Sophie Dascal: Jean Epstein and the Philosophing Cinematograph


Although relatively unknown nowadays, Jean Epstein, a filmmaker, a poet, and a philosopher from the first half of the 20th century, offers an alternative to the many thinkers who have conceptualised the relation between philosophy and cinema. The revaluation of this relation comes from his understanding of cinema as a »dispositif«, i.e. as a cinematographic device. This fascinating and complex »dispositif« that combines both processes of recording and projecting represent for Epstein the birth of a new revolutionary philosophy: the »antiphilosophy«. This new way of thinking cinema under the machine perspective entails a reflection that goes beyond thinking cinema as philosophy of film(s) or as an abstraction. It is the cinematograph itself that think and create its own philosophy, the »antiphilosophy«. The most developed and complete conceptualisation of this thought can be found in his 1946 »L’intelligence d’une machine« but its seeds can be traced back to his 1922 »La Lyrosophie«. In this book, Epstein develops a new science born from the ashes of excessive rationalism. More than a new science, Epstein announces a new aesthetics, a mode of knowledge in which reason and emotion merge. But who can take on such a task of revolutionising knowledge? No one else but the cinematograph itself.