On Reservoir Dogs

This is just a quick post about Reservoir Dogs. I watched it last night again for what is probably the fiftieth time, and it got me thinking.

I think that the common reading of the moment when Mr. Blonde cuts the police officer’s ear off is that we are free to use our imagination when he camera pans away. Whatever horror you think of during the cutting off is exactly what happens–the visuals aspect of the scene retreats, and the viewer is left with the audible screams of the police officer. The maximum amount of violence takes place in that moment–there is nothing that can be worse than the absence of a narrative in that moment.

In that way, it is along Foucault’s interpretation of Bataille’s concept of transgression. That violent moment provides definition for violence, for visibility of violence, and for the boundary of the visual itself. We can only know what visual violence means by driving it beyond its own limit.

This is all just preliminary thoughts for the essay that I’ll be writing for SSA soon. Violence can always be worse than what we can see, but I don’t really know what to do with that. Violence is used to communicate, and violence is also a language unto itself. But what about violence that isn’t shown to us? What about violence that, lacking the visual, cannot be communicated?

Can it do political work?

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2 Responses to On Reservoir Dogs

  1. Jim says:

    It’s like in Fight Club when the guy wanted to “destroy something beautiful” and beats up Jared Leto. At first that scene was full of graphic punching and blood, but the ratings people said to tone it down so D-Finch took out some stuff and showed more Norton-abs. But after seeing the final version audiences leaving the theater said that was the most violent scene, but all you really see is the reaction of the crowd and hear the sickening wet punches.
    Also in Psycho, audiences would say they remembered the red blood going down the drain, but the movie is in black and white. I don’t know if that’s the same thing going on.

    • kunzelman says:

      I hadn’t thought about the FC scene, but it is interesting the way that it cuts in and out from the violence, never lingering on it for long. Also, if I remember correctly, the “red blood” in Psycho partially comes from a film stock that they used for that scene that supposedly upped contrast or some nonsense–in any case, it is filmed differently than the rest of the film.

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