Film Unit 1 Critical Essay

Flashcard maker : Suzette Hendon
1895 -1908 \”early cinema\”
Rapid development and experimentation in filmaking before hollywood era. In U.S, massive industrialization attracted large numbers of immigrants & rural americans to urban centers where movie industry found it’s audience.
Beginning of cinema history: Lumiere brothers.
Stylistically: Beginning of continuity, varying camera distance, multiple shots to dramatize events, logically connecting space and time, mostly euorpean
1908 -1917\”transitional period\”
narrative cinema rose, longer films
1917 -1927 studio era
Hollywood’s classical silent period. Basic structures of classical narrative & studio system were put into place,
1. standardization of film production: teams of scriptwriters, producers, editors, 100 mins a film
2. establishment of feature film
3. cultural/ economic expansion of movies throughout society
4. development of narrative realism: explored psychological interaction of characters,simultaneous actions,
5.integration of the viewers perspective into editing and narrative action: pov shots, camera movement & editing made viewers within narrative action rather than at a distance-view before a stage
Chaplin’s the pawn shop
slapstick vignettes and early narratives, defining art of comedy in 1920s Hollywood. Replaced clownish comedies with nuanced and acrobatic gestures that dramatized serious human & social themes.
-Deviated from ordinary life,
Before, American slap stick: kind of theatrical, just one shot, static, single take>> no edits more like film theater
classical cinema period brought by the introduction of synchronized sound in 1927 and lasted until end of WW II (1945)
German expressionism 1918-1912
world is constantly changing according to the character, veered away from movies’ realist drive. Aimed to
1. concentrate on dark fringes of human experience
2. represent irrational forces through lighting, set, and costume design. Found low key lighting (only 1 light source, makes contrast between light & shadow more extenuated, externalizing the internal status (use of mirrors & split screen to make it twisted)
Eadweard Myubridge
He broke down movement of horses, people through chronophotography, series of still images that recorded incremental movement and formed basis of cinematography.
Printed in sequence, the images suggest motion and juxtapositions of editing. Highlight relationship among different images.
eteinne-jules marey
also used chronophotography to capture movement in different ways
first moving-picture device, invented by Thomas Edison and his associates in 1892, that allowed one person at a time to watch a motion picture by looking through the viewer.
A device invented by Edison that gave an impression of movement as an endless loop of film moved continuously over a light source with a rapid shutter.
first motion-picture apparatus, used as both camera and projector. The invention of Lumière bros, it was based in part on the Kinetoscope of Thomas A. Edison. From Edison’s invention the Lumières took the idea of a sprocket-wound film and from Reynaud that of projecting the successive frames on a screen. The Cinématographe also functioned as a camera and could be used to make extra prints of the film. The Lumières slowed the rate of exposure in projection from the 46 frames a second used by Edison to 16 frames, a rate still used. The first public demonstration of the Cinématographe took place at the Grand Café, Boulevard des Capucines, Paris, on Dec. 28, 1895; within months the device was being used throughout Europe and North America.
Lumiere Brothers
Represent begining of documentary tradition by shooting short scenes of everyday life and sceneice views
Geoges Melies
French illusionist. trick films represent beginnings of narrative film. He used stop motion photography and later editing to create delightful tricks like rocket striking the moon. Used stop trick, multiple exposures, dissolves, time lapse photog
alice guy blache
the first female director in the motion picture industry; believed to be one of the first directors of a fiction film. -1st narrative film, \”the Cabbage Fairy, first films with sound
French Impressionist Cinema & Poetic realism
destabilized familiar or objective ways of seeing and revitalized dynamics of human perception. jean epstein: short shots, rhymic cutting. Coeur Fidel: definite contrast with german expressionalis, nrought photographic images through shooting on location, uses of rapid montage and cinematic techniques like split screens
Similar: trying to knit character’s inner feelings to external shots.
Jean Renior’s masterwork of french cinema is know for critique of bourgeois society
Soviet Silent films
1917-1931: represent break from entertainment history of movies. Soviet cinema developed out of Russian rev,
1.emphasis on documentary and historical subjects
2. political concept of cinema centered on audience response
Dziga vertov: established collecteve workship, the Kinoki or cinema eyes to present everday truths rather than distracting fictions & responses accroding to how images are structured and edited. Montage asesthic. MAn with a movie Camera: records activity of modern city but also energy ?moving rapidly from one subject to another, split screens, super impositions and variable film speeds, continually placing camera within action
Formalist theory
Interested in how film became an art form by transcending its referential quality. , Film following this model as described by Sergei Eisenstein: \”Pieces of unedited film are mechanical reproductions of reality. They become art only when arranged into montage patterns that interpret the portrayed event.\” The filmmaker–not reality–determines cinematic truth by manipulating film form. Stylized; spectator’s interpretation is guided; Meaning is created from combining separate shots: montage.
Balazs wrote abt power of close up: element of film art impossible to approximate on stage. Film able to reveal aspects of reality that could not otherwise be seen, championed pursuit of film theory itself, arguing new form language required analyzing.
imitation of reality in the arts. Embraced subject matter drawn from experience of everday life. Hihgly descriptive, function that the photographic nature of cinema fulfills. Ability to refer to the world thru images that resemble and record presence of objects and srouces of sounds : sets it apart as a realist medium. Lumere brothers’ first films, reproduction of life
Post modern realism
1950-1960s, Andrew Bazin, saw film as quintessentially realist, medium in which image is evaluated not by waht is adds to reality but what it reveals of it. Cinema’s ability to capture a space and event in real time is its essence. Deep focus cinematography: kept all planes of image in new. Bazin saw reference of reality but also record of it, ultimately as a means of transcending time
structuralist film theory
Movies are so formulaic and strikingly similar to myths and folktales. Vladimir Propp & Sergei Eisenstien, Claude levi-Strauss. Reduce narrative to its most basic form: the hero quest pattern. Classical narrative form affirms values of middle class culture;
The network of repetitions and differences that structural analysis systematizes could be used to create \”scientific\” interpretations of films that could supplant journalistic-style \”film appreciation\” criticism (the dominant mode of film analysis through the mid-1960s).
Will Wright’s Six Guns and Society: A Structural Study of the Western (1975) was another important structuralist genre analysis. Drawing heavily on Saussurean linguistics, Lévi-Strauss’s conceptual structure of tribal myths, Propp’s morphology of the Russian folktale, and the political and economic theories of John Kenneth Galbraith and Jürgen Habermas, Wright outlines the \”structure\” of the western film. Among the sixty-four top-grossing westerns released since 1930, Wright proposed that fifty-five of them conformed to one of four basic plot lines. Wright’s structural analysis of the western’s thematics made an easy transition from Propp and Todorov’s studies; here, too, the task was to deduce a formula for a genre. Wright’s scheme of narrative function echoed Propp’s list of thirty-one possible actions in the folktale. Symptomatic is the extent to which literary, social, political, and economic theory informed Wright’s study. Even through the 1970s, film scholars sought to justify and ground their analyses in theoretical insights derived within \”established\” fields.
post modernism
mixes and matches different kinds of narratives and formal approaches. ex: fight club, rejecting classical narrative charactreristics adopted from the realist novel A reaction against modernist formalism, seen as elitist; far more encompassing and accepting than the more rigid confines of modernist practice, postmodernism offers something for everyone by accommodating a wide range of styles, subjects, and formats, from traditional easel painting to installation and from abstraction to illusionistic scenes; postmodern art often includes irony or reveals a self-conscious awareness on the part of the artist of art-making processes or the workings of the art world,
1980’s to the Present- A style that refuses to define a new order. A generation not in search of it’s identity, not a coherent movement but a loose collection of eclectic tendencies. Neo-expressionism, neo- abstract formalism
post structuralism
In an effort to prove structuralists- who claimed that the one, exact, true meaning of a product of culture could be found through intense scrutiny- wrong, post-structuralists Jacques Derrida, Gilles Deleuze and Julia Kristeva did some critical reading and uncovered that nearly every work they studied had its own internal contradictions. This discovery lead to the development of the idea that the real interpretations were up to the reader themselves, who will always carry their own biases that may not necessarily correspond to cultural structures.
Questions the truths and hierachies we take for granted. structuralism+ subjectivity
Histoire/ discourse
Histoire: authorless, presents narrative without narrator, just presents it, film actors don’t know that you are watching
Discourse: speaker directly speaking to audience, movie acknowledges your presence
story: everything that happened in chronological order
plot: everything you see in the fashion that is presented to you
*from the plot we learn the story> happens at the time
Feminist Film theory
Feminism began to have wide social and intellectual currency during the 1970s, commentators pointed out that the female image is treated differently from the male image in film. In advertsing, pornongraphy and paitning, the objectifcation of emale image seems to solicit, a possessive male gaze.
coherence, depth, development
the world of the story, anything that character can see or hear, characters themselves
How it’s presented. 1st person: voice over, 3rd person: omniscnet: film seems to know everything, details that character doesn’t see
restricted: experience of particular character, never see more than character sees
Non diegetic
all aspects of narration, voiceover, music underscores, titles, credits
Cross cutting/ parallel editing
Parallel editing (cross cutting) is the technique of alternating two or more scenes that often happen simultaneously but in different locations. If the scenes are simultaneous, they occasionally culminate in a single place, where the relevant parties confront each other.
Emerged In early cinema 1908, D.W GRIFFITH, , development of classical editing style
dialectical montage
Two shots linked together dialectically, constrasted or opposed to one another. Experimental films often employed it as foundation of the film. fragmentation of time and space is an important aesthetic aim or artisitc modernism. conflicting or unrelated images can be linked together using dialectical montage (Eisenstein) to generate an emotional, intellectual and political understanding of events.
Continuity editing
The ‘Classical Hollywood’ style of editing; intended to establish a logical coherence of time and space between shots,, Filmmakers cut a scene or a whole film from the best of many shots. In order to achieve continuity editing filmmakers use eye line matches, dialogue, and music to draw our attention away from the cuts. Continuity editing is a way to hide the reconstruction of a film
Ex: clueless with tracking shot, shot/reverse shot. Cher has majority of the scene’s shots indicating that she is focal point of identification.
kuleshov effect
In the absence of establishing shot, viewers assume these pairs of images to be linked in space and time-editing leader with a shot of peakcock, encouraged audience to identify leader with the concept of vanity. > Disjunctive editing
associative organization
Associate images of objects events or individuals to create a psychological link between these two images, create psychological or formal resonances, giving these films a dreamlike quality that engages viewers emotions and curiosity.
social documentary
Documentaries that examine and present both familiar and unfamiliar peoples and cultures in a social context, with an emphasis on authenticity and discovery in their representations.,
1880s to 1945. Documenting society, social themes, goals of reform, social change, focus on human dignity, context in which it is displayed. All conditions must be met to considered social documentary.
Cinema verite
French term for truth film, a documentary style that records fragments of everyday life unobtrusively; it often features a rough, grainy look and shaky, handheld camera work, A candid-camera style of filmmaking using hand-held cameras, natural sound, grainy high-contrast black-and-white film, and the appearance of no rehearsal and only basic editing. \”cinema of truth\”
Direct cinema
american version of cinema verite that aims to capture unfolding events as unobtrusively as possible., comes from the term cinema verite, a style of documentary filmmaking starting 1958-1963 that represents a move away from traditional documentary practices. An attempt to capture a carefully selected aspect of reality as directly as possible with a minimum of obstacles between the filmmaker and subject \” Fly on the wall\”
Italian Neorealism
(1944-1952) a style of film characterized by stories set amongst the poor and working class, filmed on location, frequently using nonprofessional actors. Italian neorealist films mostly contend with the difficult economical and moral conditions of post-World War II Italy, reflecting the changes in the Italian psyche and the conditions of everyday life: poverty and desperation. In opposition to glossy, studio films, newsreel stock, actual locations, no additional lighting, nonprofessional actors, episodic structure, value of ordinary people, compassionate point of view, Fascist past and aftermath of devastation, Christian and Marxist humanism, emphasis on emotions, documentary style, conversational speech, \”styleless style
French New wave
The New Wave (French: La Nouvelle Vague) was a blanket term coined by critics for a group of French filmmakers of the late 1950s and 1960s, influenced by Italian Neorealism and classical Hollywood cinema. Although never a formally organized movement, the New Wave filmmakers were linked by their self-conscious rejection of classical cinematic form and their spirit of youthful iconoclasm and is an example of European art cinema. Many also engaged in their work with the social and political upheavals of the era, making their radical experiments with editing, visual style, and narrative part of a general break with the conservative paradigm.
Auteur films: Jean luc godard
Third Cinema
third mode of cinema after WWII in third world countries – provided political engagement with the audience. Grew from radicalized cinmea in Latin America 1960s
apparatus theory
an ideological mechanism based in a physical set of technologies, with the power to convince us that an illusion is real. explores the values built into film technology through the particular context of its historical development.

Get instant access to
all materials

Become a Member