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The Power of Movies


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About the Author

Colin McGinn is a professor of philosophy at Rutgers University. He is the author of sixteen previous books, including The Making of a Philosopher: My Journey Through Twentieth-Century Philosophy; Space Trap, a novel; and, most recently, Mindsight: Image, Dream, Meaning. McGinn's writing has appeared in such publications as The New York Review of Books, London Review of Books, The New Republic, and The New York Times Book Review.


McGinn (The Making of a Philosopher) presents a lighthearted exegesis of film's hold on our imagination. He begins by suggesting a movie screen is something we look into rather than at, then considers what else our gaze takes on in this manner. Looking into an open fire, for example, captivates in a manner similar to the flickering lights of a film projection. The real meat of McGinn's theory, though, is in his assertion that watching a movie is like having a dream-it's better than dreaming, in fact, because a movie is "a dream as it has been rendered into art." The conjecture makes sense when he grounds it in earlier proposals that cinematic techniques of composition and editing mirror the processes of consciousness, but occasionally, the informal elaboration is taken to silly extremes, as when McGinn wonders if early evening is the best time to watch movies because previous generations went to bed right after sundown. And neuroscientists will have a field day refuting his argument that dreaming is such an elaborate process our minds simply must be working out our dreams before we fall asleep. Even at his most debatable, however, McGinn should remain entertaining to general audiences and more cerebral readers alike. Agent, Susan Rabiner. (Dec. 13) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Philosopher McGinn (Rutgers Univ.; Mindsight: Image, Dream, Meaning) here ventures into movieland to investigate the impact of commercial films on viewers-what the seemingly mindless images actually mean to us, how they manipulate our emotions, the voyeuristic pleasures we experience as filmgoers, and the relationship between the images on the screen and our subconscious and dreaming selves. In fact, ever since 1911, when pioneering film theorist Ricciotto Canudo urged filmmakers to make reality consistent with their inner dream, the dream metaphor has been a recurrent theme in film theory. McGinn, then, has not broken new ground. Although he maintains that the dream interpretation of film "had never been fully developed," his detailed analogy between the screen and 13 "things to look into," such as water, windows, and mirrors, and his laborious comparison between film and other art forms are somewhat tedious. The recollection of his own dreams adds an interesting personal touch, allowing readers a glimpse into the mind of a philosopher. Recommended only for academic libraries with film studies courses.-Victor Or, Vancouver & Surrey P.L., B.C. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

"Lively. . . . Illuminating. . . . McGinn has struck gold." --The Wall Street Journal"Enlightening. . . . Lucid, rewarding." --The New York Times Book Review"Persuasive. . . .Astute. . . . McGinn synthesizes ideas about seeing movies with the passion of a buff." --Entertainment Weekly

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