Feb 20, 2011

Cavell On The Star


For the American philosopher Stanley Cavell (The World Viewed, Pursuits of Happiness, Contesting Tears) actors on the silver screen are embodied representations of themselves thrown up on the movie screen, for all us to gaze. The star, to use Emerson's phrase, "stand the gaze of millions." We gaze on Cary Grant, for example, because we recognize him as Cary Grant who happens to naturally represent the roles he plays in the film. We appreciate Cary Grant (and Irene Dunne, or Elizabeth Taylor, or George Clooney) in the movie because they naturally “are themselves.” It is as if we treat the stars as persons we would encounter in everyday life. If the star does not appear to be himself we call his performance inauthentic. We judge the actor in the movies as authentic portrayals of themselves rather than as convincing actor performing a role (as in the theater). For Cavell this propensity to view film as authentic or inauthentic is characteristic of modern art. Would we ever call a performance of Chopin inauthentic? If we did we would be addressing our indictment to the performer and not to the piece itself. Art becomes treatable in the same way we treat persons. Are you authentic to the role you play? If not, you are not fit to stand the gaze of millions.


Subscribe to stones of erasmus by Email

Search This Blog