James S. Williams
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For our eyes only
body and sexuality in reverse motion
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Steven Shaviro's 'cinematic body' brings out the truly radical nature of Jean Cocteau's investment in reverse-motion photography as an 'image-en-procès' whereby film literally regresses and provides disturbing glimpses of primary erotic matter. More crucially, zones of uncertainty and ambiguity exist within Cocteau's cinema that are simply left out of the exclusively thematic accounts of sexuality and (sado)masochism, however compelling. In fact, Cocteau's moments of reverse motion bring the viewer face to face with an otherness which he or she can neither incorporate nor expel. The secret knowingness of male characters by means of objects is tied up directly with a Cocteau film's own playful, erotic knowledge of itself when it goes into reverse motion and makes objects out of human forms. Frederick Brown talks of Cocteau's belles dames sans merci who unsex men as another instance of his decadent romanticism and his vocation for ecstatic self-martyrdom.

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