This essay argues that the conditions of contemporary finance capitalism have exhausted the revolutionary potential of political modernist aesthetics. The global ’68 conjuncture generated many of the fundamental concepts that continue to underscore how contemporary radical film practice is understood. As such, montage continues to occupy a central place in today’s radical aesthetic imagination, its model of active spectatorship still accepted as a vital expression of an autogestive oppositional politics. However, the economic and political landscape has changed significantly over the last fifty years such that the radical potential of political modernist aesthetics needs to be reevaluated. To this end, this essay examines how the shift from industrial to finance capitalism transforms montage and its concomitant investment in spectatorial autonomy into a conservative affirmation of the neoliberal subject. Now resembling the pattern hunters of speculative finance, the active spectator of political modernist cinema is today compromised by the new conditions of volatility, instability, hyperindividualism, and privatization that demand the same cognitive labor. In exploring how neoliberal ideology has absorbed and reframed the driving logics of 1968, this essay argues that montage’s radical political potential has been exhausted by the conditions of contemporary finance capitalism and instead calls for alternative modes of aesthetic engagement better equipped to at once express and oppose these new conditions of exploitation.
Exhausted Montage: Radical Cinema Post ’68
Sarah Hamblin is associate professor of cinema studies and English at the University of Massachusetts Boston. Her research focuses on global art cinema and graphic literatures, emphasizing the relationships between aesthetics, affect, and radical politics. Her work has appeared in Cinema Journal, English Language Notes, Black Camera, Cine-Files, and Film and History, and she is currently completing a book manuscript on global revolutionary filmmaking in the 1960s.
Sarah Hamblin; Exhausted Montage: Radical Cinema Post ’68. Cultural Politics 1 November 2019; 15 (3): 358–371. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/17432197-7725507
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