From the inception of the film medium, philosophy and film theory have attempted to articulate the nature and possibilities of this medium. They have addressed how film is similar and different to other arts, and how it appropriates elements from those arts (painting, opera, photography, theater) in dazzling new ways. A wide variety of writings have tried to fathom film’s immediate popularity and its social forces (actual and potential). They have interrogated the way film frames women, passes on and creates stereotypes, fancifies the world in problematical ways. The faces of Garbo, Chaplin, Cary Grant are utterly familiar, but also exist in a netherworld. The attempt to find the best words to describe the ontological (and phenomenal) character of these faces in films has partly eluded a century of the most sophisticated film theory. Since there is no form of art and communication more central to contemporary life than film (more crucial to the fabric of our beliefs, ideologies, enjoyment, politics, advertisements) these questions have been posed with considerable urgency throughout film history.
Such reflections have not been restricted to writing about film. Film has also, from the beginning, been actively involved in its own investigation, just as it has been actively involved in innovation in the film medium. Film’s own involvement in philosophical reflection upon itself raises the question of what it means for a visual medium to “speak philosophically” about itself at all, indeed to what it means for a visual medium to “speak” at all.
Another kind of question that will run throughout is where philosophy ends and film theory begins, whether these terms are interchangeable or not, and if not, why not.
It is these and other questions, posed by philosophy, criticism, sociology, politics, and also by film itself, which shall occupy the class. The class will be designed to integrate the weekly viewing of films with the reading of a variety of writings on film in order to explore questions in the philosophy of film, and in philosophy generally.