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CinepoetryImaginary Cinemas in French Poetry$
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Christophe Wall-Romana

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780823245482

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: May 2013

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823245482.001.0001

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Doing Filmic Things with Words

Doing Filmic Things with Words

On Chaplin

(p.158) Chapter Six Doing Filmic Things with Words

Christophe Wall-Romana

Fordham University Press

Chaplin's Essanay and Mutuals films arrived in France in 1916, during the war, eliciting strong reactions from artists, writers and poets, and directly hastening the first experimental cinepoems in 1917-18. This chapter explores how the fundamentally paradoxical embodiment that Chaplin figured in his movies--vulnerable yet invulnerable, Romantic yet unsentimental, noble yet a bum, small yet powerful, spastic yet unshakeable, animated yet reified, etc.—reached into French poetry. Aragon noted this ontological plasticity of Chaplin, and Goll developed the demiurgic, rebellious, but also abject, even insect-like nature of the Tramp's persona. Indeed Michaux, Ponge, Soupault and Debord all compare Chaplin to a lowly insect, a social parasite. The housefly in particular, because of its faceted eye, angular flight, and ubiquitous gaze, became an animalized metaphor for the camera and the film apparatus. Chaplin's body and films are thus the site where crucial esthetic and epistemological mutations were discovered that came to shape cinepoetry through what I call Chaplin's ‘automatic riding.’

Keywords:   Charles Chaplin, Louis Aragon, Philippe Soupault, Henri Michaux, Yvan Goll, Francis Ponge, Reification, Apparatus, Automatic riding, Rhythm

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