What is Cinephilosophy? A Bazinian Paradigm, Part 2
~ André Bazin or, the Cinephilosophical Heritage of Film Studies ~
The first point to emphasize is that though cinephilia is understood to be produced by the unique historical experience of the spectator, that experience is not taken to be a domain that anyone has direct access to; it is, on the contrary, something that always dispossesses us of the knowledge we have, the world we (really) love transforming the world we (think we) know.  Thus in Weil’s experiment we began with a husband secure in his web of expectations and provided him with an experience that ruptured that web. An off-screen reality that he has no prior inkling of shimmers through the scene and reveals his world-view to be inadequate, while the scene itself is experienced as an excess beyond his capacities of representation. The truth of the encounter –its beautiful and productive enigma– does not reside in the specific details in front of him (which may be as ugly as a pile of cigarette butts) but in the dislocation of his entire life, the fact that his understandings of the past and hopes for the future are now put in question. This truth is not a proposition or fact but the effect of a living contradiction, something that makes his discursive grasp on experience unstable and fluid, something that raises certain questions and makes them explicit. The abstract simplicity of Weil’s experiment allows us to infer that this experience of truth is produced at each moment by the husband’s consistent, contradiction-accepting love for his wife, the faculty which accepts the unique contingency of her existence as prior to or greater than any knowledge he might have of her. Beneath whatever intentional activities he may be engaged in (“conceiving, wishing, longing”) one posits an act of attention that simply looks upon the beings he loves, producing thereby an unpredictable series of beautiful effects: before he knows what is happening, his love lifts and holds the “irreducible” contradictions in his life up for reflection. 
Having posited this erotic-ethical act of attention as a prerequisite for philosophy’s radical disturbance, it is crucial to recognize the epistemological limit in the inference; though we infer a network of loved beings to provide the motive for reflection, this network cannot itself be the object of reflection.  One never knows what one loves because one can never fathom the quality of one’s own intentions. For example, you might be in love with Jean Arthur’s voice and indifferent to your grandmother, yet think you love your grandmother while being cynical and dismissive towards Jean Arthur.  In the through-a-glass-darkly world of ordinary experience we live such contradictions more-or-less unconsciously because we lack the detachment to recognize them as such (i.e. because we are attached to the partial conceptions of things put forth in our existing knowledge). By bringing us face-to-face with contradictions in our experience and posing them as questions, philosophy produces a fundamental re-organization of that knowledge, “a change in level” in which the world we know disappears and another takes its place: our existing knowledge gives way to an unstable flux, this flux gives way to the discursive issues of philosophical reflection and, when we “return” from that reflection, we find that the world of objects given in our knowledge has been transformed.  Thus though Weil’s anecdote was useful to isolate the root of aesthetic experience in the specifics of human desire, we would be wrong to presume that the wife serves as the main object of the husband’s reflections.  One might try to correct this by saying that what the encounter reveals is not the-wife-he-knows but something new that registers as a contradiction against the ground of the-wife-he-knows. But even this is presumptuous, for the truth he encounters can only be identified as the product of an entire web of such loved existences, an indeterminate whole, and cannot be attributed to a specific being isolated as an object of knowledge. The only reasonable inference we can make is that at any given moment our historical experience is formed by a sliding scale of loves and indifferences, a dispersed, unknowable archipelago of contradictions reflected upon and contradictions elided. Due to its fundamental inscrutability, the unique historical experience that can be said to produce cinephilia as a historical fact cannot itself constitute the object of cinephilosophical reflection.
Historical experience only returns to reflection in a different form (and on a different “level”) through the renunciation and humility of a genuine dialogical questioning.  Philosophy is not a solitary movement back/down to retrieve a personal collection of component parts (e.g. as in Proust), but is a dialogical process of exploration forward/up towards a more comprehensive view of reality as a whole (e.g. as in Socrates and Plato). It is a movement that deliberately turns from the through-a-glass-darkly world of our unique historical experience to pursue the face-to-face truth of that experience in reflection on the functions of the language we share. The issues that arise in philosophy always transcend their origins because it moves from the existential contradictions that we are compelled to live alone to contradictions in discourse that we can explore together: dialogue allows us to recognize the role of these contradictions in structuring our common experience and thus serves to liberate us from our solitary predicaments. Though Simone Weil presents this experience of detachment and lucidity as an achievement of sanctity (i.e. of a implicit dialogue with God), her description clarifies the role of ethical commitments and self-transformation in any fundamental improvement to our understanding:
It is only by directing my thoughts toward something better than myself that I am drawn upwards by this something. Contradiction is the criterion. We cannot by suggestion obtain things which are incompatible. Grace alone can do this. A sensitive person who by suggestion becomes courageous hardens himself; he may even, by a sort of savage pleasure, amputate his sensitivity. Grace alone can give courage while leaving the sensitivity intact, or sensitivity while leaving the courage intact.
The existence of opposite virtues in the souls of the saints: the metaphor of climbing corresponds to this. If I am walking on the side of a mountain I can see at first a lake, then, after a few steps, a forest. If I want to see both forest and lake, I have to climb higher. 
With this metaphor and example in view, we can begin to imagine what it is that cinephilosophy actually reflects on. It identifies and focuses on issues which can be infered to be common to all who share an experience of cinephilia, on those aspects of their experience that transcend the specifics of their historical origins (the infernal hide-and-seek of lived contradictions in which I see the forest but you see the lake, then you see the forest and I see the lake: Plato’s cave) and which can be said to constitute the terrain of reality: the higher ground where our desires become commensurable, where the parts find their proper place in the whole (the top of the mountain, the world outside Plato’s cave).  Though cinephilia originates in unknowable private experiences, philosophy can recover the truth of those experiences by reflecting on the discursive issues and contradictions that cinephilia illuminates in the language, culture and history we share.
A final look at Weil’s experiment can provide us with a simple illustration of how dialogical reflection works and can help us remember what we are actually doing when we are in the process of cinephilosophical analysis. We can begin by noting that the shimmering contingency or excess in front of the husband can be represented as a movement of equivocation between a swarm of possible explanations for what he sees, or, in more general terms, as a moment of hesitation or undecidability between several discursive regimes. In taking a philosophical response to the excess of the encounter he holds onto all the elements of the contradiction it reveals, i.e. the arguments of these discursive regimes, and systematically brings them into a face-to-face confrontation or dialogue. If, for the purposes of analysis, we reduce the discursive regimes in play to those associated with his wife, we can immediately recognize the painful labour of true love, the paradoxical combination of courage and sensitivity, the climb, this dialogue entails, as he struggles to reconcile the arguments in favour of his long-term confidence in his wife (the forest) with the discourses that elaborate her duplicity (the lake). But as he persists in staging this conflict, and as each of the discourses is forced to prove its fitness by presenting its evidence, defining its terms, clarifying its frames of reference, et cetera, a curious but inevitable transformation of the issues takes place: instead of walking in circles around the mess of his particular marriage, he finds himself reflecting on the general bases for any marriage, on the differences between marriage and passion, and on the conflicting demands and proper hierarchy of various human needs. While on one level he still thinks he is struggling with a contingent geometry problem involving his wife, her lover and himself, on another he is ineluctably gaining philosophic insight into aspects and possibilities of human nature that are common to all three of them. When he finishes thinking about these general issues and returns to consider his personal situation he discovers that he has a better understanding of all the parties concerned; everything remains the same but at the same time it all looks different. Though the problem he started with has not been solved, it no longer seems to matter, he has difficulty remembering why it bothered him and, finally, it is simply gone. And though that problem no longer makes sense to him, many other things do: as distant as his wife may now be, and though he feels he may never possess her again, the husband nonetheless feels closer to her than he ever has before because she is better situated within a more comprehensive understanding of reality as a whole.
Philosophical dialogue thus creates a beneficial revolution at the most intimate level where language engages and structures our historical experience. Its form of reflective confrontation sets the words and concepts we use spinning on their axes until they arrive at new configurations that make better sense to and for all concerned. It fixes on what our aesthetic experience tells us we already care about and then systematically forces us to prove we really care. In the course of that demonstration we discover what we really care about (reality) and are liberated from what does not exist (ideological illusions).
All of the preceding was designed to present a paradigm of cinephilosophy with a broad appeal, a fable of the possibilities capable of sponsoring genuine and effective dialogues within Film Studies. My rough-and-tumble phenomenology presented a very long and complex process from only two angles: a long shot from initial impetus to final benefits, and a close-up on a set of assumptions that account for the genesis of aesthetic experience. While there are other close-ups we could take (e.g. of the dialectical movement from existential to discursive contradictions), it is beyond the scope of my study to recapitulate a general model of the process in full detail; at this point I can only hope that the summary I have provided is suggestive enough to tap into existing understandings of the philosophic process.  Though I cannot objectively justify my assumptions regarding the place of eros, ethics and art in human experience, I rest my case with the assertion that the preceding account provides a coherent explanation for three things we already take for granted whenever we discuss films: the possibility of fundamental reflection in general; the facts of cinephilic phenomena; the possibility that reflection on the cinema can itself constitute a form of fundamental reflection.
1 While my conception of cinephilosophy is in fact indebted to a considerable number of individuals and traditions that I might have named, I chose not to foreground this genealogy in the hope of being able to launch it as a generic paradigm, i.e. as an approach that could address and satisfy the desires of anyone interested in films; though specific references can obviously help secure the collective understanding of an argument, they can just as easily provoke misunderstanding and division, and I thought it worth holding the good/bad magic of a genealogy at bay until I had made a more direct appeal to the historical experience of the reader. One only has to ponder the function of the names “Lacan,” “Cavell” and “Deleuze” within the field of Film studies to realize how the source of one scholar’s joy can provoke nausea in another.
2 This three core essays are: “The Ontology of the Photographic Image,” “The Myth of Total Cinema” and “The Evolution of the Language of the Cinema” in André Bazin, What is Cinema? Volume I (Berkeley, University of California Press, 1967). Because it makes its own flaws explicit, Noel Carroll’s argument for the core/theory-periphery/criticism distinction constitutes the most compelling argument against it in print. Noel Carroll, Philosophical Problems of Classical Film Theory (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1988).
3 “The Western: or the American Film Par Excellence,” “The Evolution of the Western” in André Bazin, What is Cinema? Volume II (Berkeley, University of California Press, 1971). The proof of this claim is manifest in Jim Kitses and Gregg Rickman, eds. The Western Reader (New York, Proscenium, 1998), an anthology which includes “The Evolution of the Western” and where the categories laid out by Bazin are developed in all of the later contributions. Altman’s comprehensive exploration of the inherent dialogical tensions in genre films in Rick Altman, Film/Genre (London, BFI, 1999) were already examined by Bazin in this essay.
4 André Bazin, “On the politique des auteurs” in Jim Hillier, ed. Cahiers du Cinéma: The 1950’s: Neo-Realism, Hollywood, New Wave (Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1985). David Bordwell, Janet Staiger, and Kristin Thompson, The Classical Hollywood Cinema : film style & mode of production to 1960 (New York : Columbia University Press, 1985); Thomas Schatz, The Genius of the System: Hollywood filmmaking in the studio era (New York : Pantheon Books, 1988); Richard Maltby, Hollywood Cinema (Malden, MA : Blackwell Pub., 2003).
5 André Bazin, “The Death of Humphrey Bogart” in Jim Hillier, ed. Cahiers du Cinéma: The 1950’s: Neo-Realism, Hollywood, New Wave (Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1985); “The Myth of Monsieur Verdoux” and “Entomology of the Pin-Up Girl” in What is Cinema? Volume II (Berkeley, University of California Press, 1971). Roland Barthes, Mythologies (New York, Hill and Wang, 1972); Richard Dyer, Stars (London: BFI, 1979).
6 “Adaptation, or the Cinema as Digest” in André Bazin, Bazin at Work: Major Essays and Reviews from the Forties and Fifties (New York: Routledge, 1997) 47; “The Cinema and Popular Art” in André Bazin, French Cinema of the Occupation and Resistance: The Birth of a Critical Esthetic (New York: Frederick Ungar, 1984).
7 André Bazin, Orson Welles: A Critical View (New York: Acrobat Books, 1992); Jean Renoir (New York: Da Capo, 1992). Essays on Bresson, Chaplin, Rosselini, De Sica, Fellini, Ford, and Mann are found in the two volumes of What is Cinema?; essays on von Stroheim, Dreyer, Sturges, Bunuel, Hitchcock, Kurosawa are found in André Bazin, The Cinema of Cruelty from Bunuel to Hitchcock (New York: Seaver Books, 1982); an essay on William Wyler can be found in Volume 1 of the French Qu’est-ce que le cinéma.
8 André Bazin, What is Cinema? Volume I (Berkeley, University of California Press, 1967) 12.
9 André Bazin, What is Cinema? Volume I (Berkeley, University of California Press, 1967) 11.
10 Dudley Andrew, André Bazin (New York : Oxford University Press, 1978); Dudley Andrew, The Major Film Theories: An Introduction (London ; New York : Oxford University Press, 1976); Noel Carroll, Philosophical Problems of Classical Film Theory (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1988). Though Andrew’s account of Bazin’s intellectual formation and exposition of his phenomenology in the biography and later essays does in fact yield a picture of cinephilosophy similar to my own, the received view of Bazin’s work within the discipline seems to be based on the more summary presentation of Bazin’s work in The Major Film Theories, i.e. a presentation that has left it open to unjustified critiques.
11 Dudley Andrew, The Major Film Theories: An Introduction (London ; New York : Oxford University Press, 1976) 145.
12 André Bazin, “Ontologie De L’Image Photographique” in Qu’est-ce Que Le Cinéma? I: Ontologie et Langage (Paris: Les Editions Du Cerf, 1958) 19.
13 André Bazin, “Ontologie De L’Image Photographique” in Qu’est-ce Que Le Cinéma? I: Ontologie et Langage (Paris: Les Editions Du Cerf, 1958) 12.
14 André Bazin, What is Cinema? Volume I (Berkeley, University of California Press, 1967) 10.
15 André Bazin, What is Cinema? Volume I (Berkeley, University of California Press, 1967) 10.
16 André Bazin, What is Cinema? Volume I (Berkeley, University of California Press, 1967) 12-14.
17 The notion that all of Bazin’s work can be reduced to such an axiom seems in general to emanate from a misreading of Eric Rohmer’s argument in “André Bazin’s Summa” in Eric Rohmer, _The Taste for Beauty- (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1989).
18 Cf. Willemen’s characterization of cinephilia in note 28 above.
19 Every undergraduate presented with the received view of Bazin’s ontological argument always wonders why Bazin does not in any way privilege the documentary; the account I’m presenting here recognizes that aesthetic or ideological concerns always structure our perception of real events in the same way aesthetic or ideological artifacts structure our perception of fictional events.
20 Blaise Pascal, Pascal’s Pensées (New York: Modern Library, 1967) 38.
21 André Bazin, “Ontologie De L’Image Photographique” in Qu’est-ce Que Le Cinéma? I: Ontologie et Langage (Paris: Les Editions Du Cerf, 1958) 11.
22 Blaise Pascal, Pascal’s Pensées (New York: Modern Library, 1967) 24.
23 André Bazin, What is Cinema? Volume I (Berkeley, University of California Press, 1967) 11.
24 André Bazin, “Ontologie De L’Image Photographique” in Qu’est-ce Que Le Cinéma? I: Ontologie et Langage (Paris: Les Editions Du Cerf, 1958) 12.
25 André Bazin, What is Cinema? Volume I (Berkeley, University of California Press, 1967) 15.
26 André Bazin, “An Aesthetic of Reality: Neorealism” in What is Cinema? Volume II _(Berkeley, University of California Press, 1971) 27. In a general sense, the production of aesthetic experience and philosophic insight can be said to depend on a process in which we purify our desire in a manner modeled by Plato’s myth of the Charioteer in the _Phaedrus; the Platonic origins of Bazin’s film theory emerge quite clearly when one compares this passage with one from the same dialogue:
Phaedrus: What is all this leading to?
Socrates: We shall see, I think, if we ask the following question. Is a great or a slight difference between two things more likely to be misleading?
P: A slight difference?
S: So if you proceed by small degrees from one thing to its opposite you are more likely to escape detection than if you take big steps.
P: Of course.
S. Then a man who sets out to mislead without being misled himself must have an exact knowledge of the likenesses and unlikenesses between things.
P: That is essential.
S: If he does not know the true nature of any given thing, how can he discover in other things a likeness to what he does not know, and decide whether the resemblance is small or great.
P: He cannot.
S: Now, when people’s opinions are inconsistent with fact and they are misled, plainly it is certain resemblances that are responsible for mistakes creeping into their minds.
P: Yes, that is how it happens.
S: Is it possible then for a man to be skilled in leading the minds of his hearers by small gradations of difference in any given instance from truth to its opposite, or to escape being misled himself, unless he is acquainted with the true nature of thing in question?
P: Quite impossible.
S: It seems then, my friend, that the art of speaking displayed by a man who has gone hunting after opinions instead of learning the truth will be a pretty ridiculous sort of art, in fact no art at all.
P: It looks like it.
Plato, Phaedrus and Letters VII and VIII (New York: Penguin, 1988)75-76.
27 I can hopefully clarify my use of the phrase with reference to Heidegger’s distinction between two general groups of meanings that the term experience has in both academic philosophy and everyday discourse. On one hand there is the phenomenological sense of experience as something present in fact or memory, a possession that allows for “experimenting in the sense of demonstrating and proving an opinion about something with recourse to sense-perception of that thing itself.” On the other hand there is experience as something that happens to you, as an experience of change, “a certain sense of having been disappointed and surprised because things turned out otherwise than expected,” when one experiences something “as not being what it first seemed to be, but being truly otherwise.” It should be clear that my use of the term in the discussion above belongs to this second group wherein experience is not an accessible possession; though my use of “historical experience” borrows some of the meanings that have made the phrase prominent within contemporary scholarship, I do not think it is possible to identify this as a distinct domain that one can then appeal to as a site of immediacy, authenticity, political agency or autonomy (e.g. by pitting it against domains of language or ideology). It seems fairly evident that the current popularity of the notion of “experience” is something that emerged in answer to the ideological dominance of radical historicism across the humanities and social sciences. Experience has come to represent a sort of utopian vanishing point where all the things we feel lacking in postmodernity can be found, something that can somehow deliver us from the anxiety of knowing too much. Martin Heidegger, Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit (Bloomington: University of Indian Press, 1988), 19-20. C.F. Philip Rosen, Change Mummified: Cinema, Historicity (Minneapolis, University of Minnesota, 2001); Mary Ann Doane, The Emergence of Cinematic Time: Modernity, Contingency, the Archive (New York, Harvard University Press, 2002); Martin Jay, Songs of Experience: modern American and European variations on a universal theme (Berkeley, University of California Press, 2004); Frank Ankersmit, Sublime Historical Experience (Stanford, Stanford University Press, 2004); The Subaltern Appeal to Experience: Self-Identity, Late Modernity, and the Politics of Immediacy (Montreal and Kingston, McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2004.
28 Contrary to popular romantic misconceptions of “blind love,” one can posit an inherent connection between love and the radical skepticism that gives philosophy its benevolent violence: “The mind is not forced to believe in the existence of anything (subjectivism, absolute idealism, solipsism, skepticism: c.f. the Upanishads, the Taoists and Plato, who, all of them adopt this philosophical attitude by way of purification). That is why the only organ of contact with existence is acceptance, love. That is why beauty and reality are identical. That is why joy and sense of reality are identical.” Simone Weil, Gravity and Grace, 56-57.
29 It is an act of cowardice to seek from (or wish to give) the people we love any other consolation than that which works of art give us. These help us through the mere fact that they exist. To love and be loved only serves mutually to render this existence more concrete, more constantly present to the mind. But it should be present as the source of our thoughts, not as their object. Simone Weil, Gravity and Grace, 58.
30 Paul Willemen discusses a specific instance of cinephilia that underlines the inaccessibility of the personal experience that produces it. He considers his own attraction to certain early Roger Corman films which are “badly scripted, atrociously acted, not well shot” but which he claims are capable of producing “an impressionistic evocation of a particular world incarnated in nothing more than gesture or intonation.” He also claims that the “landscapes and the light in the image evoke worlds that are surreal” and which “people can relate to as much as they do the more obviously present aspects of the narrative: say, the various ideological, moral and ethical lessons proposed by the narrative and the characters.” The only way he can account for these impressions or effects historically is by pointing to what is:
… perhaps the most important part of cinephilia –half-submerged fantasies which themselves were shaped under the impact of industrial and propagandistic imagery. For instance the Belgian imaginary of ‘America,’ for people of my generation, was decisively shaped by a myriad of impressions derived from Hollywood films, rock and jazz music and images, American soldiers hanging about after the Second World War and during the Korean War, advertising imagery and so on. The things that matter about those impressions is not so much their generic importance (everyone of my generation shared that exposure to the effects of the US aggressive imperial aspirations in the wake of Europe’s devastation), but which precise images and sounds were sedimented in an Antwerp teenager’s fantasy. By putting it like that, I hope I am also indicating that we are talking about a hybrid process: local history and personal neuroses.
This jumbled inventory underlines the fact that cinephilia always has an incommensurable relation to the historical contexts in which one might try to locate it. Research could provide us with valuable knowledge of the cultural life of Antwerp during Willemen’s youth but it could not tell us “which precise images and sounds were sedimented” in his memory at the time. More importantly, no amount of historical research could recover or explain the complex of historical images and sounds that have persisted within the memory of the mature Willemen to produce the historical fact of his current fascination with Roger Corman. Though he points to the discursive climate of his youth as a starting point, his experience of this was inflected by his desires then and has, one presumes, been incessantly re-inflected and re-constructed by everything that has happened to him since. The exploration of historical context plays a crucial role in the model of cinephilosophy I’m putting forward but its function is to help characterize a contradiction in discourse we experience in common, not to recover the archaeology of an individual’s unconscious. Willemen, “Through a Glass Darkly,” 242.
31 “Illusions about the things of this world do not concern their existence but their value. The image of the cave refers to values. We only possess shadowy imitations of the good. It is also in relation to the good that we are chained down like captives (attachment). We accept the false values which appear to us and when we think we are acting we are in reality motionless, for we are still confined in the same system of values.” S. Weil, Gravity and Grace, 45.
32 More strongly, it is reasonable to imagine that the particular issues the encounter allows the husband to reflect on and the consequences of that reflection may well have little to do with his wife. The encounter may provide the catalyst for a new understanding of friendship, help him solve a crisis he faces as a supermarket manager, improve his relationship with his mother or his performance as a tennis player.
33 “The privileged role of the intelligence in real love comes from the fact that it is inherent in the nature of intelligence to become obliterated through the very fact that it is exercised. I can make efforts to discover truths, but when I have them before me they exist and I do not count. There is nothing nearer to true humility than the intelligence. It is impossible to be proud of the intelligence at the moment when we are really exercising it. Moreover, when we do exercise it we are not attached to it, for we know that even if we became an idiot the following instant and remained so for the rest of our life, the truth would continue unchanged.” S. Weil, Gravity and Grace, 117.
34 The appeal of the characters or types we are most strongly attracted to has something to do with the fact that their gaze often seems fixed on a reality off-screen “that cannot be defined.” Simone Weil’s description echoes the words of Jesus to Nicodemus in the Gospel of John which inspired a film by Robert Bresson and which aptly characterizes the quality Bresson was seeking in his “models”: “The wind blows wherever it wishes; you hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it is going. It is the same way with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” S. Weil, Gravity and Grace, 89-90, 91; Good News for Modern Man: The New Testament and Psalms (New York: American Bible Society, 1971) 233.
35 Though I do not really want to pursue the issue in any detail, the history of Film Studies is full of examples that illustrate what it means to live through certain contradictions semi-consciously. Thus if Laura Mulvey’s “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” (1975) condemned classical Hollywood as a purveyor of bad ideological magic, this essay’s spectacular historical success nonetheless depended on that magic, on the complex of contradictions between the male-centric model of spectatorship it outlines, the aesthetic specificity of the films it references as examples, and the unalienated diversity of spectatorial experiences which the films-as-model are said to repress or exclude. Its eventual loss of currency can also be explained with reference to this complex; since its argument hinges on the presentation of unalienated experience as a utopian possibility, something yet to be achieved, its appeal was bound to wane when this term of the contradiction came to be taken for granted within the discipline, i.e. as soon as historicism placed the diverse historical spectator prior to both film theory and film texts. The dramatic emergence of early cinema as an object of study around the same time as Mulvey’s essay offers a similar object-lesson in the function of historical contradictions in focusing our attention; the description of the object did not in fact change (it was always understood to be a cinema of “showing” rather than “telling”) but the context changed around it (i.e. the achievement of narrative cinema was now condemned as a mechanism of ideological domination) and the new differential friction between object and context thus transformed the knowledge of early cinema we already had into a compelling body of truths worth exploring. Its stated intentions notwithstanding, all Film Studies scholarship can be said to derive its power of conviction from the cinephilic contradictions it either frames (or is unconsciously framed within).
36 For the record, Stanley Rosen is the contemporary philosopher I have relied on most to clarify the technical details of the philosophic process. The relation between lived contradictions and formal or discursive contradictions is treated clearly and systematically in his essay “Logic and Dialectic.” Though the purchase of philosophic insight always depends on the totality of the process itself, the following sequence of extracts should resonate with the model I have outlined and thus provide some indication of the “professional support” I would have included had the purposes and scope of my study been different; they begin with a passage defending the basic fact of common intuitions or experience against the assumptions of radical historicism:
… If our discourse were actually bounded by a linguistic horizon, we would never know it, never notice it, never be able to pose the problem. The capacity of posing limits or problems is rooted in, or is the same as, the capacity to transcend limits or problems. Those who claim to be able to conceptualize or axiomatize this capacity are not simply replacing intuition with discourse. They are claiming to be able to define the impossibility of our seeing what it is they are defining […] at a certain point the rational analysis of life terminates in the perception of a contradiction. It does not follow that we must stop talking at this point. Instead, we have to talk rationally, namely, by using sentences not syntactically self-contradictory, about a situation that is intrinsically self-contradictory […] It may be, then, that we need two principles, one of noncontradiction and one of contradiction, or (to use my terminology) one formal and one existential principle. […] dialectic proceeds by way of existential contradictions expressed in syntactically sound forms […] Dialectic is rational speech about the whole. By “the whole” I mean human experience, but one could also restate this more abstractly as the relation between form and content. […] Dialectic is not a procedure for eliminating inconsistencies and contradictions but rather for making sense out of them. In order to make sense out of them, it is necessary to take them one at a time, to examine each as it arises and within the context that gives rise to it. […] The subject is grounded in conflicting and dialectical insights that can never be removed but that can be, so to speak, pushed upstairs or to one side by some technical innovation. […] We progress by climbing the stair that our technical innovation has constructed just above the previous level of the subject. But we only do this by building yet another stair […] the “structures” woven together in the continuum of intelligibility are “alive” or marked by excitation; they are continuously transforming themselves into their neighbours. […] What we mean by proof is determined by our desire to eliminate contradictions, and this desire springs up on the basis of our everyday experience, in a way well described by Aristotle. What Aristotle also shows us is that everyday experience requires us to defend the elimination of contradiction, or to praise consistency. This defense and this praise are dialectical. Unfortunately in the act of persuading us, they often cause us to forget the dialectical nature of the persuasion. And so we are catapulted by dialectic into logic, without remembering our starting point. […] In the metaphor of the previous example, we no longer see the nature of the stair upon which we are standing as we engage in the unending task of reconstructing our experience. Stanley Rosen “Logic and Dialectic,” Chapter Seven of The Ancients and the Moderns: Rethinking Modernity (New Haven, Yale University Press, 1989) 125, 151, 152-3, 155-6, 158-9.
Filed under: European Cinema Film Aesthetics and Film History
Keywords: Andre Bazin Film Theory French Cinema
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- Re-reading Bazin’s Ontological Argument
- Re-thinking Bazin Through Renoir’s The River, Part 2