Film-Philosophy

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Deleuze Special Issue

Vol. 5 No. 39, November 2001

 

 

Gregory Flaxman

The Laws of Cinematic Hospitality

A Response to Andrew Murphie

 

 

 

Andrew Murphie

'Is Philosophy Ever Enough?'

_Film-Philosophy_, Deleuze Special Issue

vol. 5 no. 38, November 2001

http://www.film-philosophy.com/vol5-2001/n38murphie

 

The only thing I really know for sure about the 'genre of response' is that one normally begins by thanking those responsible for their review, and, given the fact that most reviews are a mixed bag, this is a kind of half-hearted formality. We're typically expected to thank reviewers for being 'such good readers', even when we don't entirely agree with them, but in this case I would like to thank Andrew Murphie for actually sparing me the false sentiment. His review of _The Brain Is the Screen_ is not only generous in terms of its praise, but also, I think, in terms of its hospitality -- its willingness to grant the aims, both ambitious and sometimes very modest, of the collection. I could not ask for a better, kinder reader.

 

Above all, Murphie has clearly intuited the essential task behind the book, which was to try to produce a text that would provide a rigorous, lucid, and interesting reading of the 'cinema books' without lapsing into uncritical summation or unsupported delirium. I honestly don't know if _The Brain Is the Screen_ entirely fulfils that task, but I remain convinced that, more than any philosopher I know, Deleuze demands that our endeavor to think always begins by returning to basic problems and concepts that must themselves be re-thought. Too much is taken for granted in Deleuze's work or, alternately, never approached at all, simply shunted aside as if it were foolish or silly, and these two responses invariably end up reinforcing each other. The dialectic of the enthusiastic and the inhospitable currently dominates considerations of Deleuze's cine-philosophy, whereas the best road is probably the most pedagogical one -- explicate, articulate, and thereby create. This was, not surprisingly, Deleuze's own path, as we clearly see in the writings that dominate his early career, in his monographs on philosophers (Hume, Bergson, Kant, Nietzsche) and his little 'practical' books that set out from philosophical problems (the little reader on Spinoza's concepts, the book on Proust that takes off from the question of the sign). And it is the mode to which he and Felix Guattari finally return in their last book together, the title of which appropriately takes the form of a question: _What is Philosophy?_ The beauty of these works is that they begin from such simple premises, real philosophical problems without any window-dressing, and in the most succinct and rigorous terms we find these problems in ways that we may never have considered before. No one has ever detailed what Nietzsche means by 'tragedy', or Bergson by 'memory', or Kant by 'judgment', in quite the way that Deleuze has. His own philosophy deserves no less.

 

The question, of course, is whether this could or should affect the way we study cinema, and I don't want to act as if this is a foregone conclusion (for many members of the _Film-Philosophy_ salon, this is clearly not the case). Let me say that my own hesitations arise from a variety of possible problems, most of which are pretty obvious and fairly typical. I worry sometimes about the prospect of teaching Deleuze to undergraduates (though my students invariably prove me wrong). I worry about mistaking Deleuze's cine-philosophy for film theory ('grand theory'), and about the sometimes unadulterated admiration film theory has for Deleuze: indeed, I worry that the casual use of Deleuze's philosophy by film theory and visa versa potentially makes fools of them both. Andrew Murphie's review amply covers the hazards of the passage between film and philosophy, and my own discussion of these issues is best suited in the length of _The Brain Is the Screen_ rather than a short response. There is, however, one thing that I would like to add. Despite my concerns and those of others, the power of Deleuze's work to force us to rethink the cinema down to its very material, the image, remains the best instrument I know with which re-evaluate and re-value a discipline that has been for some time desperately in need of both. Institutionally, materially, and conceptually, cinema studies is changing, but, for me at least, the cinema books remain the most interesting interrogation of that essential question -- what is cinema? -- through which all other questions must eventually pass.

 

University of Pennsylvania, USA

 

 

Copyright © _Film-Philosophy_ 2001

 

Gregory Flaxman, 'The Laws of Cinematic Hospitality: A Response to Andrew Murphie', _Film-Philosophy_, Deleuze Special Issue, vol. 5 no. 39, November 2001 <http://www.film-philosophy.com/vol5-2001/n39flaxman>.

 

  

 

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