Rodolfo Arnheim

I am presenting a paper entitled “Rodolfo” Arnheim. Technological innovations in Rudolf Arnheim’s Italian writings on cinema at the Second International Colloquium of the Permanent Seminar on the History of Film Theory on “The Impact of Technological Innovations on the Theory and Historiography of Cinema”, organized by the Université de Montréal and Concordia University and host at the Cinémathèque québécoise. In my paper I argue that due to both linguistic and historical reasons, the Italian period of Rudolf Arnheim’s career (1933-1938) has not been fully explored yet on an international scale, although it represents a pivotal moment in the development of his thought on cinema, media, and art (see the website RudolfArnheim.it). In that period, a considerable body of articles and essays on psychological and technical aspects of cinema – signed by Arnheim or by pseudonyms – has appeared in the most influential cinema journals («Intercine», «Cinema» and others). Yet, this significant contribution is not taken into account in current research. At that time, as today, the disappearance of cinema was the point at issue. But whereas in the 1930s Arnheim’s resistance to the introduction of new technologies was to preserve the artistic purity of cinema from the contamination with other media and ensure its specificity, today, in the digital media landscape, cinema reacts to the process of fragmentation and convergence with massive employment of technological innovations (e.g. computer-generated images, 3D, IMAX), which paradoxically have become the distinctive features of the contemporary film theatrical experience. My paper aims at better clarifying Arnheim’s position on technological innovations and attempts to evaluate the relevance of his theory in order to face the contemporary challenges in film studies.

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