TABLE OF CONTENTS

PRINT January 1973

The Third Meaning: Notes on Some of Eisenstein’s Stills

HERE IS AN IMAGE from Ivan the Terrible (I): two courtiers, confederates, or supernumeraries (it doesn’t really matter whether or not I recall the story’s details exactly) are showering the young czar’s head with gold. I believe I can distinguish three levels of meaning in this scene:

1) an informational level: collecting all I can learn from the setting, the costumes, the characters, their relationships, their appearance in an anecdote I am however vaguely familiar with. This level is that of communication. If I had to find an analytic mode at this level, I should resort to the semiotics of the “message”—though I shall not deal with this level, or with this semiotics, here.

2) A symbolic level: the shower of gold. This level is itself stratified. There is the referential symbolism: the imperial ritual of baptism by gold. Then there is the diegetic symbolism: the theme of gold, of wealth (supposing that it exists) in Ivan the Terrible, of which this scene would constitute a significant intervention. There is, further, the Eisensteinian symbolism—if, say, a critic were to decide that gold, or a shower of gold, or the curtain constituted by this shower, or the disfiguration it effects, can participate in a system of displacements and substitutions characteristic of Eisenstein. Finally, there is an historical symbolism, if, in a manner even more generalized than the preceding ones, it can be shown that gold leads to a (theatrical) function, a scenography of exchange, which we can locate both psychoanalytically and economically, i.e., semiologically. This second level, in its totality, is that of signification. Its mode of analysis would be a semiotics more highly elaborated than the first, a second or neosemiotics, no longer accessible to a science of the message but to the sciences of the symbol (psychoanalysis, economics, dramaturgy).

3) Is this all? No, for I cannot yet detach myself from the image. I read, I receive (probably, in fact, immediately), a third—evident, erratic, and persistent meaning (see note 1). I do not know what its signified is, at least I cannot name it, but I can clearly see the features—the signifying accidents of which this sign, heretofore incomplete, is composed. There is a certain density of the courtiers’ make-up, in one case thick and emphatic, in the other smooth and “distinguished”; there is the “stupid” nose on the one, and the delicate line of the eyelids on the other, his dull blond hair, his wan complexion, the affected smoothness of his hairstyle which suggests a wig, the connection with the chalky skin tints, with rice powder. I am not certain whether my reading of this third meaning is justified—if it can be generalized—but already it seems to me that its signifier (the features I have just attempted to express, if not to describe) possesses a theoretical individuality. For on the one hand, that signifier cannot be identified with the simple dasein of the scene; it exceeds the copy of the referential motif, it compels an interrogative reading—an interrogation bearing precisely on the signifier, not on the signified, on the reading, not on the intellection: it is a “poetic” apprehension. On the other hand, it cannot be identified with the episode’s dramatic meaning. To say that these features refer to a signifying “expression” of the courtiers, here remote and bored, there diligent (“they are simply doing their job as courtiers”), does not entirely satisfy me. Something in these two faces exceeds psychology, anecdote, function, and in short, meaning, though without being reduced to the persistence which any human body exerts in its mere presence, its dasein. In opposition to the first two levels, that of communication and that of signification, this third level—even if my reading of it is still risky—is that of significance; this word has the advantage of referring to the field of the signifier (and not of signification) and of joining, by a path marked out by Julia Kristeva, who has proposed the term, a semiotics of the text.

Not communication but only signification and significance concern me here. I must therefore name as economically as possible the second and the third meaning. The symbolic meaning (the shower of gold, the power of wealth, the imperial rite) compels my recognition by a double determination. It is intentional (it is what the author has meant) and it is selected from a kind of general, common lexicon of symbols; it is a meaning which seeks me out—me, the recipient of the message, subject of the reading—a meaning which proceeds from Eisenstein and moves ahead of me. It is evident, of course (as the other meaning is, too), but evident in a closed sense, participating in a complete system of intention. I propose to call this complete sign the obvious meaning. Obvious means: in the way, which is precisely the case with this meaning, which seeks me out. In theology, we are told, the obvious meaning is the one “which presents itself quite naturally to the mind,” and this too is the case: to me the symbolics of a shower of gold has always seemed endowed with a “natural” clarity. As for the other, third meaning, the one which appears “as extra,” as a supplement my intellection cannot quite absorb, a meaning both persistent and fugitive, apparent and evasive, I propose calling it the obtuse meaning. This word comes readily to mind and, miraculously, upon exploring its etymology, it already yields up a theory of supplementary meaning; obtusus means: blunted, of a rounded shape. Now, the features I have indicated—make-up, whiteness, false hair, etc.—are they not a kind of blunting of a too-evident meaning, a too-violent meaning? Do they not give the obvious signified a kind of ineffable roundness, do they not cause my reading to skid? An obtuse angle is larger than a right angle: an obtuse angle of 100°, the dictionary says; the third meaning, too, seems to me larger than the pure perpendicular, the trenchant, legal upright of the narrative. It seems to me to open the field of meaning totally, i.e., infinitely. I even accept, for this obtuse meaning, the pejorative connotation: the obtuse meaning seems to extend beyond culture, knowledge, information. Analytically, there is something ridiculous about it; because it opens onto the infinity of language, it can seem limited with regard to analytic reason. It belongs to the family of puns, jokes, trivial exertions; indifferent to moral or esthetic categories (the trivial, the futile, the artificial, the parodic), it ranks with the figure of fun. Obtuse therefore suits my purpose well.

The Obvious Meaning. A few words here about the obvious meaning, although it is not the object of these notes. Here are two images which present it in the pure state: the four figures of image II “symbolize” three ages of life, the unanimity of mourning (Vakulinchuk’s funeral); the clenched fist of image IV, a close-up shot, signifies indignation, controlled or channeled anger, determined opposition. Joined metonymically to the entire Potemkin story, it “symbolizes” the working class, its power and its will; for—a miracle of semantic intelligence—this fist seen reversed, kept by its owner in a kind of secrecy (it is the hand which first hangs naturally alongside the trousers and which then closes, tightens, conceives at one and the same time its future combat, its patience, and its discretion), cannot be read as some brawler’s fist, I should even say as a fascist’s fist: it is immediately a proletarian fist. Whereby we see that Eisenstein’s “art” is not polysemous: it selects meaning, imposes it, belabors it (if the signification is exceeded by the obtuse meaning, it is not thereby denied or blurred). The Eisensteinian meaning overwhelms ambiguity. How? By the addition of an esthetic value, emphasis. Eisenstein’s “decorativeness” has an economic function: it utters the truth. Consider image Ill. Grief emanates, quite classically, from the bent heads, the suffering faces, the hand over the mouth choking back a sob. Once all this has been said quite adequately, however, a decorative feature says it once again, in the superimposition of the two hands, esthetically arranged in a delicate, maternal, floral ascension toward the bending face. Within the shot as a whole (the two women), another detail appears en abyme. Derived from a pictorial order like a quotation of icon gestures, pietà attitudes, it does not shift the meaning but accentuates it. This accentuation (characteristic of all realistic art) has some connection here with the “truth,” the truth of Potemkin. Baudelaire speaks of “the emphatic truth of gesture, in the great circumstances of life”; here, it is the truth of the “great proletarian circumstance” which requires emphasis. The Eisensteinian esthetic does not constitute an independent level: it participates in the obvious meaning, and the obvious meaning is always, in Eisenstein, the Revolution.

The Obtuse Meaning. I first had a conviction of the obtuse meaning with regard to image V. A question occurred to me: what is it about this old woman weeping that raises the question of the signifier for me? I quickly decided that, however perfect they might be, it was neither the countenance nor the gestural repertory of grief (the closed eyelids, the drawn mouth, the fist over the breast). These belong to signification itself, to the obvious meaning of the image, to Eisensteinian realism and decorativeness. I felt that the penetrating feature—disturbing as a guest who insists on remaining, unwanted, silent—must be located in the area of the forehead: the kerchief had something to do with it. Yet in image VI the obtuse meaning vanishes, there is no more than a message of grief. I realized then that the “scandal,” the addition or deviation imposed upon this classical representation of grief, derived quite explicitly from a tenuous relation: that of the low kerchief, of the closed eyes, and of the convex mouth; or rather, to adopt Eisenstein’s own distinction between “the shadows of the cathedral” and “the shadowy cathedral,” from a relation between the “lowness” of the kerchief, worn abnormally close to the eyebrows as in those disguises which seek to create a foolish and stupid expression, the circumflex accent formed by the old, faded eyebrows, the excessive curve of the lowered eyelids, close-set but apparently squinting, and the bar of the half-open mouth corresponding to the curve of the kerchief and to that of the brows, in metaphorical terms, “like a fish out of water.” All these features (the absurdly low kerchief, the old woman, the squinting eyelids, the fish) have as a vague reference a somewhat low language, the language of a rather pathetic disguise. United with the noble grief of the obvious meaning, they form a “dialogue” so tenuous that we cannot be certain of its intentionality. The characteristic of this third meaning—at least in Eisenstein—actually blurs the limit separating expression from disguise, but also presents this oscillation quite succinctly: an elliptical emphasis, so to speak, a complex, very intricate arrangement (for it implies a temporality of signification) perfectly described by Eisenstein himself when he jubilantly quotes King Gillette’s golden rule: “Just short of the cutting edge.”

The obtuse meaning, then, has something to do with disguise. Consider Ivan’s beard, promoted, as I see it, to the status of an obtuse meaning in image VII: it calls attention to itself as false yet nonetheless refuses to abandon the “good faith” of its referent (the historical countenance of the czar). An actor disguises himself twice over (once as actor in the anecdote, once as actor in the dramaturgy), without the one disguise destroying the other; an overlap of meanings which permits the earlier one to subsist, as in a geological formation, to say the contrary without renouncing the thing contradicted: Brecht would have enjoyed this dramatic dialectic! The Eisensteinian “falsification” is both a false version of itself, i.e., a pastiche or parody, and a ridiculous fetish, since it exposes both severance and suture. What we see, in image VII, is the reattachment, hence the previous detachment, of the beard perpendicular to the chin. That the top of the head (the most “obtuse” part of the human person), that no more than a hank of hair (in image VIII), can be the expression of grief—that is what is ridiculous about the expression, not about the grief. Hence there is no parody, no trace of burlesque; grief is not aped (the obvious meaning must remain revolutionary, the general mourning which accompanies Vakulinchuk’s death has a historical meaning), and yet, “incarnate” in this chignon, grief sustains a severance, a rejection of contamination. The populism of the wool scarf (the obvious meaning) stops at the chignon; here is where the fetish begins, the hank of hair, a kind of non-negating mockery of the expression. The entire obtuse meaning (its power to disturb) functions in the excessive mass of hair. Consider another chignon (that of the woman in image IX); it contradicts the tiny raised fist, atrophies it without this reduction having the slightest symbolic (intellectual) value. Prolonged by ringlets, drawing the face in the direction of an ovine model, it gives the woman something touching (as a certain generous stupidity can be touching), or even something sensitive. These outdated words—they are, in fact, anything but political or revolutionary, adjectives of a certain mystification—must nonetheless be taken into account. I believe that the obtuse meaning sustains a certain emotion. This emotion, as part of the disguise, is never viscous; it is an emotion which simply designates what is loved, what is to be defended; it is an emotion-as-value, an evaluation. Everyone, I think, can agree that Eisenstein’s proletarian ethnography, fragmented throughout Vakulinchuk’s funeral, is constantly suffused with love. Maternal, heartfelt, virile, “sympathetic” without any recourse to stereotypes, the people, for Eisenstein, are essentially lovable; we relish, we love the two capped men in image X, we enter into a complicity, an intelligence with them. Beauty can doubtless function as an obtuse meaning. This is the case in image XI, where the very dense obvious meaning (Ivan’s gesture, young Vladimir’s retarded stupidity) is fixed and / or shifted by Basmanov’s handsomeness, but the eroticism included in the obtuse meaning (or rather: the eroticism which this meaning manages to assume) does not constitute an esthetic acceptation. Euphrosinia is ugly, “obtuse” (images XII and XIII), like the monk in image XIV, but this obtuseness transcends the anecdote; it becomes a blunting of the meaning, its deflection. There is, in the obtuse meaning, an eroticism which includes the opposite of the beautiful and even what is external to such opposition, i.e., inversion, discomfort, and perhaps sadism. Consider the slack innocence of the “Children in the Furnace” (image XV), the schoolboy absurdity of their mufflers diligently wrapped around their throats, and the curdled texture of their skin (of their eyes, their mouths in that skin), borrowed, apparently, by Fellini for the hermaphrodite of his Satyricon and used by Georges Bataille especially in his text The Big Toe which situates, for me, one of the possible regions of the obtuse meaning.

To continue (if these examples suffice to infer some more theoretical remarks), the obtuse meaning is not in the language—not even the language of symbols. Remove it and communication and signification remain, circulate, pass. Without it, I can still speak and read, but it does not inhere in the individual’s use of language either. There may be a certain constant factor of the Eisensteinian obtuse meaning, but then this already constitutes a thematic use of language, an idiolect, and this idiolect is provisional (simply defined by a critic who writes a book on Eisenstein). For obtuse meanings are not everywhere (the signifier is rare, a future figure), but somewhere, in other authors of films (perhaps), in a certain way of reading “life” and hence “reality” (understood here in its simple opposition to the deliberately fictive). In this documentary image (XVI) from Fascism in Everyday Life, I easily read an obvious meaning, that of fascism (an esthetics and symbolism of power, of hunting-as-theater), but I also read an obtuse meaning: the blond, disguised [sic] simplemindedness of the young quiver-bearer, the childish softness of his hands and mouth (I am not describing, I cannot manage that, I am merely designating a site), Goering’s large nails, his trashy ring—already on the verge of the obvious meaning, like the vapid smile of the man in glasses in the background who is obviously a toady. In other words, the obtuse meaning is not structurally situated; a semanticist would not agree as to its objective existence. But what is objective? And if it is evident to me, this is perhaps still for the moment because of the same “aberration” which obliged the unfortunate Saussure alone to discern the enigmatic, obsessive though rootless, voice of the anagram in archaic verse. The same uncertainty develops when I must describe the obtuse meaning, when I must give some notion of its direction, its departure. The obtuse meaning is a signifier without a signified, whence the difficulty in giving it a name. My reading remains suspended between the image and its description, between definition and approximation. If I cannot describe the obtuse meaning, that is because, contrary to the obvious meaning, it copies nothing. How describe that which represents nothing? The pictorial “’rendering” of words is impossible here. So that if, confronting these images, we remain, you and I, on the level of articulate language—i.e., of my own text—the obtuse meaning will not manage to come into existence, to enter the critic’s metalanguage. Which means that the obtuse meaning is outside of (articulate) language, yet inside what we may call interlocution. For if you consider these images I am discussing, you will see this meaning. We can come to terms about it “over the shoulder” or “behind the back” of articulate language. Thanks to the image (frozen, it is true—I shall return to this), indeed thanks to that which in the image is purely image (and which in all honesty is a very small matter), we do without language, though we still come to terms, still understand each other.

In short, what the obtuse meaning disturbs, sterilizes, is critical metalanguage. There are several reasons for this. First of all, obtuse meaning is discontinuous, indifferent to the story and to obvious meaning (as signification of the story); this dissociation has a contra-naturam or at least a distancing effect with regard to the referent (to “reality” as nature, a realist instance). Eisenstein would probably have acknowledged and accepted this noncongruence, this nonpertinence of the signifier, since he tells us, apropos of sound and color: “Art begins the moment the creaking of a boot (on the sound track) accompanies a different visual shot and thereby provokes corresponding associations. The same is true of color: color begins where it no longer corresponds to natural coloration. . . . ” Hence the signifier (the third meaning) is not fulfilled; it is in a permanent state of depletion. We could on the other hand also say—and quite as accurately—that this same signifier is not emptied (cannot be emptied); it keeps itself in a state of perpetualerethism; in it desire does not attain that spasm of the signified which usually causes the subject to sink voluptuously into the peace of nomination. Ultimately the obtuse meaning can be seen as an accent, the very form of an emergence, of a fold (even a false one) by which the heavy texture of information and signification is marked. If it could be described (a contradiction in terms), it would have the very being of the Japanese haiku: an anaphoric gesture without significative content, a kind of gash from which meaning (the desire for meaning) is expunged; thus for image V:

Drawn mouth, squinting eyes,
Kerchief low over her forehead,
She weeps.

This accent (whose simultaneously elliptical and emphatic nature we have discussed) does not tend in the direction of meaning as in hysteria. It does not theatricalize (Eisenstein’s decorativeness belongs to another realm), it does not even indicate an elsewhere of meaning (another content, added to the obvious meaning); it rather frustrates meaning—subverting not the content but the entire practice of meaning. Obtuse meaning, a new practice—rare and asserted against a prevailing one, that of the signification—inevitably appears as a luxury, an expenditure without exchange; this luxury does not yet belong to today’s politics, although it is already part of tomorrow’s.

A word remains to be said on the syntagmatic responsibility of this third meaning. What is its place in anecdote’s succession, in the logico-temporal system, without which, apparently, it is not possible to make a narrative understood by the “mass” of readers and spectators? The obtuse meaning is clearly counternarrative itself. Diffused, reversible, caught up in its own time, it can, if one follows it, establish only another script that is distinct from the shots, sequences, and syntagmas (both technical and narrative), an entirely different script, counterlogical but “true.” Imagine “following” not Euphrosinia’s machinations, nor even the character (as a diegetic entity or as a symbolic figure), nor even, further, the countenance of the Wicked Mother, but only, in this countenance, that grimace, that black veil, the heavy, ugly dullness of that skin. You will have another temporality, neither diegetic nor oneiric, you will have another film. A theme with neither variations nor development (the obvious sense, on the other hand, is thematic: there is a theme of the funeral), the obtuse meaning can proceed only by appearing and disappearing; this operation of presence / absence undermines the character by making it a simple site of facets: a disjunction expressed on another point by Eisenstein himself: “What is characteristic is that the different positions of one and the same czar . . . are given without transition from one position to another.”

For that is the whole point, the supplementary signifier’s indifference or freedom of position with respect to the narrative permits us to locate Eisenstein’s historical, political, theoretical achievements quite precisely. In his work, the story, the anecdotal, diegetic representation, is not destroyed, quite the contrary: what finer story than that of Ivan, that of Potemkin? This stature of the narrative is necessary in order to be understood in a society which, unable to resolve the contradictions of history without a long political process, derives help (provisionally?) from mythic (narrative) solutions. The present problem is not to destroy the narrative, but to subvert it: to dissociate subversion from destruction is today’s task. Eisenstein makes, it seems to me, just this distinction. The presence of an additional, obtuse third meaning—even if only in a few images, but then as an imperishable signature, like a seal which endorses the entire work—and the entire oeuvre—this presence profoundly alters the theoretical status of the anecdote. The story (dieges, is) is no longer merely a powerful system (an age-old narrative system), but also and contradictorily a simple space, a field of permanences and permutations. It is that configuration, that stage whose false limits multiply the signifier’s permutative function. It is that vast outline which compels a vertical reading (the expression is Eisenstein’s); it is that false order which makes it possible to avoid pure series, aleatoric combination (chance is merely a cheap signifier) and to achieve a structuring which leaks from inside. We can say, then, that in Eisenstein’s case we must reverse the cliche which holds that the more gratuitous the meaning, the more it appears to be simply parasitic in relation to the story as told: on the contrary it is this story which becomes “parametric” to the signifier, of which it is now merely the field of displacement, the constitutive negativity, or even the fellow traveler.

In short, the third meaning structures the film differently, without subverting the story (at least, in Eisenstein); and for this reason, perhaps, it is at this level, and only here, that the “filmic” at last makes its appearance. The filmic is that which cannot be described in the film. It is the representation which cannot be represented. The filmic begins only where language and articulate metalanguage cease. Everything we can say apropos of Ivan or Potemkin can be said of a written text (which would be called Ivan the Terrible or The Battleship Potemkin), except this—which is the obtuse meaning; I can provide commentary for everything in Euphrosinia, except for the obtuse quality of her face: hence the filmic is exactly here, at this point where articulate language is no more than approximative and where another language begins (a language whose “science” cannot therefore be linguistics, soon discarded like a launching rocket). The third meaning, which we can locate theoretically but not describe, then appears as the transition from language to significance and as the founding act of the filmic itself. Obliged to emerge from a civilization of the signified, it is not surprising that the filmic (despite the incalculable quantity of films in the world) should still be rare (a few explosions in Eisenstein and perhaps elsewhere?), to the point where we might assert that the film, like the text, does not yet exist: there is only “cinema,” which is to say, language, narrative, poetry, sometimes very “modern,” “translated” into “images” said to be “animated.” Nor is it surprising that we can perceive it only after having traversed—analytically—the “essentials,” the “depth” and the “complexity” of the cinematographic work—all treasures belonging only to articulate language, out of which we constitute that work and believe we exhaust it. For the filmic is different from the film: the filmic is as far from the film as the novelistic or the fictive is from the novel (I can write novelistically, fictively, without ever writing novels, fiction.)

The Still. This is why, to a certain extent (which is that of our theoretical approximations), the filmic, quite paradoxically, cannot be grasped in the film as it is shown, “in movement,” “au naturel,” but only, as yet, in that major artifact which is the “still.” For a long time I have been intrigued by this phenomenon of being interested and even obsessed by stills of a film and losing them entirely in the projection room—a mutation which can lead to a complete reversal of values. I first attributed this preference for the still to my lack of cinematic culture, to my resistance to film; it seemed to me I was like those children who prefer the “illustration” to the text, or those consumers who cannot afford certain items and must be content with inspecting a sample room or a department-store catalogue. This explanation merely reproduces the common notion of the still as a remote subproduct of the film, a sample, a pornographic extract and, technically, a reduction of the work through immobilization of what is regarded as the sacred essence of the cinema: the movement of the images.

Yet, if the authentically filmic (the filmic of the future) is not in movement, but in a third meaning, an inarticulate meaning which neither the simple photograph nor figurative painting can assume because they lack the diegetic horizon, the possibility of configuration which has been discussed (see note 2), then the “movement” which has been made the film’s essence is not animation, flux, mobility, “life,” copy, but only the armature of a permutative unfolding, and a theory of the still is necessary, a theory whose possible developments, in conclusion, must be indicated.

The still gives us the inside of the fragment. We must adopt here, with some rehandling, Eisenstein’s own formulations, in discussing the new possibilities of audio-visual montage: “. . . the basic center of gravity . . . is shifted to inside the fragment, into the elements included within the image itself. And the center of gravity is no longer the element ‘between shots’—the impact, the shock, but the element ‘inside the shot’—the accentuation inside the fragment. . . . ” Of course there is no audio-visual montage within the stilt; but Eisenstein’s formulation is a general one, insofar as it establishes a right to syntagmatic disjunction of images, and demands a vertical reading, as Eisenstein calls it, of the articulation. Further, the still is not a sample (a notion which assumes a kind of statistical, homogeneous nature of the film’s elements), but a quotation (we know how important this concept has become in today’s theory of the text): it is therefore at once parodic and disseminative. It is not a specimen chemically extracted from the film’s substance, but rather the trace of a superior distribution of features of which the film-as-experienced, passing, animated, would be after all no more than one text among others. The still, then, is the fragment of a second text whose being never exceeds the fragment; film and still meet in a palimpsest relation, without our being able to say that one is above the other or that one is extracted from the other. Finally, the still dissolves the constraint of filmic time; this constraint is a powerful one, it still forms the obstacle to what we might call the adult birth of the film (born technologically, sometimes even esthetically, the film is yet to be born theoretically). For written texts-unless they are extremely conventional, utterly committed to the logicotemporal order—the reading time is free; for the film, it is not, since the image cannot proceed either faster or slower, without losing its perceptual figure. The still, by instituting a reading which is at once instantaneous and vertical, flouts logical time (which is only an operative time); it teaches us to dissociate technological constraint (the film’s projection) from the authentically filmic, which is the “indescribable” meaning. Perhaps it is this other text (here derived from stills) whose reading Eisenstein called for when he said that the film must not be simply looked at and listened to, but that it must be studied by eye and ear alike. Such seeing and hearing does not postulate, of course, a simple application of the mind (which would be no more than a banal requirement, a pious hope), but rather an authentic transformation of reading and its object, text or film: a major problem of our time.

Roland Barthes

Translated by Richard Howard.

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NOTES

1. In the classical paradigm of the five senses, the third is hearing (the most important in the middle ages); this is a fortunate coincidence, for we are concerned here with listening; first of all because Eisenstein’s remarks used here come from a reflection on the advent of sound in film; then because hearing (without reference to merely the phoné) possesses in potentiality the metaphor best suited to the “textual”: orchestration (Eisenstein’s word), counterpoint, stereo phony.

2. There are other “arts” which combine the still (or at least the drawing) and story, diegesis: these are the photo-novel and the comic strip. I am convinced that these “arts,” born in the lower depths of high culture, possess a theoretical qualification and afford a new signifier (related to the obtuse meaning); this is acknowledged in the case of the comic strip; but personally I experience that faint trauma of significant before certain photo-novels: “their stupidity touches me” (such might be a certain definition of the obtuse meaning); there would therefore be a future truth (or a truth from a very remote past) in these ridiculous, vulgar, stupid, dialogical forms oi the sub culture of consumption. And there would be an autonomous “art” (a “text”), that of the still (“anecdotized” images, obtuse meanings placed in a diegetic space); this art would participate in culturally and historically heteroclite productions: ethnographic pictograms, stain edglass windows, Carpaccio’s Legend of Saint Ursula, images d’Epinal, photo-novels, comic strips. The innovation represented by the still in relation to these other stills) would be that the filmic (which it constitutes) would be doubled by another text, the film.