Selfless Cinema? Ethics and French Documentary

Overview

In Selfless Cinema?, Sarah Cooper maps out the power relations of making, and viewing, documentaries in ethical terms. The ethics of filmmaking are often examined in largely legalistic terms, dominated by issues of consent, responsibility, and participants’ or film-makers’ rights, but Cooper approaches four representative French film-makers — Jean Rouch, Chris Marker, Raymond Depardon, and Agnes Varda — in a far less juridical way, drawing on the ethical philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas. She argues that, in spite ...
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Overview

In Selfless Cinema?, Sarah Cooper maps out the power relations of making, and viewing, documentaries in ethical terms. The ethics of filmmaking are often examined in largely legalistic terms, dominated by issues of consent, responsibility, and participants’ or film-makers’ rights, but Cooper approaches four representative French film-makers — Jean Rouch, Chris Marker, Raymond Depardon, and Agnes Varda — in a far less juridical way, drawing on the ethical philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas. She argues that, in spite of Levinas’s iconoclastic, anti-ocular thinking, his concept of visage is richly applicable to film, and especially to documentary.
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Editorial Reviews

Forum for Modern Language Studies, 46.1, January 2010, 110 - unsigned
This engagingly written and lucid examination of the relevance of Levinasian thought for cinema... diligently attends to the ways in which creators, through a variety of techniques, unsettle conventional boundaries and relationships within documentary film and persuasively argues that they thus encourage new ways of seeing amongst viewers.
French Review, 83.5, 2010, 1092-93 - Anne Kern
An important and original intervention... Selfless Cinema? is impressive in the range and depth of ideas it addresses within a relatively short span, which makes it highly practicable. I have assigned individual chapters in an undergraduate seminar on contemporary French cinema with very positive results, and the entire book would serve as an excellent cornerstone for a graduate course.
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