Nature is not natural and can never be naturalized — Graham Harman

Thursday, June 21, 2012

A Reading of Jordan Crandall's Hotel

I posted this on empyre:

Hello Everyone,

My first reaction to Hotel is that the first few seconds are as it were without people, like that chapter "Time Passes" in To the Lighthouse. The wet skin is also without a person, in particular, just the light of the bathroom reflected in the droplets of water. A conversation between a foot and a tap, some ripples.

One could of course read the whole thing as metaphorical for or otherwise figurative for the human-human interactions going on. But the paradox is that the movie relies on allowing the nonhumans to float free of specific ties to human significance at every opportunity.

The slightly threatening sense of sheer existence is there--we have no idea what is happening, along with a too-mundane all-too-familiar quality, coupled with a certain uncomfortable voyeurism. The idea perhaps that there should be something to see, giving rise to anxiety.

The whole thing is like a massively exploded version of the plughole moment in Psycho, from the camerawork point of view. Many many interstitial shots--a doorway, some pillows, the back of the room service girl. These sorts of shots are usually to prepare for something such as an encounter between humans, but they seem delinked from that, as if the camera itself wanted to talk to the moving trolley, the curtain and the shadows.

My Tibetan Buddhist teacher talks about mandala principle this way: you should be in life as in a hotel, because you enjoy it better that way. It's not yours, yeah it's a non-place, but not (even) necessarily in that scary Romantic way Augé talks about.

We have no idea what happened in that room. Each shot becomes a metaphor for each other shot, so that finally it's undecidable whether this is really a story about a room service girl, or a girl eating scrambled eggs, or a story about scrambled eggs talking to a fork, or skin talking to a faucet.

In the absence of a metaphysics of cause and effect (from Hume and Kant on), what we have are statistical correlations. The movie plunges us into the void of reason that Kant detects in the Humean destruction of causality (a destruction that just is the condition of modern science).

That void of reason is the gap between my (human) mind and another thing. But there are other gaps: between a pile of scrambled eggs and a bowl; between a foot and the bathroom floor; between a trolley and the doorway; between an eye and another eye, one looking through a crack in a doorway, the other not.

Only metaphor bridges these gaps, which is to say, metaphor just is how causality functions in a universe of entities that don't sum to one another. That is, if we're not living in a total blend-o-rama where the eggs are the fork and so on. The tension in the movie is precisely the tension between a myriad cracks in and between things.

Btw: My OOO use of withdrawal means open secret, not hiding or shrinking, or excess. Something unspeakable and irreducibly untranslatable.

Yours, Tim

1 comment:

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