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Rakhee Balaram Click here to Print this Page
Laura Mulvey and Peter Wollen

If feminist intervention in cinema is sustained by a fresh and innovative experience of spectatorship in terms of history, subject matter, space and visual interpretation, it is also deepened by a break with traditional narrative. Narrative and subsequent editing imply a causality of events and an imposed structure that can be seen to re-affirm the patriarchal order or conventional thinking which the avant-garde seeks to transform for political and societal change. Like Godard before him, Wollen was inspired by a system of chapters as a loose, framing mechanism. Heavy, conceptual moments in the film, such as "Stones" in the seven-sequence Riddles of the Sphinx are given verbal relief and thematic importance in the titles at the outset of the film. Formal devices include cue cards in the second section of Penthesilea, in addition to quotations by Mallarmé, Lacan, H.D., and Freud to introduce each sequence; maps are used in both AMY! and Frida Kahlo and Tina Modotti as well a play of juxtapositions and visual images and artistic titles in the latter. Technology and technical innovation also play a key role in understanding the emotional and conceptual structure of these films. Wollen has admitted the narrative aspect to be a constant tension within a project. "It's a debate around narrative, though. For me the problem is to find a way of working with narrative [...] It's a real problem not to be caught between a complete refusal of narrative and a complete acceptance of it." "Crystal Gazing," Framework (1982).

Still from Penthesilia (1974)
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