Daniel Morgan: “Rethinking Bazin: Ontology and Realist Aesthetics”

Figure 3. Film still from Journal d’un curé de campagne, dir. Robert Bresson (1951); referred to in the excerpt below.

The word “realism” as it is commonly used does not have an absolute and clear meaning, so much as it indicates a certain tendency toward the faithful rendering of reality on film. Given the fact that this movement toward the real can take a thousand different routes, the apologia for “realism” per se, strictly speaking, means nothing at all. The movement is valuable only insofar as it brings increased meaning (itself an abstraction) to what is created.

—André Bazin, Jean Renoir (1973)

I wanted to recommend an essay which is not new, but which I’ve only just had an opportunity to read: “Rethinking Bazin: Ontology and Realist Aesthetics,” written by Daniel Morgan (English and Film Studies, University of Pittsburgh) and published by Critical Inquiry in the Spring of 2006. Prof. Morgan’s essay offers a fascinating discussion of André Bazin’s writings about realism and film, and it includes a very suggestive discussion of the concept of acknowledgement (with special reference to the work of Michael Fried and Stanley Cavell). I thought a number of you would be interested in this essay, if you haven’t already come across it. Thanks to Richard Neer for recommending it to me.

To access the essay online, please click here.

Here is an excerpt from the section of Morgan’s essay which focuses on the concept of acknowledgment:


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