Theories of practice: an ethics of film analysis
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With film theory the “text” that is film has at times encountered diverse readings that account for potential relations to and of the subject. Marxism, feminism, formalism, structuralism, phenomenology and psychoanalysis have all offered positions of the subject (both film and its viewer) in relation to their discrete disciplinary borders. However, it may be that in terms of a film’s relation between theory and practice, the discipline of psychoanalysis has the most unresolved dispute. Clinically speaking, psychoanalysis treats the human subject and not a film text, and while it has been argued that there exists the possibility for film to be either analyst or analysand, a deeper ethical question is opened around practice. A clinical ethics of the subject suggests that in transference the analyst keeps her unconscious out of the session. This paper probes the possibility of such a reading of the textual filmic encounter that keeps open this ethical domain of psychoanalytic practice. Is it possible to encounter a film, to produce its reading, via the ethics of psychoanalytic practice? What would it mean to do an ‘analysis’ of film where one’s unconscious is kept professionally at bay? Does it even make sense to treat an engagement with film as if it were a clinical experience? This strategy brings into proximity questions of theory and practice, ethics and psychoanalysis in relation to the work of Joan Copjec on psychoanalysis, ethics and film. Her work on sublimation in relation to ethics and readings of filmic space will offer a register for my reading of P.T. Anderson’s There Will Be Blood. Her position that gathers together sublimation and invention will develop on from Lacan’s insistence on a difference between objects and themselves. In addressing the thematic of the conference Pathologies of Enjoyment this paper suggests a new pathological engagement with film and the subject through the absented unconscious of analysis itself. In doing so, this ‘reading’ aims at another ethical direction where the film / its unconscious speaks for itself.