About the Project

Can cinema be said to think? How do films compel their audiences to think? Does cinema have anything essential to offer thought? What does it mean to think in images? And what are the limits of cinematic thinking?

The history of the conjunction between film and philosophy can be traced from the emergence of the cinematograph at the turn of the twentieth century. Philosophical reflection on film appears with Hugo Münsterberg's The Photoplay (1916), Henri Bergson's reflections on 'cinematic' character of consciousness, and the evanescence of what Jean Epstein called photogénie. It continues after WWII thanks to the phenomenology of Merleau-Ponty, André Bazin's reflections on realism and the ontology of film, the conversational and aesthetic philosophy of Stanley Cavell, through to the interventions of analytic philosophy and cognitivism by theorists such as David Bordwell, Noel Carroll, Gregory Currie, and Murray Smith. Today it is sustained by the defenders of the 'film as philosophy' idea (Stephen Mulhall and Thomas Wartenberg), and by the conceptual flights and fabulations of contemporary Continental philosophers (Gilles Deleuze and Jacques Rancière) and their followers. The profusion of conferences, collections and monographs published in the last fifteen years confirm the emergence of Film Philosophy as a field in its own right, making philosophical, cultural, and ethical questions about the nature of cinematic thinking more pressing than ever.

The 'Film as Philosophy: Understanding Cinematic Thinking' project is funded by a four-year grant from the Australian Research Council.

The contributors to this project-Lisa Trahair (UNSW), Robert Sinnerbrink (Macquarie University), and Gregory Flaxman (UNC)-come from different backgrounds and disciplines (Film Studies, Philosophy and Comparative Literature). They have convened to engage collectively with the history, theory, and prospects of film-philosophy: not just to ask 'what is it?' but to ask 'what can it do?' What possibilities for thinking does it open up? How might cinematic thinking alter or transform how we think about philosophy and about film?

The question of this new discipline will be addressed over the course of the next few years in two distinct, though related, venues. First, a series of workshops have been planned concerning (1) the current enactments of Film Philosophy, (2) the history of the field (prior to Deleuze), and (3) the ethics of cinematic thinking. The first of these workshops, held at the University of New South Wales last December, sought to survey the state of research on Film Philosophy in Australia. Bringing together twelve scholars from around the country, the workshop explored the multiple fronts on which research is currently undertaken, as well as the prospect for creative connections between disparate projects and pursuits. In 2014 an international conference will bring the most important scholars in the field to Australia to consider the future of Film Philosophy.

The second venture will be a series of books reflecting the questions posed in the corresponding workshops. The investigators' first collaboration dramatizes or rather 'does' film philosophy in the work of seven directors-Robert Bresson, Terrence Malick, Lars Von Trier, Michael Haneke, the Dardenne brothers, and Catherine Breillat. The revivification of the category of auteur is here oriented to thinking about a style of cinema that exceeds both personality and intentionality. Certainly directors are inventors of new kinds of images and styles, new ways of thinking and feeling through the cinema. Yet the kind of thinking in which their cinema culminates also depends on the audience who engages with it. The category of 'auteur' is collective rather than personal, cultural and historical rather than biographical, philosophical rather than psychological. These directors, by no means randomly chosen, share an interest in making cinema a medium of thought, and this book constitutes an attempt to think (philosophically) with that cinema. The second workshop (scheduled for December of 2012) will form the basis of an edited collection of essays on the subject, as will the 2013 workshop and the conference. The aim is to intervene and contribute in the interdisciplinary research being conducted in Film Philosophy. The project will conclude by returning to the critical question from which it began: what new ways of thinking does the conjunction of film and philosophy make possible?

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