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August 2000, Week 2


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 9 Aug 2000 10:50:01 -0400
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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
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i'm glad that shari rosenblum ends her very thoughtful
contribution to this thread with the admission that

     >>Of course, I am an idealist . . .  but I like it that way.

even in an age when idealism of most kinds is seen as
a suspiciously close to false consciousness . . .

the reason this is so striking is that it points, i think,  to a ghost that
has been haunting most of the contributions to this thread and that
we probably ought to be aware of . . . that ghost, of course, is
the idea of authenticity, of the absolute claim of some *original*
version to a legitimacy which other versions or translations can
not help but distort . . . as shari puts it, "to translate is to betray"

as a kind of pre-post-structralist myself i'm sympathetic to this
longing for legitimate [and legitimating] origins . . .

and yet . . .  we can never stand in the same river twice . . .

when i teach bertolucci's LAST TANGO i realize very well
that i am missing much, perhaps most, of what the spoken
dialogue can suggest . . . but is suspect i'm also doing a
better job of reading bertolucci's cinematic language than
most of the film's original audience . . .i may also be able
to contextualize the politics of the film more fully since i've
watched it so many times and thought about it at length . .

this does not make me a better reader/viewer of the film, it merely
makes me a different viewer . . . but in that respect i'm not all that
different from contemporary italian audiences who surely must see
the film [if they do in fact see it] quite differently from those who say
it when it came out a third of a century years ago . . .

since i study film and not italian civilization it would clearly be
irresponsible of me to use my understanding of this film as a
way of talking authoritatively about italian history or politics . . . but
there are other things to be gotten from the film and they are there
for me to find and to teach . . .

speaking specifically of unavailable linguistic meanings shari writes

     Whether we need them is not what counts -- it's that we be aware
     they are out there should we care.  (Of course, if it were I teaching
     course, I'd make a pretty strong argument that we should care.)

and she is right, but i think this is a general principle that goes well
nuances of dialogue . . . no matter what we teach, even when we teach a
that both culturally and linguistically represents our own "situatedness."
 we are always being partial [in both senses of that word] . . . and we
have to keep in mind not simply that we are only scratching the surface of
what we are looking at, but more specifically that we are only scratching
SOME of the many surfaces that a cultural artifact will inevitably offer
for our examination . . .

as long as we recognize this, and recognize that we are not in our
work recapturing some authentic originary understanding [which
probably never existed in the first place] we should feel OK about
working from translations or adaptations or revisions etc.

mike frank

BTW, i take it that one of benjamin's crucial worries about
translation was not unrelated to this point . . . for the possibility of
a successful translation is akin to mechanical reproduction in
depriving the original of some longed for sanctity . . . even in the
twenty first century the hieratic impulse does go gently into
that good night

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