Spotlight on Bordwell

Kudos to my dear mudda for alerting me to an article in this weekend’s NY Times Arts & Leisure section: a profile written by Manohla Dargis of retired UW professor and hall-of-fame film scholar David Bordwell. For those who are unfamiliar with Bordwell’s work or his personality, the article is a very informative read.

I’ve had the privilege of talking with Bordwell on a handful of occasions—once with Dargis present, in fact—and each time it’s been something of an overwhelming experience for me. Bordwell’s got cinematic knowledge pouring out of his ears, and yet he’s still maintained an unprofessorial lucidity that allows him to do things like declare that UW film professor Vance Kepley is dressed like Bertolt Brecht as he walks into the screening theater at Vilas Hall.

I’m not an enormous fan of Bordwell’s approach to film theory—for one, I’m ambivalent about how much his focus on the cognitive/neurological dimension of cinema effectively privileges the correlationist link between the human mind and the world it’s situated in, thereby placing him in the big ol’ post-Kantian paradigm that the contemporary philosophers known as the Speculative Realists are trying so admirably to help us escape; however, I’ve never put down a book by Bordwell without feeling as though I’d gained a great many insights into the way that cinema works its magic. (My personal favorite writings by him: the chapters in Narration in the Fiction Film about European art cinema and parametric cinema; his essay on Sergei Eisenstein, “Eisenstein’s Epistemological Shift”; and just about all of Film History.) Do check out Dargis’s article.

Add me to your blogroll, D.B.!

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