January 24, 2018 | Author: Anonymous | Category: Arts & Humanities, Performing Arts, Drama
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Film Analysis: Looking and Writing About Movies 1 MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 17 2012

What is a Film?  Film: 

Celluloid strip on which images that make up motion pictures were captured, spliced, and projected

 Movie: 

Short for “motion pictures”

 Cinema  

Comes from Greek kinesis (“movement”) Auguste and Louis Lumière coined “cinema hall” as space to exhibit their invention

 Differentiation and relevance among terms is constantly

undermined by many factors.

What is a Film?  Industry:  Commercial product for mass consumer; film as one medium of multi-million $ franchise developments across world  (Popular) Art Form:  Synthesis of aesthetic choices to convey meaning  Entertainment:  Source of pleasure and escape  Illusions of Reality:  Screen functions as a metaphorical mirror or window

Making a Movie: Production 4

Scriptwriting and Funding: the script is developed and funding is acquired. 2. Preparation for Filming: planning the production. 3. Shooting: the actual film is made. 4. Assembly: images and sounds are combined, music, dialogue and titles are added. 1.

5. Distribution, Exhibition

Modes of Production 5

 Large Scale: prior to 1960s, large studios centrally

managed film production.  Independent Production: usually lower budget films where directors often have more control over production.  Small-Scale Production: where one person or a small group creates the entire film.

Art and Production Modes 6

 Films can be categorized based on how they are

made, such as the fiction (narrative) film and the documentary film.  The director is traditionally considered the author of a film because the crew’s job is to create the director’s vision.  The producer’s role is primarily to provide capital for funding the film (thus, he or she may have power over the “final cut”).

Audience Expectations  What do we expect from movies?      

   

Narrative: tells a story, cause-and-effect sequence of events Duration around 2 hours Understand individual character psychology and motivation Series of still images that, when shown at 24 fps, we perceive as continuous and fluid Action takes place in coherent realms of time and space Aesthetically pleasing

Commercial, feature-length movies Documentary Short films Abstract Experimental and Avant-garde

Why Care or Write About Films? 8

 Complex form of artistic representation and


 “The movies we see shape the way we view the world

around us and our place in that world. What’s more, a close analysis of any particular movie can tell us a great deal about the artist, society, or industry that created it” (Barsam and Monahan 2)

 Recognize cinematic tools and principles employed to tell

stories, convey information and meaning, and influence our emotions and ideas.

Film Analysis  Involves breaking down a sequence, scene, or entire

movie to identify the tools and techniques that comprise it  Also concerned with the function and potential effect of that combination is unintended effects  Examines “cinematic language” or film grammar  Many different approaches in film analysis  Essential questions: what does it mean? how is meaning

communicated? what stylistic elements are manipulated to convey important information?

Artistic Decisions in Filmmaking 10

 Artistic Considerations:  Form consists of the overall, unified shape of the

parts of the film.  Style is the way a film uses the techniques of filmmaking.  Formal Film Analysis involves the study of narrative structure and filmic style.

Film Form as a System  Form: the overall system of relations that we can

perceive among various elements in the whole film 

Complex synthesis of elemental systems 

Mise-en-scène, sound, narrative, editing, etc.

Highly organized, assembled, and sculpted elements

 Form can include narrative elements and stylistic

elements. Ex. The Wizard of Oz

Principles of Film Form  Function 

Every element within a film can have one or more functions, fulfilling role(s) within the whole system (motivation)

 Similarity, Repetition, and Patterns 

A repeated significant element is a “motif”; patterns create expectation

 Difference and Variation 

Changes and variations of elements can create variety, contrast and change

 Development 

A progression moving from beginning to middle to end (segmentation)

 Unity/Disunity  Realism/Antirealism 

“Realism” in movies is highly orchestrated and constructed

Fundamentals of Film Form  Movies depend on light  Interplay between illumination and shadow to imply character state of mind  Light (responsible for projection) and lighting  Movies provide an illusion of movement  Persistence of Vision: brain retains an image longer than the eye records it  Phi Phenomenon: created by events that succeed each other rapidly (apparent motion of light, two adjacent lights blinking)  Movies manipulate space and time in unique ways

Ch. 3 “Film Terms and Topics”  Themes  Film and the Other Arts  Narrative  Characters  Point of View  Mise-en-scène and Realism  Composition and the Image  The Shot  The Edited Image  Sound  Animation, 3-D, and New Media


 Design  Settings and décor  Props  Lighting  Actors  Costumes  Makeup  Hairstyling

 Composition  Organization  Distribution  Balance  Relationship of actors and objects in frame

What is Editing?  The coordination of one shot with the next  The duration of the of the shot and its relation to the

previous and next shots affect the viewer’s reaction  Examples of techniques:  Fade-in/fade-out, Wipe, Dissolve, Cut, Jump Cut, Split Screen, Freeze-frame, Iris

 Major approaches to editing: continuity and


Editing techniques to maintain continuity • Establishing (Master) Shot • Shot/Reverse Shot • Parallel Editing

Crosscutting • Point-of-view • Match Cuts • On-Action • Graphic Match • Eyeline Match •

What makes cinema “cinematic”?  Narratives come from literature, folk tales, mythology  Mise-en-scène comes from theatre  Individual still/shot comes from photography  Framed and composed images derive from painting  Editing makes cinema “cinema” (claims Vertov) 

“Montage” means editing in French  “monter” (to assemble or put together)

Cinematography  Literally means “writing in movement”(capturing moving

images on film or digital media)  Greek roots:   

Kinesis (“movement”) Photo (“light”) Graphia (“writing”)

 Cinematographic qualities include the angles, heights, and

movements of the camera.

Cinematographic Properties of Shot  Film Stock  Gauge/Size, B&W, Color  Lighting  Source, Quality, Direction, Style  Low-key, High-key, 3-point  Lenses  Aperture (adjustable iris)  Focal Length (perspective; long=narrow POV)  Depth of field (distances in focus)  Ex. Racking (change in POV)

Framing and Composition  Transforms unlimited view into a limited view  Aspect ratio (w:h: 1.33:1)  Considerations:  Proximity to the camera  Depth of composition  Camera angle and height  Scale of various objects  Type of camera movement

Depth, Angle and Height, Scale  Shallow, deep-focus cinematography, rule of thirds,

centered  Eye-level, high-angle, low-angle, dutch-angle, aerialview  Size and placement of object in space

More Cinematography  Pan, Tilt, Tracking/Dolly/Travelling, Zoom, Crane  Handheld camera  Shakiness can convey sense of loss of control  Steadicam

 Omniscient POV, Character POV  Slow motion, fast motion, long take (duration)

 Difference between “long take” and “long shot”

Fundamentals of Film Sound  Perceptual Properties • Loudness is connected to perceived distance, but is constantly manipulated. • Pitch is the highness or lowness of the sound, and helps viewers distinguish different sounds. • Timbre is the tone quality, whether nasal, mellow or in between.

Dimensions of Film Sound  Rhythm 

Beat, tempo, pattern

 Fidelity  Space  Diegetic and non-diegetic sound  

Diegetic sound can be onscreen or offscreen. Diegetic sound can be external (objective) or internal (subjective).

 Perspective

 Time 

Synchronous or asynchronous, simultaneous or non-simultaneous.

Six Approaches to Writing about Film 28

 1. Film History  Organize and investigate films according to their place within a historical context and in light of historical developments  2. National Cinemas  Discuss films in terms of their cultural or national character, in that ways of seeing the world and ways of portraying the world in the movies differ for each country and culture.  3. Genres  Discuss films based on common patterns of form and content in particular “genres” that change historically

Approaches (continued) 29

 4. Auteurs  Identifies and examines a movie by associating it with a director or occasionally with another dominant figure, such as a “star”  5. Formalism  Concerned with matters of structure and style, especially how features (mise-en-scene, narrative, etc.) are organized in particular ways  6. Ideology  Examine the ideas or beliefs on which we based our lives and our vision of the world  Race, class, gender, nation/postcolonial, queer theory

Audiences and Aims of Film Criticism 30

 The Movie Review  Appears in almost every newspaper  Aims at the broadest possible audience (general)  Aims to introduce unknown films and to recommend or not recommend them  The Theoretical Essay  Assumes audience knowledgeable about specific films, film history, and critical theory  Aims to explain some of the larger and complex structures of the cinema and how we understand them  Ex. Essay on the relation of film and reality.

Audiences and Aims (continued) 31

 The Critical Essay (Film Analysis)  Between Review and Theoretical Essay  Assume audience has seen or familiar with the film 

Envision audience as fellow students

Aims to reveal subtleties or complexities that may have escaped viewers (point our attention to details or readings that illuminate a new understanding of the film) Ex. Might focus on a short sequence at the beginning, or a camera angle that becomes associated with specific character.

Principles of Narrative Film 32

 Narrative is the telling of a story  A chain of events in cause-effect relationship occurring in time and space  While common in fiction films, it can be employed in

other types of films 

“Narrative structure” in March of the Penguins

 Narrative construction relies on the viewer to pick up

cues, anticipate action and recall information

 Analyze how movies tell their stories, and what

stories they tell.

Elements of Narrative  Exposition  Everything preceding and including inciting moment—the event that sets the rest of the narrative in motion  Rising Action  Development of the action  Climax  Narrative’s turning point  Falling Action  Following climax, bring narrative to conclusion  Denouement  Resolution or conclusion of the narrative  Beginning, Middle, Ending  Elements of Narrative in Mildred Pierce

Plot and Story 34

 Story: all the events in a narrative, both explicitly

presented and inferred.  Diegesis: total world of the story (events, characters, objects, settings, and sounds) 

Nondiegetic and diegetic elements

 Plot: non-diegetic elements and everything visibly

and audibly presented, but not what is presumed or inferred.  Story and Plot elements in Mildred Pierce

Story Range 35

 Range refers to how much information the viewer is

given; think of a continuum.  Restricted: when viewer’s knowledge is restricted to that of a main character.  Unrestricted: When viewers know more and hear more than any of the characters know.  Story range in Mildred Pierce

Story Depth 36

 Depth refers to how deeply the plot plunges the

viewer into the character’s psychological states.  This is also a continuum that can vary between objective and subjective points of view.  

Point-of-view shot Mental subjectivity can be embedded in framework of objective narration (8 ½, Memento)

 Story depth in Mildred Pierce

Narration and Narrators 37

 Narration: telling of a story 

Range (restricted/omniscient) and depth (subjective/objective)

 Narrator: character (within the story or not) who

purports to be telling the viewer the story. 

 

First-person (actual character) Voice-over (not a character) Reliable, unreliable

 Direct Address: character turns to camera and speaks

to the audience  Narration in Mildred Pierce

Narrative Considerations  Order (when occur in plot)  Events (which are chosen to be represented)  Suspense vs. Surprise (Hitchcock: bomb under table)  Repetition (how often event occurs in plot)

 Characters (round, flat, protagonist, antagonist,

characterization)  Setting (time and place)  Scope (overall range of movie’s story)

 Narrative Structure in Mildred Pierce

Mildred Pierce (1945)  Directed by Michael Curtiz  Adapted from the 1941 novel by James M. Cain  Nominated for 6 Academy Awards  In 1996, preserved by the Library of Congress


Film Registry

Six Approaches to Mildred Pierce  Film History  National Cinema  Auteurism  Genre

 Formalism  Ideology  David Bordwell, “Cognition and Comprehension:

Viewing and Forgetting in Mildred Pierce” (2008) 

Roland Barthes, study of narrative structures (137, 141, 143)

Cognitive Approach or Perspective  What enables films—particularly narrative films—to

be understood? Or makes them understandable? 

Search for ways in which films are designed to elicit the sorts of cognizing activities that will lead to comprehension (137)

 Norm: wide set of customary practices (screen space)

 Cues: norm-driven subsystem, initiate process of

elaboration  Schema-based knowledge: knowledge structure that enables the spectator to extrapolate beyond the given information (ex. knowledge of ways the world works)  These factors vary historically and culturally (1940s)

Argument  Mildred Pierce: “classical Hollywood cinema” (138)  Case study for cognitive approach  Bordwell argues that the film relies on norms of

narration to encourage two possible scenarios for inference and hypothesis testing  Furthermore, the film assumes the viewer will forget certain stylistic norms 

Thus, Hollywood norms exhibit a hierarchy of knowledge, privileging narrative over style, allowing for the filmmakers to conceal crucial narrational deceptions (138).

Two Methods of Murder  Context: early 1940s  

Who? (conceal murderer’s identity):The Maltese Falcon (1941) Why? (conceal motive of murder): The Letter (1940)

 Who is the murderer? 

Cues: 

The word “Mildred,” smooth transition from house to Mildred on pier, she tries to frame Wally, Bert tries to say he was the murderer

The issue then becomes why does she do it?

 Why is Mildred not shown to be the murderer?  

Conventions of mystery stories: red herrings, double-crossing, false appearances/ Skeptical spectator (vs. naïve)

 We create hypotheses and comprehend cues and

information to confirm or discredit our hypotheses.

The Partial Replay  Viewing, like reading, involves “forgetting” (143), and

filmmakers exploit the viewer’s inability to recall details  Ex. the two murder scenes 

“By speaking when he is not looking toward his killer, he no longer seems to be naming the culprit but rather recalling Mildred” (147): we forget when and how Monty says “Mildred.” There is an ellipses (gap) between Monty’s murder and a car driving away that is “not marked at all” in the first version (149) “One overriding default assumption of the classical film is that a cut within a defined locale is taken to convey continuous duration unless there are stylist or contextual indications to the contrary (e.g., a dissolve or some drastic change of costume or furnishings)” (149)  The opening scene’s narration has concealed that two women were present, and that the most important pieces of info include that there was a murder, and a woman fled the scene. 

Conclusions  The film “deceives us blatantly but helps us overlook

the deception. It accomplishes this because narrative comprehension demands that we go beyond the data, jump to conclusions—in short, make inferences and frame hypotheses” (149)  The film shows how cognitive approach can relate comprehension with detailed observations about a film’s structure and style (formalism) 

Result is a significantly new picture of a film and its viewer.

Cognitive Approach  Isolates “comprehension” as a central viewing

activity 

Ignores other aspects of viewing experience: emotion, interpretation 

“When a critic posits Mildred as the Castrating Mother or a symbol of the contradictions of entrepreneurial capitalism, the critic is still seeking out cues, categorizing, applying schemas, and making inferences that carry weight among a particular social group” (150)

Not every classical Hollywood (narrative) film is a mystery 

Every narrative harbors secrets.

Gregg Garrett Essay on Adaptation  Narrative 

In Cain’s book, Mildred exhibits more flaws and questionable actions that challenged the Production Code of 1934 For the film, her act was cleaned up, she became more of a victim of circumstance rather than a sinner  Veda and Monty had to be punished by the end of the film 

 

Veda was a gifted singer in the book; her talent is almost completely erased from the film: she becomes a club singer/dancer Narrative structure: murder mystery, flashback story

 Joan Crawford   

Known for vitality and almost masculine-like drive Star during early 1930s, won Oscar for Lead Actress Her glamour may have elevated status of character (class)

The Hays Code: Self-Censorship  Motion Pictures Producers and Distributors of America

(MPPDA)  Improve public image after series of scandals, save money instead of losing money from audience boycotts  Handle foreign issues like quotas  Industry self-censorship: the Production Code of 1934     

Early 1930s conservatism Outline of moral standards governing depictions of crime, sex, violence, and other controversial subjects Controversy in 1939 over “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn” Studios releasing films without MPPDA seals of approval had to pay $25,000 fine A film without a seal also was barred from any MPPDA member’s theaters

The Hays Code: Self-Censorship  Objectionable material was still used but became

more indirect   

Fade-out could hint that a couple was about to make love Extreme violence could occur just offscreen Sophisticated dialogue could suggest much without violating the Code

 Abandoned in 1967, replaced by rating system



The Searchers Student Essay

Classical Hollywood Cinema 51

 Historically, in fiction filmmaking the action comes

from individual characters as causal agents 

Individual protagonist (usually male) motivated to achieve a clearly stated goal Continuity system

 Time is typically subordinate to cause and effect  Often Hollywood narrative is objective and involves

closure 

“Happy Ending”

Features of “Classical” Film Style  “Classical” or traditional mode of narrative cinema: 

      

Encouraged the audience to forget technique and labor that went into creation of the final productive (imagines passive viewer) Individual character identification with relatable psychology (we understand their motivation/searching for a goal) Chronological and causal narrative structure (beg-mid-end) Invisible editing Star system, minimal acting Continuity system:180deg rule, eyeline match, shot/reverse shot Studio sets Minimal photographic expressionism (promote “naturalism”) Narrative closure: resolution of problems (usually “happy” or satisfying to some degree)

Continuity Editing A system of editing that allows space, time and action to flow smoothly

over a series of shots  The rhythm is dependent on camera distance of the shot  The goal is to present a coherent, clear story and not draw attention to its construction  Becomes dominant form of editing in commercial cinema, particularly “classical Hollywood”  What happens on screen makes as much narrative sense as possible,

screen direction is consistent from shot to shot, and graphic, spatial, and temporal relations are maintained from shot to shot.

Genres  Hollywood specializes in producing and selling

“genre” films: action, comedy, family, epic, horror, etc.  Mildred Pierce   

Film Noir “Woman’s film” of 1930’s and 1940’s Melodrama, “weepie” “Film Bodies: Gender, Genre, and Excess” by Linda Williams-1991  Horror, Melodrama, Pornography  Ex. Burt leaves Mildred; Mildred arrives home to find Kay ill  “Get out before I kill you!” 

Defining Genre  Genres are groups of films that have themes, subjects

or techniques in common that unites them  Analyzing a Genre: 

Genre conventions are plot elements, themes, techniques or icons that define the genre. Genre films may choose to revise or reject the conventions associated with them. 

Ex. Star Wars (dir. George Lucas, 1976), Brokeback Mountain (dir. Ang Lee, 2005)

Genre films usually offer something familiar in terms of convention, but also something new.

Genre History  Genres are constantly changing over time, borrowing

techniques from other media and reflecting innovations.  Genres become established when one film has commercial success and is imitated.  Genres become in and out of fashion in cycles.

Film Noir “Genre”: style or “look”  “Dark film” (French): an outlook, tone, or style  Context of WWII: expose ordinary Americans to the horrors of war 

  

Films fed off the postwar disillusionment that followed prolonged exposure to warfare, atomic bomb, and political instability

Cynicism, sexuality, greed, corruption, fatalistic narrative Large urban spaces, night scenes, gritty and realistic exteriors Chiaroscuro lighting (contrast dark/light), complex narratives

Film Noir  Protagonist is antihero/outsider: self-destructive, not   

ambitious, world-weary; detective is frequent character Women are elevated to role of “femme fatale” (WWII context) Good and bad: complex roles, but they are always “punished” Ex. Lighting scheme, night scenes; Mildred drinks and smokes (world-weary); unreliable narration (Mildred’s version of story); two femme fatales; the “look” and narrative structure of the film James M. Cain: Postman, Double Indemnity

“Woman’s film” of 1930’s and 1940’s  Derived from domestic fiction  Focus on relationships among family members and the importance of women coping with enforced confinement and the paranoid fears it generates  Melodrama:  Repressive social conditions produce realms of fantasy  Resonances of the “if only” ultimately throw into relief the presumptions of the realist aesthetic  Ex. Stella Dallas (1937), Letter from an Unknown

Woman (1948), Now, Voyager (1942)

Todd Haynes (1961-)  Director of Mildred Pierce miniseries (2011)  Graduated from Brown University  Majored in art and semiotics  Filmography:  Superstar, short film (1987)  Poison (1990)  Safe (1995)  Velvet Goldmine (1998)  Far From Heaven (2002)  I’m Not There. (2007)

Far From Heaven (2002), All That Heaven Allows (1955)

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