"At every moment I am in the film by my look's caress." - Christian Metz
Simplistic in it's overall execution, "The Safety of The Screen" is a personal practice that emerged in my youth and was later developed throughout University. Unbeknownst to my "child's mind" and then defined by my grown up "childlike mind", it is both reliant on and a response to the Lacanian Theory surrounding the "Averting of the Gaze", AND Bordwell and Carroll's subsequent squelching of said Theory. Though my memory is foggy as to the details of those expositions, it is merely the overall understanding of both viewpoints that are required to grasp the notion of "The Safety..." It involves both "imagination" and "reality" and was necessary for my in-development brain to maintain a distinction between the two.
At the risk of redundancy, allow me to reiterate ("Yes, again...") that my parents allowed me great freedom when getting involved with the Arts. Which certainly does not go so far as to claim that I was not afraid of certain Art; rather, it reinforced my notion that I had both a desire to view all Art, AND that I had the ability to view all Art.
For me, it began with Demons 2; and with that admission I immediately jeopardize any and all scholastic plausibility. I first watched it at a too-young age in my cousin's household, where I was allowed much play-time in "The Land of Imagination." The middle of the three siblings rented it from what I presume to be the then "New Release" Wall, and the children were allowed this frightening freedom while the parents remained in earshot. The youngest cousin and myself then crept downstairs amid the darkened shadows and, whether or not we were being watched, we watched the film again. Amidst self-reflection, this marked my underlying necessity to differentiate between "watching" and "viewing"; the "watching" entails being caught up in the moment and subjectively taking the cinematic ride. The "viewing", on the other hand, contains the most brutal concepts of objective scrutiny. It also calls upon the symbiotic relationship between "empathy" and "apathy". From there, the true dual beauty of the Art can then be experienced.
The finale of Demons 2 takes place around a large number of TV screens through which the "Final Demon" begins to "pass through" and into the protagonist's diegetic reality. I was terrified at this notion; this visage was the driving force behind "The Safety of The Screen", though I highly suspect that my young age (and all the acceptances that accompany said age,) also played a large part. Being an almost "over-imaginative" child with grand desires of infinite film viewing, meant that I was "forced" (in a positive fashion) to differentiate the "real" from the "imagined". I apply that specific "non-truth" (ie. the "non-truth" of the Demon breaking the literal Fourth Wall) to every Screen I bare witness to. In other words, as long as I specify the parameters of the Screen, I "force" myself to Gaze at it. I related the on-screen TV to the Screen of my cousin's living room, and convinced myself that anything on our personal screen CAN NOT cause physical damage. Anything it causes on a mental level can ultimately be controlled. (ie. controlled for purposes of introspection, reflection, empathy, etc., etc., etc.) To this very day it remains, to me, an inherent Truth that I can rely on when viewing anything; Art, Life, Dreams - I construct the border of the Screen, I define the parameters, and then I can seek both the "questions" and the "answers" that lie within those boundaries. "Questions" and "Answers" are, of course, tantamount to the Viewer's overall pleasure.
The "Screen" itself can take on (m)any forms; from stamp, to coin, to picture frame, to musical script, to the human body, to beyond. The adept Viewer can force the border of the Screen and then apply his or her Focus (ie. subjective cognitive thinking) to ALL that lies within that frame. From there, the Viewer can then aim his or her questioning at anything (s)he desires the answer to within said forced Frame. For example, allow me to hold within my own view the cover of the film Enter the Dragon. (If you do not have access to this particular film cover, you are most likely visiting the wrong blog. If you do not have the "Special Edition", you are denying yourself an extra 3 minutes of the ass-kickery of Master Lee...) Now, simply allowing your Gaze to "caress" the Art rewards one with the prevalent beauty: the striking mixture of primary colours, the horizontal nunchaku line held by Bruce Lee, the beautiful female face topping the stacked figures, and so on, and so on. However, when seeking the true intrinsic beauty of the piece, the Viewer has to begin asking "Why?" (And a host of other questions, but they all start with "Why?"...) Why are the nunchaku approx. 6/8th's of the way up the piece? Why are the fighters stacked from top to bottom in the order of Saxon, Kelly, Lee? Why is Ahna Capri represented as a "figure", yet Kien Shih is represented as a "picture within the picture"? Why is Saxon extending a fist, and Kelly extending an open hand? (And are they both right-handed, or was that done on purpose?) Why is the demise of Kelly made apparent on the cover? Why, why, why...? The next logical step then becomes "Because." And it is in the "Because" that the Viewer subjectivity is allowed to roam free...
The nunchaku are placed where they are because it separates Lee from his counterparts and draws the eye toward him specifically; it also allows Lee to extend both hands, signifying the unity of his body. Capri takes the top place because of Lee's (or the Artist's, or both...) respect for the female figure, and it puts her in a Matronly position. Kelly's demise is shown because of Lee's/Artist's/Viewer's respect for death. (Or, because this is the 25th anniversary edition, and if you don't know by now that Kelly does not survive, well... you've bought a movie on a whim...) Are these particular "Because's" correct? Who, other than the Artists behind this piece, can really know? That does not matter; I am the Viewer, these are the "Because's" that are important to me, and these are MY answers... Now, when applying this Viewpoint to the actual Film, the "Why's" of a single take have to be asked/answered in a much more rapid succession, AND expanded to include the transitional cuts.
The Viewer controls the "Why's" and the Frame, and can keep them as simple or as complex as desired. A "Why that hue of blue?" can be important to one Viewer, whereas a "Why did Bob Wall not get more screen time?" can be equally important to another Viewer. None of the Art, however, can actually break that boundary of the Screen; the Demon cannot pass through to reality, the objects of a Dream cannot be physically grasped and brought out of sleep with us, the human body cannot survive without water, etc. Hence, my innate fear of acting; melding my own created/forced safety zone with my actual "self" causes me much internal discomfort. Probably unjustifiably, but, remember, these "Because's" are mine.
Simply put, this is how I view Art - and EVERYTHING is Art to somebody. I know the rules, I revel in my subjectivity, and I train my self to see and hear everything. If I cannot Gaze at something, anything, then the fault lies not within the Art - it lies within me.