Polan, Dana, Review, H-France Review, Vol. 20 (August 2020), No. 149, pp.1-4.
Michel Foucault, Patrice Maniglier, and Dork Zabunyan, Foucault at the Movies, ed. and trans. Clare O’Farrell. New York: Columbia University Press, 2018
First, let’s get the issue of the title out of the way: Michel Foucault, it seems, was in his adult years actually not much of a moviegoer. (It appears, though, that young Michel was quite enamored of Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, seeing it multiple times.) And beyond an entertainment realm of moving images (“movies”) that he really did not seem to have much to do with, Foucault doesn’t even appear to have fit the mold of that notorious intellectual figure that is the Parisian cinephile. Not only did he not go much to the movies, but Foucault wasn’t really centered on “cinema” (the French title has it as “Foucault va au cinéma”).
I should make clear that this is not so much a question of translation—indeed, neither “movies” nor “film” really could capture Foucault’s relation to visuality—as of the very idea of a book on Foucault and the motion picture. Indeed, the book’s translator, the eminent Foucault scholar Clare O’Farrell, does a great job with the material at hand. Her translator’s notes show, for instance, the adept and astute choices she has made along the way.