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Rites of Love and Math, a movie by Reine Graves and Edward Frenkel

 

Rites of Love and Math is the first movie co-directed, with Reine Graves, and acted by mathematician Edward Frenkel, the first laureate of the Foundation's Research Chair in 2008.

The film, a short movie of around thirty minutes, is an ambitious tribute to Yukio Mishima's Yukoku. It gives a romantic and unusual vision of a mathematician.

 

Projections

The premiere of the film took place at Max Linder Panorama theater (24 bd Poissoniere, Paris 9e) on Wednesday, April 14

A second projection took place on Sunday may 2nd at Le Balzac theater (1 rue Balzac, Paris 8e).  

Rites of Love and Math will also be projected to end the conference Symmetry, Duality and Cinema on thursday june 17th 2010 at the Amphithéâtre Hermite of the IHP, 11 rue Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris 5e. Contact and inscriptions to this projection:  fsmp@ihp.jussieu.fr

 

To read more about the movie

All details about the movie Rites of Love and Math are available on the Web site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1530994/ and on the film's Facebook page (clic here)

 

Rites of Love and Math in the medias

Articles about Rites of Love and Math have been published in the american web magazines Huffington Post, New Scientist and the italian OggiScienza.

The film's projections were previously advertized in french magazines Tangente and Le Monde 2.

 

Jacques Henric's introduction to Rites of Love and Math

Jacques Henric, critic, essayist and litterature journalist for Art Press review, accepted to introduce the film Rites of Love and Math:

 

"Is there a mathematical formula of love without death?

 

There is an old story which we are told over and over in the literature and the arts: that of a union between Eros and Thanatos. In Western culture, Homer has given it the point of departure, the great Greek theater took it to the next level, and Christianity brought its personal touch to this omnipresent concept of life. The author of Tristan and Isolde told us from the outset that it was a beautiful “story of love and death” that he was giving to all of us.

The Orient, the Middle and Far East, has never been particularly willing to celebrate the inescapable link between love and death. But Japan was the exception to the rule. One could deal with the issue in a long-winded tedious way, or one could go straight to the heart. This is what Mishima has done in his film Rite of Love and Death. In just thirty minutes of the filmed spectacle the essential has been said.

There is also a lesser tradition in literature, philosophy and morals, which strives to ease and even bluntly cut the link between Eros and Thanatos. In the course of the XVIII century, French Libertines followed it, but in the XIX century, with the advent of Romantism, “love to death” came back into fashion, and the past century (not to mention the current one) did nothing to liberate itself from the influence of this ideology and this moral philosophy. In Japan, on the other hand, a deep-rooted tradition, close in spirit to that of French Libertines, has nourished a grand and steady literary current as well as an essential trend in painting striving to produce the most beautiful images. One can see this attitude, both ethical and aesthetic, in the Japanese term ukiyo, which means a certain ideal of gallantry, as evidenced by the existence of geishas and the narratives in which they are the heroines (this invokes the erotic prints of Hokusai and Utamaro or the photographs of Araki which are their kitchy continuation, notably the series Tokyo lucky hole and its “Polamandala” -- according to Erotism of classical Japan by Alain Walter).

However, Mishima did not belong to this culture of pleasure. The psychoanalyst Catherine Millot has defined the concept of love and sex as “erotism of grief.” Mishima’s superb film illustrates in a radical fashion a certain impossibility of sexual possession; more precisely, what Lacan calls the sexual non-relation (not the act, but the non-relation -- what a mathematician would mean by this logical term). This does not prevent, as demonstrated in the film, the suicide from occurring as the result of sexual exaltation. The non-relation manifests itself rather by the fact that, according to Mishima, orgasm (juissance) is the noble pathway to what psychoanalysts call “castration complex,” and the final scene of seppuku is to be viewed as the “passage to the act,” the disembowelment evoking in truth a real castration in front of a woman. “There existed in me a certain pure and simple split between the spirit and the flesh,” wrote Mishima as the narrator of Confessions of a mask.

What has motivated Edward Frenkel and Reine Graves to make their film Rites of Love and Math? Is it to drive not just the nail, but the knife, if one may say so, between spirit and flesh, or is it to finally reconcile them? Without a doubt, they first had to revisit the film of Mishima in its continuity and get as close as possible to its formal beauty. But how can they, at the end of the day, create a distance from its mortified theme? In the film that they envisioned, the central character is not a military man but a mathematician. He fights not for honor, but, like his ancestors in science and philosophy, for truth. So here is the question, philosophical, religious, political, moral: should one sacrifice himself and die for the truth?

Yes, said Socrates, Giordano Bruno, Michel Servet…, and all scholars and thinkers who did not compromise with the truth and preferred death to disowning it. No, said the philosopher Kierkegaard.

Let’s see what the response is of Reine Graves, the author of several avant-garde films, not very politically correct, which have won prestigious awards (Pasolini Prize for Je vous salue Judas and Henri Langlois Prize for Contrast) and Edward Frenkel, Professor of Mathematics at University of California at Berkeley and brilliant mathematician (among his numerous honors are Hermann Weyl Prize and Chaire d’Excellence from Fondation Sciences Mathematiques de Paris), who has always had the ambition to track down the absolute truth. How do they respond to this crucial question in their film Rites of Love and Math