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Institute of Advanced Study

The Cinematic Temporalities of Modernity: Deleuze, Quijano and ‘How Tasty was my Little Frenchman’

Abstract

This article takes a first step towards identifying a non-Eurocentric filmphilosophy. It does so by exploring how cinema expresses, or rather constructs, time. Whilst the narratives of all films can be said to be underpinned by some broadly identifiable philosophical or cosmological conception of time (from the Aristotelian emphasis of Hollywood’s continuity editing to the dharmic cycles of Bollywood’s distinctive episodic cinema of spectacles), the focus here is on how modernity is considered, temporally, in films from different parts of the world. This process begins with a brief introduction to the most important and widely-used concept of cinematic time, that of Gilles Deleuze’s time-image. From the range of different examples that can be offered to outline a varied range of cinematic temporalities of modernity, the Brazilian film directed by Nelson Pereira dos Santos, ‘Como Era Gostoso o Meu Francês/How Tasty was my Little Frenchman’ (1971) is singled out for focused analysis. This rare but wonderful film, known for its postcolonial importance (along with the engaging viewing pleasures it offers, of black humour, full frontal nudity, human sacrifice and cannibalism), provides an opportunity to reconsider the specific meaning of the time-image in relation to world history. When seen in light of the conclusions of philosophers writing in the wake of Immanuel Wallerstein’s world systems analysis, like Michael Hardt, Antonio Negri and Aníbal Quijano, the time-image can be said to express a five-hundred-year history of modernity that commences with the discovery of the Americas. This is not solely to provide a different angle from which to consider the concept of the time-image. Rather, as is noted in the conclusion, it is an attempt to shed new light on the varied cinematic temporalities of modernity evident in contemporary world cinemas, and is therefore a first step towards a non-Eurocentric film-philosophy.

Insights Paper