“Hi, I’m Al, I’m an Althusserian Marxist …”

Louis Althusser

Feedback Loop 1: The Academia Question

Each post on the Project: New Cinephilia is linked at the bottom of the page to a topic on the MUBI Forum.  You’ll find P:NC discussions grouped here and one that managed to get away here.  In Feedback Loop we’ll be pointing to some of the forum debate and first up its the burning issue of academia.

Following Chris Fujiwara’s post, forum discussion has covered the difference between film scholars and critics, particularly the role of objectivity, but also the similarities of their goals (and follies), before branching to wider public attitudes on academia and the differences in perception between humanities and cultural studies and the fields of science.

Considering how to counter anti-intellectualism, it was suggested that intense academic specialisation can work to the detriment of communication (as satirised in Z. Bart’s quote above).  In answer to Greg X’s question “Can we find a way to discuss films, high art or popular, that doesn’t alienate so many people?” Post-Kyo suggests from experience the importance of a certain mindset:

“In high school, I was one of those people that accused my teacher of “reading into everything” then somewhere between 1984 and The Scarlett Letter something just clicked in my head. It was around the time that I began to fully understand allegory, metaphor and the rich complexities of language and meaning. I think before ordinary peeps are willing to go beyond their first impressions of film-as-immediately-accessible-entertainment the critical thinking foundation of how meaning can be multivalent and contradictory has to already be there.”

While Z.Bart suggests that by engaging in the creative process of writing or filmmaking themselves, students can access a desire to explore academic thinking.

“Students are too apt to dismiss artistry as accident—“That’s not a metaphor, it’s just a blood-stained dove”—until they’ve spent a semester writing fiction, thinking through the decision-making process of all that is included and (even more notably) all that is excluded. Having glimpsed the wizard of oz behind the curtain of the creative process, students never again think of writers or filmmakers as clueless, unintentional automatons.”

In relation to Michael Joshua Rowin’s quoting of Godard, Bobby Wise again raises the issue of objectivity/subjectivity in academia/criticism.  Meanwhile PolarisDiB expands on Adam Nayman’s idea of “gateway” cinema with personal experience of engaging people beyond their current tastes through understanding what those tastes are.  And Mathew Bainbridge states the importance of getting students to see old films at the cinema, citing revival houses as a key asset in countering “The Emperors New Clothes” syndrome.

It has been fascinating to read and take part in the conversation so far, and many of these topics will feed into the debate at the symposium at EIFF.  Thanks to those who have already contributed and if you are considering giving your opinion, please dive in…

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