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Adair, Tyler
Marxism , Bertolt Brecht , Andre Bazin , film theory , Jean-Marie Straub
In the wake of the ‘post-political’ turn and the foreclosure of politics as a productive space of “contestation and agonistic engagement” (Wilson and Swynegedouw 6) in the neoliberal age, this project seeks to return to and refurbish the contributions of the German playwright and theorist Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956) to film theory, particularly as they were engaged with and put into practice by the critics of the Cahiers du Cinema and Screen in the aftermath of the events of May 1968. Resisting the “Brecht-fatigue” which accompanied the larger global “Marxism-fatigue” (qtd. in Kleber 8) in the postmodern period, I argue for the enduring relevance of maintaining fidelity to a ‘politics of form’ as advocated by these thinkers while also acknowledging the theoretical excesses of the period as they have been identified by Sylvia Harvey and Dana Polan, namely, the conflation of Brechtianism with a deconstruction of film language and an impenetrable and self-cannibalizing modernism which was at risk of losing its political relevance. However, in order to redeem the remarkable films of Jean-Marie Straub and Daniele Huillet at the core of this project, arguably the exemplars of ‘Brechtian cinema’ who are most often singled out as embodying this excess, I attempt to initiate a hermenutical shift in the reception of their films by examining their underexplored ‘Bazinian dimension’ and the profound influence of Andre Bazin’s thought on Straub. Focusing on his 2014 film, Kommunisten, I argue that the political dimension of its style resides in its taking a particular attitude towards reality and articulates, through the power of the image, certain facts about the contingency of our situation today to demonstrate that these conditions are neither natural nor eternal, but can be infinitely transformed.
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