SCREENING: The Reflexive Gaze

As Lucienne attracts the public gaze, she notices her own appearance more readily and, as a result, her gaze is drawn away from André. While, yes, the public gaze objectifies her, it is also liberating. It allows her to break free from Andre’s narrow viewpoints, his jealousies and his cage-like philosophy of what is a proper role for a woman. At the same time, while André loses her gaze, he gains the public’s negative gaze, which looks onto him recognizing that he is an overprotective boyfriend. The gaze and the foreshadowing of its future progression are introduced to us in the beginning of the film when Lucienne is dancing by the pool. A crowd of men looks onto her and admires her physique. Upon noticing this development, André reprimands Lucienne and thus attracts the men’s gaze unto him. They note he is “jealous.” The gaze’s negative transference onto André allows Lucienne to retrospectively look back upon what she was doing and how she must have appeared from the men’s perspective, making her want to take on their point of view. Later, Lucienne and André go to a fair, and André performs a weight-throwing game in front of a crow while Lucienne looks on indifferently. André prefers this relationship: to be looked upon by his girlfriend in front of the whole world, but to not have anyone notice her attractiveness. A similar scene takes place in the end of the film in their dining room. André and Lucienne eat and face each other. André decides to relent and give Lucienne her fan mail and, upon doing so, the fan mail steals Lucienne’s look away from him and directs it downwards at the photos she is signing.  This is troubling for André because Luciene is looking at photos of herself and is gaining too great a degree of self-recognition. She is beautiful and is able to see she is beautiful. It reminds André of the self-recognition she gained as Miss Europe. On the way to the beauty contest and upon arriving, she was the figure who was not only surrounded by the crowd and looked at, but was the one looking back onto the crowd, glorifying their gazes with smiles and turns. So what are the ramifications of Lucienne’s gaze back onto herself? For one, as mentioned, it liberates her, helping her recognize her beauty. But secondly, it exemplifies and embodies the America’s public’s desire to be movie star. The American public, and especially women, wanted to be watching themselves on screen as Lucienne does in the end of the film. A third point which is more difficult to prove without the help Hastie’s article, is that Louise Brooks was not only aware of her star persona, but manipulated it to her own desire and pleasure. In the film, Lucienne’s character has a more demure relationship with her screen image; she does not play around with her sexuality to the same degree, but she still analyzes her own image so she can modify it and adjust it within the public’s gaze.