cinema as skin

When we look at cinema as skin we are looking at something as a container(embodiment).This is sort of like accessing the world through our bodies. We start to use language of phenomenal logical enquiry. Also as confluence between inner and outer. It is also a confluence between our senses. we call it intermodality, as a haptic experience.

Apart from the embodiment, we also could look at the skin as an ethnographic sign. The enquiry of intercultural/ postcolonial that we we come into contact with another, the screen become an encounter with the other.

Both of them are critiquing ocular centrism.It is not about seeing through eyes, it is more about the body experience.There are lot of film theorist who used a lot psychoanalytical  terms.

Talking of psycho pathological conditions, Buffalo Bill in The silence of the lambs who was driven by the desire of it to vest himself in someone else’s skin. That is what’s driving the whole narrative.

The film Fight Club by David Fincher. The title sequence of the film is actually inside some body’s brain, navigating around inside the skin, and then zoom outside the skin.

The other science fiction film from the 1970s called the illustrated man really gets into the story behind the tattoos and the dynamic between tattoo artist and the person who’a having their skin inked.

When we think about those terms with out body, that’s when we think with the phenomenal enquiry.The idea of developing our senses, the more we look the more we start to see. It’s the idea of developing the senses together.

The other idea i s ethnographic anthropological film and post-colonial theories of film.

This is a kind of overlooked area of cinema. When we look at Hollywood film, the films that are outside of it are considered as foreigner. The Critique of imperialist andorientalist media; “whitness studies”, they are definitely a sign of cinema as skin.

Laura Mark(2000) discussed in her book The Skin of the Film that ‘cinema as skin’ offers a metaphor to create the way film demonstrates through its materiality, the contact between perceiver and object represented. She also suggest the method vision can be tactile, like touching a film with one’s eyes.

Rachel Maclean is a Scottish artist that makes films about her identity as a Scot. We watched her film called a whole new world which she made as a response to Scottish independence. It was a quite bizarre film when the woman started singing in Cantonese and then speaking in Arabic.

Screenshot 2016-03-09 21.48.51



From my point of view, skin is the cultural identity to one self, filmmakers make film with their understanding of their own culture, the film demonstrates what the film contains. I really love films that has strong cultural influence, it makes the film more interesting to watch.

Mark, L.(2000) The skin of the film. Durham: Duke University Press. Elsaesser, T. and Hagener, M. (2009) Film Theory New York: Routledge





cinema as brain: mind and body

In today’s class we had the lecture about cinema as brain, The idea of cinema as mind, body and brain is that cinema is a reality and a way of thinking. It’s both material and immaterial, thinking and unthinking, real and ureal, actural and virtual. We use cinema to understand the world we live in. It functions as an extension, analogy or subtitute of our mind.

Cinema can be used a perceptual and cognitive prosthetic, it works with our brain together to extend our knowledge of the world. The way it works is like the way the mind works. Consciousness and cinema are both virtual and self-reflexive. Some images makes the spectator aware of the act of perceiving images, growng conscious of the processes of consciousness itself. It substitutes mental images for those that are neither virtual nor imaginary, neither visual nor haptic.

What is cinema? According to Deleuze, cinema is medium that is similar to modern philosophy because it philosophizes about movement and time with its own means.


One of my faviourite film is the sience of the sleep. I love the scene keeps changing from the reality and the character’s dream. I am a person who dream a lot, a LOT. Sometimes I would rather live in the dream that I have than the reality. Because sometimes. Dreams are much better than real life.

cinema as mirror & skin

Mirror is a surface that reflects ourselves, when we look at ourselves there are two of us, and it’s called doppelgänger. It is not just some one who physically look just like you, it is also confronting yourself as an other. There are films about this topic like people switching identity such as Persona (1966), or stories around people’s alter egos in a lot of superhero’s films.

The double could be used as a narrative structure. In terms of the debate between formalist and realist ideas, we question whether the image was real or construction. Does the close-up attempting to represent the intimacy?  The other idea is cinema as a sign of mirror, within the film we enter the modernist self- reflexivity.

In the book Film Theory, Elsaesser and Hagener(2007) said :

“A look into the mirror necessitates a confrontation with one’ s own face as the window to one’ s own interior self.”

They think that the mirror becomes a window into yourself when you look at a mirror.

However, The other author called Murakami(2007) said in his book called What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

“no matter how long you stand there examining yourself naked before a mirror you will never see reflected what’s inside”

It was an quite strong and interesting statement as the surface of the mirror would never let us go into deeper aspect of our inner self.

There are people arguing whether you could see your soul through mirror whereas some people totally disagree with it. So maybe the mirror blocks the passage toward any world that is clearly distinguished by the labels ‘inside’ of ‘outside’.

the mirror as a window on the unconscious,

reflexive / reflective doubling of what is being seen / shown

the mirror of the other – empathy and sympathy

We looked at these 3 aspects in class, the classic scene of the mirror as a window on the unconscious is from the film Taxi Driver, the scene of Travis Bickle talking to himself in front of the mirror. However he’s actually talking to his enemy, in reality he is talking to us through the camera. The filmmaker is taking us either inside or out Travis’s mind.

One of the key thinkers about the close-up in cinema is called Bela Balazs, In his book The Visible Man (1924), the change from oral tradition to printing tradition, Balazs thinks with the discovery of printing we lost our connection of reading people’s faces. And the cinema somehow reconnect it.

He made a statement in 1924 when there was debates about whether film could be seen as an art form, he thinks:

“In a truly artistic film the dramatic climax between two people will always be shown as a dialogue of facial expressions in close-up”

The shift from reading from printing to reading from the image developed a form of communication not based on language or writing.

The second idea is reflexive/ reflective doubling of what is being seen or shown. Cinema is suitable to reflect on the actual methods of making films. There are four films shown in the presentation, the characters in these films face a creative crisis that revolves around the relation ships to their means of artistic expression and to the world.

“A film is difficult to explain because it is easy to understand . . .”

Christian Metz

The mirror stage describes a phase in the development of infants between the ages of 6 and 18 months. At the stage, they are not fully coordinated yet, but when they look at their parents, they internalise the actions of the carers. When the infant started to think as an image of themselves is when they enter the symbolic order.

According to Baudry, this mirror-phase seemed to explain the iterative, compulsive and highly narcissistic pleasures associated with narrative cinema.

The final stage of the mirror is the mirror of the other.

We watched a film by Andy Warhol, what he basically did was got people sitting in front of the camera and leave them there, and did nothing for 3 minutes.

The film is just a woman staring at the camera from the beginning to the end, people must get bored out by watching this. There is another version of this which has sad music as background. That might add more sympathy to the film. The woman wasn’t blinking once in the film which was very impressive.

There is still a big debates between mirror stage and mirror neurons.

Cinema as ear: acoustics and space

How does cinema make sense of the world? Why is cinema so easy to understand?
We get knowledge of the world through ideas. We never see the world itself, we only experience through ideas.
The topic of this week is cinema as ear: Acoustics and space. It is a “turn” towards the body and to “embodied perception”. There are 4 keys things:
1. flat space
Back in about 1925 when movies had no sound or only have a soundtrack. And then we start to move through space which is audiovisual correspondence, the next is identity crisis or cultural drift(through the soundtrack) and the last one, inner space or the little voice inside our heads.
What’s all about flat space? Rudolf Arnheim wrote quite a few text on film as art, back in 1920s, cinema was in a battle between other art forms. It wasn’t considered a proper art form. People argued that film actually is an art form. When there’s the transition from silent movie to sound films, Arnheim is comfortable with watching silent film as an art form. It follows the same language as painting.

“Acoustics completes the illusion to perfection. The edge of the screen is no longer a frame, but the margin of a whole, of a theatrical space: sound transforms the screen into a spatial stage.

One of cinema’ s main and special appeals is the fact that every scene poses a competition: the fragmentation of images and motion on the surface versus plastic bodies and motion in space. Sound film suspends this aesthetically important double game almost completely.”

Rudolf Arnheim (1928)


When we move into audio visual art, those clear definition become quite blurred. Arnheim also argued that the addition of sound provoked the conflict of medium specificity and intermediality.

When we are watching a silent film we are in a flat space, however when it become a sound film, we started moving through space. We have a lot of questions to think about with a sound film. Is the sound on-screen of off-screen? Is is diegetic or non-degetic? Is is out side of the narrative space? Synchronous or non-synchronous?

(Bordwell & Thompson, 2009)

We watched the opening sequence of the film Touch of Evil (1958) by Orson Wells in class, and we watched the studio version first as they don’t like the original version made by Wells so they recut the clip.
  So the difference between two is in the other one, the sound is out of sync, the direction is different as well.
An idea that given by Vivian Sobchak is that sound give film a ‘body’, it has intentionality and spatial directionality, it is potential to destabilise the spectator and it reinforces emotion affective states.
When we look at an image, what sound merge in our head? The question we had in class is: Which is more real: mind or matter/ sound or image. There are few key issues in this debate. The oral culture or visual culture. The oral culture is the culture that is not written down.Since the invention of printing technique, things got printed out, so we move from the oral tradition towards the visual tradition.
I visited Hales Gallery and the exhibition is called Rayday by Jeff Keen. The work is originally presented at the 1970 ‘Film international underground film festival.”The film immerses the viewer in ints manic world of creation and violent destruction. I was surprised by the sound in the film because it has nothing to do with the content. There are so many things happening in really short time.

Cinema as Eye – Look and Gaze Folder

The topic of this week is Cinema as eye, when we watch cinema, cinema does not really respond our gaze. How does cinema look? There are four different ways.

They look through mechanical eye. Daziga Vertov, a Russian film maker came up with this concept of Kino-Prvada (the truth of cinema), in his concept, the camera is like a prosthetic eye and become typical proto cyborgs (part machine and part human).

Jean Rouche came up with the idea of cinema verte, also means the truth of cinema, he’s an anthropologist studying other people’s cultures. The whole idea of the truth of cinema came out when he started to turn the camera to his own people in Paris. It ended up with a hybrid way of the film that people act slight different in front of the camera when they are talking, and it is called provocation.

The third way is called diegetic eye(the story teller’s eye). It’s is basically about narration.(Hollywood continuity in cinematic storytelling)

The last one is called Untutored eye,  with Avant-Garde approach, Stan Brakhage, most of his films are non-narrative.He is also an artist working on the limitation of the medium art in Avant- Garde way, and discovering a new way of seeing.

Kino-Eye means conquest of time (the visual linkage of phenomena separated in time). Kino-Eye is the possibility of seeing life processes in any temporal order or at any speed, inaccessible to the human eye.”


“the cinematic apparatus, regardless how we define it, is less in need of a theory capable of deconstructing it than it is threatened by obsolescence: overtaken by mechanisms of power and pleasure directly engaged with the body.”

(Elsaesser & Hagener, 2009)

Cinema as Door – screen and threshold


how do we enter the film? Films begin with title sequences. It has various elements such as shots, sounds, words and even graphics, symbols.

The idea of spectator, through the idea of cinema as a window from last week, we get to think about where the film directors are placing us, how do we conceptualise the film experience. Basically it is about imaging how the audience thinks. Are they inside the film or outside?

You will not understand what a film is about unless you watch through it by yourself. People walk through the doors, it is a point of entry, then the story begins. We as the viewer, create the meaning of the film as much as the director does. The door, acts as threshold between interior and exterior worlds.

There are two ideas that helps analysis the film. One is constructivist approach, the other one is post-structuralist approach.


entre the void ( Gasper Noe, 2009)


The film provokes the subjective point of view of character, and it has its violence cuts, jumping one scene to another, bringing the audience into new dimensions.

The difference between the idea of cinema as a door and window is that, doors move us toward and awareness of entry and transition, rather than the fixed state of witnessing a display.

We watched the opening sequence of the film The Big Sleep (Howard Hawks, 1946), a classic film noir. The opening started with a silhouette of a couple smoking behind the screen, following with the text fading with smoke, the first scene appeared with a door.


There were once a biggest nightmare in my childhood. When I was about 13 years old. A famous a Chinese horror film came out. It is called “The door.” In the story, the main character sees horrific things each time he looked through the peep hole on the door. However, the door also represents the door of the truth. The film gave me the worst fear, for almost a year I could not sleep well and was scared of looking at the door.

Neverthless, the idea of cinema as a door is rather interesting. It leads us towards an awareness of entry and what is really inside the film. I really those opening sequence made by Saul Bass, they are so attractive and sometimes it gives people more impression than the whole film.

Elsaesser, T. and Hagener, M. (2009) Film Theory New York: Routledge

May, J. (2010) The Art Of Film Title Design Throughout Cinema History. Available at:https:// (Accessed: 05 March 2016)

Gross. R. (2015) The Graphic Art Of Film Title Design Throughout Cinema History Available at:https:// (Accessed: 05 March 2016)



cinema as a frame/window

The word ‘cinema’ actually came from the ancient greek word  κίνημα (kínēma) , it can be so many different things to different people, some people take cinema as moving images, when we talk about film study, a lot of people would think of film analysis.  From the analysis to the mise-en-scene (the contents of the frame and the way they are organised ), there are two major things, the style of the director which is paritcular important to the director who considered themselves as the author of the film. The other thing is film form, more like a genre of the film. There are two different categories of the form that film contains, we distinguish them as narrative and non-narrative.

We started from the question ‘what is cinema?’ to ‘ what is philosophy?’, and it’s all about how do we think. when we are watching a film, do we think with our bodies and minds? or do  we think about tools and media.

The concepts behind cinema as a frame or other senses is ontological metaphors. we use these metaphors to help us understand and describe what cinema is.  We link the topic of cinema as a frame with an idea of formalism. That is an idea that cinema does not have the ability to record the reality as it really is. This limitation defines the artistic practice.

The other idea of cinema as a window is realism, the assumption that cinema is able to render a realistic representation of world “life as it happens”

What’s interesting about the frame is that the film make would decide where the frame would go next. So rather than seeing things as a  whole, you can see the world as a close-up.

A film made by Alfred Hitchcock called Rear Window (1954) discussed the idea of seeing cinema as a frame, we watched the opening of the film in class, it kind of follows that hollywood style editing (continuous editing) , there’s no interruption through the watching, and we would know what the man in the film do just through seeing the things around him. In the film, Hitchcock built up the scene of the what the man is really looking at through his lens. And although the scene is cut from one to the next, the continuous editing is matching the action of what the man is trying to see.

According to the book written by Thomas Elsaesser And Malte Hagener(2009). The film has become a typical case study in film theory.

When we watching a film, we are wondering what the actors are thinking. Sometimes they think with their bodies, they might think with their bodies and sense more than their brains. Then it comes to the concept of the ideal spectator. The idea of what the audience is like (how we understand films).

The other film we watched in class is made by Jean-Luc Goddard(1960), unlike hitchcock where he joins the image together, whereas Goddard cuts the images and joins them together.

“If direction is a look, montage is a heartbeat. To foresee is the characteristic of both: but what one seeks to foresee in space, the other seeks in time. Suppose you notice a young girl in the street who attracts you. You hesitate to follow her. A quarter of a second. How to convey this hesitation? Mise-en-scene will answer the question ‘How shall I approach her?’ But in order to render explicit the other question, ‘Am I going to love her?’ you are forced to bestow importance on the quarter of a second during which the two questions are born. It may be, therefore, that it will be for the montage rather than the mise-en-scene to express both exactly and clearly the life of an idea or its sudden emergence in the course of a story.

Jean-Luc Godard, J-L. (1956) Montage, Mon Beau Souci

(Montage My Fine Care)

Then we watched a series of short films of Lumiere and Company, and they are all made by cinematographic technology. One of the short film made by David Lynch was really intriguing to me because there’s not cut and editing in the film and somehow there are so many things happening in the film.

To me, the idea of spectator is fairly interesting because, every time when I finished watching a film, I always go online and search other people’s thoughts about the film, every one holds different opinion on it and I think that is one of the most intriguing thing about watching a film.


Elsaesser, T. and Hagener, M. (2009) Film Theory New York: Routledge

Rear Window (1954) Directed by Alfred Hitchcock USA Paramount Pictures

Schreiber, M. (no date) Spectatorship and Academic Film studies . Available at: encyclopedia/Romantic-Comedy-Yugoslavia/Spectatorship-and-Audiences-SPECTATORSHIP-AND- ACADEMIC-FILM-STUDIES.html (Accessed: 03 March 2016)


the body

“In front of the lens, I am at the same time: the one I think I am, the one I want others to think I am, the one the photographer thinks I am, and the one he makes use to exhibit his art…I am neither subject nor object but a subject who feels he is becoming an object.”

Barthes, R. (1993), Camera Lucida,  London: Vintage. P13-14

The definition of ‘othering’ can be found online(Othering 101: What is “othering’?, 2011), it demonstrates an individual or group are mentally classified in someone’s mind as “not one of us”. “it’s sometimes easier to dismiss them as being in some way less human, and less worthy of respect and dignity, than we are.”

We perceive ourselves as normal, each group of us has our own culture, but looking at others cultures or people outside our group we considered them as ‘different. Not only culture, the difference could be gender, class, sexuality and religion to the body and human mind.

photographers keen on taking photographs of different people from themselves. They took poor people, crazy people through their lens, and people in different class.



Nobuyoshi Araki is known as his female nude photography, He is one of person who is keen on taking photos of female body. Women in picture followed he and do any thing he asked for. Mulvey (in “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema”, 1975), argues that in the possession of the gaze, male become active whereas female become passive. The other person who has been taking nude picture for his career life is Chinese photographer Ren Hang, however he takes pictures of both male and female.

Othering 101: What is “othering”?(2011) Available at: (Accessed: 25 November 2015)

Ortega, M(no date). Othering the Other: The Spectacle of Katrina for our Racial Entertainment Pleasure. Available at: (Accessed: 25 November 2015)

Zehr, H. (2009) Creating the “other” in research, photography, justice. Available at: (Accessed: 25 November 2015)

Barthes, R. (1993), Camera Lucida,  London: Vintage. P13-14


family photo

My family photo is basically me and my mom walking in a park with all these green plants surrounded by us. I remembered I was only 4 or 5 years old so I completely could not remember what was happening during the photo. But there is one that is quite obvious, is that both me and my mom was not ready for the shot.

I asked my mom on my phone with some question like, when and where was this photo taken, why did I look so grumpy in the photograph. The answer was pretty much the same as mine, for it is such a long time ago that my mom could not remember the detail either, the only thing she could remember was the picture was taken in a park in Shanghai and it was her sister who took it.

“Cameras go with family life”

Sontag, S. (1979) On Photography

As Williams, V.(1994) said,  “Snapshot photography, seemingly so open so casual…., and families across the Western world uses it to create a favourable reflection of domestic lfe.”

  • 1. Do you believe that the person photographing has been in charge / in control when photographing your family (in terms of portraying your family)?

I think so  just telling people don’t move or smile.

  • 2. Do you think that your family photographs / family album correctly represent you and your family?

Not really, My family always took photographs together when we’re on trip, so the places we were taken are different from where we were living, and we always have happy faces but somehow not everyone was happy in my family.

  • 3. Do you think that your family photographs correctly represent the situations portrayed? (i.e. representing ‘happy moments’, what your family holiday was really like, what your Christmas five years ago was really like, etc.)

Yeah at least at that moment we were happy.

  • 4. If family photographs are objects shared between several, if not all, family members, would you say that self portraits would be the only way of completely owning one’s image?


  • 5. Do you feel that photographing a family member is a way of preserving that person?



Sarvas, R and Frohlich, DM (2011)From Snapshots to Social Media – The Changing Picture of Domestic Photography Computer Supported Cooperative Work . Springer.





The image I picked is called Tank Man taken by Jeff Widener in 1989, on 5 June, the morning after the Chinese military suppressed the Tiananmen Square protest by force, the image demonstrated that the man repeatedly changed his position to obstruct the tank, the whole incident was documented.

The identity of the man remained unknown but according to other media resource, the British tabloid the Sunday Express named him as Wang Weilin (王维林), a 19-year-old student. The video on youtube(CNN,2013) showed that he kept obstructing the tank until few people pulled him away, the tank continued moving forward. The article written by Heather Saul(2014) said that the image soon became a powerful symbol of the massacre of June 4 1989

The 6.4 incident is still censored in China, as I was born in this country, I did not have any clue about this until 16 years old, some of my friends told me about this, I found that there was not a single information about this incident online, so what I knew about all these had been blank until I came to England.

It was the power of photography that reveals the truth to people, it visually represented what had happen during the event and it will never be erased even though the government tried everything to stop the story from spreading all over the internet. One of my friend tried upload the bloody photographs that were taken by foreign journalism onto social media, his account got deleted immediately. This happened to everyone who risk to do this, people who try to prevent people from knowing the truth are fear of photographs, but no matter what, the truth is always there in the photographs.


Saul, H.(2014) Tiananmen Square: What happened to Tank Man? Available at: (Accessed: 05 November 2015)

CNN(2013) 1989 Raw Video: Man vs. Chinese tank Tiananmen square. Available at: (Accessed: 05 November 2015)