Do the Gilles – Deleuze becomes the phantom of La Cinemathèque française

It was quite a sensation – especially for some early cinema scholars – when the rapper Snoop Dogg performed live at Coachella in 2012 with a sudden “guest appearance” of long deceased Tupac, a stunt often discussed among journalists as being a hologram while it was not. To see such a media practice reemerge in contemporary popular culture offers an interesting potential insight into the feelings audiences could perhaps have felt in the late eighteenth-century when witnessing the Phantasmagorias of Etienne-Gaspard Robertson and its ressuscitations.

Recently, a quite different way of creating such a moment of resuscitation caught my attention as something which goes a bit further, and as a quite original take on bringing a prominent personality back to life, this time from the domain of film theory appealing to a slightly different crowd. Twenty-five years ago, in 1988, the television film L’Abécédaire de Gilles Deleuze was filmed, shown for the first time on the French television station Arte in 1996 after Gilles Deleuze’s death (one of the conditions of filming it was that it be shown post-humously). To celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the filming, La Cinémathèque française in Paris, has decided to pay tribute to Deleuze in a rather fascinating manner to introduce his film theory to new audiences, or just to keep its memory alive.

From September 2013 to July 2014, the actor Robert Cantarella will throughout the year, re-enact the lectures which form the basis for Deleuze’s cinema books. Under the title “Faire le Gilles” a lecture will be re-enacted one wednesday a month and entrance will be free. Cantarella has listened closely to tapes of the entire lectures to attain the grain and diction of Deleuze’s voice as well as his bodily gestures, in order to perform this tour de force and to become a “phantome” of Deleuze. Cantarella finds it crucial, to experience the voice of Deleuze to understand his thought and has therefore decided to embark on this. A video can be seen below where Cantarella explains and performs this (this one is for the francophones only, sorry!). It has been an on-going project for Cantarella for some years, who already in 2011 was giving lectures on a monthly basis, copying the voice of Deleuze – an example can be seen here. So, it is an expert – perhaps the only one? – in this field.

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But one could also say, that it is in a way an expert institution for this kind of project. It seems logical, that La Cinémathèque française which is so renowned for collecting and presenting early visual devices and documenting practices such as Robertson’s phantasmagorias, should embark on such an experiment of resuscitation; making Deleuze the phantom of the Cinémathèque for the next year thus in a peculiar way reflects the institution’s unique heritage.

I hope to be able to make it at least once if my schedule allows it!

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