25 September 2008
RAPE (dir. Yoko Ono, 1969), 77 min.
Described by critic Jim Hoberman as “one of the most violent and sexually charged movies ever made – even if flesh never touches flesh”, this proto-stalker narrative features a young woman, a European student living illegally in London, who is tracked and pursued through the streets of the capital and into the bedroom of her apartment. The student, it is important to note, was not an actress and did not know why she was being followed. According to a contemporary reviewer RAPE “does for the age of television what Franz Kafka’s ‘The Trial’ did for the age of totalitarianism.” A pioneering exploration of surveillance aesthetics that anticipates Christopher Nolan’s ‘Following’ (1998) and Chris Petit’s ‘Unrequited Love’ (2006), it dramatizes many of the arguments about the male gaze articulated by Laura Mulvey in her famous essay ‘Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema’ (1973). As for the film’s biographical resonances, the final word should go to Ono herself: “a lot of my works have been a projection of my future fate. It frightens me.”
The screening will be presented by Joshua T. Chambers-Letson from the Department of Performance Studies at NYU. He is currently completing his dissertation on performances of racial exception in contemporary US, as well as editing an issue of ‘Women and Performance’ on women in global politics. His work has also appeared in ‘TDR’, ‘Topic Magazine’, and ‘Dance Research Review’.