This review essay’s title is partly in homage to Arthur Danto’s well-known essay “Philosophy As/And/Of Literature” (Danto 1984). But this title also helps to organize my comments, both appreciative and critical, and it does so by pointing toward a range of issues about philosophy and film that is similar to a range of issues that have been raised about philosophy and literature. Specifically, I would have liked more attention to philosophy and film. But I am quite ready to admit that my own sensibility here may be extremely idiosyncratic and may present nothing that Thomas Wartenberg needs to or even does disagree with. This suggestion about philosophy and film comes at the end of the essay.
The following three talks were originally delivered as part of the “Author Meets Critic” session on Thomas E. Wartenberg’s Thinking on Screen: Film as Philosophy (2007)* at the American Philosophical Association Central Division Meeting in Chicago. The session was sponsored by the Society for the Philosophical Study of the Contemporary Visual Arts on 17 April 2008.
The Case of Ninotchka and Russkii vopros
This article deals with ideologies of domesticity, femininity, and consumerism as they were articulated in two films in the early Cold War. These films, shown in occupied Berlin from the spring of 1948 through the first few months of 1949, were Ernst Lubitsch's Hollywood classic Ninotchka (1939) and the Soviet film Russkiivopros (The Russian Question, 1948). They portrayed competing notions of domestic consumption and the “good life” in the aftermath of the Second World War—issues more commonly understood to have characterized the later, thaw-era, years of the conflict. Though they were shown at a time of heightened political and ideological tensions, neither painted a one-dimensional or demonized portrait of the enemy. Instead, both films employed narratives about the private lives and material desires of women in order to humanize their enemies and yet make a statement about the inhuman nature of the other system.
Film theory has been much involved with psychology, especially with the viewer's perceptual and emotional response to the images on the screen. Psychoanalytic and cognitive film theories, though not exactly kindred spirits, have so far dominated psychological film studies. At the present time, technology offers neuroscience methods to explore the brain that open up the discourse on the mind. This article explains ways in which neuroscience, and its study of the brain, can extend our understanding and theory of film by exploring three areas of our response to cinema. Although the perception of motion is a complicated business, the phenomenon of implied motion suggests the brain's readiness to find movement even when there is none and links together many of the same perceptual mechanisms we use when viewing film and also the world outside the theater. Attention, focus, and binding are essential for us to make sense of the vast amount of stimuli that bombard our eyes. They explain what we see and do not see when viewing film and also the way film technique controls our understanding of the action on the screen. Finally, the argument about what we feel and do not feel when watching the characters on the screen may receive some clarification by neuroscience's investigation of "mirror neurons" in our brain.
Three Roles in the Career of Tahia Carioca (1946, 1958 and 1972)
This article examines the projected image of dancers in Egyptian cinema. The historical background includes the last period of the Farouk monarchy, the revolution of the Free Officers Movement and the Nasser regime, ending with Nasser’s death in 1970, when a new social and political era started blossoming. I consider the socio-political changes and their cultural repercussions as part of a dialectic relationship that affects the portrayal of dancers in three films: The Lady’s Puppet (1946), My Dark Darling (1958) and Pay Attention to Zuzu (1972). By examining Carioca’s roles in these films, I argue socio-political changes in Egypt have been projected on the image of the dancer while also changing it: she is first seen as a working woman, then as an evil woman and finally as a marginalised woman.
Philip J. Hohle
The heroes we encounter in narrative film speak to us as we go about making sense of our world. However, any evening spent browsing Netfl ix will demonstrate that protagonists have become so flawed that, “Even the antihero has degraded to the point that we cannot easily tell them apart from the antagonist” (Duffy 2008: 208). These are transgressive protagonist-heroes who take on quests of self-importance, shy away from any real moral transformation, and return from their heroic journey to serve us a spoiled elixir. Must viewers disengage their moral filters to identify with these characters and enjoy this kind of fare? Using sense-making methodology, fresh qualitative data was collected that provide thick descriptions revealing how actual viewers respond to transgressive protagonist-heroes.
Katie Kirakosian, Virginia McLaurin and Cary Speck
In this article, we discuss how adding a final film project to a revised ‘Culture through Film’ course led to deeper student learning and higher rates of student success, as well as increased student satisfaction. Ultimately, we urge social science educators to include experiential projects in their courses that connect to all learning styles. Such projects should also challenge students to ‘create’, a task that requires generating ideas, planning and ultimately producing something, which, according to Bloom’s revised taxonomy, engages students in the highest cognitive process (Anderson and Krathwohl 2000). Although this class focused on the intersections of culture and film and was taught at an American university, we believe these lessons apply more broadly.
I would like to begin my “response” to my “critics” by acknowledging my sense that they are less critics than fellow travelers in a joint project of understanding the philosophical significance of film. Each of them has provided me with help and support over the years. My own attempt to think philosophically about film was aided substantially by my discovery that Cynthia Freeland was also engaged in the same line of inquiry, and this, in turn, resulted in our collaborating on the first anthology about film written exclusively by philosophers, Philosophy and Film, published in 1995. Richard Eldridge and I have also maintained an ongoing if somewhat episodic discussion over the years about my understanding of film and the significance of Stanley Cavell’s account of the cinema, a conversation that has helped me refine my own thinking even as the conversation challenged it. So I would like to begin, then, by thanking rather than responding to these two friends and colleagues.
Hollywood Defines the American Boy, 1930–1934
This essay examines the portrayals of boys in American film, especially Jackie Cooper, during the “pre-code” period of Hollywood sound films, roughly 1930-1934. With the Great Depression cutting movie attendance, studios explored social taboos to entice audiences. As a result, childhood concerns, including issues of adoption, strained parental (especially father-son) relationships, or failing before one’s peers, were themes that threatened boys’ identities.
Catherine E. Clark
This article looks at two seemingly disparate events: Georges Pompidou’s 1973 presidential visit to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the filming and release of Jean Yanne’s blockbuster comedy Les Chinois à Paris (1974). Both produced flawed visions of Franco-Chinese relations. During Pompidou’s visit, officials and the press attempted to demonstrate that France enjoyed warmer relations with the PRC than any other Western nation. Yanne’s film parodied the French fad for Maoism by imagining the People’s Liberation Army invading and occupying Paris. His film caused an uproar in the press and sparked official Chinese protest. The article ultimately argues that the two events were deeply related, part of a wave of popular and official interest in China in the early 1970s that extended well beyond the well-known stories of student and intellectual Maoists. This interest paved the way for Franco-Chinese relations as we know them today.