To say that a book devoted to analysing camera movement is an exemplary instance of ordinary language philosophy may raise a few eyebrows. Indeed, it may lead some to wonder if I did not miss the point of the book. Yet, in the course of reading Daniel Morgan’s ground-breaking new study The Lure of the Image: Epistemic Fantasies of the Moving Camera, my takeaway was not just that Morgan provides an admirably comprehensive and remarkably nuanced exploration of one of the most undeniably fascinating yet strangely neglected aspects of cinema, one that is sure to be the definitive work on the subject for years if not decades to come, but also that he provides an attractive model of how to think and talk about films indebted to the tradition of ordinary language philosophy established by (among others) Ludwig Wittgenstein and J.L. Austin.

Though the intellectual roots of ordinary language philosophy can be traced at least as far back as Wittgenstein, it is Austin who has been most directly associated with the philosophical tradition, and he described the practice of ordinary language philosophy as the examination of “what we should say when, and so why and what we should mean by it.”1 Proceeding in this fashion, “when we examine what we should say when, what words we should use in what situations,” Austin explained that what we are examining are not just words, but more specifically “the realities we use the words to talk about: we are using a sharpened awareness of words to sharpen our [understanding] of, though not as the final arbiter of, the phenomena” under investigation. Sometimes, he observed, we will need “to prise [words] off the world, to hold them apart from and against it, so that we can realize their inadequacies and arbitrariness, and can relook at the world without blinkers,” while at other times we will find that “our common stock of words embodies all the [necessary] distinctions […] and [necessary] connections,” which distinctions and connections “are likely to be more numerous [and] more sound, since they have stood up to the long test of the survival of the fittest, and more subtle […] than any that you or I are likely to think up.”2

Whatever the case may be, whether our language is insufficient to the phenomenon in question and so what we need to do is to “prise the words off the world and keep them off it”3 or whether our language is sufficient and so what we need to do is to stop “barking our way up the wrong gum tree,”4 the perspective from which Austin proceeded is one that considers ordinary language, the words and phrases that we ordinarily use in our everyday lives, the best “site” for “field work in philosophy.”5 Ordinary language represents the “rough ground” that Wittgenstein preferred for philosophical investigations,6 and while there are guaranteed to be “snags” hit in investigations of (and with) ordinary language, “with snags, as with nettles, the thing to do is to grasp them and to climb above them.”7 In so doing, we give “full play” to the richness and nuance of ordinary language, and, in the words of Stanley Cavell, “this is, or ought to be, one of the beauties of ordinary language philosophizing.”8

For my part, I have encouraged recognition of the fact that this is, or could be, one of the beauties of ordinary aesthetic philosophy, as well.9 To this end, The Lure of the Image is exemplary. In the course of setting out the terrain to be covered and establishing the methodology of the investigation to follow, Morgan explicitly aligns himself with the tradition of ordinary language philosophy, offering his intervention into discussions of camera movement as a piece of much-needed field work in film studies designed to “unfreeze” the discipline, “to loosen [film scholars] up and get [us] going on agreeing about discoveries” (p. 8).10 In the disciplinary history of film studies, camera movement has long represented an obviously important and intriguing, yet inexplicably difficult and thus rarely explored, subject of study, one which has been ignored on the basis of assumptions of it being too difficult to analyse (pp. 6-9). If this is the case – and Morgan certainly agrees that it is, as he argues that film scholars “have never gotten a handle on the terms of camera movement, never figured out how to create a working model for thinking about the kinds of things it does and can do” (p. 19) – then the first task before film scholars is to create such a model so that we may eliminate the difficulties that attend to thinking and talking about camera movement. 

This is precisely the task that Morgan sets for himself in The Lure of the Image. Toward the goal of unfreezing the discipline of film studies and loosening scholars up with respect to the vicissitudes of camera movement, Morgan first identifies a series of intuitive assumptions about the moving camera which he maintains are the source of most of our confusion, after which he methodically exposes their logical flaws and offers alternative concepts and frameworks to help us better understand and appreciate the significance and the sheer variety of camera movements. The primary target in Morgan’s book – the chief epistemic fantasy that he argues precludes us from accurately apprehending and productively talking about camera movement – is the ostensibly obvious and virtually unshakeable idea that the moving camera functions as a spectatorial surrogate. “That spectators identify with the position and movement of the camera within the world of the film, that it serves as a surrogate for the spectator,” is “one of the most persistent and intuitive ways of thinking about the moving camera” (p. 4), yet  Morgan implores us to ask ourselves: Should we think of the moving camera in this way? Is this actually how the moving camera functions? In Austinian terms, is this what we should say when talking about the moving camera?

Surely, one may think, the moving camera is obviously meant to align us with the optical point of view of a character within the world of the film. Whether we think of the way that John Carpenter aligns his camera, and us, with little Michael Myers as he goes up to his sister’s bedroom to stab her in the chilling opening of the horror classic Halloween (1978), or Robert Montgomery’s efforts to bring us along for the film noir ride with Philip Marlowe in Lady in the Lake (1947), or the hot air balloon ride that Andrei Tarkovsky takes us on in the opening of Andrei Rublev (1966)…the examples throughout film history of filmmakers using the moving camera in this way are legion. The question is whether this is all that filmmakers have used the moving camera to do, which is to ask if this is the only way that we should think of the moving camera as functioning. When we say that the moving camera serves as a surrogate for the spectator, we may well blind ourselves to the many instances where this is not how the moving camera is functioning.

Consider a short sequence from Tony Scott’s Top Gun (1986). While spending time with instructor Charlotte “Charlie” Blackwood (Kelly McGillis) at her home, ace fighter pilot Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Tom Cruise) has a rare moment of sincerity and vulnerability. Commenting on the music playing, Maverick recalls how much his parents loved that music; he explains how his mother used to call down to him from her room to have him play it over and over again for her. This is one of those moments when, upon sharing something personal with a possible love interest, a greater level of intimacy becomes available for two characters. And clearly this is an important sequence in the budding romance between Maverick and Charlie. But the way that Scott uses the moving camera is not aligned with any character in the film. Though Maverick is talking to Charlie, and though Charlie is listening intently to Maverick, Scott is not aligning us with Charlie’s perspective in this moment – we are not listening to Maverick “with her,” so to speak. Rather, Scott is using his camera as an expressive tool. 

Entering a character’s headspace via camera movement in Top Gun

By virtue of the camera movement in this sequence – initially framed as a two-shot with Maverick in the foreground on frame right and Charlie in the background on frame left, as soon as Maverick begins his reverie Scott reframes the scene and dollies clockwise, eliminating Charlie from the frame, and then dollies in on Maverick for a close-up – Scott is emphasizing and amplifying the emotionality of Maverick’s reverie, which is so powerful that he all but loses contact with Charlie and with the present moment (hence Scott’s choice to eliminate Charlie from the frame and isolate Maverick within it). Not only is Charlie stationary on the couch to Maverick’s right, and so the moving camera cannot possibly be connected to her or be thought of as signifying any movement on her part, but it would make as little sense for us to imagine ourselves as “present” in the world of the film at this moment and in the same way that the camera is present, as if we were listening so intently to Maverick (and as a bizarrely unexplained and frankly inexplicable third party) that we were physically being pulled in to extreme physical proximity. In short, questions of perspective miss the mark here. Instead, we ought to register what Scott is expressing with this camera movement, namely, the sincerity and intensity of Maverick’s emotional reverie, which Scott amplifies by virtue of this dolly shot.

This example corroborates Morgan’s main argument in The Lure of the Image: rather than being primarily or necessarily a matter of perspective, camera movement is primarily a matter of expression. That is, the moving camera should not lead us first and foremost to ask “Where are we?” with respect to the fictional world. Instead, it should lead us to ask “What is the filmmaker trying to convey?” In Morgan’s words, though discussions of camera movement in the history of film studies represent a “fragmented history” (as opposed to the uniformity of discourse on Soviet montage or the ubiquity of discourse on realism), the “core assumption” that has been “consistently present” in such discussions is “the belief in the importance of point of view.” To the extent that the “methodological assumption” that has subtended virtually all discussion of camera movement is that “the critical problem to solve has to do with the place of the camera within the fictional world,” from which, “it is assumed, everything else can fall into place,” there is for Morgan “no goal […] more important than showing how such an approach has prevented us from grasping the work that camera movements do” (pp. 9-10). 

Evincing awareness of the fact that emotion often trumps reason and that our desires often blind us to the facts, rather than simply explain why this intuitive assumption is wrong, Morgan explains how it becomes so firmly lodged in our minds. “If reliance on point of view is fundamentally mistaken,” as Morgan persuasively argues that it is, “if we do not experience images […] as if we are (necessarily) at the position of the camera,” we nevertheless also, “and often,” believe that “we [are meant to] watch moving images in this way.” In mind of Jacques Derrida’s point that “coherence in contradiction expresses the force of a desire,”11 this contradictory tendency on the part of spectators is, Morgan explains, evidence of an epistemic fantasy. Interestingly, this fantasy of the moving camera matches exactly the model of fetishistic disavowal identified by Slavoj Žižek in the thought process of “I know very well, but still […]”:12 we may know very well that we are not present in the world of films at the position of the camera – that is, we may know very well that we are not literally walking through the trenches with/as Colonel Dax (Kirk Douglas) in Paths of Glory (Stanley Kubrick, 1957) or literally flying through the air with/as Neo (Keanu Reeves) in The Matrix Reloaded (Lana & Lilly Wachowski, 2003) – but still we nevertheless watch films as if we were. More interesting still, Morgan highlights the fact that filmmakers knowingly and intentionally trade on this fantasy, they “trade on [the] underlying desire we have to identify with the camera, to be with it as it moves through the world” (p. 15). To want to exist within the world of a film is an understandable desire – we may even be meant to understand a particular camera movement in a given film as placing us at the position of a character existing within the world of that film, which is to say that particular filmmakers may at times use camera movement for the express purpose of allowing us, to whatever end(s), to play out this fantasy during the viewing experience – but problems arise when we elevate this fantasy of the moving camera to its raison d’être. Against this all too easy (and historically ubiquitous) elevation of fantasy to fact, Morgan encourages us to acknowledge this fantasy as a fantasy while also encouraging us to properly place it as just one thing among the many that camera movements can do. 

If this is Morgan’s most significant contribution to the study of camera movement, it is only the first among many significant contributions. By virtue of his careful and clear argumentation, Morgan allows us to call up our most familiar and cherished ideas and assumptions about camera movement and subject them (likely for the first time) to sober reflection. In addition to contributing a wealth of insights and arguments to film theory vis-à-vis camera movement, however, Morgan also provides a treasure trove of critical riches. Indeed, having long been invested in the practice of film criticism, Morgan’s theoretical interest in camera movement is not merely an abstract interest; on the contrary, Morgan demonstrates in chapter after chapter the necessity of allowing theory to inform criticism and criticism to (re)shape theory.13 There is a fruitful interplay throughout between theory and criticism, to the point where it would not be quite right to say that Morgan’s criticism confirms his theories; rather, it would be more accurate to say that it is on the strength of his insightful criticism that Morgan is able to formulate such powerful theories. 

In the Introduction and Chapter 1, Morgan operates in the realm of film theory, contextualizing discussions of camera movement in the history of film studies and setting out his main arguments. From Chapter 2 on, Morgan moves effortlessly between theory and criticism. In Chapter 2, Morgan unpacks the terms and stakes of the union of morality and the moving camera in writings from the history of Cahiers du cinéma. Taking as his point of departure Serge Daney’s consideration of the morality of Gillo Pontecorvo’s aesthetic strategies in Kapò (1960), which connects back to ideas expressed previously by Luc Moullet, Jean-Luc Godard and Jacques Rivette, Morgan finds in Daney’s consideration of Kapò “a salutary lesson” on our responsibilities as spectators (p. 55). If we are inclined to think of certain techniques, like forward tracking shots, as possessing some sort of intrinsic moral valence – as powerfully argued by the Cahiers critics, who considered Pontecorvo’s dolly in on the dead body of Terese (Emmanuelle Riva) as it lay hanging on an electrified concentration camp fence immoral inasmuch as it aestheticized the abject and whose condemnations of Pontecorvo led Daney to avoid the film for fear of being implicated in Pontecorvo’s immorality – we may be inclined to accept a Baudry-esque “apparatus” argument according to which we are as helpless before films as the cave dwellers in Plato’s allegory were before the shadows on the cave walls. Against this deterministic model, Morgan urges us to always remember that we are separate from the camera (and, indeed, from the filmmaker). Though this brings with it a different set of issues than the idea of inescapable implication, which Morgan collects under the heading of “the contingency of judgment” (p. 55), these issues are to be tackled head-on, as it is only in the process of confronting films – that is, by confronting our own thoughts and emotions in response to films – that we may learn “what it is to engage with – to be stuck on – images” (p. 56).

On this basis, Morgan proceeds to consider different ways of engaging with cinematic images. In Chapter 3, Morgan retools the concept of point of view toward the goal of better understanding all that the moving camera is capable of doing. Against the tendency to take static and subjective point of view shots as the model for understanding the camera as our surrogate within the world of the film, Morgan demonstrates the manifold ways that camera movements function as expressive devices used by filmmakers to express a (conceptual) perspective on the film world rather than to simply provide a (perceptual) perspective from within the film world. In an effort to account for the ways that characters frequently appear in shots that initially seem to be from their perspective, Morgan considers shots from films as diverse as The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, 1980), Amator (Camera Buff, Krzysztof Kieślowski, 1979), Chelovek s kinoapparatom (Man with a Moving Camera, Dziga Vertov, 1927), and The Birds (Alfred Hitchcock, 1963) in which we cannot quite settle on “where we are,” or who we are “with,” within the world of the film.

Though Morgan’s initial consideration of theoretical issues of camera movement in these first few chapters feature insightful considerations of films from Wuthering Heights (William Wyler, 1939) and Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941) to The Birds and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Tobe Hooper, 1974), and though Morgan’s conclusion in which he explores the particularities of digital cinema and its “unburdening of the camera from its relation to the world” (p. 219) also features fascinating discussions of films from 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968) and Star Wars (George Lucas, 1977) to The Fast and the Furious (Rob Cohen, 2001) and Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (Adam McKay, 2006), it is in his explorations of specific films made by specific filmmakers that I believe Morgan’s writing is at its richest. In Chapter 4, Morgan focuses primarily on the films of Fritz Lang and secondarily on the films of Guru Dutt in order to articulate the concept of “object-defined camera movements.” Offering yet another wrinkle in discussions of point of view, Morgan explains object-defined camera movements as shots “that use a moving camera to embody a character’s look, yet do so in ways that undermine – or perhaps better, displace – identification with the character doing the looking,” shots “that are organized by a point of view structure that the viewer experiences not as the expression of the character doing the looking but as that of the person or thing being looked at” (p. 92). To explicate this concept, Morgan adduces (among a series of examples) Lang’s landmark science fiction epic Metropolis (1927), in which the naïve young Freder (Gustav Fröhlich) is forced to acknowledge the harsh economic and social realities of the machine age. With reference to Lang’s dynamic camera movement in the iconic scene in which the machine complex that powers the city transforms into the mouth of Moloch before the eyes of the terrified Freder, Morgan argues that the camera movement at the moment the machine complex explodes and Freder falls to the ground is designed to express his horror at what he is seeing: “While the camera creates an experience for us of the explosion,” it is more specifically “shaped and defined by what it shows,” namely, Freder; “the shot is constructed so as to display Freder’s mental state at this moment, not just that he responds but how he responds – the movement of the camera allows us to grasp [and is thus expressive of] his interior condition” (pp. 97-99).

In Chapter 5, Morgan explores the films of Max Ophüls in order to articulate the concept of “dually attuned camera movements.” Building on the concept of object-defined camera movements, and further exploring the expressive capabilities of camera movements beyond conventional conceptions of point of view, Morgan explains dual attunement as “a specific kind of camera movement, one that responds to both the states of mind of characters and the social world they inhabit” (p. 137). To explicate this concept, Morgan adduces (among a series of examples) Ophüls’ celebrated melodrama Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948), in which the pathologically lovesick Lisa (Joan Fontaine) spends the majority of her life, including her marriage of convenience with an older military man named Johann (Marcel Journet), obsessed with Stefan (Louis Jordan), the womanizing narcissist of her masochistic dreams. With reference to the elaborate crane shot in the scene late in the film at the opera house where Lisa is in attendance with Johann but crosses paths once again with Stefan, Morgan argues that “if the camera suggests the contours of [Lisa’s] state of mind,” namely, her all-consuming desire to be with Stefan, “it also stands outside her subjective position […] step[ping] away from [her] perspective to emphasize the world in which [she] is embedded [and] to remind the viewer of the social obligations she has,” namely, her responsibilities to her husband and son (pp. 140-141). 

Lastly, in Chapter 6, Morgan explores the films of Terrence Malick in order to articulate the concept of an “anti-perspectival” aesthetic system. As perhaps his most explicit rejection of conventional understandings of point of view, Morgan explains anti-perspectivalism as “us[ing] the moving camera to revise and undo fundamental assumptions about how space (and time) can be organized and about how we inhabit positions […] within the world of [a] film” (p. 173). To explicate this concept, Morgan adduces (among a series of examples) Malick’s esoteric World War II film The Thin Red Line (1998), in which “the camera has no stable given; it doesn’t stay outside the events to look at the whole, nor does it follow any particular individual. With any given cut to a new shot, we do not know how we will be looking or from whose perspective: it may be an American; it may be a Japanese; it may be a group; it may be dirt and mud and sticks” (p. 174). The upshot to such an aesthetic system in Morgan’s estimation is that it enables filmmakers “to create multiple paths through the world – multiple and varied positions that the viewer is able to occupy – that provide a way to negotiate the varying pressures placed on the way characters respond to the world around them.” Though “this could,” Morgan observes, “be described as a phenomenological project,” its defining characteristic is that “it lacks the stability of a given subject position and instead reaches for a fantasy of experience before the imposition of perspective” (p. 174).

In the end, Morgan hopes that by taking – and encouraging us to take – the moving camera seriously we may enable ourselves to “open up a new zone, at once theoretical, historical, and critical, for exploration.” To take the moving camera seriously would mean to “give up on certain fantasies of schematic understandings and replace them with self-aware forms of viewing,” to “pay attention to how our fantasies and desires structure our relation to films, while recognizing how those films seek to elicit and play with those very fantasies and desires,” and “to be immersed in the film and critically distant at one and the same time, feeling the forms of motion while thinking about the interpretive arcs on which they carry us” (p. 244). This is rather ambitious, and it places quite the Herculean task on our shoulders. The reason that I am confident that this is a worthwhile and achievable task is because the models of engagement and the concepts for engagement provided by Morgan are sure to ease our burden. 

Of course, as will always happen, there were points of minor disagreement where I found myself wanting to challenge Morgan on certain claims. When Morgan conceded to Daney that the tracking shot in Kapò “is certainly objectionable” (p. 35), I confess to being confused. Given how much time Morgan spends roundly critiquing Daney and pointing out the myriad errors in his thinking on this film and on film as a whole, I am not sure why I am meant to accept his fundamental claim regarding Kapò’s allegedly objectionable aesthetic construction, nor am I clear on what basis Morgan is agreeing with him. Additionally, I found Morgan’s language a bit perplexing the deeper he analysed the “floating head” shot in Lang’s Dr. Mabuse, die Spieler (Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler, 1922). In the first few chapters, Morgan goes to great lengths to highlight the “serious shortcomings” that inhere in the idea that our spectatorial position is identical to “the position of the camera within the world of the film” (pp. 61-62), even belabouring a point that should be obvious enough to go unmentioned, namely, that we do not respond to characters or events in films as if we were literally present before them: with reference to The Birds, Morgan points out that as we watch the birds attack Bodega Bay “[we] don’t imagine that [we are] really there, that [we are] threatened by these events” (p. 62). Yet, when he comes to the floating head shot in Dr. Mabuse, Morgan argues that, despite being placed in the position of the attorney character Norbert von Wenck (Bernhard Goetzke) as he is being hypnotized by the villainous Dr. Mabuse (Rudolf Klein-Rogge), “we do not experience the shot” as if we were at von Wenck’s position, nor do we experience it “as sharing his increasing hypnotic fascination with Mabuse”; rather, Morgan claims that “we experience Mabuse’s hypnotic power directly” (p. 101). I confess to being unable to determine what if any sense is contained in the idea that we experience Mabuse’s hypnotic power directly, to say nothing of why this idea is any different than the idea that we experience the attacks in The Birds directly, an idea which Morgan previously rejected. 

Most problematically, I was left wondering why Morgan appeared so averse to the concept of authorship. Beginning with his consideration of Rivette’s infamous critique of Pontecorvo and culminating with his consideration of Malick’s films, Morgan demonstrates a confusing – and confused – relationship to the concept of authorship. To his credit, Morgan admits late in the book that he “consciously stayed away from questions of authorial intent” (p. 191). The absence of such questions, however, is not at this point in the book news to the reader. Quite the contrary, it is a rather conspicuous structuring absence throughout. In his consideration of Kapò, Morgan characterizes Rivette’s writings on this and other films as “moving away from the logic of the auteur” (p. 38). Yet, Morgan himself quotes Rivette’s unmistakably auteurist perspective on Kapò according to which “the filmmaker judges that which he shows, and is judged by the way in which he shows it,”14 and for his part glosses Rivette’s perspective as indicative of his emphasis on “a filmmaker’s responsibility for the way the world of the film is created” (p. 38). In what way exactly are we to understand Rivette (or, for that matter, Morgan himself) as moving away from the logic of the auteur? For his part, Rivette makes his auteurist case even stronger in going on to argue – with direct reference to the concept of the auteur, indicating that he is in no way, shape, or form seeking to move away from its logic – that “that which counts is tone, or emphasis, nuance, as one will call it – that is to say, the point of view of a man, the auteur, badly needed, and the attitude that this man takes in relation to that which he films, and therefore in relation to the world and to everything: that which can be expressed by a choice in situations, in the construction of the storyline, in the dialogue, in the play of actors, or in the pure and simple technique.”15

If this can be chalked up to error, perhaps maybe even a slight bias against author-based criticism, Morgan’s consideration of Malick’s filmmaking comes closer to outright contradiction. Early on, Morgan calls into question the “deep problems” with author-based criticism, chief among them the “appeal to biography” (p. 172). Expressing a postmodernist scepticism with respect to “context” (pp. 172-173), Morgan claims that what is needed to understand what and how films mean are not appeals to their presiding authors but rather a commitment to “giving the films themselves the authority to speak on their own terms” (p. 173). Leaving aside the question of what “films themselves” are if not the creations of authors – and leaving aside also the way that this position on “films themselves” somehow being able to “speak on their own” contradicts a position taken elsewhere by Morgan on the “posit[ing of] a ‘mindedness’ to films that gives them the agency needed to ground the ‘making’ of an argument,” which position Morgan rejected as “an implausible, even incoherent” position on the “intentionality” of films16 – Morgan proceeds to himself make an appeal to Malick’s biography, specifically his oft-cited indebtedness to the philosophy of Martin Heidegger. In the course of analysing The Thin Red Line, Morgan comes to a point where he admits that “there is an important way in which the terms that emerge in The Thin Red Line – about the way the camera articulates the world of the film and does so by establishing an interplay of points of view – resonate with Malick’s early writing on the concept of ‘world’ in Heidegger” (p. 191). Since I have argued that, with respect to the disciplinary history of film studies, the virtually schizophrenic gesture of affirming and denying the concept of authorship in the same breath is the founding gesture of film studies and represents its fundamental impasse, I am not surprised by the manifestation of this schizophrenic tendency in Morgan’s book.17 I do, however, look forward to investigations of camera movement in which the concept of authorship is given pride of place as opposed to being smuggled in as a critical exigency.18

Curiously, though, and this is a testament to Morgan’s writing, such queries do not to my mind indicate flaws in Morgan’s consideration of camera movement. At least, I would not want to characterize them as such. To return to Austin and ordinary language philosophy, Austin himself insisted that “a disagreement as to what we should say is not to be shied off, but to be pounced upon […] for the explanation of it can hardly fail to be illuminating.” Indeed, Austin maintained that it is essential that we determine “why we disagree.” Perhaps you meant to say one thing, but actually implied another. Or perhaps your “conceptual system” is different from mine. If my language was equivocal or imprecise, perhaps “we can understand the temptation that leads to it, and the distinctions that it blurs.”19 In short, as Cavell has put the matter, “disagreement is not disconfirming: it is as much a datum for philosophizing as agreement is. At this stage philosophizing has, hopefully, not yet begun.”20 In this vein, I found the sources of disagreement in The Lure of the Image just as invigorating and intriguing as the sources of agreement. For as vigorously as I was head-nodding while reading Morgan’s analyses of the aesthetic construction of key camera movements in Miracle Mile (Steve De Jarnatt, 1988) (p. 94) and Shadow of a Doubt (Alfred Hitchcock, 1943) (pp. 106-107), I was shaking my fist with equal vigour while reading Morgan’s analyses of Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958) (pp. 41-46) and Ugetsu (Kenji Mizoguchi, 1953) (pp. 47-49). 

Confirming suspicion via camera movement in Shadow of a Doubt

The salient fact is that on every single page, from beginning to end, I was a rapt reader, and I am certain that my experience will not be anomalous. Since there is so much here that is new and original, every concept and every argument – even every film example – calls for further consideration, be it agreement or disagreement, elaboration or critique. The few aporias are merely jumping off points for subsequent considerations, while the many brilliant insights are seeds for more elaborate analyses. Morgan has done the heavy lifting; he has charted new territory and planted a scholarly flag. It is up to the rest of us to follow his lead and continue the work of settling the land of camera movement.21 On the strength of the ideas and arguments contained in The Lure of the Image, Morgan has guaranteed that it will be his ideas and arguments that scholars will be working through for many years to come. To borrow a turn of phrase from Austin, this will be all to the good.22

Daniel Morgan, The Lure of the Image: Epistemic Fantasies of the Moving Camera (Oakland: University of California Press, 2021)


  1. J.L. Austin, “A Plea for Excuses,” in Philosophical Papers, J.O. Urmson and G.J. Warnock, eds. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1961), p. 129.
  2. Ibid., p. 130.
  3. Austin, “Truth,” in Philosophical Papers, p. 92.
  4. Austin, “Other Minds,” in Philosophical Papers, p. 84.
  5. Austin, “A Plea for Excuses,” p. 131.
  6. Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, G.E.M. Anscombe, trans. (Oxford: Blackwell, 1967), p. 49e.
  7. Austin, “A Plea for Excuses,” p. 131.
  8. Stanley Cavell, The Claim of Reason: Wittgenstein, Skepticism, Morality, and Tragedy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1979), p. 93.
  9. See my “‘English, motherfucker, do you speak it?:’ Pulp Fiction and the Future of Film-Philosophy,” JOMEC Journal, Issue 13 (2019): 11-29; “Morals of Encounter in Steve Jobs: J.L. Austin, Stanley Cavell, and the Possibilities of Ordinary Language Philosophy,” Film and Philosophy, Issue 24 (2020): 134-155; and “A Plea for Intention: Stanley Cavell and Ordinary Aesthetic Philosophy,” Movie: A Journal of Film Criticism, Issue 9 (2021).
  10. Cf. Austin, “A Plea for Excuses,” p. 131.
  11. Jacques Derrida, “Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences,” in Writing and Difference, Alan Bass, trans. (London: Routledge, 2001), p. 352.
  12. Slavoj Žižek, The Sublime Object of Ideology (London: Verso, 2008), p. 12.
  13. Cf. Daniel Morgan’s “‘Play with Danger’: Vernacular Modernism and the Problem of Criticism,” New German Critique, Volume 41, Issue 2 (2014): 67-82, and “Stanley Cavell: The Contingencies of Film and Its Theory,” in Thinking in the Dark: Cinema, Theory, Practice, Murray Pomerance and R. Barton Palmer, eds. (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2015), pp. 162-173.
  14. Jacques Rivette, “On Abjection,” Order of Exile, n.d.
  15. Ibid.
  16. Cf. Morgan’s “Missed Connections,” nonsite, Issue 22 (2017).
  17. Cf. my “Signs and Meaning: Film Studies and the Legacy of Poststructuralism,” Offscreen, Volume 22, Issue 7 (July 2018).
  18. My position here vis-à-vis authorship goes a long way toward explaining why, in my own work on camera movement, I seek to emphasize rather than elide the concept of authorship. See my “Otto Preminger and the Moving Camera: Feminist Attunement in Whirlpool,” Mise-en-scène: The Journal of Film & Visual Narration, Volume 5, Issue 2 (Winter 2020): 1-13.
  19. Austin, “A Plea for Excuses,” p. 132.
  20. Cavell, “Aesthetic Problems in Modern Philosophy,” in Must We Mean What We Say? (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976), p. 95.
  21. In recent years, Jordan Schonig has taken the baton from Morgan and begun work cataloguing film’s many “motion forms.” See his “Seeing Aspects of the Moving Camera: On the Twofoldness of the Mobile Frame,” Synoptique, Volume 5, Issue 2 (Winter 2017): 57-78; “Contingent Motion: Rethinking the ‘Wind in the Trees’ in Early Cinema and CGI,” Discourse, Volume 40, Issue 1 (Winter 2018): 30-61; “The Chained Camera: On the Ethics and Politics of the Follow-Shot Aesthetic,” New Review of Film and Television Studies, Volume 16, Issue3 (June 2018): 264-294; and The Shape of Motion: Cinema and the Aesthetics of Movement (Oxford: Oxford University Press, forthcoming).
  22. Austin, Sense and Sensibilia, G.J. Warnock, ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1962), p. 5.

About The Author

Kyle Barrowman is a media and cinema studies lecturer in Chicago. He received his PhD from Cardiff University. He has published widely in and between film studies and philosophy, on subjects ranging from authorship, genre theory, and camera movement to scepticism, perfectionism, and ordinary language philosophy.

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