The eight plateaus of Facs of Life, each fall under a key concept-word or refrain that delineates the territory of each student’s relationship to Deleuze’s thought (their angle of approach) and the nature of our encounter with them. The plateaus, while sketching a narrative of the film’s making, are designed to fold and unfold upon each other in a series of non-linear, multiple concatenations and assemblages.
Plateau 1, Inarchivé, with Marielle Burkhalter and Ali Akay, regards the video footage of Deleuze’s Vincennes courses (shot by Marielle Burkhalter in 1975-76) that triggered the desire to make the film, images never properly edited nor incorporated into an official public archive and whose existence as raw rushes in some way mirrors that of Deleuze’s pedagogy on the margins of official philosophy, engaged in an open-ended process of building concepts. Parallels emerge between the fate of the video (footage thrown in the trash on account of its technical obsolescence and only partly salvaged) and that of Vincennes as a whole, an experimental environment where Deleuze, though marginalized, could work more or less unimpeded. Yet these images, far from being ‘substandard’, present in the singularity of their texture and rhythm, a well of virtual fictions and plastic trajectories, haunted by revenance of the post-nouvelle vague diaspora (Eustache, late Bresson, the Rivette of Out 1). Thus the film begins with a detective story: the videos reactivated as surveillance images permitting us to individuate certain figures 30 years later, a process all the while problematized by the subject of the lessons themselves, ‘faciality’ as an apparatus of capture, the translation of a polyvocal body of desires into a binary machine of identification: faces, names, an information model of ‘personal’ histories and reminiscences that the film will attempt to combat through a rhizomatic movement and dispersion of impersonal singularities.
Thus we proceed through Plateau 2, Faciality where this problem is explored through an encounter on skype (a machine of facialization) with Kuniichi Uno, a Japanese student (now scholar and translator of Deleuze), and through Deleuze’s musings on the scapegoat as ‘anti-visage’, chased into the desert for menacing the order of signification. Yet it is the fascination of images and faces that opens an Alice/Orpheus trajectory, a desire to go through the screen (through the Rear Window), efface the visage and recover the missing bodies (of the students, of Vincennes, of Deleuze’s thought, of revolutionary desire).
Plateau 3, Inclination, marks the first such attempt to reach the body of Vincennes, through an encounter with Robert Albouker, in which the present-day Bois de Vincennes becomes the virtual confluence of both its buried history and various mythic, poetic and cinematic figurations of woods as labyrinth. In the incommensurable interval between the two figures of a girl and an older man lies the question of who is the dreamer and who is being dreamed, who the revenant and who the living body. Who the possessor and who the possessed. And of the desire that permeates and modulates this suspended interval when there is nothing more to be said. Or the strange urge to stay in a place where there is nothing further to be done, echoing Deleuze’s insistence on remaining in his tiny, overcrowded Vincennes classroom, a philosopher’s act of resistance to incorporation into the power structure of university.
Plateau 4, Scales and intervals, takes up this question in musical terms. Filmed at Le Couvent de la Tourette, it follows the work of composer Pascale Criton in redistributing and remodelling bodies, voices and sounds, manipulating perception of time, space and the materiality of sound, work which the film picks up in the desire to reconfigure the body of cinema and the machine of perception it engenders. Through a trolley/chariot, the voice is carried away on a different trajectory from its organic source, permitting us to rewire our perceptual apparatus, to listen to images and see voices. Another interval addressed (across different time scales) is that between preparation and action, where Deleuze’s though is invoked both synchronically and diachronically (preparing for and rising to the challenge of the sound event, the place of philosophy in the work and life trajectory of a composer).
Plateau 5, Borders with Anne Querrien, Richard Pinhas. Olivier Apprill and Abel Mir, returns to the political question of the downscaling and standardization of education as a ‘preparation’ for life, and to the borders where life goes on being invented, perceived from the outside as a kind of noise, the noise of what tries to tear away from the axiomatized regime of capitalism, the noise of what is torn by capital from the endless process of its becoming and offered as an end product to be ingested and surpassed. Thus we pass from the corridors and dazebao of Paris 8 Saint Denis, torn between rallying calls of resistance on one hand and new forms of enslavement on the other, to the Paris Peripherique where a lone figure, distant cousin of Tati’s M. Hulot, reads sections of Anti-Oedipus to the passing traffic, to a concert of noise music where sounds are shredded and these ‘tears’ of eros invent their own fleeting jouissance; and finally to a threshold image where the poetry of Deleuze and Guattari’s desiring machines and the sweeping roar of automobiles are disjunctively synthesised in the glissandi of a black trombone playing a composition of Criton.
Plateau 6, Epuissance, with photographer Yolande Finkelstaijn returns to the question of the border as what is left by the wayside. Here a bestiary of animal bodies crushed by cars, are pressed into unforeseen shapes of desire at the moment of death. A reading of Beckett’s Mal Vu Mal Dit evokes the figure of the exhausted, the idea of exhausting the possibilities of what is (les choses sont là), the opening to a life after life which takes us back to Paris 8 Saint Denis and a quartet of present-day students framed after Godard’s Un Film Comme les Autres, after the motor of militant discourse has been exhausted and what remains are echoes of its gestures combined with the uncertainty and fragility of the present, a conversation that turns around a micropolitics of resistance and autonomy, while a girl reads from Ponge’s La Fabrique du pré on the nature of fire and organic life.
Plateau 7, Promenade, with Giorgio Passerone, follows from this as the possibility of a horizon, the perception of an ‘outside’ that nonetheless returns us to the world and to a desire to give this outside tangible, material form within it, taking a short walk (under the sign of Woolf’s Clarissa Dalloway) composed of molecular perceptions from Montmartre to Deleuze’s apartment in Rue Bizerte.
Finally Plateau 8 Falaise, with Georges Comtesse, takes up the question of the horizon of thought, the violence which comes from thought’s ‘outside’ which forces us to think and which makes thought tear away from its existing ground, folding this question back on the apparatus of cinema, the body of the film, the viewer’s body, the rhizome that plunges us back into its maps and milieus to reconnect, and reconnect with, their immanent life which permeates and folds back upon those of the viewer.