NOTES ON SOME IMPORTANT TERMS FOR FILM STUDIES

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Offline Gopa B. Caesar

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Re: NOTES ON SOME IMPORTANT TERMS OF FILM STUDIES
« Reply #30 on: December 09, 2011, 08:03:44 AM »
Medium specificity: Early film theorists had two main concerns: to legitimize cinema as an art form and to identify its unique properties and effects. Hugo Munsterberg and Rudolf Arnheim considered (silent) film to be art because it does not merely mechanically record reality but rather transforms the normal ways in which the human eye perceives, through editing, camera angles, and black-and-white photography. These theorists made an attempt to understand the ways in which cinema differed from the other arts: Jean Epstein identified this difference as cinema’s photogenie; Bela Bálázs attributed it to the unique, even spiritual, expressiveness of the close-up. These concerns were revisited by later theorists such as Christian Metz.

Offline Gopa B. Caesar

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Re: NOTES ON SOME IMPORTANT TERMS OF FILM STUDIES
« Reply #31 on: December 09, 2011, 08:04:09 AM »
Realism: Realist film theorists valued cinema for its ability to record reality without authorial intervention—a reversal of Munsterberg’s and Arnheim’s positions. This reversal was caused in part by the development of cinema itself, which increasingly resembled reality with the introduction of sound, deep-focus photography, and Italian neorealist aesthetics—a progression that André Bazin called the myth of total cinema. Siegfried Kracauer, a critic of authoritarian aesthetics, argued that cinema should focus on the unpredictable, unplanned events of everyday existence. André Bazin preferred films that use depth of field and long takes to emphasize mise-en-scène, preserving the spatiotemporal integrity of the scene and empowering the spectator to scan the image for meaning.

Offline Gopa B. Caesar

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Re: NOTES ON SOME IMPORTANT TERMS OF FILM STUDIES
« Reply #32 on: December 09, 2011, 08:04:33 AM »
Auteur theory: This movement, initially championed by postwar critics working for the French film journal Cahiers du Cinéma, was introduced to America by Andrew Sarris. Auteurism considers the film director not merely a mechanical recorder of reality but rather a legitimate artist whose personal vision battles the institutional limitations imposed by industrial modes of film production. Influenced by romantic notions of the artist and by canonization studies in the other arts, auteurist critics hailed previously neglected Hollywood directors, such as Nicholas Ray and Samuel Fuller, as exemplary artists whose personal experiences, convictions, and obsessions imbue each of their films with an idiosyncratic style.

Offline Gopa B. Caesar

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Re: NOTES ON SOME IMPORTANT TERMS OF FILM STUDIES
« Reply #33 on: December 09, 2011, 08:05:00 AM »
Semiotics and structuralism: Influenced by Ferdinand de Saussure’s theory of semiology and Claude Levi-Strauss’s structural anthropology, Umberto Eco and others tried to define film language as a set of codes and structures that organizes meaning in ways predetermined by the medium itself rather than by individual filmmakers. In analyzing narrative cinema, Christian Metz identified the presence of eight principal syntagmas—combinations of sounds and images that are organized into units of narrative autonomy. Peter Wollen, Geoffrey Nowell-Smith, and others integrated structuralism, genre studies, and auteurism into what came to be known as auteur-structuralism.

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Re: NOTES ON SOME IMPORTANT TERMS OF FILM STUDIES
« Reply #34 on: December 09, 2011, 08:05:41 AM »
Ideology theory: Influenced by Lacanian psychoanalysis, Louis Althusser’s theory of ideology, and student revolts in France in May 1968, film scholars began to analyze the cinema as an ideological apparatus that interpellates spectators into misrecognizing their relation to the real conditions of their existence.

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Re: NOTES ON SOME IMPORTANT TERMS OF FILM STUDIES
« Reply #35 on: December 09, 2011, 08:06:25 AM »
    According to scholars such as Jean-Louis Comolli and Stephen Heath, films elicit consent for the dominant order by giving the viewing subject the illusion of freedom and agency, naturalizing and legitimizing the existing exploitative class structure. Althusser asserted that, in order to unmask what the dominant ideology obscures, one must perform symptomatic readings that identify a text’s structuring absences and constitutive lacks. The critics at Cahiers du Cinéma famously applied this type of textual analysis to John Ford’s Young Mr. Lincoln (1939).
    Writers at another French journal, Cinéthique, argued for a self-reflexive film aesthetic that would consciously make audiences aware of the devices of its own construction and the illusory nature of the film image. These critics attacked realism as a bourgeois construct that leads audiences to mistake subjective representation for objective reality.

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Re: NOTES ON SOME IMPORTANT TERMS OF FILM STUDIES
« Reply #36 on: December 09, 2011, 08:07:04 AM »
    Apparatus theorists such as Jean-Louis Baudry claimed that film’s technological characteristics, as well as the conditions of spectatorship (such as the darkness of movie theaters and the silence and motionlessness of theater audiences), have inherent ideological effects.

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Re: NOTES ON SOME IMPORTANT TERMS OF FILM STUDIES
« Reply #37 on: December 09, 2011, 08:07:27 AM »
Feminist film theory: Early feminist film scholars, such as Molly Haskell and Sandy Flitterman-Lewis, focused on stereotypes of women in Hollywood and art cinema and drew attention to previously neglected women filmmakers. Later scholars sought to describe the patriarchal dynamics of cinematic spectatorship. Laura Mulvey argued that classical Hollywood films invite a masculinist gaze that aligns itself with active male characters and voyeuristically looks at or fetishizes passive female characters. According to Mary Ann Doane, female spectators have few options: they may either empower themselves (at the expense of their gender) by identifying with the male protagonist or identify (masochistically) with the female victim. Feminist theorists encouraged women filmmakers to create alternative film aesthetics, which Claire Johnston said should channel female desire, Laura Mulvey said should destroy spectatorial (and hence sexist, patriarchal) pleasure, and Luce Irigaray said should be based on the unique properties of the female body and feminine subjectivity.

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Re: NOTES ON SOME IMPORTANT TERMS OF FILM STUDIES
« Reply #38 on: December 09, 2011, 08:07:57 AM »
Cultural studies: Cultural studies scholarship goes beyond apolitical investigations of medium specificity and film language and tries to situate film texts within broader social, cultural, political, and industrial networks of power. Rejecting previous theorists’ high-art elitism and blindness to racial and sexual difference, cultural scholars consider all aspects of popular culture (such as daytime television, punk clothing, and hip-hop music) as valid objects of study. Unlike apparatus theorists, cultural scholars like Stuart Hall argue that spectatorship is an active process of textual decoding. Cultural studies is often concerned with the demographics and sites of cinematic spectatorship, revealing how certain groups in certain reception contexts and historical moments are capable of reading films subversively, against the grain of their dominant ideology. This approach has led to a proliferation of queer, feminist, and racial reinterpretations of classical and contemporary Hollywood films.

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Re: NOTES ON SOME IMPORTANT TERMS OF FILM STUDIES
« Reply #39 on: December 09, 2011, 08:08:22 AM »
Cognitive theory: In contrast to psychoanalysis, cognitive film theory tries to understand how audiences interpret films in terms of rational, conscious processes. Using Russian formalist terminology, David Bordwell divides narrative into the syuzhet (the order in which the narrative events are presented) and the fabula (the actual chronological order of events). According to Bordwell, spectators use the syuzhet to reconstruct the fabula in their minds—an example of how meaning is created through cognitive rather than emotional or unconscious processes. Cognitive theory assumes that perception and cognition are universal human characteristics, so it does not take cultural or historical differences into account. This approach puts weight on intellectual rather than emotional aspects of watching film.

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Re: NOTES ON SOME IMPORTANT TERMS OF FILM STUDIES
« Reply #40 on: December 09, 2011, 08:09:10 AM »
Film History: Silent Period (1895–1929)
The earliest American films, which appeared around 1895, were primarily a working-class pastime. Because they told stories without words, they appealed to the large, mostly illiterate immigrant population in the United States. After 1900, film became a more middle-class phenomenon, as filmmakers exploited film’s storytelling potential by adapting bourgeois novels (which incorporated middle-class values) for the screen.
Until 1914, the major national film industries resided in Italy, France, and the United States. However, World War I devastated the Italian and French film industries, allowing American producers to gain the upper hand on the global market. The major American production companies pooled their film technology patents and used their patent leverage to impose block booking on exhibitors (movie theater owners), which forced exhibitors to buy lower-quality product along with high-quality product.
Exhibitors fought back, vertically integrating by buying small production companies, and eventually managed to beat out the major producers because they were quicker to adopt feature-length films, which proved more commercially successful than the earlier shorts. From 1907–1913, many production companies moved from New York City to Los Angeles to take advantage of the warm weather that allowed for year-round outdoor production, giving birth to the Hollywood film industry. The costs associated with vertical integration forced Hollywood studios to seek investment from Wall Street financiers. This development, along with the industrial modes of production pioneered by Thomas Ince and the bourgeois storytelling conventions introduced by Edwin S. Porter and D. W. Griffith, turned Hollywood into a profit-driven enterprise and its films into commercial commodities.

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Re: NOTES ON SOME IMPORTANT TERMS OF FILM STUDIES
« Reply #41 on: December 09, 2011, 08:09:38 AM »
Major Movements
German Expressionism:
Influenced by the art movements of expressionism and constructivism, German filmmakers working for the Berlin-based mega-studio Ufa created a series of important films from 1919–1933, until Hitler came to power. These films sought to express the individual and collective subjectivities, desires, and fantasies of their characters through chiaroscuro lighting; irregular, perspectival set design and camera angles; bold costumes and make-up; and melodramatic gestures and movement. Films of the period featured characters with regressive personalities, motivated to rebel against authority and tradition yet alienated by the chaotic social world of sensual excess and deception that surrounds them. The films’ mise-en-scène, though psychologically expressive, often threatens to reduce the characters into props, their actions into impersonal patterns, and their concerns into romantic abstractions. Key films include Robert Wiene’s The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919), F. W. Murnau’s The Last Laugh (1924), and Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927).

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Re: NOTES ON SOME IMPORTANT TERMS for FILM STUDIES
« Reply #42 on: December 09, 2011, 08:10:47 AM »

Major Movements (CONT.)

Soviet montage: Soviet filmmakers saw editing as the foundation of film art and therefore used the shot, not the scene, as the primary unit of film language and meaning. Influenced by D. W. Griffith’s Intolerance (1916), the Lev Kuleshov Workshops, and the futurist and formalist avant-gardes, Soviet filmmakers used dialectical montage to create dynamic juxtapositions aimed at eliciting specific intellectual and emotional responses. Their films sought to portray both the inhumanity of czarist rule and the revolutionary potential, daily labors, and communal bonds of the Soviet people. Key films include Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin (1925), Vsevolod Pudovkin’s The End of St. Petersburg (1927), and Dziga Vertov’s A Man With a Movie Camera (1929).

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Re: NOTES ON SOME IMPORTANT TERMS OF FILM STUDIES
« Reply #43 on: December 09, 2011, 08:11:22 AM »
Major Movements (CONT.)
French avant-garde: Influenced by Dadaism, surrealism, and poetic naturalism, French experimental filmmakers made a series of innovative films that explored the medium as a purely visual form, constructed surrealist non-narrative dreamscapes, and used symbolism to externalize the psychology of their characters. Key films include Abel Gance’s La Roue (1922), Germaine Dulac’s La Souriante Madame Beudet (1922), Fernand Leger’s Ballet Mécanique (1924), René Clair’s Entr’acte (1924), and Luis Buñuel’s Un Chien Andalou (1929).

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Re: NOTES ON SOME IMPORTANT TERMS FOR FILM STUDIES
« Reply #44 on: December 09, 2011, 08:13:55 AM »
Major Directors and Producers
Lumière, Auguste and Louis:
In 1895, the Lumière brothers invented a machine, the Cinématographe, that could shoot, print, and project moving pictures. It was superior to Thomas Edison’s Kinetograph (1891) because it was portable, allowing for easy transportation and outdoor use. On December 28, 1895, a date widely considered the birthday of cinema, the Lumières held a public screening of five of their first films, including Workers Leaving the Lumière Factory and The Arrival of a Train at the Station. As the titles suggest, the Lumière films were primarily nonfiction recordings of everyday occurrences, although some also included staged comedic and dramatic elements. The Lumières sent camera crews abroad to shoot and exhibit films, inspiring the birth of film industries around the world and garnering them international fame. The Cinématographe used 35-millimeter film and had a projection speed of 16 frames per second—technical specifications that would become industry standards in the silent period.

Méliès, Georges: While the Lumière brothers demonstrated cinema’s documentary function, Méliès is considered the first to explore the medium’s potential for fictional storytelling. In films such as A Trip to the Moon (1902), Méliès created whimsical adventure stories that were shot on elaborate stage sets and that became popular for their sight gags and otherworldly imagery. Méliès was a pioneer in the use of optical effects, editing, mise-en-scène, and lighting design. His inventive and fantastical films revealed the medium’s ability to convey artistic creativity and imagination.