Nowadays, the philosophical branch of aesthetics represents a central theme in film analysis. Several distinguished ‘classic’ authors (Canudo, Arnheim, Warburg, Gombrich, to name the most influential ones) talked about it for a long time. Today, Noël Carroll distinguished himself among the contemporary scholars on the world scene. In fact, he has long and profitably reflected on issues of fundamental importance for cinematic aesthetics, such as (as outlined in the questions) the conception of the actor’s body in the filmic space (this is the case, for example, of his studies on Buster Keaton). In his essays Carroll highlighted several important concepts, making popular this specific philosophical field, even maintaining its proper academic slant. We believe that aesthetics, meant both as, Philosophy of Art and Philosophy of emotions or perception, would be the right way to analyze cinematographic theories, using their paradigms to develop new approaches.
The questions posed would like to introduce a very little part of Noël Carroll’s thought on different fields: from ‘classic’ silent cinema to animated films, with also several considerations on digital.
Massimo Bonura: What are your five favorite films and why?
Noël Carroll: Well, the first isn’t just my favorite. I think it’s the greatest film that has been made so far. It is Renoir’s Rules of the game. One of the many reasons why I praise this film regards Renoir’s mastery of multiplanar composition. Another film that would be in my top five list is Hitchcock’s Vertigo. I admire it for its philosophical insight into the nature of love. It’s a counterexample to the Platonic idea that we love our beloveds because of their properties. Hitchcock illustrates this idea by showing what’s wrong with Jimmy Stewart’s attempt to transfer Madeleine’s properties to Judy. My next choice is Buster Keaton’s The General, which I think is the greatest film in history in terms of giving the audience an understanding of the physical environment and its causal relation to human action. Keaton was a great director as well as a great comedian. My candidate for the greatest horror film ever made, and that’s James Whale’s Bride of Frankenstein for its masterful capability to move back and forth between comedy and horror, thereby underscoring the thin line between the two. The last film on the list is my childhood favorite: King Kong. I’ve seen it at least sixty times. I love the oneiric quality of the stop action animation and the way the film works out visually the parallel narratives of the island and the city.