Monday, January 24, 2022

The Stories We Tell: Ways of Seeing & Perceiving (ENG 102/281/282 quote file)

 



People who think philosophy is useless also tend to think that society does not need to change. If you want to maintain the status quo, teaching people to question everything is a pretty stupid thing to do. (Existential Comics, March 21, 2018)

In a globalized world it is imperative that we begin to develop a broader awareness of the interconnected cultures and societies that influence and shape world events. Anyone remotely aware of the American social landscape must recognize that many of our citizens are unaware of the broader relations and connections of the world in which they live in. Many Americans tend to have a narrow understanding of world history, filtered as it is through ethnocentric American textbooks and mediatized narratives filtered through the lenses of the dominant center, which effectively ignores the realities of the margins (culturally, economically and socially). Many concerned citizens struggle to carve out meaning in the contemporary data stream and suffer the neglect of a mainstream media that limits itself to predigested dualistic positions. In this simplified media environment, vast regions of the world are presumed to be unable to speak for themselves and rarely, in the mainstream corporate media that serves as the news for a majority of American citizens, do we receive sustained and in-depth critical analysis of issues through the voices and experiences of multiple interested parties.
--Michael Benton, 2006

We live in the best of times in which we are able to learn about the world and its incredible diversity of cultures/beings/places/perspectives in a way never historically possible.

We live in the worst of times when we are able to isolate ourselves completely from anything different from our own narrow view/conception of the world/reality. 
The choice is yours! -- Michael Benton (January 1, 2018)

As a teacher, I'm not interested in just reproducing class after class of graduates who will get out, become successful, and take their obedient places in the slots that society has prepared for them. What we must do--whether we teach or write or make films--is educate a new generation to do this very modest thing: change the world. (15) ---Zinn, Howard. "Stories Hollywood Never Tells." The Sun #343 (July 2004): 12-15.

"What is history for? What do we want it to do? In 1731, an obscure Kentish schoolmaster named Richard Spencer offered some answers. Properly to ascertain his position in geographical space, he reasoned, required not a single map, but access to a global atlas, one that would allow him to ‘see what London and the adjacent parts are in the kingdom; what the kingdom is in Europe, and what Europe is in the universe’. Much the same, he thought, applied to history. ‘Particular histories represent to you, what things have happen’d to such or such a People, with all their circumstances,’ he explained: ‘But to understand the whole clearly, you must know what relation every history can have to others.’ Only when such connected and wide-angled histories were available, might one hope to ‘see all the order of time’." -- Linda Colley, "Wide-Angled" (2013)

"World Cinema’, to a French eye, is a very welcoming notion that could mean several different, even contradictory things. Among these, I will evoke three meanings:
1) Because of its predecessor World Music, which means the ethnic music re-arranged with electronic instruments to please Western consumers, World Cinema could function as a seductive formula for acculturation – after exploiting gold, diamond and every other kind of material resource, now the Western world is exploiting the immaterial patrimony of the rest of the world, including, of course, its own inner colonies.
2) In a much more objective, generous sense, World Cinema can mean ‘every kind of cinema that appears in the world’ – as Philippe Grandrieux might have put it, according to his historical TV experiment of 1987, The World is Everything That Happens (“le Monde est tout ce qui arrive”). The syntagm World Cinema helps to identify and evaluate non-dominant cinemas all over the planet. This is the opposite of the previous meaning: World Cinema as opposed to globalised cinema, with a hidden but obvious ‘s’ at the end of Cinema.
3) In a polemical and radical sense – conceptual rather than geographical – World Cinema means the cinema in relationship to the world, cinema in its ability to conceive and reshape the world, as opposed to the ‘fantasy cinema’ that forgets, often hides and sometimes betrays realities.
-- Nicole Berenz, "Political Cinema Today – The New Exigencies: For a Republic of Images." Screening the Past (September 2013)

What are “thoughts,” and what are “things”? and how are they connected?… Is there a common stuff out of which all facts are made?… Which is the most real kind of reality? What binds all things into one universe?
-- Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life (2011)

"The only performance that makes it, that makes it all the way, is the one that achieves madness."
-- Turner in the film Performance

Midway upon the journey of our life
I found myself within a forest dark,
For the straightforward path had been lost.
--Dante AlighieriDivine Comedy: Inferno, Song 1

Anyone who believes that every individual film must present a "balanced" picture, knows nothing about either balance or pictures.
--Edward R. Murrow

Democracy is a great conversation, a community defined by the scope and substance of its discourse.
--James David Barber

"Believing is seeing and not the other way around."
--Errol Morris

"There are in fact no masses; there are only ways of seeing people as masses.”
--Raymond Williams

"Art and humanities research begins with a desire to understand the human condition."
--Masoud Yazdani

Film matters because film is us. We as a society use the filmic form to tell stories about who we are and our society - they are a record of what makes us human and what concerns us in the everyday. ... The film form, narrative and styles with which we are so familiar, from Hollywood blockbusters to the avant-garde, shape our own personal narratives. Film offers us a language to speak to each other across national, class, economic, and racial lines - film is a phenomenon that allows us to understand cultures and people.
--Lincoln Geraghty

Until lions have their own historians, histories of the hunt will glorify the hunter.
-- African proverb

"So you lie to yourself to be happy. There's nothing wrong with that. We all do it."
--Teddy in Memento (2000)

My films are intended as polemical statements against the American ‘barrel down’ cinema and its dis-empowerment of the spectator. They are an appeal for a cinema of insistent questions instead of false (because too quick) answers, for clarifying distance in place of violating closeness, for provocation and dialogue instead of consumption and consensus.
-– Michael Haneke, “Film as Catharsis”

The question isn’t “how do I show violence?” but rather “how do I show the spectator his position vis-à-vis violence and its representation?”
-– Michael Haneke

As a scholar of transnational/eco-critical cinema, it is increasingly clear to me that cinema is one of the most efficient ways to debate political and cultural issues in a global society. This is especially the case with cinema's potential to visually capture the transnational and even global scale of ecological problems, and engage with them in a way that reaches wide global audiences. Cinema is not only a communicator of ideas and an essential component of the culture industries. It is also a crucial pedagogical tool that facilitates efficient learning and motivates participation from new generations of audiences. It can help audiences, 'old' and 'new', to rethink their place in the world, and crucially, it can also motivate them to do something about the injustices and exploitation to which they are witness.
--Pietari Kääpä

Openness exists . . .not only for the person to whom one listens, but rather anyone who listens is fundamentally open. Without this kind of openness to one another there is no genuine human relationship. Belonging together always also means being able to listen to one another.

--Hans-Georg Gadamer Truth and Method (Source)

Our human existence is rooted in sex. .... It lies at the very heart of love. Though conservatives reject the very idea as dangerous, I would say that the way to save us from our own perversity is by confronting sex courageously. ... Sex brings relief from tension and enmity and leads to harmony in human relationships--husband and wife, [friends] and strangers. (109)
Kaneto Shindō, qouted in McDonald, Keiko. "Eros, Politics, and Folk Religion: Kaneto Shindō's Onobaba (1963)." Reading a Japanese Film: Cinema in Context. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2006: 108-121.

‘We do not remember, we rewrite memory much as history is rewritten’
Narrator of Chris Marker's film Sans Soleil (1983)

"The tradition of the oppressed teaches us that the ‘emergency situation’ in which we live is not the exception, but the rule.”
--Walter Benjamin, Theses on the Philosophy of History

"What is focus, and who has the right to say what is legitimate focus?
-- Julie Margaret Cameron, late 19th Century Photographer 

"Death is never the end of the story, it always leave tracks."
-- Notary Jean Label in Incendies (2010)

"We do not grow absolutely, chronologically. We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another; unevenly. We grow partially. We are relative. We are mature in one realm, childish in another. The past, present, and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present. We are made up of layers, cells, constellations."
-- Anaïs Nin, The Diary of Anaïs Nin Vol. 4 (1971)

"Power fears poetry... Poetry resides somewhere else, somewhere inaccessible to power; it evokes sentiments, touches being, and speaks in a strange tongue." (163)
--Andy Merrifield, Magical Marxism: Subversive Politics and the Imagination (2011)

Unlike other forms of artistic expression, cinema is an "industrial form of art": in order to express itself fully, it needs ever-greater financial investments. This means that the author's artistic expression is conditioned right from the start--and it would be hypocritical not to admit this--by the capital invested. These capital sources can be motivated not just by the simple and legitimate desire for expression, but also by power groups, concentrations and lobbies of all sorts and backgrounds, who can use cinematographic media in instrumental way to advance particular interests that that have little or nothing to do with the noble--and general--principle of the freedom of expression.
--Vittorio Giacci, "Cinema, Responsibility, and Formation" (2007)

In the end, confusion is not a lack of understanding. It's more understanding. Mainstream reporting and some people in power want to make everything clear to people--at the expense of the very issues and people they deal with. They can't. If it's complicated. Leave it as complicated. Give people a chance to think.
--Kal Kim-Gibson, "Dreamland and Disillusion." (Film Quarterly: Fall 2011)

Film is often just business -- I understand that and it's not something I concern myself with. But if film aspires to be part of culture, it should do the things great literature, music and art do: elevate the spirit, help us understand ourselves and the world around us and give people the feeling they are not alone…
--Krzysztof Kieslowski, "Kieslowski’s Three Colors." (Salon: June 10, 2002)

"When a morally compromised author claims the field of aesthetics as a value-free area it should make his readers stop and think."
--W.G. Sebald, On the Natural History of Destruction (1997)

“In an age when reality is insufficiently real, how much reality can a fictional story possess?”
-- Haruki Murakami (2011)

"In most cases, it is virtually impossible to grasp a truth in its original form and depict it accurately. This is why we try to grab its tail by luring the truth from its hiding place, transferring it to a fictional location, and replacing it with a fictional form."
-- Haruki Murakami (2011)

"I think the whole point of OWS is encouraging people to reinvent democracy from different angles and from their own terms," he says. "On one hand, it's a very communal project and on the other hand, it's about individuals who are not necessarily in agreement finding ways to see things anew."
-- Chris Marker, quoted in Steve Dollar's Occupy This (2012)

“Why should an artist’s way of looking at the world have any meaning for us? Why does it give us pleasure? Because, I believe, it increases our awareness of our own potentiality.”
— John Berger, Permanent Red: Essays in Seeing (1960)

"How can I overcome the prejudices of the bits and pieces of mysteries that reside within me, and how can I break through the prejudices that are anchored in the mysteries of others, so that together with them we may create something beautiful out of something that is ugly?"
-- Vilém Flusser, The Freedom of the Migrant: Objections to Nationalism (1994)

Sifting

“This time the invaders aren’t armed, but they have more damaging weapons than cannons: dollars! So that everything they touch turns to garbage. The whole country is rotten.”
--The Haitian maître d’ Albert, Heading South (2005)

“Truth is not born nor is it to be found inside the head of an individual person, it is born between people collectively searching for truth, in the process of their dialogic interaction.”
-- M.M. Bakhtin, Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics (1984)

Realism? Me? I’ve not a damn thing to do with it. The religious attitude to reality has never concerned me.
-- Theo Angelopoulos, cited by Raymond Durgnat in “The Long Take in Voyage to Cythera: Brecht and Marx vs. Bazin and God.” Film Comment 26.6 (November/December, 1990): 43-46

Again and again, I was forced, as any reader is, to return to my own reality, to analyze everybody's reality. A criterion, by the way, by which I would measure any work of art.
--Rainer Werner Fassbinder (1980), in The Anarchy of the Imagination (1992)

One problem with the word “shaman,” which traces its origins to the Siberian steppe, is that it is popularly employed by people more interested in fantasizing about some alternate reality than squaring their shoulders to bear the mundane burdens of this one. However, in cultures where such an office exists, the job of the shaman is primarily to foster the interrelation of two groups or positions that have hardened into such stubborn opposition that the survival of the society is at risk. For life to go on, the two camps must overcome their polemic, and the shaman acts by throwing himself into the fray—mentally, bodily, and emotionally, sometimes at personal risk. The result of his labors typically constitutes a paradigm shift rather than a compromise: the rules, though not necessarily undone, are re-contextualized and the system changes, including the position of the shaman himself.
--Matt Kirby, "I Heart Huckabees Premodern Help for Postmodern Times." (2004)

Many film-makers, including Orson Welles and the avant-gardists Maya Deren, Harry Smith, Stan Brakhage, and Kenneth Anger, identified their practice with magic – albeit in varying ways. Welles had extensive experience as a stage magician and made his last feature, the faux documentary F is For Fake precisely about cinematic sleight of hand; Deren was a serious student of Haitian vodoo; Smith considered his cut and paste animations a form of alchemy; Brakhage referred to "trick" as the medium's fundamental rule; and Anger was a disciple of Aleister Crowley, who considered making a film akin to casting a spell. (Walt Disney would have agreed.)
--J. Hoberman, "Hugo and the Magic of Film Trickery" (2012)

"I understood writing could be dangerous. I didn't realize the danger came from the machinery."
--William Lee in David Cronenberg's film "Naked Lunch" (1991)

“You know, films are a world within a world. And maybe it’s a world within a world within a world – within another world. It’s a really beautiful thing how lost we are, and we want to get even more lost sometimes.” -- David Lynch

It is clear that I must find my other half. But is it a he or a she? What does this person look like? Identical to me? Or somehow complementary? Does my other half have what I don’t? Did he get the looks? The luck? The love? Were we really separated forceably or did he just run off with the good stuff? Or did I? Will this person embarrass me? What about sex? Is that how we put ourselves back together again? Or can two people actually become one again?” — Hedwig and the Angry Inch

Now look again at that list of effects -- horrific, tragic, epic, comic, pathetic, sublime, absurd, intriguing, disgusting, shocking, thrilling, and wonderful -- a list that's not even a fraction complete. When we're talking about these effects achieved by the art we are talking about affects manifested in the audience, emotional responses of horror, awe, pity, amusement, intrigue and so on. When we're talking about an aesthetic as the set of principles underpinning these responses we're talking about a system which evaluates experience itself. We're talking about our tastes and distates, desires and fears, prejudices and perversions, the basic rules and relationships which shape our affective response to not just art but life itself. Our aesthetic sits at the very heart of our personality. When we respond with horror to a car crash, real or imaginary, it is an aesthetic reaction. When we respond with awe to a sweeping vista of canyons and mountains, it is an aesthetic judgement. When we respond to the image of two men kissing with appetence or abhorrence, that evaluation is defined by and defines our personal aesthetic. Good taste and appreciation of beauty? Screw that. An aesthetic is the set of principles that make you want to fight or fuck.
--Hal Duncan, "The Art of Life" (February 10, 2007)

"All the animals come out at night: whores, skunk pussies, buggers, queens, fairies, dopers, junkies, sick, venal. Someday a real rain will come and wash all this scum off the streets."
Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver (1976)

"Another Day witnessing existence in bewilderment."
Grandma in The Great Match (2006)

"There's never been a true war that wasn't fought between two sets of people who were certain they were in the right. The really dangerous people believe that they are doing whatever they are doing solely and only because it is without question the right thing to do. And that is what makes them dangerous."
--Wednesday, in Neil Gaiman's novel American Gods (2001)

"There are no dangerous thoughts, thinking itself is dangerous..."
-Hannah Arendt, "Thinking and Moral Considerations"(1971)

The disruption and transgression of the normative and conceptual frameworks of everyday experience, and the provision of a space within which it is possible to imagine not just the satisfaction of familiar wants unmet by existing society, but to envisage wanting something other than the satisfactions which that society endorses and simultaneously denies: above all, to desire in a different way. -- Ruth Levitas, "For Utopia: The (Limits of the) Utopian Function in Late Capitalist Society" (2001: 38-39)

The battle for the mind of North America will be fought in the video arena: the Videodrome. The television screen is the retina of the mind's eye. Therefore, the television screen is part of the physical structure of the brain. Therefore, whatever appears on the television screen emerges as raw experience for those who watch it. Therefore, television is reality, and reality is less than television.
Brian O'Blivion, in Videodrome (1983)

"Although the assembly of the shots is responsible for the structure of the film, it does not, as is generally assumed, create its rhythm; the distinct time running through the shots makes the rhythm of the picture, and the rhythm is determined not by the length of edited pieces, but by the pressure of the time that runs through them. The pieces that 'won't edit', that can't be properly joined, are those which record a radically different kind of time" -– Andrei Tarkovsky, "Sculpting in Time" (1987: 2nd edition)

"The camera exists to create a new art and to show above all what cannot be seen elsewhere: neither in theater nor in life. Otherwise, I'd have no need of it; doing photography doesn't interest me. That, I leave to the photographer." -- Max Ophüls

“When I say this is the most important motion picture you’ll ever attend, my motivation is not financial gain, but a firm belief that the delicate fabric that holds all of us together will be ripped apart unless every man, woman, and child in this country sees this film and pays full ticket price, not some bargain matinee cut-rate deal. In the event that you find certain sequences or events confusing, please bear in mind this is your fault, not ours. You will need to see the picture again and again until you understand everything.” —Steven Soderbergh in Schizopolis (1996)

“The process of coming to know oneself, confronting one’s contingency, tracking one’s causes home, is identical with the process of inventing a new language—that is, of thinking up some new metaphors.” -- Richard Rorty, Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity (1989)

"If his was more than just a vague ambition, if he was absolutely determined to discover the truth, there's no way we could prevent him." -- Christof, The Truman Show (1998)

"The artist seeks to destroy the stability by which society lives, for the sake of drawing closer to the ideal. Society seeks stability, the artist—infinity. The artist is concerned with absolute truth, and therefore gazes ahead and sees things sooner than other people.” ­ -- Andrei Tarkovsky, Sculpting in Time (1987: 2nd edition)

"It is the particular distinction of Denis’ cinema that sets it apart from – almost, indeed, in opposition to – the work of many of our most celebrated ‘arthouse’ directors: Bergman, for example, or Fellini or Antonioni. Their films are rooted in autobiography – not necessarily in any literal sense, but in terms of personal introspection – whereas Denis left autobiography behind with Chocolat, and even that film is notable for its poise and critical distance, its objectivity. Where Bergman or Fellini seems to be saying to us ‘Come with me and I’ll tell you my secrets, share my experiences – how I feel about things, my thoughts about existence’, Denis issues a very different invitation to the spectator: ‘Come with me and we’ll play a game, albeit a serious one. Let’s see how much you can notice in what I decide to show you, how you interpret what you see and hear, what connections you can make, how much can be explained and how much remains mysterious and uncertain, as so much in our lives remains unclear. I’ll allow you a certain leeway of interpretation, because I don’t always understand everything myself, not even my own creations, though I’ll be as precise as possible…’" -- Robin Wood, "Only (Dis)Connect; and Never Relaxez-Vous; or, ‘I Can’t Sleep’" (2011)

"I owe Armenia a cinematographic confession. A sort of personal bible: my mother, my father, my childhood, my imprisonment. My vision of dreams... the ghosts seek shelter with me, their living heir. But I can’t take them in. I have to tell the police that they’re staying with me. They know neither electricity nor insurance agents. They know no evil. They want to stay with me. I have to prove I love them." -- Sergei Parajanov, quoted in "Deep Red: Joanne Nucho on The Color of Pomegranates (2004)

"In the old days, when you couldn't show sex on film, directors like Hitchcock had metaphors for sex (trains going into tunnels, etc). When you can show more realistic sex, the sex itself can be a metaphor for other parts of the character's lives. The way people express themselves sexually can tell you a lot about who they are. Some people ask me, 'Couldn't you have told the same story without the explicitness?'. They don't ask whether I could've done Hedwig without the songs. Why not be allowed to use every paint in the paintbox?" --John Cameron Mitchell, "How to Shoot Sex: A Docu-Primer" (2007): Shortbus Region 1 DVD release (Th!nk Film)

"The character of any age is tellingly revealed in the popular representation of intimacy. For all the sexualisation of our culture, we live in strangely repressed times: a late-night, infrared fumble on Big Brother is front-page news. While the online porn industry, with its humourless siliconed stereotypes, is worth a reported $10bn a year - more than the cumulative box-office receipts of Hollywood - real human sexual relationships, vulnerable and fun, are hardly anywhere to be seen." --Tim Adams, "Everbody's Doing It..." (2006)

Porter's experiments, however fumbling they appear in hindsight, point us to a curious quandary at the heart of filmmaking: what is it that makes cutting work? How is it that we accept such a violent transition — whether it be from a wide shot to a close-up, from Paris to the Sahara desert, or from the seventeenth century to the present — as a cut? "Nothing in our day-to-day experience seems to prepare us for such a thing," Walter Murch observes. "From the moment we get up in the morning until we close our eyes at night, the visual reality we perceive is a continuous stream of linked images: In fact, for millions of years — tens, hundreds of millions of years — life on Earth has experienced the world in this way. Then suddenly, at the beginning of the twentieth century, human beings were confronted with something else — edited film." What prepared them for this? Not painting, not theater, not even literature, cinematic as some of Dickens's scenes now appear. Murch speculates that it was dreams. "We accept the cut because it resembles the way images are juxtaposed in our dreams," he writes. "In the darkness of the theater, we say to ourselves, in effect, 'This looks like reality, but it cannot be reality because it is so visually discontinuous; therefore, it must be a dream.'" Director John Huston saw it differently. Cinema, he said, was not just a reflection of our dream lives but the very essence of conscious thought, with its fitful jumble of visuals and sound: "To me the perfect film is as though it were unwinding behind your eyes, and your eyes were projecting it themselves, so that you were seeing what you wished to see. It's like thought. It's the closest to thought process of any art." Watch the final moments of his film The Dead (1987) and you'll have some idea of what he's talking about. As Gabriel Conroy (Donal McCann) gazes out the frosty filigree of his Dublin window, somberly musing on the emptiness of his life, the film, with no more than a few simple cuts, slips aboard his stream of consciousness as it glides from thought to thought: from past memories to future projections to the lonely churchyard on the hill where his wife's lover lies buried.
--Graham Daesler, "Cutter's Way: The Mysterious Art of Film Editing." (2012)

A TV show can’t hold people and institutions to account like good journalism can. But if I can make you care about a character, I may make you think a little longer about certain dynamics that might cause you to reconsider your own political inertia or your own political myopia. You might be more willing to accept a critique of the prevailing political and social systems.
--David Simon: quoted in Julia Leyda, "'This Complicated, Colossal Failure': The Abjection of Creighton Bernette in HBO's Treme." (2012)

The moment of violence in films is never arbitrary or innocent. Yet, there is no singular reading or simple yardstick that can be used to either condone or condemn how violence is represented, taken up by diverse audiences, or used to maximize pleasure so as to give it a liberatory or fascist edge. Cinematic violence can be used to probe the depths of everyday life in ways that expand one's understanding of tyranny and domination; it can also be used to maximize the sleazy side of pleasure, reinforce demeaning stereotypes, or provoke cheap voyeurism. Cinematic violence operates on many registers and any theoretical and pedagogical attempt to deal with complex representations of violence must be discriminatory in taking up such distinctions. As widespread as the culture of violence might be, it is especially imperative that educators, parents, citizens, and cultural workers challenge the representations of violence that have become a defining principle of the visual media. Such a challenge needs to be enunciated critically as part of a broader public policy to both protect youth and to enable them to discern between the violence of the spectacle and a representational violence that allows them to identify with the suffering of others, display empathy, and bring their own ethical commitments to bear.
--Henry A. Giroux, "Racism and the Aesthetic of Hyperreal Violence: Pulp Fiction and Other Visual Tragedies." (1995)

“The concept of ‘obscenity’ is tested when one dares to look at something that he has an unbearable desire to see but has forbidden himself to look at. When one feels that everything that one had wanted to see has been revealed, ‘obscenity’ disappears, the taboo disappears as well, and there is a certain liberation.”

--Nagisa Oshima, quoted in Oshima in Words and Images

“To the leaders of the cinema still to come, I can offer only a few words drawn from my modest experience. You must ceaselessly formulate and sharpen your critical views, both of others and of yourselves.” --Nagisa Oshima, quoted in Oshima in Words and Images

"Film matters, among other things, because it has an extraordinary capacity to expand our reality, to deepen our moral sensibility, and to shape our self-understandings, sometimes by moving us closer to cultures, problems, and realities that are distant from those we know well. That said, I think it is far from being the case that all films matter. The task, I think, for film scholars in the future will be to help to ensure that films that genuinely do matter continue to get made, and that they receive the attention they deserve."--Matte Hjort, "Film ... has an extraordinary capacity to expand our reality." Why Does Film Matter (Intellect Books, 2008)

"Sex is just another brushstroke in the painting of life. Fear of sex is at the root of many problems that aren't directly connected to sex."--John Cameron Mitchell discussing Shortbus (2006)

“The observer, when he seems to himself to be observing a stone, is really, if physics is to be believed, observing the effects of the stone upon himself.” -- Bertrand Russell, An Inquiry Into Meaning and Truth (1950)

“At a certain point, I felt so useless!” said Roberto Rossellini. Never before had technology accomplished such miracles. Yet everywhere the world was confronting crises. Never before had civilization so needed us all to understand the great problems—food, water, energy. Yet everywhere, especially in contemporary art, there was nothing but cruelty and complaining. The mass media, Rossellini charged, were accomplishing “a sort of cretinization of adults.” Rather than illuminate people, their great effort seemed to be to subjugate them, “to create slaves who think they’re free.” -- quoted by Tag Gallagher

"What's the most resilient parasite? An idea. A single idea from the human mind can build cities. An idea can transform the world and rewrite all the rules. -- Cobb in the film Inception (2010)

"The fact is that war changes men's natures. The barbarities of war are seldom committed by abnormal men. The tragedy of war is that the horrors are committed by normal men in abnormal situations … I say that we cannot hope to judge such matters unless we ourselves have been submitted to the same pressures and the same provocations as these men whose actions are on trial." -- The character Major J.F. Thomas in Breaker Morant (1980)

“Originally, the embeddedness of an artwork in the context of a tradition found expression in a cult. As we know, the earliest artworks originated in the service of rituals....in other words: the unique value of the ‘authentic’ work of art always has its basis in ritual.” —Walter Benjamin, "The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility" (1936)

"You're television incarnate, Diana: indifferent to suffering; insensitive to joy. All of life is reduced to the common rubble of banality. War, murder, death are all the same to you as bottles of beer. And the daily business of life is a corrupt comedy." -- Max Schumacher in Network (1976)

"It is a truism too often forgotten that what begins as movie can end up as history. Writing in The New York Review of Books, Oliver Sacks reminds us that Ronald Reagan was fond of telling a story on the campaign trail about a heroic WWII bomber pilot going down with his plane; it later came out that this was not a historical event at all, but a scene from a the movie A Wing and a Prayer. In the aftermath of 9/11, initiating the manhunt for Bin Laden, George Bush memorably declared that "There's an old poster out West that I recall that said, 'Wanted — Dead or Alive.'" This is a phrase far more common in cinema than it ever was in real life. In neither case was the politician lying, or probably even aware that his memories of movies had become so mingled with his memories of history that the two could not be separated. They were simply employing for rhetorical purposes what they believed to be truths about American history." -- Tyler Sage, "Tarantino and Spielberg: Two Visions of America" (2013)

"The struggle for self-determination, the struggle for what a character wants his life to be…I look for characters who feel strongly enough about something not to be concerned with the prevailing odds, but to struggle against those odds." -- Robert Aldritch (1976)

"Existing criminology is insufficient to isolate barbarism. It is insufficient because the idea of "crime" in existing criminology is artificial, for what is called crime is really an infringement of "existing laws", whereas "laws" are very often a manifestation of barbarism and violence. Such are the prohibiting laws of different kinds which abound in modern life. The number of these laws is constantly growing in all countries and, owing to this, what is called crime is very often not a crime at all, for it contains no element of violence or harm. On the other hand, unquestionable crimes escape the field of vision of criminology, either because they have not recognized the form of crime or because they surpass a certain scale. In existing criminology there are concepts: a criminal man, a criminal profession, a criminal society, a criminal sect, and a criminal tribe, but there is no concept of a criminal state, or a criminal government, or criminal legislation. Consequently what is often regarded as "political" activity is in fact a criminal activity. This limitation of the field of vision of criminology together with the absence of an exact and permanent definition of the concept of crime is one of the chief characteristics of our culture." -- P.D. Ouspensky, A New Model of the Universe (Second Edition, 1934)

“There's a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious—makes you so sick at heart—that you can't take part. You can't even passively take part. And you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop. And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it that unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from working at all.” ― Mario Savio, December 2, 1964

"People define gay cinema solely by content: if there are gay characters in it, it's a gay film . . . It's such a failure of the imagination, let alone the ability to look beyond content . . . Heterosexuality to me is a structure as much as it is a content. It is an imposed structure that goes along with the patriarchal, dominant structure that constrains and defines society. If homosexuality is the opposite or counter-sexual activity to that, then what kind of a structure would it be?" -- Todd Haynes, quoted in "Structural/Sexual Transgression: Todd Haynes' Poison as a Critique of Homonormativity" (2013)

“I love the idea that knowledge can make us closer to the world, as opposed to make us feel superior to the world.”— Guillermo del Toro (2012)

DialogicResources for April 1, 2014

Niamh Bolton reminded me of this: "This inability to think created the possibility for many ordinary men to commit evil deeds on a gigantic scale; the likes in which one has never seen before...The manifestation of the wind of thought is not knowledge...but the ability to tell right from wrong, beautiful from ugly, and I hope that thinking gives the strengths to prevent catastrophes in these rare moments when the chips are down." -- Hannah Arendt in Margaretha von Trotta's 2012 film Hannah Arendt

Emily Hensley's ENG 282 Spring 2014 response to the film Even the Rain: "Prior to watching this film I had never heard of these Water Wars. I find it very disturbing that I have been so secluded to what has been going on all around me. When this happened I was in high school and it either wasn’t taught and/or most likely I wasn’t highly concerned with current events around the world. However, now looking back I feel saddened that I have been so oblivious to what others have been through. I feel that I have learned more in this class by watching these films than I ever have over my entire life span. I’m truly grateful to have a new outlook upon life and the world we live in. I realize now that these events do matter not only because these people "matter" and they are “important” but also because one day I may not be so lucky… these horrors may come knocking at my door."

"Our lives are not our own. From womb to tomb, we are bound to others. Past and present. And by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future." -- Cloud Atlas (2012)

Film study needs to probe its limit cases – those films, directors, moments, genres and practices which return insistently to needle it, dropping an un-ignorable boodle just beyond the gates of the currently sayable and thinkable within critical writing. A reconnaissance mission for those zones of the cinema, and our experience of cinema, which are livelier, messier and more open than our present intellectual tools can allow for and accommodate. A search for a cinema of edges – hard edges, lines out, explosive paradoxes. The cinema that draws us on towards it – dumbfounding us, yet daring us, all the while, to try to speak of it. -- Adrian Martin, "Sixteen Ways to Pronounce Potato, or: The Adventure of Materials" (1987)

"Following the views of Paul Ricoeur and David Carr, I argue that our life is best understood as the product of our own narration: we account for the meaning of our lives in the terms of a story about what we have done and who we plan to be, selectively emphasizing and interpreting life's events into a unified whole, like the plot of a novel. If this view is correct, and I believe there is good reason to think it is, then the creation of a meaningful life and the imposition of meaning on the world around us is a creative process that is not dissimilar to the creation of a film. Films are realistic, I contend, not because they reflect the world the way it really is, but because they reflect the world the way we experience it - as a process of choosing among narratives we inherit from our cultural traditions and finding, or creating, our own reading of events. In short, films are realistic portrayals of how we encounter life in the one aspect that is crucial for this book: the way in which we establish meaning (5)." -- Pamerleau, William C. Existentialist Cinema. NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.



"The word griot...is the word for what I do and the role that the filmmaker has in society...the griot is a messenger of one's time, a visionary and the creator of the future." -Djibril Diop Mambéty (2014)

"The common denominator of the universe is not harmony, but chaos, hostility, and murder."-- Werner Herzog

“To be frank, I think his world had vanished long before he even entered it. But I must say, he maintained the illusion with grace.” -- Zero about Gustave H. (2014)

"The writings of André Bazin regarding cinematic fictions make for an interesting point of comparison. Bazin snapped into focus something that had been present for, but not as forcefully articulated by, previous thinkers about cinema, which is that there is a tripleness to watching fiction film. We watch, as it were, with three eyes: 1) attuned to the proceedings as artifice, as projected light arranged in patterns that tell a story; 2) attuned to the proceedings of the story; and 3) attuned to the proceedings as their own reality, as documents of events that actually took place. When we watch the opening of The Searchers, we simultaneously see: A) a human cipher made of light approach a house made of the same; B) Ethan Edwards return from the Civil War; and C) John Wayne ride a horse up to a solid-seeming building." -- Tom McCormack (2011)


Eve: “Can you tell your wife what your problem is?”

Adam: “It’s these zombies and the way they treat the world. I just feel like all of the sand is at the bottom of the hourglass or something.”

Eve: “Time to turn it over then.” Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)


"It was in the reign of George III that the aforesaid personages lived and quarreled; good or bad, handsome or ugly, rich or poor, they are all equal now." -- Barry Lyndon (1975)


“I think hard times are coming when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now and can see through our fear-stricken society.... We will need writers who can remember freedom.” -- Ursula K. LeGuin, 2014 National Book Award Acceptance Speech


"And that was the nature of my game, because I'd spent most of my life as a blind receptacle to be filled with other people's knowledge and then drained, spouting synthetic languages I'd never understand. A very technical boy, sure." - William Gibson, "Johnny Mnemonic" (1981)

“Point of view is usually only conspicuous when it is oppositional. The dominant, prevailing point of view remains invisible or apparently neutral and objective” (14) -- Sally Potter in "The Prospects for Political Cinema Today" Cineaste 37.1 (2011): 6-17.

" I would say that life understood is life lived. But, the paradoxes bug me, and I can learn to love and make love to the paradoxes that bug me, and on really romantic evenings of self, I go salsa dancing with my confusion." - Timothy "Speed" Levitch in Richard Linklater's 2002 film Waking Life

"Harun [Farocki’s premise was the insight that we do not even have any new images of capitalism yet. Sure, we have these airport boarding zones, where we see modern people with laptops, reading high-gloss magazines, wearing Rolexes and Burberry clothes. All this is only a surface, but we do not have images for how this new form of capitalism operates. We have books about it, but we do not find those images in films. In cinema, capitalism is still being imaged as Charles Chaplin did in Modern Times (1936)." - Abel, Marco. “The Cinema of Identification Gets on My Nerves: An Interview with Christian Petzold.” Cineaste 33.3 (Summer 2008)

"The only way he could heal was to learn how to dream. ... Before he can become a warrior, a man has to leave everything behind and go into the jungle, guided only by his dreams. In that journey he has to discover completely alone, who he really is. Some get lost and never come back. Those who do, will be ready to face all that will come." - The shaman Karamakate in Ciro Guerra's 2015 film Embrace of the Serpent

In contrast to many liberals, who view truth and power as often opposed, Nietzsche believed that what we understand as “the truth” is itself always a function of power — the power to dominate how people think about reality. In this view, competing conservative and liberal accounts of global warming, health care, and the Iraq war are part of larger power struggles over describing reality. Nietzsche would ask us to be skeptical of those claiming to be simply telling the truth. Efforts to declare some accounts about reality to be true and others false is always a power move. He meant this not as an indictment of power; he considered the will to power to be the essence of  life itself. Instead, he was denouncing the notion of truth as innocent of power plays. 
While not going so far as to say that all accounts of reality are accurate, he was saying that all truths must be understood as both perspectival and contingent. Because we all have different bodies, origins, histories, and standpoints, we all have different perspectives and accept different things as true, frequently changing our views over a lifetime. This view foreshadowed the view endorsed by much of today’s cognitive science, social psychology, and behavioral economics, which view reason as more a slave to instinct and power than the other way around. 
Nietzsche leaves us with a notion of objectivity as multiple, fractured, partial, and contingent:1
There is only a perspective seeing, only a perspective “knowing”; and the more affects we allow to speak about one thing, the more eyes, different eyes, we can use to observe one thing, the more complete will our “concept” of this thing, our “objectivity” be.
In place of God’s eye we would have countless eyes with divided perspectives, unconsciously projecting mental preconceptions onto external reality. What results is a kind of deep pluralism — not simply the recognition of different socioeconomic standpoints, but also an acknowledgment of the ways in which these perspectives are shaped by animal instincts, culture, and ideology. If we want the fullest picture of a thing, we need to consult other people’s perspectives, and the more we consult, the better.  -- Kathleen Higgins, "Post-Truth Pluralism: The Unlikely Political Wisdom of Nietzsche." (September 2013)

"The screen is a neutral element in the film-going experience. Or is it? It projects dreams but is also the receptacle of our dreams. It’s the vehicle for delivering the image to an audience — but does it also watch the audience at the same time? Is it a complicitous membrane which audience members can penetrate and which interacts with the spectators, despite its seeming passivity? Maybe — to all of the above …" -- Mark Rappoport, "The Empty Screen." (February 6, 2017)

No matter how commodified and domesticated the fantastic in its various forms might be, we need fantasy to think the world, and to change it. — China Miéville, "Thinking Weirdly with China Miéville." (January 13, 2018)

Authors and artists, like doctors and clinicians, can themselves be seen as profound symptomoligists, ... 'physicians of culture' for whom phenomena are signs or symptoms that reflect a certain state of forces. -- Daniel W. Smith, "'A Life of Pure Immanence'" (1998)

Ask any linguist and they’ll tell you the profound impact language has on influencing our culture. The words we speak express our thoughts, and science has shown that the structures within our language shape how we construct and understand our reality. - Hishaam Siddiqi, "How to Talk About ISIS Without Islamophobia." (July 18, 2016)

There is only one holistic system of systems. One . . . interwoven, interacting, multi-variate, multinational dominion of dollars. . . . It is the international system of currency which determines the totality of life on this planet. That is the natural order of things today. That is the atomic—and subatomic—and galactic structure of things today. . . . There is no America. There is no democracy. There is only IBM and IT&T and AT&T, and DuPont, Dow, Union Carbide, and Exxon. Those are the nations of the world today. . . . The world is a college of corporations, inexorably determined by the immutable by-laws of business. The world is a business, Mr. Beale. It has been since man crawled out of the slime. -- Arthur Jensen in Sydney Lumet's 1976 film Network (cited in "The World is a Business." )

 No other program has ever done anything remotely like what this one does, namely to portray the social, political, and economic life of an American city with the scope, observational precision, and moral vision of great literature. . . . The drama repeatedly cuts from the top of Baltimore’s social structure to its bottom, from political fund-raisers in the white suburbs to the subterranean squat of a homeless junkie. . . . The Wire’s political science is as brilliant as its sociology. It leaves The West Wing, and everything else television has tried to do on this subject, in the dust. --  Sheehan, Helena and Sheamus Sweeney. "The Wire and the World." Jacobin (March 10, 2018)

If I spoke about it – if I did – what would I tell you? I wonder. Would I tell you about the time … Or would I tell you about the place … Would I tell you about her? The princess without voice. Or perhaps I would just warn you, about the truth of these facts. And the tale of love and loss. And the monster, who tried to destroy it all. - Giles, The Shape of Water (2017)
People who think philosophy is useless also tend to think that society does not need to change. If you want to maintain the status quo, teaching people to question everything is a pretty stupid thing to do. (Existential Comics, March 21, 2018)

“Haven’t you ever been put in a new situation and found that, after overcoming its difficulties, you had developed a new set of skills and new experiences along the way?” -- Geometry teacher in Margaret (Kenneth Lonnergan, 2011)

When you least expect it, nature has cunning ways of finding our weakest spot. - Mr. Perlman

We rip out so much of ourselves to be cured of things faster than we should that we go bankrupt by the age of thirty and have less to offer each time we start with someone new. But to make yourself feel nothing so as not to feel anything - what a waste! - Mr. Perlman (Call Me By Your Name 2017)

“Will Graham, the detective in Manhunter, finds himself trapped, stuck to some degree in madness and nightmare. It bores me to present the events of the story in a realist style. My approach instead is to conceptualize the elements of the plot, taking into consideration the various torments of the human spirit. My aim is to exteriorize the spiritual in the Expressionist manner, and this always leads me to reject realism. What drew me to the story was its connection to the essence of evil, which emerges in the process of dehumanization that leads a simple human being with no exceptional past to become a killer capable of the most terrible atrocities. And when the victims cease being human beings, they become morsels… bits of matter. I want to understand just what this is all about, and also something about dangerous psychopaths, as well as the influence of social context on the behavior of individuals, such as fascism, genocide. This was the theme I explored in The Keep, whose action is set during the Second World War.” Michael Mann 2018

"Believing in a ‘female gaze’ means believing in a ‘male gaze,’ and I sincerely hope we’re moving more towards a world not bound by gender binaries. I believe in Laura Mulvey’s theory of the male gaze deeply, but I find it difficult to address now because as we fight towards gender equality it also means redefining old terms. But I also understand that as a female-identifying cinematographer it is important to establish what qualities I attribute to my work, and I’d more call it an emotional gaze. I try to approach every subject with a level of respect and love; I’d say the ‘male’ gaze wishes to devour, conquer, and control. The future is a loss of ego—an abandonment of the concept of the director as the sole auteur, a participation in a new set structure and deteriorating, old power dynamics. I want to visually traverse new territories with a sensitivity and a commitment to putting work out in the world that doesn’t feed into a purely capitalistic machine." -- Ashley Connor (Cinematographer of The Miseducation of Cameron Post) quoted in the The Female Gaze (2018)

When he was US commander in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus declared what he called "a war of perception... conducted continuously using the news media". What really mattered was not the facts but the way the story played in the United States. The undeclared enemy was, as always, an informed and critical public at home. 
Nothing has changed. In the 1970s, I met Leni Riefenstahl, Hitler's film-maker, whose propaganda mesmerised the German public. 
She told me the "messages" of her films were dependent not on "orders from above", but on the "submissive void" of an uninformed public. 
"Did that include the liberal, educated bourgeoisie?" I asked.

"Everyone," she said. "Propaganda always wins, if you allow it." 
-- "Guest Media Alert by John Pilger: 'Hold the front page. The reporters are missing'" (September 20, 2018)
Best Latin American Film at Spain's GOYA Awards. Plus, Top honor/film at Directors Guild of America! Here's an excerpt from Alfonso Cuaron's acceptance speech: “The language of cinema, like the universe, is constantly expanding. The true cinema ignores walls, both real and imagined. More than 11 million domestic workers are migrants. When we vilify them, call them criminals and rapists, we minimize ourselves.” [via San Diego Latino Film Festival: February 3, 2019]

"It is tempting to suppose that movies are hard to remember the way dreams are, and that is not a bad analogy. As with dreams, you do sometimes find yourself remembering moments in a film, and a procedure in trying to remember is to find your way back to a characteristic mood the thing has left you with." - Stanley Cavell "A World Viewed." (1971)

In depicting what it means to be a woman in the 20th century, 20th Century Women envisions a broader, more progressive view of gender. It seeks to define “man” and “woman” so as to underscore a common humanity in an historical process that increasingly excludes that commonality. Dorothea’s decision to enlist Abbie and Julie in raising Jamie — “He likes you and you. He likes you a lot.” — focuses on the emotional connection that defines our relationships, not the culturally defined characteristics of “man” or “woman.” While Dorothea views Jamie as “all men,” she also acknowledges that he is not. Gender, a form of cultural mythology, does not – and need not — wholly define us. The film’s depiction of gender depends upon its creation of a sense of history, drawing upon our awareness of the present so as to openly place within that context our past. Our relationship with one another, including gender, defines our body politic, our culture, but history informs both. Mills’ film generously adopts a collective – and optimistic — view of humanity insofar as we may evolve in our understanding and development of gender. His film is clearly autobiographical. “Like the kid in the film, I grew up with a strong mom, two older sisters, and mostly with women.” Yet it’s also self-critical. “I’ve spent most my life trying to figure out women from an outsider’s perspective…”[46] It thereby lays the foundation for possible future understandings and political progress. -- Roger Alpert, "20th Century Women: Gender and the politics of history." (2018)


So, let’s break this down. In educational terms, constructivism is a pedagogical approach which stresses the ways people form mental models of the world through their experiences acting on the physical world. Bordwell is interested in how something similar occurs as we watch movies. We start with some basic mental template -- some model of the world, some understanding of genres as particular kinds of films, some grasp of the mode of production from which the film emerged, some sense of the social world around us and thus how the film fits into current political and social debates. 
A cognitivist would call such templates schemata or above, mental representations. The more experienced we are at watching films of a certain kind, the more nuanced our schemata is. But the schemata becomes the starting point for making sense of what takes place on screen. We form speculations about what is going to take place, who the characters are, what motivates their actions, what their goals are, and what might constitute a satisfying resolution of this narrative. We are moving from sometimes limited information presented on the screen towards fuller understandings of the action as the film progresses. This requires a process of going beyond the information given, to use a term from Jerome Bruner, and thus, our suppositions can be frustrated or corrected by whatever passes on the screen next. Our schemata tell us what to pay attention to, but in turn, the film’s information gets added to our ongoing mental models. The key point here is that the process is active — one of hypothesis formation, testing, and refinement which does not stop when the film is over. We draw on these same schemata when we talk with our friends over sodas after the screening. Part of what media educators do is to help students develop more nuanced schemata to better understand and critically engage with the media they consume. In that sense, we might see Bordwell’s work as a formalist as mapping the norms and practices surrounding particular kinds of cinema and his work as a cognitivist in refining our understanding of the spectator’s processing of the cinematic experience. -- Henry Jenkins, "What the Media Literacy Movement Can Learn from David Bordwell..." Confessions of An ACA-Fan (February 19, 2018)
"Let us sing a new song, tell a new story; one which, mindful of the ancient tales, takes its inspiration from science. Let us search for the permanent among the fleeting and mutable, for that which endures through the spectacle of ceaseless change. Let us discover the eternal, the good." - Terrence Malick's note in the original script for The Tree of Life (2011) 

"The 'shadow' archetype, never fully delineated in Jung, designates the negative or dark side of the individual human being, those grasping, mean, malicious, lustful, or even devilish aspects of the individual that are usually held in abeyance in mature, sane people but are given full scope in rituals, myths, religion, literature, and other art forms." (3) -- Lee, Alvin A. "Archetypal Criticism." Encyclopedia of Contemporary Literary Theory: Approaches, Scholars, Terms. ed. Irena R. Makaryk. University of Toronto Press, 1997.

"The archetypal interconnectedness of literature has implications for consideration of an author's originality. The greatness in a literary work arises more often from the themes and images it shares with other texts than from the author's own originality. The first English poet known by name, Caedmon, was initiated, according to the Venerable Bede, into a Germanic 'word-hoard' and a biblical mythology, both of which existed prior to his career as a poet. His new compositions were born into an already existing order of words. Because that order existed, his listeners understood and were deeply moved by the poems he fashioned. A new poem, from the perspective of archetypal criticism, manifests something that is already latent in the order of words. It communicates meaning because both poet and audience are members of a community in which that order already exists. Archetypal criticism, then, is concerned with texts as social facts, as involved in techniques that give imaginative focus to an existing community." (4) -- Lee, Alvin A. "Archetypal Criticism." Encyclopedia of Contemporary Literary Theory: Approaches, Scholars, Terms. ed. Irena R. Makaryk. University of Toronto Press, 1997.


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