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Image and Identity

Reflections on Canadian Film and Culture

By R. Bruce Elder
Subjects Cultural Studies
Series Film and Media Studies Hide Details
Paperback : 9781554584697, 502 pages, January 2006
Ebook (EPUB) : 9781554586776, 502 pages, January 2006

Table of contents

Table of Contents for
Image and Identity: Reflections on Canadian Film and Culture by R. Bruce Elder






Introduction: In Reality, Who Are We?

CHAPTER 1 A House Divided

Three Primal Experiences

The Garrison Mentality

A Tragic Vision

CHAPTER 2 Two Schools of Thought

American-Style Liberalism

The Epistemology of Empiricism

Common Sense

Dualism and Representation

Common Sense and Calvinism

Absolute Idealism

The Absolute

The Nation-State

Absolute Idealism in Canada

CHAPTER 3 An Aesthetic of Reconciliation



CHAPTER 4 The Documentary Film in Canada

Absolute Idealism in Canada

The Legacy of John Grierson

The Influence of Grierson

The Candid-Eye Movement

The Crisis Structure of American Cinéma-vérité

The Observational Structure of Candid-Eye Films

Two Journalistic Influences

The Empirical Character of the Candid-Eye Films

Not a Love Story

CHAPTER 5 Narrative Transmission in American Direct Cinema Films and Canadian Candid-Eye Films

Narrative Modes of Transmission

Agents of Narrative Transmission

Cinéma-vérité as the Mimesis of a Mimesis

Imagery as Illustration: the "Literary" Quality of NFB Documentaries

The Days Before Christmas

Candid-Eye Films and Common-Sense Philosophy

Blood and Fire

CHAPTER 6 The Reality Principle: "Goin' Down the Road"

What Do Pete and Joey Want?

Ideas and Actions

The Repressions of the Reality Principle

The Non-Empirical Cinema of Quebec

The Problems of the Empirical Style

The Limitations of the Reality Principle

CHAPTER 7 Modes of Representation in Cinema

The Cinema of Presentation, the Cinema of Illustration, the Cinema of Construction

A Paradigmatic Contrast

A Contrast of Epistemologies

The Search-and-Discovery Structure in the Cinema of Presentation

Some Historical Background

Classical and Post-classical Art

The Telos of Total Realism



CHAPTER 8 Michael Snow's "Wavelength"

The Cinema of Presentation, the Cinema of Illustration, the Cinema of Construction

A Minimal Film

A Phenomenological Film

A Durational Film

A Dramatic Film

An Experiential Film

Drama, Space and Time

Drama, Light and Sound

Dramatic Form as a Narrowing of Possibility

Drama and Temporal Continuity

Remarks on the Zoom

A Film of Purity

The Achievement of the Film

CHAPTER 9 From Painting into Cinema: A Study of Jack Chambers' "Circle"

Two Tendencies in Twentieth-Century Art

Chambers' Painting as a Prelude to Filmmaking

Perceptual Realism and Romanticism

Perceptual Realism and Photography


Circle: Section One

Circle: Section Two

Circle: Section Three

CHAPTER 10 All Things in Their Time: On Michael Snow's

The Background of the Film

Snow's Multifaceted Work

From Modernism to Postmodernism

Experiencing Snow's Films

Snow's Transcendental Self/p>

Snow's Postmodernist Associates 1: David Rimmer

Snow's Postmodernist Associates 11: Joyce Wieland

CHAPTER 11 The Photographic Image in Canadian Avant-Garde Film

The Background of the Film

Postmodernism vs Modernism

The Paradoxes of Photographic Representation

Postmodernism and Otherness

Camera Movement and Highlighting Absence: the Case of Chris Gallagher

The Frame and Absent Space: the Cases of Epp and Snow

Representation and Presentation: the Case of David Rimmer

The Single-Shot Film

The Relation of Text and Image: Postmodernist Strategies

The Duality of Photography

CHAPTER 12 Michael Snow Presents "Presents"

Ut Pictura Poesis

Modernism and the Metaphysics of Presence

Presents and the Challenge to the Metaphysics of Presence

Presents in the Light of Language Theory

The Architecture of Presents

So Is This in the Light of Language Theory

Presence, Time, Language and Knowledge

Reprise: Ut Pictura Poesis

CHAPTER 13 Idealism, Photography and the Canadian Avant-Garde Film

Graphic Cinema

Peter Kubelka's Theory and Practice

Eisenstein's Theory

Germaine Dulac

Sydney Peterson's Views

Against the Petersonian View: Maya Deren

Romanticism, Hegel, and the Underpinnings of a Canadian Attitude Towards Photography

Self and Other: The Undergirding of Romanticism

Chambers' Art: The Amalgam of Subjectivity and Objectivity

The Rhythms of Life and Death: Chambers' Films

Nature, Idealism and the Photograph in Canadian Thought

CHAPTER 14 Forms of Cinema: Models of Self

Image and Identity

Hart of London

La région centrale

The Transcendental Self, La région centrale, and Idealist Thought


Appendix: Filmographies




What do images of the body, which recent poets and filmmakers have given us, tell us about ourselves, about the way we think and about the culture in which we live?

In his new book A Body of Vision, R. Bruce Elder situates contemporary poetic and cinematic body images in their cultural context.

Elder examines how recent artists have tried to recognize and to convey primordial forms of experiences. He proposes the daring thesis that in their efforts to do so, artists have resorted to gnostic models of consciousness. He argues that the attempt to convey these primordial modes of awareness demands a different conception of artistic meaning from any of those that currently dominate contemporary critical discussion. By reworking theories and speech in highly original ways, Elder formulates this new conception.

The works of Brakhage, Artaud, Schneeman, Cohen and others lie naked under Elder’s razor-sharp dissecting knife and he exposes the essence of their work, cutting deeply into the themes and theses from which the works are derived. His remarks on the gaps in contemporary critical practices will likely become the focus of much debate.


"One of the better-kept secrets about Elder's past is his formal graduate study in philosophy. This training can no longer remain a secret to readers of this book. But, in addition, Elder reveals a firm grasp of Canadian history, against which he explains the country's philosophical and aesthetic evolution. His documentation . .. is impressively scholarly. "

- Cam Tolton, Canadian Book Review Annual, Number 135, 1989

"Image and Identity at its best is intoxicated with its subject and can take a reader straight into it. For those who share the same serious fascination with Canadian culture that Armour, Trott, and Kroker address in their books, Image and Identity will come as something of a revelation: that some Canadian films at least are not homeless orphans of a national cinema that keeps stumbling, but works very much at home in the landscape of Canadian art and thought. "

- Bart Testa, Globe and Mail, November 18, 1989

"Bruce Elder has written a work as ambitious, expansive and impressive as many of his own film projects. "

- Cantrills Filmnotes, Number 59/60, September 1989

"Daunting, dense, encyclopedic, exhaustive, exhausting, and often brilliant. "

- M. Yacowar, Choice, January 1990

"Within its compass, that of Canadian intellectual history, Image and Identity is a methodological correction to the state of Canadian film studies. Elder's study seeks to perform a contextual redress for Canadian film, negatively in the case of documentary cinema and realist fiction film, positively in the case of the avant-garde. He manages this task admirably, arguing clearly and in depth as a scholar fully conversant with the exemplary recent work in Canadian studies by Armour and Trott and by Wilden, Reid, and Kroker, and with the original sources their writing explores. "

- Bart Testa, University of Toronto Quarterly, Fall 1990

"Elder's work, combining a provocative thesis, a national and international philosophic and artistic context, and a thorough analysis of selected Canadian postmodern works, is a stimulus and a challenge to anyone interested in Canadian art and culture. "

- Paul Tiessen, Canadian Literature, Number 135