This article yields three new and interlocking readings of Julie Dash's Illusions (US, 1982), a classic of black feminist cinema frequently analyzed from the intersectional standpoint of gendered and racial representation. First, I explore Dash's potent use of close-ups at key points in the film, which is itself precisely structured as a palindromic procession into and back through a series of mirrored spaces. Faces become more prominent in the film's second half, tasked less to reveal character than to convey graphic, affective, and historical tensions pertinent to the film's spatial and narrative progressions. Second, I perform a lesbian reading of Illusions based on palpable frissons of attraction and mutual fascination linking the two female protagonists and also on the film's deliberately rough aesthetics, situating Dash's film within a tradition Patricia White and others, following Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, have called “lesbian minor cinema.” Finally, given Deleuze's centrality to my readings of faces as fields of active tension and of Illusions as minor cinema, I demonstrate how the film manifests but also challenges key ideas in Deleuze's three major accounts of “faciality” in Cinema 1 and, with Guattari, in A Thousand Plateaus and What Is Philosophy? This last volume privileges the face as a figure for defining the nature of concepts and the riddles of imagining other people and their worlds. The carefully choreographed close-ups of Illusions, then, make it a metacritical study of how we conjecture into people's lives, conceive new ideas, and postulate forms of relation that remain out of frame.
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Nick Davis; The Face Is a Politics: A Close-Up View of Julie Dash's Illusions. Camera Obscura 1 September 2014; 29 (2 (86)): 149–183. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/02705346-2704661
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