24 Dezember, 2006


Ich nehme die Parade ab, vor dem Regal. Filme ziehen vorrüber. Das geistige Auge bewegt sich hin und her. Die Wahl ist heikel. Ich will etwas frisches sehen, aber nicht enttäuscht werden. Ich will etwas vom Menschen erfahren, fürchte aber Pädagogik. Und so lande ich wieder und wieder bei Geschichten. Überraschend vielleicht, denn ich habe das Kino der Moderne immer wieder als Befreiung erlebt. Und doch ... es ist so monolithisch, immer Ausnahme. Ich vermisse die soziale Verknüpfung. Mit mir zum Beispiel.

Müsste ich mich festlegen auf „definitive” Meisterwerke, wären zweifellos viele Ausnahmen darunter. Meine tiefsten Eindrücke stammen von einsamen Filmen. Aber ewige Listen werden von Fetischisten geschrieben. Im Leben interessiert mich auch die kleine Münze. Wie sonst könnte ich die Abweichung schätzen? Die Filmgeschichte muss ein Nebeneinander sein.

Ist der Cinephile nicht eigentlich moderner Pharisäer? „Danke Gott, dass ich nicht so bin wie die.” Die Kennerschaft jedenfalls ist ein süßes Gift. Sich im Verweis auf „heilige” Werke erhaben fühlen: wie klein. Es muss um alles gehen - in beliebiger Reihenfolge. Aber ohne Beliebigkeit.


  1. Dear Christoph:
    Just came across your blog, as I was looking for reviews of your Streitgespräch with Petzold and Graf, which is fantastic!

    In this post you ask whether the cinephile is a modern Pharisee. I fully concur that there is just about nothing worse than the holier-than-thou insider attitude that has nothing better to do than marking territories like dogs pissing at trees by showing (real or imagined) interlocutors off because s/he is “in the know” whereas “they” are not (usually by naming ever more obscure, or simply not easily available, films and, simultaneously, denigrating what others discovered as intriguing, cool, interesting, fascinating films as old hat or, worse, as un-hip. In the end, such actions are reflective of the hunger for power, as far as I’m concerned.

    To me, the whole problem has to do with the dialectical mode of thinking that forms the basis for such inclusive/exclusive, mainstream/avant-garde, norm/exception, subversion/containment logic. In film studies, for instance, this dialectical mode of analysis is famously evidenced, as you know, by Bordwell whose definition of Classic Hollywood Cinema (CHC) had the immediate institutional effect (certainly in the US) of canonizing that which is ‘other’ to the ‘classic’ as the exception—which is a highly questionable move simply because the positing of such classicism as the ‘norm’ does really not bear out empirical reality (and can be maintained only from the narrow perspective of one who privileges a certain narrative US cinema). My students, of course, more often than not think of H’wood cinema as synonymous with cinema in general (I’m not making this up!), and they are often astonished when they learn that H’wood productions form a minuscule percentage of the film production world wide in any given year. Sure, I’m in Nebraska where we have less exposure to non-H’wood films than people in NYC or Chicago, but still, such ignorance is incredibly instructive.

    The point is, such oppositions are discursively constructed rather than of the material reality of film history: it’s a particularly good and powerful story—but it costs us a lot, I think. Interestingly, in a recent ‘introduction to film history’ text book, The Story of Film, the author, Mark Cousins, makes a compelling argument for the erroneous assumptions underlying Bordwell’s taxonomy: namely, that calling H’wood films “classical” is a misnomer with significant consequences. Cousins suggests that classicism proper is actually represented by non-US cinema such as that of, for instance, Ozu, much more so than by H’wood of the 40s. But what’s at stake, I think, for Cousin’s is to undo the very binary distinction reinforced by Bordwell. Pedagogically (and I speak here as someone who has taught Bordwell’s taxonomy many a times, simply because it is rather easy and productive to teach it to new film students some of the basics of film language such as shot/reverse-shot, 180 degree rule, 3 key lighting, etc. etc.), it is really liberating to start, as Cousins does, based on the assumption that there is no a priori norm, that there is only difference (Deleuze and Guattari call it lines of flight): thus Bordwell’s “CHC” is just one among many other cinemas (one that, of course, had and has powerful effects on multiple levels and has without a doubt produced any given number of masterpieces of world cinema) that’s neither better nor worse, more or less the norm, etc. This opens up the logic of the “and” over “either/or”: Hawks and Godard and Tarkowski and Petzold and Hitchcock and Lynch and Lubitsch and Scorsese and Fassbinder and Haneke and Denise and Brakhage and . . .: it’s an ontological affirmation of singularity over the logic of identity/sameness. I think it’s an affirmation that, as you put it, insists indeed that everything must be at stake without following a preset order but, importantly, also without indifference. It’s precisely in the heeding of the singularity of a film that indifference is not ever an option (unlike in the case of the big category “CHC” where the individual films’ singularities is always subordinated to their likeness to each other).

    Anyway, I hope you are having a great Christmas time with your family. Best, Marco

  2. Dear Marco,

    I totally agree with you. It probably would help to erase the word 'classic' because it's as vague as 'aristocratic' (= excluding) - and cinema ought to be democratic!

    A better word might be 'convention' because it describes authority based on familiarity. And that's what we are talking about.

    All the best for 2007, thank you for visiting!