places the transcendental plane.

Not a staying with, a sitting with, Deleuze conceives the shot moving. It moves in several ways. It’s there to move us, move the story forward, advance the action, change the relation of parts to whole, where these are not so much bodies as the filmy planes or plates of the moving images themselves, and it’s there to express whatever movement the film-maker, the director, intends.

Because the image is expressive Deleuze doesn’t get into whether whatever physical attributes are inferred or imputed to them by films are real or not. He tacitly retains the distinction between the virtual and actual, the virtual being no less real than the actual, the actual no more real than the virtual. He imports it to time and it generates two-sidedness.

On one side is movement, on the other the absence of action and yet there is no contradiction. Both belong to duration but duration is not what it was before the advent of cinema. I think this is what spurs Deleuze in his books on cinema and what the problem is worked on in them.

For Bergson neither movement nor duration are divisible. Neither are the parts divisible, down to the merest thread, to the smallest particle. Deleuze starts from movement because he says its reproduction corrects the problem Bergson has with cinema, but this is the same problem Bergson has with scientific time, the same that leads Russell to cinematographic time as its solution.

In this respect Deleuze and Russell’s views converge. The way the cinema reproduces movement solves Bergson’s problem with cinema. The way the cinema reproduces time solves Bergson’s problem of putting space first, of science using space to measure time and so, thinking it’s measuring time, missing time itself.

Deleuze takes something from this other view but it is not that the movement reproduced by cinema is the signature of duration. For me the moving image’s moving of itself in itself becomes arbiter and guarantor of the truth of duration and the motor under the hood of this contrast between time both as it has departed from duration and as its underlying condition, the condition really of this parting as a movement of thought. What Deleuze takes is the divisibility into parts of a whole that is duration.

For Deleuze as for Russell these parts are correlative to the whole. They connect to it. They are unities, for Russell relative unities, for Deleuze relative unities with a twist.

The twist’s from Bergson. Parts, unities and the whole are understood under the notion of a multiplicity. The multiplicity of the shot, its unity correlative to the whole, has both virtual and actual sides to it.

Deleuze’s definition of the shot is that conventionally given in film history. The shot only comes into its own with the innovation of cutting. Only then does the camera have a point of view that it finds can be mobilised, changing angle of view, tracking and all the variations of a filmic language.

The importance of the shot however is not for Deleuze that cinema is, as Jacques Lacan said of the unconscious, structured like a language. It’s not the sense made by the shot that is a consequence of it being followed by another. It’s the thought it expresses, how cinema thinks, that is a consequence of the break in its internal continuity of the shot when it cuts.

How this break still makes sense is peculiar to film. The new thought cinema expresses is Deleuze’s target, the new brain it embodies. For thought to move then, from one thing to another, over the breaks it internalises, entails a new image of thought.

The cinema needs a new plane to be constructed for that thought so that it can move because it’s not the movement that is internal to the shot either giving it the movement necessary to thought or allowing it to move. What allows it to move is a surface and its movement can be called a surface effect. So on one side of the plan vital is a film, a surface where thought occurs, consciousness.

For Bergson the brain is an image among images. For Deleuze it is a moving image among moving images. This is the restoration of Bergson Deleuze makes and it seems to me that it is necessarily concessionary.

On the other side of the plan vital is duration. Deleuze’s version of cinematic time is not duration. Is it true?

This can never be asked of Deleuze and it doesn’t mean I love him less but it does go to his difficulty. In him everything is moving. The ungrounding in Bergson undergoes a further ungrounding in Deleuze.

What doesn’t take, from Bergson, what Deleuze gives up is duration. As conceived by Bergson it survives neither the challenge of science nor the challenge science poses to philosophy. It doesn’t survive what I take to be its proof in cinematic time.

That Bergson saw cinematographic time to be the enemy of duration, working for space and not time, is part of the problem. This is the correction offered by Deleuze, but to make cinema duration’s ally means to call Bergson out on his mistake. What aspect of an absolute can be mistaken and to what degree?

Deleuze’s answer is to keep what duration does, its ungrounding of the whole. Duration achieves this already in Bergson since it is the interval of qualitative change that any state whatsoever has. What endures is change internal to states, in the time they take to pass, as they are passing.

Deleuze allows it is change of the whole but only to endow movement to the parts, called by Bergson images. The connection between whole and parts is the crack or thread of duration. It seems to endure in itself not belong to states or events and rest on the surface, the plan vital.

It’s true that Bergson initially thought duration to apply to consciousness. The reason for this is that states cannot be compared. They are in constant flux in themselves and in relation to the whole and it’s wrong to privilege one state over any other, so they cannot be measured, although it is natural to do so.

The anthropocentric fallacy is just this privileging, and a developmental stage in the individual and in the world. Then Bergson endows life with duration. It belongs to anything that endures and that might be said to be going against the current of time by being, in self-creation, constantly changing.

He later extends duration to the whole. He has to because the physical reality is of all images including those of thought being caused and affecting all others. Duration is perpetual change and as such undoes the privileges of thought, of spirit, of life and of consciousness belonging to the human brain.

Duration ungrounds the whole. Now Deleuze in fact sets the whole on the false. Not for the sake of the false or of illusion, the transcendental illusion he assesses positively in Kant, he sets it there for the sake of thought with which he is primarily involved, for the sake of endowing the faculties of understanding with movement.

God no longer arbitrates and adjudicates and offers the guarantee of truth. Already for Kant the positive discoveries of science as well as the suppositions of metaphysics are in the position of measurement against the immeasurable. They are only correlatives of the absolute and indivisible that is inaccessible to society and man. Women don’t really feature in Kant.

They are in Kant already in a sense images that compete for our attention, that are brought to our attention and capture our attention. For these truths that are relative to the unrelatable sublimity of the in-fucking-effable, to quote the writer Samuel Beckett, God’s role is cosmic piano-tuner. It is to harmonise the whole and parts.

For Bergson, which Deleuze approves of, time-as-duration is not true because it’s absolute but because it’s creative. It is creation itself, continuous and ongoing except, as I am trying to indicate in view of cinematic time, it is the interval the shot cuts. The shot cuts out of the transcendental plane a slice that is immeasurable and indivisible, is both because discontinuous, nonsuccessive, properly inconsequential and contingent, random.

The cut only exacerbates and brings to attention what is in the shot. The detail needs to be brought out, going against the current of time. Living duration does.

Before expanding on this I’d like to say something about cinema fulfilling all the conditions of philosophy. That setting the whole on the false is upsetting can readily be seen. Why Deleuze’s ungrounding further to that of Bergson’s ungrounding, his untimely?

Partly the reason is Deleuze being canny enough to avoid the philosophical dressing down suffered by Bergson and by duration. Cinema rises, Einstein rises, Bergson falls and to some extent so does what is called thinking. It falls or fails in its creativity.

Bergson thought philosophy’s role, particularly with the scientific challenge of spacetime, was to go in the direction of true time, duration. He could not support it against the charges of psychologism, irrationalism, subjectivism. Intuition is for women.

What does Deleuze say in his book on Bergson about intuition? He calls it the discovery of a new philosophical method. Bergson’s other great discovery is for Deleuze the nonnumerical multiplicity, nonactual, virtual.

He can save these not duration, not directly. Instead Deleuze’s own philosophical untimely is the virtual, the plane of becoming. The plan vital has all the characteristics of Bergson’s time but for the fact it does not exist, that it is a screen for duration.

Cinema has a screen and images that move across it, sideways and up and down, recede into it and exceed it. That’s all philosophy needs and it too can be creative. It can create, like Deleuze and Guattari say in What is Philosophy?, concepts.

In that book from 1991 the other attribute of philosophy is of having personae. These are usually thought in theatrical terms to be dramatis personae and I’ve also tended to view them this way. Conceptual personae as Deleuze and Guattari describe them are much more like figures from cinema.

Less flesh and blood, more fleeting, with a different relation to duration, they are schematic. They are schematic specifically in Kant’s sense of the schematism, of connecting concepts to perception, to percepts in the words of What is Philosophy? and to sensation, there also, affects. The hard thing to think dealing with affects is that they are impersonal, not subjective, not guilty of psychology.

Cinematic personae fulfill the philosophical condition of conceptual personae, imposed since Bergson, of having empirical reality. Yet they are so for participating on the transcendental plane in a transcendental empiricism. They are not irrational facets of intuitive femaleness and then it is not so strange that in A Thousand Plateaus Deleuze and Guattari talk of a becoming-woman being the first condition every further becoming has to pass through, through to becoming-imperceptible, that again is almost unthinkable until we think it in light of cinematic disappearances.

Besides the screen that sits on film, that enables film to be layered on top like masks, internal and external, forcing the connections that come from movement and the movement of thought, images, ideas between, through and below them, at any point whatsoever, and besides the sound that then issues from the screen but indirectly, the pointed conversations of personae in turn putting images into motion, besides these cinema fulfills the condition of philosophy for Deleuze of being outside it. This condition isn’t really discovered until his work with Guattari, whose practice it should be remembered was psychoanalysis, and writing, but who came to the partnership with Deleuze, the philosopher, with the point of view of practice. Practice is outside of philosophy, science, writing.

Although they are practices, philosophy, science and writing share the technical reliance on a reflection on them that is always outside their practice. Movement is everything for Deleuze. Time is everything for Bergson.

Time and movement, movement and time, this is the oscillation in Deleuze’s books on cinema. It makes the terms almost interchangeable. I would not say that they have there relativity.

Into their disconnect comes the screen forcing them into relation. For Deleuze this is differentially expressed. It spirals in and spirals out but they never touch.

Between time and movement is the screen and the screen is the perfect transcendental illusion. I do not mean that it itself is illusory, since we know this to be untrue. It means movement for everything else.

The shot then for Deleuze has to be defined by differential relations, organic ones, dialectical ones, as in Walter Benjamin, quantitative and intensive ones. These relations are forced onto different shots by montage, editing, cutting. Duration evaporates from the shot but, Deleuze might say, it hangs around, like a mist.

For Bergson cinema fulfills none of the conditions of philosophy, the opposite. Cinema relates movement to space. It does not dwell on or in time or reflect on it like we know it to for Deleuze.

Bergson’s aim for philosophy is to make it science’s equal by giving it an object that science and mathematics, physical and technical systems of reference neglect. He finds it in the nature of systems themselves and in Creative Evolution 1907 he distinguishes open from closed systems. Openness is a term picked up on by philosophers Martin Heidegger and Giorgio Agamben.

It relates exactly without connection to the philosophical condition essential to its practice that is outside. Evolution, creation, creation in thought as much as of physical phenomena are for Bergson open systems. They are then his philosophical themes because their openness is openness to duration.

Duration or time, unlike movement that only does so because it is durational, they break. This is the figure of a broken time that appears in Deleuze, not in the cinema books. The shot presupposes a broken time but the break is not internal till the forced relation of shots creates it.

It is in this way that I think montage, cuts between and among images, that Deleuze makes internal to the shot and not only external, exacerbates what is already in the first and simplest, the so called primitive shot. The figure of broken time is time out of joint, off its hinges. It is from Hamlet.

Hamlet enacts a critique of philosophical schools. This is something of a theme for Bergson as well. It has the famous line, There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamed of in your philosophy.

In 1601 when the play was first performed what was happening in Europe was the birth of the university and the systematisation of philosophy, into schools. The English were great anti-systematisers and Hamlet is a very unsystematic critique. It is witty and Hamlet’s line is a witty reproof against the schools’ version of philosophy not Horatio’s own.

Jonathan Rée, whose Witcraft: The Invention of Philosophy in English, 2019, I am drawing from, tells the story there that philosophy in English doesn’t really get going until Thomas Urquhart. Urquhart was five when Shakespeare died. It gets its start with Urquhart’s first translations into English of François Rabelais’ lampoons of university philosophy as much as any work that seriously engaged with the subject.

There might be said then to be an English lineage of philosophy, witcraft, that had to do with literature and jokes, fart jokes, satirical jibes and irony, that was of the inside outsider in philosophy. The line skips the country, resurfacing in American pragmatism in the 19th century. Deleuze I think is part of it both, when he identifies himself with pragmatism, on the outside of his philosophy, and, inside it, when he enters the play of philosophical images and uses what I’m calling the plan vital to vitalise philosophy.

His difficulty is due to this since philosophical concepts jostle in him. They move, are juggled and enter into subterranean connection, disjunctive syntheses and aberrant nuptials. They metamorphose and where in one work a concept, a term will be taken to mean one thing, in another it will mean the opposite. He is he says a cumudgeonly interlocutor and in this role resists the notion of a school coming up to follow him.

What has this got to do with the figure of broken time? Well, life, the broken figure of time is the hesitancy of thought. Hamlet is nothing but this hesitancy of thought pitted against philosophy, the philosophy of the schools, of the university, that living thought always exceeds.

A time out of joint is a living time as much as duration is living duration. It is so in the hesitancy of the habit that breaks open, that witcraft makes fall apart laughing. I think an expansion on this is required, under the heading How to Hesitate.

A How-to book, it will deal further with cinematic time, as it reacts on psychological time. Thought breaks into time and stands against the conception of it being in continuous succession like a film. This is to say that life does too. It goes against the current of time.

Life, energy, these organise, form and transform, and, as current theories of energy put it, inform, at all levels of matter. They go against time thought of as knowing-what’s-coming on the basis of repeating-what-has-been-observed-before. Chaos is not reproduced but it is in this sense productive, creative.

Going against the current of time means going against the assumption that high energy tends to low energy, that life is just such a gradient, a slow passage to death. The universe is on an accelerating course to heat death. The earth is on an accelerating course to the same.

The passage to death of life is slow or fast and quick, sometimes in slowmo or speeding up or opening out on the vast and endless plains of boredom and despair, and memory’s role is replay it, to put it on repeat. These are all things that cinematic time does. They don’t belong to living duration and they don’t belong to the leaves are moving on the trees and this is also cinematic time and presupposes the other sort.

I want to come back to the force that the moving image hits the imagination with but before I do I’ll consider one after another the difficulties of the two authors dominating this text, this time taking a shorter detour. The two difficulties are linked. They are linked indirectly by cinematic time although they link directly to it, each in his own way.

The difficulty reading Bergson is that we come after the advent of cinematic time. We have lost the knack of seeing in natural time anything apart from the flow of a continuum that is absolute. This view is supported by science and by mathematics despite the paradoxes challenging it, that at the quantum level time may break down, that at the cosmic level the universe has a before-time and an after-time, it stops and starts.

Literature and all the arts engage with other views of time but these are identified with mental aberration, with states of mind that are deranged. Normalcy is hardwired to time. Start putting effect before cause and you could either be accused of having a good imagination or of being unwell.

This gets worse if we take it back to what Bergson is warning us of, that it is our bad habit to tie everything to its utility to us, to us as centre of action, including time. It is a primitive state in our cognitive and social development. We only do this with time because it works for us. Clocktime works for us and we work according to it and for it.

Break clocktime and bring on the revolution (the one that does not revolve). To read Bergson with understanding is to notice how much of what we do is grounded on the assumption of time having a flow which our organisms in their own functioning deny. They go on on their own against the current.

With the advent of screentime clocktime becomes a redundant reminder. Screentime’s spatialisation of time governs what we do and how we do it and hides that force which sustains its dominance. This is where Bergson gets going with cinematographic time.

He is drawn to it by the same pull we all are and were but his philosophical approach is to condemn it as only ever excelling at reproducing the mistake of space being mistaken for time. He has schooled himself on another line of thinking. Real time passes, endures, in, no matter how great or small, the interval itself.

It’s funny perhaps not in a good way that Deleuze approaches Bergson, takes him to the cinema, with it in mind that Bergson’s condemnation of cinema goes for all of his philosophy of duration. That it comes down to a point on it is true but the philosophy of duration is the reason. So Deleuze goes to movement that for Bergson is presupposed but not grounded by time-as-duration.

Deleuze doesn’t see the ungrounding effect time-as-duration has. Bergson doesn’t see that this ungrounding is the thought that cinema is. It is so in its hesitancy, even in movement terms it is.

Deleuze’s twist is to think time-as-duration as plane of composition. For cinema, this is the screen, plan vital, that in fact covers over duration and sees only one side of it. It sees the side that has no genesis.

I asked at the start how duration covers over duration and I must be nearing the end if I have now given the answer, that Deleuze’s screen covers over duration. From it comes the difficulty that I associate with understanding Deleuze, reading him with understanding. This is the witcraft in the movement of his concepts, in the play of the movement of his concepts over the (filmy) surface of the plane.

The genesis of these concepts in duration is covered over. Deleuze screens off duration for philosophy. It becomes a philosophical memory.

The win for science and mathematics is twofold. It gets to keep t, the time variable, in all its permutations and projections. It gains from Deleuze a metaphysics to support it.

The difficulty Deleuze gives us in reading him is deliberate and this too goes back to Bergson. They more or less see eye-to-eye on the subject of schools, although Bergson stands as something of a warning. Having risen in influence so far, his fall was rapid and for the legitimacy of his philosophical lineage devastating.

I’m thinking here of the bastardy of philosophy’s children that Deleuze introduces, specifically to break the line, launching it into a broken time. This is a subject I’ll have to leave hanging. It does still turn on an aspect of Bergson, his critique of habit, that Deleuze finds additional reasons for in the English philosopher, Scottish born like Urquhart, 100 years after him, David Hume.

Deleuze is difficult because he wants to break our reading habits. The habit is to assume logically that in philosophy one thing will come after another and that the terms used for a concept will remain constant. Not so in Deleuze, he does after all praise Bergson’s method, intuition.

He wants us to experience the forced movement of what is in play. He wants us to feel the full force of the problems he’s dealing with so that they, as artist Francis Bacon says of his paintings, come across directly onto the nervous system. The difficulty they have will be the difficulty processing them and that time of thought will be of a break in the habitual activities of the brain that it will cause to hesitate, stammer, pause or stand still in a kind of anxious overload of possibilities, before making a selection.

The shot originally was such a problem, providing such a shock it cut through all the habits audiences had until then of how time was seen. After seeing time repeated they could say that it can be. Time can be repeated.

The selection was not immediate of cinematic time. It took time to displace habitual views. In that pause audiences’ selections played out in cinemas of those films where time’s signature could be seen. It was time’s because it was nature’s.

This, early cinema could speak authoritatively about, true time. In true time what happens is naturally chaotic. It evolves.

Its energies get expended and are dispersed but that energy goes to forms, signature forms, of waves and particles, particulates in the atmosphere, or the stochastic movement of leaves, grass, hair. It’s fine to affix a cause but the cause doesn’t explain the event, it’s just terms looking for a structure, a matter of projection back onto the terms.

Now the first time you see indeterminate movement you aren’t amazed at its being reproduced. You don’t really care about fidelity to an original. What’s shocking is that it’s there in front of you and the shock is first increased by its being repeated, by that possibility it can be selected and repeated, and then it is learnt.

The early cinema spoke with the authority of true time about movements that are authentic because they could only occur in nature. So the early cinema spoke with the authority of duration. Learnt, this meant something else.

It had to cause people’s selection but more than that it had to cause people’s election to be learnt. This is the meaning, not of the commercial economy, of the democracy of film. It caused to be learnt, through the signature of its movements, what time is and once learnt cinematic time displaced time in even its philosophical dimension.