A request for accuracy in the use of cinephilia

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Auteur(s): 
Ogonoski, Matthew

This is partly a continuation of my last entry on Burnett's presentation, but I wanted to separate the two because my concern is for a concept within (some) cinema studies that is greatly susceptible to misuse:

 
Cinephilia.
 
Right now, cinephilia is something being considered as a way to access (to some degree) the subjective experience of cinematic pleasure. In these terms, cinephilia is relevant to the discipline and can prove very useful as a concept. 
 
However, as the concept gains popularity, it begins to transform and lose its sense of stability. I am not here discussing the stability of cinephilia itself - cinephilia is necessarily unstable because of its subjective disposition - but am instead discussing the instability of using the term in incommensurable ways within the discipline of film studies. 
 
I acknowledge that cinephilia was used as an organizing principle for the reasons of thematically scheduling a coherent final day of the conference. However, not only was the theme grossly misused, but this drew attention to the potential misuse within the discipline overall. This was further supported by the multitudinous ways in which both the roundtable and the audience situated cinephilia within film studies.
 
There are multiple reasons for my concern:
 
First of all, and as mentioned in my previous post, the concept of excess is essential to a discussion and use of cinephilia. Burnett did not take this into account. The other three presentations that engaged with cinephilia either explicitly utilized the concept of excess (Maule) or, at the very least, implied it (Russell, Pidduck). Excess must always be considered when discussing cinephilia. Cinephilia without the acknowledgment of excess can simply be called "watching movies." We all watch movies in particular ways and enjoy them for various reasons. However, cinephilia is a specific conceptual model that must be distinguished from all other modes of viewing.
 
This brings me to my second concern. The term cinephilia is being used more and more as a way of justifying why we watch movies. But not only is it not the only reason we watch movies, but the importance of the concept is invested in how we watch. Tonight I will most likely watch some terrible piece of shlock just to give my brain a rest after an intensive and intellectually stimulating three-day conference. I will watch the film because it will not demand anything of me, because I feel like relaxing, because I haven't watched a film in over a week, because it is Tuesday night and there's little else to do for entertainment, etc. How I watch it is yet to be determined. However, my enjoyment comes from how I watch it, and not simply because I do watch it. 
 
This reveals the ontological significance of the phenomenon of cinephilia. I do indeed invest in a concept of cinephilia that somehow affectively impresses and engages the viewer. And this is the point of using the term in the first place: to distinguish it from the fact that people simply watch films. 
 
I'm reminded of a question that Haidee Wasson raised at the Arthemis sponsored guest lecture by Paula Amad last October at Concordia University. Though my memory is not good enough to quote the exact words used, the question asked why a particular concept was being used (archivolgy) when there were already other similar reception models (memory) in use. Ultimately, the question was concerned with deciphering how this new concept was different from other concepts and why. And this is what any work on cinephilia needs to address in order to be successful. Otherwise it will become another buzzword that will garner much investment before being thrown to the curb when adopting the next, popular concept.
 
Cinephilia has an incredibly powerful appeal because of its potential to provide a stable ground from which to examine the intricacies of reception and making meaning. Any lover of the cinema who watches a lot of films and somehow creates a response to that experience is a cinephile. The question is how those different people create, how those creations differ, and what this means to the cinema and its study overall. 
 

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