Laurent Cantet is of one France’s leading contemporary directors. He probes the evolution and fault-lines of contemporary society from the home to the workplace and from the Republican school to globalized consumption more acutely than perhaps any other French film-maker. His films always challenge his characters’ assumptions about their world. But they also make their spectators rethink their position in relation to what they see. This is what makes Cantet such an important film-maker, the book argues. It explores Cantet’s unique working ‘method,’ his use of amateur actors and attempt to develop an egalitarian authorship that allows other voices to be heard rather than subsumed. It discusses his way of constructing films at the uneasy interface of the individual, the group and the broader social context and his recourse to melodramatic strategies and moments of shame to force social tensions into view. It shows how the roots of the well-known later films can be found in his early works. It explores the major fictions from Ressources humaines to the recent Foxfire, Confessions of a Girl Gang. It combines careful close analysis with attention to broader cinematic, social and political contexts while drawing on a range of important theorists from Pierre Bourdieu to Jacques Rancière, Michael Bakhtin and Mary Ann Doane. It concludes by examining how, resolutely contemporary of the current moment, Cantet helps us rethink the possibilities and limits of political cinema in a context in which old resistances have fallen silent and new forms of protest are only emergent.
In formulating a notion of filmic reality, this book offers a novel way of understanding our relationship with cinema. It argues that cinema need not be understood in terms of its capacities to refer to, reproduce or represent reality, but should be understood in terms of the kinds of realities it has the ability to create. The book investigates filmic reality by way of six key film theorists: André Bazin, Christian Metz, Stanley Cavell, Gilles Deleuze, Slavoj Žižek and Jacques Rancière. In doing so, it provides comprehensive introductions to each of these thinkers, while also debunking many myths and misconceptions about them. Along the way, a notion of filmic reality is formed that radically reconfigures our understanding of cinema.
reconsideration. Since the films’ uses of history were a prominent feature of their representational strategies, my object in this chapter is to examine how cinema appropriates the past so as to recognise ‘the power it holds from its shameful kinship with the makers of history and the tellers of stories’, in Jacques Rancière’s words. 12 Therefore in the films that I have chosen to discuss I probe their kinship
7 Filmic reality and the aesthetic regime 9 Some things to do: The Far Country (Anthony Mann, 1954) W hat contribution does the philosopher Jacques Rancière make to an understanding of filmic reality? While Rancière’s approach to cinema, and to aesthetics more generally, is strategically ambivalent – he is a philosopher who is not keen to ‘take sides’ in specific debates (see Rancière 2009: 21) – that ambivalence raises questions worth considering for the notion of filmic reality. Rancière is at his most confident when describing what cinema is not, and his
of earlier Godard films. Jacques Rancière in an essay on Histoire(s) points to what he calls the central paradox of the film, namely the assertion by Godard that the cinema failed to live up to its vocation of documenting the real of the death camps and by such inaction betrayed itself, whereas Histoire(s) has, on the contrary, realised what it says the cinema has not been able to do. This apparent paradox belongs to a more comprehensive one, namely the position taken by Histoire(s) that the cinema, in not living up to its duties and the historical task of filming
exemplarity to remind us that, for moral perfectionism, the act of interpreting is prioritized over the interpretation. By, then, reading this claim alongside the work of Jacques Rancière, I will emphasize his claim that spectators are always already engaged in such interpretation, but too often do not trust the legitimacy or authority of their own interpretation over that of others
political terms as we will see. Meanwhile, thinkers of the cinema as diverse as Edgar Morin, Jean Mitry, and Siegfried Kracauer in the 1950s and 1960s, and Gilles Deleuze, Jean-Luc Godard, and Jacques Rancière in the 1980s and 1990s, have uniformly recognized in Jean Epstein both a remarkable filmmaker and among the first committed philosophical thinkers of cinema (see chapter 6). The time has come to take these influential figures at their word and give Epstein the critical appraisal that has been so long in coming. For his double attainment – as key director and
. Although the immediate focus of the essay is M. Cavell, the larger target is the general Enlightenment position, revived today in more than one quarter (e.g., William Connolly, Richard Rorty, Robert Pippin, Jacques Rancière) that popular film can serve to instruct us in democracy. Indeed, perhaps here is the place to re-emphasize that I criticize Cavell not because I think he is the
memories, everything is projected together, side by side, upon the same square of screen’ (1921a: 144–5). Wall-Romana_Epstein.indd 180 11/02/2013 17:10 epstein’s philosophy of the cinema 181 Guattari call Spinoza ‘the infinite becoming-philosopher’ (ibid.: 60). But it might be indeed Epstein’s interest in both Spinoza and cinema that proved the determining factor for Deleuze. The case is much more straightforward in the philosophy of politics and aesthetics of another philosopher who arrived on the scene in the 1980s: Jacques Rancière. He addresses Epstein head
One Plus One, see Kevin J. Hayes’s ‘The Book Motif in One Plus One’, Studies in French Cinema, 4.3 (2004), pp. 219–28. 29 Jacques Rancière, Film Fables, trans. Emiliano Battista (Oxford: Berg, 2006), p. 144. One plus one (p.m.)139 30 See Slavoj Žižek, ‘Mao Zedong: The Marxist Lord of Misrule’, in On Practice and Contradiction, Mao-Tse-Tung (London: Verso, 2007), pp. 1–28. 31 Jean-Didier Urbain, At the Beach, trans. Catherine Porter (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2003), p. 205. 32 1 P.M. (One Parallel Movie) (Pennebaker, 1972, 16 mm, 95 min