Philosophy of Film

Edited by Aaron Smuts (Rhode Island College)
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  1. Moonstruck, or How to Ruin Everything.William Day - 2003 - In Kenneth Dauber & Walter Jost (eds.), Ordinary Language Criticism: Literary Thinking after Cavell after Wittgenstein. Evanston, IL, USA: Northwestern University Press. pp. 315-328.
    A reading of the film Moonstruck (1987) is presented in two movements. The first aligns Moonstruck with certain Hollywood film comedies of the 1930s and 40s, those Stanley Cavell calls comedies of remarriage. The second turns to some aspects of Emerson's writing – in particular his interest in our relation to human greatness, and his coinciding interest in our relation to the words of a text – and shows how Moonstruck inherits these Emersonian, essentially philosophical interests.
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  2. The Ecstasy of Time Travel in Werner Herzog's Cave of Forgotten Dreams.William Day - 2017 - In David LaRocca (ed.), The Philosophy of Documentary Film: Image, Sound, Fiction, Truth. Lanham, MD 20706, USA: Lexington Books. pp. 209-224.
    Documentary film is that genre of filmmaking that lays bare the fact of all film, which is that it presents "a world past" (Cavell, The World Viewed). This fact of film seems to point to a paradox of time in our experience of movies: we are present at something that has happened, something that is over. But what if we were to take this fact to show that film has the power to place us outside our ordinary, unreflective relation to (...)
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  3. Whence Did German Propaganda Films Derive Their Power?Gary James Jason - 2016 - Reason Papers 38 (1).
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  4. Purity and Provocation Dogma 95.Mette Hjort & Scott Mackenzie - 2003
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  5. Same Old New German Cinema, on Julia Knight's New German Cinema: Images of a Generation.Amresh Sinha - 2005 - Film-Philosophy 9 (2).
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  6. Shawn C. Bean (2008) The First Hollywood: Florida and the Golden Age of Silent Filmmaking. [REVIEW]Carrie Giunta - 2013 - Film-Philosophy 17 (1):501-502.
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  7. Luc Dardenne, Au Dos de Nos Images (1991-2005), Suivi de Le Fils Et L'Enfant Par Jean-Pierre Et Luc Dardenne.Joseph Mai - 2007 - Film-Philosophy 11 (1):70-74.
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  8. Undoing the Image: Film Theory and Psychoanalysis.Paula Quigley - 2011 - Film-Philosophy 15 (1):13-32.
    The primary aim of this article is to point up an essential attitude, an anxiety even, that has inflected – and perhaps inhibited - our engagement with film. Film theory has been marked by a ‘refusal to see, a looking away’ (Mulvey & Wollen 1976, 36), and my suggestion is that this has achieved its fullest expression in those strands of film theory heavily influenced by psychoanalysis. These, in turn, have remained within a gendered conceptual framework whereby the discursive or (...)
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  9. The Return of the New Flesh: Body Memory in David Cronenberg and Merleau-Ponty.Dylan Trigg - 2011 - Film-Philosophy 15 (1):82-99.
    From the “psychoplasmic” offspring in The Brood (1979) to the tattooed encodings in Eastern Promises (2007), David Cronenberg presents a compelling vision of embodiment, which challenges traditional accounts of personal identity and obliges us to ask how human beings persist through different times, places, and bodily states while retaining their sameness. Traditionally, the response to this question has emphasised the importance of cognitive memory in securing the continuity of consciousness. But what has been underplayed in this debate is the question (...)
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  10. La Beauté Tragique: Olkowski, Deleuze, and the Ruin of Representation.Joseph Nechvatal - 2001 - Film-Philosophy 5 (2).
    Dorothea Olkowski _Gilles Deleuze and the Ruin of Representation_ Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999 ISBN 0-520-21693-8 298 pp.
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  11. A Number of Scenes in a Badly Cut Film" : Observation in the Age of Strobe.Jimena Canales - 2011 - In Lorraine Daston & Elizabeth Lunbeck (eds.), Histories of Scientific Observation. University of Chicago Press.
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  12. Moonstruck, or How to Ruin Everything.William Day - 1995 - Philosophy and Literature 19 (2):292-307.
    A reading of the film Moonstruck (1987) is presented in two movements. The first aligns Moonstruck with certain Hollywood film comedies of the 1930s and 40s, those Stanley Cavell calls comedies of remarriage. The second turns to some aspects of Emerson's writing – in particular his interest in our relation to human greatness, and his coinciding interest in our relation to the words of a text – and shows how Moonstruck inherits these Emersonian, essentially philosophical interests.
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Values in Film
  1. The Value of Fidelity in Adaptation.James Harold - 2018 - British Journal of Aesthetics 58 (1):89-100.
    © British Society of Aesthetics 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the British Society of Aesthetics. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.comThe adaptation of literary works into films has been almost completely neglected as a philosophical topic. I discuss two questions about this phenomenon:What do we mean when we say that a film is faithful to its source?Is being faithful to its source a merit in a film adaptation?In response to, I set out two distinct (...)
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Medium Specificity in Film
  1. Was hat Musik im Film zu suchen?Andreas Dorschel - 2005 - In Tonspuren. Musik im Film: Fallstudien 1994 - 2001. Universal Edition. pp. 12-21.
    Attempts to bestow a musical background upon spoken drama have been deemed widely superfluous; most films, by way of contrast, do employ music. This aesthetic divergence invites an account of film music in terms of lack and compensation. The standard account in such terms, viz. that music has to fill the vacuum of silence, does not explain what it is supposed to explain. Rather, music in cinema can restore in a different way the expression lost as reality is reduced to (...)
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Film and Morality
  1. There's Something About Marla: Fight Club and the Engendering of Self-Respect.Cynthia Stark - 2012 - In Thomas E. Wartenberg (ed.), Fight Club. New York, NY, USA: pp. 51-77.
    My article discusses the character of Marla, the narrator’s lover, in the film Fight Club. Her only option, within the terms of the film’s logic, I argue, is to define her worth derivatively, by association with the narrator. Fight Club, then, despite its somewhat self-effacing attitude about the rejuvenation of masculinity that it portrays, reinforces a familiar patriarchal story: men’s sense of worth lies in their joint world-making activities. Women’s sense of worth lies in their attachment to individual men who (...)
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  2. An Apocalypse of Pop, Pt II: Vox Lux.Paul Bali - manuscript
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  3. A Double-Edged Sword: Honor in "The Duellists".James Edwin Mahon - 2013 - In Alan Barkman, Ashley Barkman & Nancy King (eds.), The Culture and Philosophy of Ridley Scott. Lexington Books. pp. 45-60.
    In this essay I argue that Ridley Scott's first feature film, The Duelists, which is an adaptation of a Joseph Conrad novella, contains his deepest meditation on honor in his entire career. The film may be said to answer the following question about honor: is being bound to do something by honor, when it is contrary to one's self-interest, a good thing, or a bad thing? It may be said to give the answer that it may be either good or (...)
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  4. All's Fair in Love and War? Machiavelli and Ang Lee's "Ride With the Devil".James Edwin Mahon - 2013 - In Robert Arp, Adam Barkman & Nancy King (eds.), The Philosophy of Ang Lee. University Press of Kentucky. pp. 265-290.
    In this chapter I argue that Machiavelli does not hold that all deception is permissible in war. While Machiavelli claims that "deceit... in the conduct of war is laudable and honorable," he insists that such deceit, or ruses of war, is not to be confounded with perfidy. Any Lee's U.S. Civil War film, "Ride With the Devil," illustrates this difference. The film also illustrates the difference between lying as part of romance, which is permitted, and lying at the moment of (...)
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  5. Star Trek Into Darkness--Ethical Impartiality, Partiality, and the Need for a Male/Female Synthesis.Jeremy DeLong - 2015 - Film and Philosophy 19:141-63.
    This paper analyzes the ethical themes and theory portrayals by particular characters in Star Trek: Into Darkness. It is concluded that the film can be understood as explicating the pros and cons of both "male" and "female" ethical perspectives, and that a comprehensive understanding of morality requires some synthesis of both perspectives.
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  6. Buster Keaton and the Puzzle of Love.Timothy Yenter - 2015 - In Ken Morefield & Nick Olson (eds.), Masters of World Cinema, Vol. 3. Cambridge Scholars Press. pp. 31-43.
    Despite the notable lack of Chaplinesque romantic flourishes, Buster Keaton has a sophisticated approach to romantic love in his films. Love in Keaton’s films is a mutual recognition and admiration for the physical and mental competence necessary to deal with an absurd, cruel, or indifferent social and physical environment and an agreement to face the world together. There are two ways in which this claim might seem surprising to someone familiar with Keaton’s films. Keaton’s famously stoic persona seems to be (...)
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  7. A Life Not Worth Living.Jami L. Anderson - 2014 - In David P. Pierson (ed.), Breaking Bad: Critical Essays on the Contexts, Politics, Style, and Reception of the Television Series. Lexington Press. pp. 103-118.
    What is so striking about Breaking Bad is how centrally impairment and disability feature in the lives of the characters of this series. It is unusual for a television series to cast characters with visible or invisible impairments. On the rare occasions that television shows do have characters with impairments, these characters serve no purpose other than to contribute to their ‘Otherness.’ Breaking Bad not only centralizes impairment, but impairment drives and sustains the story lines. I use three interrelated themes (...)
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  8. Happy-Go-Lucky Revisited: A Response to Basileios Kroustallis.Christopher Grau - 2015 - Film-Philosophy 19 (1):1-15.
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  9. Philosophy of Disability.Christine James - 2008 - Essays in Philosophy 9 (1):1-10.
    Disability has been a topic of heightened philosophical interest in the last 30 years. Disability theory has enriched a broad range of sub-specializations in philosophy. The call for papers for this issue welcomed papers addressing questions on normalcy, medical ethics, public health, philosophy of education, aesthetics, philosophy of sport, philosophy of religion, and theories of knowledge. This issue of Essays in Philosophy includes nine essays that approach the philosophy of disability in three distinct ways: The first set of three essays (...)
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Ontology of Film
  1. Towards a Science of Emerging Media.Barry Smith - 2015 - In J. E. Katz & J. Floyd (eds.), Philosophy of Emerging Media: Understanding, Appreciation and Application. Oxford University Press. pp. 29-48.
    If media studies are to become established as a genuine science, then it needs to be determined what the subject matter of this science is to be. I propose a specification of this subject matter as consisting in: 1. the new sorts of digital entities that have been added to social reality through the invention of the digital computer, and 2. the new sorts of interactions involving human beings which such entities make possible. I support this proposal by examining examples (...)
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Film Authorship
  1. Minimal Authorship (of Sorts).Christy Mag Uidhir - 2011 - Philosophical Studies 154 (3):373 - 387.
    I propose a minimal account of authorship that specifies the fundamental nature of the author-relation and its minimal domain composition in terms of a three-place causal-intentional relation holding between agents and sort-relative works. I contrast my account with the minimal account tacitly held by most authorship theories, which is a two-place relation holding between agents and works simpliciter. I claim that only my view can ground productive and informative principled distincitons between collective production and collective authorship.
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Movement in Film
  1. Seeing Motion and Apparent Motion.Christoph Hoerl - 2015 - European Journal of Philosophy 23 (3):676-702.
    In apparent motion experiments, participants are presented with what is in fact a succession of two brief stationary stimuli at two different locations, but they report an impression of movement. Philosophers have recently debated whether apparent motion provides evidence in favour of a particular account of the nature of temporal experience. I argue that the existing discussion in this area is premised on a mistaken view of the phenomenology of apparent motion and, as a result, the space of possible philosophical (...)
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Ontology of Film, Misc
  1. The Myth of Scotland as Nowhere in Particular.John Marmysz - 2014 - International Journal of Scottish Theatre and Screen 7 (1):28-44.
    In a number of recent films, Scotland has served as the setting for dramas that could have taken place anywhere. This has occurred in two related ways: First, there are films such as Perfect Sense (2011) and Under the Skin (2013). These films involve storylines that, while they do take place in Scotland, do not require the country as a setting. Second, there are films such as Prometheus (2012),The Dark Knight Rises (2012), Cloud Atlas (2012), and World War Z (2013). (...)
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  2. Ariadne at the Movies.John Dilworth - 2003 - Contemporary Aesthetics 1.
    ABSTRACT -/- Films are usually assumed to be types, with their templates or performances being tokens of those types. However, I give a counter-example in which two different films are simultaneously made by different directors, with the outcome of this process being a single template length of film which, I claim, embodies both of those films. But no two types could thus have a token in common, and hence type views of films must be incorrect. I further explain and defend (...)
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  3. Ariadne Revisited.John Dilworth - 2003 - Contemporary Aesthetics 1.
    ABSTRACT -/- My article, "Ariadne at the Movies," provided a detailed, double film counter-example to the claim that films are types. Here I defend my views against various criticisms provided by Aaron Smuts. The defense includes some necessary clarification of the Ariadne article's broader theoretical structure and background, as well as some additional anti-type arguments to further withstand his criticisms.
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Audience Engagement in Film
  1. Merleau-Ponty and Carroll on the Power of Movies.B. Scot Rousse - 2016 - International Journal of Philosophical Studies 24 (1):45-73.
    Movies have a striking aesthetic power: they can draw us in and induce a peculiar mode of involvement in their images – they absorb us. While absorbed in a movie, we lose track both of the passage of time and of the fact that we are sitting in a dark room with other people watching the play of light upon a screen. What is the source of the power of movies? Noël Carroll, who cites Maurice Merleau-Ponty as an influence on (...)
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  2. Ideology, Socratic Elenchus, and Inglourious Basterds.Ian Schnee - 2013 - Film and Philosophy 17:1-22.
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  3. Was hat Musik im Film zu suchen?Andreas Dorschel - 2005 - In Tonspuren. Musik im Film: Fallstudien 1994 - 2001. Universal Edition. pp. 12-21.
    Attempts to bestow a musical background upon spoken drama have been deemed widely superfluous; most films, by way of contrast, do employ music. This aesthetic divergence invites an account of film music in terms of lack and compensation. The standard account in such terms, viz. that music has to fill the vacuum of silence, does not explain what it is supposed to explain. Rather, music in cinema can restore in a different way the expression lost as reality is reduced to (...)
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Paradox of Suspense
  1. An Eliminativist Theory of Suspense.Christy Mag Uidhir - 2011 - Philosophy and Literature 35 (1):121-133.
    Motivating philosophical interest in the notion of suspense requires comparatively little appeal to what goes on in our ordinary work-a-day lives. After all, with respect to our everyday engagements with the actual world suspense appears to be largely absent—most of us seem to lead lives relatively suspense-free. The notion of suspense strikes us as interesting largely because of its significance with respect to our engagements with (largely fictional) narratives. So, when I indicate a preference for suspense novels, I indicate a (...)
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Paradox of Painful Art
  1. The Meanings of Disgusting Art.Filippo Contesi - 2016 - Essays in Philosophy 17 (1):68-94.
    It has been recently argued, contrary to the received eighteenth-century view, that disgust is compatible with aesthetic pleasure. According to such arguments, what allows this compatibility is the interest that art appreciators sometimes bestow on the cognitive content of disgust. On this view, the most interesting aspect of this cognitive content is identified in meanings connected with human mortality. The aim of this paper is to show that these arguments are unsuccessful.
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  2. Savoring Disgust: The Foul and the Fair in Aesthetics. [REVIEW]Filippo Contesi - 2012 - British Journal of Aesthetics 52 (1):113-116.
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  3. The Pleasures of Documentary Tragedy.Stacie Friend - 2007 - British Journal of Aesthetics 47 (2):184-198.
    Two assumptions are common in discussions of the paradox of tragedy: (1) that tragic pleasure requires that the work be fictional or, if non-fiction, then non-transparently represented; and (2) that tragic pleasure may be provoked by a wide variety of art forms. In opposition to (1) I argue that certain documentaries could produce tragic pleasure. This is not to say that any sad or painful documentary could do so. In considering which documentaries might be plausible candidates, I further argue, against (...)
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Paradox of Fiction
  1. Is the Paradox of Fiction Soluble in Psychology?Florian Cova & Fabrice Teroni - 2016 - Philosophical Psychology 29 (6):930-942.
    If feeling a genuine emotion requires believing that its object actually exists, and if this is a belief we are unlikely to have about fictional entities, then how could we feel genuine emotions towards these entities? This question lies at the core of the paradox of fiction. Since its original formulation, this paradox has generated a substantial literature. Until recently, the dominant strategy had consisted in trying to solve it. Yet, it is more and more frequent for scholars to try (...)
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  2. The Imaginative Agent.Neil Van Leeuwen - 2016 - In Amy Kind & Peter Kung (ed.), Knowledge through Imagination. Oxford University Press. pp. 85-109.
    Imagination contributes to human agency in ways that haven't been well understood. I argue here that pathways from imagistic imagining to emotional engagement support three important agential capacities: 1. bodily preparedness for potential events in one's nearby environment; 2. evaluation of potential future action; and 3. empathy-based moral appraisal. Importantly, however, the kind of pathway in question (I-C-E-C: imagining-categorization-emotion-conceptualization) also enables engagement with fiction. So human enchantment with fiction is a consequence of imaginative pathways that make us the kind of (...)
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Audience Engagement in Film, Misc
  1. Realism in Film: Less is More.Jiri Benovsky - 2017 - Dialogue 56 (1):131-141.
    What is realism in film? Focusing on a test case of HFR high-definition movies, I discuss in this article various types of realism as well as their interrelations. Precision, recessiveness of the medium, transparency, and 'Collapse' are discussed and compared. At the end of the day, I defend the claim that 'less is more' in the sense that more image precision can actually have a negative impact on storytelling.
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  2. Happy-Go-Lucky Revisited: A Response to Basileios Kroustallis.Christopher Grau - 2015 - Film-Philosophy 19 (1):1-15.
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Genres of Film
  1. Ideology, Socratic Elenchus, and Inglourious Basterds.Ian Schnee - 2013 - Film and Philosophy 17:1-22.
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Horror Film
  1. Cartesianism and Intersubjectivity in Paranormal Activity and the Philosophy of Mind.Steve Jones - 2017 - Film-Philosophy 21 (1):1-19.
    Over the last century within the philosophy of mind, the intersubjective model of self has gained traction as a viable alternative to the oft-criticised Cartesian solipsistic paradigm. These two models are presented as incompatible inasmuch as Cartesians perceive other minds as “a problem” for the self, while intersubjectivists insist that sociality is foundational to selfhood. This essay uses the Paranormal Activity series (2007–2015) to explore this philosophical debate. It is argued that these films simultaneously evoke Cartesian premises (via found-footage camerawork), (...)
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  2. A View to a Kill: Perspectives on Faux-Snuff and Self.Steve Jones - 2016 - In Neil Jackson, Shaun Kimber, Johnny Walker & Thomas Watson (eds.), Snuff: Real Death and Screen Media. Bloomsbury Academic. pp. 277-294.
    Scholarly debate over faux-snuff’s content has predominantly focused on realism and affect. This paper seeks to offer an alternative interpretation, examining what faux-snuff’s form reveals about self. Faux-snuff is typically presented from a first-person perspective (killer-cam), and as such is foundationally invested in the killer’s experiences as they record their murder spree. First then, I propose that the simulated-snuff form reifies self-experience in numerous ways. Faux-snuff’s characteristic formal attributes capture the self’s limited, fractured qualities, for example. Second, I contend that (...)
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  3. Explanations: Aesthetic and Scientific.Shen-yi Liao - 2014 - Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 75:127-149.
    Methodologically, philosophical aesthetics is undergoing an evolution that takes it closer to the sciences. Taking this methodological convergence as the starting point, I argue for a pragmatist and pluralist view of aesthetic explanations. To bring concreteness to discussion, I focus on vindicating genre explanations, which are explanations of aesthetic phenomena that centrally cite a work's genre classification. I show that theoretical resources that philosophers of science have developed with attention to actual scientific practice and the special sciences can be used (...)
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  4. The Pure Moment of Murder: The Symbolic Function of Bodily Interactions in Horror Film.Steve Jones - 2011 - Projections 6 (2):96-114.
    Both the slasher movie and its more recent counterpart the "torture porn" film centralize graphic depictions of violence. This article inspects the nature of these portrayals by examining a motif commonly found in the cinema of homicide, dubbed here the "pure moment of murder": that is, the moment in which two characters’ bodies adjoin onscreen in an instance of graphic violence. By exploring a number of these incidents (and their various modes of representation) in American horror films ranging from Psycho (...)
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  5. Music in Narrative Film. On Motion and Stasis : Photography, "Moving Pictures," Music / David Neumeyer, Laura Neumeyer ; the Topos of "Evil Medieval" in American Horror Film Music / James Deaville ; la Leggenda Del Pianista Sull'oceano : Narration, Music, and Cinema / Rosa Stella Cassotti ; Music in Aki Kaurismäki's Film the Match Factory Girl / Erkki Pekkilä ; It's a Little Bit Funny : Moulin Rouge's Sparkling Postmodern Critique.Susan Ingram - 2006 - In Erkki Pekkilä, David Neumeyer & Richard Littlefield (eds.), Music, Meaning and Media. University of Helsinki.
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Documentary Film
  1. The Pleasures of Documentary Tragedy.Stacie Friend - 2007 - British Journal of Aesthetics 47 (2):184-198.
    Two assumptions are common in discussions of the paradox of tragedy: (1) that tragic pleasure requires that the work be fictional or, if non-fiction, then non-transparently represented; and (2) that tragic pleasure may be provoked by a wide variety of art forms. In opposition to (1) I argue that certain documentaries could produce tragic pleasure. This is not to say that any sad or painful documentary could do so. In considering which documentaries might be plausible candidates, I further argue, against (...)
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Film Theory
Classical Film Theory
  1. Conventions of Viewpoint Coherence in Film.Samuel Cumming, Gabriel Greenberg & Rory Kelly - 2017 - Philosophers' Imprint 17.
    This paper examines the interplay of semantics and pragmatics within the domain of film. Films are made up of individual shots strung together in sequences over time. Though each shot is disconnected from the next, combinations of shots still convey coherent stories that take place in continuous space and time. How is this possible? The semantic view of film holds that film coherence is achieved in part through a kind of film language, a set of conventions which govern the relationships (...)
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Cognitive Film Theory
  1. Conventions of Viewpoint Coherence in Film.Samuel Cumming, Gabriel Greenberg & Rory Kelly - 2017 - Philosophers' Imprint 17.
    This paper examines the interplay of semantics and pragmatics within the domain of film. Films are made up of individual shots strung together in sequences over time. Though each shot is disconnected from the next, combinations of shots still convey coherent stories that take place in continuous space and time. How is this possible? The semantic view of film holds that film coherence is achieved in part through a kind of film language, a set of conventions which govern the relationships (...)
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  2. Aesthetics and Film. By Katherine Thomson‐Jones. [REVIEW]Jennifer A. Mcmahon - 2012 - Philosophical Quarterly 62 (249):865-867.
    Each chapter covers one topic and largely consists of brief summaries of arguments for and against various themes. The topic of the first chapter is whether and on what basis a film can be considered art. Photography is used as an analogy. The arguments range from considering the mechanical form of cinema as an obstacle to arthood to arguments considering cinema’s mechanical nature as essential to its arthood; the former by those who ground art in human agency, the latter by (...)
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