Rites of Realism

Essays on Corporeal Cinema

Rites of Realism

Book Pages: 360 Illustrations: 36 b&w photos Published: March 2003

Media Studies > Film

Rites of Realism shifts the discussion of cinematic realism away from the usual focus on verisimilitude and faithfulness of record toward a notion of "performative realism," a realism that does not simply represent a given reality but enacts actual social tensions. These essays by a range of film scholars propose stimulating new approaches to the critical evaluation of modern realist films and such referential genres as reenactment, historical film, adaptation, portrait film, and documentary.
By providing close readings of classic and contemporary works, Rites of Realism signals the need to return to a focus on films as the main innovators of realist representation. The collection is inspired by André Bazin's theories on film's inherent heterogeneity and unique ability to register contingency (the singular, one-time event). This volume features two new translations: of Bazin's seminal essay "Death Every Afternoon" and Serge Daney's essay reinterpreting Bazin's defense of the long shot as a way to set the stage for a clash or risky confrontation between man and animal. These pieces evince key concerns—particularly the link between cinematic realism and contingency—that the other essays explore further.
Among the topics addressed are the provocative mimesis of Luis Buñuel's Land Without Bread; the adaptation of trial documents in Carl Dreyer's Passion of Joan of Arc; the use of the tableaux vivant by Wim Wenders and Peter Greenaway; and Pier Paolo Pasolini's strategies of analogy in his transposition of The Gospel According to St. Matthew from Palestine to southern Italy. Essays consider the work of filmmakers including Michelangelo Antonioni, Maya Deren, Mike Leigh, Cesare Zavattini, Zhang Yuan, and Abbas Kiarostami.

Contributors: Paul Arthur, André Bazin, Mark A. Cohen, Serge Daney, Mary Ann Doane, James F. Lastra, Ivone Margulies, Abé Mark Normes, Brigitte Peucker, Richard Porton, Philip Rosen, Catherine Russell, James Schamus, Noa Steimatsky, Xiaobing Tang


"Rites of Realism is a valuable text for any scholar of realist or documentary film, providing both wide-ranging surveys and challenging, in-depth theoretical analyses of a variety of films from world cinema." — Rebecca Bell-Metereau , Journal of Film and Video

"[S]hould help to gain new respect for cinematic realism within the academy. . . [T]he writing is almost uniformly clear, cogent, and well-informed. I confess that the book exceeded my expectations and Ivone Margulies, the editor, deserves credit for assembling such a stimulating collection of essays and maintaining a high level of scholarship and fluency throughout the volume. Rites of Realism succeeds in bringing an important issue back to the attention of film scholars." — Leger Grindon , Cineaste

"[S]timulating and diverse. . . . Rites of Realism reminds us to always be wary of throwing the baby out with the bathwater: it represents a welcome return of the real." — Tim O'Farrell , Screening the Past

"Rather than simply assembling a mix of new essays on the subject, Margulies' collection thoughtfully returns us to some of Bazin's seminal insights on realism, and then develops a framework for contemporary research by grouping the new translation of his essay with thorough and insightful critical commentaries upon Bazinian concepts." — Jason Middleton , Quarterly Review of Film and Video

"This ambitious volume approaches realism from a new perspective—not as a mimetic problem involving art's representation of reality, but as what Ivone Margulies calls a dynamic 'aesthetic that effectively enacts cultural and social tensions' (14)." — Joel Black , Symploke

"This collection does three remarkable things. First, it offers a welcome rereading of André Bazin; second, it gathers contributors who regard human bodies not as mere representations on film, but as actual pro-filmic bodies, witnessed in their vulnerability; and lastly-and more diffusely-it attempts to show how the Bazinian legacy is intertwined with 'corporeal cinema.' . . . Rites of Realism succeeds in its aim: to give shape to a very important new avenue for film criticism." — Christophe Wall-Romana, Film Quarterly

“These exciting and varied essays probe the relations between cinematic realism and representations of the body—above all the body as a guarantor (or not) of a link between images and the real. As in the best collections, the essays present distinctive points-of-view, yet they cohere around a compelling through-line, offering illumination and insight beyond just the sum of their parts.” — Leo Charney, author of Empty Moments: Cinema, Modernity, and Drift

"Ivone Margulies's Rites of Realism is a stunning reconsideration of one of the most important and often underestimated issues in film studies—the complex nature of cinematic realism. Orchestrating a wide range of critical debates, this collection ranges brilliantly across decades, cultures, and individual films to remind us that realism at the movies has never been a more interesting and demanding topic. I highly recommend it for any serious student of film." — Timothy Corrigan, author of A Cinema without Walls: Movies and Culture after Vietnam


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Ivone Margulies is Associate Professor in the Film and Media Studies Department at Hunter College. She is the author of Nothing Happens: Chantal Akerman’s Hyperrealist Everyday.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments ix
Bodies Too Much / Ivone Margulies 1
Bazinian Contingencies
Death Every Afternoon / André Bazin 27
Translated by Mark A. Cohen
The Screen of Fantasy (Bazin and Animals) / Serge Daney 32
Translated by Mark A. Cohen
History of Image, Image of History: Subject and Ontology in Bazin / Philip Rosen 42
The Object of Theory / Mary Ann Doane 80
Cultural Indices
No Longer Absolute: Portraiture in American Avant-Garde and Documentary Films of the Sixties / Paul Arthur 93
In Search of the Real City: Cinematic Representations of Beijing and the Politics of Vision / Xiaobing Tang 119
Private Reality: Hara Kazou's Films / Abé Mark Nornes 144
Mike Leigh's Modernist Realism / Richard Porton 164
Why Is This Absurd Picture Here? Ethnology/Heterology/Buñuel / James F. Lastra 185
Exemplary Bodies: Reenactment in Love in the City, Sons, and Close Up / Ivone Margulies 217
Pasolini on Terra Sancta: Towards a Theology of Film / Noa Steimatsky 245
Ecstatic Ethnography: Maya Deren and the Filming of Possession Rituals / Catherine Russell 270
Filmic Tableau Vivant: Vermeer, Intermediality, and the Real / Brigitte Peucker 294
Dreyer's Textual Realism / James Schamus 315
Selected Bibliography 325
Contributors 333
Index 337
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3066-0 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3078-3
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