segunda-feira, 9 de maio de 2011

CINEMA AND PHILOSOPHY


How the cinema thinks

Around the year of 1995, I tried for the first time to associate my two earliest passions, cinema and philosophy. Literature served as mediation. I thought a lot about these relations in the period of my adolescence, when I was attracted by the ideas of Sartre through his novels and plays, giving me philosophical elements to think about the world. I knew my first access to philosophy had been literary, so that there should be a dimension of thought that was articulated in literature.

Like literature, cinema had always accompanied my formation as a thinker of a reality that deeply disappointed me, but it was fascinating when put into images. A meeting with Christian Metz in Cordoba, who gave a course about semiology of cinema in the seventies, impressed me very much, especially referring to the possibility of seeing cinema as a way of thinking. In our stammering tongues (I knew almost nothing of French, and Metz was trying to speak Spanish), his course gave me elements and insights that only decades later I would dare to organize as a line of inquiry.

I started to dig in this prehistory, in this experience prior to my systematic philosophical studies at the University. I collected ideas, recalling films that had impressed me specially, linking them to my paradigmatic philosophical thoughts, and to insights that tormented me. Many things emerged in my conceptual imagination, and the book, after going through many versions, was sent in 1998 to the Gedisa publisher in Barcelona, which just published the Crítica de la Moral Afirmativa (Critique of Affirmative Morals) in 1996, and finally edited the cinema book in 1999 under the title: Cine: 100 años de Filosofia. Una Introducción a la filosofía a través del análisis de películas. (Cinema: one hundred years of philosophy. An introduction to philosophy through the analysis of films). The book won then a translation into Italian by Mondadori, with the curious title Da Aristotele a Spielberg, and more recently, a Portuguese translation by Rocco, with the title O cinema pensa (The cinema thinks)).

I think that philosophers had, throughout history, one unresolved problem with the formulation of thoughts through images and sensitive means, from the expulsion of poets from the Platonic republic to the analyses of Habermas of Italo Calvino’ romances. It's amazing how twentieth-century philosophers who lived with the emergence and further development of the cinema, did not produce specific philosophical reflection on cinema and philosophy up to the recent works of Deleuze (the previous attempts of Bergson, Merleau-Ponty, Benjamin, Adorno, etc., despite its undeniable interest, always seem disappointing to me, as cinema was always thought by all of them in a lateral manner). I think cinema has much to say to the philosopher, even more than Deleuze could do.

As seen above (see PHILOSOPHY), I have seen philosophy as something traveling from Kierkegaard to Carnap. The philosophy is, for me, the full continuum, and not just the poles. It seems to me that literature and cinema, due to their more fluid forms of expression (and beyond the integration of these practices into social and political “popular” contexts as, say, the Hollywood system), are able to handle better the pressures on the exposition of ideas and the submission to mere representation, as presented in the current academic factory of ideas. In other words, I support that literature and cinema can think the flow of experiences and history (the Kierkegaardian pole of the continuum) without feeling the need to reduce it to the representation, or to purely intellectual concepts.

It is not that the filmmakers and writers are more articulate and courageous than philosophers, but that their own “language” leads them where they themselves may not wish to go, forcing them to say and show things that they never dreamed about. A movie like “Natural born killers” from Oliver Stone can explore the Nietzsche’s theme of naturalization of values in a situational (and intolerable) way much more steeped in the very thing that many intelligent studies on the topic. If philosophizing is a type of movement which is exempt from the obligation to stick to a particular “tradition” (from Tales to Wittgenstein), cinema and literature can be philosophical based on the impetuous forces that they can use to generate concepts.

Cinema and literature can be philosophical if we accept that language, style and grammar of philosophy can vary in a wide spectrum, from the philosophical poem up to the exposition more mathematico, the essay and the aphorism: philosophy is not bound to a single style of argument. And if we accept that philosophizing was only contingently linked to one tradition, thinkers or artists or scholars of other traditions may think the real and connect it into concepts, or show it in their historical experiences, even outside that official tradition. If philosophizing is to create and develop ideas about human condition, morality, language, etc., there is nothing to condemn these issues in a written form of exposure. It is a historical contingency that images rather than written texts, have not been chosen to constitute philosophical ideas in the first time.

My idea is that the cinema is a means (certainly not the only one) that generates “logopathic” concepts; I invented this term to refer to cognitive-affective concepts, with which the cinema approaches to philosophical problems and contributes frequently to put in question the traditional treatment given to problems by written philosophy and its “apathetic” method, tied to the use of purely intellectual concepts. Something about the nature and limits of the philosophical thought, as we understand it today, should be posed in the light of studies on cinema and philosophy.

On the other hand, I believe that written philosophy throughout its history has been “logopathic” malgré soi; it has thought with the unadmitted mediation of the affection. In addition, it was often intended to see cinema as a purely affective phenomenon (of mere “impact”), without any cognition. My notions of “logopathy” and “image-concept” tend to avoid these controversial dichotomies, revealing the affection of the intellect and the cognition of affection. The philosophy, dominated throughout the tradition, from Greece until the nineteenth century, by intellectualism, only recently began to feel the need to enrich its notion of rationality, rethinking the traditional relationships between the intellectuality and the emotional and sensitive.

A fundamental fact was the appearance, in the history of philosophy, of historical-existential thinkers who I began to call logopathic, such as Kierkegaard, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche and Heidegger, and less certainly Hegel and Freud, if read in a certain way. These thinkers, though in different directions, intended to discuss the intellectualist tradition in philosophy, giving a place and a different dimension to the affective and existential components of thought. They also intended to discuss the language in which philosophy had been exposed so far, trying to show, through new forms of expression, the dimension not purely intellectual of thought.

The emergence of “logopathic thinkers” in the history of philosophy in a date as recent as the nineteenth century, seems to me a fact of fundamental importance to the relationships between cinema and philosophy, since it indicates the fact that it was not only external the imposition of extending the boundaries of form and content in philosophical reflection (such as the challenges from modern means of visual expression as photography and cinema), but also internal, a necessity of philosophy itself (as if the same expressive limits of philosophy were being viewed and experienced by Hegel, Musil and Visconti). The logopathic thinkers showed that the philosophers were trying to say their ideas pushing the boundaries of written language in their traditional expressive possibilities, as trying to make their thoughts “visual” and “mobile”, avoiding the limitations of linear reasoning, trying to capture a temporalized truth.

If from philosophy itself appeared this new impulse to come against the limits of language, why it would not be legitimate to find the same thing starting from a different language, from another expressive medium? The experiments of logopathic philosophers (the philosophical poem, the biography, the speculative sentence, the aphorism), seemed to bring them closer and closer to other forms of expression such as cinema and literature, not to deprive these forms of the claims for truth and universality, but to present these claims in a different language.

Recent publications in this area are as follows:

From Hitchcock to Greenaway through the history of Philosophy (“De Hitchcock a Greenaway pela história da filosofia”). Book published by Nankin editors, São Paulo, 2007).

 “Look back in no anger”" (“Recordando sem ira”) (In the book BACK, Sylvio. A guerra dos pelados. Annablume, São Paulo, 2008).

“For a non-understanding of cinema: the David Lynch’s Inland Empire case” (“Para una des-comprensión del cine: el caso Inland Empire de David Lynch”). Revista enl@ce, Revista Venezolana de Información, tecnología y conocimiento. Año 2, mayo-agosto 2009.

”Poetic euthanasia” (“Eutanasia poética”). (In the book: CUNHA, Renato. O cinema e seus outros. LGE, Brasília, 2009).

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