The cinema is poetry's most powerful medium, the truest medium for the untrue, the unreal, the "surreal" as Apollinaire would have said. This is why some of us have entrusted to it our highest hopes."1
"The recording apparatus that brings the film actor's performance to the public need not respect the performance as an integral whole…
It's a completely different discipline, it exists on its own. I would say that the beauty of it is it's not the theater, it's not done over again. It's done in bits and pieces. Things are happening which you can't get again."
When the French poet, theorist-filmmaker, Jean Epstein, first delivered his concept of Photogenie to Parisian salons and academic circles at the Sorbonne in 1923 and 1924, film as an art form was in its infancy. The whole idea of film as a medium worthy of serious scholarship, along with the evolution of the auteur theory, was still decades off. Yet, the seeds were planted and if it wasn't for his early, groundbreaking works, (or in Walter Benjamin's case, "shocking" words), we wouldn't have the concept of "independent film" or cinema as an art form onto itself, something we often take for granted today. The films of director Nicolas Roeg, taken as a whole, have been read as experimental, voyeuristic, brilliant and bombastic. Roeg started out working in the British film industry in London and developed his craft working as a camera assistant. He ended up heading second units on two films for director David Lean, the epic masterpieces, Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago. Roeg then went on to win high acclaim in his own right as the cinematographer of the classic films; Fahrenheit 451, Far From the Madding Crowd and Petulia, for the influential directors; Francois Truffaut, John Schlesinger, and Richard Lester.
When Roeg decided it was time to direct his own films, he proceeded with an instinctual knowledge of what he wanted. It is with this sensibility, a way of pursuing his craft by what appeals to the senses, that he approached the film Bad Timing : A Sensual Obsession, a work that many have argued is one of his best, along side the classic Don't Look Now. I will pursue, in this paper, how Epstein's concept of photogenie and Walter Benjamin's idea of the "optical unconscious", from his essay, "The Work of Art in the Age of Technological Reproducibility"2, are seminal to the work of Roeg in the film Bad Timing; in his use of the camera, his approach to the actors (especially in relationship in their use of props), his development of the story in his editing choices and in the final "re-structuring" of the film.
Jean Epstein defined his concept of "photogenie", first coined by Lois Delluc as "the art of cinema", as "any aspect of things, beings or souls whose moral character is enhanced by filmic reproduction". He goes on to say:
"The mind travels in time, just as it does in space. But whereas in space we imagine three directions at right angles to each other, in time we conceive only one: the past-future vector. We can conceive a space-time system in which the past-future direction also passes through the point of intersection of the three acknowledged spatial directions, at the precise moment when it is between past and future: the present, a point in time, an instant without duration, as ...
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