Friday, July 20, 2007

The Literature

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The function of masquerade in The Last Seduction (1993) by Alastair James John Atkinson

Feminist involvement in film/ has for many years provided a great wealth both for the opportunities for women to investigate women and for researchers to investigate the role of women within cinema. This paper is interested in analyzing The Last Seduction (1993) because, while it may be classified as a ‘traditional’ Hollywood film/ it appears to allow a feminist reading. An analysis of The Last Seduction (1993) by adopting the feminist theory of masquerade/ thus seems an appropriate strategy to utilize.

To achieve this, the paper will firstly outline the concept of spectatorship as a foundation of a feminist approach to the cinema. Secondly, it will illustrate the text / spectator dichotomy as viewed by Mulvey (1975), and introduce the theory of masquerade, as articulated by Doane (1982). Upon this foundation, it will expand Doane’s original theory of masquerade by transposing the theories, provided by both Mulvey and Freud, of transexism and ‘activity and passivity’/ in order to create model of masquerade which may be seen to provide a feminist reading of a text. An applied textual analysis of ‘The Last Seduction (1993) will qualify the contention that the function of masquerade - located within feminist criticism - is able to provide a valid female voice within traditional Hollywood cinema. [1]

It would not be unreasonable to suggest that the medium of cinema offers an indication of societal attitudes/ therefore proposing a clear and unappropriated place for examination of women within society. Smith (1972) notes that ‘women in any fully human form have almost been left out of film,’ and that ‘despite the enormous emphasis placed upon women as spectacle in the cinema, women as women is largely absent.’[2] That is to say, women appear in cinema as objects of the masculine gaze or as patriarchally defined stereotypes.

This statement poses numerous questions; can feminist productions break through into a Hollywood system thus exposing existing stereotypical barriers and contributing to a redefinition of feminism? If such a position is possible, are existing definitions, as outlined by ‘academics such as Mulvey et al, still valid in an analysis of modern cinema, or are these definitions in need of a revision. It may be argued that on one hand that the film The Last Seduction (1993) maintains a progressive element of feminism allowing a positive voice for women, however, an alternative reading may be that it perpetuates a patriarchal status quo through the recuperation, and possible reconstitution of the films within the women’s movement.

It may be judicious to create a foundation upon which the rest of the paper can be placed; notably that of feminism and its approach to cinema. Taking into account the enormity of the subject of feminism, a global analysis does not seem to suffice, therefore this paper will be analyzing The Last Seduction (1993) by using a psychoanalytic framework, as outlined by Mulvey; that is, the cinematic apparatus being responsible for, or contributory to, the subordination of women. Erens (1990) expands this by noting it is men who both ‘consciously and unconsciously control the production and the reception of film’;[3] that is, men create images that will satisfy their own needs.

Having noted that a global definition of feminism does not provide a satisfactory definition, it may be prudent to define what this paper considers as an overriding position for feminism. That is by creating what can be considered to be its antithesis. To comprehend a reading of feminism and feminist texts, one must firstly understand a way in which the term woman[4] can be defined. If feminism is a fight to ‘challenge representations of women’[5], it is essential one understands the concept of woman. According to Bailey (1994) women are ‘at best creatures fundamentally different from, and naturally inferior to, men, whose identity is determined by a relationship of subordinated complementarity with men. At worst... ...inferior or abnormal men, and in order to maintain ‘quality control’[6] [Patriarchy] seeks to ‘fix as many of the defects as possible and annihilate the rest’.[7]

This daunting patriarchal definition, deems women to represent a mere object, the subordinate male other, or as a defective male, who, like a machine, is able to be reconditioned or repaired to function effectively in the subservient routine of patriarchy. Little wonder then Elshtain (1981) sees the role of feminism as to ‘liberate women from patriarchy by challenging man’s power over women.’[8]

This concept of woman only provides an analysis from a biological perspective, that is, in terms only of the sexual difference between man and woman. The alternative to this simple biological difference is eminently more positive. The incorporation of the social, combined with a biological factor, now provides an opportunity for an investigation which not only concerns biological elements such as women’s health, sex, rape and maternity, et cetera, but also the inclusion of the socialised elements of the identity of women.

De-emphasising ‘sexual identity’ as a simple biological construct allows a continued investigation which, unlike the construct of a biological identity, can be taken as neither natural nor unchangeable. The justification patriarchy holds to restrict women from areas of possible opportunity previously reserved for men, now begins to fall apart and the equalisation of women within society is able to develop.

The impetus behind feminist reasoning remains constant; to perpetuate an investigation into opportunities for women, and to fight against patriarchal subordination. The feminist text must, therefore, be one which de-emphasises the dominance of patriarchy and allow the voice of women to be as loud as, if not louder than, the rest. Within The Last Seduction (1993) there are a number elements which concur with this notion, for example, the film is seen to consciously rejecting a patriarchal discourse by dismissing the institution of marriage. Indeed, the opening sequence shows Brigit Gregory [9] deserting her husband, removing her wedding ring and throwing it into the ashtray of her car; symbolically, her removal from a patriarchal discourse.

The Framework of masquerade is posited within the theoretical construct of spectatorship. A foundation of spectatorship should therefore, now be formed, upon which the theory of masquerade can be constructed.

The impulse behind feminist involvement in spectatorship may arguable concern the creation of an understanding of the processes by which women are subordinated as spectator/s; attempting an understanding of this conception, and perhaps creating a theoretical evolution, of a process in which women may be authentically portrayed. The portrayal of women may be seen to play an important element in the feminist involvement in theories of spectatorship. Illustrated earlier, Smith’s noted that women as women were largely absent from the cinema; if taken literally, it may be argued that not only is a female voice absent from filmic discourse, but also absent is a female spectoral reading of a filmic discourse. Spectators within classical narrative cinema may thus be male, or at least able to become male for the duration of the film. Problematically, in order to become male is to subscribe to and perpetuate a subordination of the female as spectator. Cinema, by its male domination of the cinematic apparatus can only alienate women.

Classical narrative cinema is seen to represent a patriarchal ideology. Mayne (1990) argues that the ‘visions of women, that appear on the screen, may be largely the projection of patriarchal fantasies.’[10] Cinema may be seen to become both the site for the objectification of the female body and also for creating theories of female friendship. These elements may simultaneously be exploited by patriarchy and female self-representation. Within a filmic narrative neither patriarchy nor women’s discourses allow the female spectator a vantage point from which to ‘speak, represent or imagine themselves.’[11]

A psychoanalytic perspective may thus provide a relevant reading of the theories of spectatorship. One is able to generate the notion of male spectoral pleasure engendering the overwhelming presence of the fetishised women on the screen, to be representative of ‘the Oedipus phase of male plenitude’[12] as articulated by Modleski (1990). The pleasure of the male spectator can conceivably be argued as the result of their positioning by the cinematic mode of address. Stacey (1987) expands this argument by noting the ‘text / spectator relation forms a closed system determined completely by the articulation of visual and narrative means within gendered subjectives which only permits a dichotomous pleasure of voyeurism and identification, and disregards the ambiguities and tensions present in every text.’ [13]

It is within this closed system that gender is considered to be paramount in understanding the idiosyncrasy of spectatorship and pleasure. Taken to another conclusion, the spectoral pleasure may be derived at the expense of alternative considerations such as race and sexuality, class, culture and history.

Mulvey (1975) benchmark paper contends that the cinematic apparatus functions upon the relationship between women and men and the cinematic apparatus. As argued earlier, this relationship objectifies women by blanketing or disguising the female voice and perpetuating a patriarchal voice.[14]

According to Mulvey (1975), the subordination of women presents itself through the portrayal of the image of women, that the voice of femininity is thus clouded or discarded totally by two dominant elements. Firstly, the voice of the masculine discourse within the narrative structure of the text, and secondly, the scopophilic gaze of the dominant culture.[15]

Mulvey argues that the text / spectator relationship is governed by two elements, narcissism and scopophilia; ‘narcissistic in that it is the spectator that identifies with their own likeness’ and ‘scopophilic to the extent that the spectator’s look stands for the look of the camera.’[16] With in the scopophilic construct, identification of a screen image derives through the pleasure of using another person as an object of sexual stimulation. Mulvey notes that this active scopophilia, when transposed onto cinema, acts as the ‘function of the sexual instinct’, and concerns the ‘separation of erotic identity of the subject, from the object on screen.’[17] The construct of narcissism, while dealing with the sexual cravings of the ego, relies upon the fulfilment of the ego through the identification with an image portrayed upon the screen.

Both elements concern the pleasure of the individual. The nexus to the theory of a feminist approach to classical Hollywood cinema, is the construction of women as the object of the male gaze, not only within the text, by characters, but also by the spectator, as the producer of the gaze, and that this spectator gains gratification through the identification of his like on the screen.

Underpinning this theory is the Freudian oedipus complex.[18] The premise links castration anxiety within the awareness of an infant, gained through a process of looking at the mother figure, that anxiety develops through the realisation that the mother figure lacks a penis. It is through the realisation that the father figure possesses a penis that the threat of castration by the mother figure emerges. This threat of castration leads to the ultimate rejection of the mother figure. A general transposition of this anxiety focuses around the development of power relations within society; a patriarchal society.

Mulvey argues that the woman serve as the object of the look; the look being the look of the male spectator. Doane (1982) qualifies this by adding that ‘historically, there has always been a certain imbrication of the cinematic image and the representation of the woman.’[19] Doane contends that the relationship between women and the scopic dominion, is vastly different than its relationship to men. Women are seen to be ‘exempt from the dichotomy between scopophilia and narcissism’.[20] More precisely, women possess a different relationship to the image on the screen than that of men. The excessive presence of the female body may be the reason why women are unable to either combat the scopophilic or narcissistic gaze of the male spectator; more defensively, find a neutral space in which to distance the image of women, which is seen to represent both the ‘condition for voyeuristic pleasure.’[21] The control of the narrative allowing a proposal for an image ‘of women for women.’[22]

Lapsley, et al (1992) regard the female spectator to have two options available to them. They may firstly adopt an active masculine position or secondly, adopt a passive feminine position [23] through the identification with either the male or female characters. This becomes extremely limiting for the women as it provides no alternative, however, it does provide the genesis for a theory which allows women a variant. Doane (1982) proposes the theory of masquerade is able to combat the domination of the male gaze within the narrative of a text. The theory revolves around an exaggeration of femininity, in which the female is able to provide a forum for herself; a forum lacking the presence of the male gaze. It may arguably be ‘femininity itself which is constructed as the mask.’[24] The result of the mask is the creation of a space behind which women are able to ‘control, read and reproduce the female image.’[25]

While possessing many limitations, masquerade may represent a defence mechanism behind which the female spectator can take refuge as opposed to a method of confrontation with which the dominant male gaze can be dismissed. Mulvey contends that transvestism provides the possibility of a further generation to the original theory of masquerade. Mulvey (1981) illustrates the ability of a female audience to oscillate their perceptual identities from that of the feminine, to the masculine. This is arguably detrimental to femininity as ‘the female is unable to achieve a stable sexual identity’.[26]

The basis for the notion of oscillation derives from the construct of the female character within both text and audience to be able to accept and enjoy images produced through the dominant discourses of patriarchy. However, the approach of this paper is to generate a further evolution of masquerade and transpose the theory presented by Mulvey (1981) onto the original theory of masquerade provided by Doane (1982). The result of this transposition may be that the oscillation of sexual identities can no longer be seen from a negative perspective, as an inability to achieve a stable basis on which to establish a sexual identity, but more positively, to be seen as an ability to deconstruct the dominant ideology.

The female is now in a position to don not only the feminine mask, but in addition a masculine mask. The female may now be able to exaggerate not only its own feminine voice, but also able to replicate and exaggerate a masculine voice. The outcome within the narrative of a text is now the ability of the female character to exist within both a forum behind which she can hide, while also possessing an ability to adopt an authentic masculine voice; a voice able to confront and potentially subordinate male discourses present within the text.

The adoption of this mask is adequately illustrated during a sequence of The Last Seduction (1993) in which Brigit stalks an all male line of telephone sales representatives. She is the supervisor and thus in a ordinate position to the other characters within the sequence; in a position to dominate all other discourses within the scene. The subordination of all other voices is created by the replacement of the normal female identity into a masculine identity. Brigit’s character is now aggressive, if not hostile, toward the men in the office. Brigit is able to provide a monetary incentive for sales, the money symbolises possession of the phallus, controller of the power discourse; of her authority and ability to dominate others, she is not seen as a sexual object, but a person to be feared, who, if the need arises is able to provide rewards for good behaviour; able to verbally castrate all those who are not able to generate results. Brigit’s reprimand of a subordinate follows thus:

Brigit: "...two minutes fifty seconds, you expect these leads to grow on

fucking trees, [pause] you want me over your shoulder all day, eh! [pause] Ask for the sale four times every time, got it, Jesus..."

The language used within the sequence not only serves to reprimand the sales representative, but also warns others of the consequences of poor performance. The role reversal is typical of the character’s ability to subordinate the masculine discourse through an abuse of her dominant station and the ability to alternate between a masculine and feminine position. The reinforcement of anxiety within the workforce, stems from her abusive and dominant language. Her purposeful use of the term eunuch once more reaffirms her as possessor of the phallus and thus provides a sub-text of the threat of castration. For example :

Brigit: "...come on you eunuchs, he’s closed six sales more than the

rest of you bastards, with the same fucking leads. Who wants to spend their whole weekend here..."

Brigit’s dominance is reinforced by undermining the masculine identity within the workforce; using phrases that imply castration imply she is the castrator. The workforce is fearful of her potential threat not only to castrate but also remove their leisure time. All voices are thus subordinate to hers. As Freudian theory demonstrates, the position of castrator of man, provides a forum for the creation of anxiety within the masculine complex, the castrated male is the male removed from the power discourse, and thus poses no threat to the female discourse.[27]

The domination of patriarchy at the beginning of the film therefore does not so much provide a firm foundation on which it can develop, it fundamentally promotes a theoretical location for the female spectator.

A deconstruction of the masculine ideology evolves through an infiltration of the masculine ideology by the female narrative agent. The exaggeration of the masculine identity dominates the mainstream narrative from a position within that narrative. The exaggeration of masculinity ultimately overpowers all other voices from within. From this position within a patriarchal construct, the female voice obtains dominance by creating an alternative masculine voice which leads to ultimate sublimation of the masculine identity; adopting the masculine, exaggerating the traits of the masculine construct, overpowering existing voices within it.

For example, Brigit adopts a masculine identity and dismisses all attempts to court her:

Brigit: "Could you leave. Please !"

Mike: "Well, I haven’t finished charming you yet.."

Brigit: " haven’t even started !"

Mike: "Give me a chance ?"

Brigit: "Look, go find yourself a nice little cow-girl,

make nice little cow-babies, and leave me alone,

now fuck off."

By adopting the masculine identity Brigit provide herself with a voice unchallenged by the existing male voice; the female character develops a voice able to subordinate all others.

Viewing the theory of masquerade as a conscious process of the female narrative agent, the ability to vary between socio-sexual identities, and thus deconstruct the dominant voice within the narrative flow of the text is arguably now achievable.

The theory arguably lacks in a number of areas, most notably the fluctuation of behaviour during the periods of manufactured exaggeration of socio-sexual identity, and secondly, by the omission of the element of neutrality within the construct of the character’s behaviour.

Taking these points into consideration this paper can now transpose a further Freudian theory onto the foundation previously outlined; that is the theory of ‘Activity and Passivity’.[28] Figure 1. presents a graphic presentation of masquerade when applied to the model of activity and passivity:










Figure 1.

The inclusion of an active and passive mode allows the scope for both an active-exaggeration and passive-exaggeration of a gendered identity. This not only allows the potential to subordinate a dominant ideology, but also the possibility to accentuate the domination. Figure 1. demonstrates the oscillation between masculine and feminine identities/ while also providing the allowance of a neutral or normal female identity. It is within this normal location that the true female voice is allowed the freedom to exist without the threat of any other dominant voice attempting domination.

Noted earlier was the contention that the female identity consciously opts ofr either masculine or feminine identities. However, if the model remains at this point, it appears flawed. The exaggerated feminine voice, through its rigidity, remains under threat from a stronger discourse. The inclusion of the active / passive dichotomy allows a stepping point by which an identity can be considered to be actively-exaggerated or passively-exaggerated.

Laplanche et al (1988) note that ‘every position is inseparable from its opposite.’[29] Masquerade can now be seen to function in two ways, firstly, to dominate a patriarchal voice by the use of an exaggerated identity stemming from the female identity. This domination is achieved through the movement between exaggerated forms of masculine and feminine identities as well as between the active and passive variants within each identity. Secondly, this complex of masquerade provides a shelter zone in which the female voice is able to exist without fear of subordination. The neutral space provides an essential variant for the feminist text. Recalling the original construct of a feminist text, that is to fight against oppression and allow for an investigation into the opportunities for women, it is seen that the feminist text must provide a place where the female voice has the opportunity to air its own identity.

Masquerade is no Longer to be seen as to process of simple exaggeration of the feminine identity to provide a space behind which the real female identity, can hide, but, a tool for the generation of power, deconstruction, and ultimate domination of a cultural ideology. For example, within one sequence of The Last Seduction (1993) events build into a rape / sex sequence; during which Brigit’s identity can be seen to constantly oscillate between not only masculine and feminine identities, but also its passive and active variants. This oscillation functions in two ways. Firstly, to maintain control of the situation being incited: the rape. Secondly, to provide a physical account of a rape for the police recording on the telephone, required by Brigit as evidence to implicate Mike for Clay’s murder.

Representing the voice of patriarchy, Mike is automatically compromised by Brigit’s transference from the passive masculine to the active masculine modes of gendered identity. Further subordination of the masculine voice comes when Brigit undermines Mike’s sexuality. The subordination takes on two forms. Firstly, within the mise en scene, that is, the Brigit choice of wearing men’s underwear, thus reinforcing Mike’s subconscious homosexual belief of himself. Secondly, Brigit’s dialogue reinforces Mike lack of manhood and masculinity. Brigit states:

Brigit: "Rape me !"

"Trish wasn’t really coming to Beston, Mike !"[30]

[Brigit purposefully unzips her trousers. A short flashback providing Mike’s image of Trish during the moment they met. The scene cuts back to Brigit and Mike.]

Brigit: "You shouldn’t have told me you had never slept with a

man before, must have been some wild night..."

[Brigit slowly pulls her trousers down to reveal old fashioned men’s underwear. A flashback of Mike holding his head in his hands. The scene cuts back to Brigit and Mike.]

Brigit: "He had to keep the goods hidden for two whole days. What did you think the thing

bobbling at the back of your throat was, a clitoris! You married a man you farm Faggot!

I’m Trish. Rape me..."

This sequence serves to incite Mike’s subconscious desire to demonstrate his masculine dominance over Brigit and thus over women, in which attempts to regain his manhood by complying with Brigit’s request and carries out what he considers to be her rape. The adoption of active masculine identity becomes too strong for Mike’s weak patriarchal voice. Brigit is in total command of the situation, even though the images are of her rape. The aura of homosexuality that shrouds Mike reinforces Brigit’s dominance. This ultimately leads to Mike’s confusion, excessive anxiety, hysteria[31] and the ultimate destruction of a patriarchal discourse.

The element of active masculine masquerade in overpowering the masculine voice arguably leaves no space for the patriarchal discourse to exist. The sexualisation of the female narrative agent, when viewed under the banner of masquerade, allows dominance over the existing patriarchal discourses within the narrative.

Having reached an ending point, this paper may answer it’s initial thesis, that is, does mainstream narrative cinema perpetuate a patriarchal discourse? One conclusion may be that the theoretical construct of masquerade allows the possibility of the subordination the subordinator; that is, the provision of a louder feminine voice than that of the dominant masculine voice. However, it is also recognised that masquerade is simply a tool applied like a blanket to a narrative, which, in turn, stems from the creation of the script and the producers of the film; all of which may be posited firmly within a patriarchal discourse. Masquerade therefore appears limited in its usefulness. More positively however, there is evidence suggesting the theory’s capability of subordinating a dominant masculine discourse within a given narrative such as The Last Seducation (1993). A feminine voice is not only created but also able to dominate the text. Remaining now is the proposal that the eroticisation of women within a cinematic text may lead not to the subordination of femininity, but to the subordination of the masculine voice within that text. The validity of this argument may be put into question when analysed under differing theoretical approaches, however, when viewed through the construct of this paper, the findings are positive for women.

In feminist film theory, a basic working assumptions is that within classical narrative cinema there is parity between the hierarchies of masculinity and femininity on the one hand and activity and passivity on the other. The Last Seduction (1993) arguably disrupts, disturbs, and deconstructs this parity; it may indeed represent an important functional text for feminism. If there is a possibility for the existence of a valid female voice within mainstream narrative cinema, the theoretical underpinning of masquerade may indeed provide the possibility for a cinematic language that is non-patriarchal; while the language may also be classified as non-feminist, the significance for feminism would indeed be considerable. It may be argued that subordination, while deemed to exist, is not automatic within every text. The Last Seduction (1993) which may be viewed by traditional theorists as Mulvey (1975), to perpetuate the subordination of women, through the allowance of a male gaze by providing graphic scenes of sexual activity may be seen to allow not the subordination of women but, the subordination of a patriarchal discourse. In subordinating patriarchy masquerade may arguably perpetuate feminism. [32]

The Last Seduction (1993) adheres to what Heath terms as a cinema which breaks with ‘received notions of femininity and depict women truthfully… …such a cinema would create a discourse, a voice, a place for [women] as subject.’[33] If the sexualisation of women is seen to satisfy only a masculine voice, femininity can be seen as nothing more than a tool of patriarchy. If patriarchy is dominated by sex being used as a tool - one among many tools of masquerade - then the use of sexual behaviour may no longer perpetuate the subordination of women, more contribute to the construct of feminism and provide a voice for women; a place for discourse. Progressive sexuality can indeed be seen to create a new definition of femininity; definitions which may counter the dominance of the silver screens of Hollywood and beyond.



[1] To provide an account of the film within the text serves nothing more than a waste of valuable space. It is therefore appropriate that a brief resume of the film should be provided within the endnote. The summary is thus:

Clay gains seven hundred thousand dollars from an illegal drug deal. Brigit has masterminded this deal while Clay has executed it. Brigit steals the money and leaves Clay with no money, and a ‘shark’ finance company demanding money. Brigit arrives at a small town called Beston. She meets Mike and, after gaining some advice from her corrupt lawyer, obtains employment and decides to ensnare Mike into a plot to Murder Clay, a plot which, unbeknown to Mike, he is to be arrested and tried for.

Mike is a small town boy wanting to make it to the big city. His only venture to the ‘big city’ resulted in his unwitting marriage to transsexual. Brigit’s plan centres upon murdering the husbands who are unfaithful to their wives. Mike’s role as a claims adjuster allows him access to financial records which provide a possible list of candidates of unfaithful husbands; a list is made of possible clients. Mike objects to the killings on moral grounds.

Clay hires a private detective to find Brigit. The detective succeeds in finding her and attempts to obtain the stolen money. During one scene, Brigit bates the detective about the size of his penis and notes that “if you’ll show me yours, I’ll show you mine.” In an attempt to appease Brigit, the detective removes his penis from his trousers. Brigit takes the opportunity she has manufactured and crashes the car, killing the detective.

Brigit now begins to pull her plan together by saying that she has murdered someone, from the list, for cash which will enable Mike and her to live together. In return he must now kill a “son of a bitch who just cheats and beats on his wife.” The person Brigit has in mind is Clay. Mike is persuaded to commit the murder. During the final scene Mike is unable to carry out the task; Where Mike fails Brigit succeeds and murders Clay. Mike cannot comprehend what is going on and becomes enraged when Brigit revels to him the fact that she is wearing men’s underwear. She tells him that he is homosexual for marrying a man, by mistake. Mike becomes enraged as he listens to Brigit bate him: “Rape me, come on you farm faggot, rape me, you fucker, like you did it with Trish.” During the sequence Brigit calmly dials 911 and the police record an enraged Mike apparently ‘raping’ Brigit while also confessing to the murder of Clay.

Mike is tried and convicted of the rape of Brigit and murder of Clay. Brigit however is seen in every sense as the victim - rape victim and widow. In reality however she escapes from the events unscathed and more importantly to her, wealthy. The final scene has Brigit disposing of the last piece of evidence and being chauffeur driven into the distance.

[2] Smith, S. - ‘The image of women in film; Some suggestions for future research’;

Women and Film; No. 1; 1972; p.13

[3] Erens, P. - Issues in Feminist Film Criticism; Indiana University Press; Bloomington; 1990;


[4] When using the term women, this essay refers to women as defined from the point of view of a western culture.

[5] Barrs, P. - Beginning Theory; an introduction to littery and cultural theory; Manchester

University Press; Manchester; 1995; p.134

[6] Bailey, M.E. - cited in Ramazanoglu (ed); Up Against Foucault: Explorations of some tensions

between Foucault and Feminism; Routledge; London; 1994; p.99

[7] Elshtain, J. - Public Man, Private Woman; Women in social and political thought: Princeton

University Press; Princeton, USA; 1981 ;p.15

[8] Bailey, M.E. - op. cit.

[9] See filmography for character list and credits.

[10] Mayne, J. - The woman at the keyhole: Indiana University Press; Bloomington; 1990; p. 117

[11] Mayne, J. - Ibid

[12] Modleski, T. - ‘Hitchcock, Feminism, and the patriarchal unconscious’ cited in Erens, P. (ed);

Issues in Feminist Film Criticism; Indiana University Press; Bloomington; 1990;


[13] Stacey, J. - ‘Desperately seeking difference’; Cited in Erens, P.; Issues in Feminist Film

Criticism: Indiana University Press; Bloomington; 1990

[14] The following section of this paper refers to the terms male / female and feminine / masculine. It should be emphasised that female and feminine and male and masculine are differing concepts. The notion is proposed that the term feminine and masculine are societally defined traits of the female and male sex, respectively. It is recognised that the term feminine or masculine are not the pejorative of gendered expressions. The terms are therefore ‘carefully’ used within these contexts.

[15] Mulvey, L. - ‘Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema’; Screen: Vol.16 / No.3; Autumn; 1975

[16] Kuhn, A. - Women’s Pictures Feminism and Cinema: Verso; London; 1994; p.59

[17] Mulvey, L. - op. cit.

[18] This lack is described by Freud as the Oedipus complex. Its central theme concerns the lack of a penis, symbolising the mother figure as inferior to that of the father figure; the domination representing power at this stage within the development of sexuality. It is through this identification with and the ultimate rejection of the mother figure, through her lack of a penis that the child sees the mother figure to represent the threat of castration and thus a threat to the availability of a power discourse within the dominant social forum.

When viewed simultaneously with a construct of the cinema, it can be seen that the allowance of the female voice, is the allowance of a Loss of power, by the observer. The pleasure derived by the masculine spectator thus stems from both the knowledge that this threat is admonished and secondly, as Mulvey herself notes, it is the alienated subject, torn in his imaginary memory by a sense of loss, by the terror of potential lack in phantasy that comes near to finding a glimpse of satisfaction.

While inscribing boundaries by which the concept of narcissism and scopophilia within the masculine construct, the theory is not able to illustrate how the female construct oscillates between male and female identities. The two aspects do however, seem remarkably similar. Both male and female infant progress through the Oedipus complex, however, the complex is different within each sex. Within the male, the separation from the mother figure comes through the realisation of a mothers lack of penis, due to the possession of a penis by the male child, the mother figure is automatically seen to possess both, a threat of castration, while also being inferior to the male. The female child also holds the mother figure as a primary love object, the distinction here being that the infant and the mother figure are the same sex. In order to establish a normal heterosexual attachment, the female child must both continue to identify with the mother and shift her love to her father. Opposite to the male child, the change in the love object comes, not through the possession of a penis, but through the realisation of a lack of penis. The child then turns her attention to the father in an attempt to substitute the lack of penis, with the provision of a child.

However, it is this obsessive love for both the mother and father figures that instil an ability for the duality of identity to exist. This forced duality may represent the impetus behind Mulvey’s theoretical rubric which allows a feminine identity to oscillate between masculine and feminine personas. The implication is that in order to exist and function effectively, the feminine construct needs to be able to adopt the masculine construct.

[19] Doane, M.A. - ‘Film & The Masquerade: Theorising The Female Spectator’; Screen; Vol 23.

No.3 / 4; Sept / Oct; 1982

[20] Doane, M.A. - Ibid; p.76

[21] Lapsley, R. - Film Theory: An introduction; Manchester University Press; Manchester; 1992;

& Westlake, M. p.98

[22] Of women for women refers to the imaging of women for a spectator other than that of the scopophillic / narcissistic male gaze.

[23] LapsLey, R. - Ibid; p.98

& Westlake, M.

[24] Doane, M.A. - op. cit.; p.81

[25] Doane, M.A. - op. c it.; p.81

[26] Mulvey, L. - Afterthoughts on "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema" inspired by Duel in

the Sun (King Vidor,1946); Framework; No.15-16-17; 1981; p.70

[27] Refer to Endnote 18 for an outline of Oedipus complex.

[28] Defined by Freud as ‘one of the pairs of opposites which are fundamental to mental life’. Activity and Passivity are defining characteristics of specific types of instinctual aims. From the genetic point of view the active - passive dichotomy is prior to the subsequent opposition between phallic / castrated and masculine and feminine.

[29] Laplanche, J. - The Language of Psychoanalysis; Karnac Books; London; 1988; p.8

[30] Brigit sent Mike a letter, supposedly from Trish, stating that she was coming to Beston and wished to resume their relationship.

[31] Freud describes hysteria as to be found in the prevalence of a certain kind of identification… …which is often in emergence of the Oedipal conflict occurring mainly in the phallic and oral libidinal spheres. Freud terms conversion hysteria as the psychical conflict expressed symbolically in somatic symptoms of the most varied kinds, i.e., emotional crisis accompanied by theatricality.

Laplanche, J. - op. cit.; pp.194 -195

[32] This subordination is created by overpowering the male voice by the female voice. In subordinating the male voice, the feminist ideal may be seen to contribute to the creation of a forum in which women dominate men

[33] Heath, S. - ‘Anto Mo’; Screen; Vol.16 No.4; Winter; 1975 / 1976; p.53


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York; 1984

Bailey, M.E. cited in Ramazanoglu (ed); Up Against Foucault:

Exolorations of some tensions between Foucault and

Feminism: Routledge; London; 1994

Barrs, P. Beginning Theory: an introduction to Littery and cultural

theory: Manchester University Press; Manchester; 1995

De Lauretis, T Alice Doesn’t; Indiania University Press; Bloomington;


De Lauretis, T ‘Guerrilla in the midst: women’s cinema in the 1980’s;

Screen: Vol.31; Spring; 1990

Doane, M.A. Re-Vision: Essays in feminist film criticism: University

et al (Eds) Publications of America, Inc; Los Angeles; 1984

Dyer, R. The Matter of Images: Essays on representation;

Routledge; London; 1993

Elshtain, J. Public Man. Private Woman: Women in social and

political thought: Princeton University Press; Princeton,

USA; 1981

Erens, P. Issues in Feminist Film Criticism: Indiana University

Press; Bloomington; 1990

Fiske, J . Television Culture: Routledge; London;1991

Freud, S. The Essentials of Psychoanalysis; Penguin Books;

London; 1986

Freud, S. Sigmund Freud. Volume 7 On Sexuality: Three essays

on the theory of Sexuality; Penguin Books; London;


Gledhill, C. Stardom: Industry of Desire: Routledge; London; 1991


Heath, S. ‘Anto Mo’; Screen; Vol.16 No.4; Winter; 1975 / 1976

Kaplan, E. A. Women in Film Noir; BFI; London; 1992

Kuhn/ A. Women’s Pictures: Feminism and Cinema; Verso;

London; 1994

Laplanche, J. The Language of Psychoanalysis; Karnac Books;

London; 1988

Lapsley, R. Film Theory: An introduction; Manchester University

& Westlake, M. Press; Manchester; 1992

Mayne, J. The Woman at the Keyhole: Indiana University Press;

Indianapolis; 1990

Metcalf, A. The Sexuality of Men; Pluto Press; London; 1990

& Humpharies, M

Mulvey, L. ‘Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema’; Screen; Vol.16,

No.3; Autumn; 1975

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inspired by DueL in the Sun* (King Vidor, 1946);

Framework: No.15-16-17; 1981

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between Foucault and Feminism: Routledge; London;


Ryan, T. ‘Roots of Masculinity’; in Metcalf, A. & Humphries, M.:

The Sexuality of Men; Pluto Press; London; 1990

Smith, S. ‘The image of women in film: Some suggestions for

future research’; Women and Film; No.1; 1972

Stam, R. Subversive Pleasures: Bakhtin, Cultural Criticism, and

Film; The John Hopkins University Press; London; 1992

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London; 1993

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feminist sociology; Routledge; London; 1991

Turner, G. Film as Social Practice; Routledge; London; 1993


The Last Seduction

USA, 1993, Colour (CFI)

Directed by: John Dahl

Produced by: ITC Entertainment Certification: UK:18/USA:R

Language: English Genre: Film Noir

Run Time: USA: 110 Sound Mix: Ultra Stereo


Linda Fiorentino …Brigit Gregory

Bill Pullman …Clay Gregory

Michael Raysses …Phone Sales Rep

Zack Phifer …Gas Station Attendant

Peter Berg (I) …Mike Swale

Brien Varaday …Chris

Dean Norris …Shep

Donna Wilson …Stacy

Mike Scriba …Ray

J.T.Walsh …Frank Griffith

Erik - Anders Nilsson …Beston Passerby * 1

Patricia, R. Caprio …Beston Passerby * 2

Herb Mitchell …Bob Trotter

Bill Nunn …Marian

Renee Rogers …Receptionist

Bill Stevenson …Mail Boy

Walter Addison …Detective

Anna Flanagan …Nurse

Mike Lisenco …Bert

Serena …Trish Swale

Michelle Davison …911 Operator

Jack Shearer …Public Defender


Script - Steve Barancik

Cinematography - Jeff Jur

Music - Joseph Vitarelli

Production Design - Linda Pearl

Costume Design - Terry Dresbach

Film Editing - Eric, L. Beasan

Producer - Jonathon Shestack, Nancy Rae Stone (Co-Producer)

A Structural Analysis of Get Carter (1970) by Alastair James John Atkinson

This paper will provide a structural analysis of the film Get Carter (1970). To fully comprehend this notion however it intends to review two principles of structural analysis of film and use the film to illustrate these points.

All structural analysis of texts, are able to illustrate the notion of an omnipresent narrative, that is the ever presence of a narrative. No matter how obvious this proposal seems, it must be comprehended that everything possesses a narrative, everything from a leaf or coloured wall, to the most intricate film or book. Each possess a narrative, each possess a different narrative, and the importance each narrative holds is in many ways representative of the importance placed upon it by the reader or enunciator of that narrative.

Kuhn (1994), in her book Women's Pictures; Feminism and Cinema, proposes the notion that the meaning of a text lies within the reception of that text. She notes that texts do not exist without a receiver. Meaning is arguably gained therefore at that point of reception and must lie with the enunciator of the reading. Anything that a receiver receives possesses meaning and thus a narrative, the essential nature of that narrative is another question.

The term narrative is essentially synonymous with the term story; a narrative essentially is a story, and it is the interpretation of this story that provides meaning. Structural analysis of narrative therefore is an analysis of the structures present within a narrative.

Having noted this, the flip side of the coin is that structural analysis presents nothing more than a mode of analysis; a tool which possesses specific elements, which when applied to a narrative are able to provide meaning.

The element of Structural analysis is as varied and as complex as most other means of analysis. This paper will concentrate upon an analysis of the film Get Carter (1970) by looking at the DISTRIBUTIONAL and INTEGRATIONAL functions within its narrative.

However, these ideas are illustrated the paper will firstly outline some fundamental elements of the concept of distributional and Integrational analysis of film.


It is important to define what it is one is analyzing. Structural analysis within this filmic rubric is the analysis of the functional units of a text. It is logical therefore to argue that if this is the case, a text must be made up of units. The varying importance of these units illustrates the segments of the narrative which are either vital or secondary to the overall plot. BARTHES terms this as follows:

‘...a unit has been taken as any segment of the story, which can be seen as the term of a correlation. The essence of that function is, the seed that it sows in the narrative planting an element which will come into fruition later.’

Barthes defines this by noting that different functions within a text are important at differing levels. He classifies these levels to be DISTRIBUTIONAL and INTEGRATIONAL levels. Barthes notes that they ‘...correspond to what Propp refers to as functions’.

The importance of these distributional functions can be divided into two groups, CARDINAL or (NUCLEI) FUNCTIONS and CATALYTIC FUNCTIONS. The most important of these being the Cardinal functions; as the term suggests, the catalysers provide an important felicitator of the narrative; providing openings for cardinal functions to function. That is, a unit of the text that plays a vital role within the plot. For example, when Jack Carter finds a gun and cartridges on the top of a cupboard in his murdered brother’s house it is plausible that this gun will play a role within a future unit of the narrative; and indeed it does. However, the degree of importance this function serves within the narrative, at this primary stage, is not clear.

The establishing of the gun within the narrative may now be seen as an important element to the narrative. Supporting this CARDINAL FUNCTION is the CATALYSER which serves to provide a forum for the cardinal function to exist within the narrative unit.

Barthes notes that all catalysers imply the existence of cardinal functions; however, the existence of cardinal functions does not imply the existence of catalysers. That where there is one cardinal function, there must always be another to reciprocate the meaning; to give meaning to the original cardinal function.

This is illustrated within Get Carter (1970) when Jack forcefully enters the houses of both Cliff Brumby and Mr. Caneer. Both sequences play a role in the development of the narrative. Jack is seen to be forceful, willing and capable breaking the law and also known to the characters he meets.

It is now understood then that within a narrative there are present both CARDINAL and CATALYSER Functions. One can see that the catalysers are, as the term suggests, a developer for further units within the narrative. These CARDINAL and CATALYSER functions are DISTRIBUTIONAL functions.

The second principle Bathes concerned himself with were the INTEGRATIONAL functions of a unit within the narrative. These, also, play an equally important role as the distributional level functions, however, perhaps not as obvious. The INTEGRATIONAL units comprise of what Barthes terms as the INDICES and INFORMANTS. The INDICE concerns, not a complementary or consequential act, as within the distributional units, but:

‘...a more or less diffuse concept which is never the less necessary to the meaning of the story: Psychological Indices referring’ to the characters, date regarding their identity, notations of atmosphere...’

Within the film, some of these INTEGRATIONAL units are show within the title sequence.’

The INTEGRATIONAL level, as with the DISTRIBUTIONAL level, can also be split into two groups. Firstly, there is the INDICE, of which we are already aware, and secondly Barthes recognises the element termed as the INFORMANT. The primary distinction between INDICE and INFORMANTS is that the INDICE refers to the character of the narrative agent, in the case of Get Carter (1970) Michael Caine’s character, Jack Carter, the atmosphere or indeed a philosophy held by either the narrative or the narrative agent. For example, within the opening sequence of the film, we see Jack acting as a gangster, the sexual triangle between Jack, Anna Fletcher (Britt Ekland) and Gerald Fletcher (Terrence Rigby) and Jack’s decision and undertaking of his decision to take the train to Newcastle. In effect the sequence not simply indexes Jack and his desire to go to Newcastle, but also that Newcastle is a rough, grim place where only tough people can survive. The sequence continues to inform the viewer not only of Jack's taste in literature (the crime thriller that the film itself was loosely based upon, 'Farewell My Lovely', by Raymond Chandler), but also Jack's use and knowledge of Narcotics. The sequence automatically provides us with important information about the character of Jack; information which is played upon later within the film.

Informants, on the other hand, serve to identify or to locate the narrative or narrative agent in time and space. The Informant always serves to authenticate the reality of the referent; that is, the idea or thing that a word symbolises. An informant brings with itself, instant information about the narrative or narrative agent. For example, one is able to recognise Mr. Caneer as a rich and powerful man, through the presence of his bodyguards. The Bodyguards instantly bring to the narrative, the information that Mr. Caneer is someone who needs the use of bodyguards. In addition to this we see a Land Rover vehicle, repeatedly, at a distance. Jack notices this vehicle therefore the men in the land-rover show us that Jack is already being watched and perhaps pursued.

Barthes comments upon all four elements of distributional and Integrational analysis:

"...Nuclei (cardinal) and Catalyses, indice and informants (again the names are of little importance), these, it seems, are the initial classes into which the functional level units can be divided. This classification must be completed by two remarks. Firstly, a unit can at the same time belong to two different classes: to drink whisky (in an airport lounge is an action which can act as a catalyser to the cardinal notation of waiting, but is also, and simultaneously, the indice of a certain atmosphere (modernity, relaxation, reminiscence, etc.). In other words, certain units can be mixed, giving a play of possibilities in the narrative economy... ...and secondly, it should be noted that the four classes described can be distributed in a different way."

Within the final conclusion of the film we find out that Jack’s brother was indeed murdered, that he did not drink whisky and that during his murder he was forced to drink a complete bottle of whisky. We might now be able to see that the scene showing Jack finding the gun is not a cardinal function at all, but a catalyser to the final sequence in which jack uses the gun to force Eric Paice to drink a complete bottle of whisky, before killing, not by shooting, but by beating to death, the murderer of Jack's brother. The whisky too is a catalyser; contributing throughout the plot to the final sequence in which jack takes his pound of flesh only to have it taken away moments later when he himself is killed.


1. ) Random sequences cannot illustrate a definite meaning of a text.

Individual sequences may provide a different meaning to that which a full screening will provide.

2. ) Meaning cannot be acquired, nor functions correctly identified, until after the total narrative has reached a conclusion.

Propp analysis is able to illustrate meaning of a text whereas meaning within this form of analysis still remains with the individual, and thus open to interpretation.

Propp analysis is able to illustrate meaning of a text as it is seen, whereas Distributional and Integrational analysis can provide a retrospective analysis. Any meaning taken during the flow of a text may have to be altered each time a new sequence is shown.

Afterthoughts on "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema" inspired by Duel in the Sun by Laura Mulvey

Afterthoughts on "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema" inspired by Duel in the Sun

By Laura Mulvey

So many times over the years since my article "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema," was published in Screen, I have been asked why I only used the male third person singular to stand in for the spectator. At the time, I was interested in the relationship between the image of woman on the screen and the "masculinization" of the spectator position, regardless of the actual sex (or possible deviance) of any real live movie-goer. In-built patterns of pleasure and identification impose masculinity as "point of view," a point of view which is also manifest in the general use of the masculine third person. However, the persistent question "what about the women in the audience?" and my own love of Hollywood melodrama (equally shelved as an issue in "Visual Pleasure") combined to convince me that, however ironically it had been intended originally, the male third person closed off avenues of inquiry that should be followed up. Finally, Duel in the Sun and its heroine's crisis of sexual identity brought both areas together.

I still stand by my "Visual Pleasure" argument, but would now like to pursue the other two lines of thought. First (the "women in the audience" issue), whether the female spectator is carried along, as it were by the scruff of the text, or whether her pleasure can be more deep-rooted and complex. Second (the "melodrama" issue), how the text and its attendant identifica­tions are affected by a female character occupying the center of the narrative arena. So far as the first issue is concerned, it is always possible that the female spectator may find herself so out of key with the pleasure on offer, with its "masculinization," that the spell of fascination is broken. On the other hand, she may not. She may find herself secretly, unconsciously almost, enjoying the freedom of action and control over the diegetic world that identification with a hero provides. It is this female spectator that I want to consider here. So far as the second issue is concerned, I want to limit the area under consideration in a similar manner. Rather than discussing melodrama in general, I am concentrating on films in which a woman central protagonist is shown to be unable to achieve a stable sexual identity, torn between the deep blue sea of passive femininity and the devil of regressive masculinity.

There is an overlap between the two areas, between the unacknowledged dilemma faced in the auditorium and the dramatic double-bind up there on the screen. Generally it is dangerous to elide these two separate worlds. In this case, the emotions of those women accepting "masculinization" while watch­ing action movies with a male hero are illuminated by the emotions of a heroine of a melodrama whose resistance to a "correct" feminine position is the crucial issue at stake. Her oscillation, her inability to achieve stable sexual identity, is echoed by the woman spectator's masculine "point of view. * Both create a sense of the difficulty of sexual difference in cinema that is missing in the undifferentiated spectator of "Visual Pleasure." The unstable, oscillating difference is thrown" into relief by Freud's theory of femininity.

The female spectator's pleasure

Freud and femininity

For Freud, femininity is complicated by the fact that it emerges out of a crucial period of parallel development between the sexes; a period he sees as mascu­line, or phallic, for both boys and girls. The terms he uses to conceive of femininity are the same as those he has mapped out for the male, causing certain problems of language and boundaries to expression. These problems reflect, very accurately, the actual position of women in patriarchal society (suppressed, for instance, under the generalized male third person singular). One term gives rise to a second as its complementary opposite, the male to the female, in that order. Some quotations:

In females, too, the striving to be masculine is ego — syntonic at a certain period — namely in the phallic phase, before the development of femininity sets in. But it then succumbs to the momentous process of repression, as so often has been shown, that determines the fortunes of a woman's femininity.1

I will only emphasize here that the development of femininity remains exposed to disturbances by the residual phenomena of the early masculine period. Regressions to the pre-Oedipus phase very frequently occur; in the course of some women's lives there is a repeated alternation between periods in which femininity and masculinity gain the upper hand.2


We have called the motive force of sexual life "the libido." Sexual life is dominated by the polarity of masculine-feminine; thus the notion suggests itself of considering the relation of the libido to this antithesis. It would not be surprising if it were to turn out that each sexuality had its own special libido appropriated to it, so that one sort of libido would pursue the aims of a masculine sexual life and another sort those of a feminine one. But nothing of the kind is true. There is only one libido, which serves both the masculine and the feminine functions. To it itself we cannot assign any sex; if, following the conventional equation of activity and masculinity, we are inclined to describe it as masculine, we must not forget that it also covers trends with a passive aim. Nevertheless, the juxtaposition "feminine libido" is without any justification. Furthermore, it is our impression that more constraint has been applied to the libido when it is pressed into the service of the feminine function, and that — to speak teleogically — Nature takes less careful account of its [that function's] demands than in the case of masculinity. And the reason for this may lie — thinking once again ideologically — in the fact that the accomplishment of the aim of biology has been entrusted to the aggressiveness of men and has been made to some extent independent of women's consent.'

One particular point of interest in this passage is Freud's shift from the use of active/masculine as metaphor for the function of libido to an invoca­tion of Nature and biology that appears to leave the metaphoric usage behind. There are two problems here: Freud introduces the use of the word masculine as "conventional," apparently simply following an established social-linguistic practice (but which, once again, confirms the masculuv "point of view"); however, secondly, and constituting a greater intellectual stumbling block, the feminine cannot be conceptualized as different, but rather only as opposition (passivity) in an antinomic sense, or as similarity (the phallic phase). This is not to suggest that a hidden, as yet undiscovered femininity exists (as perhaps implied by Freud's use of the word "Nature") but that its structural relationship to masculinity under patriarchy cannot be defined or determined within the terms offered. This shifting process, this definition in terms of opposition or similarity, leaves women also shifting between the metaphoric opposition "active" and "passive." The correct load, femininity, leads to increasing repression of "the active" (the "phallic phase" in Freud's terms). In this sense Hollywood genre films structured around masculine pleasure, offering an identification with the active point of view, allow a woman spectator to rediscover that lost aspect of her sexual identity, the never fully repressed bed-rock of feminine neurosis.

Narrative grammar and trans-sex identification

The "convention" cited by Freud (active/masculine) structures most popular narratives, whether film, folk-tale or myth (as I argued in "Visual Pleasure"), where his metaphoric usage is acted out literally in the story. Andromeda stays tied to the rock, a victim, in danger, until Perseus slays the monster and saves her. It is not my aim, here, to debate on the rights and wrongs of this narrative division of labour or to demand positive heroines, but rather to point out that the "grammar" of the story places the reader, listener or spectator with the hero. The woman spectator in the cinema can make use of an age-old cultural tradition adapting her to this convention, which eases a transition out of her own sex into another. In "Visual Pleasure" my argument was axed around a desire to identify a pleasure that was specific to cinema, that is the eroticism and cultural conventions surrounding the look. Now, on the contrary, I would rather emphasize the way that popular cinema inherited traditions of story-telling that are common to other forms of folk and mass culture, with attendant fascinations other than those of the look.

Freud points out that "masculinity" is, at one stage, ego-syntonic for a woman. Leaving aside, for the moment, problems posed by his use of words, his general remarks on stories and day-dreams provide another angle of approach, this time giving a cultural rather than psychoanalytic insight into the dilemma. He emphasizes the relationship between the ego and the narra­tive concept of the hero:

It is the true heroic feeling, which one of our best writers has expressed in the inimitable phrase, "Nothing can happen to me!* It seems, however, that through this revealing characteristic of invulnerability we can immediately recognize His Majesty the Ego, the hero of every day-dream and every story.4

Although a boy might know quite well that it is most unlikely that he will go out into the world, make his fortune through prowess or the assistance of helpers, and marry a princess, the stories describe the male phantasy of ambition, reflecting something of an experience and expectation of domi­nance (the active). For a girl, on the other hand, the cultural and social overlap is more confusing. Freud's argument that a young girl's day-dreams concentrate on the erotic ignores his own position on her early masculinity and the active day-dreams necessarily associated with this phase. In fact, all too often, the erotic function of the woman is represented by the passive, the waiting (Andromeda again), acting above all as a formal closure to' the narrative structure. Three elements can thus be drawn together; Freud's concept of "masculinity? in women, the identification triggered by the logic of a narrative grammar, and the ego's desire to phantasize itself in a certain, active, manner. All three suggest that, as desire is given cultural materiality in a text, for women (from childhood onwards) trans-sex identification is a habit that very easily becomes second Nature. However, this Nature does not sit easily and shifts restlessly in its borrowed transvestite clothes.

A heroine causes a generic shift

The Western and Oedipal personifications

Using a concept of character function based on V. Propp's Morphology of the Folk-tale, I want to argue for a chain of links and shifts in narrative pattern, showing up the changing function of "woman." The Western (allowing, of course, for as many deviances as one cares to enumerate) bears a residual imprint of the primitive narrative structure analyzed by Vladimir Propp in folk-tales. Also, in the hero's traditional invulnerability, the Western ties in closely with Freud's remarks on day-dreaming. (As I am interested primarily in character function and narrative pattern, not in genre definition, many issues about the Western as such are being summarily side-stepped.) For present purposes, the Western genre provides a crucial node in a series of transformations that comment on the function of "woman" (as opposed to "man") as a narrative signifier and sexual difference as personification of "active" or "passive" elements in a story.

In the Proppian tale, an important aspect of narrative closure is "mar­riage," a function characterized by "princess" or equivalent. This is the only function that is sex-specific, and thus essentially relates to the sex of the hero and his marriageability. This function is very commonly reproduced in the Western, where, once again "marriage" makes a crucial contribution to narrative closure. However, in the Western the function's presence has also come to allow a complication in the form of its opposite, "not marriage." Thus, while the social integration' represented by marriage is an essential aspect of the folk-tale, in the Western it can be accepted... or not. A hero can gain in stature by refusing the princess and remaining alone (Randolph Scoct in the Ranown series of movies). As the resolution of the Proppian tale can bt seen to represent the resolution of the Oedipus complex (integration into the symbolic), the rejection of marriage personifies a nostalgic celebration of phallic, narcissistic omnipotence. Just as Freud's comments on the "phallic" phase in girls seemed to belong in limbo, without a place in the chronology of sexual development, so, too, does this male phenomenon seem to belong to a phase of play and phantasy difficult to integrate exactly into the Oedipal trajectory.

The tension between two points of attraction, the symbolic (social integration and marriage) and nostalgic narcissism, generates a common splitting of the Western hero into two, something unknown in the Proppian tale. Here two functions emerge, one celebrating integration into society through marriage, the other celebrating resistance to social demands and responsibilities, above all those of marriage and the family, the sphere repre­sented by woman. A story such as The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance juxtaposes these two points of attraction, and spectator phantasy can have its cake and eat it too. This particular tension between the doubled hero also brings out the underlying signficance of the drama, its relation to the sym­bolic, with unusual clarity. A folk-tale story revolves around conflict between hero and villain. The flashback narration in Liberty Valance seems to follow these lines at first. The narrative is generated by an act of villainy (Liberty rampages, dragon-like, around the countryside). However, the development of the story acquires a complication. The issue at stake is no longer how the villain will be defeated, but how the villain's defeat will be inscribed into history, whether the upholder of law as a symbolic system (Ranse) will be seen to be victorious or the personfication of law in a more primitive mani­festation (Tom), closer to the good or the right. Liberty Valance, as it uses flashback structure, also brings out the poignancy of this tension. The "present-tense" story is precipitated by a funeral, so that the story is shot through with nostalgia and sense of loss. Ranse Stoddart mourns Tom Doniphon.

This narrative structure is based on an opposition between two irrecon-cilables. The two paths cannot cross. On one side there is an encapsulation of power, and phallic attributes, in an individual who has to bow himself out of the way of history. On the other, an individual impotence rewarded by political and financial power, which, in the long run, in fact becomes history. Here the function "marriage" is as crucial as it is in the folk-tale. It plays the same part in creating narrative resolution, but it is even more important in that "marriage is an integral attribute of the upholder of the law. In this sense Hallie's choice between the two men is pre-determined. Hallie equals princess equals Oedipal resolution rewarded, equals repression of narcissistic sexuality in marriage.

Woman as signifier of sexuality

In a Western working within these conventions, the function "marriage" sublimates the erotic into a final, closing, social ritual. This ritual is, of course, sex-specific, and the main rationale for any female presence in this strand of the genre. This neat narrative function restates the propensity for "woman" to signify "the erotic" already familiar from visual representation (as, for instance, argued in "Visual Pleasure"). Now I want to discuss the way in which introducing a woman as central to a story shifts its meanings, produc­ing another kind of narrative discourse. Duel in the Sun provides the oppor­tunity for this. While the film remains visibly a "Western," the generic space seems to shift. The landscape of action, although present, is not the dramatic core of the film's story, rather it is the interior drama of a girl caught between two conflicting desires. The conflicting desires, first of all, correspond closely with Freud's argument about female sexuality quoted above, that is: an oscillation between "passive" femininity and regressive "masculinity." Thus, the symbolic equation, woman equals sexuality, still persists, but now rather than being an image or a narrative function, the equation opens out a narrative area previously suppressed or

Duel in the Sun (King Vidor, 1947)

repressed. She is no longer the signifier of sexuality (function "marriage") in the "Western" type of story. Now the female presence as center allows the story to be actually, overtly, about sexuality: it becomes a melodrama. It is as though the narrational lens had zoomed in and opened up the neat function "marriage" ("and they lived happily . . .") to ask "what next?" and to focus on the figure of the princess, waiting in the wings for her one moment of importance, to ask "what does she want?" Here we find the generic terrain for melodrama, in its woman-oriented strand. The second question ("what does she want?") takes on greater significance when the hero function is split, as described above in the case of Liberty Valance, where the heroine's choice puts the seal of married grace on the upholder of the Law. Duel in the Sun opens up this question.

In Duel in the Sun the iconographical attributes of the two male (oppositional) characters, Lewt and Jesse, conform very closely to those of Ranse and Tom in Liberty Valance. But now the opposition between Ranse and Tom (which represents an abstract and allegorical conflict over Law and history) is given a completely different twist of meaning. As Pearl is at the center of the story, caught between the two men, their alternative attributes acquire mean­ing from her, and represent different sides of her desire and aspiration. They personify the split in Pearl, not a split in the concept of hero, as argued previously for Liberty Valance.

However, from a psychoanalytic point of view, a strikingly similar pattern emerges, Jesse (attributes: book, dark suit, legal skills, love of learn­ing and culture, destined to be Governor of the State, money, and so on) signposts the "correct" path for Pearl, towards learning a passive sexuality, learning to "be a lady," above all sublimation into a concept of the feminine that is socially viable. Lewt (attributes: guns, horses, skill with horses, West­ern get-up, contempt for culture, destined to die an outlaw, personal strength and personal power) offers sexual passion, not based on maturity but on a regressive, boy/girl mixture of rivalry and play. With Lewt, Pearl can be a tomboy (riding, swimming, shooting). Thus the Oedipal dimension persists, but now illuminates the sexual ambivalence it represents for femininity.

In the last resort, there is no more room for Pearl in Lewt's world of misogynist machismo, than there is room for her desires as Jesse's potential fiancee. The film consists of a series of oscillations in her sexual identity, between alternative paths of development, between different desperations. Whereas the regressive phallic male hero (Tom in Liberty Valance) had a place (albeit a doomed one) that was stable and meaningful, Pearl is unable to settle or find a "femininity" in which she and the male world can meet. In this sense, although the male characters personify Pearl's dilemma, it is their terms that make and finally break her. Once again, however, the narrative drama dooms the phallic, regressive resistance to the symbolic. Lewt, Pearl's masculine side, drops out of the social order. Pearl's masculinity gives her the "wherewithal" to achieve heroism and kill the villain. The lovers shoot each other and die in each other's arms. Perhaps, in Duel, the erotic relationship between Pearl and Lewt also exposes a dyadic interdependence between hero and villain in the primitive tale, now threatened by the splitting of the hero with the coming of the Law.

In Duel in the Sun, Pearl's inability to become a "lady" is highlighted by the fact that the perfect lady appears, like a phantasmagoria of Pearl's failed aspiration, as Jesse's perfect future wife. Pearl recognizes her and her rights over Jesse, and sees that she represents the "correct" road. In an earlier film by King Vidor, Stella Dallas (1937), narrative and iconographic structures similar to those outlined above make the dramatic meaning of the film although it is not a Western. Stella, as central character, is flanked on each side by a male personification of her instability, her inability to accept correct, married "femininity" on the one hand, or find a place in a macho world on the other. Her husband, Stephen, demonstrates all the attributes associated with Jesse, with no problems of generic shift. Ed Munn, representing Stella's regressive "masculine" side, is considerably emasculated by the loss of West­ern accoutrements and its terrain of violence. (The fact that Stella is a mother, and that her relationship to her child constitutes the central drama, under­mines a possible sexual relationship with Ed.) He does retain residual traces of Western iconography. His attributes are mapped through associations with horses and betting, the racing scene. However, more importantly, his relationship with Stella is regressive, based on "having fun," most explicitly in the episode in which they spread itching powder among the respectable occupants of a train carriage. In Stella Dallas, too, a perfect wife appears for Stephen, representing the "correct" femininity that Stella rejects (very similar to Helen, Jesse's fiancee in Duel in the Sun).

The Man who shot Liberty Valance (John Ford, 1962)

Stella Dallas (King Vidor, 1937)

I have been trying to suggest a series of transformations in narrative pattern that illuminate, but also show shifts in, Oedipal nostalgia. The "personifications" and their iconographical attributes do not relate to paren­tal figures or reactivate an actual Oedipal moment. On the contrary, they represent an internal oscillation of desire, which lies dormant, waiting to be "pleasured" in stories of this kind. Perhaps the fascination of the classic Western, in particular, lies in its rather raw touching on this nerve. However, for the female spectator the situation is more complicated and goes beyond simple mourning for a lost phantasy of omnipotence. The masculine identi­fication, in its phallic aspect, reactivates for her a phantasy of "action" that correct femininity demands should be repressed. The phantasy "action" finds expression through a metaphor of masculinity. Both in the language used by Freud and in the male personifications of desire flanking the female protagon­ist in the melodrama, this metaphor acts as a straitjacket, becoming itself an indicator, a litmus paper, of the problem inevitably activated by any attempt to represent the feminine in patriarchal society. The memory of the "mascu­line" phase has its own romantic attraction, a last-ditch resistance, in which the power of masculinity can be used as postponement against the power of patriarchy. Thus Freud's comments illuminate both the position of the female spectator and the image of oscillation represented by Pearl and Stella.

In the course of some women's lives there is a repeated alternation between periods in which femininity and masculinity gain the upper hand.

The phallic phase ... but it then succumbs to the momentous process of repression as has so often been shown, that determines the fortunes of women's femininity.

I have argued that Pearl's position in Duel in the Sun is similar to that of the female spectator as she temporarily accepts "masculinization" in memory of her "active" phase. Rather than dramatizing the success of masculine identification, Pearl brings out its sadness. Her "tomboy" pleasures, her sexuality, are not accepted by Lewt, except in death. So, too, is the female spectator's phantasy of masculinization at cross-purposes with itself, restless in its transvcstite clothes.


1. Sigmund Freud, Femininity\ vol. 22 of The Complete Psychological Works, Standard Edition (London, 1951).

2. Sigmund Freud, Analysis Terminable and Interminable, vol. 23 of The Complete Psychological Works, Standard Edition (London, 1951).

3. Sigmund Freud, Femininity, vol. 22 of The Complete Psychological Works.

4. Sigmund Freud, Creative Writers and Day-Dreaming, vol. 9 of The Complete Psycho­logical Works, Standard Edition (London, 1951).

Visual pleasure and narrative cinema by Laura Mulvey

Visual pleasure and narrative cinema by Laura Mulvey

I. Introduction

A. A political use of psychoanalysis

This paper intends to use psychoanalysis to discover where and how the fascination of film is reinforced by pre-existing patterns of fascination already at work within the individual subject and the social formations that have moulded him. It takes as starting point the way film reflects, reveals and even plays on the straight, socially established interpretation of sexual difference which controls images, erotic ways of looking and spectacle. It is helpful to understand what the cinema has been, how its magic has worked in the past, while attempting a theory and a practice which will challenge this cinema of the past. Psychoanalytic theory is thus appropriated here as a political weapon, demonstrating the way the unconscious of patriarchal society has structured film form.

The paradox of phallocentrism in all its manifestations is that it depends on the image of the castrated woman to give order and meaning to its world. An idea of woman stands as lynch pin to the system: it is her lack that produces the phallus as a symbolic presence, it is her desire to make good the lack that the phallus signi­fies. Recent writing in Screen about psychoanalysis and the cinema has not suffi­ciently brought out the importance of the representation of the female form in a symbolic order in which, in the last resort, it speaks castration and nothing else. To summarise briefly: the function of woman in forming the patriarchal unconscious is twofold, she first symbolises the castration threat by her real absence of a penis and second thereby raises her child into the symbolic. Once this has been achieved, her meaning in the process is at an end, it does not last into the world of law and language except as a memory, which oscillates between memory of maternal plenitude and memory of lack. Both are posited on nature (or on anatomy in Freud's famous phrase). Woman's desire is subjected to her image as bearer of the bleeding wound, she can exist only in relation to castration and cannot transcend it. She turns her child into the signifier of her own desire to possess a penis (the condition, she imagines, of entry into the symbolic). Either she must gracefully give way to the word, the Name of the Father and the Law, or else struggle to keep her child down with her in the half-light of the imaginary. Woman then stands in patriarchal culture as signifier for the male other, bound by a symbolic order in which man can live out his phantasies and obsessions through linguistic command by imposing them on the silent image of woman still tied to her place as bearer of meaning, not maker of meaning.

There is an obvious interest in this analysis for feminists, a beauty in its exact rendering of the frustration experienced under the phallocentric order. It gets us nearer to the roots of our oppression, it brings an articulation of the problem closer, it faces us with the ultimate challenge: how to fight the unconscious struc­tured like a language (formed critically at the moment of arrival of language) while still caught within the language of the patriarchy. There is no way in which we can produce an alternative out of the blue, but we can begin to make a break by examining patriarchy with the tools it provides, of which psychoanalysis is not the only but an important one. We are still separated by a great gap from important issues for the female unconscious which are scarcely relevant to phallocentric theory: the sexing of the female infant and her relationship to the symbolic, the sexually mature woman as non-mother, maternity outside the signification of the phallus, the vagina. But, at this point, psychoanalytic theory as it now stands can at least advance our understanding of the status quo, of the patriarchal order in which we are caught.

B. Destruction of pleasure as a radical weapon

As an advanced representation system, the cinema poses questions of the ways the unconscious (formed by the dominant order) structures ways of seeing and pleasure in looking. Cinema has changed over the last few decades. It is no longer the mono­lithic system based on large capital investment exemplified at its best by Hollywood in the 1930's, 1940's and 1950's. Technological advances (16mm, etc.) have changed the economic conditions of cinematic production, which can now be arti-sanal as well as capitalist. Thus it has been possible for an alternative cinema to develop. However self-conscious and ironic Hollywood managed to be, it always restricted itself to a formal mise-en-scene reflecting the dominant ideological concept of the cinema. The alternative cinema provides a space for a cinema to be born which is radical in both a political and an aesthetic sense and challenges the basic assumptions of the mainstream film. This is not to reject the latter moralisti-cally, but to highlight the ways in which its formal preoccupations reflect the psychical obsessions of the society which produced it, and, further, to stress that the alternative cinema must start specifically by reacting against these obsessions and assumptions. A politically and aesthetically avant-garde cinema is now possible, but it can still only exist as a counterpoint.

The magic of the Hollywood style at its best (and of all the cinema which fell within its sphere of influence) arose, not exclusively, but in one important aspect, from its skilled and satisfying manipulation of visual pleasure. Unchallenged, main­stream film coded the erotic into the language of the dominant patriarchal order. In the highly developed Hollywood cinema it was only through these codes that the alienated subject, torn in his imaginary memory by a sense of loss, by the terror of potential lack in phantasy, came near to finding a glimpse of satisfaction: through its formal beauty and its play on his own formative obsessions. This article will discuss the interweaving of that erotic pleasure in film, its meaning, and in particular the central place of the image of woman. It is said that analysing pleasure, or beauty, destroys it. That is the intention of this article. The satisfaction and reinforcement of the ego that represent the high point of film history hitherto must be attacked. Not in favour of a reconstructed new pleasure, which cannot exist in the abstract, nor of intellectualised unpleasure, but to make way for a total negation of the ease and plenitude of the narrative fiction film. The alternative is the thrill that comes from leaving the past behind without rejecting it, transcending outworn or oppressive forms, or daring to break with normal pleasurable expectations in order to conceive a new language of desire.

II. Pleasure in looking/fascination with the human form

A. The cinema offers a number of possible pleasures. One is scopophilia. There are circumstances in which looking itself is a source of pleasure, just as, in the reverse formation, there is pleasure in being looked at. Originally, in his Three Essays on Sexuality, Freud isolated scopophilia as one of the component instincts of sexuality which exist as drives quite independently of the erotogenic zones. At this point he associated scopophilia with taking other people as objects, subjecting them to a controlling and curious gaze. His particular examples centre around the voyeuristic activities of children, their desire to see and make sure of the private and the forbidden (curiosity about other people's genital and bodily functions, about the presence or absence of the penis and, retrospectively, about the primal scene). In this analysis scopophilia is essentially active. (Later, in Instincts and Their Vicissitudes, Freud developed his theory of scopophilia further, attaching it initially to pre-genital autoeroticism, after which the pleasure of the look is transferred to others by analogy. There is a close working here of the relationship between the active instinct and its further development in a narcissistic form.) Although the instinct is modified by other factors, in particular the constitution of the ego, it continues to exist as the erotic basis for pleasure in looking at another person as object. At the extreme, it can become fixated into a perversion, producing obsessive voyeurs and Peeping Toms whose only sexual satisfaction can come from watching, in an active controlling sense, an objectified other.

At first glance, the cinema would seem to be remote from the undercover world of the surreptitious observation of an unknowing and unwilling victim. What is seen on the screen is so manifestly shown. But the mass of mainstream film, and the conventions within which it has consciously evolved, portray a hermetically sealed world which unwinds magically, indifferent to the presence of the audience, producing for them a sense of separation and playing on their voyeuristic phantasy. Moreover, the extreme contrast between the darkness in the auditorium (which also isolates the spectators from one another) and the brilliance of the shifting patterns of light and shade on the screen helps to promote the illusion of voyeuristic separa­tion. Although the film is really being shown, is there to be seen, conditions of screening and narrative conventions give the spectator an illusion of looking in on a private world. Among other things, the position of the spectators in the cinema is blatantly one of repression of their exhibitionism and projection of the repressed desire onto the performer.

B. The cinema satisfies a primordial wish for pleasurable looking, but it also goes further, developing scopophilia in its narcissistic aspect. The conventions of main­stream film focus attention on the human form. Scale, space, stories are all anthro­pomorphic. Here, curiosity and the wish to look intermingle with a fascination with likeness and recognition: the human face, the human body, the relationship between the human form and its surroundings, the visible presence of the person in the world. Jacques Lacan has described how the moment when a child recognises its own image in the mirror is crucial for the constitution of the ego. Several aspects of this analysis are relevant here. The mirror phase occurs at a time when the child's phys­ical ambitions outstrip his motor capacity, with the result that his recognition of himself is joyous in that he imagines his mirror image to be more complete, more perfect than he experiences his own body. Recognition is thus overlaid with misrecognition: the image recognised is conceived as the reflected body of the self, but its misrecognition as superior projects this body outside itself as an ideal ego, the alienated subject, which, re-introjected as an ego ideal, gives rise to the future gener­ation of identification with others. This mirror moment predates language for the child.

Important for this article is the fact that it is an image that constitutes the matrix of the imaginary, of recognition/misrecognition and identification, and hence of the first articulation of the I, of subjectivity. This is a moment when an older fascination with looking (at the mother's face, for an obvious example) collides with the initial inklings of self-awareness. Hence it is the birth of the long love affair/despair between image and self-image which has found such intensity of expression in film and such joyous recognition in the cinema audience. Quite apart from the extra­neous similarities between screen and mirror (the framing of the human form in its surroundings, for instance), the cinema has structures of fascination strong enough to allow temporary loss of ego while simultaneously reinforcing the ego. The sense of forgetting the world as the ego has subsequently come to perceive it (I forgot who 1 am and where I was) is nostalgically reminiscent of that pre-subjective moment of image recognition. At the same time the cinema has distinguished itself in the production of ego ideals as expressed in particular in the star system, the stars centring both screen presence and screen story as they act out a complex process of likeness and difference (the glamorous impersonates the ordinary).

C. Sections II. A and B have set out two contradictory aspects of the pleasurable structures of looking in the conventional cinematic situation. The first, scopophilic, arises from pleasure in using another person as an object of sexual stimulation through sight. The second, developed through narcissism and the constitution of the ego, comes from identification with the image seen. Thus, in film terms, one implies a separation of the erotic identity of the subject from the object on the screen (active scopophilia), the other demands identification of the ego with the object on the screen through the spectator's fascination with and recognition of his like. The first is a function of the sexual instincts, the second of ego libido. This dichotomy was crucial for Freud. Although he saw the two as interacting and overlaying each other, the tension between instinctual drives and self-preservation continues to be a dramatic polarisation in terms of pleasure. Both are formative structures, mecha­nisms not meaning. In themselves they have no signification, they have to be attached to an idealisation. Both pursue aims in indifference to perceptual reality, creating the imagised, eroticised concept of the world that forms the perception of the subject and makes a mockery of empirical objectivity.

During its history, the cinema seems to have evolved a particular illusion of reality in which this contradiction between libido and ego has found a beautifully complementary phantasy world. In reality the phantasy world of the screen is subject to the law which produces it. Sexual instincts and identification processes have a meaning within the symbolic order which articulates desire. Desire, born with language, allows the possibility of transcending the instinctual and the imag­inary, but its point of reference continually returns to the traumatic moment of its birth: the castration complex. Hence the look, pleasurable in form, can be threatening in content, and it is woman as representation/image that crystallises this paradox.

III. Woman as image, man as bearer of the look

A. In a world ordered by sexual imbalance, pleasure in looking has been split between active/male and passive/female. The determining male gaze projects its phantasy onto the female figure, which is styled accordingly. In their traditional exhibitionist role women are simultaneously looked at and displayed, with their appearance coded for strong visual and erotic impact so that they can be said to connote to-be-looked-at-ness. Woman displayed as sexual object is the leitmotif of erotic spectacle: from pin-ups to stripe-tease, from Ziegfeld to Busby Berkeley, she holds the look, plays to and signifies male desire. Mainstream film neatly combined spectacle and narrative. (Note, however, how in the musical song-and-dance numbers break the flow of the diegesis.) The presence of woman is an indispensable element of spectacle in normal narrative film, yet her visual presence tends to work against the development of a story line, to freeze the flow of action in moments of erotic contemplation. This alien presence then has to be integrated into cohesion with the narrative. As Budd Boetticher has put it:

What counts is what the heroine provokes, or rather what she represents. She is the one, or rather the love or fear she inspires in the hero, or else the concern he feels for her, who makes him act the way he does. In herself the woman has not the slightest importance.

(A recent tendency in narrative film has been to dispense with this problem alto­gether; hence the development of what Molly Haskell has called the 'buddy movie', in which the active homosexual eroticism of the central male figures can carry the story without distraction.) Traditionally, the woman displayed has func­tioned on two levels: as erotic object for the characters within the screen story, and as erotic object for the spectator within the auditorium, with a shifting tension between the looks on either side of the screen. For instance, the device of the show­girl allows the two looks to be unified technically without any apparent break in the diegesis. A woman performs within the narrative, the gaze of the spectator and that of the male characters in the film are neatly combined without breaking narrative verisimilitude. For a moment the sexual impact of the performing woman takes the film into a no-man's-land outside its own time and space. Thus Marilyn Monroe's first appearance in The River of No Return and Lauren Bacall's songs in To Have and Have Not. Similarly, conventional close-ups of legs (Dietrich, for instance) or a face (Garbo) integrate into the narrative a different mode of eroticism. One part of a fragmented body destroys the Renaissance space, the illusion of depth demanded by the narrative, it gives flatness, the quality of a cut-out or icon rather than verisimilitude to the screen.

B. An active/passive heterosexual division of labour has similarly controlled narra­tive structure. According to the principles of the ruling ideology and the psychical structures that back it up, the male figure cannot bear the burden of sexual objectifi-cation. Man is reluctant to gaze at his exhibitionist like. Hence the split between spectacle and narrative supports the man's role as the active one of forwarding the story, making things happen. The man controls the film phantasy and also emerges as the representative of power in a further sense: as the bearer of the look of the spec­tator, transferring it behind the screen to neutralise the extradiegetic tendencies represented by woman as spectacle. This is made possible through the processes set in motion by structuring the film around a main controlling figure with whom the spectator can identify. As the spectator identifies with the main male protagonist, he projects his look onto that of his like, his screen surrogate, so that the power of the male protagonist as he controls events coincides with the active power of the erotic look, both giving a satisfying sense of omnipotence. A male movie star's glamorous characteristics are thus not those of the erotic object of the gaze, but those of the more perfect, more complete, more powerful ideal ego conceived in the original moment of recognition in front of the mirror. The character in the story can make things happen and control events better than the subject/spectator, just as the image in the mirror was more in control of motor coordination. In contrast to woman as icon, the active male figure (the ego ideal of the identification process) demands a three-dimensional space corresponding to that of the mirror recognition, in which the alienated subject internalised his own representation of this imaginary existence. He is a figure in a landscape. Here the function of film is to reproduce as accurately as possible the so-called natural conditions of human perception. Camera tech­nology (as exemplified by deep focus in particular) and camera movements (deter­mined by the action of the protagonist), combined with invisible editing (demanded by realism), all tend to blur the limits of screen space. The male protagonist is free to command the stage, a stage of spatial illusion in which he articulates the look and creates the action.

C. 1. Sections III. A and B have set out a tension between a mode of representation of woman in film and conventions surrounding the diegesis. Each is associated with a look: that of the spectator in direct scopophilic contact with the female form displayed for his enjoyment (connoting male phantasy) and that of the spec­tator fascinated with the image of his like set in an illusion of natural space, and through him gaining control and possession of the woman within the diegesis. (This tension and the shift from one pole to the other can structure a single text. Thus both in Only Angels Have Wings and in To Have and Have Not, the film opens with the woman as object of the combined gaze of spectator and all the male protagonists in the film. She is isolated, glamorous, on display, sexualised. But as the narrative progresses she falls in love with the main male protagonist and becomes his property, losing her outward glamorous characteristics, her gener­alised sexuality, her show-girl connotations; her eroticism is subjected to the male star alone. By means of identification with him, through participation in his power, the spectator can indirectly possess her too.)

But in psychoanalytic terms, the female figure poses a deeper problem. She also connotes something that the look continually circles around but disavows: her lack of a penis, implying a threat of castration and hence unpleasure. Ultimately, the meaning of woman is sexual difference, the absence of the penis as visually ascer-tainable, the material evidence on which is based the castration complex essential for the organisation of entrance to the symbolic order and the law of the father. Thus the woman as icon, displayed for the gaze and enjoyment of men, the active controllers of the look, always threatens to evoke the anxiety it originally signified. The male unconscious has two avenues of escape from this castration anxiety: preoccupation with the re-enactment of the original trauma (investigating the woman, demystifying her mystery), counterbalanced by the devaluation, punish­ment or saving of the guilty object (an avenue typified by the concerns of the film noir); or else complete disavowal of castration by the substitution of a fetish object or turning the represented figure itself into a fetish so that it becomes reassuring rather than dangerous (hence over-valuation, the cult of the female star). This second avenue, fetishistic scopophilia, builds up the physical beauty of the object, transforming it into something satisfying in itself. The first avenue, voyeurism, on the contrary, has associations with sadism: pleasure lies in ascertaining guilt (imme­diately associated with castration), asserting control and subjecting the guilty person through punishment or forgiveness. This sadistic side fits in well with narra­tive. Sadism demands a story, depends on making something happen, forcing a change in another person, a battle of will and strength, victory/ defeat, all occurring in a linear time with a beginning and an end. Fetishistic scopophilia, on the other hand, can exist outside linear time as the erotic instinct is focussed on the look alone. These contradictions and ambiguities can be illustrated more simply by using works by Hitchcock and Sternberg, both of whom take the look almost as the content or subject matter of many of their films. Hitchcock is the more complex, as he uses both mechanisms. Sternberg's work, on the other hand, provides many pure exam­ples of fetishistic scopophilia.

C.2. It is well known that Sternberg once said he would welcome his films being projected upside down so that story and character involvement would not interfere with the spectator's undiluted appreciation of the screen image. This statement is revealing but ingenuous. Ingenuous in that his films do demand that the figure of the woman (Dietrich, in the cycle of films with her, as the ultimate example) should be identifiable. But revealing in that it emphasises the fact that for him the pictorial space enclosed by the frame is paramount rather than narrative or identification processes. While Hitchcock goes into the investigative side of voyeurism, Sternberg produces the ultimate fetish, taking it to the point where the powerful look of the male protagonist (characteristic of traditional narrative film) is broken in favour of the image in direct erotic rapport with the spectator. The beauty of the woman as object and the screen space coalesce; she is no longer the bearer of guilt but a perfect product, whose body, stylised and fragmented by close-ups, is the content of the film and the direct recipient of the spectator's look. Sternberg plays down the illusion of screen depth; his screen tends to be one-dimensional, as light and shade, lace, steam, foliage, net, streamers, etc, reduce the visual field. There is little or no mediation of the look through the eyes of the main male protagonist. On the contrary, shadowy presences like La Bessiere in Morocco act as surrogates for the director, detached as they are from audience identification. Despite Sternberg's insistence that his stories are irrelevant, it is significant that they are concerned with situation, not suspense, and cyclical rather than linear time, while plot complications revolve around misun­derstanding rather than conflict. The most important absence is that of the control­ling male gaze within the screen scene. The high point of emotional drama in the most typical Dietrich films, her supreme moments of erotic meaning, take place in the absence of the man she loves in the fiction. There are other witnesses, other spec­tators watching her on the screen, their gaze is one with, not standing in for, that of the audience. At the end of Morocco, Tom Brown has already disappeared into the desert when Amy Jolly kicks off her gold sandals and walks after him. At the end of Dishonoured, Kranau is indifferent to the fate of Magda. In both cases, the erotic impact, sanctified by death, is displayed as a spectacle for the audience. The male hero misunderstands and, above all, does not see.

In Hitchcock, by contrast, the male hero does see precisely what the audience sees. However, in the films I shall discuss here, he takes fascination with an image through scopophilic eroticism as the subject of the film. Moreover, in these cases the hero portrays the contradictions and tensions experienced by the spectator. In Vertigo in particular, but also in Mamie and Rear Window, the look is central to the plot, oscillating between voyeurism and fetishistic fascination. As a twist, a further manipulation of the normal viewing process, which in some sense reveals it, Hitchcock uses the process of identification normally associated with ideological correctness and the recognition of established morality and shows up its perverted side. Hitchcock has never concealed his interest in voyeurism, cinematic and non-cinematic. His heroes are exemplary of the symbolic order and the law - a policeman (Vertigo), a dominant male possessing money and power (Mamie) - but their erotic drives lead them into compromised situations. The power to subject another person to the will sadistically or to the gaze voyeuristically is turned onto the woman as the object of both. Power is backed by a certainty of legal right and the established guilt of the woman (evoking castration, psychoanalytically speaking). True perversion is barely concealed under a shallow mask of ideological correctness - the man is on the right side of the law, the woman on the wrong. Hitchcock's skilful use of identification processes and liberal use of subjective camera from the point of view of the male protagonist draw the spectators deeply into his position, making them share his uneasy gaze. The audience is absorbed into a voyeuristic situation within the screen scene and diegesis which parodies his own in the cinema. In his analysis of Rear Window, Douchet takes the film as a metaphor for the cinema. Jeffries is the audience, the events in the apartment block opposite correspond to the screen. As he watches, an erotic dimension is added to his look, a central image to the drama. His girlfriend Lisa had been of little sexual interest to him, more or less a drag, so long as she remained on the spectator side. When she crosses the barrier between his room and the block opposite, their relationship is re-born erotically. He does not merely watch her through his lens, as a distant meaningful image, he also sees her as a guilty intruder exposed by a dangerous man threatening her with punishment, and thus finally saves her. Lisa's exhibitionism has already been estab­lished by her obsessive interest in dress and style, in being a passive image of visual perfection; Jeffries's voyeurism and activity have also been established through his work as a photo-journalist, a maker of stories and captor of images. However, his enforced inactivity, binding him to his seat as a spectator, puts him squarely in the phantasy position of the cinema audience.

In Vertigo, subjective camera predominates. Apart from one flash-back from Judy's point of view, the narrative is woven around what Scottie sees or fails to see. The audience follows the growth of his erotic obsession and subsequent despair precisely from his point of view. Scottie's voyeurism is blatant: he falls in love with a woman he follows and spies on without speaking to. Its sadistic side is equally blatant: he has chosen (and freely chosen, for he had been a successful lawyer) to be a policeman, with all the attendant possibilities of pursuit and investigation. As a result, he follows, watches and falls in love with a perfect image of female beauty and mystery. Once he actually confronts her, his erotic drive is to break her down and force her to tell by persistent cross-questioning. Then, in the second part of the film, he re-enacts his obsessive involvement with the image he loved to watch secretly. He reconstructs Judy as Madeleine, forces her to conform in every detail to the actual physical appearance of his fetish. Her exhibitionism, her masochism, make her an ideal passive counterpart to Scottie's active sadistic voyeurism. She knows her part is to perform, and only by playing it through and then replaying it can she keep Scottie's erotic interest. But in the repetition he does break her down and succeeds in exposing her guilt. His curiosity wins through and she is punished. In Vertigo, erotic involvement with the look is disorientating: the spectator's fascina­tion is turned against him as the narrative carries him through and entwines him with the processes that he is himself exercising. The Hitchcock hero here is firmly placed within the symbolic order, in narrative terms. He has all the attributes of the patriarchal superego. Hence the spectator, lulled into a false sense of security by the apparent legality of his surrogate, sees through his look and finds himself exposed as complicit, caught in the moral ambiguity of looking. Far from being simply an aside on the perversion of the police, Vertigo focuses on the implications of the active/looking, passive/looked-at split in terms of sexual difference and the power of the male symbolic encapsulated in the hero. Marnie, too, performs for Mark Rutland's gaze and masquerades as the perfect to-be-looked-at image. He, too, is on the side of the law until, drawn in by obsession with her guilt, her secret, he longs to see her in the act of committing a crime, make her confess and thus save her. So he, too, becomes complicit as he acts out the implications of his power. He controls money and words, he can have his cake and eat it.

IV. Summary

The psychoanalytic background that has been discussed in this article is relevant to the pleasure and unpleasure offered by traditional narrative film. The scopophilic instinct (pleasure in looking at another person as an erotic object), and, in contradis­tinction, ego libido (forming identification processes) act as formations, mecha­nisms, which this cinema has played on. The image of woman as (passive) raw material for the (active) gaze of man takes the argument a step further into the struc­ture of representation, adding a further layer demanded by the ideology of the patri­archal order as it is worked out in its favourite cinematic form - illusionistic narrative film. The argument returns again to the psychoanalytic background in that woman as representation signifies castration, inducing voyeuristic or fetishistic mechanisms to circumvent her threat. None of these interacting layers is intrinsic to film, but it is only in the film form that they can reach a perfect and beautiful contra­diction, thanks to the possibility in the cinema of shifting the emphasis of the look. It is the place of the look that defines cinema, the possibility of varying it and exposing it. This is what makes cinema quite different in its voyeuristic potential from, say, strip-tease, theatre, shows, etc. Going far beyond highlighting a woman's to-be-looked-at-ness, cinema builds the way she is to be looked at into the spectacle itself. Playing on the tension between film as controlling the dimension of time (editing, narrative) and film as controlling the dimension of space (changes in distance, editing), cinematic codes create a gaze, a world, and an object, thereby producing an illusion cut to the measure of desire. It is these cinematic codes and their relationship to formative external structures that must be broken down before mainstream film and the pleasure it provides can be challenged.

To begin with (as an ending), the voyeuristic-scopophilic look that is a crucial part of traditional filmic pleasure can itself be broken down. There are three different looks associated with cinema: that of the camera as it records the profilmic event, that of the audience as it watches the final product, and that of the characters at each other within the screen illusion. The conventions of narrative film deny the first two and subordinate them to the third, the conscious aim being always to eliminate intru­sive camera presence and prevent a distancing awareness in the audience. Without these two absences (the material existence of the recording process, the critical reading of the spectator), fictional drama cannot achieve reality, obviousness and truth. Nevertheless, as this article has argued, the structure of looking in narrative fiction film contains a contradiction in its own premises: the female image as a castration threat constantly endangers the unity of the diegesis and bursts through the world of illusion as an intrusive, static, one-dimensional fetish. Thus the two looks materially present in time and space are obsessively subordinated to the neurotic needs of the male ego. The camera becomes the mechanism for producing an illusion of Renaissance space, flowing movements compatible with the human eye, an ideology of representation that revolves around the perception of the subject: the camera's look is disavowed in order to create a convincing world in which the spectator's surrogate can perform with verisimilitude. Simultaneously, the look of the audience is denied an intrinsic force: as soon as fetishistic representation of the female image threatens to break the spell of illusion, and the erotic image on the screen appears directly (without mediation) to the spectator, the fact of fetishisation, concealing as it does castration fear, freezes the look, fixates the spectator and prevents him from achieving any distance from the image in front of him.

This complex interaction of looks is specific to film. The first blow against the monolithic accumulation of traditional film conventions (already undertaken by radical film-makers) is to free the look of the camera into its materiality in time and space and the look of the audience into dialectics, passionate detachment. There is no doubt that this destroys the satisfaction, pleasure and privilege of the 'invisible guest', and highlights how film has depended on voyeuristic active/passive mecha­nisms. Women, whose image has continually been stolen and used for this end, cannot view the decline of the traditional film form with anything much more than sentimental regret.