“Still an object to be discovered”: The Lumière Galaxy by Francesco Casetti
Book review by Daniel Fairfax, Senses of Cinema, Issue 74, March 2015
A disclosure is in order. The author of The Lumière Galaxy – Italian-born, Connecticut-based film studies professor Francesco Casetti – teaches in my department, and has been a key mentor figure over the years, one under whom I have learnt and with whom I have taught, so this relationship will innately colour the review that follows. Furthermore, I am penning this article at Francesco’s own behest: with the book hot off the printing presses, he insisted that I air my feelings about it. The reason for his doing so, I suspect, is that on the many occasions in which we have conversed about the cinema, about its present fortunes, its metamorphoses and its novelties, we have often had diametrically opposed attitudes towards these phenomena. Whereas Francesco celebrates the rise of new media practices, revelling in the latest YouTube mash-up or digital reworking of a classic, or extolling the possibilities opened up by the advent of smartphones, tablets, laptops and various other gadgets, I tend to be much more sceptical about such tendencies, if not downright hostile. Conversely, those works I hold up as paragons of contemporary cinema – whether they represent the last breaths of the old guard of film aesthetics, such as Hard to be a God (2014) or The Turin Horse (2011), or the flowering of new, but still resolutely cinematic, visual practices, think Leviathan (2012) or Story of My Death (2013) – are for the most part no longer the focus of my elder’s attentions. Indeed, I am regularly given a good-natured chiding for my stubborn attachment to a certain classical mode of spectatorship – watching films in continuity, in a darkened movie-theatre and even, although this particularly possibility is rapidly vanishing, on celluloid – which is seen as little more than a nostalgic yearning for a technologically and socially outmoded past.
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