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royaldiadem Group

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Archipp Zakharov
Archipp Zakharov


In Cinema 2: l'image-temps (1985), Gilles Deleuze remarks that Jean Renoir's pioneering use of deep space makes manifest a cracked crystal of time that structures the director's oeuvre. Deleuze states that within Renoir's crystal, characters constantly negotiate a tension between the 'dead roles' of the past and the possibility for the creation of a genuinely new future. Deleuze's analysis, although insightful, suggests that Renoir's mise-en-scene articulates the cracked crystal's temporal properties regardless of the narrative setting. Drawing on Renoir's photography of Paris in La Chienne (1931), this article demonstrates the import of setting, specifically urban topography, towards Renoir's dialectic of imprisonment and escape. In La Chienne, formal tensions between Renoir's mise-en-scene of the theatre and Paris foreground the city's role as an active catalyst of the characters' individual trajectories in a world where social identity remains crucially unfixed. Central to this analysis is the motif of the frame, which is appropriated in conjunction with deep space and off-screen space in the city in order to emphasize the impossibility of confining urban narrative to the rigid confines of the proscenium arches that bookend the protagonist's drama. This article ultimately argues that Renoir's crystalline image is not only the product of camera techniques and characterization, but also of the mutually affective relationship between urban physical and social space.



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