Film and Philosophy

Where Next?
Bob Williams
Sat 10 Dec 2016 03:03
I have not written much in my blog of late largely because sailing wise I have not had much to write about, but also because I have had my head buried in my books studying some philosophy.  As part of the unit I am required to write a journal so I thought I would post it on a weekly basis to my blog, largely for my own interest, but who knows, maybe some of my readers might find some of it interesting.

Week 2 - What is film/cinemav

I watched Chris Marker’s Le Jetee as a result of this week’s readings, in particular Carroll and Sinnerbrink (Carroll 1996, Bazin 2005, Sinnerbrink 2011a). This piece of cinematography seems to occupy a liminal space which helps focus the debate about what constitutes ‘film’. I think it is significant that Carroll asks “what is film” whereas Sinnerbrink asks “what is cinema”. It strikes me that the different questions lead to quite different perspectives. I find the discussion somewhat circular. The etymology of the two words tend to influence the nature of what is trying to be defined. In both instances they are being used as metonymies for a cultural artefact that is broader than the words in their original historical context allow. Film was the primary medium for moving pictures, but is no longer, and cinema is a place where moving pictures were presented to their audience because of the technical constraints of the medium, which no longer apply. Personally, I do not think there is any intrinsic ‘ontology’ in the concept of ‘film’ that somehow exists independently of the culture in which it is necessarily embedded. Carroll’s five necessary conditions probably provide a good minimalist definition of the subject area but, on the other hand, it seems Sinnerbrook takes issue with all of them.

Reflection after week’s discussion.

To ask ‘what is the ontology of film?’ does not seem as nonsensical as it did at the beginning of the week, but there still seems to be a certain circularity involved. The answer to the question will in large part depend on how one defines film in the first place, but what film is, is the question.