Cinematic Mythmaking: Philosophy in Film

Overview

Film is the supreme medium for mythmaking. The gods and heroes of mythology are both larger than life and deeply human; they teach us about the world,and they tell us a good story. Similarly, our experience of film is both distant and intimate. Cinematic techniques—panning, tracking, zooming, and the other tools in the filmmaker's toolbox—create a world that is unlike reality and yet realistic at the same time. We are passive spectators, but we also have a personal relationship with the images we are seeing. In ...

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Overview

Film is the supreme medium for mythmaking. The gods and heroes of mythology are both larger than life and deeply human; they teach us about the world,and they tell us a good story. Similarly, our experience of film is both distant and intimate. Cinematic techniques—panning, tracking, zooming, and the other tools in the filmmaker's toolbox—create a world that is unlike reality and yet realistic at the same time. We are passive spectators, but we also have a personal relationship with the images we are seeing. In Cinematic Mythmaking, Irving Singer explores the hidden and overt use of myth in various films and, in general, the philosophical elements of a film's meaning. Mythological themes, Singer writes, perform a crucial role in cinematic art and even philosophy itself. Singer incisively disentangles the strands of different myths in the films he discusses. He finds in Preston Sturges's The Lady Eve that Barbara Stanwyck's character is not just the biblical Eve but a liberated woman of our times; Eliza Doolittle in the filmed versions of Shaw's Pygmalion is not just a statue brought to life but instead a heroic woman who must survive her own dark night of the soul. The protagonist of William Wyler's The Heiress and Anieszka Holland's Washington Square is both suffering Dido and an awakened Amazon. Singer reads Cocteau's films—including La Belle et la Bête,Orphée, and The Testament of Orpheus—as uniquely mythological cinematic poetry. He compares Kubrickean and Homeric epics and analyzes in depth the self-referential mythmaking of Federico Fellini in many of his movies, including 8½. The aesthetic and probing inventiveness in film, Singer shows us, restores and revives for audiences in the twenty-first century myths of creation, of the questing hero, and of ideals—both secular and religious—that have had enormous significance throughout the human search for love and meaning in life.

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Editorial Reviews

Times Higher Education
[Singer's] book is best treated not as any kind of rigorous critical analysis, but rather as a rhapsodic excursion through a gallery of his favourite movies and cinematic themes aimed at sparking off similarly discursive enthusiasms in the reader. Writing it, he says, was "life-enhancing and a great deal of fun" — and it is in that spirit that we are invited to respond.
From the Publisher

"[Singer's] book is best treated not as any kind of rigorous critical analysis, but rather as a rhapsodic excursion through a gallery of his favourite movies and cinematic themes aimed at sparking off similarly discursive enthusiasms in the reader. Writing it, he says, was "life-enhancing and a great deal of fun" --
and it is in that spirit that we are invited to respond." Times Higher
Education

The MIT Press

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780262195898
  • Publisher: MIT Press
  • Publication date: 11/30/2008
  • Series: The Irving Singer Library
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Irving Singer was Professor of Philosophy at MIT. He was the author of the trilogies The Nature of Love and Meaning in Life, P hilosophy of Love: A Partial Summing-Up, Mozart and Beethoven: The Concept of Love in Their Operas, all published by the MIT Press, and many other books.

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