Exemplarity and Film

Silvestra Mariniello

« In the final analysis the series of data which a man produces as such, as reality that represents itself and acts, is called anexample, and this is the difference between the language of natural reality and the language of human reality. The first only produces data; the second, along with the data, also produces an example. Audiovisual techniques capture man in the act in which he gives the example (willing or not). »                         Pasolini, The End of the Avant-Garde (1966).


From Pasolini’s remarks on exemplarity in this 1966 essay, as well as from Hanna Arendt’s philosophy of action as developed in The Human Condition, I will investigate how rhetoric distinguishes between two kinds of examples (exemplum), both also belonging in film: 1) the discursive one: a particular narrative genre, one of the three discursive devices of persuasion, “the figure that most clearly and explicitly attempts to shore up the inside of discourse by gesturing toward its outside, toward some commonly recognized basis in a reality shared by speaker and listener, reader and writer” as Lyons puts it; 2) the exemplary individual. My research thus explores, with reference to different films, the point where the two exempla converge and the exemplary individual in film attracts the viewer in his/her sphere of action. Through montage, sound, rhythm, acting, light, depth of field, camera angles and movements, an encounter (Deleuze) becomes possible with the Other (character/actor) when we see his/her face (Lévinas, Butler) and his/her example inspires us. In fact what interests me the most, and what will be at the core of my paper, is the nature of action, the ways of representing and reproducing action, the cinematographic mediation of action and agency (P.P. Pasolini, S. Cavell) in order to understand why and how action becomes exemplary, attracts the viewer into its sphere (Bergson). Focusing on the audiovisual “writing” of action, should allow us to address positive as well as negative exemplarity. Finally in the last part of my talk I would like to open up toward another part of my research dealing with the exemplarity of film itself, no longer the exemplarity in film, but of film. Because of its way of looking and because it imposes a way of looking, film would be exemplary of the age that generated it and which, at the same time, was generated by it. (Casetti, Ishaghpour, Godard).


Silvestra Mariniello is Professor at the Université de Montréal in the Department of Art History and Film Studies, where she has served as director of the Research Center on Intermediality.  She has published several articles and a book on Pasolini. She has recently co-edited two volumes, L’électricité. Déployement d’un paradigme, which is forthcoming at the University of Ottawa Press, and Appareils et intermédialité, published in 2007 by L’Harmattan. Her latest essay is “Changer de table d’opération” for the Mexican journal Acta Poetica. Other titles include: “L’écoute de l’ange” on Wim Wenders; “Devenir et opacité dans Un thé au Sahara de Bernardo Bertolucci”; “La voix et la parole”; “La litéracie de la différence”; and “Médiation et responsabilité.”


The Martin Walsh Memorial Lecture

FSAC-ACÉC was founded in 1976 by a group of university professors dedicated to “foster and advance the study of the history and art of film and related fields” in Canada. Among them was Martin Walsh, in whose honour the annual Martin Walsh Memorial Lecture is named. A British expatriate who taught film studies at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario, Walsh was a scholar of avant-garde practices who wrote The Brechtian Aspect of Radical Cinema, published posthumously under the editorship of Keith M. Griffiths (London: BFI, 1981). He was also the first President of the Film Studies Association of Ontario (FSAC-ACÉC’s precursor), and an enthusiastic contributor to the original Take One magazine. Like his friend, the artist Greg Curnoe, he was a member of the London Centennial Wheelers, and in 1977 he died tragically in a road accident. In 1978 the Martin Walsh Memorial Lecture was inaugurated by Walsh’s colleagues and friends to commemorate his life and work. Each year an internationally recognized film scholar is invited to the Annual Conference of FSAC-ACÉC to speak about their current research.


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