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This article is taken from PN Review 122, Volume 24 Number 6, July - August 1998.

Theory: in Pursuit of Pleasure, or a Night at the Pictures John Needham

Some years ago, when cinema-going was at its nadir, we used to park in a street of shuttered shops, then huddle in the empty expanses of the Hollywood-Egyptian theatre balcony (the stalls had long been abandoned to the mice.) Now we pursue our cinematic pleasures in a 'multiplex' of course - 'Cinema Eight' - reached via a lift from the carpark and a stroll through a shopping-plaza lit by the sort of wattage said to act directly on the wallet. It exerts its most striking effect in the Games Arcade, where the joys of the screen are 'inter-active' - and they clearly go beyond the pleasure-principle; the faces absorbed in feats of electronic destruction look almost as grim as the cartoon alien at the entrance. (Are death and shopping as inseparable as the moralists say? The plaza-girls' 'Shop till you drop' a selfbetraying battle-cry?) And then come the food-bars - Italian, Chinese, Indonesian, Turkish - ranged round a tiled court with rows of tables, an altar-like ATM, and a cascade of gleaming escalators, whence wafts the buttery smell of popcorn from the eight shadow-caves upstairs. The whole place is one of those 'landscapes of popular pleasure' that Stuart Hall thinks the intellectual left must learn to accommodate; a battery of stimuli for human 'desiring machines' and their neural 'pleasure centres', on the anti-Oedipal model conceived by Messieurs Plug-in and Turn-on, aka Deleuze and Guattari.

As for me, queuing now for the early evening show, after a hard ...


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