‘And what about the spiritual life itself ?’, distraction, transcendence and redemption: the intuitionist realist tradition in the work of John Grierson, André Bazin and Siegfried Kracauer
in Realist film theory and cinema
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This chapter attempts to define three of the central components of the intuitionist-realist tradition: tradition's conceptualisation of the ‘problem’ of modernity; the proposed ‘solution’ to that problem; and the elaboration of an aesthetic vehicle through which such a solution can be realised. It explores the intuitionist realism in the work of Grierson, Bazin and Kracauer, in relation to the ‘problem of modernity’ and ‘totality’. All of them insisted that realist films should place the portrayal of social reality over formal or overly rhetorical experimentation. Grierson's primary concern was for ‘modern industrial society’, whereas Kracauer argues that the way to escape from ‘spiritual nakedness’ is through transcending the abstract relation to one's own experience of the world. The model of cinematic realism developed by Bazin can be differentiated from the Kracauer model in the sense that Bazin was more antipathetic to modernist or formalist art than Kracauer.

Realist film theory and cinema

The nineteenth-century Lukácsian and intuitionist realist traditions

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