Monday, 2 April 2012

What is cinephilia?

My second example comes from Laura Mulvey’s famous 1975 essay “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema,” which remains one of the primary targets for attacks on “Screen theory”. Perhaps the most infamous statement in her essay is the following: “It is said that analyzing pleasure, or beauty, destroys it. That is the intention of this article.” Theory was to be a “weapon” against the pleasure derived from classical Hollywood films, which is to say the privileged object of cinephilia. But it is important to remember that Mulvey had never attended graduate school and was not an academic, nor was she anti-cinema or criticism; she was writing as a critic and filmmaker who was demanding a new kind of cinema and correspondingly a “new language of desire.” She explicitly rejects “intellectualized unpleasure” as a false alternative to classical Hollywood narrative—which hasn’t stopped that position from being attributed to her with stunning regularity—but she believes the negation of a certain unexamined pleasure was necessary for the invention of new forms of critical filmmaking and spectatorship that in turn would produce new kinds of pleasures.
One of the founding gestures of Seventies film theory was the renunciation of cinephilia on behalf of a new kind of political cinema. As Serge Daney put it, for Jean-Luc Godard after ’68, the cinema became a “bad place” and it had to become a school that taught how to leave the cinema. In 1959, “tracking shots,” according to Godard, were “moral questions,” but after ’68 they became political ones.

They claim that the function of criticism is not primarily about checking off likes or dislikes or creating a hierarchy of tastes but, as Fujiwara puts it, “to respond to what is open, troubling, or self-contradictory in a film, to show why things in it that may not even be immediately noticeable are deeply interesting, to reinvent it.” Here Fujiwara touches on a point emphasized by another contributor, Adrian Martin, that criticism is (or can be or should be) a creative act.
Criticism must always involve more than description, more than merely deferring all authority to the work itself—a position that if taken to its logical limit cancels out the need for criticism in the first place.
As Arnheim’s colleague and contemporary Siegfried Kracauer put it, ‘the good film critic is only conceivable as a critic of society.’ (Now of course the reverse is also true.)” Or as Adorno claimed: “The aesthetics of film is ... inherently concerned with society. There can be no aesthetics of the cinema, not even a purely technological one, which would not include the sociology of the cinema.”

I don’t think it casts a shadow on the word “cinephilia” to suggest that it has tended to imply a movie love that is somehow cultish—a degree of projection, faith, even perversion that shouldn’t have to be disavowed. Even if we reject essentialism and recognize that cinema, as Bazin claimed, is “impure,” one still needs to account for the specificity of its impurity that allowed for such devotion among its followers. Impurity might be understood not only in Bazin’s sense—which was that cinema can incorporate and serve the other arts—but also in a more anthropological sense: that cinema is somehow a space open to contamination, a peculiar mixture of private and public, art and non-art, in which bodies in the dark are transported to other worlds.
(...)as Mulvey stressed, that the specific pleasures of Hitchcock’s films are allied with the way he touches on the imbrication of guilt and the voyeuristic and fetishistic fantasies aroused by cinema.
Today, the negative stereotype of the cinephile is no longer someone trying to escape adulthood, but rather the elitist snob. Cinephilia had never been about restricting oneself to recognizable works of artistic seriousness but rather, to borrow a word from Agnès Varda, “gleaning”—salvaging obscure objects of desire that may go otherwise unrecognized in what respectable people call trash.
Meanwhile, theory (often quite “Grand” in Mills’s sense) is alive and well today in the academy, but the trend´is toward focusing on bodies, sensations, genes, or neurons, and not broader social forces. In this climate, the critical distance advocated by Seventies film theory, as well as other forms of political interpretation, are increasingly seen as suspect.
Critical distance rings false when everyone is thought to be hypercritical and linked in. Gone is the model of the cinephile, or cultural consumer more generally, as “passive.” Sarris relished a sense of passivity, Sontag longed to be “kidnapped,” Pauline Kael “lost it at the movies.” Again Kois serves as a telling representative of the current moment when he tells us that his “default mode of interaction with images [is] intense, rapid-fire decoding of text, subtext, metatext and hypertext.”
(..) what Jacques Rancière calls in a new book la politique de l’amateur. La politique de l’amateur means challenging the assumptions contained in hierarchies of taste or what counts as legitimate knowledge. It means breaking down the strict divisions that separate filmmakers, critics, theorists, and cinephiles It embraces what is made possible by the Internet at its best: when the anonymous capacity of anyone to have her say leads to creative encounters with words and images disengaged from their association with recognized authority.
According to Rancière, knowledge of the world we call cinema is always changing and always contested and belongs to anyone who takes it as a site to forge her own path.

Uma série de artigos cujas posições apresentadas podem levantar alguma discórdia em alguns aspectos (como eu senti) mas, definitivamente, muito interessantes de ler.

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