The Cinema of the Real

Expected to ship: 2024-11-01

Alters the landscape of Lacanian film theory by revealing an “emancipatory drive” in transnational cinema.


A significant intervention into Lacanian film studies, this book sets forth a new theory of the psychoanalytic Real in cinema. In psychoanalysis, the Real ruptures the Symbolic that organizes law, ideology, and other systems of belief, revealing fissures in this underlying order. The Cinema of the Real explores how transnational cinema and especially South Korean cinema facilitate an encounter with the Real, enabling the emergence of a new political subject. Paying close attention to form, Hyon Joo Yoo reveals the existence of an "emancipatory drive" in films by Jang Hun, Park Chan-wook, Lee Chang-dong, Jia Zhangke, Michael Haneke, Claire Denis, and Bong Joon-ho, among others. Their work in effect provides viewers with a picture of how it looks and feels to be on a trajectory in which the subject and her world can change. Far from being a passive consumer of images, Yoo's spectator enters the space of the Real. Theoretically rigorous and inventive, The Cinema of the Real offers new, transnationally attuned tools for conceptualizing the body, affect, femininity, and spectatorship, as well as fresh readings of both classic and contemporary films.

Hyon Joo YooCinema at the Crossroads: Nation and the Subject in East Asian Cinema and the editor of South Koran Film, a three-volume reference collection.


"The Cinema of the Real offers a compelling account of how cinema can play an emancipatory role for spectators. Its key theoretical intervention is original and wide-reaching: Yoo develops a framework for bridging diegetic irruptions of the Real on screen and viewers' experience of an encounter with the Real. Most striking is the book's grounding in a powerful transnational approach, which highlights the relationship of psychic and cinematic structures to historical and geographic sites of trauma. Yoo's masterful, close readings of a range of films are remarkable both for their riveting analyses and their ability to elucidate key conceptual claims." — Jennifer Friedlander, author of Real Deceptions: The Contemporary Reinvention of Realism