There is something to confess: your speaker likes to leave a movie theatre. Back out on the more or less empty, more or less brightly lit sidewalk (it is invariably at night, and during the week, that he goes), and heading uncertainly for some café or other, he walks in silence (he doesn’t like discussing the film he’s just seen), a little dazed, wrapped up in himself, feeling the cold – he’s sleepy, that’s what he’s thinking, his body has become something sopitive, soft, limp, and he feels a little disjointed, even (for a moral organization, relief comes only from this quarter) irresponsible. In other words, obviously, he’s coming out of hypnosis. And hypnosis (an old psychoanalytic device–one that psychoanalysis nowadays seems to treat quite condescendingly) means only one thing to him: the most venerable of powers: healing. And he thinks of music: isn’t there such a thing as hypnotic music? The castrato Farinelli, whose messa di voce was “as incredible for its duration as for its emission,” relieved the morbid melancholy of Philip V of Spain by singing him the same aria every night for fourteen years.
This is often how he leaves a movie theatre. How does he go in? Except for the—increasingly frequent—case of a specific cultural quest (a selected, sought-for, desired film, object of a veritable preliminary alert), he goes to movies as a response to idleness, leisure, free time. It’s as if, even before he went into the theatre, the classic conditions of hypnosis were in force: vacancy, want of occupation, lethargy; it’s not in front of the film and because of the film that he dreams off –it’s without knowing it, even before he becomes a spectator. There is a “cinema situation” and this situation is pre-hypnotic. According to a true metonymy, the darkness of the theatre is prefigured by the “twilight reverie” (a prerequisite for hypnosis, according to Breuer-Freud) which precedes it and leads him from street to street, from poster to poster, finally burying himself in a dim, anonymous, indifferent cube where the festival of affects known as a film will be presented.
What does the “darkness” of the cinema mean? (Whenever I hear the word cinema, I can’t help thinking hall, rather than film.) Not only is the dark the very substance of reverie (in the pre-hypnoid meaning of the term); it is also the “color” of a diffused eroticism; by its human condensation, by its absence of worldliness (contrary to the cultural appearance that has to be put in at any “legitimate theatre”), by the relaxation of postures (how many members of the cinema audience slide down into their seats as if into a bed, coats or feet thrown over the row in front!), the movie house (ordinary model) is a site of availability (even more than cruising), the inoccupation of bodies, which best defines modern eroticism—not that of advertising or striptease, but that of the big city. It is in this urban dark that the body’s freedom is generated; this invisible work of possible affects emerges from a veritable cinematographic cocoon; the movie spectator could easily appropriate the silkworm’s moto: Inclusum labor illustrat; it is because I am enclosed that I work and glow with all my desire.
In this darkness of the cinema (anonymous, populated, numerous—oh, the boredom, the frustration of so-called private showings!) lies the very fascination of the film (any film). Think of the contrary experience: on television, where films are also shown, no fascination; here darkness is erased, anonymity repressed; space is familiar, articulated (by furniture, known objects), tamed: the eroticism—no, to put it better, to get across the particular kind of lightness, of unfulfillment we mean: the eroticization of the place is foreclosed: television doomed us to the Family, whose household instrument it has become—what the hearth used to be, flanked by its communal kettle.
In that opaque cube, one light: the film, the screen? Yes, of course. But also (especially?), visible and unperceived, that dancing cone which pierces the darkness like a laser beam. This beam is minted, according to the rotation of its particles, into changing figures; we turn our face toward the currency of a gleaming vibration whose imperious jet brushes our skull, glancing off someone’s hair, someone’s face. As in the old hypnotic experiments, we are fascinated—without seeing it head-on—by this shining site, motionless and dancing.
It’s exactly as if a long stem of light had outlined a keyhole, and then we all peered, flabbergasted, through that hole. And nothing in this ecstasy is provided by sound, music, words? Usually—in current productions—the audio protocol can produce no fascinated listening; conceived to reinforce the lifelikeness of the anecdote, sound is merely a supplementary instrument of representation; it is meant to integrate itself unobtrusively into the object shown, it is in no way detached from this object; yet it would take very little in order to separate this sound track: one displaced or magnified sound, the grain of a voice milled in our eardrums, and the fascination begins again; for it never comes except from artifice, or better still: from the artifact—like the dancing beam of the projector—which comes from overhead or to the side, blurring the scene shown by the screen yet without distorting its image (its gestalt, its meaning).
For such is the narrow range—at least for me—in which can function the fascination of film, the cinematographic hypnosis: I must be in the story (there must be verisimilitude), but I must also be elsewhere: a slightly disengaged image-repertoire, that is what I must have—like a scrupulous, conscientious, organized, in a word difficult fetishist, that is what I require of the film and of the situation in which I go looking for it.
The film image (including the sound) is what? A lure. I am confined with the image as if I were held in that famous dual relation which establishes the image-repertoire. The image is there, in front of me, for me: coalescent (its signified and its signifier melted together), analogical, total, pregnant; it is a perfect lure: I flight myself upon it like an animal upon the scrap of “lifelike” rag held out to him; and, of course, it sustains in me the misreading attached to Ego and to image-repertoire. In the movie theater, however far away I am sitting, I press my nose against the screen’s mirror, against that “other” image-repertoire with which I narcissistically identify myself (it is said that the spectators who choose to sit as close to the screen as possible are children and movie buffs); the image captivates me, captures me: I am glued to the representation, and it is this glue which established the naturalness (the pseudo-nature) of the filmed scene (a glue prepared with all the ingredients of “technique”); the Real knows only distances, the Symbolic knows only masks; the image alone (the image-repertoire) is close, only the image is “true” (can produce the resonance of truth). Actually, has not the image, statutorily, all the characteristics of the ideological? The historical subject, like the cinema spectator I am imagining, is also glued to ideological discourse: he experiences its coalescence, its analogical security, its naturalness, its “truth”: it is a lure (our lure, for who escapes it?); the Ideological would actually be the image-repertoire of a period of history, the Cinema of a society; like the film which lures its clientele, it even has its photograms; is not the stereotype of a fixed image, a quotation to which our language is glued? And in the commonplace have we not dual relation: narcissistic and maternal?
How to come unglued from the mirror? I’ll risk a pun to answer: by taking off (in the aeronautical and narcotic sense of the term). Of course, it is still possible to conceive of an art which will break the dual circle, the fascination of film, and loosen the glue, the hypnosis of the lifelike (of the analogical), by some recourse to the spectator’s critical vision (or listening); is this not what the Brechtian alienation-effect involves? Many things can help us to “come out of” (imaginary and/or ideological) hypnosis: the very methods of an epic art, the spectator’s culture or his ideological vigilance; contrary to classical hysteria, the image-repertoire vanishes once one observes that it exists. But there is another way of going to the movies (besides being armed by the discourse of counter-ideology); by letting oneself be fascinated twice over, by the image and by its surroundings—as if I had two bodies at the same time: a narcissistic body which gazes, lost, into the engulfing mirror, and a perverse body, ready to fetishize not the image but precisely what exceeds it: the texture of the sound, the hall, the darkness, the obscure mass of other bdies, the rays of light, in order to “take off” I complicate a “relation” by a “situation.” What I use to distance myself from the image—that, ultimately, is what fascinates me: I am hypnotized by a distance; and this distance is not critical (intellectual); it is, one might say, an amorous distance: would there be, in the cinema itself (and taking the word at its etymological suggestion) a possible bliss of discretion?
 sopitive, a.Obs.[ad. med.L. sōpītīvus.] ‘Causing sleep’ (Bailey, 1727, vol. II).
 Farinelli (24 January 1705 – 16 September 1782), was the stage name of Carlo Maria Michelangelo Nicola Broschi celebrated Italian castrato singer of the 18th century and one of the greatest singers in the history of opera,
A castrato (Italian, plural: castrati) is a type of classical male singing voice equivalent to that of a soprano, mezzo-soprano, or contralto. The voice is produced by castration of the singer before puberty, or it occurs in one who, due to an endocrinological condition, never reaches sexual maturity.
 Messa di voce (Italian, “placing of voice”) is a musical technique that involves a gradual crescendo and diminuendo while sustaining a single pitch. That is, a note is sung at a quiet volume, gradually and smoothly made louder until it reaches a high volume, and then similarly made quiet again. The technique can be used on many instruments, but is perhaps best known for its use among singers.
 Philip V (19 December 1683 – 9 July 1746) was King of Spain from 1 November 1700 to 15 January 1724. He was afflicted by fits of manic depression and increasingly fell victim to a deep melancholia. Beginning in August 1737 his affliction was eased by the castrato singer Farinelli, who, became the “Musico de Camara of Their Majesties.” Farinelli would sing eight or nine arias for the king and queen every night, usually with a trio of musicians.