Philosophy on Screen

Roberto Rossellini – Agostino d’Ippona AKA Augustine of Hippo [+Extras] (1972)

In the time of the Roman Empire’s waning, decadent, self-indulgent days, the Algerian-born Catholic convert Augustine was appointed Bishop of Hippo in Roman North Africa. Seeing his own time, with its widespread poverty, greed and materialism, the Vietnam War, reflected in this fifth-century world, Roberto Rossellini turned his series of present-tense histories to the figure of Augustine, the splendid result being Agostino d’Ippona. Read More »

Samuel Beckett & Alan Schneider – Film (1965)

F I L M I N F O
1. Samuel Beckett made a single work for projected cinema. It’s in essence a chase film; the craziest ever committed to celluloid. It’s a chase between camera and pursued image that finds existential dread embedded in the very apparatus of the movies itself. The link to cinema’s essence is evident in the casting, as the chased object is none other than an aged Buster Keaton, who was understandably befuddled at Beckett and director Alan Schneider’s imperative that he keep his face hidden from the camera’s gaze. The archetypal levels resonate further in the exquisite cinematography of Academy Award-winner Boris Kaufman, whose brothers Dziga Vertov and Mikhail Kaufman created the legendary self-reflexive masterpiece Man With a Movie Camera. Commissioned and produced by Grove Press’s Barney Rosset, FILM is at once the product of a stunningly all-star assembly of talent, and a cinematic conundrum that asks more questions than it answers. Read More »

Roberto Rossellini – Socrate (1971)

‘Socrates’ Mirrors the Platonic Touch of Rossellini
Something more than wordplay is involved when one describes Roberto Rossellini’s “Socrates,” which opened yesterday at the New Yorker Theater, as the great Italian director’s most Socratic film, in his most Platonic style.

Although the movie was shot entirely in Spain with lots of correctly costumed extras, who walk around what look to be the freshly painted, spruced-up remains of the sets of Anthony Mann’s unfortunate “Fall of the Roman Empire,” it concedes no more than it absolutely must to the demands of a popular cinema that seeks access to the intellect through visual grandeur and primal emotions. Read More »

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 »