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Engaging the Moving Image

Engaging the Moving Image

Noël Carroll
Copyright Date: 2003
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 448
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  • Book Info
    Engaging the Moving Image
    Book Description:

    Noël Carroll, a brilliant and provocative philosopher of film, has gathered in this book eighteen of his most recent essays on cinema and television-what Carroll calls "moving images." The essays discuss topics in philosophy, film theory, and film criticism.Drawing on concepts from cognitive psychology and analytic philosophy, Carroll examines a wide range of fascinating topics. These include film attention, the emotional address of the moving image, film and racism, the nature and epistemology of documentary film, the moral status of television, the concept of film style, the foundations of film evaluation, the film theory of Siegfried Kracauer, the ideology of the professional western, and films by Sergei Eisenstein and Yvonne Rainer. Carroll also assesses the state of contemporary film theory and speculates on its prospects. The book continues many of the themes of Carroll's earlier workTheorizing the Moving Imageand develops them in new directions. A general introduction by George Wilson situates Carroll's essays in relation to his view of moving-image studies.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-13307-3
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-xx)
    George M. Wilson

    I suppose that Noël Carroll is best known within film studies as the unremitting arch nemesis of Big Theory, and certainly his 1988 bookMystifying Moviesis a devastating systematic attack on the sweeping pretensions of the film theory that dominated the 1970s and 1980s. Potentially enhancing his grim reputation is the fact that Carroll introduced the philosophy of horror as a systematic topic in contemporary aesthetics. Anyone who knows Carroll personally, however, will have trouble sustaining an image of him derived from Dr. Mabuse or the Creeper or some other monster of mayhem and subversion. Carroll is a funny,...

  4. Introduction
    (pp. xxi-xxviii)

    This volume is a collection of my essays, written in the second half of the 1990s, on the topic of themoving image—the label that I prefer to use for the category comprising film, video, broadcast television, moving computer-generated imagery, and, in short, any mass-produced moving image technologically within our reach now and in times to come.¹ My reasons for speaking of the moving image rather than of film, video, or computer-generated images (CGI) revolve around the fact that those ways of speaking are too wedded to reference to particular media, whereas the moving image, as it has come...

  5. Chapter 1 Forget the Medium!
    (pp. 1-9)

    The notion of the film medium has played a central role in the intellectual history of cinema. It has been a major focus of film theory from early in the twentieth century through the writings of Christian Metz. In a great number of cases, the idea has performed a legitimizing function. The case for film as art was made by arguing that film is a distinctive medium, one with its own range of properties and effects such that it warrants a place of its own in the system of the arts. Film, in other words, was not merely theater in...

  6. Chapter 2 Film, Attention, and Communication: A Naturalistic Account
    (pp. 10-58)

    Although there are disputes about when to date the beginning of film, one traditional opinion favors 1895. On December 28 of that year, Louis and Auguste Lumière staged the firstpublicscreening of a series of their films, includingWorkers Leaving the Factory,in a room of the Grand Café in Paris. This event had been preceded by a series ofprivatescreenings for selected scientific and business audiences. On December 28, the public had the opportunity to see the product.

    Of course, film had been available to the public prior to this date in the form of kinetoscopes—viewing-boxes...

  7. Chapter 3 Film, Emotion, and Genre
    (pp. 59-87)

    A nasty, largish beast rushes at the camera, backed by a pounding score and crushing sound effects, and the audience flinches. The villain abuses the innocent heroine and our jaws clench in anger; our longing for revenge keeps us pinned to the screen, awaiting the moment when the loutish brute is dealt his due. The young lovers are separated by the callous vagaries of fate, or the child dies long before his time, and we weep. Or perhaps the camera pans over a vernal landscape of rolling gentle greenery and a feeling of serenity wells up in us. These are...

  8. Chapter 4 Ethnicity, Race, and Monstrosity: The Rhetorics of Horror and Humor
    (pp. 88-107)

    There are many conceptions of beauty. Some associate beauty with proportion and harmony; some with pleasure taken in the appearance of things; and some, more narrowly, withdisinterestedpleasure. Kant, of course, uses disinterested pleasure as the central mark of what he calls free beauty. However, Kant also speaks of dependent or accessory beauty, which pertains to the aesthetic judgments we make about things in relation to the determinate concepts under which the objects in question fall.¹ Human beauty, for Kant, is of this sort.² We call a human beautiful, he suggests, insofar as a person approaches being a perfect...

  9. Chapter 5 Is the Medium a (Moral) Message?
    (pp. 108-126)

    The question to be addressed in this essay concerns the moral significance of the television medium. By ‘medium’ here I am not referring to television as a business that churns out countless stories. Rather, I am referring specifically to the historically standard image, especially in regard to fiction, and to the ways in which it is typically elaborated by structures like editing, camera movement, narrative forms, and the like. Moreover, I will be concerned with the moral status of the television image as such, irrespective of what it is an image of.

    Though the distinction between form and content may...

  10. Chapter 6 Film Form: An Argument for a Functional Theory of Style in the Individual Film
    (pp. 127-146)

    As with other artforms, the initial problem of talking about style or form in film is complicated by the fact that the concept of style can be applied to so many different kinds of things and at so many different levels of generality.¹ One might use “style” to refer to whole periods of filmmaking, speaking, for example, of the German Expressionist style, or Hollywood studio style in the thirties. Or one might apply the concept of style to the work of a particular filmmaker’s oeuvre, referring, for instance, to the style of Stanley Donen or Yvonne Rainer or Theo Angelopoulos....

  11. Chapter 7 Introducing Film Evaluation
    (pp. 147-164)

    When we first think of evaluating films, we think initially of film critics. These are people who are in the business of pronouncing on the value of films. There are so many films to see and so little time. Thus, almost all of us have to fall back on the recommendations of film critics in order to inform our choice of viewing fare.

    There are several different ways in which the role of a film critic may be pursued. Some critics attempt to function as consumer reporters—trying to predict which films most of their readership will enjoy. For such...

  12. Chapter 8 Nonfiction Film and Postmodernist Skepticism
    (pp. 165-192)

    Perhaps no area of film theory invokes philosophy so quickly as does the discussion of nonfiction film. For inasmuch as a great many non-fiction films are meant to convey information about the world, film theorists are almost immediately disposed to reach for their favorite epistemological convictions in order to assess, and—nearly as often—to dispute the knowledge claims of nonfiction films.¹

    Among film theorists in times gone by, it was a popular sport to charge that insofar as nonfiction films unavoidably require selectivity—that is, cameras inevitably frame and focus; and editors must exclude and, just as importantly,include...

  13. Chapter 9 Fiction, Nonfiction, and the Film of Presumptive Assertion: Conceptual Analyses
    (pp. 193-224)

    In both film studies and the culture at large, there is an area of practice which is typically labelled ‘the documentary’, or perhaps less frequently, ‘nonfiction film’. These labels are roughly serviceable for practical purposes, but they are not always as theoretically precise as they might be. Therefore, in this chapter, I will propose another label for the field—namely, ‘films of presumptive assertion’—and I will attempt to define it.¹ In response to this statement of intent, some may worry that my new label and its accompanying definition are stipulative and revisionist. However, I will argue that they track...

  14. Chapter 10 Photographic Traces and Documentary Films: Comments for Gregory Currie
    (pp. 225-233)

    In his characteristically stimulating and carefully crafted article “Visible Traces: Documentary Film and the Contents of Photographs,” Gregory Currie introduces a sophisticated theory of the documentary film.¹ For Currie, a documentary film is one comprised of a preponderance of photographic images that function in the context of the relevant film as traces of the objects and events that causally produced them. An image of Gregory Peck in a documentary film is a representation of Gregory Peck, a photographic trace of the actor at a certain time and place. And a documentary about Gregory Peck is constructed mostly of such images....

  15. Chapter 11 Toward a Definition of Moving-Picture Dance
    (pp. 234-254)

    Almost since the inception of moving pictures, those pictures have often featured dance. The obvious reason for this is that the natural subject of moving pictures is movement. And dances—along with hurtling locomotives, car chases, cattle stampedes, tennis matches, intergalactic dog-fights, and the like—move. Thus, a significant portion of the history of moving pictures involves dance movement. Many moving-picture makers have devoted admirable amounts of effort and imagination to portraying dance in or through media as diverse as film, video, and computer animation. The purpose of this essay is to attempt to offer a philosophical characterization of this...

  16. Chapter 12 The Essence of Cinema?
    (pp. 255-264)

    Gregory Currie’sImage and Mind: Film, Philosophy and Cognitive Science¹ is a major event in the study of film. It represents the first thoroughgoing philosophy of film in the analytic tradition. Covering such topics as the essence of cinema, the nature of representation in film, the relation of film to language, the nature of the spectator’s imaginative involvement in film, and problems of film narration and interpretation, the book addresses a gamut of classical questions of film theory and answers them, often in surprising ways, from a perspective richly informed by Currie’s impressive grasp of the philosophy of mind and...

  17. Chapter 13 TV and Film: A Philosophical Perspective
    (pp. 265-280)

    As film emerged as one of the dominant media of the twentieth century, critics often challenged its artistic credentials by alleging that it was nothing more than “canned theater”—not an autonomous artform, but merely surrogate theater served up in celluloid. As a result, film theorists spilled a great deal of ink trying to prove that the medium of film isessentiallydifferent from that of theater and that, in consequence, the possibility that film could be an artform—with equal standing as regards not only theater, but with respect, as well, to its other five sister arts—had to...

  18. Chapter 14 Kracauer’s Theory of Film
    (pp. 281-302)

    This essay is about Siegfried Kracauer’s bookTheory of Film: The Redemption of Physical Reality,which was published in 1960.¹ It is important to stress this from the outset because, during the course of his career, Kracauer made a number of contributions to the topic of film theory, not all of which are strictly compatible with the theses ofTheory of Film.² Exploring the relations and the tensions between Kracauer’s earlier writings andTheory of Filmis a worthy task for intellectual historians,³ but, in contrast, my purpose is to examine the argument ofTheory of Film.That book alone...

  19. Chapter 15 Cinematic Nation Building: Eisenstein’s The Old and the New
    (pp. 303-322)

    If, as Benedict Anderson has suggested, the idea of a nation is in large measure imagined retrospectively, the Soviet Union offers an interesting counterpoint—that of a nation imagined prospectively.¹ The Soviet Union literally had to be invented. As is well known, cinema was expected to play a crucial role in this process. Surely it was for such a purpose that Lenin anointed cinema the premier socialist artform. Many Soviet films of the twenties were devoted to consolidating a tradition for the new nation, commemorating its revolutionary founding in historical spectacles, like V. I. Pudovkin’sThe End of St. Petersburg...

  20. Chapter 16 The Professional Western: South of the Border
    (pp. 323-344)

    The topic of this essay is a series of four thematically related American Westerns:Vera Cruz(1954),The Magnificent Seven(1960),The Professionals(1966), andThe Wild Bunch(1969). In each, a group of American mercenaries finds itself south of the border and becomes involved in what may be described as various Mexican revolutions. Because these Westerns involve a paramilitary group of expert warriors, they are apt to be categorised as members of the sub-genre called the professional Western. The professional Western, in turn, has been theorised as a celebration of expertise that reflects the ethos of an emerging social...

  21. Chapter 17 Moving and Moving: From Minimalism to Lives of Performers
    (pp. 345-356)

    In retrospect,Lives of Performersstrikes one as an allegory of its time—of Yvonne Rainer’s (and the avant-garde filmworld’s) movement from minimalism to something else. The film begins with rehearsal footage of the danceWalk, She Said,which gives every appearance of being a minimalist exercise devoted to the exploration of movement as such.¹ Though a rehearsal (and, therefore, by definition something that looks toward the future), this dance, oddly enough, points back to the past—to minimalism with its commitment to a modernist aesthetic of austerity. In a narrow sense, the dance rehearsal points backwards to Rainer’s own...

  22. Chapter 18 Prospects for Film Theory: A Personal Assessment
    (pp. 357-400)

    The rapid expansion of the film studies institution over the last two decades in the United States was undoubtedly abetted, in one way or another, by something called film theory, or, as its acolytes are apt to say, simply Theory—a classy continental number, centrally composed of elements of Louis Althusser, Jacques Lacan, and Roland Barthes, often with optional features derived, often incongruously, from Michel Foucault, Julia Kristeva, Pierre Bourdieu, Gilles Deleuze, and (maybesometimes) Jacques Derrida, along with contributions from French cinéphiles like Christian Metz, Raymond Bellour, and Jean-Louis Baudry, although generally filtered, albeit with a difference, through exegetes...

  23. Credits
    (pp. 401-402)
  24. Index
    (pp. 403-420)