Singin' in the Rain:
seduction

This sequence relies upon what might be characterised as an art of seduction. In seduction several basic properties need to be met and acknowledged and these revolve around a strategy of approaching but not naming that which is being performed. The allure and risk of seduction is this ambiguity around the semiotic status of the event, a pointing to but withdrawal from what is 'intended' and a simultaneous pointing to but concealment of what might be. Hence, just as the sequence represents Don's seduction of Kathy via song and dance, Don's use of cinematic artifice represents another seduction of not only Kathy but of us.

The first level 'seduction' conceals a more substantial frisson that the sequence relies upon, and this operates by virtue of us being placed in a position where we think we understand, and know, the terms of this seduction. To the extent that we recognise this 'setting of the scene' as part of the genre's commonly acknowledged self reflexiveness we believe that, as critical readers, we are in a position of epistemological 'superiority' in relation to the film.

In reading this scene of seduction we have, rather unwittingly, been seduced. This is the readerly seduction by the writerly that Barthes describes in S/Z, and a cinematic example of what Chambers has described in detail in his Story and Situation. The point of this second order seduction is much the same as the point of the film itself, a demonstration of the performative authority of the 'singing' cinema to legitimate itself on its own terms, and in its own terrain.

Through this second order seduction the films generic terms become validated through showing the impossibility of a position 'outside' of the text (as any outside appears to be already acknowledged by the logical terms of the film). This demonstrates how such seductive force approaches (or adopts) the normative - in a significant manner the apparent revealing of the apparatus in this sequence becomes a mise en abyme of cinematic seduction.

In understanding the rules of the game, in showing us the 'truth' about itself, we presume to recognise the terms used, yet in not asking about the presence of the camera or the origin of the music we remain within a critical orbit that the film is in fact providing for us. This is the film's 'proper' seduction, not of Kathy by Don, nor of the audience in the gesture of a reflexive self consciousness, but of providing what appears to be a critical position for the audience only to further legitimate its own generic status by the film-in-itself (film qua film).

Created in 1998 by Adrian Miles, details, republished 2006.