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Parallax Effects: Postwar Modernity and the Uncanny Optics of 3D Cinema


Wednesday, October 2, 2019 @ 12:00 pm - 2:00 pm

Parallax Effects: Postwar Modernity and the Uncanny Optics of 3D Cinema

This paper argues that the uncanny optics of stereoscopic 3D cinema made it an ideal format for the Hollywood’s investigation of the culture and experience of technological modernity in the postwar era. Focusing on the 3D versions of House of Wax (André de Toth, 1953) and Dial M for Murder (Alfred Hitchcock, 1954), I analyze how the 3D format allowed filmmakers to exploit a range of “stereo-effects” in pursuit of an “aesthetic of dispossession” grounded in 3D’s ability to violate categorical boundaries, including those that separate presence from absence, the material from the immaterial, and diegetic space from the space of reception. Through this aesthetic, 3D films articulated a postwar dread of homelessness which ensured that their audiences would never feel entirely “at home” either in the depicted space or in the theatre, thereby confirming Theodor Adorno’s claim that, “Dwelling, in the proper sense, is now impossible.”

Kristen Whissel is Professor of Film & Media at the University of California, Berkeley. She is the author of Spectacular Digital Effects: CGI and Contemporary Cinema (2014) and Picturing American Modernity: Traffic, Technology and the Silent Cinema (2008) and is co-editor of Editing and Special/Visual Effects (2016). Her work on media in transition and technological change has been published in Journal of Visual Culture, Cinema Journal (now JCMS), Camera Obscura, and Screen, amongst others. She is currently researching a book titled, Parallax Effects: Epistemology, Affect, and Stereoscopic 3D Cinema and Media.


Wednesday, October 2, 2019
12:00 pm - 2:00 pm
Event Category:


Bhaskar Sarkar


2135 SSMS Building
SSMS Building
Santa Barbara, CA 93106-4010 United States
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