Ambiguous Cinema

Catch the Oscars? This week’s review applies a philosophical lens to films from several women directors, deriving inspiration from Simone de Beauvoir’s concept of ambiguity.

Ambiguous Cinema: From Simone de Beauvoir to Feminist Film-Phenomenology

Fuery, Kelli. Edinburgh University Press, 2022
272p bibl filmography index, 9781399504232 $110.00, 9781399504263 $110.00

Ambiguous Cinema book cover.

Among the spate of recent books focusing on films as philosophy, Fuery’s Ambiguous Cinema counts as one of the most consistent and compelling. Drawing on close readings of Simone de Beauvoir’s essays and fiction and on her main influences—Husserl, Merleau-Ponty, and Sartre—Fuery (Chapman Univ.) applies Beauvoir’s existential phenomenology to films by six women directors whose works embody the state of ambiguity that Beauvoir saw as inevitable in one’s struggle to navigate the liminal space between embracing one’s own freedom and recognizing the freedom of others. Beauvoir considered this struggle particularly fraught for women, and the films Fuery analyzes—one each by Joanna Hogg, Liliana Cavani, Debra Granik, Cheryl Dunye, Claire Denis, Lucrecia Martel, Lynne Ramsay, and Céline Sciamma—all deal with women’s efforts to avoid bad faith and achieve authentic “being-in-the-world” (Heidegger’s coinage). What this reviewer particularly admires about the book is that Fuery, unlike many others who write about film as philosophy, does not limit herself to analyzing film narrative; she also pays close attention to filmic techniques and effects. In addition, she avoids the temptation to make unlikely marriages between filmmakers and a variety of philosophies, and instead provides a template that can be applied widely. A masterful effort!

Summing Up: Essential. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty.
Reviewer
: W. A. Vincent, Michigan State University
Subject: Humanities – Performing Arts – Film
Choice Issue: Jun 2023


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