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Performing Ethics Through Film StyleLevinas with the Dardenne Brothers, Barbet Schroeder and Paul Schrader$
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Edward Lamberti

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781474444002

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474444002.001.0001

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(p.147) Part III Introduction
Performing Ethics Through Film Style

Edward Lamberti

Edinburgh University Press

Part 3 considers the work of director Paul Schrader. Schrader is not as intuitive a fit for Emmanuel Levinas as the Dardennes or even Schroeder: many of Schrader’s films focus on a lone figure struggling with his relationships with other people and with the world. As these relationships are so often violent, destructive or denied, ethical concerns often seem to be far away, and Schrader’s filmmaking – by turns visually dazzling, overtly stylised, and more low-key and contemplative, often within the course of a single film – muddies the ethical waters further, as it is unclear whether Schrader wants to stimulate our senses, excite us with violent drama or draw us into passivity. But this approach, the book argues, invites the audience to remain alert and involved, and, in doing so, kindles ethical awareness. Thus, Schrader’s uses of style, as much as those of the Dardennes and Schroeder, are examples of style performing ethics, just as Levinas does in his prose. This introductory section sets up the discussions to follow on five Schrader films: American Gigolo (1980), Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (1985), The Comfort of Strangers (1990), Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist (2005) and Adam Resurrected (2008).

Keywords:   Paul Schrader, Emmanuel Levinas, Ethics, Film style, Passivity

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