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William Rothman

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  • Three Documentary Filmmakers: Errol Morris, Ross Mcelwee, Jean Rouch (2009)
    Film study has tended to treat documentary as a marginal form, but as the essaysin Three Documentary Filmmakers demonstrate, the films of Jean Rouch, Ross McElwee, and Errol Morris call for, and reward, the sort of criticism expected of serious works in any medium. However, critical methods that illuminate what makes Citizen Kane a great film are not adequate for expressing what it is about Rouch's The Funeral at Bongo: The Old Annaļ, McElwee's Time Indefinite, and Morris's The Fog of War that makes them--each in its own way--great films as well. Although these filmmakers differ strikingly from one another, their films are deeply philosophical and personal, and explore the paradoxical relationships between fantasy and reality, self and world, fiction and documentary, dreams and film, filming and living. It is a challenge to find terms of criticism capable of illuminating such works, and the essays in this book rise to that challenge.

  • The 'I' of the Camera: Essays in Film Criticism, History and Aesthetics (1988, 2003)
    Originally published in 1988, The "I" of the Camera has become a classic in the literature of film. Offering alternatives to the viewing and criticism of film, William Rothman challenges readers to think about film in adventurous ways that are more open to movies and our experience of them. In a series of eloquent essays examining the "Americanness" of American film, Rothman argues compellingly that movies have inherited the philosophical perspective of American transcendentalism. This second edition includes fourteen new essays, written after the book's first publication, as well as a new foreword.s

  • Reading Cavell's the World Viewed: A Philosophical Perspective on Film (2000) with With Marian Keane
    In their study of one of Stanley Cavell's greatest yet most neglected books, William Rothman and Marian Keane address this eminent philosopher's many readers, from a variety of disciplines, who have neither understood why he has given film so much attention, nor grasped the place of "The World Viewed" within the totality of his writings about film. The authors also reintroduce "The World Viewed" to the field of film studies. When the new field entered universities in the late 1960s, it predicated its legitimacy on the conviction that the medium's artistic achievements called for serious criticism and on the corollary conviction that no existing field was capable of the criticism film called for. The study of film needed to found itself, intellectually, upon a philosophical investigation of the conditions of the medium and art of film. Such was the challenge "The World Viewed" took upon itself. However, film studies opted to embrace theory as a higher authority than our experiences of movies, divorcing itself from the philosophical perspective of self-reflection apart from which, "The World Viewed" teaches, we cannot know what movies mean, or what they are. Rothman and Keane now argue that the poststructuralist theories that dominated film studies for a quarter of a century no longer compel conviction, Cavell's brilliant and beautiful book can provide a sense of liberation to a field that has foresaken its original calling. Read in a way that acknowledges its philosophical achievement, "The World Viewed" can show the field a way to move forward by rediscovering its passion for the art of film. The title should be useful to scholars and students of film and philosophy, and to those in other fields, such as literary studies and American studies, who have found Cavell's work provocative and fruitful.

  • Documentary Film Classics (1997)
    Documentary Film Classics offers close readings on a number of major films, such as Nanook of the North,,Land Without Bread, Night and Fog, Chronicle of a Summer and Don't Look Back. Spanning the history of the documentary film tradition, William Rothman analyzes the philosophical and historical issues and themes implicit in these works. Designed to guide film students through the "texts" of a wide range of documentaries, his readings also focus on the achievements of these works as films per se.

  • Hitchcock: The Murderous Gaze (1982)
    No reader of this challenging book will ever view a Hitchcock film (perhaps any film) in quite the same way again. By a close analysis of five representative works and documenting his readings with more than 600 frame enlargements, Rothman shows how Hitchcock composed his films--how each moment bears his imprint and his special demands on the viewer. It is the seriousness of Hitchcock's reflections on the murderous power of the camera's gaze, and on the larger mysteries of love and murder, that makes him a monumental figure in the history of film. Rothman follows the course of these reflections from the gripping images of the silent film The Lodger (1926) to what he terms Hitchcock's final call for acknowledgment in Psycho (1960). The continuity is traced through Murder! (1930), the most ambitious of the early films; The Thirty-Nine Steps (1935), which established a new genre (the "Hitchcock thriller") and gave the world its sense of Hitchcock as the "master of suspense"; and Shadow of a Doubt (1943), the director's cunning demonstration to an American audience of what a Hitchcock film really is. Rothman's readings immeasurably deepen our appreciation of Hitchcock's individual achievement. At the same time the book is a sustained meditation, philosophically scrupulous, on the medium and the art of film, on the conditions of authorship in film, and on the ways that serious films might be approached in acts of viewing and criticism.

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