The goal of this essay is modest: to differentiate traditional analog filmmaking from new modalities of digital cinema in light of the psychoanalytic conceptions of desire and anxiety. Through a series of three examples, each of which bears the structure of a mirror, I seek to complicate existing theories of digital representation by foregrounding the notion—developed by Slavoj Žižek in Looking Awry and other early works—that the human subject is lured most profoundly when a representation admits some measure of real truth. Recent advances in digital image manipulation such as computer-generated imagery (CGI) and motion capture have engendered filmmakers’ pursuit of a pixel-polished hyperrealism. However, this approach, premised as it is on the attainability of a satisfying fullness, fails to incorporate the gaps, stains, and ruptures upon which traditional analog special effects flourished over much of the twentieth century. In a pointedly Žižekian sense, CGI fails to fail, and in doing so omits a crucial component of the subjective lure: the admission by the deceiver that a deception is in the offing. In other words, what Žižek calls the “double deception” of the Symbolic order is being digitally eradicated in favor of an Imaginary-order “single” deception.2
- Motion Capture
- Virtual Camera
- Symbolic Order
- Human Desire
- Digital Cinema
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This essay was inspired by a lunch conversation with Todd McGowan and Louis-Paul Willis during the 2012 Žižek Studies Conference in Brockport, New York.
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Slavoj Žižek, Looking Awry: An Introduction to Jacques Lacan through Popular Culture (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1991), 73.
Greg Tuck, “When More Is Less: CGI, Spectacle and the Capitalist Sublime,” Science Fiction Film and Television 1.2 (Spring 2008), 264.
David Bordwell, “Classical Hollywood Cinema: Narrational Principles and Procedures,” in Narrative, Apparatus, Ideology: A Film Theory Reader, ed. Philip Rosen (New York: Columbia University Press, 1986), 26.
Todd McGowan, The End of Dissatisfaction?: Jacques Lacan and the Emerging Society of Enjoyment (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2004), 3.
Jacques Lacan, The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book XI: The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psycho-Analysis, trans. Alan Sheridan (New York: Norton, 1978), 88–9.
Jacques Lacan, “The Mirror Stage as Formative of the I Function as Revealed in Psychoanalytic Experience,” in Écrits: The First Complete Edition in English, trans. Bruce Fink (New York: Norton, 2006), 75–81.
Jacques Lacan, The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book II: The Ego in Freud’s Theory and in the Technique of Psychoanalysis, trans. Sylvana Tomaselli (New York: Norton, 1988), 323.
Masahiro Mori, “The Uncanny Valley,” Energy 7.4 (1970), 33–5; trans. Karl F. MacDorman and Takashi Minato, 2005, http://www.androidscience.com/theuncannyvalley/proceedings2005/uncannyvalleyhtml.
Jacques Lacan, The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book X: Anxiety, trans. Cormac Gallagher (Eastbourne: Antony Rowe, 2002), VI, 7.
Jacques Lacan, The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book XVII: The Other Side of Psychoanalysis, trans. Russell Grigg (New York: Norton, 2007), 147.
D. N. Rodowick, The Virtual Life of Film (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2007), 28.
Jason E. Squire, The Movie Business Book (New York: Fireside, 2004), 54.
Editors and Affiliations
© 2014 Matthew Flisfeder and Louis-Paul Willis
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Manon, H.S. (2014). Beyond the Beyond: CGI and the Anxiety of Overperfection. In: Flisfeder, M., Willis, LP. (eds) Žižek and Media Studies. Palgrave Macmillan, New York. https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137361516_15
Publisher Name: Palgrave Macmillan, New York
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