Disharmonious designs: Colour contrast and curiosity in Jane Campion’s ‘In the Cut’

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by Liz Watkins

An analysis of colour in Jane Campion’s In the Cut (2003) finds that the juxtaposition of red with its complementary colour green maps the visual connections and intercommunications of the female protagonist Frannie Avery and her sister Pauline. The chromatic schema of In the Cut juxtaposes red and green hues in a practice which makes each appear more vivid against its complementary colour.[1] The visual effect of colour contrast inflects the protagonist’s perception of the city as it participates in the organisation of the image composition and highlights minute details that might otherwise remain on the periphery of the frame and narrative. This colour design offers nuance to the film’s imagery beyond its capacity to draw the viewer’s attention to the female body.[2]

Feminist enquiries into cinematic spectatorship have begun to explore the work of theorists such as Merleau-Ponty and Luce Irigaray to question the privileging of a sexualised but disembodied gaze. Merleau-Ponty’s theory of embodied perception traces subjectivity as operative between language, vision, and tactility, suggesting a body that is not a fixed entity or univocal but rather a modality at the nexus of possibilities and general historical experience. In this sense a field of historical and cultural possibilities constitute gender and open ‘the way for a fuller description of sexuality and sexual diversity’.[3] However, Judith Butler suggests that Merleau-Ponty’s articulation of sexuality as a way of ‘embodying a certain relation to the world’ is subtended by a reliance on a heteronormative masculine subjectivity that ‘is characterised by a disembodied gaze which subsequently defines its object as a mere body’.[4] The relational subjectivity of embodied perception belongs to ‘colours and lights through sight, to sounds through hearing, to the body of another through sexuality’[5] but always starts from a body that is seen by the gaze of a masculinist discourse. For Butler this articulation of embodiment ‘constitutes sexuality as a theoretical object’,[6] the terms of which can be read critically in a reflexive practice that leads them to be both historicised and gendered.[7] In this sense sexuality in Merleau-Ponty’s writing ‘becomes a scene of cultural struggle, improvisation, and innovation, a domain in which the intimate and the political converge, and a dramatic opportunity for expression, analysis and change’.[8]

Colour in Campion’s film visualises the allegiance of two sisters in a relationship characterised by the retention and exchange of information. The tension between complementary hues disturbs the legibility of the image. Colour forms both the architecture of an image that can be readily deciphered and its dissolution as it is complicit and disruptive of the organisation of on-screen space, where theories of spectatorship and identification have tended to play out. Theorists such as Vivian Sobchack have explored the work of Merleau-Ponty in the context of the cinematic where consciousness structures meaning in film through moments that are contrary to fiction.[9] Whilst embodied perception is reliant on difference and ‘only colour allows differentiation’,[10] the unifying effect of representation puts these ‘invisible corporeal structures’[11] into language.[12] Where colour contrast deviates from its participation in the function of chromatic design in the visual organisation of image and narrative it can be theorised as a trace of the corporeality of the body in the enunciation of narrative form.[13]

The specificity of a sexually-differentiated body can be traced through Caroline Bainbridge’s insightful reading of Irigaray as she formulates a feminine cinematics that is not simply defined as the repressed or disavowed ‘in culture, language and subjectivity’.[14] The potential of a different relationship between theory and practice indicates a shift in the criteria of film analysis to question the constitution of a legitimate subject position imbricated in social and cultural networks. The modes of spectatorship and identification critiqued by feminist film theory constructs a disembodied image of ‘woman as fantasy [which] therefore depends on a particular economy of vision’.[15] Bainbridge opens a space in which to theorise female sociality, a sorority[16] that moves ‘beyond the restrictive confine of symbolic and cultural practices’.[17] It is in this sense that an attention to the mutability of colour and perception through the work of Merleau-Ponty and Irigaray operates at the intersection of language, tactility, and vision. An analysis of In the Cut finds that colour details instances of perception that are attributed to the two sisters; the film visualises their interactions as they exchange and discuss objects, words, and phrases gathered for a dictionary of slang – also visualising the fragments of paper on which sections of text are noted and recited within a tale of desire, curiosity, sexuality and violence. As a nexus of the viewer’s perception and screened image the mutability of colour as material substrate (of the cinematographic celluloid, emulsion) can disturb the legibility of the image as a socially-invested and so gendered space in which to theorise embodied perception.

For Merleau-Ponty a single alteration in a configuration of cinematographic elements, such as the emergence and dissolve of a figure or image from the photographic ground of the film, occurs through the temporal and spatial arrangements of colour and light and can affect the formation of meaning. The cinematography in Campion’s film plays on the tension between concealment and the desire to know in a narrative and visual analysis[18] that is familiar to the aesthetics of film noir.[19] The use of a specialist lens system which enables the clarity of focus to vary across each image obfuscates details in the field of vision. This visual effect enacts and inflects the female protagonist’s curiosity as it emphasises certain objects and effaces others in a cinematographic practice which suggests the ‘delusion of things not being seen for what they really are’.[20] It is in this sense that In the Cut displaces the role of the male protagonist as primary point of identification in the pursuit and demystification of the woman, whose function is counterbalanced in the devaluation or ‘salvation of the guilty object’ in a dynamic that is characteristic of the narrative of film noir.[21]

In ‘Sexuality and the Field of Vision’ Rose questions the production of the image of woman as flawless – that is, as an illusionary certainty in a system of representation in which men and women take up symbolic positions that are polarised.[22] The economy of vision structures an image of Woman as an archetypal image of desire such as that which can be found in the close-up of the female star in classical cinema. This economy reiterates an imbalance of power in language and discourse that is gendered. In the Cut does not formulate the ideal image of woman, the meaning of which in the film noir of classical narrative cinema is sexual difference, but rather positions the spectator in a mode of looking that emphasises the female protagonist’s curiosity and perception. The mechanisms of voyeurism and the pleasures of scopophilia that are familiar to the detective film persist but they are refigured. Disruptions such as the variations in the clarity of focus which operate at the ‘level of the visual field’ also signal confusion at the ‘level of sexuality’.[23] If the question of sexual difference can be situated between enunciation and a formation of a subject position in the film text then in Campion’s film identity is itself uncertain.[24] The failures of vision to ascertain a meaning that is certain and of not knowing what is seen elicits a sense of anxiety that offers a source of fascination in a film that prioritises the fragility of perception and the physicality of the body.

Campion’s film was developed from Susanna Moore’s 1995 novel of the same title. Both the film and novel are orientated around Frannie Avery’s relationships with a detective, a student, a disillusioned ex-lover, and her sister as they become entwined in a series of murders. Moore’s text associates the colour red with the pressure of touch in the ‘mark, red scratch’[25] that the protagonist leaves on a lover’s skin and of a woman’s ‘neck – rosy, flushed, damp’.[26] However, in its cinematic resolution the association of redness with ‘contact’ emerges into a more complicated schema. The red hues that denote the cluttered space of her apartment form a link to the clothes – a red dress and shoes worn by her sister. Similarly the ‘jade hair pins, coral, pale jade sticks’[27] and the ‘mazes of artificial flowers echoing the petal-filled garden outside’[28] denote the interior of Pauline’s apartment, the ‘other worldly’[29] lighting of the subway, and the green and red dresses worn by Frannie. The film employs a semiotics of colour in which the alignment of red with certain objects (a heart-shaped wreath and ornament, roses, spilt blood) is all the more vivid against the green hues and is orientated toward a cinematic construction of femininity amidst themes of emotion, sexuality, and death.

In the Cut has been documented as marking a malleable process of ‘found images’ and of happenstance in planned shots.[30] This poetic approach is encapsulated in the mobility of the camera and variability of focus that characterise each sequence. The cinematographer Dion Beebe has related a post-production process of colour-timing for this film in which the colour saturation or shadow detail of a single shot could act as a reference point for an entire sequence.[31] Colour is used to attune the viewer’s attention to particular areas of the image. There is a sequence midway through the film where Frannie eludes an anxious ex-lover’s attention as she walks to the subway. Filmed through the layered glazing of train windows the image is obfuscated by objects close to the camera lens; his scarlet clothing is marked against the green tint of fluorescent lighting. The framing shifts from Frannie’s point of view to that of undeclared observer as the camera traces an unsteady movement. Her attention turns to a poem printed on the wall of the train as her mouth traces the shape of each word and the voice-over articulates the written text. The complication of her relationship to language is underscored by close-ups of her writing notes and poetry; elsewhere in the film Detective Malloy’s utterance of the ‘disarticulation’ of a woman’s body is inscribed in sections (‘dis’ ‘articulation’) and in red ink. A close-up reveals the residual marks of handwriting which in turn registers the pressure of touch. The use of the close-up to direct the viewer’s attention to minute details recurs throughout the film. However, areas in which the clarity of the image is diminished through a shift in focus or where details are encompassed in shadow persist. Signification in cinema is founded on ‘sensory castrations’.[32] Uncertainty in the legibility of the image, as what can be interpreted or read of its composition, lends itself to other senses and elicits a sensation of texture in the absence of touch. The articulation of questions of sexual difference in feminist film theory indicates the residual traces of touch and physicality of speech as they intersect with analyses of textual and narrative forms as site to counter the formation of meanings that in classic cinema are dependent on the suppression of the specificity of feminine desire.

A sequence filmed on the subway details Frannie’s perception as she reads and then mis-transcribes a stanza of poetry into a notebook. The repetition of the words printed on the train marks a shift from ‘[t]he still waters of the water under a frond of stars, the still waters of your mouth under a thicket of kisses.’ Her recital of the poem registers in the hushed tones of her voiceover as ‘the still water of your mouth’. The film tracks the complexities of subjectivity in language and perception as images and words are refigured through the protagonist’s curiosity as a mark of her agency in relation to the actions of others. This perpetual questioning of the meanings produced in the symbolic evokes Irigaray’s theorisation of female subjectivity as elusive and remaining ‘elsewhere’ whilst continually shifting through the symbolic inscriptions that produce a socially appropriate type of body.[33] Irigaray indicates the ways in which the structures of language tutor the body and diminish the physicality of speech.

The small variations in the rapidity of sound then run the risk of deforming and blurring language at every instant. If we ply language to laws of similarities cutting it to pieces whose equality of difference we shall be able to evaluate, compare, reproduce…sound will already have lost certain of its properties.[34]

Irigaray describes a feminine subject position that sustains a different relationship to language and which she explores through ‘multiplicities of meanings…not limited to a linear, instrumental syntax’.[35] It is in this sense that the grain of the voice refers to the corporeality of language to be traced through the rhythm and hesitation in speaking and the rasping inhalation and exhalation breath. In Moore’s novel the alliteration of a recurrent phrase ‘the girl with the red hair, the dead red girl’[36] associates the colour red with the physicality of speech in the series of demands that it makes on the body. However, as Stephen Heath notes, the equivalent of the invocatory grain of the voice is lost from the act of looking due to its reliance on distance.[37]

Irigaray’s theorisation of the Lacanian mirror stage gestures toward the ‘forgotten’ primary relation to the maternal. The cultural organisation of the field of vision, in which distance from the maternal body is a requirement of the formation of subjectivity, is imaged through a reflective surface of a mirror.[38] The divisiveness and alienation of this ‘mirror’ and its privileging of the look, Irigaray argues, are not responsive to the materiality of the body:

[i]nvestment in the look is not privileged in women as in men. More than the other senses, the eye objectifies and masters. It sets at a distance, maintains the distance. In our culture, the predominance of the look over smell, taste, touch, hearing has bought an impoverishment of bodily relations. It has contributed to disembodying sexuality. The moment the look dominates, the body loses in materiality.[39]

Subjectivity is structured at the interstices of the symbolic inscriptions of the body which produce it as sexually differentiated; this also includes its psychical projections, whilst the physicality of the body subtends communication at the level of language. Attention to materiality traces those aspects of the body that register in language and the uncertainties of the image to disturb symbolic prohibitions of difference. In the Cut manipulates variations in the clarity of the image: unsteady camera movements and sequences that are screened in slow motion establish the female protagonist’s point of view. This filmmaking practice appears to embody and to make visible the nuance of her perception. It is in such instances that Heath suggests

grain is to be sought somewhere with regard to colour – colour which finally disturbs perspective representation in history of painting, colour which is a factor in ‘the perversion of the sense of sight’, in the ‘blindness’ often noted in hysteria, a shift in the balance of the intensities of the normal state of colour vision.[40]

Although colour operates at the level of design it also registers as a dimension of the materiality of film and so both facilitates and resists the legibility of meaning.

In the Cut invokes sequences of shots that are familiar to classical cinema, such as the use of cross-cutting to establish a conversational space between Frannie and Malloy. However, sequences that are insinuated as Frannie’s perspective are filmed at a disconcerting angle and encounter shifts between distortion and clarity in image resolution that refigures the structures of seeing familiar to classical cinema.[41] Set late at night in a café the fractious questions of lovers deciphering the histories and intentions of each other are underscored by shifts in the colour scheme and clarity of focus that affect the resolution of the image. The sequence cuts between the two characters, each of them seated before a mirror, their reflections remaining slightly out of focus and in less vibrant hues. Intimacy and discord are underscored as the rhythm of the sequence is disrupted: the film cuts to Frannie’s reflection before the lucidity of focus shifts back to find her as source of the reflection, seated next to the mirror. Here it seems curiosity subtends vision and language as a sense of uncertainty disturbs the temporality of their conversation. The amber hues of the café are interspersed with red cups and lampshades which misdirect the viewer’s attention and add to the sense of disorientation. A similar effect inflects the tales that Frannie and Pauline tell of their irresolute investment in various configurations of sexuality, romance, and relationships. As they talk in Pauline’s apartment, the choreographed movements of the two sisters are interwoven with the fluid motion of the camera as it turns through 180˚ amidst disparate sources of lighting which create pools of illumination and shadow.[42] The bevelled edge of an oval mirror refracts an image of the two women in conversation and conveys a sense of subjective perception that is responsive to the filmed environment.

The chromatic design specific to each film text sets up a series of expectations and associations that can be read by the viewer as constituting a system which, for its consistency, does not draw attention to itself as cosmetic. As Frederic Jameson notes, we tend to ‘forget the differences between the various colour systems when we are within any one of them’ so that among the ‘multiple oppositions between the individual colours, something…saps our attention from the strangeness of representationality itself’.[43] However, colour also retains the ability to deviate from this schema. In such moments the legibility of the colour text diminishes but the desire to make sense of it continues. In the Cut utilises walls of a ‘muted tobacco colour’ against which ‘background characters wear deep greens and reds’.[44] In his analysis of a textual system of colour in Two or Three Things I Know About Her (Jean-Luc Godard, 1967) Edward Branigan finds colour and meaning amidst ‘relationships and comparisons, and in this regard its closest analogue may be music…the combination of colours in to what is called “harmony” (pleasure) or “disharmony” is likewise subject to cultural conventions’.[45] The analogy of music has informed colour design in cinema as the composition shifts across the series of still images that constitute a sequence in a film. The formation of meaning as a facet of visual perception relies on differentiation: the juxtaposition of complementary colours plays on perception as each hue appears more vivid in relation to the other. The vibrancy of colour contrasts elicits a luminosity that might otherwise elude visual representation.[46]

There are two sequences in Campion’s film where the tension between red and green constitute the threshold of another environment. The first delineates the russet tones of the basement room in the Red Turtle bar from the transient space of a stairwell which is veiled in green light. The contrasting red and green hues constitute a borderline that makes visible Frannie’s transgression as voyeur in a scene that details oral sex. Her misrecognition of the killer is bound to the duplicitous repetition of a permanent mark inked on his wrist which in turn is hooked around a woman’s neck. The three of spades tattoo can be found on both Malloy and his partner Detective Rodriguez as a symbol that misdirects the female protagonist from recognition of the murderer in a shifting configuration and detritus of close-ups and fragmented shots in which meaning is still sought. Where colour delineates contested space it deviates from its use elsewhere in the film where it calls the viewer’s attention to certain areas of the image. Here, colour embodies a moment that is contrary to the cosmetic and fictive play of chromatic score in the film.

Later in the film as Frannie approaches her sister’s apartment the light reflected from the background of red and green walls diffuses across the muted tone of her beige blouse. The shared knowledge of a key that is concealed but missing from its covert place near the doorway marks a familiar pathway that is already unlocked. In close framing the red and green areas of the image distract from the architecture of the apartment in a disorientating effect: an alteration in the distribution of colour insinuates the threshold as a shift in perception. This deviation in the colour text is integral to the narrative as the harmony and conflict in colour contrast overwhelms the image. Variations in light and shadow demarcate Frannie’s progression through her sister’s home, where at another step the translucent surface of the screen doors turn back and the excess of light envelops the legible details of the image. Sexuality and violence are marked in the symbolic as the colour red is returned to its association with the feminine and the body, to spilled blood amidst Pauline’s dismembered remains. Both sequences sustain an association between the sisters and position Frannie as protagonist in relation to knowledge. The semiotics of the colour red mark the intersection of social inscriptions of the body in a metacinematic discourse that associates femininity, sexuality, and a subtext of violence with the embodied consciousness of the female protagonist. Red appears against swathes of green that are primarily associated with transient spaces of corridors, the subway, doorways, and the fluorescence of lit windows. The harmony and conflict that is to be found in contrasting colours begins to trace the relationship of the female protagonist and her sister.

In his analysis of the dialectic of colour Paul Coates addresses the fluidity of meaning through the combinations and displacements that affect the function of the film’s chromatic score at the level of the film text. The complexities of colour design in specific films are considered and can be extended to engage in more detail with theories of sexual difference. Coates offers insightful comments on the ability of green to ‘insistently shadow its reds’[47] so that invisibility is suggested in the absence of either colour whence the memory of its prior incarnations inflects subsequent encounters. The red-green dialectic in Campion’s film establishes a connection between Frannie and Pauline which extends beyond their visible co-presence. The colour red which demarcates Frannie’s home marks the body of each sister and signals both violence and the instances of perception that – almost too late – enable her to decipher the identity of the killer. In contrast the emerald hues which are aligned with Pauline’s apartment, corridors, and the subway do not simply act as a foil for scarlet but also trace a sororal relationship. For Coates the transition of a colour that is primarily associated with one character onto the body of another, such as the green lighting and accoutrements in Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958) that facilitate Judy’s enactment of her earlier incarnation as ‘Madeleine’, elicits a sense of disappearance through a mnemonic association of a colour contrast that is suggestive of memory.[48] In his reading of Vertigo Coates discerns a design of complementary (red/ green) and supplementary (green/yellow) colours that link the female characters in a scheme that is orientated around the male protagonist. However, In the Cut differs from the colour score of Vertigo as it utilises the resonance of contrasting colours in a series of chromatic associations that play to the harmony and conflict of sorority. For Coates the continued presence of a colour is invocative of absence.[49] The murder of the sister Pauline is signalled by a shift in the figure of colour contrast, as each hue initially appears less vivid; diminished, it traces loss.

The meaning that emerges through the variable configurations of colour contrast can be theorised in terms of harmony and counterpoint.[50] Colour harmony is couched in congruity where the juxtaposition of contrasting colours (red/green, yellow/violet) produces a pleasurable effect. A contrast theory of colour harmony describes the visual effect which incites interpretation in its play on subjective perception.[51] As Adrian Cornwell-Clyne notes, ‘one of the principle pleasures to be derived from colour depends upon the balances to be effected between different colour sensations…two sensations may seem either to conflict with each other or more or less to balance each other’.[52] The chromatic design of In the Cut traces the complexity of perception. The threads of colour associations that can be tracked throughout the film and novel are drawn into combinations of colour harmony whence supplementary meanings emerge through the play of subjective perception. Each colour can also be tracked through a series of other associations which have the potential for instances of counterpoint that sustain an independent register or voice within the chromatic score. The unfolding subtext of colour can constitute counterpoint which subtends the syntax of the narrative. The female protagonist is not situated as the object or image of desire but rather colour is integral to and inflects the desire to know in visual analysis and narrative as she eludes the death anticipated by misrecognition of the murderer.

Toward the end of Moore’s novel references to colour escalate as they register the protagonist’s senses and perception of the violence that envelops her body:  ‘I saw these things very precisely, very exactly, as if their qualities of density and weight and colour would make all the difference to me’.[53] The final paragraph signals a shift from the protagonist’s agency and relationship to language:

[t]here is an essay on the language of the dying. The dying sometimes speak of themselves in the third person. I was not speaking that way. I said: I am bleeding. I am going to bleed to death. And I will be lucky if I die before he returns…. You know, they did not print the whole of…the song in the subway. Only a few lines. But I know the poem. ‘It’s off in the distance. It came into the room. It’s here in the circle.’ I know the poem. She knows the poem.[54]

As Frannie articulates the remembered words the narrating voice alters in the final sentence from the first to third person – a transformation which signals the heroine’s death. Frannie’s voice is displaced from her body as a locus of perception and is returned to the gaze of a masculinist discourse as object.[55] Butler’s comment that Merleau-Ponty’s articulation of embodiment constitutes a theoretical and historicised object that both makes visible and becomes the site of cultural struggle extends to the pathologisation of femininity.[56] The recourse to hysteria in denoting colour as a perversion of sight[57] and the ‘loss of speech’ as ‘the refusal of co-existence’[58] reveal a relationship to the articulations of a historical discourse that is gendered. Embodied perception becomes a contested site of representation. In its filmic resolution this poem is displaced from its summative role and situated at the penultimate stage of the narrative, where colour and distortion emphasise the female protagonist’s perception: the fluorescent subway lighting is interspersed with details highlighted in red, including the spatters of blood printed across the text of the poem.

Campion’s film forms a counterpoint to the novel’s fall into the pathologisation of feminine desire. Whilst the literary text anticipates the harmony and counterpoint of cinematographic colour the articulation of its filmic structure takes on a reflexive form, as Frannie eludes the murderer’s intention to retrace first her own and then her sister’s footsteps through the streets and garden of the opening sequence. Her body, marked by the pressure, touch, and blood of another, forms a chromatic and semantic link to her sister. In its cinematic resolution the association of redness with ‘contact’ emerges into a more complicated schema in which the interplay of harmony and conflict of the sisters’relationship offers a subtext that borders the alignment of sexuality, violence, and the female body as a historicised and gendered cinematic discourse. Colour contrast disturbs the architectural form of image composition and underscores the disorientating effect of variations in clarity of the image which appears out of focus at various points. These effects characterise the female protagonist’s perception and mark a mode of viewing in which she also appears objectified. In the Cut elicits a filmic modality of perception and questioning which remains open to a theory of embodied consciousness as it formulates a mutable subject position which speaks from and of a historical discourse that is gendered.


Liz Watkins is a Lecturer at the University of Leeds. Her research interests include the significance of colour for film theories of subjectivity, perception, and sexual difference. She has published on feminism, film/philosophy, the materiality of film, and archive in parallax, Paragraph, and the British Journal of Cinema and Television. She is co-editor with Simon Brown and Sarah Street of Color and the Moving Image: History, Theory, Aesthetics, Archive (Routledge, 2013) and British Colour Cinema: Practices and Theories (BFI/Palgrave Macmillan, 2013).


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_____. ‘Sexual Difference as a Question of Ethics: Alterities of the Flesh in Irigaray and Merleau-Ponty’ in Feminist interpretations of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, edited by D. Olkowski and G. Weiss. University Park: Pennsylvania State University, 2006, pp. 107-126.

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Merleau-Ponty, M. ‘The Body in its Sexual Being’ in Phenomenology of perception, translated by C. Smith. London-New York: Routledge, 1999 (orig. in 1962).

_____. ‘Cézanne’s Doubt’ in Maurice Merleau-Ponty: Key writings, edited by T. Baldwin. London: Routledge, 2004, pp. 272-290.

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_____. Carnal thoughts: Embodiment and moving image culture. Berkeley-Los Angeles-London: University of California Press, 2004.

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[1] Merleau-Ponty 1945.

[2] Higgins 2007. The organisation of colour design around the female star is a practice familiar to the Technicolor designs of classical narrative cinema. Between 1935 and the mid-1950s Technicolor advocated a colour design to support the development of their three-strip colour process. Technicolor design was intended to establish colour as an integral aspect of narrative cinema rather than a potential and expensive option. A chromatic score of colour highlights (reds, yellows) were set against the muted tones (browns, greys) of the background and tended to be orientated around the female star positioning her as focus of the viewer’s perception.

[3] Butler 1989 (orig. in 1981), p. 85.

[4] Ibid., p. 86.

[5] Merleau-Ponty 1999 (orig. in 1962), p. 160.

[6] Butler 1989 (orig. in 1981), pp. 98-99.

[7] Butler (2006) suggests that Irigaray’s writing-through of Merleau-Ponty’s ‘The Intertwining – The Chiasm’ (1968) enacts his theory of the flesh but that her questioning and his open ended text, like the semantic difference of the grammatical reflection of a chiasm, leaves the work open to difference and enables Irigaray to move her own project on the specificity of feminine desire forward.

[8] Butler 1989 (orig. in 1981), pp. 98-99.

[9] Sobchack 1992; 2004.

[10] Olkowski 2006, p. 11; Fielding 2006, p. 84.

[11] Olkowski 2006, p. 10.

[12] Sobchack’s work (1992; 2004) has informed the impetus of this essay; however, it has yet to take up an extended analysis of Merleau-Ponty’s writing on colour and sexuality in cinema. This analysis of In the Cut turns to the work of Irigaray for her thinking on feminine desire and a critique of Merleau-Ponty’s reliance on analogies of the maternal without directly addressing the specificity of female sexuality.

[13] Marks (2000) sets her project around intercultural cinema and video as non-linguistic forms, preferring the concept of a semiotic spill-over that shares a greater proximity to the formation of meaning through sensuous perceptions. Film is theorised as a membrane that ‘brings its audience into contact with the material forms of memory’ and yet does not extensively address issues surrounding sexual difference.

[14] Bainbridge 2008, p. 2.

[15] Rose 2005 (orig. in 1986), pp. 225-233; 232.

[16] Irigaray 2008, p. 137.

[17] Bainbridge 2008, p. 5. Bolton (2011) takes up the work of Irigaray as she seeks to theorise the consciousness of her female protagonists as their ‘inner lives, their thoughts, desires, fears and emotions’ rather than thinking about subjectivity in terms of Althusser or Foucault (Bolton 2011, p. 3). Bolton’s reading of In the Cut differs from the focus on the female protagonist’s relationship to knowledge that this essay addresses as a dimension of a sororal relationship.

[18] De Lauretis 1984, pp. 103-105.

[19] Calhoun 2003; Park & Dietrich 2005.

[20] Press 2003.

[21] Mulvey 1989 (orig. in 1975), p. 21.

[22] Rose 2005 (orig. in 1986), p. 332.

[23] Ibid., p. 226.

[24] Ibid., pp. 226-228.

[25] Moore 1999 (orig. in 1995), p. 85.

[26] Ibid., p. 62.

[27] Ibid., p. 16.

[28] Park & Dietrich 2005.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Interview with Jane Campion, Mark Ruffalo, and Meg Ryan, Film 2003, BBC1, 28 October 2003.

[31] Borosh 2003.

[32] Comolli 1980, p. 132.

[33] Irigaray 1996 (orig. in 1977), p. 152.

[34] Ibid., p. 112.

[35] Kuhn 1982, p. 11.

[36] Moore 1999 (orig. in 1995), p. 86.

[37] Heath 1978.

[38] Lacan 1997,  pp. 1-7.

[39] Irigaray 1978, p. 50. Heath 1978 cites an interview with Irigaray printed in Les Femmes, La pornographie, L’erotisime, ed. M. F. Hans and G. LaPouge (Paris, 1978), p. 50.

[40] Heath 1978 cites JM Charcot, Leçons sur les maladies du système nerveux, Oeuvres Complètes, vI Paris 1886, pp. 427-434.

[41] Benson via Rogers 2003.

[42] Calhoun 2003.

[43] Jameson 2007 (orig. in 1986), pp. 263-264.

[44] Rogers 2003.

[45] Branigan 2006 (orig. in 1976), p. 170.

[46] Merleau-Ponty 2004, p. 275.

[47] Coates 2010, p. 99.

[48] Ibid., p. 93.

[49] Ibid.

[50] Harmony evokes the coincidence of notes which counterpoint can underscore or resist. Whilst harmonies can be anticipated of a written score their perception relies on the variations of resonance in music. Counterpoint infiltrates such orchestration as it underscores or belies musical progression. The ‘tension-relaxation’ principle operative in counterpoint sustains the listener’s attention so that ‘cessation in intrigue’ that it previously facilitated can become a point of intrigue in itself (Toch 1977 [orig. in 1948], pp. 138-139). The perception of colour demands differentiation. Harmonious assemblages of supplementary colours or a colour contrast can be traced through the spatial and temporal progression of the film and offers a register in which to theorise difference.

[51] Gage 2002 (orig. in 1999), pp. 197-198 refers to Cheveraul’s colour contrast theory in which hues on opposite sides of the colour circle can be juxtaposed to incite the perception of another colour rather than what can be seen of either when viewed in a different context. For example, scarlet and emerald appear different when placed next to each other than if scarlet is set in relation to a secondary yellow hue.

[52] Cornwell-Clyne 1951, p. 645.

[53] Moore 1999 (orig. in 1995), p. 173.

[54] Ibid., pp. 179-180.

[55] Butler 1989 (orig. in 1981), p. 86.

[56] Ibid., pp. 98-99.

[57] Heath 1978, p. 84.

[58] Merelau-Ponty 1999 (orig. in 1962), p. 160.