Monday, 25 July 2016

Five (Abbas Kiarostami, Iran | Japan | France, 2003)

Fade in: the camera frames a small section of the seashore, where tide laps beach. A small hunk of driftwood, rotten and barnacle clad, is discovered on the sand, licked by the breaking waves of the Caspian Sea – the water apparently having relinquished the driftwood in its ebb. Troubled by the incoming tide, the chunk of dead branch rolls and spins on the grey, wet sand, is ensnared and released before inevitably being drawn into the flow once more, and carried with longshore drift. During all this, the camera has kept the driftwood in the centre of the frame but as it is buffeted by the breaking waves it is broken into two, and the pieces float apart until one is carried out-of-frame. Or rather, the camera must choose which piece of wood will remain within the frame. Sometime later, however, the escaped chunk returns to the frame, much farther out to sea and drifting away: fade out. Such is sequence one of Five, ‘Drift-Wood.’...

Here we encounter pure optical and sound situations - opsigns and sonsigns: the crisis of the action-image. And this crisis has ‘five apparent characteristics: the dispersive situation, deliberately weak links, the voyage form, the consciousness of clichés, the condemnation of plot’ (C1:210; Deleuze’s italics). These five characteristics correspond exactly to what Deleuze has previously designated the five laws of action-image, laws which cohere movement-image narration. First law (S→S`): the determining of an initial situation (S) that governs the required restoration of the final situation (S`). Second law (S→A): the situation (S) devolves into behaviours, or actions (A), distributed to characters. Third law (A): the action in-itself (A) necessary to realise, by way of the duel, the final resolution. Fourth law (An): the action is not simply the ultimate moment, but is structural, duels permeate the film (A1+A2+A3+…). Fifth law (→): the whole flow (→) of the plot, which carries situation to action and action to situation through the character in the world. The essential aspect, however, is this: action-images – by way of these five laws – organise perception-images, affection-images and mental-images. Perception, affect and mental states appear in the service of and are dominated by action. Thus, the crisis of the laws of the action-image simultaneously sets free perception, affect and thought: there are no longer perception-images, affection-images and mental-images. No longer is there a solid character at the centre around which all other images are organised; instead perception becomes gaseous and all images vary in respect to each other. No longer are affects recognisable and identifiable human facial expressions of internal intensities; affect becomes ahuman, produced through any-space-whatevers. And no longer are mental spaces assigned to characters as images of thought; the whole film is now an image of thought. The crisis of the action-image is also a collapse of the movement-image function: its compositions of and linkages between domains.

Five laws of the action-image, five characteristics of the crisis, five sequences to Kiarostami’s Five. What are the chances? It is as if three dice have been cast, and each come to rest presenting the same number of dots. It thus is tempting – very tempting indeed – to allow each of the five sequences of Kiarostami’s film to correspond with each moment of crisis, and in so doing, explore the collapse of the movement-image and the creation of a time-image through opsigns and sonsigns...

To read an extended exploration of Five through the Deleuze's 'opsigns and sonsigns,' see Deleuze's Cinema Books: Three Introductions to the Taxonomy of Images...



To read the full 10K word exploration of Kiarostami's 5 Long Takes - F I V E - Dedicated to Yasujiro Ozu in the context of the films of the Japanese director see ‘Look? Impure Optical and Sound Situations: Ozu – (Deleuze) – Kiarostami’ in Ozuesque: Ozu and His Influence, ed. Jinhee Choi, Oxford University Press, forthcoming 2017.


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