I first saw ALIEN when it came out in 1979, in Sydney Australia. There was none of the hysterical claptrap one reads about, of people vomiting or running out of the theatre or fainting, or whatever. People were totally focused on the story, calm and attentive.
I re-watched the film this year with students in my lycée (I live and teach in France). I found that it had not aged, despite some antiquated computer tech. Very quickly they were totally engaged by the unfolding story. No hysteria and no heckling. I felt the same fascination and the same emotion as for my first viewing in 1979. There is something untimely about this film, the affects that it embodies and provokes are intact, to this day (forty years later for me).
1979 was a crucial year for me, it constituted a turning point in my life. Since 1978 I had been learning French and reading current French philosophy (Deleuze, Lyotard, Derrida, Foucault, Serres). This was just before I came to Paris in 1980 to attend Deleuze’s classes for six months. I returned to Paris in 1981 and attended Deleuze’s seminar on the cinema and Lyotard’s seminar on the sublime.
So I came to study in France in 1981, without knowing that I would never leave. I saw BLADE RUNNER in Paris when it came out in 1982. I was blown away.
I attended Deleuze’s seminar on film from 1981 to 1985, but as far as I recall he never mentioned these two films nor does he discuss them in his two books on cinema. I think this is a shame. I have searched the literature, but I have not found a discussion of ALIEN by Deleuze scholars, although there are some discussions of ALIEN RESURRECTION.
I have tried in my previous posts to give a basic Deleuzian analysis of ALIEN without using too much of Deleuze’s technical jargon (although I find his vocabulary useful). I see ALIEN in terms of Deleuze’s concepts (how could I do otherwise afterhaving attended his classes for seven years and reading his books for 40 years?) but also in terms of Derrida’s seminar La vie la mort (Life Death) taught in the seventies (1975-1976) but published this year.
So I am trying to respond to a perceived (by me alone apparently!) lack in the discussions of Ridley Scott’s ALIEN, the absence of a Deleuzian perspective on a film that seems to constitute an ideal example and testing ground for Deleuze’s concepts.
I am open to suggestions and dialogue on this subject, and I would like to do justice to it or to help someone else do so.
I want to read the book first.
I’ve only read Deleuze here and there. Like I’ve told you before I think: his (theirs) is very apparent to me and goes “in” to the “political” where I stay outside of it perhaps. Lol. Idk. I too like and use some of thier terms. But I feel like much of it, at least to my mind, very “drug experience induced”. At least, his philosophy appears to reflect the views I gained from spending 10 years in deep space.
The basic concepts. : bwo. Deterritorialization. Plane of immanence . Rhizome. Plateau.
I think you should write the Alien and Deleuze book. 🤘🏾
Oh! I still have to send you books. The second part is almost ready.
Oh that’s right ! I put the first part in acedamia edu. I think I may have invited you to it.
Yes, thank you.
Professor Blake, first of all, thank you for sharing these thoughts. I’ll concede myself the right to share some thoughts inspired by your takes on « Alien » (but informed by other perspective), if you don’t mind.
Although you consider the aproximation of the « anomal » with the monstruous, it seems that you prefers to preserve the singularity of the Alien as this verbal figure of an excessive process (the aberrant movement) of an inorganic dimension of life that haunts and constrains any reiterative cohesion of an « organical nature ». So, I guess that the « monstrosity » would be nothing but a noun or an adjective, an inadequate judgement that tries to integrate the non localizable alien to the local case of the monstrosity. If the alien is a becoming and becoming produces nothing by filliation, the logical satus of monstrosity has it’s phenomenology in a haunted consciousness, the haunting of the failure of integrating the alien to the repertoire of possible beings, that fails to recognize the true otherness and outsideness of the alien in relation to the system. An spiral of horror that never becomes the joy of concrete abstraction (considered axiologically by yourself « deeper » than the horror). From the monstruous to the alien: that’s indeed one of the logics of the sublime, enjoyment in unpleasure.
But is this radical alterity and outsideness of the alien really there? Doest it have any real singularity? Isn’t the true horror of the Xenomoprh this complete absence of tautegory, no proper existence beyond the function of hunting and haunting, the ultimate instrumentalized being, the expression of an horrendous hyperfunctional biology? If I admitley cross the limit of an imanent reflection of the movie, Isn’t the form of Giger’s Xenomorph the case of an excessive allegorical form (the sexual allusions), and not that of the imagination of the possibility of an pure other. In this case, the Xenomorph-as-alien would not be the element of an deconstructive biology, the aberrant case that reveals the openess and contingency of a process, but the radical imposure of necessity in biological features. Somehow, the alien is violent because he « fits too much », hes excessively adaptable to the system of which it’s supposed to be the intruder of.
Maybe the only way to scape the spiral of horror is indeed to create an outside, to get rid of the monster and turn it into the alien, but can we do this without becoming monsters ourselves in the need of extreme adaptation to deal with monstrosity?
I do think that this line of thought is much more paired with some common sense takes on « Alien » and your’s points to real originality within deleuzean orientation, but I thought it was worth commenting, anyway.
Hello Drumond, thank you for your interesting comments. I agree with you that strictly speaking the logic of the monster is different to the logic of the alien, in that the monster is the negative face of an alterity as interpreted within the system wherein it appears. The positive face is not figured as such within the film, but on an allegorical reading this could be conceived as a sort of ideological critique of how an other (for example a racial or sexual other) must be seen within the system, as a threat. However, Ripley does come to instantiate the positive face in that while physically she rejects and expels the alien, psychically she has modified her identity to integrate the pure drive to survive of the alien. Ripley has become already in this first film a hybrid. Has she become monstrous for all that. Perhaps the maternal attachment to « Jonesy » can be seen as an index of the non-monstrous nature of her new hybridity.