Time Out
January 05, 2005

'Subtitles: on the Foreignness of Film' Edited by Atom Egoyan and Ian
Balfour MIT Press, Alphabet City Media GBP 22.95;
Books: Preview


Few filmmakers are as curious about the nature, role and effect of
images as Atom Egoyan.

Whether in his singular features (from 'Family Viewing' through 'The
Adjuster' and 'Exotica' to 'The Sweet Hereafter' and 'Ararat') or his
gallery installations, he has consistently investigated the
implications of looking, of the gaze both loving and surveilling, and
explored the psychology and technologyof a society fascinated by
ocular pleasures and prohibitions. Couple that with his biography
Armenian by ethnicity but born in Cairo and living in Toronto and you
have a sensibility perfectly placed to take on the titular enquiry of
this handsomely designed (in cinematic 1.66:1 ratio) 550page volume.

The claim Egoyan and academic Ian Balfour make is that 'every film is
a foreign film, foreign to some audience somewhere, and not simply in
terms of language'. Indeed, this sense of difference is perhaps
central to cinema itself, creating as it does both intimacy and
distance in its viewing.

Egoyan and Balfour take subtitles as their point of departure for a
consideration of how film works both to bridge divides while still
offering an 'otherness'. So, among the two dozen contributions,
poetic and playful, theoretical and experiental, are essays by
Borges, Frederic Jameson and Slavoj Zizek; writing on Kiarostami, CNN
and Jarman's 'Blue' and interviews with ClaireDenis and Isaac Julien,
alongside a number of artists' portfolios. It's an invigorating,
widescreen experience, celebrating the medium's diverse aesthetic
potentials, but also arguing for a reconsideration of how the Western
media portrays the majority world. As the editors say, 'What we need
are subtitled images not an embedded journalist's commentary that
extend, rather than preclude, the possibility of relating to others.'
Gareth Evans