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February 1998, Week 3


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Daniel Frampton <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 19 Feb 1998 01:10:40 +0000
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                          F  I  L  M  -  P  H  I  L  O  S  O  P  H  Y
                                                         electronic salon
The following book has been received and needs a reviewer.
                          GILBERTO PEREZ
                          The Material Ghost: Films and Their Medium
                          (Johns Hopkins University Press,1998)
                          Publication date: 19 April 1998
If you would like to review this work then please respond as soon as
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Length/Deadline for review: 2-5,000 words, 1-2 months after receipt.
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Gilberto Perez's love of film dates to his childhood in Havana, 'a great
town for going to the movies.' His favorite theater was the Capri, which
showed an astonishing variety of films from all over the world. And his
regular companion at the movies was his father, a doctor who brought a
passion for literature and the arts to his enjoyment of film -- and passed
that sensibility to his son. 'I grew up with the movies as art,' writes
Perez, 'and with art not as something stuffy and affected but as something
vital, like the movies.'
In _The Material Ghost_, Perez draws on his life-long love of the movies as
well as his work as a film scholar to write an engaging study of films and
filmmakers and the nature of the art form. For Perez, film is complex and
richly contradictory -- a medium both lifelike and dreamlike, both
documentary and fictional, where real details create imaginary worlds,
where figures appear before us like actors on a stage and yet are removed
from us like characters in a novel. He investigates these complexities by
discussing a breathtaking range of works from the earliest days of cinema
to the present.
From the silent era, he explores the work of Keaton and Chaplin, Griffith
and Eisenstein, the haunting anxiety of Murnau's _Nosferatu_ and the epic
lyricism of Dovzhenko's _Earth_. From the classic era of sound cinema, he
discusses the searching realism of Jean Renoir and the memorable westerns
of John Ford, Bunuel's corrosive documentary _Land without Bread_ and
Hitchcock's mesmerizing _Vertigo_. From the sixties and seventies, he
examines the shifting parables of Jean-Luc Godard and the arresting
uncertainty of Antonioni's _Eclipse_, Straub and Huillet's reflective
_History Lessons_ and such explosive Hollywood films as _The Wild Bunch_
and _The Godfather_. He also comments on the current scene, including the
refashioned gangster films of Martin Scorcese and the philosophical realism
of the Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami.
_The Material Ghost_ is a book for all intelligent movie watchers, offering
new theoretical conceptions and penetrating critical insights that work
together to deepen our awareness of the art of film. 'The images on the
screen,' writes Perez, 'carry in them something of the world itself,
something material, and yet something transposed, transformed into another
world: the material ghost. Hence both the peculiar closeness to reality and
the no less peculiar suspension from reality, the juncture of world and
otherworldliness distinctive of the film image.'
Gilberto Perez is professor of film studies at Sarah Lawrence College and
film critic for the _Yale Review_.
Film-Philosophy is an email discussion forum and website founded in
November 1996.
Recently we have published reviews of Stanley Cavell's Contesting Tears,
Joseph Anderson's The Reality of Illusion, Allan Casebier's Film and
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Currently under review are Andre Bazin's Bazin at Work, Gregory Currie's
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Time Machine, Jean Louis Schefer's The Enigmatic Body, Sigrid Weigel's
Body- and Image-Space, Film Theory and Philosophy edited by Richard Allen
and Murray Smith, the Antithesis journal's special edition on Time and
Memory, Amy Lawrence's The Films of Peter Greenaway, the journal Vertigo,
Peter Bondanella's The Films of Roberto Rossellini, Scott MacDonald's
Avant-Garde Film, Deconstruction and the Visual Arts edited by Peter
Brunette and David Wills, Patrick McGee's Cinema, Theory, and Political
Responsibility in Contemporary Culture, James Peterson's Dreams of Chaos,
Visions of Order, Jacques Derrida's Echographies de la television, Fredric
Jameson's The Geopolitical Aesthetic, the journal Pix, Paul Virilio's The
Vision Machine, Jacques Aumont's The Image, Paul Willemen's Looks and
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