Appreciation and Achievement in V.F. Perkins

Sorfa, D. (Speaker)

Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in conference


Abstract One of the central terms in V.F. Perkins's Film as Film: Understanding and Judging Movies (1972) is "achievement". Perkins identifies achievement as the central criteria by which we should evaluate film. As a corollary, the good critic must be able to "appreciate" such "achievement". In this paper I wish to track carefully the way in which Perkins uses both these terms - appreciation and achievement - in his seminal book and compare it to other ways in which we might evaluate cinema, such as Rosalind Galt's recent theorisation of the "pretty" or the standard of moral behaviour of a film's characters or its ability to successfully evoke appropriate reaction. This latter view is developed by Noël Carroll in his claim that categorisation underlies the possibility of evaluation in cinema (and, presumably, in other arts). I will explore what moral implications the appreciation of achievement might have for Perkins, Galt and for film-philosophy more generally, while also sketching out a philosophical map of approaches to film aesthetics. A commonplace of film theory has been to eschew evaluation in favour of interpretation but film-philosophy, with its interest in aesthetics, moves beyond "symptomatic reading" (as Bordwell defines it) and examines seriously the everyday questions: "Is this film any good?" and "Did you enjoy the film?". I ask in this paper whether this earlier work by Perkins allows us to move beyond either the nihilistic pleasures of jouissance or the valorisation of orthodox political standpoints.
Period20 Jul 2015
Event typeConference
LocationOxford, United Kingdom


  • Film Theory
  • Aesthetics
  • Evaluation