THE ALTERING EYE: Contemporary International Cinema by Robert Phillip Kolker

THE ALTERING EYE: Contemporary International Cinema

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Kolker, who had little use for most US film directors in A Cinema of Loneliness (1980), now details his academic, vaguely Marxist enthusiasm for the bolder European and Latin American cinema--in a loose history that is often strong enough on film-by-film analysis to compensate for its ideological narrowness and unhelpful format (three extra-long, dense, ill-organized chapters). First come the neo-realists--Rossellini, De Sica, Visconti. They sought a ""political alternative to the dominant cinema,"" with working-class subjects, documentary-like objectivity, a rejection of ""psychological realism."" (Paisan ""refuses to do more than show, or demand more than that we understand what is shown."") And, though ""the conflict between their desire to create an observed social-reality and their attachment to old forms of sentimental storytelling was never resolved,"" their experiments resulted in an ""explosion of form."" After dispensing with Fellini, then (who ""slipped back to a melodramatic mode via. . . autobiographical expressionism""), Kolker focuses on those directors who've done the most to shake up film-narrative, viewer response, and implicit film-politics: Antonioni, who made imagery more important than storyline; Resnais, whose Last Year in Marienbad ""frees itself to examine its own forms"" by ""isolating itself from connotation""; Chabrol, with the ""cat-and-mouse game"" he plays with melodramatic clichÉs; and, above all, Godard--who uses Brechtian techniques of alienation to ""integrate the viewer in an active engagement with the meaning-making process."" (Kolker sees the late R. W. Fassbinder as Godard's heir, also admires Wire Wenders and Werner Herzog, gives Ken Russell ""an important place in contemporary cinema"". . . and sneers at Ingmar Bergman's interest in ""the perverse pleasures of emotional confrontation."") And the final chapter here begins with a survey of Latin American/Marxist filmmaking--relatively unfamiliar material given fairly shrewd (if overindulgent) analysis--before moving on to film treatments of sexual politics: Godard and Fassbinder are again preferred, their demonstrations of ""how intimate relations mirror larger struggles for power and domination"" being superior to Bertolucci's Last Tango. For knowledgeable film students and savvy others: a limited but closely argued view of postwar cinema--rich in specifics and lucid on theory.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1983
Publisher: Oxford Univ. Press