Source: Elie During, « Turning movements : Fragments on Mark Lewis », in Mark Lewis : Im/possible films, F. Bovier & H. Taieb (dir.), Genève, Métis Presses, 2016.
What is the true locus of the cinematic image? Not, of course, the photographic still, nor even the famous Lumière shot, which is after all only a kind of cinematic aquarium, and which any child of three can achieve by planting a camera in the middle of an intersection. The image space is that virtual space that the image occupies when we give it the means to spread out along all its dimensions. Beneath the more or less fluid sequences which make up a single shot, there is another image, self-contained within its own space, flashing intermittently. It is a somewhat angular image unfolding, raising, and sometimes turning on itself to reveal its shoulder or its back; an image around which one can turn as one turns around a sculpture, when the camera no longer limits itself to filming a scene or a place, but films the image itself, directly.
Truth be told, the filmmaker or videographer in reality does nothing other than filming images, just as the painter paints paintings. And just as filmed images are not animated paintings, they are not “windows to the world” either. Bazin said that the cinema screen is not a frame (cadre) but a mask (cache). This is not so far from what we’re dealing with here. In the cinema, we are indeed on a single level with the world, but it’s a world that can only be aimed at through a projected image, from an insurmountable distance that is somewhat comparable to the way we relate to dream or memory images; we never confuse these with perceptions, but neither are they provided for us as mere representations standing for something other than what they offer themselves. The world projected on screen excludes us, it holds us back, which is why we can have the experience of living alongside the images, for the length of a film, although this ever-present possibility is generally concealed by the almost exclusive attention that we naturally give to the particular contents that are being presented to us and to their formal treatment. In the cinema, we are always at the edge of the world. Or—which amounts to the same thing—we discover it by flying over it. Filmic experience itself unfolds in a time with which there is no point in attempting to coincide phenomenologically: under the film’s variegated ebb and flow, the twists and turns of the story, there is no deep temporal layer, no basso continuo which might serve as the film’s fundamental “tempo”, no “filmic time” folded within the images, in which one might take place and get carried along. The duration of filmic experience certainly exists: we make it ourselves as we go along; it is a mean average of the fluctuating attention we give to what is shown. But there is no overall time of the film as such, if that implies uncovering some kind of Ur-duration in the depths of cinematic experience. That being said, at another level, there is a temporal profile enshrined in the form of the film. It appears here and there, through glimpses, to the trained eye.
Thus, Mark Lewis manages to keep the pictorial alive by setting up—perpendicular to the flows of duration which are woven in the full extent of the shot, perpendicular to the time lived by the viewing consciousness as it sustains the filmic experience from one end to the other—something like a formal time detached from the world’s motion and from life itself, likewise liberated from any single point of view. A floating time for a wandering eye. In truth, this is the most secret operation of the tracking shot or turning movement favoured by Mark Lewis. This vertical time clearly has something to do with a particular aspect of cinematic time: the time of the film’s run, or more precisely, the mechanical time of the projection itself, the intermittent temporal frame which is brought back to our attention when we look at our watch and suddenly become aware of the time we’re spending in front of the screen. The one and only “real time” is indeed this one, and Christian Marclay knew it when he conceived of The Clock (2010). But precisely the time of clocks (or of the cinematograph) can also appear in watermark within the film itself, in some sense superimposing itself on the filmic time generated by the continuous modulation of the shot or the transitions from one shot to the next.