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.
7 Filmic reality and the aesthetic regime
9 Some things to do: The Far Country
(Anthony Mann, 1954)
hat contribution does the philosopher JacquesRancière
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.
JacquesRancière 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
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 JacquesRancière 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
experience of it. In Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s theory of perception, this equates to a form of reversibility: ‘the look […] envelops, palpitates, espouses the visible things’. 31 By opening up these tangible interstices, Perestroika ’s formal approach activates a tactile reading. For Turner, as for JacquesRancière, ‘[t]houghts and things, exterior and interior, are captured in the same texture, in which the sensible and the intelligible remain undistinguished’. 32 Inter-subjectivity and intermediality combine to carve out multiple spaces between, with the former
between illusion and reality – that this book argues.
The remaining six chapters of the book try to posit various ways
of going beyond political modernism and its logic of illusion versus
reality in the cinema. Each chapter focuses on the work of a specific
film theorist, so that there are chapters on André Bazin, Christian
Metz, Stanley Cavell, Gilles Deleuze, Slavoj Žižek and JacquesRancière. What pans out, I think, is less a singular, pointed and
specific theory of what filmic reality is and more of a sense that
what I mean by filmic reality is an attitude one takes
members themselves. I ask that we, as readers–
spectators of the argument, become more attentive to the dancing bodies
that have interrupted and transfigured our symbolic frameworks across
Dance and politics
space and time. I have constructed my conceptual framework from a
choreographic, critical reading of JacquesRancière’s concept of dissensus. Rancière sees the essence of politics ‘as the manifestation of dissensus as the presence of two worlds in one’ (Rancière 2010: 37). Dissensus is
the collision of two worlds, one intervening in the other and
Foucault, Christian Metz. If he was updating his essay, Plantinga could now
add Emmanuel Levinas, JacquesRancière, and Gilles Deleuze.
not speak to prevailing academic pursuits. At the risk of appearing grand,
I would like Part III to construct a field out of individual interventions
that have never been brought together. More modestly, I would like to
shine a light on an existence that has hitherto been somewhat clandestine
and then exhibit it in a coherent form. This will, I hope, help the aesthetic
evaluation of film to situate itself in relation
memories, everything is projected
together, side by side, upon the same square of screen’ (1921a: 144–5).
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: JacquesRancière. He addresses Epstein head