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What Is Film?

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Julie N. Books

In What Is Film?, Julie N. Books critically evaluates three philosophical doctrines of film realism (transparency, illusionism, and perceptual realism) and defends her view that films are creative works of art. By examining contemporary films, such as computer-animated films and films with computer-generated images, Dr. Books shows how films are creative works of art, thereby undermining the long-held view that films are slavish recordings of reality. This book is ideal for academics and courses on the philosophy of film, film theory, film history, filmmaking, metaphysics, and the philosophy of art.
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Introduction

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There has been an ongoing philosophical debate about whether films are realistic mediums that record reality or creative mediums that create new realities. In my doctoral dissertation The Ontology of Film (2002),1 I discussed three philosophical doctrines of realism in film, namely transparency, illusionism, and perceptual realism. By explaining how these three doctrines were inadequate, I laid the groundwork for my own theory, which I believed could preserve their strengths and eliminate their weaknesses. My theory, which I called ‘neo-creationism’ in light of the new computer technologies that were being used then to create film images, said that films are not slavish recordings of reality, but rather creative works of art that alter and transform reality, as well as create new realities, such as computer-generated realities. I showed how films are creative works of art by explaining how filmmakers create the many different artistic components of film images. I also discussed animated films, computer-animated films, films with special effects, and films with computer-generated images that showed the creative and artistic nature of films.

Since I wrote The Ontology of Film (from 2001 to 2002), there have been many films with special effects, computer-animation, and computer-generated images due to the advent of new and improved computer technologies (like performance capture and motion capture) and better computer software programs ← 1 | 2 → (like MASSIVE and Tissue) for making film images. While Tron (1982) heralded the incipient stages of computer-generated images in films, the explosion of computer-based images occurred...

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