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The nineteenth-century Lukácsian and intuitionist realist traditions
Author: Ian Aitken

This book embraces studies of cinematic realism and nineteenth-century tradition; the realist film theories of Lukács, Grierson, Bazin and Kracauer; and the relationship of realist film theory to the general field of film theory and philosophy. It attempts a rigorous and systematic application of realist film theory to the analysis of particular films, suggesting new ways forward for a new series of studies in cinematic realism, and for a new form of film theory based on realism. The book stresses the importance of the question of realism both in film studies and in contemporary life.

Abstract only
Ian Aitken

Realist Film Theory and Cinema is the second in a planned trilogy. In the first part of the trilogy, entitled European Film Theory and Cinema: The Intuitionist Realist and Modernist Tradition (2001), an attempt was made to explore the relationship between two major traditions within European film theory and cinema. One of these was referred to as the ‘intuitionist modernist and realist tradition

in Realist film theory and cinema
Abstract only
Ian Aitken

, feminism, phenomenology, art history and ethnography, have also been drawn on by film theorists in recent years. In this process of connection with important intellectual disciplines and traditions, ‘classical’ realist film theory also has an important role to play, because the approaches developed by the classical realist theorists are directly linked to historically important traditions of thought, including those of Kant

in Realist film theory and cinema
The origins, characteristics and theoretical foundation of the nineteenth-century French realist, and naturalist tradition
Ian Aitken

During the 1970s and 1980s, when anti-realist film theory dominated much of the critical agenda, the nineteenth-century realist tradition was habitually regarded with misgivings by those intent on the development of a progressive, critical film practice. This was partly as a consequence of the adoption of nineteenth-century realist aesthetic models by a totalitarian culture within the Soviet Union

in Realist film theory and cinema
Cinematic realism, philosophical realism and film theory
Ian Aitken

which they adopt. Following this, the chapter will relate these realist traditions to two different theoretical contexts. First, cinematic realism will be placed within the context of philosophical realism, and an attempt will be made to establish the extent to which the realist film theories explored here can be defined in philosophical terms, and what the value of such an enterprise might be. Second, cinematic realism will be compared to a

in Realist film theory and cinema
Ian Aitken

mass in peace’. 61 None of these films provided the model for the social realist imagist film, whereas that model was provided by both Drifters and Turksib . It seems apparent from what has been argued so far that any convincing rearticulation of Griersonian cinematic realism must return to Grierson’s early position on realist film theory, as set out in his writings of the 1918–36 period, and as embodied in Drifters

in Realist film theory and cinema
Ian Aitken

This chapter discusses the influence of the naturalist tradition on early French cinema, covering the pictorialist naturalist school of the 1920s, the cycles of Zola adaptations that appeared between 1902 and 1938, and the ‘social-realist’ cinema of Renoir. The categorical map of the significant realist French film production of the 1930–8 period is meant to be neither exhaustive nor definitive. The chapter emphasizes that La Bête humaine focuses on a disturbing and morally corrupt social order, which conforms closely to one of the most important features of the critical realist/naturalist tradition in its employment of an indeterminate aesthetic style. It concludes by accounting for Renoir's La Bête humaine in terms of the model of critical realism.

in Realist film theory and cinema
Ian Aitken

This chapter describes the model of aesthetic realism developed by the Hungarian theorist György Lukács, and sets out the parameters of a Lukácsian theory of cinematic realism. It discusses one of the most trenchant criticisms levelled against Lukács: that the model of realism is umbilically associated with a particular form of literature: the nineteenth-century realist novel. As a consequence of this concentrated focus, the chapter dismisses some of the most vital artistic movements of the nineteenth and twentieth the nineteenth-century realist tradition and examines the two central aspects of Lukács's theory: the notion of alienation and the model of the intensive totality. Lukács's writings on cinematic realism are also considered and contradicted for the type of naturalist/impressionist realism.

in Realist film theory and cinema
Lukácsian cinematic realism in Danton (1990) and Senso (1954)
Ian Aitken

This chapter applies Lukácsian models of literary and cinematic realism to an analysis of Wajda's Danton and Visconti's Senso, arguing that, whilst Danton is at variance with Lukács's models of ‘classical’ and ‘democratic-humanist’ realism, Senso can be considered a work of ‘inverse democratic humanist realism’, rather than ‘classical realism’. Senso can also be regarded as closer to the Lukácsian model than Danton in the sense that, in Senso, ‘the great social-historical antagonisms’ are embodied within the guise of relatively commonplace figures, as opposed to the ‘world-historical’ figures of Danton. The Lukácsian cinema is categorized in two types: films that employ the focused naturalist orientation of the Novelle, and films that employ the more ‘mediated’ framework of the novel. Thus, the chapter concludes by arguing that Lukács's theory of filmic realism can be associated philosophically with a naturalist, phenomenological model of cinematic realism

in Realist film theory and cinema