New essay soon – Deleuze on Kurosawa’s Stray Dog for ‘Thinking Film’ (eds. Kearney & Littlejohn)

Just what is film-philosophy? And why should anyone care? Such was the ask from Richard Kearney and Murray Littlejohn when they invited me to contribute a chapter on Deleuze’s Cinema books for their new edited collection.

There are – of course – many answers to these questions. The way – as Nietzsche proclaimed – does not exist. And Kearney and Littlejohn’s Thinking Film: Philosophy at the Movies – with some 30 chapters from an array of awesome writers – looks to offer many different responses. I’ll know more, like everyone else, when the book comes out mid-next year! For now, Bloomsbury have just released the contents.

The starting point for my essay came from a wee conversation with a friend over a decade ago. Gilles Deleuze wrote two books on Cinema: The Movement-Image (1981) and The Time-Image (1983). In those books Deleuze unfolds the ways in which film explores spaces and times: spaces through movement images and duration through time images. And while movement images tend towards coherently mapping spaces and times (individuals and societies, their perceptions, emotions, actions, and thoughts), time images attempt to disrupt and trouble such mappings, opening up new ways of seeing and being in the world. Can a film – my friend asked – be both a movement-image and a time-image? What would that look like?

My off-the-cuff remark was ‘yes’! And I thought of Kurosawa Akira’s Stray Dog (1949). The movie is, on the one hand, a brilliant and exciting film noir about cop who has his gun stolen, and his investigation chasing the serial killer who now has it. On the other hand, at certain moments the action of the film disperses and plummets into an abyss, capturing through its images and montage the affects of the Japan’s experience of the Second World War and the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

I’d thought about this conversation for some ten years. Anyway, it is one thing to have an idea. Another to write it up. Richard and Murray’s book offered the opportunity to have a go!

I hope I have done justice to Kurosawa’s movie and Deleuze’s film-philosophy. And in exploring both through the other, found a way to answer the question what is film-philosophy and – more importantly – why anyone should care.

Thinking Film: Philosophy at the Movies (Bloomsbury) is out in June 2023. You can pre-order now with 10% discount!

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