Week Fourteen: After-Images

December 19, 2010

Linda Hutcheon argues that Body Heat is the postmodern nostalgia film. She says, “Nostalgia itself gets both called up, exploited and ironized.” Postmodernism in Body Heat is about film noir pop culture – it’s a film about Double Indemnity. Postmodern noirs interpret sexual tension as dirty talk, bad puns, disturbed sexuality, and nudity while recreating the mood and atmosphere of noir. According to Zizek, “Body Heat views the mythic present as if it were part of the mythic past.” Jameson would say anything that is part of late-capitalist culture is postmodern. He sees postmodern art and theory as reinforcing the things he finds distressing in postmodern culture. Hutcheon agrees that the world is dominated by the logic of capitalism. She says that postmodern works renegotiate “the different possible relations of (complicity and critique between high and popular forms of culture” (Politics 28). Hutcheon highlights the ways in which postmodern modalities actually aid in the process of critique. She suggests postmodernism “both legitimize and subvert that which it parodies” (Politics 101). “Through a double process of installing and ironizing, parody signals how present representations come from past ones and what ideological consequences derive from both continuity and difference” (Politics, 93).


Week Eleven: Feminist Film Theory

December 11, 2010

Laura Mulvey’s essay, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” argues that films structure around “male gaze” with “woman as image” and “man as bearer of the look”. The scene where Tianqing is peeping Judou while she is taking her bath, presents the woman as an image and the man as a look. The woman is “bearer of meaning, not making of meaning.” Film provides pleasure through scopophilia—deriving pleasure from looking and identification with the male actor. She says, “In their traditional exhibitionist role women are simultaneously looked at and displayed, with their appearance coded for strong visual and erotic impact so that they can be said to connote to-be-looked-at-ness,” Mulvey says that the “looking relations” is around the characters, camera, and audience, identified and controlled by the male. Judou is represented as an object of desire from a male perspective. In the beginning we are pushed to identify with Tianqing, when we are introduced to Judou, it’s through his viewpoint as well. Judou’s revealing of her wounds to Tianqing through the peephole “represents a decisive move against the gerontocratic and patriarchal rule that operates against her (Lau 3).” Judou challenges the male viewer by creating a sense of guilt for his voyeurism and Mulvey’s ideas since she is deliberating reinforcing the male gaze and manipulating Tianqing. According to Mulvey, voyeurism should produce scopophilia “from pleasure in using another person as an object of sexual stimulation through sight.” According to Cui, the Confucian social structure of the society transforms their relationship into a perverse one, embarrassment and identification with the female character Judou.

The “politics of pleasure” is in voyeurism (sexual attraction through looking at another person without their knowledge) and fetishism (narcissistic identification—forbidden desires were repressed and expressed in another form). There are shots in which characters are framed through an enclosed object, the peephole where Tianqing watched Judou (scopophilia and voyeurism, from apparatus theory), which reminds us that each character is trapped.

Jenny Kwok Wah Lau, “A Cultural Interpretation of the Popular Cinema of China and Hong Kong,” Perspectives on Chinese Cinema, Chris Berry, ed., London, British Film Institute, 1991, p. 3

Shuqin Cui. Women Through the Lens: Gender and Nation in a Century of Chinese Cinema . Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2003. 248 pages, 304 pages total including filmography, works cited includes both Western and Chinese texts, notes, index.


Week Ten: The Machine Age

November 29, 2010

There are twelve ideological points in Robin Wood’s essay, “Ideology, Genre, Auteur.” I will attempt to analyze each point using the film Avatar. In point seven, we compare the natives versus the capitalistic, greedy corporation. The director says capitalism is evil, money corrupts and money isn’t everything. In point three, marriage, the Na’vi hold arranged instead of free marriages (Eurocentric view of non-Westerners). In point 4a, the film explores our insensitivity to the environment and other lands. Even nature is politicized. Next, the Indians (point 4b in Wood’s essay). Sully was better at being Na’vi than the Na’vi were. The director may be showing disdain for native cultures – how Americans or Europeans can become better than other cultures by spending a couple of weeks with them, since Westerners are perceived as more advanced (in this condescending ideology). The Westerners are seen as the morally superior agents. In point five, Westerners are more technologically sophisticated and developed as a society. However, the director is purporting that without technology or medicine, we would be better off. Jake also represents the ideal male (point 9), but in the sense that white imperial rule is needed in developing societies.


Week Nine: Psychoanalyze This!

November 28, 2010

Bazin and Eisenstein believed films’ conscious impact instead of the unconscious. So did Metz—he believed that the forms of cinema produced unconscious identifications in the spectator. Lacan believes that there is an analogy between the spectator and the infant that is deceived into thinking that its mirror self is really itself. Christian Metz built on this point by saying that the spectator can identify himself in the film, even to the point of being an omnipotent God who is all seeing and unseen. However, we never really see ourselves directly in the film. He draws from Jean Louis Baudry, from the cinematic apparatus to discuss the imaginary signifier. Metz talks more in depth about psychoanalysis than Baudry does. He agrees that there are structures, which please the spectator, and is positioned by the cinematic apparatus. Both Metz and Baudry believed that the passive spectator was subjected to submit the tyranny of the apparatus. Metz argues that viewing film is only possible through pleasure. Baudry saw this as a technical device while Metz said it was a general institution of cinema– a social structure which contains a system, subjective perceptions. For Metz, the spectator identifies himself first with the camera or the projection of the image on the screen and then with the characters. Baudry says it creates “an impression of reality” while Metz goes further to say “deep psychic gratification” and creation of “good objects.” Metz says the spectator is a false construct and hallucinates that the film’s narratives and characters are real. Baudry agrees that they are disillusioned, having an impression of reality or dream, and drawing on Plato’s prisoner of a cave argument. A suspension of disbelief is similar to Freud’s notion of the child’s discovery of a mother’s castration. Metz, “In the face of this unveiling of a lack (we are already close to the cinematic signifier), the child… will have to double up its belief (another cinematic characteristic) and from then on forever hold two contradictory opinions… In other words, it will, perhaps definitively, retain its former belief beneath the new ones, but it will also hold to its new perceptual observation while disavowing it on another level.  Thus establishing the lasting matrix, the affective prototype of all the splittings of disbelief.”


Week Eight: Signs, Signs, Everywhere Signs

November 13, 2010

Zhang Yimou’s films feature a blazing use of colors, which is highly symbolic. He uses startling red color to embellish the passions and emotions in Ju Dou, a melodrama, especially during intense scenes. The most significant scene is when Ju Dou and Tianqing make love; the vibrant red silk unravel in the dye factory, used to enhance the sexual intensity and portray the happiness of the forbidden love. Red is often associated with blood, and blood with death. While red symbolizes extreme passion, there is danger, which foreshadows Tianqing’s death as well. It is the beginning of the end. The red cloth continually hits Ju Dou as he falls down, similar to the sex scene. They are having a semi-incestuous affair, which is disapproved in the confines of their Confucian society. Unlike the colored sheets, their emotions must be repressed, their relationship clandestine. Another part where red is used is when both the uncle and Tianqing die – they both get pushed into the red dye river, but for different reasons. In the case of Tianqing, the red represents the hate his son has for him. For the uncle, it could represent his evil, or the son’s passion for his uncle. The young son Tianbai kills his fathers, symbolizing the Red Guards. In the final sequence, Ju Dou burns down the house, and you can see red flames—it symbolizes her confusion, eventual death, and hate. In its historical context, the use of red is symbolically used in China to represent the revolution— and so, Ju Dou participated in the revolution by attempting to rebel against the social norms.

William Callahan says, “Hence as much as Ju Dou and Tianqing struggle against the system, they produce it – literally and figuratively in Tianbai (who in carrying out the imperatives of Confucian morality—eventually—ironically commits perhaps the greatest Confucian crime: patricide).”

The light sky blue is associated with Tianqing, which symbolizes purity and innocence. The blue filter at night symbolically represents their evil deeds, in contrast with the warmth of the red passion. The name of the wealthy owner Jinshan has a specific color association as well, gold mountain. Only the feudal king of ancient China could wear gold. The color red can symbolize Ju Dou’s desire for liberation, freedom, and sexual desire in their patriarchal society and traditional culture. Red can also represent the Communist Revolution, which was supposed to break the traditional Chinese way of thinking. The film symbolically condemns the evils of the flawed Confucian system through gender inequalities by indirectly and unflatteringly portraying Jinshan as an impotent elderly man who takes advantage of the traditional Chinese system, drawing a parallel to the Chinese government. Sky blue is another color – it represents Chinese tradition.

Cinematic apparatus theory incorporates “not just the cinema industry… but also the mental machinery—another industry which spectators ‘accustomed to the cinema’ have internalized historically and which has adapted them to the consumption of films.” (Metz 213-18). For Baudry, the darkened room turns the spectators into dreamers, and there is a link between screen images and camera. For Metz, in spectators there is a double identification with the characters, imagined as “focus of all vision… as a pure act of perception (244-78).”

In the final sequence of Ju Dou, she commits suicide by burning the mill to the ground. The film symbolically alludes to five parts of China’s modernization movement, post-Opium War: revolution, confusion, second gong, children’s song, and the second gong. First, Ju Dou sets her house aflame; she is a participant in the revolution (in an attempt to break away from Chinese tradition). Second, she has a markedly confused look on her face, which reflects the uncertainty, frustration and confusion of the Chinese people. Third, she has no way to escape the blanketing power of the traditional, feudal society that she is trapped in. She never escaped the patriarch system (Jinshan was replaced by Tianqing, who slapped her). Hence, the first gong—is ironically used here for ceremonious occasions and standing for Chinese tradition. Her longing of liberation is up in smoke as well, but she is emancipated from the traditional society. In the same way, the Chinese can’t escape the traditional, dynastic rule or feudal past from Chinese leaders, and are unable to offer logical solutions to the current situation. Jinshan is hesitant to accept the illegitimate young son’s first words as calling him Dad, as he is recognized within the social hierarchy (Lacanian psychoanalysis). Despite his power, Jinshan is also trapped by the traditional values of the society – he must continue his generational line. He decides to continue the tradition through the young son. Jinshan symbolizes the Chinese leaders who are clinging to Confucian philosophy. In the final shot, there is a freeze frame with the sound of burning, which is used as a distancing device, going from the real to the unreal, and reiterating the idea that tradition-culture remains unchanged in the modern history of China. Fourth, the children’s song that follows illustrates that tradition is strongly rooted in Chinese culture (the very same song is passed onto the children, in the same way that Mao Zedong’s Thought is a compulsory course for Chinese university students) and will probably never disappear. It refers to the Cultural Revolution, in that the dogs, which represent the government, bite the revolutionaries. They have nowhere to run, so they go back home. According to Lu, the motif song can be read ambivalently for China – both representing an indication of hopeless destruction and an allegory of a phoenix rising from it ashes (115). And finally, we hear the second gong- culturally nothing has changed. Indeed, Jinshan’s attempt to destroy the factory by fire is done by Ju Dou, who hates him. The murder at the end (Cultural Revolution) came as a cruel shock to Ju Dou, and her suicide was a way of rebellion, which goes against the normal Chinese behavior (though in line with many tragic heroines in Chinese literature), because she is disappointed and despaired. It echoes the emotions of the Tiananmen Square protests. During modern Chinese history, we are faced with great inspiration from foreign influences (sociopolitical ideologies of communism, capitalism), but because of the traditional, feudal dynastic cycle dilemma, the inspired revolutionaries are left with a severe sense of disappointment.

In addition to the use of color, the film has powerful examples of symbolism within social and cultural contexts. The repeated close telephoto shots of the enclosed courtyard, preceded by a scene of the couple’s escapades, show that the social atmosphere of the village is hostile and disapproving towards such a forbidden relationship, which violates “ethical codes and human relationships” (114). Lu says, “The impotent old man becomes a living symbol of the oppressive social order which sets out to extinguish the desires of young people (114).” Secondly, the courtyard shot is representative of the entrapment that the social order presents to all the characters including the powerful Jinshan, since they are expected to follow their social roles and neo-Confucian traditions.


Week Six: Giving The People What They Want

November 12, 2010

Thomas Schatz says, “to discuss the Western genre is to address neither a single Western film nor even all Westerns, but rather a system of conventions which identifies Westerns films as such.” Westerns exhibit qualities of its genre, but it’s not physically touchable. He said, “If we extend these ideas into genre study, we might think of the film genre as a specific grammar or system of rules of expression and construction and the individual genre film as a manifestation of these rules.” However, grammar is a learned experience, whereas the rules about genre constantly change.

“It is a question if Mildred Pierce, like Double Indemnity, can truly be classified as film noir. It shares many of the same elements–sleazy men supported by women, too-young women with hot bodies, illicit love affairs, murder in ritzy quarters on a moonlit night–but it lacks one of the most essential ingredients: a hard-boiled anti-hero, unless one counts Veda (Ann Blyth).”

–LAWRENCE J. QUIRK, from Joan Crawford:
The Essential Biography
, 2002.

Mildred Pierce is a classic example of a film noir. It offers something new in the genre—the voiceover is by a female lead character instead of a male protagonist (or hero detective). Second, there is no real femme fatale (perhaps Veda or Monty, the homme fatale). The film fulfills the expectations of the traditional gender roles and social norms. The films speak to the anxieties of the inadequacy of men and their uncertainty of the family institution and marriage. The femme fatale’s manipulation of sexuality is a threat to patriarchal social norms. Pam Cook says, “the erosion of the patriarchal order cannot be tolerated” (79). Mildred acted out traditional feminine qualities in the beginning of films in order to hide her ambitions (but she isn’t really considered a femme fatale). According to Film Noir Reader, “These women had taken their roles as provider (in the workplace) and father (in the home)” (88). The criminal world seemed to act out sexual deviance, but film noirs portrayed unnatural marriages that seemed to be restricted or frustrated by sexuality. Sexuality and morality are inextricably correlated in film noir; immoral characters, which deviated from the normative societal patterns, were punished by law or by death. The film directors are attempting to reinforce the social norms – strictly defined gender roles and the patriarchal social order (determinate space). Mildred Pierce is a hybridized film – both a women’s melodrama and film noir. Since it’s also a social melodrama, is it indeterminate space as well, “celebrating the values of social integration”?

Schatz’s theory helps us to understand that genre films reinforce social and political ideologies for a society within a cultural or historical context.


Week Five: Art For The Artist’s Sake

October 29, 2010

“The three premises of the auteur theory may be visualized as three concentric circles: the outer circle as technique; the middle circle, personal style; and the inner circle, interior meaning.” (Cohen, Braudy 563) Sarris says a great director’s (auteur) films must have a personal, unique style, which reveal his “interior meaning” within the films. “Nevertheless, the first premise of the auteur theory is the technical competence of a director as a criterion of value.” (Cohen, Braudy 562) Tim Burton is very much involved in his films — he often designs characters and sets instead of hiring others, controls the visual designs and has his own sense of visual style. “The second premise of the auteur theory is the distinguishable personality of the director as a criterion of value. Over a group of films, a director must exhibit certain recurrent characteristics of style, which serve as his signature. The way a film looks and moves should have some relationship to the way a director thinks and feels.” (Cohen, Braudy 562)

“The third and ultimate premise of the auteur theory is concerned with interior meaning, the ultimate glory of the cinema as an art. Interior meaning is extrapolated from the tension between a director’s personality and his material. This conception of interior meaning comes close to what Astruc defines as mise en scene, but not quite. It is not quite the vision of the world a director projects nor quite his attitude toward life. It is ambiguous, in any literary sense, because part of it is imbedded in the stuff of the cinema and cannot be rendered in noncinematic terms.” (Cohen, Braudy 562). Burton’s films are nonconventional fairytales, containing childlike wonderment which are from his younger, past experiences.

Scissorhands, Sleepy Hollow and Sweeney Todd are films that contain the isolation themes, gothic narratives which emphasize the bizarre. This is from watching many horror films as a child.

Braudy, Leo and Marshall Cohen. Film Theory and Criticism. New York. Oxford University Press, 2004


Week Four: What Is Real, Anyway?

October 17, 2010

Kracauer’s approach to film is that it exists to expose the raw material of reality. But his theory is simplistic, whereas Bazin is more thoughtful. Bazin said, “Cinema attains its fullness in being the art of the real.” In contrast with Kracauer, he clarified the meaning of reality. Kracauer believed in material aesthetics of realism techniques to aesthetics of space. They both felt that brute reality is the draw of films. Kracauer wanted filmmakers to create realistic films.

“Unlike Kracauer, Bazin views the film’s realism as an expression of the mythic, not the scientific, spirit and believes that its function is not to redeem physical reality but to exempt us from our physical destiny. The magical aim finds expression in… a complete recreation of the world in its own image.” (Greald Mast, Marshall Cohen, Leo Braudy. Film Theory and Criticism: Introductory Readings, 4th Edition, pg. 5. (1992 Oxford University Press)

I will examine Andre Bazin’s theories of film and realism with Orson Welle’s film Citizen Kane. Bazin saw film as an art form to replicate sacred reality and that realism was both a starting point and end goal. He believed that directors had their own personal vision in the films.
In “The Evolution of the Language of Cinema,” Andre Bazin examines how film technology influences filmmaking, symbolism, and editing histories. His ultimate point is that cinema should objectively present reality. Bazin says that photography is the essence of filmmaking. He said, “Cinema attains its fullness in being the art of the real” (1976:137). Bazin felt that brute reality is the draw of films. Filmmakers don’t tamper with the film’s brute representation; Bazin saw this representation similar to American freedom and democracy (Bazin xiii). In other words, it allows the viewer to subjectively decide how to interpret reality. With this newfound freedom, they could also determine what was important.

“Bazin views the film’s realism as an expression of the mythic, not the scientific, spirit and believes that its function is not to redeem physical reality but to exempt us from our physical destiny. The magical aim finds expression in… a complete recreation of the world in its own image.”[1]

There were two categories of filmmakers: the imagists and the realists. The imagists emphasized montage editing, which Bazin wrote was “everything that the representation on the screen adds to the object there represented”. Bazin’s film theories were subjective since he respects physical objects in the real world whether films were good or bad. These directors added “real-world objects: by means of ‘plastics’ (lighting, sets, makeup, framing, and son on).”[2] The realists believed in long take and objectivity. In other words, the camera is recreating reality or “an imprint of the duration of the object” which is untainted by humans. Bazin said editing in Nanook of the North would have ruined the impact of the seal-hunting scene (ironically, this documentary was staged, a mere illusion of reality). It is the duty of the filmmaker not to tamper with the reality that the camera presents. Contemporary commercial filmmakers are imagists- many using complex special effects and CGI in their cinematography and production technologies, putting faith in the image. There is contemporary realist film directors such as Chen Kaige, who use long shots in Yellow Earth to take account everything in the frame, a “continuum of reality”. Bazin says humans are driven by realism – but one could argue that many watch films as a recreational form of escapism.
Bazin argues that depth of focus is “a dialectical step forward in the history of film language,” and that it “brings the spectator in closer relation with the image than he is with the reality… structure is more realistic” (35). He goes on to say that montage rules out ambiguity while depth of focus introduces it. Bazin favored Citizen Kane because “it abandoned the usual invisible style of editing in favor of what at times was an elaborate reliance on extremely long held shots with… entire scenes constructed out of a few such shots” (Lehman 338). Citizen Kane uses depth of focus, which challenges montage editing. “Depth of field… forces the spectator to make use of the freedom of his attention and demands, at the same time, that he feel the ambivalence of reality” (Orson Welles, 58-59). Ambiguity is a good thing – it evokes an audience’s response, keeping them curious and intrigued throughout the film. For Citizen Kane, Bazin focuses on film style which “places the very nature of the story in question”. Bazin said that the director’s long take and deep focus breaks the norm of cinema and viewing habits, and minimal cutting was more neorealist than the predictable style of Hollywood conventional editing. The audience had a choice of where to look in the frame or within a scene. Bazin said, “Montage by its very nature rules out ambiguity of expression… Citizen Kane is unthinkable shot in any other way but in depth. The uncertainty in which we find ourselves as to the spiritual key or the interpretation we should put on the film is built into the very design of the image (36).” He believed that editing was a false way in filmmaking and argued that montage isn’t important, but one device among many. He says montage is deceiving and untruthful in its portrayal, lacking integrity and faithfulness (which is the duty of the good filmmaker), and ultimately destroying reality. Instead, Bazin said there was no need to use flashy and showy techniques unless you need to convey an idea. He considered montage manipulative since it changed reality and the audience’s perception. For example, The Battleship Potemkin uses montage (or MTV cutting) in the staircase scene, where the stroller rolls down many steps (exaggerated editing to covey a message). This expressionist scene was intentionally fabricated for propagandist purposes, working on the audience’s emotions.

Bazin had a faith in realism, believing that realists truly portrayed film as reality and respected reality more than imagists (art for art’s sake). He believed that montage could be overused. Bazin welcomed the introduction of sound, since it was a step toward realism—enhancing, saving, and fulfilling his idealism of realist films. He believed that actors no longer had to exaggerate acting as much, moving from theatre to film. “Sound has given proof that it came not to destroy the Old Testament of cinema.” He said that visuals have the ability to psychologically manipulate an audience, but never emphasized this theory with sound. Music and sound have the powerful ability to influence the audience’s mood during a film. Sound montages are used in Citizen Kane to express flashbacks (periods of time) and emotions. Welles is able to “cover whole scenes in one take”, allowing the audience to see whole picture, wandering their attention on the screen with long shots, without any editing. Welles uses deep focus to create highly symbolic meaning by placing a character as a tiny figure on screen, making them insignificant. Classic editing “substituted mental and abstract time for the ambiguity of expression” whereas “depth of focus reintroduced ambiguity into the structure of the image” by transferring “to the screen the continuum of reality (37).” It’s a good thing since ambiguity removes the filmmaker’s interpretation of reality, allowing for different interpretations. Reality is ambiguous. For Bazin, Citizen Kane was “liberated viewing”, containing so much information that the viewer could participate or interpret the film in multiple ways, with a fuller picture of reality. Bazin said that film was an art form, almost like a novel.

Bazin argued, “Realism is only possible through artifice.” There is internal and external artifice. Internal: “The ornate décor of Xanadu, the singing at the picnic excursion, an artifact as humble as the paperweight or one as elaborate as the newsreel (Brill 115).” External “refers to the cinematic representation of… Kane’s death and the obviously painted crowd backdrops during his political speech. The speech itself and the enormous poster of Kane behind the stage are internal artifice (Brill 116).
James Naremore says that Bazin underemphasizes a few points – while Welles avoided using montage, in place, he added “plastics” to Citizen Kane (two or more images were combined to create the illusion of a single shot).[3] In one scene, Kane is typing an opera review and Leland is away from him, but these two separate shots were joined together (which Bazin considered manipulative). Naremore cleverly points out that Citizen Kane uses “makeup artists, set designers, lighting crews,” and that Bazin underemphasized this important fact – that it’s not completely realist in this sense. However, Naremore says in the next paragraph Welles confirmed that he was attempting to create a realist film style.

I don’t believe that neither the technical aspects nor the film development process is considered an art form. Bazin’s argument fails to answer one question: while realism is most natural, why is it the best method and advantageous for filmmaking? Bazin’s theories aren’t perfect, he underemphasizes the use of plastics in Citizen Kane and the potentials of sound in cinema.
While filmmaking can’t truly capture our world with complete accuracy, but rather, it’s an art form used to covey a message. Bazin’s truly realist film would have no symbolism, montage, interpretative editing, or suspension of belief – but what a boring film that would be!

Bazin at work: major essays & reviews from the forties & fifties, André Bazin, Bert Cardullo

Thinking about movies: watching, questioning, enjoying, Peter Lehman, William Luhr

Crowds, power, and transformation in cinema, Lesley Brill


[1] Greald Mast, Marshall Cohen, Leo Braudy. Film Theory and Criticism: Introductory Readings, 4th Edition, pg. 5. (1992 Oxford University Press)

[2] James Naremore, Orson Welle’s citizen kane: a casebook, pg. 128 (2004 Oxford University Press)

[3] James Naremore, Orson Welle’s citizen kane: a casebook, pg. 128 (2004 Oxford University Press)


Week Three: Soviet Montage School

October 16, 2010

Eisenstein goes further than Pudovkin– they’re often associated with one another. Eisenstein was more interested in captivating intellectually, while Pudvokin emotionally. Pudvokin’s films contained heroes and Eisenstein’s people. Eisenstein referred to editing as montage, and didn’t see individual shots as building blocks, as opposed to Pudovkin.

    Pudvokin says that creative filmmaking comes from putting together shots (or bits of reality, which Eisenstein couldn’t accept, instead believing in lighting, movement, volume, etc). These narrative events are told through the director’s interpretation of history or psychology. Editing is key to the heightened reality of the film. Similar to Eisenstein’s theories, the audience views the film as if it were truly reality, and individual shots are stressed. But he wanted to link shots together. In contrast, for Eisenstein it involved fragments for collision (instead of building blocks), or “an audience of co-creators”. Eisenstein said, ‘If the editing be merely an uncontrolled combination of the various pieces, the spectator will understand (apprehend) nothing from it; but if it be co-ordinated according to a definitely selected course of events or conceptual line, either agitated or calm, it will either excite or soothe the spectator.’ He believed that these shots shouldn’t dominate our experience — creating meaning instead of directing it. His theory contains more complexity than Pudovkin, who said a shot is only a technical step. Eisenstein used montage, and Pudovkin was conflicted toward this idea, instead concentrating on courage. Overall, Eisenstein’s ideas seem more well-developed.


    Week Two: Arnheim’s Artful Advice

    September 26, 2010

    Arnheim says that silent film has the power to achieve excellent artistic effects conveyed through the use of body language or other reactions. He goes on to argue that these visual perceptions make Chaplin’s films appealing. Arnheim says that the human relationships between characters can be shown through visual elements instead of spoken dialogue.

    There are six principles to Arnheim’s theory, which are exemplified with Chaplin’s film Gold Rush. Arnheim suggested that when a three-dimension object is presented onto a two-dimensional surface the artistic merit lies within “perceptive perception.” In Gold Rush, Tramp is daydreaming of the arrival of the woman he loves and her friends. The audience feels sympathy and then empathy for the Tramp.

    The second principle is the artistic use of reduced depth, adding to emotional response of the visuals. In Gold Rush, the Tramp tries to hinder the advances of a wealthy man on the woman he loves in a dance.

    The third principle is the artistic use of the absence of nonvisual sense experiences – conveying emotions without sound. Chaplin performs a silent dance when he is pleased that pretty girls are coming to see him.

    The fourth principle is the absence of the space-time continuum through flash-forward, flashback, slow motion and freeze frame. The Tramp and his partner find gold – the camera flashes to the two of them on a cruise ship.

    The fifth principle is lighting and the absence of color. He believed that the absence of color created a more mystical effect, which lead to a more effective expression of the non-real. It creates a dream-like state – we are reminded that the film is not real because of its black and white state.

    The sixth principle is the delimitation of the image—revolves around the concept that the moving picture is limited in the sense that what the audience sees is what the auteur wants them to see. The Tramp steps back and falls off the ship – we are unaware what happens to him for a moment since he is out of frame.


    Spam prevention powered by Akismet

    Skip to toolbar