A Forum for and the Background of the Mediation of Dialogue in Ancient and Modern Academies

Thursday, 2 April 2009


While postponing decisions on philosophical (internet) writing, I would still like to talk about some more playful issues. A cine-gang is being formed in Cambridge and I am happy to be one of its members. In our attempt to go beyond, or just have a break from, Plato and other dear fellows, we end up finding ourselves caught up in discussions on whether the dialectician should be not only the best rhetorician and dramatist but also a cinema director of the same high level! Not to mention the question which ontological status we should attribute to the cinematic images: Should we degrade them into the shadows the imprisoned people watch in Plato's famous cave? Or should we allow the later Plato to draw a distinction between good and bad cinema?
We are thankful to "Arts Picturehouse" in Cambridge for screening some gems in the history of cinema. Last Sunday it was Hitchcock's "Notorious" (1946): A simple plot of a spy-thriller combined with a love-story that has a happy ending (the prince saving the princess in peril of her life). Hitchcock created his masterpiece upon a not all too complex story and so inspired the entire French nouvelle vague.
It was a rare joy to watch this film and at the same time recognize some of the mental "children" that stemmed from it. The introductory scene in "Vivre sa vie" (Godard, 1962) was not something revolutionary after all, at least had a precursor. There Godard places his protagonists with their backs against the camera and it takes quite a while till we are allowed to see them. Hitchcock had already dared to produce such an amazing effect: Grant observes the party-atmosphere in Bergman's house in the initial scene, turning his back upon us. Every great artist knows how to learn from and appropriate tradition in interesting and genuine ways. Another reason for watching this film from time to time is the way the director captures Bergman and Grant's potential and transforms them. By comparison to other more popular moments of theirs, we can very clearly see the difference. Not to mention the movement of the camera: decisively focussing and nonetheless decent, not pointing out but letting you free to draw your connections.

PS1: Francois Truffaut wrote a book about Alfred Hitchcock, which includes most valuable interviews on his films: Le cinéma selon Hitchcock (1966). The German edition is to be found in Amazon:
PPS: I happen to depart from the widespread sympathy for the film that was awarded with the Golden Palm at the Cannes Films Festival 2008 (Entre les mures/The Class). Though it is a very good documentary, I miss a more ambitious unity that any film should have, one way or another (sorry for not being sufficiently post-modern). To just reproduce reality so closely as possible cannot fulfill a film's task. Neither reality nor the art of cinema need this kind of slavish representation. After Hitchcock, everything comes to fall into its own place.



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