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Playing and the Loose Boundaries Between Inner and Outer Selves

Sayad, Cecilia (2015) Playing and the Loose Boundaries Between Inner and Outer Selves. In: World Cinema and the Essay Film, 30/04/2015-2/05-2015, University of Reading, London. (Unpublished) (The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided) (KAR id:50254)

The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided. (Contact us about this Publication)


This paper discusses Eduardo Coutinho’s unique mode of stressing authorial presence rather than expression, and explores the essayistic Jogo the Cena (Playing, 2009) as the culmination of a separation between the author’s inner and outer selves that has been underlying the Brazilian director’s career since Santo Forte (The Mighty Spirit, 1999).

If the essayistic mode usually reflects on the enunciator’s position in the world it comments upon (the conception of the literary essay by Michel de Montaigne, as Colin MacCabe reminds us, involves precisely ‘a personal perspective’ over ‘general topics’) , Coutinho records the filmed world’s response to his presence. His essayistic documentaries have always highlighted the subjects’ reactions to the director’s interest in their lives; Coutinho’s presence in the image presents him not as a self-expressing figure, but as a catalyst for the subject’s ‘performance’ to the camera. It is furthermore not what Coutinho says that characterises his authorial persona—the director’s São Paulo accent and raspy, cigarette-smoker’s voice are arguably more distinguishable than the questions he actually asks, which are very simple and quite repetitive (enquiring about the subject’s work and family). Coutinho’s mode of self-inscription unintentionally stresses the materiality of his body and voice—which allows for a corporeal, rather than abstract, sense of an authorial presence. Combined with the director’s refusal to openly interpret and analyse (discussed by Consuelo Lins and Ismail Xavier, among others), the transformative effect of the director’s presence on the filmed reality transfers his authorial identity from the inner to the outer self. Coutinho is a perfect example of what I have termed ‘performing authorship’, a reassessment of the film author that privileges masquerade over exposure, physical presence over inner expression, process over product, repetition over uniqueness.

The focus on the director’s outer self invokes the structuralist (and in some cases poststructuralist) dissociation between subject and expressive discourse that is perfectly dramatized in Jogo de Cena. The film features actresses (some of them unknown) re-staging interviews Coutinho carried with women who responded to an advert inviting people ‘with stories to tell’ to audition for a documentary. It is never clear whether the relayed story belongs to the person who narrates it to the camera or to another who may in turn be temporarily, when not permanently, off-screen. Like Jogo de Cena’s actresses, Coutinho appropriates himself of the experiences and discourses of others; it is thus that he finds his expression—in the narratives prompted by his physical presence. Rather than the author’s world, Coutinho’s films reveal the author in the world.

Xavier, Ismail. ‘Indagações em torno de Eduardo Coutinho e seu diálogo com a tradição moderna.’ Eduardo Coutinho: Cinema do Encontro, Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil, 51–9. Rio de Janeiro: Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil, 2003.

Item Type: Conference or workshop item (Paper)
Uncontrolled keywords: authorship, performance, documentary, Eduardo Coutinho, poststructuralism, Judith Butler, Roland Barthes, Michel Foucault
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN1993 Motion Pictures
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of Arts
Depositing User: Cecilia Sayad
Date Deposited: 20 Aug 2015 15:53 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Feb 2021 13:27 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
Sayad, Cecilia:
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