Cinema as “social imagination”
My first text that I have to read for the Doctoral Seminar is La Theorie du Cinema: Enfin en crise – which is a volume from the journal CiNeMAS. I have to read the opening chapter by Roger Odin. As a film theory virgin, I had no (real) idea about what film theory was about. I have known several people who have studied cinema, and often their focus was analytical; looking at construction, narrative and other interesting things like anachronisms in film, or looking at a particular genre. Coming from Sociology, I was a bit nervous – not knowing what to expect. I am happy to report that my first reading is a welcome one, where Odin talks about several issues in contemporary film theory.
Firstly, he talks about how film as an academic field has been accused of ‘teaching taste’, which is an interesting idea from a pedagogical and sociological position. If a professor has a strong liking towards one genre, film or what have you, chances are it will be privileged in their seminars. This is not unlike any other field I would imagine – I remember a fellow student complaining that a particular professor thought that post-modernism was a joke, therefore chose to blaze through it with little concern for actually ‘teaching’ it objectively… or my amazement that contemporary sociology (at least in our department) wasn’t fond of the structural functionalists (which happens to be one of my favorite theoretical perspectives). Anyways, so the idea of “teaching taste” in cinema is interesting in terms of thinking about the reproduction of knowledge.
Secondly, I was quite happy to read that, according to Metz (I am struggling to find the exact reference within the text as there are many dates and pages after almost every sentence in this section) cinema is essentially the result of “social imagination”, something that my MA advisor is interested in through the gamecode project. Sociologically speaking, to think of cinema (and specifically fiction) as a cumulative representation of social issues – hopes, dreams, fears etc – is almost elementary (in a good way). I haven’t finished reading the chapter – so perhaps they take it in a different direction, but to think of film as cultural artifacts makes me alot more comfortable than I expected to be in my new disciplinary home – film studies.