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P. Adams Sitney’s Eyes Upside Down

Marie Menken, Lights, 1966, still from a color film in 16 mm, 6 minutes 30 seconds.

EYES UPSIDE DOWN: VISIONARY

FILMMAKERS AND THE HERITAGE

OF EMERSON
, BY P. ADAMS SITNEY.


NEW YORK: OXFORD UNIVERSITY

PRESS, 2008. 432 PAGES. $28.

THERE IS A MOMENT in Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay “Intellect” (1841) that has always seemed to me to anticipate cinematic thinking:

If you gather apples in the sunshine, or make hay, or hoe corn, and then retire within doors, and shut your eyes, and press them with your hand, you shall still see apples hanging in the bright light, with boughs and leaves thereto, or the tasseled grass, or the corn-flags, and this for five or six hours afterwards. There lie the impressions on the retentive organ, though you knew it not. So lies the whole series of natural images with which your life has made you acquainted in your memory, though you know it not, and a thrill of passion flashes light on their dark chamber, and the active power seizes instantly

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