Film and Fine Art: Automatism, Automata and “The Myth of Total Cinema” in The Red Shoes and The Tales of Hoffmann

  • Kristin Boyce


The philosophy and theory of film began with the skeptical question of whether film could be an art, given the mechanical way its moving pictures were produced. Theorists such as Noël Carroll and Victor Perkins have persuasively argued that the legacy of its defensive beginnings continues to compromise both philosophy and theory of film. This chapter seeks to contribute to an ongoing collective effort to overcome the effects of this legacy. It focuses on two films that invite comparisons not to painting or theater but to dance—Powell and Pressburger’s The Red Shoes and The Tales of Hoffmann. It argues that the right kind of attention to these films sheds new light on both what film is and how it is related to the other arts.


The Red Shoes Tales of Hoffmann Powell and Pressburger Noël Carroll Victor Perkins Stanley Cavell The possibilities of the medium Ballet Dance Medium Automatism Automata 


  1. Bazin, André. 1967. What Is Cinema? Volume I. Berkley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  2. Boyce, Kristin. 2012. The Thinking Body: Philosophy, Dance and Modernism. In Thinking Through Dance: The Philosophy of Dance Performance and Practices, ed. Jenny Bunker, Anna Pakes, and Bonnie Rowell, 256–272. Hampshire: Dance Books.Google Scholar
  3. ———. 2016. In the Condition of Modernism: Philosophy, Literature and The Sacred Fount. In Wittgenstein and Literary Modernism, ed. Karen Zumhagen-Yekplé and Michael LeMahieu, 153–175. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  4. Bussell, Darcey. Interview. Profile of “The Red Shoes,” on The Criterion Collection (2010), Disc 2.Google Scholar
  5. Carroll, Noël. 1998. Interpreting the Moving Image. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. ———. 2003. Art History, Dance and the 1960’s. In Reinventing Dance in the 1960s: Everything Was Possible, ed. Sally Banes, 81–97. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.Google Scholar
  7. ———. 2008. The Philosophy of Motion Pictures. Malden: Blackwell Publishing.Google Scholar
  8. Cavell, Stanley. 1971. The World Viewed, Enlarged Edition. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  9. ———. 2003. Must We Mean What We Say. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Christie, Ian. Interview. Profile of “The Red Shoes,” on The Criterion Collection (2010), Disc 2.Google Scholar
  11. Fried, Michael. 1998. Art and Objecthood: Essays and Reviews. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  12. Gunning, Tom. 2003. Loïe Fuller and the Art of Motion. In Camera Obscura, Camera Lucida: Essays in Honor of Annette Michelson, ed. Richard Allen and Malcolm Turvey, 75–89. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. ———. 2005. Light, Motion, Cinema!: The Heritage of Loïe Fuller and Germaine Dulac. Framework: The Journal of Cinema and Media 46 (1): 106–129.Google Scholar
  14. Hopewell, John. 2014. Schoonmaker, Scorsese on Powell and Pressburger’s ‘Tales of Hoffmann’. Variety, November 15.
  15. Itzkoff, Dave. 2009. ‘Red Shoes’ Stirs Martin Scorsese’s Cinematic Passion. The New York Times, November 04.
  16. Kermode, Frank. 1983. Poet and Dancer Before Diaghilev. In What Is Dance? ed. Roger Copeland and Marshall Cohen, 145–160. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Langer, Susan. 1983. From Feeling and Form. In What Is Dance? ed. Roger Copeland and Marshall Cohen, 28–46. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  18. O’Malley, Sheila. From ‘Tales of Hoffmann’ to ‘Taxi Driver’: An Interview with Thelma Schoonmaker.
  19. Perkins, Victor. 1973. Film as Film: Understanding and Judging Movies. New York: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
  20. Sellars, Wilfred. 1963. Science, Perception and Reality. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul Limited.Google Scholar
  21. Shaw, George Bernard. 1997. Bernard Shaw On Cinema, ed. Bernard F. Dukore. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kristin Boyce
    • 1
  1. 1.Mississippi State UniversityStarkvilleUSA

Personalised recommendations