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The Utopian Body in Film. Transparency, Reversibility, Hybridity





The utopian body in film, under discussion in this thesis, does not refer to an object of thought borrowed from Michel Foucault and applied to some dematerialised or extraordinary bodies on the screen, but to a heuristic tool for considering the historical and aesthetic modalities through which the cinematic body put a critical focus on both the fictional powers of cinema techniques and the presumed objectivity of scientific imagery. Such bodily utopia is manifest in Étienne-Jules Marey’s chronophotographic prints, which foil the invisibility of movement through their superimposed strata, and in magic lanterns and fantascopes, which invest the living with spectral presence. It is also apparent in the cinematic horizons opened by the theory of relativity and implemented by the cinema – the manner, for example, of filming the athlete’s body in order to capture the intimate temporalities of effort and ecstasy. Finally it is present in the zoomorphism of contemporary cinema, occupying and frustrating the anthropocentrism of images. Each of these utopias – transparency, reversibility, hybridity – simultaneously deploy the virtuality of bodies and of images, redistributing the logics of their analogy: in the spectral images of the sciences and the phantasmagoria, the body is at once visible and invisible; in the experimental variation of the speed of image and montage, the body escapes temporal flux; in the attempt to circumvent the anthropocentric gaze of the cinema, the body absolves its own frontiers in order to metamorphose into a hybrid entity. This reflection is therefore situated at the interface of an anthropology of images of the body, an aesthetics of the cinema and an archaeology of its techniques.

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