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On Post-Feminist Film Theory

Jane Gaines and bell hooks articulate the theoretical position that classical feminist film theory,
as well as psychoanalytic theory, has left out or marginalized black women as actie spectators
with uni!ue critical agency, and that these theories are therefore insufficient to their putatie
ob"ect# $n this regard, they follow Judith %utler, who argues &that gender reality is created
through sustained social perfomances& '())*+ (),-, deeloping this logic with respect to feminist
cultural theory at large# Gaines and hooks e.tend this criti!ue of cultural theory to specifically
address cinematic representation and performance# For Jane Gaines, much theory which takes up
one cultural model is insufficient to think its cultural ob"ect# /he claims, &a theory of the te.t and
its spectator, based on the psychoanalytic concept of racial difference, is une!uipped to deal with
a film which is about racial difference and se.uality& '001-# This insufficiency, this being-
une!uipped, is tantamount to a censorship of any sub"ectiity beyond that which grounds the
particular 'and thereby uniersalizing- theory in !uestion+ &where we hae foregrounded one
antagonism in our analysis, we hae misunderstood another& '002-# /pecifically, Gaines argues
against taking up the e.clusiely psychoanalytic method of film analysis, since &the
psychoanalytic model works to block out considerations which assume a different configuration&
'003-# The default configuration at stake in Gaines is feminist theory itself, which &helps to
reinforce white middle-class alues& 'ibid-# $n this way, Gaines begins to argue for an analytic
method which accounts for class and racial difference to the same degree as se.ual difference,
the formation of something like a whole-network perspectie 'as opposed to egocentric- on
intersecting forms of oppression or categories of identity#
Gaines traces the feminist argument that patriarchy is the dominant, determining structure in
cinema, as articulated most persuasiely by 4aura 5uley# This argument follows 6lthusser7s
description of the structuring forces of ideology behind eery institutional apparatus '002-, as
well as 4acan7s claim that a sub"ect is fi.ed by language# /uch claims work to establish the
perasie dominance of the male spectatorial gaze, but Gaines points out moments of rupture for
this conception of spectatorship# For e.ample, she writes that lesbian feminists disrupt the male
gaze and thereby open the potential for intra-diegetic gazing, among feminine sube"cts+
&8onse!uently, lesbians hae charged that cultural theory posed in psychoanalytic terms is
unable to conceie of desire or e.plain pleasure without reference to the binary opposition
male9female& '0:*-# ;e can read this as a radical condemnation of psychoanalysis, the inability
&to conceie& marking a castration of psychoanalytic theory as such# This interpretation turns on
the conentional e.clusion of the !ueer sub"ect, the figure of the lesbian feminist, from
heteronormatiity, on the grounds of biological reproduction# $n its impotence, psychoanalysis is
positioned as e.cluded, marginalized, radically other -- and insufficient to think its ob"ect# This,
admittedly, sets up another binary, one between theories which e.amine fi.ed, irreducible
sub"ect-positions and those which e.amine the relations between such sub"ect-positions,
necessarily and thereby e.posing their radical contingency, or what %utler calls their
;e would do well to !uestion the ob"ects of this sort of thinking# $s the goal here to &assimilate&
eery spectatorial position in a &perfect&, total cultural theory< '0:*-(- =espite such !uestions,
Gaines begins to show how film analysis must address that race, class, gender, se.uality, et
cetera 'always et cetera- are linked together, and how theoretical focus can moe towards an
e.amination of the relations between those categories# For e.ample, she posits competition
between primary categories of gender and race as the determined &other& to patriarchy '0:,-#
;hat is important, for Gaines, is not which of these categories is most oppressed, which position
offers the greatest potential for resistance, but rather that there are other structures which
&oerride& patriarchy '0:2-# For, in the discussion of spectatorial agency, if the theorist adopts a
whole-network iew of oppressie, repressie structures of power, an infinite permutation of
connotatie directions for analyis emerge# Thus, a strategy is necessary# Gaines argues that
although a film7s structure may deny connections between categories of identity 'and therefore of
oppression-, a critical eye cast on the conditions of its production can reeal those categories, in
their essential interconnection '0::->-# Therefore, Gaines reintroduces 5ar.ist analysis#
%y including a focus on the history and mediation of the representation of black women in
cinema, Gaines e.plicates the !uestion of who possesses the &right to look& more fully, pressing
the uni!ue &pattern of patriarchal phases and female se.ual ad"ustments that has no e!uialent in
the history of white women in the ?/& '0:3-# /he acknowledges the confluence of heirarchies at
work in her discussion of the gaze+ &@acial heirarchies of access to the female image also relate
to other scenarios which are unknown by psychoanalytic categories& '0:1-# For e.ample, the
totalizing concept of patriarchy, so crucial to feminist understanding of social structures, is
represented differently on the basis of race# Gaines argues that patriarchy was introduced to black
families, indeed, that the structure was forced upon them by white slae masters, and that the
&patriarchal form is not colour blind& -- in other words, &patriarchy& must be understood as
&white patriarchy& '0:2, 0>,, emphasis added-# Futher, in the film which Gaines analyzes in her
essay, 5ahogany, 'interracial- se.uality is introduced as a &smokescreen& for 'inter-class- racism,
by the same claims which were used to accuse black men of rape and "ustify lynchings, while
rape committed by white men of black women was systematically occluded '0:)-# The
connection between spectatorial agency, and class and racial differences, therefore, is made clear
precisely on the basis of se.uality#
/e.uality, then, and particularly black women7s se.uality, is for Gaines too powerful to be
positioned &safely out of patriarchal bounds###outside culture& '0>(-# /e.uality is neither
prediscursie nor natural+ &8ontrary to the suggestion that black female se.uality might still
remain in e.cess of culture, and hence unfathomed and uncodified, it is worked oer again and
again in mainstream culture because of its apparent elusieness& 'ibid-# Therefore, the danger for
analysis lies in uniersalizing from a particular sub"ect-position 'i#e# that of the middle-class
white spectator, gendered as a woman by feminist theory-# Gaines traces the break between white
and black feminists futher, noting that &while white feminists theorise the female image in terms
of ob"ectification, fetishisation and symbolic absence, their black counterparts describe the body
as the site of symbolic resistance and the 7parado. of non-being7, a reference to the period in
6fro-6merican history when the black female did not signify 7woman7& 'ibid-# From that
uniersalized position of the heterose.ual, cisse.ual, white, middle-class feminist woman, black
women7s se.uality -- the e.cess, supplement, or surplus of culture -- holds no position at all# %y
combining theoretical lenses of feminism, 5ar.ism, psychoanalysis, and racial difference,
Gaines works to combine representational, spectatorial, and historical issues in cinema# This
grounds her conception of agency in relation rather than stable identity, linking her writing to
that of both %utler and bell hooks#
For hooks, a similar combination of analytical tools is crucial to e.amine the position of the
spectator# Aoweer, hooks connects her own e.periences as a iewer to the politics of repression,
desire, and opposition+ &The 7gaze7 has always been political in my life&B &8onnecting this
strategy of domination Cracialized power relationsD to that used by grown folks in southern black
rural communities where $ grew up& 'hooks >(*-# This strategy can be read as intimately
sub"ectie, grounded in a stable spectatorial identity, but such a reading would be superficial#
hooks leads the reader into opposition by making strong claims, and then twists that opposition
into a !uestioning of one7s own position as a reader of her te.t+ &Een in the worst circumstances
of domination, the ability to manipulate one7s gaze in the face of structures of domination that
would contain it, opens up the possibility of agency& 'ibid-# 8ompare her parallel construction of
oppositional rhetoric and authoritatie citations of Foucault, /tuart Aall, and Frantz Fanon with
Judith %utler7s parallel concepts of &performatiity& and &citationality&, the &sustained social
perfomances& noted aboe# $t is crucial to note here that in making reference to her own
e.perience, hooks does not rely simply on argument from that position# @ather, we should read
such references as marking the impossibility of uniersal or ob"ectie analysis, an emphasis on
the particularity and radical contingency of any sub"ect-position for spectatorship, including both
the dominant and the subaltern#
%y the time hooks has introduced a block !uote, she has prepared her reader to identify with her
regardless of their own sub"ectie identity, regardless of her uses of the first person 'singular or
plural- pronouns# &/paces of agency e.ist for black people, wherein we can both interrogate the
gaze of the Other but also look back, and at one another, naming what we see& '>((-# Thus,
hooks recognizes the mutually constitutie actiities of spectatorship and representation, or
&looking relations& 'ibid-# The &oppositional& gaze is the &certain way& in which &one learns to
look### in order to resist& 'ibid-# Of course, the ob"ects of this resistance are the dominant 'read+
white-straight-middle class-male centered- institutions# Their power to dominate 'always
positioned as a constructed priilege rather than a natural right- is grounded their constant and
consistent 'non--position with which their sub"ects are identified# The oppositional gaze is
directed against precisely this identification with that which one sees, an opposition which
demands historical consciousness#
@eading 5anthia =iawara, hooks describes &moments of 7rupture7 when the spectator resists
7complete identification with the film7s discourse#7 These ruptures define the relation between
black spectators and dominant cinema prior to racial integration& '>(,-# Tracing the history of
black cinema 'which gae rise to such films as 8aldonia, %lack and Tan, and The /port of the
Gods- and its critical spectatorship, hooks notes that categories of identity seemed, as in Gaines,
to priilege discourse about certain categories of identity while marginalizing others#
/pecifically, &black looks were mainly concerned with issues of race### They were rarely
concerned with gender& 'ibid-# Thus, in this essay hooks takes up the &growing body of film
theory and criticism by black women& 'ibid-# This body of theory is demarcated by radical
differentiation, the being-apart of black women both from black men and from white women#
To pursue a spatial metaphor, compare this differential space for agency, this grounds-apart on
'or in or from or or or- which the oppositional looker establishes their perspectie, with the
dominant9normatie &cinematic conte.t that constructs Cblack women7sD presence as absence&,
the space where &CtDhere was clearly no place for black women#& The oppositional gaze, a
resistance against conentional representations of black women, poses an interesting dilemma#
8an there be a unity among the arious oppositional spectators, a black female spectatorial
identity, if such an identity is constructed only by difference from the mainstream< The socio-
political e.tension of this dilemma is the uncertainty around a coherent moement, that is, a
telos, for a theory of black women7s spectatorship# hooks7s answer to this issue of collectie
identity and agency is manifold# First, she posits the break to which she alluded to earlier in her
essay, ia her deployment of childhood memories and communal, historical e.perience, between
childhood and adulthood, slaery, segregation, and integration, linking the repression of black
women7s images on screen to repression of memories 'eg, of adolescent spectatorship- brought to
light by mature, critical reflection# The process of maturation inoles, among other things, a
moement from idealism to pragmatism# $n terms of spectatorship, this is the difference between
'or moement between- the ideal spectator and the embodied spectator+ after the moie, &we
come home to ourseles& '>(>-#
/econd, the links between race, gender, and class are so strong that to inoke a position within
one category is to imply an inocation of a related position in the others+ for e.ample, the
inocation of blackness is also the implication of poerty, and the inocation of femininity is also
the implication of whiteness 'and middle- or upper-class status-# This is why &mainstream
feminist film criticism in no way acknowledges black female spectatorship& '>(1-#Those who
occupy the oppositional position are linked not necessarily by a common goal, but by the shared
e.periences of e.clusion, repression, and differentiation# ;hat is at stake, socio-politically, in
hooks7s formulation of the black female spectator, is not a homogeneous and uniocal mass
counter-culture# Fot eery identity need suffer from oer-identification# @ather, what hooks
posits through the oppositional gaze is a position of agency which is not determined by
identification with either the apparatus or the ob"ect of the gaze itself# On this basis, she argues
for &new transgressie possibilities for the formulation of identity& '>,0-#
;orks 8onsulted+
%utler, Gender Trouble
hooks, GThe Oppositional GazeH
Gaines, G;hite Priilege and 4ooking @elationsH
On =6@I =6J/ - =ir# 5arc /inger, ,***#
=own here in the tunnel, you don7t hae to worry about Cpeople messing with youD because
nobody in their right mind comes down hereK& -@obbie, =ark =ays
=ark =ays is a film, which $ will problematically call a documentary, that chronicles the life of
homeless residents of the tunnels underneath Pennsylania /tation in Few Jork 8ity# $n this
essay, $ will show how the film highlights arious aspects of apparatus-centered 5ar.ist
analysis# The moie is composed on (1mm black and white film, by a first-time director, who
lied among the sub"ects of the film for two years# These three facts correlate to three important
points of access for the discussion of ideology and apparatus - resepectiely, mediated
representation, the conditions of production and distribution, and occluded identification#
5ediated representation, or what %ataille would call the &relation of non-relation& between those
whose image is captured on film and those who iew the film, is in the first analysis an e.tension
of capital# The stages of mediation through which images must pass in order to be receied as
intelligible and meaningful for the iewer, including recording, editing, pro"ection, and
transcription into other media, each lend codes of supplementary or e.cess meaning to their
content# For e.ample, the use of (1mm black and white film, which was perhaps necessary
because of /inger7s low budget 'to which $ will return-, also codes the content of that film as
&historical,& &realistic,& and een &unmediated& or &raw&, all codes that sere the purpose of
documentary# These codes persist een when, for e.ample, a high-definition soundtrack is
introduced oer grainy, low-resolution footage, or footage of rats is interpellated with footage of
residents scaenging through trash bags for food# 5ediation is the first point of access to the
recognition of the non-neutrality of the technological and capitalist apparatus inoled in the
production of meaning in this film#
The conditions of production and distribution follow similar aesthetic and social codes of
meaning# The homeless friends of the filmmaker, these residents of the &Freedom Tunnel&, also
largely made up the crew during filming# 6ccording to the $nternet 5oie =atabase, &/inger
employed his friends in the tunnels as his crew# /inger claims that these people, with no prior
e.perience in filmmaking whatsoeer, were incredible in their ability to set up lighting rigs,
dollies, and electrical wiring, mostly without the use of tools or real grip e!uipment# To make the
dolly for tracking shots, /inger and his carpenter built a rig made out of wood and metal scraps#
;ithout a power drill, they would heat a metal rod and 7singe7 a hole into the wood to put a screw
or dowel in for fi.ture& 'http+99www#imdb#com9title9tt*,0>0,39-# $ndeed, this trope of self-
sufficiency, of bricolage, is echoed throughout the production notes# 6ttention to these details of
production and distribution seres to e.plicate the content itself, and to ground any discussion of
the film7s political efficacy#
/inger was granted the use of the camera, gien free 'damaged- film, and was een granted the
reproduction rights to the music, by =J /hadow, that seres as the soundtrack# 6s for the
homeless residents of the tunnel, they managed to contribute to the making of the film7s content
as well, as they gae interiews and tours of their liing conditions, showing or describing for
the camera nearly eery aspect of their lies in the tunnels, from finding and making food, to
basic hygiene, to drug use, to making some money aboe ground# The degree of intimate access
granted to the iewer is e.plained by /inger7s long-term residence in the tunnels alongside the
other sub"ects of this film# Finally, the distribution of the moie bears consideration, since it
spent a disproportionate amount of time in post-production, and was released on the independent
film circuit, through festials like /undance# Thus, the reception of the film was as heaily coded
as its nearly-mythically sub-proletarian origins, epitomized by the emergence of /inger as a first-
time director of a film about an historically silenced sub"ect# $n this way, analysis of this moie
begins to approach a kind of material historiography of its making#
That /inger spent two years liing amongst the people he chronicles is emblematic of the
dialectics of identification# For e.ample, when one resident introduces a friend who enters the
tunnel to the camera7s operator 'and thus to the audience, ia the camera itself-, he says, &This is
my friend 5arc#& /uch a statement cannot pass une.amined, for at stake is the status of the &this
is&# ;hat marks the relation between the filmed sub"ect, their representation, the camera itself,
the filmmaker, and the film iewer< $s this relation fi.ed, mutable, or radically contingent on
some set of cultural norms< 5ost importantly, how do such !uestions go unasked in white,
middle-class, heteronormatie iewing practices, or &looking relations&, as bell hooks and Jane
Gaines would call them< This moment of interaction highlights the dramatic and radical schism
between the iewer and the intersub"ectie relations at that moment# ;hile /inger meets his
friend7s friend 'until that point, an absolute stranger, one without a name, a radically other body-
ob"ect whose later appearance, showering under a dripping water main, would appear the ery
height of e.hibitionist-oyeuristic gazing if not for this introduction-, they e.change words and
handshakes that break the &fourth wall& of the camera, disrupting the iewer7s une.amined
identification with the camera7s perspectie, since those glances and handshakes take place
beyond the camera7s field of ision, outside the frame#
$n this rupture, the iewer is finally made aware of their distance from the eents and characters
that hae unfolded on-screen# This distance is precisely what is occluded in normal looking
relations, what the iewer might hae imagined as being diminished during the rest of the film,
as they see more and more of life in the tunnel# The break from documentation, the reelation of
/inger7s own e.perience and embeddedness in the group among which he is filming, in short, the
positionality and non-neutrality of the camera itself, parallels the position in society of the
homeless, the sub"ect of the film itself# These homeless, those without names, the infinitely
fungible detritus and e.cess of society, are finally seen to occupy a discrete position 'which is
neertheless not a &home&9domus9ie9habitus- that can neer be outside of culture or ciilization
as such, because it is the ery grounds of such culture# That an important social interaction takes
place beyond the iew of the camera is repeated later on, when 6mtrak officials dispatch armed
police to sere an eiction notice to the residents of the tunnel# $ shall return to this#
$t is necessary, howeer, to trace some fundamental moments throughout the film, in a coherent
narratie sense# The moie opens with a se!uence of shots that alternate between footage of
6mtrak trains passing through the tunnels and one resident making his way down into the tunnel#
This se!uence establishes the limited, limiting, and yet priileged gaze of the camera, the point
of access for the iewer into the sub"ect matter of the film# %efore the title, certain motifs are
already established# For e.ample, an oerall dialectic between light and darkness dominates the
screen, apparent in the black-and-white footage, the dominance of shadows and their play on
surfaces, and the single figure7s descent &towards& the trains passing through the tunnels, which
also makes eident the recurrent dichotomy of top and bottom# 6s the title appears, the iewer
can already begin to engage with these themes, obsering the fundamental ambiguity in that title#
&=ark =ays& might refer to the absence of sunlight below Penn /tation, the physical situation of
the homeless underground# $t might e!ually refer to the metaphorical &darkness& of misfortune,
the economic situation of homelessness, and thus to struggle# ;hat is at stake in the final
analysis of this theme of darkness is opacity itself, the insufficiency of representation to its
This insufficiency is marked again in the ne.t se!uence, in which arious principal players are
shown waking up# One man, e.plaining that he is tired, remarks, &it must be late### or early&, and
the others in the room all laugh# /uch laughter can denote an e.cess, of course, as in the
encounter with that which escapes signification, but what is also denoted is that the stable
phenomenology and temporality of physical e.perience is always already in !uestion for these
residents of Freedom Tunnel# $t is important to note the instability or insufficiency of temporal
progression throughout most of the film, and the moments when the flow of time is established,
since they are precisely the disruptions of daily rhythm 'and documentary, &realistic&
representation of a moment frozen in time- that mark the occluded connections between the
homeless and the society which e.cludes them from discourse or from interaction#
The film then traces certain familiar rituals of priacy and cleanliness, such as brushing one7s
teeth, counterpointed by two residents7 discussion of maintenance and who has the &nicest&
;hat they reeal here is that there is a concrete and measurable duration of residence under the
tunnel, and moreoer, that longeity underground is correlated with one7s standard of liing# The
iewer must, at this point, confront the definition of homelessness itself, in much the same way
as the se!uence on waking up forced a confrontation with the filmic category of documentary#
For e.ample, in the discussion on maintenance, it becomes clear that most of the people
represented in the film hae built small houses in the tunnel# This conflicts with the sense that a
home and a house are one and the same, but that conflict is oerridden by the discussion of the
difference between homelessness and helplessness# 6lthough perhaps by society7s standards, the
residents of the tunnel are ontologically destitute, without status or name, domus or nomos, there
is still a strong sense of ownership, of the link between property and capital+ &/tuff $ can use, $
keep# /tuff $ can7t use, $ sell,& says @onnie# ;hat becomes clear as the accumulation of &stuff&
continues to be described and catalogued is a kind of being-within ontological destitution, the
struggle to make money without work, without producing a body of work, and the radical
instability of life on the tracks# This instability is highlighted by the fre!uent theme of drug use#
$ssues of race also emerge within that theme of drug use# =uring the se!uence that deals most
e.plicitly with crack cocaine, a white-latino resident protrays himself as clean from crack,
recoering from addiction to the drug# Ae is represented while painting the words &FO 8@68I&
on his house 'in white paint-, deliering a continuous monologue, which we can read as a
conscious cultural production, a production of discourse# Then, the perspectie cuts to the
interior of a room with two other residents, both black, smoking crack, without much dialogue#
;hat discourse there is remains limited to a few sentences about crack itself# The camera
abruptly cuts away, into another conersation between two non-users, both of whom then speak
about using other drugs, and comparing them faorably to crack, not in terms of their potential
for into.ication, but in terms of their ability to limit the use of the drug, making continual
reference to the issue of control# $n this case, the !uestion is both, &can the user control their drug
use 'or does the drug control the addict-<& and &who has control oer these scenes representing
drug use and its surrounding discourse<&# This analysis must therefore note that /inger is a white
'%ritish- man, who moed into the tunnels after his arrial in Few Jork as a &lifestyle choice,& as
well as noting that the long post-production process for this moie is often attributed to /inger7s
demand for uniocal control oer the finished product '/ee $5=%, op cit, and ;ikipedia+
;hile these issues suggest themes better addressed through auteur criticism, for the purposes of
this essay, they highlight that societal norms are in an ambiguous relation to this film# On one
hand, the political efficacy of this moie, that is, the raising of awareness about the situation of
homeless people in Few Jork, may be enhanced by the e.plicit inclusion of crack use# On the
other hand, such a scene also reinforces cultural stereotypes that homeless people, especially
those who are black, are incorrigible drug users whose habits put them on the streets and who
will therefore neer reenter society# /uch "udgements are outside the scope of this essay, but it is
worthwhile to "ump ahead a bit and note that while =ee, the woman smoking crack in that scene,
does engage in discourse with Tito, the man who painted the sign prohibiting crack on his house,
shortly thereafter in the film, 8larence, the man shown smoking, is dead by the time the moie is
releasedB his name is among those in the credits to whose memory the film is dedicated#
To return to some political9economic themes, a recurring image of work-without-works is that of
the scaenger industry# @esidents sift through the detritus and waste of the aboe-ground
consumer society, which is, of course, centered and e.emplified in Few Jork#
The e.cess, surplus, and refuse of that culture becomes the raw materials by which residents
generate capital for themseles# /ome collect bottles, while some sell bootleg 8=s and =M=s,
especially pornography# There is, in the se!uence which focuses on this scaenger industry, a
particular attention paid to interaction between the street and the tunnel# This is most clear in the
strikingly dialectical se!uence of images about food# @esidents discuss their ongoing battle with
the rats in the tunnel, and how they try to keep their bodies and food safe from those rodents#
This is contrasted with shots of residents aboe-ground, sifting through dumpsters, trash cans,
and bags of garbage for discarded food, which are inter-cut with parallel shots of rats in precisely
the same situations# /ome residents are shown making food, e.plaining their arious techni!ues
for cooking, including one man who makes cornbread, his shadow on the wall sering as the
central image of him stirring the ingredients together in a bowl# These isual se!uences, as well
as earlier and later moments in which residents brush their teeth, care for their pets, shower, and
so on, point to the insistence on maintaining the banality and regularity of eeryday life, the
manifestation of domus in transience#
&$f you7re homeless, this is the best spot,& says one man# The alue of protection and stability
cannot be understated for those without priate propertyB the substitute for home life is the
deelopment of inisibility, the inhabitance of opa!ue spaces# $n this sense, the camera7s
technical role is to make transparent and isible that which was hidden# Throughout the film, the
iewer is slowly made aware of the particularity and indiiduality of each featured resident in
this small group of people# Thus, there is a narratie element, a character deelopment, that takes
place on the basis of cinematic representation# The recurrence of indiidual residents, discussions
of their longeity and how they continue to construct spaces for themseles, insistently occurs at
the leel of isual discourse#
There are two significant interentions in terms of this representation that highlight the
conditions of production and distribution, as well as the identification of physical e.istence with
isual reproduction# First is the role of the soundtrack# %eyond the recordings of trains, spoken
language, and other sounds of life in the tunnels, there is a recurrent musical punctuation in the
film# This is the music of =J /hadow, an award-winning musician from /an Francisco# Ais
inclusion in the creatie process, first by the filmmaker7s sampling and suturing of his music into
the film, and later by his sanctioning and licensing 'as well as original composition and remi.ing
e.clusiely for this pro"ect- seres to especially boost the production alue of the film as a
cultural product# This soundtrack is also an interesting e.ample of the hybridization of media
formats, since it was mastered digitally, and then blended with the (1 mm film itself#
This hybridization is another e.ample of the pretension to inisibility of the technical apparatusB
the ery subtlety of the soundtrack seres as another layer of mediation in the isual
documentation of the film7s sub"ect, while changing the conditions of production# 6nother
interention in this sense was the wide distribution of the film online, especially ia
JouTube#com, after it won many awards on the film festial circuit# 8ombined with the profit-
sharing initiatie that distributed the earnings of the film among its collaborators and sub"ects,
this aspect calls into !uetsion "ust who the intended spectator of the film is, compared with its
receiing spectator# Aow does this kind of distribution affect the political efficacy of the
documentary< This !uestion remains to be answered in its larger implications# $n other words,
the impact of the distribution of this moie online has not been addressed in terms of the lies of
the homeless in Few Jork and beyond# Aoweer, for the specific sub"ects of the moie, there
were ery specific, oerall positie conse!uences for haing been inoled in its production#
The only &title card& of the film appears as a te.tual slide inserted to mark the unfilmed portion
of the moie 'a representation of what is fundamentally prohibited, unrepresentable-# 6mtrak
armed police sered a thirty-day eiction notice, leads into a se!uence that includes residents7
reactions, @ich @ubell making a statement on behalf of 6mtrak that makes the usual claims of
interention for the homeless residents7 own good, and residents making plans to leae# =uring
this last portion of the film, 5ike Aarris, a spokesman for the 8oalition for the Aomeless in Few
Jork, makes a statement that is posed as a counterpoint to @ubell7s "ustification for eiction#
Aarris e.plains that their organization 'which had been approached by /inger and his crew- had
planned to file a lawsuit against 6mtrak, until the department of Aousing and ?rban
=eelopment interened, proiding section 2 subsidized housing# This leads into a se!uence of
the sub"ects7 last day in the tunnel - they are shown breaking down their houses with
sledgehammers, and finally moing into those apartments#
There is, then, a clear dichotomy between the body of the film and its final se!uences after that
te.tual title card# 6 sense of temporality is inoked which is profoundly different from that which
was represented before the threat of eiction was shown# Throughout the moie times of day and
night were interchangeable, that is, because the content of the film took place largely
underground, so that the only time was any time whateer# /imilarly, the sense of narratie
progression was unformed, since the deelopment of the characters7 personalities was in the form
of discrete ignettes, without that sense of linear ineitability# One particular e.ception to this
tendency, howeer, was the se!uence inoling the arson that destroyed =ee7s house# From the
title card to the end of the film, howeer, there is a definite time-progression, as well as an
emphasis on finitude, narratie, and conclusion# Thus, we can say that the last part of the film
introduces the importance of historical consciousness#
$ hae tried to show some ways in which =ark =ays can be iewed through a 5ar.ist lens#
Focusing on issues of mediation, occlusion, and production has grounded this analysis of
representation, spectatorial identification, and political efficacy# Aoweer, there are still aspects
of and around this fim which moe beyond the scope of this essay, including a fuller discussion
of the historical impact of the moie, its relation to newer media and conditions of distribution,
and the !uestion of genre# Aoweer, what limits this analysis may proide the grounds for
another, or the inspiration for the creation of a new cultural product, which may yet form the
ob"ect of an entirely other analysis#
;O@I/ 8OF/?4TE=+
6dorno and Aorkheimer, &The 8ulture $ndustry&
6lthusser, &$deology and $deological /tate 6pparatuses&
%audry, &$deological Effects of the %asic 8inematographic 6pparatus&
%en"amin &The ;ork of 6rt in the 6ge of 5echanical @eproduction&
Eisenstein, &%eyond the /hot&
Aeath, &4essons from %recht&
Jameson, &@eification and ?topia in 5ass 8ulture&
5ansfield, /ub"ectiity
5ar., 8apital, Mol# $$ 'on 5achines-
official website+ http+99www#palmpictures#com9film9dark-days#php
imdb+ http+99www#imdb#com9title9tt*,0>0,39
wikipedia+ http+99en#wikipedia#org9wiki9=arkL=aysL'documentary-
youtube+ http+99www#youtube#com9watch<Ndh:s32=b>OO