«Contemporary cinema’s uncertain identity is the starting point of The Lumière Galaxy: Seven Keywords for the Cinema to Come (New York: Columbia University Press, 2015) by Francesco Casetti. By telling two anecdotes, Casetti introduces the reader to basic but paramount questions, echoing André Bazin’s pivotal query: what, when, and where is cinema today? Or, in a more encompassing way: how is cinema today, as Casetti pays great attention to cinematic practices rather than essentialist surveys…».
The title of Francesco Casetti’s book – The Lumière Galaxy: seven key words for the cinema to come – is at the same time brilliant and deliberately misleading; indeed, though referring to McLuhan’s The Gutenberg Galaxy, it differs from it on at least three relevant points.
First, McLuhan insists on the importance of the medium’s technological and material basis in determining both the media experience and the perception of the medium itself; Casetti, by contrast, believes that media experiences and the very possibility of recognizing media specificities are relatively independent of their technological bases and their material conditions of viewing and listening, since they represent specific cultural forms
Second, McLuhan argues that ‘With [the] recognition of curved space in 1905 the Gutenberg galaxy was officially dissolved’ (253). Casetti’s central thesis about cinema in the digital era is exactly the opposite: the forms of cinema experience tend to survive after the end of cinema as a technological and factual apparatus, and they tend to endure even in the very different circumstances of audiovisual consumption characterizing the present condition; indeed, cultural forms bend disparate technologies and settings to their own expectations and needs, thus producing experiential forms that, despite their differences from the past, can still be targeted as ‘cinema’.
A third point of opposition between McLuhan and Casetti regards the structure of the book. Indeed, McLuhan designs his work as ‘a mosaic pattern of perception and observation’ (265), composed by a number of short chapters; on the contrary, Casetti arranges his discussion around seven chapters, each corresponding to a keyword: relocation, relics/icons, assemblage, expansion, hypertopia, display, performance. Beyond the paratactic succession of the seven issues, it is useful to introduce a distinction: while most of the chapters follow a descriptive-interpretative approach, two of them (assemblage and performance) adopt a more strictly theoretical orientation. We will set them apart in our presentation.
Ruggero Eugeni (2015) ‘The Lumière Galaxy: seven key words for the cinema to come’, New Review of Film and Television Studies, 13:4, 443-447, DOI: 10.1080/17400309.2015.1093282.
“The Lumière Galaxy is an exuberant, gracefully written book inviting us to understand the relocations, expansions, and reinventions of cinema and its possibly grand future in close, loving proximity to its rich past .”
Holly Willis, FilmComment
“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.
Read full review on sensesofcinema.com »