Philosophy on Screen

Roberto Rossellini – Cartesius (1974)

Rossellini, 1973: One makes films in order to become a better human being.
The New York Times, : Just watching Rossellini’s magnificent work may help a bit in that department as well.

In the final phase of his career, Italian master Roberto Rossellini embarked on a dramatic, daunting project: a series of television films about knowledge and history, made in an effort to teach, where contemporary media were failing. Looking at the Western world’s major figures and moments, yet focusing on the small details of daily life, Rossellini was determined not to recount history but to relive it, as it might have been, unadorned and full of the drama of the everyday. This selection of Rossellini’s history films presents The Age of the Medici, Cartesius and Blaise Pascal – works that don’t just enliven the past but illuminate the ideas that have brought us to where we are today. Read More »

Roberto Rossellini – Blaise Pascal (1972)

Roberto Rosselini directs this fascinating program tracing the life and work of 17th century French mathematician, religious philosopher and physicist Blaise Pascal, who made pioneering contributions to the fields of geometry and probability. The legendary Rosselini created this television film as part of a remarkable series geared toward illuminating the evolution of knowledge and history in Western civilization. Read More »

Vladimir Kobrin – Son Plyashuschih Chelovechkov AKA The Dream of the Little Dancing Men (1997)

Film is about communication. Kobrin pays homage to Vasili Nalimov, to his work and life. Nalimov was a mathematician and philosopher, but was also an eccentric anarchist with mystic tendencies who spent eighteen years in a concentration camp.
Nalimov’s philosophy relies on probabilistic methods in the natural and social sciences and applies them to the study of language and consciousness.
The film’s name Kobrin took from Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Adventure of the Dancing Men”. Read More »

Ermanno Olmi – Il segreto del bosco vecchio AKA The Secret of the Old Woods (1993)

This Ecological Fairy Tale, with live actors and talking animals tells the story of a colonel (Paolo Villaggio) who is entrusted with a large estate of woodlands until his schoolboy nephew comes of age. Disregarding local tradition and the practice of his esteemed deceased brother, the military man decides to selectively cut the old growth timber. He is confronted with the protestations of the tree spirits (Giulio Brogi) and the local townsfolk, to no avail. Over their objection he releases the unpredictable wind from the cave to which it has been confined, and even wishes for the early demise of his nephew so he can own the woods outright. But he comes to value human contact more, starts to come to terms with most of the spirits, and reverses some plots to get rid of his nephew. A bit like a live action Hayan Miyazaki tale such as Princess Mononoke, but not so violent. Read More »

King Vidor – The Fountainhead (1949)

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The hero of Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead is Howard Roark (Gary Cooper), a fiercely independent architect obviously patterned after Frank Lloyd Wright. Rather than compromise his ideals, Roark takes menial work as a quarryman to finance his projects. He falls in love with heiress Dominique (Patricia Neal), but ends the relationship when he has the opportunity to construct buildings according to his own wishes. Dominique marries a newspaper tycoon (Raymond Massey) who at first conducts a vitriolic campaign against the “radical” Roark, but eventually becomes his strongest supporter. Upon being given a public-housing contract on the proviso that his plans not be changed in any way, Roark is aghast to learn that his designs will be radically altered. Roark sneaks into the unfinished structure at night, makes certain no one else is around, and dynamites the project into oblivion. Read More »

Kirby Dick & Amy Ziering Kofman – Derrida [+Extras] (2003)

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One of the most influential and iconoclastic figures of the 20th century, French philosopher and father of “deconstruction” Jacques Derrida has single-handedly altered the way we look at history, language, art, and film. In the spirit of Derrida’s work, acclaimed filmmakers Kirby Dick (SICK: THE LIFE AND DEATH OF BOB FLANAGAN, SUPERMASOCHIST [torrent available here]) and Amy Ziering Kofman have created an innovative and entertaining portrait by questioning the very concept of biography itself. Featuring a mesmerizing score by Oscar-winning composer Ryuichi Sakamoto (THE LAST EMPEROR), DERRIDA is a playful and provocative glimpse at a visionary thinker as he ruminates on everything from SEINFELD to the sex lives of ancient philosophers. Read More »

Claire Denis – L’intrus AKA The Intruder [+Extras] (2004)

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L’Intrus opens to a shot of the Franco-Swiss border as a border guard performs a customs check and inspection of a random vehicle with the aid of a contraband-sniffing dog. The seemingly mundane image of frontier, wilderness, and deception provides a curiously appropriate introduction into the Claire Denis’ impenetrably fractured, enigmatically allusive, otherworldy, and indelible metaphysical exposition into the mind of an emotionally severe, morally bankrupt, and profoundly isolated heart transplant patient named Louis (Michel Subor). Idiosyncratically unfolding in elliptical, often reverse chronology (with respect to the heart surgery) through the lugubriously fluid intertwining of Louis’ alienated existence and deeply tormented subconscious, the film is a fragmented and maddeningly opaque daydream (or perhaps more appropriately, a haunted nightmare) of the price exacted by his disreputable past, estranged relationships, hedonism, and instinctual quest for survival: his inability to reconcile with his only son and his family; his sexually motivated, yet emotionally distant relationship with a materialistic pharmacist; his dubious, transcontinental past (a suppressed history that may have included murder). Perpetually followed by a beautiful, enigmatic sentinel (Katia Golubeva) – or conscience – who seems to have been instrumental in obtaining his new heart, what emerges is an indelible, elegiac, and poetically abstract dreamscape through the wondrous, alien terrain of unreconciled (and irreconcilable) personal history, unrequited longing, and haunted memory. Read More »