Friday, December 17, 2010

Save your As(ymptote)

Math is not my strong point, but one concept has traveled with me as I turn corners and walk lines in my life: the asymptote. The asymptote of a curve is a line such that the distance between the curve and the line approaches zero as they tend to infinity (thanks to wikipedia, which also tells me that another term for asymptote is “disambiguation”.)Always approaching, infinitely traveling, but never reaching.

Speaking of Pierrot Le Fou, Jean-Luc Godard says in Godard on Godard, “I quote: no road is the path I must follow. Nothing, returning, welcomes me, or leaving, releases me. This tomorrow is not of the day which was yesterday. This last sentence in terms of cinema: two shots which follow each other do not necessarily follow each other. The same goes for two shots which do not follow each other. In this sense, one can say that Pierrot is not really a film. It is rather an attempt at cinema. And the cinema, by making reality disgorge, reminds us that one must attempt to live” (emphasis mine 215).
We find this notion of the attempt throughout Godard’s work and his critical writings. He describes images as attempts at images; films as attempted films. All of his films foreground the continued attempt at communication, despite its inherent impossibility. Words themselves play, can’t be pinned down.  

History is an attempt, unachievable because, “I need a day to tell the story of a second, I need a life to tell the story of an hour” (Histoire[s] du cinema). We will never get there; but we are here and moving closer, we ascend and descend spirals like the staircase in Alphaville and time the asymptote to its curve. Living is the attempt to live and in the attempt its fleeting, eternal beauty.

-Ruchi Mital


  1. Ruchi,
    You may already know this but Bazin evokes the asymptote in his writings on neo-realism. He proposes an asymptotic relationship between reality and cinema, which can, for obviously reasons, never merge yet nevertheless remain in contiguity with one another as they simultaneously evolve on (what Deleuze would call) the "plane of immanence".


  2. I actually didn't know this, but surely want to read his (I am sure much more developed) writings about this...