In "Death 24 x a Second", Laura Mulvey addresses some of the key questions of film theory, spectatorship and narrative. New media technologies, such as video and DVD, have transformed the way we experience film, and the viewers’ relationship to film image and cinema’s narrative structure has also been fundamentally altered. These technologies give viewers the means to control both image and story, so that films produced to be seen collectively and followed in a linear fashion may be found to contain unexpected (even unintended) pleasures.
The tension between the still frame and the moving image coincides with the cinema’s capacity to capture the appearance of life and preserve it after death. Mulvey proposes that with the arrival of new technologies and new ways of experiencing the cinematic image, film’s hidden stillness comes to the fore, thereby acquiring a new accessibility and visibility. The individual frame, the projected film’s best-kept secret, can now be revealed, by anyone, at the simple touch of a button. As Mulvey argues, easy access to repetition, slow motion and the freeze-frame may well shift the spectator’s pleasure to a fetishistic rather than a voyeuristic investment in the cinematic object.
The manipulation of the cinematic image by the viewer also makes visible cinema’s material and aesthetic attributes. By exploring how new technologies can give new life to ‘old’ cinema, "Death 24 x a Second" offers an original re-evaluation of film’s history and also its historical usefulness.
Laura Mulvey is Professor of Film and Media Studies at Birkbeck College, University of London and the author of "Visual and Other Pleasures" (1989), "Citizen Kane" (1992) and "Fetishism and Curiosity" (1996).
"elegiac... a wonderful close analysis. Despite the melancholy in cinema's encounters with a fleeting past, the prospects opened up by filmic slowness are, for Mulvey, productive of optimism" – Times Higher Education Supplement
"Rethinking the fundamentals of fim history through modern audiovisual technology" – Independent on Sunday
"Mulvey... continues to provoke new ways of seeing – or re-seeing – the cinema we think we know" – Film Comment
"'Death 24x a Second' takes up both the challenge to critical thinking represented by new technological developments, and the impulse towards reflection on film’s past that they have occasioned... a thoughtful book" – New Left Review