The Utopia of Film

The Utopia of Film: Cinema and Its Futures in Godard, Kluge, and Tahimik

CHRISTOPHER PAVSEK
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 304
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/pavs16098
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  • Book Info
    The Utopia of Film
    Book Description:

    The German filmmaker Alexander Kluge has long promoted cinema's relationship with the goals of human emancipation. Jean-Luc Godard and Filipino director Kidlat Tahimik also believe in cinema's ability to bring about what Theodor W. Adorno once called a "redeemed world." Situating the films of Godard, Tahimik, and Kluge within debates over social revolution, utopian ideals, and the unrealized potential of utopian thought and action, Christopher Pavsek showcases the strengths, weaknesses, and undeniable impact of their utopian visions on film's political evolution. He discusses Godard's Alphaville (1965) against Germany Year 90 Nine-Zero (1991) and JLG/JLG: Self-portrait in December (1994), and he conducts the first scholarly reading of Film Socialisme (2010). He considers Tahimik's virtually unknown masterpiece, I Am Furious Yellow (1981--1991), along with Perfumed Nightmare (1977) and Turumba (1983); and he constructs a dialogue between Kluge's Brutality in Stone (1961) and Yesterday Girl (1965) and his later The Assault of the Present on the Rest of Time (1985) and Fruits of Trust (2009).

    eISBN: 978-0-231-53081-1
    Subjects: Film Studies, Philosophy, Art & Art History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VIII)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. IX-X)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. XI-XII)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. XIII-XVI)
  5. Introduction: The Idea of Cinema
    (pp. 1-23)

    This book is about what I call the utopia of film, a term and title I borrow from Alexander Kluge’s first essay on cinema, “Die Utopie Film,” published in 1964. For Kluge, as one of the most interesting students of Theodor Adorno’s thought and an heir to the tradition of the Frankfurt School, utopia is an inordinately rich concept possessed of complex temporal dimensions that bind the present to the past and to the future. As he defines it in “Die Utopie Film,” “utopia is a conservative idea, the search for a quality about which one vaguely knows that it...

  6. 1 What Has Come to Pass for Cinema: FROM EARLY TO LATE GODARD
    (pp. 24-77)

    It might be useful to consider Godard’s career as if it followed a somewhat disordered, almost reversed chronology than the transition from modernism to postmodernism. By this view, Godard’s early films would be the properly postmodernist work, indulging in pure pastiche, working almost exclusively with surface play, chance, the fragmented and decentered subject, as well as reveling in the dedifferentiation of the categories of mass culture and high art. The euphoric celebrations of westerns and films noir in his articles for Cahiers du cinéma would fit nicely with such a characterization, and the later remakes of his early work (the...

  7. 2 Kidlat Tahimik’s “Third World Projector”
    (pp. 78-149)

    Kidlat Tahimik’s almost unknown, but according to some, his finest¹ film, I Am Furious Yellow (1981–1991),² is a monumental autobiographical essay, which he made during the momentous decade from 1981 to 1991 with his son, Kidlat de Guia. It opens with the landscape of Monument Valley in the American Southwest, familiar from so many John Ford films, rendered here not in Ford’s Technicolor but in Tahimik’s characteristically grainy and poorly exposed 16mm film (fig. 2.1). A dirt road with a car traveling along it stretches into the distance toward a horizon of buttes and mesas; the sky is leaden....

  8. 3 The Actuality of Cinema: Alexander Kluge
    (pp. 150-236)

    It would be fair to say (to paraphrase the first line of the “Introduction” to Adorno’s Negative Dialectics), that for Alexander Kluge, perhaps the most significant heir to Adorno’s thought working in Germany today,² the cinema, which once seemed obsolete, lives on because the moment of its realization was missed. As does Adorno, who alludes to the Marxian principle set down in the eleventh thesis on Feuerbach—that philosophy must put itself into practice to realize its ideals—and who saw in the twentieth century the consistent failure of Marxist philosophy to realize itself in the construction of a truly...

  9. Epilogue
    (pp. 237-242)

    In the small book that accompanies his recent collection of short films, Wer sich traut, reißt die Kälte vom Pferd (2010),¹ Alexander Kluge reproduces a fragment of correspondence between him and his friend Theodor Adorno. Adorno had written to him in 1967 about plans to “write an essay about the cold,” plans which for Adorno bring to mind Kluge’s first feature film, Yesterday Girl (1965), in which Anita G., played by Kluge’s sister Alexandra, is convicted of having stolen a sweater. Her explanation? Although it was summer, she was cold. Adorno was inspired by the scene, and refers to it...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 243-266)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 267-274)
  12. Index
    (pp. 275-286)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 287-288)