Thursday, May 01, 2008

Recommendation for the day: Paola Marrati.

by Ryland Walker Knight

Like most books written by professors and published by university presses, the English-language translation of Paola Marrati's book, Gilles Deleuze: Cinema and Philosophy is really expensive. Unfortunately, only the original publication, in French, is available in the whole of the UC library system. So, I have to figure out how to get Berkeley to buy a copy so I can read it. I tried reading Cinema 1: The Movement-Image and Cinema 2: The Time-Image a year ago and didn't get very far. So the prospect of this book, which comes with a sterling recommendation from none other than Stanley Cavell, sounds very welcome as I imagine her text will live up to his characterization. Here it is:

The claims upon philosophy by the explosive consciousness of the fact and the art of cinema -- not alone claims upon the philosophy of art but upon philosophical thinking at large, upon what is to be called thinking -- are, still surprisingly to me, not something that has attracted the sustained attention of most philosophers. However intensely and consecutively and concretely I recognized these claims to be met with in the work of Gilles Deleuze, I had in several attempts over the years not been able to find my way into a convincing draw through the manner of it. The appearance of Paola Marrati's admiring and sustained attention to this thinking, placing and featuring Deleuze's principal volumes on cinema (it is essential to her view that these are indeed featured, in important ways climactically, in Deleuze's expansive body of work), changes the intellectual odds in this demanding challenge. I imagine that many others will also find education in Marrati's sophisticated and generous and clarifying articulation of Deleuze's educative venture over the entire constellation of the major cinema of the world, but I think no one could be more grateful to her achievement than I am. It is a relief to be in the presence of Deleuze's intellectual originality and Paola Marrati's meticulous responsiveness to it, free of the many fashionable repetitions in the field of film study (e.g., film is a language, film is unconscious of its ideological slants and economic drags), and to watch other of its slogans (e.g., film is a mass art, film is a producer of dreams, Hollywood never appreciated its geniuses), given surprising derivations that release a sequence of genii from their jarred formulas.

The coolest thing about this recommendation is how he says her work sidesteps the usual invocations of Deleuze as a rather simple (to say fashionable) model to start a reading that does not, in practice, pay strict attention to the object (the film) at hand (on display) but rather uses the object as illustrative of Deleuze's theories of cinema and its movement- and time-images. Looking at the beginning to her chapter in a 2001 book called Religion and Media (available on Google Books), I can see why Cavell likes her writing: like Mulhall before, Marrati's prose is clear and unfussy, evidence of a thoughtful, career-long investment in the subjects she chooses to write about. (Her CV is pretty impressive, btw.) This is, of course, what draws me to Cavell, too, although his prose can sometimes madden a reader with its endless clauses-sentences-paragraphs; he stretches (ordinary) language to perform, so to speak, his argument, or his project, about the necessity to defamiliarize the familiar (to step out of the ordinary) in order to approach it again. It's similar to notions of distanciation but I like Cavell and Wittgenstein better than Paul Ricoeur or Mikhail Bakhtin (here's an essay that links these latter two thinkers) mainly because Cavell is an inheritor of Ordinary Language Philosophy and uses rather ordinary language (that is, little theoretical jargon) in his work. In any event, my taste aside, it's fitting that the book Marrati is readying next should be called The Event and the Ordinary: On the Philosophy of Gilles Deleuze and Stanley Cavell. Seems like that bridging will be the next "trend" in academic writing, as far as my limited perspective can discern, because, I must admit, it's a bridge I'd like to see erected; indeed, a bridge I'd like to understand.


  1. Ry, thanks for the tip. I hadn't heard of this book but I just put in an ILL for it.

    This interview with Adrian Martin in Cinemascope (Italy) from about a year ago is hilariously titled "Guys, Did You Get Past Page 80 of Volume 1 of The Movement-Image?"

    I've only read Deleuze in little bits and pieces. Many of the basic values that underpin his (and Guattari's) ideas are intuitively very appealing to me, but I haven't sat down and forged past that 80-page mark. Perhaps it would help if I read a little Bergson and Pierce first; that would make the first 80 pages a little easier to penetrate. So this new book is welcome news.

  2. Nice I will this one, I already have a recomendation of a friend about this wirter, let's see how it goes.