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Philosophising Cinematic Montage

Lecturer: Daniel Fairfax

Originally Taught: Winter School 2012

Eisenstein’s signal position in the history of the cinema is due not only to his pioneering use of montage techniques in the films he made, but also to the fact that, in his abundance of theoretical writings, he associated the practice with dialetical thinking, turning montage into a philosophical concept which has preoccupied filmmakers and theorists alike. Beginning with an association of Eisenstein’s films with Hegelian theory, this course will proceed to philosophise cinematic montage by linking the work of a filmmaker – Vertov, Rossellini, Resnais and Godard – with the theoretical output of a philosopher – Benjamin, Bergson, Deleuze and Rancière. The relationships posed between thinker and practitioner may vary, but in all cases, both the conjunctions and disjunctions between the figures under discussion will be analysed, with the result that the lectures themselves will, in a certain fashion, constitute acts of montage.

Session 1. Eisenstein and Hegel
Readings:
  • Sergei Eisenstein – “A Dialectic Approach to Film Form”
  • Sergei Eisenstein – “The Cinematic Principle and the Ideogram”
  • Sergei Eisenstein – extracts from “Dickens, Griffith and the Film Today”
  • G.W.F. Hegel – extracts from Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences
  • G.W.F. Hegel – extracts from The Science of Logic
Screening:
  • Sergei Eisenstein – Battleship Potemkin
Recommended viewing:
  • Sergei Eisenstein – October
Session 2. Vertov and Benjamin
Readings:
  • Dziga Vertov – extracts from Kino-Eye
  • Walter Benjamin – “The Work of Art in the Age of its Mechanical Reproduction”
  • Walter Benjamin – “Theses on the Philosophy of History”
  • Walter Benjamin – extracts from The Arcades Project
Screening:
  • Dziga Vertov – Man with a Movie Camera,
Recommended viewing:
  • Dziga Vertov – A Sixth of the World
Session 3. Rossellini and Bergson
Readings:
  • Roberto Rossellini – “Interview” (My Method, pp. 100-113)
  • André Bazin – “Cinematic Realism and the Italian School of the Liberation”
  • André Bazin – “A Bergsonian film: The Picasso Mystery”
  • Henri Bergson –  extracts from Matter and Memory
  • Henri Bergson – extracts from Creative Evolution
Screening:
  • Roberto Rossellini – Paisa (episodes 1, 2 and 6)
Recommended viewing:
  • Roberto Rossellini – Rome, Open City
Session 4. Resnais and Deleuze
Readings:
  • Gilles Deleuze – Cinema 1, ch. 1.
  • Gilles Deleuze – Cinema 2, ch. 5, 8
  • Gilles Deleuze – extracts from Difference and Repetition
Screening:
  • Alain Resnais – Statues Also Die, Night and Fog
Recommended viewing:
  • Alain Resnais – Muriel
Session 5. Godard and Rancière
Readings:
  • Jean-Luc Godard – “A propos du cinéma et d’histoire”
  • Michael Witt – “Montage, my beautiful care” (The Cinema Alone, pp. )
  • Jacques Rancière –  Film Fables, ch. 7
  • Jacques Rancière – The Future of the Image, ch. 2.
Screening:
  • Jean-Luc Godard – Histoire(s) du cinéma, ep. 1A
Recommended viewing:
  • Jean-Luc Godard – Film socialisme

Difficulty: Intermediate - A moderate level of knowledge about philosophy or film necessary.