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PostPosted: Wed Sep 04, 2013 10:20 pm 
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Nanook seems like a classic case for documentary ethics, given how much of it was staged (and not necessarily behavior that anyone engaged in at the time of filming), though I suppose you could go for something poppier like a Michael Moore movie. Though I think if I had free reign to plan a curriculum I would do something like assigning Robin Wood's Hollywood from Vietnam to Reagan and then cover the movies he's quoting- you wind up with fairly easy to watch films and really deep and interesting analysis that way, though the analysis is much more thematic than formal.


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 04, 2013 10:38 pm 
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I've thought for a long time that teaching a unit along the lines of Wood's chapter on "teen movies" would be a total blast to do. Both trying to get the students to look at the ilk of Bring It On and American Pie in ways they hadn't done before and also having them watch a couple of the really obscure teen-group films like a few that Wood wrote about, and in all likelihood talking about the ways they think the films may be total crap. And of course any "theory" about film that's worth anything should apply to films like these that "respectable" film critics wouldn't be inclined to touch with the proverbial pole except out of a priori disdain.


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 05, 2013 12:13 am 
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matrixschmatrix wrote:
Nanook seems like a classic case for documentary ethics, given how much of it was staged (and not necessarily behavior that anyone engaged in at the time of filming), though I suppose you could go for something poppier like a Michael Moore movie.

I think Nanook is an especially problematic case, as it predates any conception of 'documentary film' and therefore any ethical concepts that might be ascribed to the form. In my opinion, Flaherty never really worked in pure documentary forms: all the features are hybrids of actuality footage and scripted / staged narrative, and he can't really be criticized for failing to adhere to the rules of a form that was invented subsequent to establishing his own form of 'Flaherty film'. But there are plenty of modern examples of docs that bulldoze right through various aspects of "documentary ethics," and it's a good topic for generating discussion!


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 05, 2013 12:28 am 
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I think it's sort of fascinating as a foundational text of the documentary genre which nonetheless violates a lot of the rules ascribed to the genre- certainly, I don't think that's anything that ought to be held against it, but I think it makes sense to start a discussion of what a documentary is or should be with it. Perhaps a double feature with a direct cinema film, which could lead to a discussion of how the narratives are shaped and a particular image of a person or people can be created through the form?


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 05, 2013 2:07 am 
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bamwc2 wrote:
knives wrote:
Deleuze's two Cinema books strike me as essential if you're willing to go in the deep end.

Thanks. I'll definitely check them out. I'd love to include an anthology. I'd also be interested in hearing recommendations for films that forum members think might go well with certain topics (i.e. realism v. formalism, emotional responses to cinema, documentary ethics, etc.).

Delueze, as the subtitles of the book suggest, are mostly about time and space but a subset of that is talking about realism and formalism in addition to politics is that's a concern. Also I don't know how much of Alexander Kluge has been translated to english, but what I've read would certainly work.


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 05, 2013 7:46 pm 
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Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 6:05 pm
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I second many of the suggestions already mentioned, but you may want to widen the concept of philosophy a bit. Much of the 'film and philosophy' discourse is pretty bad. Often philosophers will simply restate a film's plot in philosophical terms in order for these films to serve as parables for greater philosophical arguments. Or, you get somewhat bland overviews like Carroll's or Gaut's monographs on the philosophy of film.

It might then be more interesting to also consider consider Richard Allen's work on the the concept of cinematic illusion, Murray Smith's work on character identification, and Carl Plantinga's dealings with cinema and emotion. Those at least treat cinema as the object of study, as opposed to someone like Deleuze who uses cinema to exemplify Bergsonian understandings of movement and time (and who's conception of cinema is really no more advanced than a long blog entry on his favorite directors that uses obfuscatory language).

Lastly, you might also like some of the essays by Aaron Smuts. He was a student of Carroll's and has become a bit of a rising star in the fields of ethics and aesthetics. I think he has several essays out now on the ethics of offensive humor and depictions of tragedy in the cinema, and I remember these being quite good.


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 05, 2013 9:49 pm 
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I'd add the work of D.N. Rodowick - particularly his essay "Deconstruction and Formalism" and his book Virtual Life of Film. He recently wrote an essay titled "An Elegy for Theory" which he is expanding into a book (of the same title) to be published this year. He's one of the first scholars who comes up when I think of film philosophy, and follows in the wake of Deleuze (has even written a book or two about Deleuze, and might be an inroad into some of the more difficult stuff there).


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 05, 2013 10:23 pm 
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Joined: Thu Dec 09, 2004 1:55 am
Location: New Avalon KY
Related to the earlier discussion of Zizek's film theory, Matthew Flisfeder has come to our rescue.


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 06, 2013 7:51 pm 

Joined: Mon Jun 02, 2008 11:54 am
justeleblanc wrote:
I second many of the suggestions already mentioned, but you may want to widen the concept of philosophy a bit. Much of the 'film and philosophy' discourse is pretty bad. Often philosophers will simply restate a film's plot in philosophical terms in order for these films to serve as parables for greater philosophical arguments.

This is exactly what I would like to avoid. I've once taught a philosophy through film course, and while I think that it is generally helpful approach for introductory students, that hardly seems like an appropriate topic for a required film minor course.

justeleblanc wrote:
Or, you get somewhat bland overviews like Carroll's or Gaut's monographs on the philosophy of film.

I can't speak for Gaut, but I started an essay today analyzing Carroll's overall project of rejecting and replacing "The Grand Picture", and I must say that it sounds very much in line with my background in the discipline. I'll hold off judgment until I read his '88 book, but I like what I've heard so far.


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 08, 2013 1:46 am 
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This is one of the more funny, entertaining things I've come across in a while.


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 08, 2013 2:51 am 
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bamwc2 wrote:
justeleblanc wrote:
Or, you get somewhat bland overviews like Carroll's or Gaut's monographs on the philosophy of film.

I can't speak for Gaut, but I started an essay today analyzing Carroll's overall project of rejecting and replacing "The Grand Picture", and I must say that it sounds very much in line with my background in the discipline. I'll hold off judgment until I read his '88 book, but I like what I've heard so far.

I was speaking about Carroll's more recent "Philosophy of Motion Pictures," which is not very good, nor is it representative of his work. His "Mystifying Movies," "Theorizing the Moving Image" and "Engaging the Moving Image" are much better, though I don't really see them as works of film philosophy as much as they are criticisms of the field's Grand Theories. I've kind of grown a bit tired of his shtick since he seems to think that you can solve all the questions of film studies (theoretical and historical) through logic alone. I'm sympathetic to analytic philosophy but his stance can maybe represent a weakness within the tradition.

I don't know if this has been mentioned yet, but Murray Smith and Richard Allen edited a mid-90s anthology called "Film Theory and Philosophy" which is probably the best statement on film theory from the analytic tradition of philosophy. Carroll's essay on non-fiction cinema is featured in there, and it is easily one of his better works of film philosophy. And two other books you might want to look at: Edward Branigan's "Projecting a Camera" and Alain Badiou's recently translated essays on film, simply titled "Cinema."


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