Unbecoming Cinema explores the notion of cinema as a living, active agent, capable of unsettling and reconfiguring a person’s thoughts, senses and ethics. Film, according to David H. Fleming, is a dynamic force, arming audiences with the ability to see and make a difference in the world. Drawing heavily on Deleuze’s philosophical insights, as well as those of Guattari and Badiou, the book critically examines unsettling and taboo footage from suicide documentaries to art therapy films, from portrayals of mental health and autism to torture porn. In investigating the effect of film on the mind and body, Fleming’s shrewd analysis unites transgressive cinema with metaphysical concepts of the body and mind.
Suicide. Autism. LSD. Vomit gore. You’d be forgiven for walking away from such a heady cocktail of potentially unbecoming topics, but you’d also be losing out. David H. Fleming may write – lucidly and intelligently – about films and film-makers whom many might find hard to stomach, but Unbecoming Cinema is nonetheless an essential enquiry into why such films get made, why some people do watch such films and – more importantly – what it is that such films do. For while many of the films that Fleming considers might be unbecoming of cinema in the eyes of various viewers, these films and film-makers are nonetheless pushing the boundaries of what it is that cinema can show and, by extension, what it is that cinema can make viewers think and feel – perhaps even changing how they think and feel. In this sense, unbecoming becomes a positive force, helping cinema to get over itself, and thus through unbecoming cinema becomes something exciting and new. At the forefront of film-philosophy and fizzing with ideas, Fleming guides us through this unbecoming cinema so that we might experience some (un)becomings of our own.
William Brown, University of Roehampton
In this exciting, intellectually intense and pleasantly mind-warping new book on cinematic ethics, David Fleming approaches films not as texts to be drily analysed, but as events to be encountered. What is at stake here is the shock which films are able to bring to our thought processes, their ability to shatter all that we may think we know is normal, so that we can look at the world afresh. This is an insightful work, philosophically informed but accessible and engaging, which rises up to meet key challenges of present times.
David Martin-Jones, University of Glasgow