The Critical Function Workshop series - State Violence, State Control: On Costa-Gavras’s Cinematic Political Theory

When and Where

Thursday, November 30, 2023 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm
Deluxe Screening Room, IN-222E
Innis College
2 Sussex Avenue, Toronto, ON M5S 1J5


Patrick Marshall


In cinema studies, the analysis of the relationship between cinema and the state typically emphasizes the instrumentalization of the cinema for the sake of state-building. From Soviet cinema to Hollywood, we are often asked to see the cinema as a means by which the state bolsters its legitimacy on the ideological level through the deployment of moving images as “propaganda”. This talk focuses on three films made by Costa-Gavras between 1969 and 1972: Z (1969), The Confession (1970), and State of Siege (1972). I show that rather than function in service of the state, these films develop a critical philosophy of the state through the medium of popular cinema and through the activation of the point of view of totality. In this way, my talk will put these films into conversation with long-standing debates about realism from Marxist aesthetics.

“How do we intervene?” These opening lines from Serge Daney’s vital essay, “The Critical Function,” published fifty years ago, animate The Critical Function Workshop, a gathering dedicated to writing, criticism, and intellectual community. We provide a regular workshop aimed at comments, feedback, and criticism of works-in-progress on topics ranging from moving images, visual culture, aesthetics, to mass media. The workshop will provide a nonhierarchical space for both graduate students and professors to share and respond to each other’s work. We are dedicated to presenting works of both theory and history, aesthetics and politics.

For more information, contact Thomas Quist or Meghan Romano.


2 Sussex Avenue, Toronto, ON M5S 1J5