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Rites of Realism shifts the discussion of cinematic realism away from the usual focus on verisimilitude and faithfulness of record toward a notion of "performative realism," a realism that does not simply represent a given reality but enacts actual social tensions. These essays by a range of film scholars propose stimulating new approaches to the critical evaluation of modern realist films and such referential genres as reenactment, historical film, adaptation, portrait film, and documentary.

By providing close readings of classic and contemporary works, Rites of Realism signals the need to return to a focus on films as the main innovators of realist representation. The collection is inspired by André Bazin’s theories on film’s inherent heterogeneity and unique ability to register contingency (the singular, one-time event). This volume features two new translations: of Bazin’s seminal essay "Death Every Afternoon" and Serge Daney’s essay reinterpreting Bazin’s defense of the long shot as a way to set the stage for a clash or risky confrontation between man and animal. These pieces evince key concerns—particularly the link between cinematic realism and contingency—that the other essays explore further.

Among the topics addressed are the provocative mimesis of Luis Buñuel’s Land Without Bread; the adaptation of trial documents in Carl Dreyer’s Passion of Joan of Arc; the use of the tableaux vivant by Wim Wenders and Peter Greenaway; and Pier Paolo Pasolini’s strategies of analogy in his transposition of The Gospel According to St. Matthew from Palestine to southern Italy. Essays consider the work of filmmakers including Michelangelo Antonioni, Maya Deren, Mike Leigh, Cesare Zavattini, Zhang Yuan, and Abbas Kiarostami.

Contributors: Paul Arthur, André Bazin, Mark A. Cohen, Serge Daney, Mary Ann Doane, James Lastra, Ivone Margulies, Abe Mark Normes, Brigitte Peucker, Richard Porton, Philip Rosen, Catherine Russell, James Schamus, Noa Steimatsky, Xiaobing Tang

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