Roland Barthes and Film: Myth, Eroticism and Poetics (Bloomsbury) is a book by Patrick Ffrench, Professor of French at Kings College.
It is a comprehensively researched and finely argued book that traces Barthes engagement with questions of cinema from early research pre-dating the publication of Mythologies to his last work, Camera Lucida, along the way responding in depth to those who have explicitly commented on Barthes musings on film and those who have been inspired by them in their own work.
It demonstrates how certain critical and theoretical themes regarding the cinema emerge and develop through the course of Barthes’ career and argues for the singular importance of the famous critic’s writing on film, despite, perhaps even precisely because of the deep ambivalence that he sustained towards that object from beginning to end.
For me, Ffrench’s book reads as a celebration of the critical virtue of ambivalence as it is played out in Barthes’ writing, showing how his apparent inability to adopt an unequivocal attitude towards film as an institution and form of expression allowed him to articulate perspectives on the nature and possibilities of cinema that still feel subtle and surprising.
Bill Schaffer is a semi-retired lecturer in Film Studies.