The Affective Force of the Scream in the Cinema of Philippe Grandrieux

The French director Phillipe Grandrieux’s cinema is rife with screams. In his first two feature-length films, Sombre (1998) and La Vie nouvelle (2002), the human scream is built into the sonic fabric of the soundtrack and visualised through the vibrating camera. It is never simply a question of the person who screams, but rather cinema’s capacity to intensify the violent sensation of the scream and attach it to chaos. Such a panoply of cries, shrieks and howls do not exist entirely in isolation: they are borne out of a wider avant-garde tendency, a decisive mode of operation that will attempt to express the unbearable trauma of the 20th Century – ravaged by war, famine and genocide – and simultaneously exploit its affirmative aesthetic potential. Among such a symphony, three screamers remain particularly relevant for approaching the sensorial cinema of Grandrieux: the theorist and artist Antonin Artaud, painter Francis Bacon and philosopher Gilles Deleuze. [1] These three look to liberate the scream from representation, connecting it with imperceptible forces that are actualised in the colour, contours and rhythm of the artistic medium. Similarly, Grandrieux’s screams exist beyond narrative context and psychological motivation: they emerge as abject incarnations embodied in the audiovisual material of cinema.

A Cinema of Sensation
Grandrieux has emerged as one of the most controversial figures in recent French film. With four feature-length films, he has staked out a unique place in cinema, fusing narration with a more experimental method that privileges filmic materiality. The disturbing depictions of sexual violence, along with genre hybridisation and formal experimentation has meant his oeuvre is frequently associated with the recent trend towards cinematic extremism. [2] Indeed, upon release, both Sombre and La Vie nouvelle were met with condemnation, denounced for their dehumanising and abject worldview. Critics and audiences alike have certainly struggled to circumnavigate this tenebrous universe and have often dismissed the films as perverse, pretentious or just plain muddled. Writing in The Village Voice, Amy Taubin called Sombre “a repellent psychodrama”, [3] while James Quandt’s article “Flesh and Blood: Sex and Violence in Recent French Cinema” signalled out the director’s films for some of his most damning criticism. [4] And yet, exploring the singular vision of Grandrieux entails recognising his films’ refusal to fit into a cohesive picture concerning ethics or appeal to humanist aspirations. The auteur belongs to a specific tradition of avant-garde experimentation, artists including Georges Bataille and Artaud, who saw an archaic impulse in aesthetics, one which would approach the sacred. Antithetical to contemplation, they introduced an aesthetic of sensory proximity and assault. Discussing his second feature, La Vie nouvelle, Grandrieux suggests, “the film would be a constant vibration of emotions and affects, and all that would reunite us, reinscribe us into the material in which we’re formed: the perceptual material of our first years, our first moments, our childhood. Before speech”. [5] For the director, cinema can plunge beneath the spurious edifice of civilisation – it is pre-cognitive and sensorial. Abdicating almost entirely narrative momentum and character psychology, Grandrieux’s sensorial cinema works with the body’s intensities and the mutability the cinematic image itself. The French theorist Nicole Brenez aligns the auteur’s oeuvre to the body’s modernity: philosophers who have plunged into “the most shadowy depths of our sensory experience”. [6] Similarly, Jenny Chamarette employs the work of Deleuze and Pierre Klossowski, to argue that this cinema interrogates unknowable bodily limits. She writes:

The forms of slippery subjectivity in and around the permeable body-subjects in and of Grandrieux’s films are continually exposed to the possibility of their own decentring and dissolution; consequently they permeate cinematic experience, and the intertwined nature of filmmaking, film image and the cinematic encounter. [7]

Scholarship has aligned this dissolution of bodily limits with Bataille’s concept of the informe and Julia Kristeva’s abjection, both which speak to the tenuous nature of corporeal boundaries and conscious comprehension, where humans are threatened by the pull of the undifferentiated. [8] For Martine Beugnet, Grandrieux’s oeuvre is indeed a cinema of the informe and abject – “his images expose the horror of the undifferentiated and nonsensical, and the violence and abject it triggers”. [9] This is not only achieved through spectacles of immense violence, where bodily integrity is challenged, but more fundamentally at the level of cinematic technique, including under-exposed images, vibrating frame rates and extreme close-ups, which deforms representational organisation.

The scream is a key aesthetic trope that dismantles conventional forms of subjectivity and tests the limits of cinematic representation. Its unique expression as an audiovisual event provides greater insight into Grandrieux’s sensorial cinema. Indeed, the scream allows us to plunge deeper into the enigmatic bodies that populate Grandrieux’s cinematic cosmos and extract a fragment of their sensation.

In the Beginning was the Scream
The scream has long been an aesthetic trope in the avant-garde, exploited for its potential to test the bodily limits and challenge representation. It is an intense affective event: it is often wrenched from our throats in times of great distress or pleasure, an involuntary moment when our corporeal borders are rendered uncertain. For Marie Thompson, “The scream is both about affect … and is itself affective, insomuch that it seeks to mobilise other bodies by impacting upon their affective registers”. [10] Thus, the scream is never reducible to an individual subject. Discussing the person who screams, Peter Schwenger, argues that it evokes the philosopher Emanuel Levinas’s il y a – an anonymous and restless situatedness – a primal expression that desubjectifies. [11] No wonder it has become a singular sonic and visual signature that has reverberated across the 20th Century. In an epoch ravaged by war, genocide and epistemological ambiguity, the scream frequently appears the sole available response. Edvard Munch’s famous painting The Scream (1893) would indeed introduce the alienation and anomie of the encroaching age, precipitating its aesthetic form, where in the words of Fredric Jameson, the “sonorous vibration becomes ultimately visible, as on the surface of a sheet of water, in an infinite regress, which fans out from the sufferer to become the very geography of the universe in which pain itself now speaks”. [12] While certainly an internalised expression of horror, the scream simultaneously speaks to a desubjectification of the canvas itself – the potential of paint to harness affective force and create a synesthetic experience. Indeed, the scream would be exploited for this affective potential across the 20th Century avant-garde. For instance, the Futurist Luigi Russolo’s manifesto “The Art of Noises” (1913), argued for radically new music that would incorporate human screams among a cacophony of other industrial sounds. [13] Its aural modulations and timbres would resonate in the auditorium of the Cabaret Voltaire, where the Dadaists looked to rupture staid forms of artistic signification and challenge the so-called rationality of the modern age. And eventually a veritable symphony of howls would erupt into the mainstream, becoming familiar to audiences whether over the airwaves of the radio or through the soundtrack of the horror cinema.

Perhaps no artist would realise the affective force of the scream more than the French theorist and artist Antonin Artaud. Complaining that the theatre had been corrupted by dialogue, he desired to downplay linguistic signification and appeal instead to the body of the spectator. For Artaud, the 20th Century required what he called a theatre of cruelty. Such a theatre did not necessarily imply explicit spectacles of represented violence, but rather was linked with what he referred to as “an appetite for life, a cosmic rigor and implacable necessity”. [14] Comparing theatre to the cataclysmic force of the plague that wreaks destruction on the individual and community, he desires an all-consuming spectacle that is affectively contagious. Thus, for Edward Sheer, an Artaudian aesthetic, “is less a matter of representation and more a concern with the actions which approach the limits of the representational”. [15] These actions would often consist of the body seized by agony or ecstasy, overcome by forces which rupture its integrity. The scream would be a privileged expression for its ability to rupture the distinction between interior and exterior, directly transmitting the shattered body to the nervous system of the audience. Consider the infamous lecture Artaud gave in 1933 at the Sorbonne, entitled “The Theatre and the Plague”, when exasperated that his message was not being felt by the audience, he descended into a panoply of sickening howls, subsequently described by the novelist Anaïs Nin:

His face was contorted with anguish, one could see the perspiration dampening his hair. His eyes dilated, his muscles became cramped, his fingers struggled to retain their flexibility. He made one feel the parched and burning throat, the pains, the fever, the fire in the guts. He was in agony. He was screaming. He was delirious. He was enacting his own death, his own crucifixion. [16]

While this provides an evocative insight into the visual spectacle of the scream, Artaud was ultimately more interested in its aural textures, modulations and timbres – indeed, it was the ability to destabilise the sovereignty of speech and transform sound into a primordial force that fascinated him: that is, to eviscerate the body’s insides and transmit a new sonic body that was liberated from the limitations of the all-too-solid flesh. The sonic architecture of the scream is linked to the infamous concept of the body without organs, since it destroys the ostensibly organised rigidity of the flesh and transmits the shattered body through direct vibration – entering into a deeper rhythm and resonance that will physically take hold of both artist and audience. [17] Artaud’s concept of the body without organs lay the groundwork for Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s own anti-Oedipal project. Explaining the concept, they write:

In order to resist organ machines, the body without organs presents its smooth, slippery, opaque, taut surface as barrier. In order to resist linked, connected, interrupted flows, it sets up a counter flow of amorphous, undifferentiated fluid. In order to resist using words composed of articulated phonic units, it utters only gasps and cries that are sheer unarticulated blocks of sound. [18]

The body without organs resists the totalised and organised notion of corporeality, defined by rigid binary structures and stratifications – including male/female, human/animal, interior/exterior. It is a body continually in the process of becoming, an ontogenetic force that is radically reconfigured through heterogenous flows, intensities and affects.

Another 20th century artist fascinated by the scream was the Irish painter Francis Bacon. In his book, Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation, Deleuze explores the question of how Bacon is able to paint the scream more than the horror. [19] In other words, instead of rendering the spectacle of horror which produces the scream, it is more a concern of using painterly rhythm and resonance that can capture its sensation. For Deleuze, this was achieved by extracting the scream from its figurative context, isolating the Figure through various techniques – in his words, “to break with representation, to disrupt narration, to escape illustration, to liberate the Figure: to stick to the fact”. [20] By doing so, the Figure is no longer viewed in the context of narrative, but exists as a variation of imperceptible force relations. While isolation occupies an essential component, so too does a seemingly contradictory movement, where the Figure “wants to dissipate into the material structure”. [21] This process of deformation makes visible invisible forces that act upon the body – the scream is the operation “through which the entire body escapes through the mouth”. [22] This disintegration of the body is again linked to Artaud’s conception of the body without organs, since it is “an intense and intensive body”, which is traversed by “levels or thresholds in the body according to the variations of its amplitude”. [23] In other words, now paint itself seems to approach the vibratory flux and momentum of sound – to pierce beyond or below the phenomenological body to the “unlivable Power” – an inhuman chaos or molecular force that finds expression through the embodiment of contour, colour and texture. [24] Far from implying narrative, paint becomes the means to directly impact the nervous system. The force of the scream desubjectifies and deforms, not only the individual, but the artwork itself, becoming pure sensation: a body without organs.

While Artaud worked predominantly with sonic textures and Bacon through the rhythms of paint, Grandrieux’s own aesthetic is fashioned through moving image and sound – working with the cinematic medium would perhaps be perceived as advantageous to an artist, since it is believed to have an increased capacity to channel the force of the scream through its photographic ontology. However, the opposite is perhaps true. Film has in fact added to the accumulation of more representational clichés that Deleuze suggests the modern artist must dismantle. [25] This seems particularly relevant to the trope of the scream, which has increasingly been rendered a somewhat tired staple of the horror genre. Like Bacon before him, Grandrieux must confront these photographic clichés and generate entirely new forms and deformations of the scream. Paralleling Artaud and Bacon, he will construct and reconstruct the radical intensity of the scream, attempting to extract its molecular force from any implication in narration. Far from reflecting what we perceive to be the scream’s reality, this is a process of deformation and dissipation, where the audiovisual event is privileged for its figural force, rendered increasingly abstract and inhuman, with colour, texture and rhythm producing the sensation of the scream. Grandrieux’s first feature-length fictional film, Sombre, would take up this challenge from its opening scene.

Grandrieux’s Screams
Sombre begins with a hovering camera that follows a solitary car as it drives slowly through a winding country road, amidst the sublime backdrop of mountains: the soundtrack consists of a low ambient drone, while the ensuing jump-cuts render the darkness more palpable, formless and opaque. This unnerving tranquillity is ruptured with an abrupt cut: we are now in an auditorium, among a group of small children who scream with a mixture of pleasure and terror. The jarring transition is indeed extremely disorientating, not least because of the extremely sudden shift from the low-frequency rumbling to the piercing high-pitched sounds of the children’s shrieks – the tension between the non-located and located sonic register that will ground the action more firmly in the frame. This is likewise pronounced by the fact that the initial shots hover from a distance – having an ethereal quality – whereas the following shot appears to almost plummet directly into the space of the auditorium: the camera often moves close to the faces of the children, fascinated by their screams. This dynamic of sound and image sets up an affective force of tension – a push and pull, contraction and expansion: a vertiginous movement operating within and in-between the audiovisual event.

The handheld camera captures the children’s faces in shallow focus, often isolating them from the contextual field: however, similar to Bacon, this isolation is contrasted by a centrifugal force. While Bacon achieves this through the rhythm of the paint, in this scene, it is the movement of the image that is crucial: we witness the children fidget in their seats, jump up and down, occasionally summoning the strength to string a few paltry words together. They shake and spasm, seemingly desiring to jump out of their skin. Even more interesting, as the scene progresses, Grandrieux will decelerate the frame-rate, a process that renders the movement of the children increasingly aberrant and arrhythmic: this has the effect of distorting the boundaries of the children against the contextual field, resembling a dissipating or deformed Figure in a Bacon canvas – such a technique renders the invisible forces that act upon the body to produce the expression of the scream. While this is occurring, the piercing symphony of screams diminishes on the soundtrack – replaced by a low rumbling drone – as though the screams have escaped the kids’ mouths and migrated into the film body itself, which becomes overwhelmed by vibrations: the body of the cinematic frame is now screaming. Having witnessed the contagious force of the scream take hold of the auditorium and course through each child, this contagion simultaneously takes hold of and traverses the inorganic, with the image now seemingly in the very process of attempting to extract itself from its own body. As with Artaud and Bacon, the actual spectacle of horror is not the most crucial component here: instead, it is making visible the molecular force of the scream through the medium of cinema, one captured not only in the image of the scream, but through the destabilisation of cinematic form. (Images 1-2 below).

While we may recognise that the screams are motivated by a puppet show, its action is nevertheless rendered off-screen and thus only implied. Grandrieux does not allow the narrative to contextualise the scream, but instead wants to focus on its disruptive potential, a potential that will remain an excessive remainder over the rest of the film. Later we learn it is Jean (Marc Barbé), a peripatetic serial killer, who is in fact behind the kids’ cries – we come to see him pirouette with balletic exertion, manipulating his Punch and Judy puppets while the screams remain muffled and off-screen. More monster than man, Jean embodies an indeterminate assemblage of inhuman forces that exceed the rational world. [26] In the film’s opaque and meandering narrative trajectory, the protagonist encounters Claire (Elina Löwensohn) – a beautiful and taciturn stranger, who for mysterious reasons follows Jean into his unfathomable and frightening universe, perhaps even falling in love with him. Indeed, the spectator comes to occupy a position similar to both the children and Claire, overcome with a mixture of terror and excitement at the unfathomable void staring back at them. In this regard, the prelude of the childhood screams are perhaps indicative of how we will enter the film and also try to extract ourselves from it. The spectator is similarly isolated in the auditorium of the cinema – reflected back in the screaming children – sucked into the orbit of audiovisual event, while simultaneously attempting to extract themselves from its obscene and inhuman logic, to dissipate into the surrounding field and thus escape the horror.

While Grandrieux experiments with the affective potential of the scream in Sombre, his next film, La Vie nouvelle, plunges even deeper into its chaos. The characters, or perhaps more appropriately figures, appear to exist in a primordial state, having lost the ability to communicate: their utterances consist of cries, grunts and other unarticulated, animalistic sounds. Located in a nondescript Eastern European location, they stagger through what Deleuze refers to as any-spaces-whatevers – sordid bars, industrialised wastelands and hotels, hoping to satisfy their animalistic urges. Amidst such confusion, there is Seymour (Zachary Knighton), a young U.S marine, possibly on leave, who fleetingly spies upon the enigmatic and elusive prostitute, Melania (Anna Mouglalis), while she performs in a bar. The marine tries to purchase the prostitute from her pimp, Boyan (Zsolt Nagy), even going so far as to betray a friend in the process. And yet, Melania remains elusive, a lost simulacrum that escapes Seymour’s possession. Having travelled through this shadowy journey and ended up with clutching nothing, Seymour’s only response is a flood of terrible shrieks levelled against the void. This synopsis is however highly misleading, since it implies that La Vie nouvelle consists of a discernible narrative trajectory. Instead, the film is enigmatic and opaque, formed through penumbral fragments and fashioned by heterogenous intensities. It is comparable to the broken and darkened shards of a mirror, in which we struggle to perceive a limpid reflection of both the world as it appears to exist and our own identity. Commenting on the film, Grandrieux explains:

It was conceived and developed on questions of intensity rather than psychological relations. My dream is to create a completely Spinoza-ist film, built upon ethical categories: rage, joy, pride . . . and essentially each of these categories would be a pure block of sensation, passing from one to the other with enormous suddenness. [27]

The scream is indeed a pure block of sensation: it is framed and captured through a variety of experimental means that generate a unique audiovisual event. Consider the first, which is again jolting and decontextualised. After Seymour gazes through a tarpaulin, a cut focuses on the figure of the pimp, his face framed in close-up, positioned against a pale grey background: shot slightly out-of-focus, he extends his neck and thrusts his head backwards, while opening the his mouth to reveal the gaping cavity of the mouth. The blurred image resembles a Bacon painting, since it gives the presence of the face being both enclosed in an isolated space and slightly smudged: this dismantles the recognisable image of the human face, which is progressively deformed as the shot proceeds. By the end of the shot, the head is propelled back at an immense angle, the face is entirely dismantled and the scream transforms into what appears to be a sinister smile. Much like the dismantling of the face in Bacon’s canvases, such an image is analogous to Deleuze’s concept of becoming-animal. For Patricia Pisters, becoming-animal “has its own reality, which is not based on resemblance or affiliation, but on alliance, symbiosis, affection, and infection”. [28] Similarly, this scene has no interest in representing the animal, but rather points to a metamorphosis of mutual infection, with the structure and organisation of the face progressively disfigured to the point of losing all human definition and becoming pure vibrating flesh. If this scream renders the human-animal distinction indeterminate, it also demonstrates the desire to dissolve into the background and merge with the environment. This is particularly the case in the colour scheme, the monotonous greyness, which enfolds and immerses the body in the heavy and dour palette that will increasingly eclipse the screen, as the face merges with the surrounding. Grandrieux makes cinematic duration crucial to the capturing of the invisible forces of the scream, most effectively in the torpid rhythm of the shot. The protracted thrust of the head backwards renders visible the imperceptible weight of gravity, the heaviness of a body that is overcome with the sensation to scream: an attempt to extract itself from the solidity of matter and once more rejoin into formless space. This sense of chaos and weight is further accentuated by the screeching and inhuman noise that accompanies the image on the soundtrack, which rather than working in tandem, is entirely dislodged from its source – as though sound and image have extracted themselves from one another. In this regard, Grandrieux does not want to reproduce a ‘realistic’ scream, but use cinematic techniques to abstract it and deform its expression, to render it more abject and enigmatic. (Images 3-4 below).

While La Vie nouvelle, even more than Sombre, is filled with acts of violence and brutality, this initial scream refuses to represent a spectacle of horror. It acts as a pure optical and sound situation cut off from any cohesive action that would supply it with a narrative and thus diminish its sensation. In Bacon, the scream was extracted from narrative through isolating the Figure in an object such as a box, whereas isolation occurs in Grandrieux through extracting the scream from the flow of narration. Throughout the remainder of the film the screams depicted onscreen appear to lack a specific or definable action/reaction circuit: they continually erupt from nowhere, operating according to their own demonic logic. Consider the silent scream of the guitarist when Melina is performing at the club where anonymous men come to pass their time. While Boyan’s scream was accompanied by an inhuman screeching noise, at this point the scream no longer produces any sound whatsoever. Are we to assume that this particular scream is in search of a sound? That if it were to discover a sound and link up with it, perhaps the body would be saved from the hell it currently occupies? Nevertheless, it is only the abrasive cords of the guitar that continue to reverberate on the soundtrack, while the mouth opens wide. By extracting all sound from the visual expression of the scream, Grandrieux again desires to distance it from representational clichés and endow it with an anomalous and abstract force. [29] This is far from merely wanting to articulate an internal state that wracks the one who screams; rather, it embodies a pure exteriorisation of an unknown force that propels it. In this instance, it is the scream that desires to become pure sonic texture and modulation – like that of Artaud – a scream that will enter the field of chaos, however, it can only remain silent.

It is clear from these examples that the screams in La Vie nouvelle are often formless and have more in common with molecular – instead of elucidating and containing the expression of the focuses on the micro-level of perception, where the organised subjectivity of the audiovisual is destabilised and eclipsed by lines of material force, rhythm and modulation. This is most notable when Boyan leads Seymour to a terrifying underworld where naked figures wander blindly. Grandrieux shot this with a thermographic camera, transforming the image into greyscale, with white heat emanating off the bodies. As the scene progresses, a veritable symphony of spine-tingling screams rise up: while these desperate howls permeate the soundtrack, the image appears to lose all form, overtaken by molecular blocs of vibratory movement – a shivering, swirling mass of globular shapes – as if echoing the sonic modulations. Hainge articulates it perfectly:

As we move deeper into this space, all semblance of form dissipates into a ballet of abstract shapes in black and white that scream at us, filling the soundscape with a deafening cacophony that is the sonic correlate of what we see, a space of pure intensity that carries no meaning. [30]

Indeed, the howls are stripped of meaning. This is the experimentation with the scream and how its sensation can be captured by the medium. Consider the sonic architecture of the screams themselves: captured in audio close-up, they are highly compressed – this creates an effect as though the solidity of the body itself is being sucked into the technology and in the process of splintering into infinite pieces. In other words, the screams are dispersive and grainy, paralleling a degraded analogue image that Laura U. Marks associates with the haptic. [31] By exploiting point-of-audition and sound effects in such a way, Grandrieux’s screams resonate with those of Artaud in his radioplay, To Have done with the Judgement of God (1948). Experimenting with the potential of media to refashion and deconstruct the human voice, “re-recording, looping and sound engineering”, this was the method Artaud was able “to project the body without organs”. [32] Indeed, technology here acts as an affective assemblage that combines with the human voice to disorganise and abstract it, to render it even more autonomous from the one who screams, thus becoming a force altogether its own. (Image 5-6 below)

The scream then in Grandrieux’s films is a force of decomposition and disfiguration, transferring points between aural intensity and visual energy, it does not involve story so much as sensation which is meant to act directly on our nervous system. This is witnessed in the final scene in La Vie nouvelle, when Seymour tries to replace the elusive Melania by having brutal sex with an anonymous prostitute: after the disturbing act, he stands up and staggers around the room, while thrusting his head backwards and emitting a series of horrible shrieks. His face initially remains out-of-frame, with the image quite literally engorged by his swollen larynx and Adam’s apple, which almost threatens to burst from the skin. As he continues to scream, the camera vibrates and shutters, following his cries up to the point of his mouth, his piercing cries joining with the symphony of screams that have once more made their way to the soundtrack. For Hainge, “with this final image we come perhaps closer than any other point in Grandrieux’s career to a likeness of a Bacon painting.” [33] Indeed, as with the other screams in this film, the body of the actor is isolated from the material field: in this instance, Seymour’s body is set against the uniformity of penetrating darkness, which estranges him from the surrounding context. However, at the same time, the body attempts to escape from itself and rejoin the material field. This is witnessed firstly in the swollen and protruding Adam’s apple, which threatens to escape the fragile boundaries of the skin, and similarly depicted in the actor’s body that appears as though it desires to break out of the two-dimensional cinematic frame. It is a startling combination of sound and image – as though his cinema is now giving birth to the screaming body. (Images 7-8 below)

When asked by Brenez what this final scream expresses, Grandrieux appeals to its vitality, stating, “A devastation, but also perhaps a rebirth. There it is, the ‘new life’”. [34] Such an affirmative reading indeed resonates with both Artaud and Deleuze, for whom the scream, while expressing unbearable agony and abjection, is nevertheless a pressing vital force, one which will enter the artwork, generating new flows and intensities that are connected with the body without organs. This is not a matter of merely representing the scream, but instead exploiting its potential of aesthetic disruption and deformation in a bid to generate new connections and couplings through the force of molecular vibration beyond that of signification and story. If Sombre started with the scream, La Vie nouvelle ends with it. However, this end is in fact a new beginning, not only for the scream, but also for what the cinema is capable of.

[1] Both the work of Artaud and Deleuze’s book on Francis Bacon, The Logic of Sensation, have continually been employed by theorists to explore Grandrieux’s films. This is not only due to the fact that his films lend themselves to this theory, but also the auteur’s repeated expression of admiration for both thinkers. See Martine Beugnet, Cinema and Sensation: French Film and the Art of Transgression (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2007); Greg Hainge, Philippe Grandrieux: Sonic Cinema, (London; New York: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2017); Adrian Martin, “A Magic Identification with Forms: Philippe Grandrieux in the Night of Artaud”, Image & Narrative 17, no. 5 (2016),; Sarinah Masukor “Sublime Materiality: Un Lac”, Screening the Past 37 (2013); Covadonga G. Lahera, Cristina Álvarez López & Adrian Martin, “Scream Presence: A Brief Genealogy of the Cinematic Scream”, Transit18 June 2020
[2] James Quandt coined the term the new French extremity in a polemical article entitled, “Flesh and Blood: Sex and Violence in Recent French Cinema” (2004), where the critic lamented the shock tactics art-cinema had succumbed to. Grandrieux was picked out, along with Bruno Dumont’s Twentynine Palms (2003), Claire Denis’s Trouble Every Day (2001) and Marina de Van’s In my Skin (2002) to name a few. See Tanya Horeck and Tina Kendall, The New Extremism in Cinema from France to Europe (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2011).
[3] Amy Taubin, “Film: Schooled for Scandal: Rendez-Vous With French Cinema Today”, The Village Voice 44, no. 10 (1999): p. 128.
[4] See Quandt in Horeck and Kendall, The New Extremism.
[5] “The Body’s Night: Philippe Grandrieux Interviewed by Nicole Brenez”, Rouge (June 2003),
[6] Ibid.
[7] Jenny Chamarette, Phenomenology and the Future of Film: Rethinking Subjectivity Beyond French Cinema (U.K: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012). p. 202.
[8] Bataille describes the informe as “not an adjective having a given meaning, but a term that serves to bring things down into the world, generally requiring that each thing have its form. Visions of Excess: Selected Writings, 1927-1939 (University of Minnesota Press, 1985). p. 31. Julia Kristeva argues abjection is “what disturbs identity, system, order. What does not respect borders, positions, rules. Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection, (Columbia University Press, 1982). p. 4.
[9] Martine Beugnet, ‘Evil and the Senses: Philippe Grandrieux’s Sombre and La Vie Nouvelle’, Studies in French Cinema Vol. 5 No 3 (December 2005): 175–84, p. 178
[10] Marie Thompson and Ian D. Biddle, Sound, Music, Affect Theorizing Sonic Experience (New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2013). p. 147.
[11] Peter Schwenger, ‘Phenomenology of the Scream’, Critical Inquiry 40, no. 2 (2014): 382–395.
[12] Fredric Jameson, Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (Durham: Duke University Press, 1991). p. 14.
[13] See Lawrence Rainey, Christine Poggi, and Laura Wittman, Futurism: An Anthology (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009). pp. 133-39.
[14] Antonin Artaud, The Theater and Its Double (New York: Grove Press). p. 102.
[15] Edward Scheer, Antonin Artaud: A Critical Reader (London; New York: Routledge, 2004). p. 3.
[16] Anaïs Nin, The Diary of Anais Nin Volume 1 1931-1934: Vol. 1 (1931-1934) (U.S: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1969). p. 192.
[17] Mihai Lucaciu, describes Artaud’s body without organs as “a missing body, a new body turned inside out, emptied of painful organs and social hierarchies, a body of energies” in “This Scream I’ve Thrown out Is a Dream: Corporeal Transformation through Sound, an Artaudian Experiment”, Studies in Musical Theatre 4, no. 1. p. 68. For further elaboration on the relationship between Artaud’s use of the scream and the body without organs see Jay Murphy’s “Artaud’s Scream”, Deleuze Studies 10, no. 2 (2016): pp. 140–161.
[18] Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (London: Continuum, 2004). p. 10.
[19] Francis Bacon, The Logic of Sensation (London: Continuum, 2003). p. 51.
[20] Ibid. p. 6.
[21] Ibid. p. 16.
[22] Ibid. p. 16.
[23] Ibid. p. 39.
[24] While Deleuze associates the molar with representational organisation that secures the notion fixed or completed identities, the molecular exists beneath this, at the micro-level of perception – it is therefore the sensuous and asignifying rhythm of the aesthetic that destabilises the form of the artwork. The molar and molecular do not exist in opposition to one another, but rather are co-extensive. Elizabeth Grosz explains, “If molar unities, like the divisions of classes, races, and sexes, attempt to form and stabilize an identity, a fixity, a system that functions homeostatically, sealing in its energies and intensities, molecular becomings transverse, create a path, destabilize, energize instabilities, vulnerabilities of molar unities”. See Volatile Bodies: Towards a Corporeal Feminism (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994). p.172.
[25] See Deleuze, The Logic of Sensation. See 71-73 for his discussion of representational clichés.
[26] Chamarette explores Sombre through the lens of the archetypal wolf-man figure of Jean. p. 218.
[27] “The Body’s Night: Philippe Grandrieux Interviewed by Nicole Brenez”.
[28] Patricia Pisters, The Matrix of Visual: Working with Deleuze in Film Theory (Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 2003). p. 144.
[29] Elena del Río explains, “The more abstract and depersonalized the film’s various means of expression can become, the greater is capacity to produce intensely disconcerting affects”. See Deleuze and the Cinemas of Performance: Powers of Affection (Edinburgh University Press, 2008). p. 49.
[30] Hainge, Philippe Grandrieux. p. 135.
[31] Laura U. Marks, Touch: Sensuous Theory and Multisensory Media (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2002).
[32] Mihai Lucaciu, “This Scream I’ve Thrown out Is a Dream”, p. 68.
[33] Greg Hainge, Philippe Grandrieux. p. 142.
[34] “The Body’s Night: Philippe Grandrieux Interviewed by Nicole Brenez”.

About the Author

Michel Rubin

About the Author

Michel Rubin

Michel Rubin in a doctoral candidate and sessional staff member at the school of Media, Film and Journalism at Monash University, Melbourne. His research concerns notions of performance, affect and ethics in the contemporary trend towards cinematic extremism.View all posts by Michel Rubin →