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A reply from Saturday Night to Mr. Dienstag
Tracy B. Strong

rate at which a director might turn out B-movies. There are, however, great films, just as there are great operas. How did/does opera function? What is it about music and voice? Mr. Cavell’s last claim – one we have known since Plato – is that the interplay between the “personal” and the “political” is such that they cast light on each other and show what possibilities for

in Cinema, democracy and perfectionism
Joshua Foa Dienstag in dialogue
Series: Critical Powers

This book engages in a critical encounter with the work of Stanley Cavell on cinema, focusing skeptical attention on the claims made for the contribution of cinema to the ethical character of democratic life. In much of Cavell's writing on film he seeks to show us that the protagonists of the films he terms "remarriage comedies" live a form of perfectionism that he upholds as desirable for contemporary democratic society: moral perfectionism. Films are often viewed on television, and television shows can have "filmlike" qualities. The book addresses the nature of viewing cinematic film as a mode of experience, arguing against Cavell that it is akin to dreaming rather than lived consciousness and, crucially, cannot be shared. It mirrors the celebrated dialogue between Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Jean D'Alembert on theatre. The book articulates the implications of philosophical pessimism for addressing contemporary culture in its relationship to political life. It clarifies how The Americans resembles the remarriage films and can illuminate the issues they raise. The tragedy of remarriage, would be a better instructor of a democratic community, if such a community were prepared to listen. The book suggests that dreaming, both with and without films, is not merely a pleasurable distraction but a valuable pastime for democratic citizens. Finally, it concludes with a robust response from Dienstag to his critics.

Margaret Kohn

Philadelphia Story . In this response, I will make a qualified case for the opposite view and suggest that films and even television shows can be texts that encourage reflexivity about moral paradox, political obligation and community. I will do this through a reading of a more recent work in the genre of “the tragedy of remarriage”: the television show The Americans . The

in Cinema, democracy and perfectionism
Letter to M. Cavell about cinema (a remake)
Joshua Foa Dienstag

establishment of a theater. It was generally suspected that this part of the article was either written or suggested by Voltaire, who was living in exile there at the time and complaining bitterly to his friends about the lack of a theater. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, born in Geneva, had contributed many entries to the Encyclopédie on music and political economy and was well known as a

in Cinema, democracy and perfectionism
Open Access (free)
Joshua Foa Dienstag

. In the second section, I turn from The Philadelphia Story to its dark twin The Rules of the Game ( La Règle du jeu ), a film made at roughly the same time with roughly the same plot but with a much more pessimistic account of the relationship between eros and politics. In this film, instead of the miraculous resolution of eros and law, we see the vicious conflicts

in Cinema, democracy and perfectionism
Open Access (free)
Thomas Dumm

have not thought about the issues you have raised concerning film and politics, or that I do not have an ongoing concern about the relationship of what we call culture to political thought. As you know, I have written fairly often on specific films as exemplary moments in the unfolding of the American political drama, as I have with a variety of cultural artifacts, novels, poems

in Cinema, democracy and perfectionism
A cinematic response to pessimism
Davide Panagia

of human travails” (p. 71). And no happiness or freedom, never mind democracy, can come of this. That is the dangerous contention: there is no politics, democratic or otherwise, when we humans give ourselves up to an experience of aesthetic presentness that, as Diderot describes in his Salon writings, is so intense and absorptive that it denies the presence of others. 3

in Cinema, democracy and perfectionism
Clare Woodford

to be the passive viewer rather than the active critical thinker invests our political and civil ceremonies with more importance and permanence than they should really have. Our dysfunctional society forces the protagonists to seek privacy (whilst they may be wrong to do so, this becomes more understandable given such a society). If we readjust the balance so that we focus

in Cinema, democracy and perfectionism