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Title: The Visual Guillotine: Latin America and the Cinema of Cruelty
Authors: Matusiak, Thomas
Advisors: Guerrero, Javier
Contributors: Spanish and Portuguese Languages and Cultures Department
Keywords: Body in pieces
Cinema of cruelty
Latin American cinema
Subjects: Latin American studies
Film studies
Issue Date: 2019
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: This dissertation presents a theory of cinema grounded in an archive of Latin American film that decodifies the violent image. I propose that through the formal device of the close-up and material practice of montage, among other processes and discourses, cinema is organized around forms of symbolic violence that structurally depend on cutting and disfiguration. I establish an archaeology of violent practices that orient the cinematic apparatus, ending with a study of the weaponization of the moving image in contemporary Mexico. In the first chapter, I lay the theoretical foundation for a cinema of cruelty. Drawing on the thought of Antonin Artaud, I analyze how Latin American filmmakers – including Alejandro Jodorowsky (Chile-Mexico-France), Mariana Rondón (Venezuela), and Teo Hernández (Mexico) – affect the sensibility of the spectator by drawing attention to the symbolic violence of the visual apparatus. The second chapter revisits theories of montage in light of this framework. Here I turn to Sergei Eisenstein’s cinematic exploration of Mexico and a film ritual by contemporary artist Raphael Montañez Ortiz (USA). Both present montage as a form of violent magic. Chapter Three considers how the close-up produces a body in pieces by cropping the human figure in the framing of the shot, opening a dialogue between the film theory of Béla Balázs and Jacques Aumont and the cinematic practices of contemporary artist Javier Téllez (Venezuela) and filmmaker Lucrecia Martel (Argentina). In Chapter Four, I shift my attention to what anthropologist Rossana Reguillo terms the narco máquina. Beginning in 2006, ritual beheadings recorded on video and distributed online have become a prominent terror tactic in Mexico. If theorist Sayak Valencia argues that criminal groups theorize contemporary forms of capital through death under capitalismo gore, then I propose that they also reconfigure the moving image in post-cinema by appropriating the digital apparatus to create new audiovisual industries governed by the logic of snuff. In the fifth and final chapter, I examine how the enfants terribles of Mexican cinema Carlos Reygadas, Amat Escalante, and Everardo González deconstruct this weaponization of the moving image by theorizing the violence underlying the apparatus and exposing how violence conditions global visual culture today.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Spanish and Portuguese Languages and Cultures

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