Mutants We All: Jean-Louis Schefer and our Cinematic Civilization


Atoms and dust, tossed by the churning of wheels; the ticking of clocks and grinding machines, producing movement as the debris issued forth from the recording of time; an ever-changing series of universes appearing and disappearing, in which humanity as a whole and the spectator as an individual become mutated, mutants—monsters we all, split between our memory-laden selves and the memory-free instant of the passing image. This is the cinema, our world with cinema in it, our cinematic experience, according to Jean-Louis Schefer. In the enigmatic tone and unorthodox style of this opening passage, I hope to introduce a thinker of the cinema whose original, insightful, and often difficult writing on film I aim to render more accessible in the following pages. The motivation for this essay lies in the high esteem I hold for Schefer’s ability to offer a badly needed link between cognitive film analysis and metaphysical film-philosophy, shedding light on the connection between the complex details of our specific viewing experiences and the general abstraction of our social use of image-culture.

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