Niall Kennedy: Collaboration and the Collective Authorial Subject in Deleuze's Cinema Books


Interpretations of Gilles Deleuze’s »Cinema« books, and of his work generally, emphasise the importance of the »nonhuman« and the »anti-identitarian« in his philosophy. In cinema this means the conceptual privileging of a radically decentred or acentred perspective which threatens, in the words of critics such as Gregory Flaxman ‘our belief in that stability which constitutes identity itself’, and challenges an auteur-centric understanding of film production. The film critic is called to practice experimentation and not interpretation.

As against this dominant trend some recent scholarship has sought to reintroduce the human, re-emphasising the role of the »auteur« in Deleuze’s writings on cinema. However, in doing so John Mullarkey challenges Deleuze’s reliance on the figure of the director-auteur on the grounds that it does not reflect the complex and collaborative nature of film production, and criticises Deleuze for offering only vague and abstract notions of the diverse cultural influences on the cinematic image.

I will argue that Deleuze’s conception of the auteur is the definitive tool he uses to structure his analysis of film, but is also nuanced enough to embrace a collective authorial subject. I will examine Deleuze’s treatment in »Cinema 1« and »2« of notions of style, collaboration, and apprenticeship. I will further argue that Deleuze’s analysis does not support a spectator-centred theory of the free play of interpretations of a cinematic text.

My paper challenges an understanding of Deleuze as a post-structuralist thinker of film.