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Deleuze’s Ahistorical Conceptualism

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from here.

Part 1 of 13 of my comprehensive note-series on Gilles Deleuze’s Cinema 1: The Movement-Image. Translated by Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1989.


Bibliographic Note: Deleuze, Gilles, Cinema 1: The Movement-Image, trans. by Hugh Tomlinson & Barbara Habberjam (Minneapolis: The Athlone Press, 1986), ix ‚Äď xiv.


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This is my critical summary of the two prefaces and translator’s introduction of Cinema 1: The Movement-Image. This is an exercise in making reflective memos, a tip I got from Raul Pacheco-Vega’s blog.

Preliminary Notes

Before I start to lay down some of my thoughts on three interesting introductory pages that precede the main content of Gilles Deleuze’s Cinema 1: The Movement-Image, let me first provide some context regarding this project. This project has been brewing in my mind since last year. My problem is actually simple to say: how does one crate a provisional link between Deleuze’s Cinema project, which dealt directly with time and movement, and Marx’s concept of time in his books Capital Vol 1 and German Ideology.

In reading side by side Deleuze and Marx, one can potential extract sites of crisis wherein we can enunciate a temporal/durational materialism. This may sound far flung and may perhaps been unoriginal as there might be several isolation of the concept elsewhere in various strands of thinking, but in my attempt, I shall try to bridge Deleuze’s transcendental method with Marx’s dialectical & historical materialist method to arrive at a provisionally new materialism that can materially account for the temporality of cinema, or of matter in general. This project is part of my research for the upcoming conferences I will be attending.

An Ahistorical Accounting of Cinematographic Concepts

In both Deleuze’s Preface for the English Edition and Preface for the French Edition of Cinema 1: The Movement-Image, there is obvious declaration of ahistoricism, a pivotal gesture that opens Deleuze’s two-volume book on cinema. Cinema 1 is about the production of the movement-image, while Cinema 2 is about the production of the time-image. Both of which are separated by ironically a historical juncture: the World War II. One can get easily entangled with Deleuze’s duality. Although Deleuze’s project can qualify as general philosophy, the specificity of Deleuze’s rupture can only be attributed to a cinematic production of continental Europe. Deleuze created a historical juncture between Cinema 1 and Cinema 2 without acknowledging the need to engage with the historical specificifity of his division. In comparison, between Deleuze film-philosophy and the neoformalist and historical poetics project of Bordwell and Thompson, the latter might give a more informative take on the changes of film aesthetics over a period of time albeit their lack of political inattention to issues of image production in general, while Deleuze’s work remains, at best, an attempt at a refusal to engaged in historicity and specificity of the film image.

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From Night and Fog (Alain Resnais / France / 1955)

Since it lacks a historic-material grounding, Deleuze’s historical division between pre-war (WWII) and post-war cinema (WWII) can be reinterpreted as form of aesthico-philosophical categorization to demarcate two modes of Bergsonian temporality responsive of pre-trauma and post-trauma events, or events of absolute deterritorialization (such as the World War) primarily caused by reorganization of ontological, political and cultural landscape.

While this duality provides Deleuze a rupture to rethink cinema in reference to time, it lacks the material anchor for a pure corporeal take on cinematic temporality. For once, Deleuze denies his project as historical one. In the first sentence of his Preface to the English Edition, he wrote: ‚ÄėThis book does not set out to produce a history of the cinema but to isolate certain cinematographic concepts‚Äô (p. ix). In writing this passage, Deleuze draws the line between philosophy and cinema studies, between idealism and materialism, and in the process, proceeds forth with a project that runs the risk of becoming an ahistorical accounting of cinematographic concepts that lead further to a mystification of cinema‚Äôs supposed temporal materiality.

What is a Cinematographic Concept?

He further obfuscates the matter by navigating through a series of categories that further veils cinematic temporality. Cinematographic concept, for Deleuze, is:

  • Non-Technical ‚ÄďDeleuze is not concerned with technical categorization of ‚Äėvarious kinds of shots or the different camera movements.‚Äô (p. ix) This is rather dubious since, at the latter part of the book, he will recast the shot, the cut, the camera movement from a technical vantage point but filtered through Bergsonian terminologies.
  • Non-Critical ‚Äď Deleuze is also not concerned with a critical categorization of cinema in terms of various categories of values available in film studies such as genres, etc. (p. ix) Yet, Deleuze will also mention genre distinctions in some of his subsections. In Chapter 10, he titled a section The Western in Hawks: functionalism/the neo-Western and its type of space (Mann, Peckinpah).
  • Non-Linguistic ‚Äď Nor is Deleuze concerned with the categorization of cinema as a universal language, transmediatic in all aspects (easily translatable from one medium to another).(p. ix)

In a definitive grasp, for Deleuze, a cinematographic concept is attributable to the following characteristics:

  • A Pre-Verbal Intelligible Content (Pure Semiotic) ‚Äď Cinematic images neither reside in language nor in any ‚Äėlinguistically inspired semiology‚Äô. It is, as Deleuze posits, a pre-verbal sign that maintains its intelligible primacy. (p. ix)
  • An Automatic Image of Time (Movement-Image and Time-Image) ‚Äď Deleuze also proffers that the cinematic image is directly or indirectly associated with the image of time.

This leads us to a further qualification of what a cinematographic concept is. From here on, Deleuze struggles to piece together a systematic, albeit limited, ahistorical accounting of what a cinematographic concept is via creating a bifurcation path between movement-image and time image.

From Movement-Image to Time-Image

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From Your Name (Makoto Shinkai / Japan / 2016)

Deleuze’s characterization of the cinematographic concept can be summarily put as his effort to grapple the relation of time and the cinematic image. He returns to Bergson to extract fundamental theses on the components of cinematographic concept. Deleuze seemed to be dissatisfied by how film theorists of his time think about the film image. In the 1970s, there is a strict compulsion of film studies to recast the film image in terms of Lacanian Psychoanalysis, Althusserian Marxism and some strands of Saussurian semiotics. When Deleuze published Cinema 1: The Movement-Image in 1983, it was a pivotal polemic against the dominant strand of film theorizing popular at that time in Europe in similar trajectory that Bordwell and Thompson responded with their neoformalism and historical poetics.

What Deleuze reinjected in film studies is a path-breaking reconsideration of some of the basic tenets of the film image namely the unresolved and often veiled issue of the relation between film image and time and temporality. We can declare Deleuze’s books as the Bergsonian shift of film studies and the inaugural moment of a new inter-disciplinary field of film philosophy. But not much has progressed since this Bergsonian shift in film studies. Deleuze’s publication of the Cinema 1 and Cinema 2 gave rise to multitudes of secondary studies that apply, refute or extend Deleuze’s core theses on the cinematic image or movement. Notable studies such as Massumi’s Parables of the Virtual, Connolly’s Neuropolitics, Zourabichvili’s Deleuze: A Philosophy of the Event, and the works of speculative realists/materialists such as Meillassoux, Brassier, Land and Negarestani have long pushed the theoretical envelope beyond Bergsonian film philosophy into newer realms of ontology and epistemology.

One of the under-researched paths out of Bergsonian film philosophy is the relation of Marx and Deleuze in terms of temporality. There is a thin literature that problematizes this juncture, and in an attempt to reinstate a materialist theory of cinematic image, we go back to Deleuze’s inaugural book, Cinema 1, to retrace the steps and identify sites of contradictions that generate a crisis.

For one, movement-image and time-image are general concepts with sub-components called signs and typically occurs in various tendencies. The difference between movement-image and time-image can be elaborated below:

  • Movement-Image
    • Indirect representation of time
    • Schemata: Time is derived from movement
  • Time-Image
    • Direct image of time
    • Schemata: Movement is derived from time
    • Creates false movements
    • Made possible by War (World War II in particular)
    • Shatters the sensory-motor schema
    • Signifies that a ‚Äėgeneral regime of the image‚Äô has been changed

Deleuze insists that, in terms of value, no hierarchy between time-image and movement-image exists. However, this is contradictory to Deleuze‚Äôs method of choosing his material. He insists that in using filmic masterpieces as exemplary material for enunciating his film philosophy, ‚Äėno hierarchy of values applies.‚Äô (p. x) This is problematic in a sense that in privileging auteurs and masterpieces, a large portion of the optical media will be ignored. In Deleuze‚Äôs time, there is an evident appearance of late capitalism‚Äôs market saturation of surplus image. Deleuze seemingly effaces the notion of canons and other forms of image production in this project rendering this inaugural work as incomplete, a product of idealism, which is evident in Deleuze‚Äôs optimistic remark: ‚ÄėThe cinema is always as perfect as it can be, taking into accounts the images and signs which it invents and which it has at its disposal at a given moment.‚Äô (p. x)

Cinema 1 as a Philosophical Work and a Work of Cinema Studies

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From All that Heaven Allows (Howard Hawks / USA / 1950)

In the Translator’s Introduction to the book written jointly by Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam, we get a clear dispensation of Deleuze’s work. They both argue that Deleuze’s Cinema project is both a work of philosophy and a work of cinema studies, and can be described, at best, as an exemplification of Deleuze’s radical view of philosophy.

For them, Cinema 1 is a work of philosophy along the lines of concept creation. They have highlighted two thinkers that influenced the work: Henri Bergson, whose radical view of the image helped Deleuze in reconceptualising his notion of the filmic image, and Charles Sander Peirce, which provided ‚Äėa powerful typology with which to approach images of types‚Äô (p. xi).

Cinema 1 can also be considered as a work of cinema studies in a sense that Deleuze discuss a large number of image and films, and ‚Äėadvances general views about the ‚Äėtypes‚Äô of films‚Äô (p. xi). Tomlinson and Habberjam are, however, not convinced that Deleuze‚Äôs work produces a new type of film theory, but rather, it is a film philosophy classifiable by the following characteristic. Cinema 1 and 2 as a whole is a work of film philosophy because:

  • Philosophical concepts presented in the work are non-Hegelian dialectical constructs in a sense that they are not a reflection of an external object or reality,
  • Philosophical concepts in the book, in Deleuze‚Äôs purview, are intensities, direct mental impressions, which are impersonal.
  • Philosophical concepts in the book are images of thought.

For Tomlinson and Habberjam, the work is not a film theory for the following reasons:

  • The work particulates a creation and invention of concepts alongside cinema‚Äôs creation of new images.
  • Since film theory is concerned with phenomenological mapping of cinema, Deleuze insists for new method concept creation by way of decoupage (cut-&-paste) by grouping different things, wherein (a) boundaries an undermined and (b) new assemblages are created.

This led the two interlocutors to conclude that the book is an intercutting of cinema and philosophy: ‚ÄėAs such, it brings together a whole range of terms from each sphere, many of which may be unfamiliar to readers more at home in the other‚Äô (p. xii). This shows that the Deleuze‚Äôs Cinema project is far from the materialist paradigm of critique, but an exemplification of what Marx has feared: the return to idealism.

What is lacking in Deleuze‚Äôs project, in this initial reading of its introductory pages, is the engagement and entanglement with the material condition of cinema itself. Although one might argue that this conclusion was activated from a certain ‚Äėbiased‚Äô (if there is such a word?) counter-ideology of Marxism, the necessity of entangling with the material is irrevocably linked to a recognized fact that there are larger forces at work beyond one‚Äôs solipsistic view: a recognition of a reality, a public, outside one‚Äôs subjectivity.

(2,033 words)

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The Male Body According to Pedro Almodovar

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[T]he self which the sexual shatters provides the basis on which sexuality is associated with power. It is possible to think of the sexual as, precisely,¬†moving between a hyperbolic sense of self and a loss of all consciousness of self. But sex as self- hyperbole is perhaps a repression of sex as self- abolition. It¬†inaccurately replicates self- shattering as self- swelling, as psychic tumescence. If, as these words suggest, men are especially apt to ‚Äúchoose‚ÄĚ this version of sexual pleasure, because their sexual equipment appears to invite by analogy, or at least to facilitate, the phallicizing of the ego, neither sex has exclusive rights to the practice of sex as self- hyperbole. For it is perhaps primarily the degeneration of the sexual into a relationship that condemns sexuality to becoming a struggle for power. As soon as persons are posited, the war begins. It¬†is the self that swells with excitement at the idea of being on top, the self that¬†makes of the inevitable play of thrusts and relinquishments in sex an argument for the natural authority of one sex over the other.

Leo Bersani, Is the Rectum a Grave?

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Hauntology #1: Spectacle/Spectrality

excerpt from Ghost Dance (Ken McMullen / UK / 1983)

Also, another excerpt from:

de Baecque, A., Jousse, T., & Kamuf, P. (2015). Cinema and Its Ghosts: An Interview with Jacques Derrida. Discourse, 37(1‚Äď2), 22. https://doi.org/10.13110/discourse.37.1-2.0022

Cahiers du cinéma: In Echographies of Television, you speak directly about cinema. About images more generally, specifically television, but also about cinema with regard to the film in which you had a role. You connect cinema to a particular experience, that of phantomality . . .

Derrida: The cinematic experience belongs thoroughly to spectrality, which I link to all that has been said about the specter in psychoanalysis‚ÄĒor to the very nature of the trace. The specter, which is neither living nor dead, is at the center of certain of my writings, and it‚Äôs in this connection that, for me, a thinking of cinema would perhaps be possible. What‚Äôs more, the links between spectrality and ilmmaking occasion numerous reflections today. Cinema can stage phantomality almost head-on, to be sure, as in a tradition of fantasy film, vampire or ghost films, certain works of Hitchcock . . . This must be distinguished from the thoroughly spectral structure of the cinematic image. Every viewer, while watching a film, is in communication with some work of the unconscious that, by definition, can be compared with the work of haunting, according to Freud. He calls this the experience of what is ‚Äúuncanny‚ÄĚ (unheimlich). Psychoanalysis, psychoanalytic reading, is at home at the movies. First of all, psychoanalysis and filmmaking are really contemporaries; numerous phenomena linked to projection, to spectacle, to the perception of this spectacle, have psychoanalytic equivalents. Walter Benjamin realized this very quickly when he connected almost straightaway the two processes: film analysis and psychoanalysis. Even the seeing and perception of detail in a film are in direct relation with psychoanalytic procedure. Enlargement does not only enlarge; the detail gives access to another scene, a heterogeneous scene. Cinematic perception has no equivalent; it is alone in being able to make one understand through experience what a psychoanalytic practice is: hypnosis, fascination, identification, all these terms and procedures are common to film and to psychoanalysis, and this is the sign of a ‚Äúthinking together‚ÄĚ that seems primordial to me. What‚Äôs more, a screening session or s√©ance is only a little longer than an analytic one. You go to the movies to be analyzed, by letting all the ghosts appear and speak. You can, in an economical way (by comparison with a psychoanalytic s√©ance), let the specters haunt you on the screen.

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Dialectical Materialism (Proletarian TV, 2015)

Notes to come.

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Body Parts #1

BODIES, WORK, CAPITAL
Where are the bodies, anyway? Bodies are Ô¨Ārst of all at work. First of all,
bodies are hard at work. First of all, bodies are going to work, coming home
from work, waiting for rest, taking it and promptly leaving it, and work-
ing, incorporating themselves into merchandise, themselves merchandise,
a work force, nonaccumulable capital, sellable, exhaustible in the market of
accumulated, accumulative capital. Creative techne ¬Į creates bodies for the fac-
tory, shop-Ô¨āoor, construction site, ofÔ¨Āce, partes extra partes combining with
the entire system through Ô¨Āgures and movements, pieces, levers, clutches,
boxes, cutouts, encapsulations, milling, uncoupling, stamping, enslaved sys-
tems, systemic enslaving, stocking, handling, dumping, wrecks, controls,
transports, tires, oils, diodes, universal joints, forks, crankshafts, circuits,
diskettes, telecopies, markers, high temperatures, pulverizings, perforations,
cablings, wirings, bodies wired to nothing but their minted force, to the sur-
plus-value of capital collected and concentrated there.

– Jean-Luc Nancy, p. 109, Corpus (Fordham University Press: 2008)


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Films

God’s Own Country (Francis Lee / UK / 2017)
Your Name (Kimi no Na Wa, Makoto Shinkai / Japan / 2016)
8 1/2 (Federico Fellini / Italy / 1963)
Safe (Todd Haynes / USA / 1995)

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Remain(s) #1

ON REMAIN(S) | WHAT REMAINS 
So no one can live here. Whether dead or alive. It is neither a house nor a burial place. Who contemplates such a structure, who can do so, one wonders. And how can an altar, a habitat, or a burial monument, town planning [urbanisme] or a mausoleum, the family and the State, find their origins there.
 Jacques Derrida, p.3, Glas

 

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Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Martin McDonagh / 2017)
The Killing of the Sacred Deer (Yorgos Lanthimos / 2017)

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January Loot pt. 1: Eagleton, Jameson, Cavell

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This year 2018 will be year of reading. With preparatory literature review for thesis at hand, I am expecting a flood of literature this year. Last year was a slow year for me. I was not rigorous with my reading, although I finished close readings of two books Virilio’s¬†The Open Sky and¬†¬†Giorgio Agamben’s The Open: Man and Animal for a withdrawn article in supposed book publication deal for Edinburgh University Press. I wish I had more time for reading. This section will regularly feature some of my surveys of literature (books/manuscripts/journals), most of which are related to my thesis or studies.

Let me start by announcing a recent book purchase I made just this month from BLINK.PH. The online bookstore BLINK.PH was on clearance sale last January the 1st of 2018 and I made it a point to start a year with a decent book purchase. In my five-day New Year vacation at Bicol, I failed to visit our local bookstore at Sorsogon City, so I had to make sure I buy online.

Recent Book purchase

book grabs from BLINK.PH’s 2018 Clearance Sale

BOOK-TOOLS: On Deleuzo-Guattarian Literature

Somewhere in A Thousand Plateaus, Deleuze and Guattari insisted that a book is a tool. We may never understand fully what they meant by that, but the passage come from the first page of Chapter 1: Rhizome, which says:

‘A book has neither object nor subject; it is made of variously formed¬†matters, and very different dates and speeds. To attribute the book to a subject is to overlook this working of matters, and the exteriority of their relations. It is to fabricate a beneficent God to explain geological movements. In a book, as in all things, there are lines of articulation or segmentarity, strata and territories; but also lines of flight, movements of¬†deterritorialization and destratification.’ (p. 3,¬†A Thousand Plateaus)

By tool, Deleuze and Guattari is posturing that each book is generally a multiplicity and it is necessarily structured in a such a way that it  generates a temporal deviation from the structure of reality. It is, in this sense, a machine for a book opens the open. It acts as a differential machine of the world in the same way how film works to open time from its surrendered status of completion. Time in both book-form and film-form neither announces its completion. A book always approaches a defamaliarized state. Or, in simpler terms, a book in itself is neither complete nor gives one a sense of complete determination. It functions as a tool because it unhinges various determinations of reality and reformulates them in various ways.

To think of books as tools, one must carry out a necessary ontological step of rethinking the act of reading. The act of reading, for a long time, has been related to a branch of philosophy called¬†epistemology – or the branch of knowledge or knowing – that specializes on various ways of knowing the world. Reading is a method of¬†knowing the world. To read in order to know: this mantra solidifies the Platonic metaphor of the sun which romanticizes the epistemological idea of knowledge as illumination, meaning, knowledge can only be rendered intelligible only if it comes from goodness. Goodness here should not taken literally. ‘Goodness’ veils the transparent conditions of the institutional morality.¬†In Deleuze and Guattari’s innovative reversal of this Platonic form of epistemology, knowledge is reinterpreted as a machinic assemblage, which constitute the very act of knowing as connected to the generation of knowledge. In a machinic assemblage, all else is connected by disjunctive synthesis.

A book is an assemblage of this kind, and as such is unattributable. It is a multiplicity-but we don’t know yet what the multiple entails when it is no longer attributed, that is, after it has been elevated to the status of a substantive.¬† (p. 4, A Thousand Plateaus)

The tool-like capacity of the book-assemblage lies it its unattributable multiplicity. The book’s content holds enough potential to reformalize the structure of reality.

Part 1. Eagleton, Jameson, Cavell

Terry EagletonTerry Eagleton’s The¬†Task of a Critic¬†is an essential book to my thesis. My thesis on Lav Diaz will proceed as a critique of long duration, and any resource that has the words¬†critic, criticism, critique¬†is assemblagically connected to my critical posturing towards Lav Diaz. I am not very familiar with Eagleton’s works, except for an interesting essay in Ghostly Demarcations: A Symposium on Jacques Derrida’s Specters of Marx titled ‘Marxism Without Marxism’. Eagleton’s scathing critique of Derrida’s Specters of Marx is quite a satisfying read. It shows Eagleton’s clear commitment to a type of ‘sober’ vanguard Marxism that I am aligned with except, of course, that I come from the context surrounding material productions of postcolonial Philippine culture. Eagleton’s commentary on Derrida’s book goes like this:

Derrida has now taken Marxism on board, or at least dragged it halfway up the gangplank, because he is properly enraged by liberal-capitalist complacency, but there is also something unavoidably opportunist about his political pact, which wants to exploit Marxism as critique, dissent, conveniently belabouring instrument, but is far less willing to engage with its positivity. What he wants, in effect, is a Marxism without Marxism, which is to say a Marxism on his own coolly appropriative terms. 

(p. 86, Ghostly Demarcations)

Like his essay on Specters of Marx, the critical school that Eagleton subscribe to is unforgiving. Yet, among Anglo-Western theorists, Eagleton has a sustained genealogical and reflexive relationship with the idea of criticism. His book The Function of Criticism offers a genealogical study of the European literary criticism. The analysis of historical punctum of critique and criticism is highly important in Marxist studies, in particular, on determining the force and impulse of crisis in relation to critical activity such as writing criticism.

The Task of the Critic¬†offers a similar approach as an assembly of dialogical encounters between Eagleton and¬†Matthew Beaumont. While The Task of Critic is written under the semantic worldview of the literary theory and criticism, Eagleton’s insights is equally applicable to any field including film theory and criticism. Perhaps along the way, in reading Eagleton’s tool-kit book, one will learn to become what he wants us to become: to be modern critics who struggle against the bourgeois state.¬†Fredric Jameson

Fredric Jameson’s Fables of Aggression: Wyndham Lewis, The Modernist as Fascist is one of those books that you cannot just put down. This is a literary critique of Wyndham Lewis’ works. Wyndham Lewis is one of the least known modernist writers in the era when James Joyce and Virginia Woolf conditioned the literary production of the era. Jameson’s book offers a critical outlook of the life and work of Lewis by ‘draw[ing] on the methods of narrative analysis and semiotics, psychoanalysis, and ideological analysis to construct a dynamic model of the contradictions from which Lewis’s incomparable narrative corpus is generated, and of which it offers so many varying symbolic resolutions.’ Jameson’s critical program is conditionally what I intend to deploy for my thesis. However, my study will focus on the critique of cinematic temporality in the cinema of Lav Diaz. This book might come in handy in finding a strategy of unpacking the contradictions in Lav Diaz’s cinema.¬†Stanley Cavell

Another book of interest is Stanley Cavell’s Cities of Words: Pedagogical Letters on a Register of the Moral Life. Stanley Cavell is one of the proponents of film-philosophy. His landmark work¬†The World Viewed: Reflections on the Ontology of Film elucidates a brand of film-philosophical reflection that activates the link between filmic experience with philosophical memory. In a way, what Cavell refers to as an ontology of film is basically linked to a type of experiential ontology spread in the backdrop of the question of modernism. In Cities of Words, Cavell develops a different kind of film-philosophical reflection. In this book, he tries to uncover the link of cinema and philosophy by reading side-by-side philosophers and film. Cavell’s book generally argues that films can create ideal forms of justice, in particular, it can create an image of a Just City.

Cavell’s book can be an important resource to film-philosophical inflected-research as it provides a methodological tool in crossing between film and philosophy.

 

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The Image in Passage

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from Hamman (Nick Collins, 2018)


Passages

Criticism has always been involved with the ancient technique of mimesis Рdescription through the imitation or mirroring.

– Adrian Martin, Incursions, p. 58 of The Language and Style of Film Criticism

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Headlessness

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from Hausu (Nobuhiko Obayashi / Japan / 1977)

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Consultation Notes #1: Nick Deocampo

2017 06 12 - Consulations Notes - Nick

A one-page consultation note during my initial meeting with Filipino film historian Nick Deocampo when I asked him to be reader/critic of my MA thesis on Lav Diaz.

This pretty much gives you a clue about the chaos of the relations going on in my thesis.

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