Unmaking the remake: Lacanian psychoanalysis, Deleuzian logic, and the problem of repetition in Hollywood cinema

Vardell, Dan (2010) Unmaking the remake: Lacanian psychoanalysis, Deleuzian logic, and the problem of repetition in Hollywood cinema. University of Southampton, School of Humanities, Doctoral Thesis , 219pp.


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Repetition is inherent to cinema. From the complex interweaving of genre cycles and
Hollywood stars to the elementary mechanism of film projection (twenty-four times per
second): cinema is repetition. It is perhaps little wonder then that psychoanalysis is often
thought of as one of the discourses with which to write about film in the 20th century.
However, this thesis problematises both cinematic repetition and psychoanalytic film theory,
stressing that each is haunted by a spectre: the remake, and the film-philosophy of Gilles
Deleuze, respectively. Despite its critical opprobrium, I explore the remake not only as a
viable object of cinematic scholarship, but one necessary in moving past the impasse of film
studies identified by Timothy Corrigan (1991) as ‘historical hysteria’. My research turns to
Deleuzian film theory as a counterpart, rather than replacement, of the predominant Lacanian
model. This is, however, neither a defence of the remake nor of psychoanalysis, but, rather, an
attempt to submit both to a radical reassessment that, as Lacan says, aims at giving you a
‘kick up the arse’ (1998:49).

Eschewing the ‘example’ as a remnant of film theory’s current collapse in form, I suggest two
‘case studies’ for consideration, augmented by a cache of film references: (1) Gus Van Sant’s
shot-for-shot remake (1998) of Alfred Hitchcock’s original Psycho (1960) as a ‘symptom’ of
Hollywood’s self-cannibalisation; and (2) George Sluizer’s The Vanishing (1993), a
Hollywood ‘auto-remake’ of his own Dutch original, Spoorloos (1988), as a ‘fetish’ of
Hollywood’s desire in the European ‘Other’. Rather than expose Deleuze to a Lacanian
framework I subject the one to a reading of the other in a möbius relation, turning them
inside-out, so to speak. Mediating these two thinkers is Slavoj Žižek, a cultural theorist whose
own ‘filmosophy’ is revealed from amongst his often frenetic writings. In so doing, I expose a
dark underside to Hollywood repetition, one which provides some new tools for
understanding the popularity of cinema’s most critically neglected discourse.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN1993 Motion Pictures
Divisions : University Structure - Pre August 2011 > School of Humanities
ePrint ID: 169793
Accepted Date and Publication Date:
May 2010Made publicly available
Date Deposited: 22 Dec 2010 13:49
Last Modified: 31 Mar 2016 13:31
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/169793

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