Montage in the Portrait Film: Where Does the Hidden Time Lie?
Abstract: Since the portrait film eschews biography in favour of the more elusive and emergent dynamics of subjectivity, this article explores the relationship between the off-screen duration of people’s lives and the duration of their on-screen performances of Self. Pedro Costa’s Where Does Your Hidden Smile Lie? (2001) is a feature-length portrait of the filmmakers Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet, set almost entirely within the confines of a film editing suite. Just as Costa’s subjects are trying to reveal a hidden smile through editing, in this article I analyse the hidden time of Straub and Huillet’s professional and personal lives, time that cannot possibly be squeezed into a feature-length film (without recourse to biographical storytelling), but which can nonetheless be read as the very material that fuels the subjects that do emerge in Costa’s portrait. This article advances the idea of a polyvalent montage assembled from multiple modes of duration in particular, and argues that this kind of montage is capable of illuminating the complex trajectory of subjects in time. If the duration of subjects’ lives is largely and necessarily elided from the time and space of the screen, the screen nonetheless remains an interstitial space where such elisions beget new durational possibilities.