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Absence in Cinema

The Art of Showing Nothing

Justin Remes (Iowa State University)



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Columbia University Press
14 July 2020
Absence has played a crucial role in the history of avant-garde aesthetics, from the blank canvases of Robert Rauschenberg to Yves Klein?s invisible paintings, from the ?silent? music of John Cage to Samuel Beckett?s minimalist theater. Yet little attention has been given to the important role of absence in cinema. In the first book to focus on cinematic absence, Justin Remes demonstrates how omissions of expected elements can spur viewers to interpret and understand the nature of film in new ways.

While most film criticism focuses on what is present, such as images on the screen and music and dialogue on the soundtrack, Remes contends that what is missing is an essential part of the cinematic experience. He examines films without images-such as Walter Ruttmann?s Weekend (1930), a montage of sounds recorded in Berlin-and films without sound-such as Stan Brakhage?s Window Water Baby Moving (1959), which documents the birth of the filmmaker?s first child. He also examines found footage films that erase elements from preexisting films such as Naomi Uman?s removed (1999), which uses nail polish and bleach to blot out all the women from a pornographic film, and Martin Arnold?s Deanimated (2002), which digitally eliminates images and sounds from a Bela Lugosi B movie. Remes maps out the effects and significations of filmic voids while grappling with their implications for film theory. Through a careful analysis of a broad array of avant-garde works, Absence in Cinema reveals that films must be understood not only in terms of what they show but also what they withhold.
Imprint:   Columbia University Press
Country of Publication:   United States
Dimensions:   Height: 216mm,  Width: 140mm, 
ISBN:   9780231189316
ISBN 10:   0231189311
Series:   Film and Culture Series
Pages:   264
Publication Date:  
Audience:   Professional and scholarly ,  Undergraduate
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active
Acknowledgments Introduction: Voids 1. Walter Ruttman and the Blind Film 2. Stan Brakhage and the Birth of Silence 3. Naomi Uman and the Peekaboo Principle 4. Martin Arnold's Disappearing Act Conclusion: Nothing Is Important Filmography Notes Index

Justin Remes is assistant professor of film studies at Iowa State University. He is the author of Motion(less) Pictures: The Cinema of Stasis (Columbia, 2015).

Reviews for Absence in Cinema: The Art of Showing Nothing

Absence in Cinema is about mysterious gaps and thwarted expectations. Starting from the idea that every absence is a presence in disguise , Justin Remes combines aesthetic analysis with psychology, neuroscience and Buddhist philosophy to construct a powerful theory of erasure in experimental film culture. Taking in invisible art, soundless music and wordless poetry, Absence in Cinema is as incisive and radical as its subject matter. -- Holly Rogers, author of <i>Sounding the Gallery: Video and the Rise of Art Music</i> This theoretically sophisticated book about a set of exemplary avant-garde films during which there is either nothing to see or nothing to hear, or both, is a remarkably fun read. Justin Remes is a magician who makes Nothing in cinema Something! -- Scott MacDonald, editor of <i>Avant-Doc: Intersections of Documentary and Avant-Garde Cinema</i> Absence in Cinema is a dazzling, meticulously detailed, even revolutionary work. Remes's style is so assured with such a light and knowing touch that the reader is propelled through the book from first page to last. -- Wheeler Winston Dixon, author of <i>Synthetic Cinema: The 21st Century Movie Machine</i> An enchanting, endearing feature of this detailed and serious study of four films by Walter Ruttmann, Stan Brakhage, Naomi Uman and Martin Arnold is that it advances through a series of anecdotes, conversations, diversions, cross-references and speculations, capturing the spirit of the avant-garde in critical writing, a feat at once difficult and joyful. -- Brinda Bose * Telegraph India *

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