Gloria Monti writes:
" You are pointing to the important problem of diegetic
intelligibility predicated upon extradiegetic knowledge. But isn't
Bertolucci (not the Bertolucci of the "Asian" trilogy!) always assuming
historical-cultural knowledge about his films? *Il Conformista,* just to
name one. And Godard's *La Chinoise?* Godard in general? But we have
all gained the necessary expertise to access these films, havent' we?
Why can't it work for Sembene's films as well? "
Oh course it can--which is what I mean by a "contextual formalism". We can
and do make the effort for anything we're curious enough or interested
enough to pursue, but the point I think I was trying to make is that the
further the context is from what "we" (a term I use advisedly) know (or
think we know), the more resistance there is likely to be. My students
are resistant to American films from the 1930s, lacking many of the
cultural contexts that engaged audiences of prior times. Even then, they
have more access to that culture than to those of Non-American ones
(even here on a campus that is dedicated to multi-cultural enlightenment).
It's a source of wonder for me that so much of American culture has become
contextual for the rest of the world. On the other hand, it's a job of
education (and film reviewers and distributors, etc.) to provide contexts
that will allow us to understand the rest of the world. (Which is why I'm
trying to offer a General Education class on "World Cinema" next year--an
ambitious, if not overweening, goal.)
--Don Larsson, Mankato State U., MN