Category: Readings

HOFT How Film Theory got lost

Ray. Robert B “How a film Theory got Lost.” How a Film Theory got Lost and Other Mysteries in Cultural Studies. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001. 1-14

Ardono defined the history of film theory when he defined cinema as “the crossroads of magic and positivism:? Or a more succinct definition of film theory’s traditional project than to “break the spell” p2

Ray discusses the influence of cinema on the rest of society. That major businesses like Ford and General Motors started to employ cinematic strategy when they realised that enchantment sells. Back to cinema, Eisenstien alligned himself with the artistic principles of pictorialism; the movement that sought to legitimize photography by discusing its images as paintings. While not succumbing to the retrograde qualities he did subscribe to it’s fundamental premise: “that a medium’s aesthetic value is a direct function of its ability to transform the reality serving as its raw material.” p 3 “the artist-critic whose writings create the taste by which his own aesthetic practice is judged.”p3

Cinema afforded the artist editing, and montage enabled the director to manipulate the narrative. “less than ever does the mere reflection of reality reveal anything about reality… something must in fact be built up, something artificial posed.” p4 “Eisenstein had a thoroughly linguistic view of filmmaking, with shots amounting to ideograms, which, when artfully combined, could communicate the equivalent of sentences.” p5

Photogenie has an obvious connection to fetishism. “To endow with a poetic value that which does not yet possess it, to willfully restrict the field of vision so as to intensify expression: these are two properties that help make cinematic decor the adequate expression of modern beauty.”

 

Bazin contested the school of German and Soviet cinema saying that they “had betrayed this sacred purpose by “putting their faith in the image’ instead of in reality, convulsing the camera’s objectivity with abstracting montages and grotesque mise-en-scene”pg 8 “With photography, Bazin kept insisting, an absolutely accurate representation of the world could be produced, for the first time in history, by accident. This miraculous revelatory power made the Soviet or Expressionist imposition of subjective meanings seem a kind of misguided vanity.” p8

Directors like Welles and Wyler relied on long takes and deep focus, they had modestly permitted reality to speak for itself.

 

mise-en-scene “But at the heart of the Cashiers position lay a priviledged term that evoked both photogenie’s ineffability and the Surrealists’ “objective chance”. The term was mise-en-scene”.p9

“For me, mise-en-scene is not merely the gap between what we see and feel on the screen and what we can express in words, but is also the gap between the intention of the director and his effect upon the spectator…” pg9

“this paradigm accomplished wonderful things, above all alerting us to popular culture’s complicities with the most destructive, enslaving, and ignoble myths.”p12

“In the new dispensation, occassional film theorist Fredric Jameson would acknowledge that the appeal of beautiful and exciting storytelling is precisely the problem.” p12

“the most important debates in film theory will turn on the extreme path-dependence Barthes saw constraining the humanities.”

“Can the rational, politically sensitive Eisenstein tradition reunite with the Impressionist-Surrealist interest in photogenie and automatism? Can film theory, in other words, imitate filmmaking and recognize that, at it’s best, the cinema requires, as Thalberg understood, a subtle mixture of logical structure and untraslatable allure? Can film theory revive the Cahiers-Vouvelle Vague experiment, learning to write differently, to stage its research in the form of a spectacle?” p 13