Cinema against spectacle : technique and ideology revisited
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A network of new conceptions, arguments and debates about cinema produced in the 1970s made these years one of the key periods in the history of film theory. With the contemporaneous “take-off” of university film studies in the English-speaking world, these ideas assumed foundational status during a period of expansive profes- sionalization and academic institutionalization. As contested as some became, cer- tain ideas and concepts from 1970s film theory have had staying power. However, many of the most important formulations of 1970s film theory claimed motivation in the politically radical impulses and ideas of the period, which also permeated some of the most important filmmaking of the time. By the mid-1960s, there were already important claims for a distinctive break with earlier, “classical” film theory. Then, in 1968, a number of political tensions and con- flicts erupted in spectacular political disruptions and oppositional public events all over the globe. For a few years after 1968, yearnings for political transformation often intersected with desires for the radical transformation of intellectual sectors, desires which one finds in certain of the initiating texts of 1970s film theory. Among all of these events, May 1968 in France was the time and place where film culture was most famously – and perhaps even mythically – associated with politicized practices and understandings of cinema. Jean-Louis Comolli was one of the central figures in French film culture at that moment. Very much an homme du cinéma, he is a filmmaker as well as critic and theorist. As critic and theorist he has always committed himself to engaging with the very textures of films while simultaneously conceptualizing the broader aesthetic vocations and social possibilities and roles of cinema. In the early 1960s, Comolli had emerged as a writer, and then chief editor, for that most influential of Parisian film journals, Cahiers du cinéma.
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