Film Theory & Criticism Books
The BBC is a national institution that draws praise and criticism in equal measure. This entertaining collection of letters stretches over 40 years of programming and captures just how much joy, fury and hilarity the broadcaster has brought to the nation.
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These never-before-seen letters and telegrams to the BBC provide a fascinating alternative history and cover momentous events ranging from the broadcast of the Coronation in 1953 through to the groundbreaking drama of Grange Hill ('just say no, Zammo!').
The letters have been categorised into different themes including political bias and the Royal Family and this is the perfect read for anyone who loves reading all about the moral outrage of the nation.
This book presents an ecophilosophy of cinema: an account of the moving image in relation to the lived ecologies - material, social, and perceptual relations - within which movies are produced, consumed, and incorporated into cultural life. If cinema takes us on mental and emotional journeys, the author argues that those journeys that have reshaped our understanding of ourselves, life, and the Earth and universe. A range of styles are examined, from ethnographic and wildlife documentaries, westerns and road movies, sci-fi blockbusters and eco-disaster films to the experimental and art films of Tarkovsky, Herzog, Malick, and Brakhage, to YouTube's expanding audio-visual universe.
Film Dialogue is the first anthology in film studies devoted to the topic of language in cinema, bringing together leading and emerging scholars to discuss the aesthetic, narrative, and ideological dimensions of film speech that have largely gone unappreciated and unheard. Consisting of thirteen essays divided into three sections: genre, auteur theory, and cultural representation, Film Dialogue revisits and reconfigures several of the most established topics in film studies in an effort to persuade readers that "spectators" are more accurately described as "audiences," that the gaze has its equal in eavesdropping, and that images are best understood and appreciated through their interactions with words. Including an introduction that outlines a methodology of film dialogue study and adopting an accessible prose style throughout, Film Dialogue is a welcome addition to ongoing debates about the place, value, and purpose of language in cinema.
"I wanted this to be a narrative. So finally Jean-Luc went all the way: every line in the script a quotation from somewhere else. Every blessed line. Love doesn't die. It's people who die. Love just goes away." -from "NOUVELLE VAGUE / New Wave (1990)" Stephen Scobie celebrates "the greatest film director of his age" with poetry exploring 44 of Godard's films. Subtle yet profound unities play from poem to poem. Characters, locations, images, and the generous use of quotation jump-cut and recur to send the imagination reeling through the larger works of both artists. Readers will be seduced to linger within the writing and encouraged to seek beyond, to Godard's own oeuvre. The book is sharply envisioned and carefully cadenced so as to delight readers who may not be familiar with Godard's films. Those already acquainted with Godard's work will find At the limit of breath a most rewarding experience.
This book examines the role of direct address within fiction cinema. Film characters are not supposed to look at the camera, so what happens when they do acknowledge our presence as spectators? It is often assumed that this is incompatible with the voyeurism and the presence - absence that defines the cinema experience and disrupts our involvement in the fiction. This book revaluates these and other fundamental assumptions about the medium by demonstrating that direct address is compatible with - and is in some cases a convention of - various traditions of filmmaking. Breaking the Fourth Wall is the first book to provide a broad understanding of the role of direct address within fiction cinema. Chapters on the role of direct address in Hollywood comedies and musicals, as well as in some 'alternative' film practices, are accompanied by extended readings of individual films in which the illusion of eye contact between spectator and character offers a rich metaphor for the problems of vision (insight, foresight, other kinds of perceptiveness) that are so often the currency of movie narratives. In examining direct address, it returns the reader to fundamental and foundational debates concerning how cinema has been defined since the early part of the 20th century, making it an invaluable resource for students and researchers in Film Studies.
This book places the concept of duration at the centre of an understanding of cinema and spectatorship. The process of aesthetic imaging in time is a unique and fascinating characteristic of cinema. Why, then, has temporality, and specifically duration, received so little attention in theoretical accounts of film experience? This book makes the concept of duration the central tenet in an understanding of cinema and spectatorship. From this vantage point, the book reviews two major strands of film theory: embodied viewing and the senses, and the film-philosophy of Gilles Deleuze. Unlike much contemporary film theory, Mroz's book emphasises the necessity of considering the close relationship between intellectual comprehension and sensual apprehension, as mediated through film aesthetics. In the duration of the film experience, sensual responses to filmed textures and the interpretive contexts that we inevitably bring to bear on films are continually interacting. Exactly how this occurs is demonstrated in detailed case studies of films by Antonioni (L'Avventura), Tarkovsky (Mirror) and Kieslowski (The Decalogue).
Ever since its inception, British cinema has been obsessed with crime and the criminal. One of the first narrative films to be produced in Britain, the Hepworth's 1905 short "Rescued by Rover," was a fast-paced, quick-edited tale of abduction and kidnap, and the first British sound film, Alfred Hitchcock's "Blackmail" (1930), centered on murder and criminal guilt. For a genre seemingly so important to the British cinematic character, there is little direct theoretical or historical work focused on it. The Britain of British cinema is often written about in terms of national history, ethnic diversity, or cultural tradition, yet very rarely in terms of its criminal tendencies and dark underbelly. This volume assumes that, to know how British cinema truly works, it is necessary to pull back the veneer of the costume piece, the historical drama, and the rom-com and glimpse at what is underneath. For every "Brief Encounter" (1945) there is a "Brighton Rock" (2010), for every "Notting Hill "(1999) there is a "Long Good Friday" (1980).
Films for children and young people are a constant in the history of cinema, from its beginnings to the present day. This book serves as a comprehensive introduction to the children's film, examining its recurrent themes and ideologies, and common narrative and stylistic principles. Opening with a thorough consideration of how the genre may be defined, this volume goes on to explore how children's cinema has developed across its broad historical and geographic span, with particular reference to films from the United States, Britain, France, Denmark, Russia, India, and China. Analyzing changes and continuities in how children's film has been conceived, it argues for a fundamental distinction between commercial productions intended primarily to entertain, and non-commercial films made under pedagogical principles, and produced for purposes of moral and behavioral instruction. In elaborating these different forms, this book outlines a history of children's cinema from the early days of commercial cinema to the present, explores key critical issues, and provides case studies of major children's films from around the world.
Storytelling in World Cinemas, Vol. 1: Forms is an innovative collection of essays that discuss how different cinemas of the world tell stories. The book locates European, Asian, African, and Latin American films within their wider cultural and artistic frameworks, showing how storytelling forms in cinema are infused with influences from other artistic, literary, and oral traditions. This volume also reconsiders cinematic storytelling in general, highlighting the hybridity of 'national' forms of storytelling, calling for a rethinking of African cinematic storytelling that goes beyond oral traditions, and addressing films characterised by 'non-narration'. This study is the first in a two-volume project, with the second focusing on the contexts of cinematic storytelling.
What does it mean for film and video to be experimental? In this collection of essays framed by the concept "ex-" - meaning from, outside, and no longer - Akira Mizuta Lippit explores the aesthetic, technical, and theoretical reverberations of avant-garde film and video. "Ex-Cinema" is a sustained reflection on the ways in which experimental media artists move outside the conventions of mainstream cinema and initiate a dialogue on the meaning of cinema itself.
At the time of its release in 1983, Local Hero, starring Burt Lancaster and Fulton MacKay, was the most expensive film ever to be made in Scotland. It remains as important and influential today as it was then. David Manderson's SCOTNOTE study guide considers the impact of Local Hero on the Scottish film industry and the rest of the world, while evaluating the film's influence on Scottish filmmakers. This study guide explores important aspects of the film, including the story of its production, inspirations for the plot, characters, themes and critical reception. It also examines the language of film and includes a guide to cinematography and a glossary of technical terms. These notes are suitable for media studies students, senior school pupils and students of all levels.
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Film Criticism, the Cold War, and the Blacklist examines the long-term reception of several key American films released during the postwar period, focusing on the two main critical lenses used in the interpretation of these films: propaganda and allegory. Produced in response to the hearings held by the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) that resulted in the Hollywood blacklist, these films' ideological message and rhetorical effectiveness was often muddled by the inherent difficulties in dramatizing villains defined by their thoughts and belief systems rather than their actions. Whereas anti-Communist propaganda films offered explicit political exhortation, allegory was the preferred vehicle for veiled or hidden political comment in many police procedurals, historical films, Westerns, and science fiction films. Jeff Smith examines the way that particular heuristics, such as the mental availability of exemplars and the effects of framing, have encouraged critics to match filmic elements to contemporaneous historical events, persons, and policies. In charting the development of these particular readings, Film Criticism, the Cold War, and the Blacklist features case studies of many canonical Cold War titles, including The Red Menace, On the Waterfront, The Robe, High Noon, and Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
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"In all film there is the desire to capture the motion of life, to refuse immobility," Agnes Varda has noted. But to capture the reality of human experience, cinema must fasten on stillness and inaction as much as motion. Slow Movies investigates movies by acclaimed international directors who in the past three decades have challenged mainstream cinema's reliance on motion and action. More than other realist art cinema, slow movies by Lisandro Alonso, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Pedro Costa, Jia Zhang-ke, Abbas Kiarostami, Cristian Mungiu, Alexander Sokurov, Bela Tarr, Gus Van Sant and others radically adhere to space-times in which emotion is repressed along with motion; editing and dialogue yield to stasis and contemplation; action surrenders to emptiness if not death.
'The finest film critic in Britain at the absolute top of his form' Stephen Fry 'Entertainingly incendiary stuff' Empire A hatchet job isn't just a bad review, it's a total trashing. Mark Kermode is famous for them - Pirates of the Caribbean, Sex and the City 2, the complete works of Michael Bay. Beginning with his favourite hatchet job ever, Mark tells us about the best bad reviews in history, why you have to be willing to tell a director face-to-face their movie sucks, and about the time he apologized to Steven Spielberg for badmouthing his work. But why do we love really bad reviews? Is it so much harder to be positive? And is the Internet ruining how we talk about cinema? The UK's most trusted film critic answers all these questions and more in this hilarious, fascinating and argumentative new book. 'A wry, robust and developed defence of accountable critical voices' Total Film 'Very accessible, entertaining and relevant ...warmly recommended' Den of Geek
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The Subject of Film and Race is the first comprehensive intervention into how film critics and scholars have sought to understand cinema's relationship to racial ideology. In attempting to do more than merely identify harmful stereotypes, research on 'films and race' appropriates ideas from post-structuralist theory. But on those platforms, the field takes intellectual and political positions that place its anti-racist efforts at an impasse. While presenting theoretical ideas in an accessible way, Gerald Sim's historical materialist approach uniquely triangulates well-known work by Edward Said with the Neo-Marxian writing about film by Theodor Adorno and Fredric Jameson. The Subject of Film and Race takes on topics such as identity politics, multiculturalism, multiracial discourse, and cyborg theory, to force film and media studies into rethinking their approach, specifically towards humanism and critical subjectivity. The book illustrates theoretical discussions with a diverse set of familiar films by John Ford, Michael Mann, Todd Solondz, Quentin Tarantino, Keanu Reeves, and others, to show that we must always be aware of capitalist history when thinking about race, ethnicity, and films.
Film Theory addresses the core concepts and arguments created or used by academics, critical film theorists, and filmmakers, including the work of Dudley Andrew, Raymond Bellour, Mary Ann Doane, Miriam Hansen, bell hooks, Siegfried Kracauer, Raul Ruiz, P. Adams Sitney, Bernard Stiegler, and Pier Paolo Pasolini. This volume takes the position that film theory is a form of writing that produces a unique cinematic grammar; and like all grammars, it forms part of the system of rules that govern a language, and is thus applicable to wider range of media forms. In their creation of authorial trends, identification of the technology of cinema as a creative force, and production of films as aesthetic markers, film theories contribute an epistemological resource that connects the technologies of filmmaking and film composition. This book explores these connections through film theorisations of processes of the diagrammatisation (the systems, methodologies, concepts, histories) of cinematic matters of the filmic world.
The first book to unpack American cinema's long history of representing death, this work considers movie sequences in which the process of dying becomes an exercise in legibility and exploration for the camera. Reading attractions-based cinema, narrative films, early sound cinema, and films using voiceover or images of medical technology, C. Scott Combs connects the slow or static process of dying to formal film innovation throughout the twentieth century. He looks at Thomas Edison's Electrocuting an Elephant (1903), D. W. Griffith's The Country Doctor (1909), John Ford's How Green Was My Valley (1941), Billy Wilder's Sunset Boulevard (1950), Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), and Clint Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby (2004), among other films, to argue against the notion that film cannot capture the end of life because it cannot stop moving forward. Instead, he shows how the end of dying occurs more than once and in more than one place, understanding death in cinema as constantly in flux, wedged between technological precision and embodied perception.
How do films work? How do they tell a story? How do they move us and make us think? Through detailed examinations of passages from classic films, Marilyn Fabe supplies the analytic tools and background in film history and theory to enable us to see more in every film we watch. Ranging from D. W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation to James Cameron's Avatar, and ending with an epilogue on digital media, Closely Watched Films focuses on exemplary works of fourteen film directors whose careers together span the history of the narrative film. Lively and down-to-earth, this concise introduction provides a broad, complete, and yet specific picture of visual narrative techniques that will increase readers' excitement about and knowledge of the possibilities of the film medium. Shot-by-shot analyses of short passages from each film ground theory in concrete examples. Fabe includes original and well-informed discussions of Soviet montage, realism and expressionism in film form, classical and modern sound theory, the classic Hollywood film, Italian neorealism, the French New Wave, auteur theory, modernism and postmodernism in film, political cinema, feminist film theory and practice, and narrative experiments in new digital media. Encompassing the earliest silent films as well as those that exploit the most recent technological innovations, this book gives us the particulars of how film - arguably the most influential of contemporary forms of representation - constitutes our pleasure, influences our thoughts, and informs our daily reality. Updated to include a discussion of 3-D and advanced special effects, this tenth anniversary edition is an essential film studies text for students and professors alike.
The image that appears on the movie screen is the direct and tangible result of the joint efforts of the director and the cinematographer. A Hidden History of Film Style is the first study to focus on the collaborations between directors and cinematographers, a partnership that has played a crucial role in American cinema since the early years of the silent era. Christopher Beach argues that an understanding of the complex director-cinematographer collaboration offers an important model that challenges the pervasive conventional concept of director as auteur. Drawing upon oral histories, early industry trade journals, and other primary materials, Beach examines key innovations like deep focus, color, and digital cinematography, and in doing so produces an exceptionally clear history of the craft. Through analysis of several key collaborations in American cinema from the silent era to the late twentieth century such as those of D. W. Griffith and Billy Bitzer, William Wyler and Gregg Toland, and Alfred Hitchcock and Robert Burks this pivotal book underlines the importance of cinematographers to both the development of cinematic technique and the expression of visual style in film.
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There is no disputing that the coming of sound heralded a new era for adaptations. We take it for granted today that a film is enhanced by sound but it was not a view unanimously held in the early period of sound cinema. While there was a substantial degree of skepticism in the late 1920s and early 30s about the advantages of sound, what we would call technophobia today, the inclusion of speech in screen versions of literary and theatrical works, undeniably revised what it was to be an adaptation: words. Focusing on promotional materials, Adaptations in the Sound Era tracks early attempts to promote sound through the elevation of words in adaptations in the early sound period. The popular appeal of these films clearly stands in opposition to academic regard for them and the book reflects on the presence and marketing of 'words' in a variety of adaptations, from the introduction of sound in the late 1920s to the mid 1930s. This book contextualizes a range of adaptations in relation to debates about 'picturizations' of books in the early sound era, including reactions to the talking adaptation by writers such as, Irwin Panofsky, Aldous Huxley and Graham Greene. Film adaptations of Shakespeare, Dickens, gothic fiction and biopics are also discussed in relation to their use and promotion of sound or, more precisely, words.
Presents an analysis of what contemporary directors seek to attain by putting their spectators in a position of strong discomfort. In recent years some of the best known European and American art film directors have made films that place the spectator in a position of intense discomfort: Feel Bad Films. How are these unpleasurable viewing experiences created? What do the directors believe they can achieve via the feel bad experience? How can we situate the films in intellectual history? Why should we watch, study and teach feel bad films? These questions will be answered through analysis of films by directors such as Lars von Trier, Gus Van Sant, Claire Denis, Michael Haneke, Lucille Hadzihalilovic, Brian de Palma, Bruno Dumont and Harmony Korine. Features detailed analyses of the work of some of the best known contemporary art film directors; a stimulating contribution to current debates about the ethics and politics of cinematic spectatorship; the conceptualisation of a cinematic genre that will allow us to reconsider debates about the social potential of film; primary case studies include: Lars von Trier: Dogville (Denmark); Brian de Palma: Redacted (US); Gus Van Sant: Elephant (US); Lucille Hadzihalilovic: Innocence (France); Stan Brakhage: Kindering (US); Ruben Ostlund: Play (Sweden); Bruno Dumont: Twentynine Palms (France); Harmony Korine: Trash Humpers (US); Secondary case studies: Simon Staho: Daisy Diamond (Denmark); Claire Denis: I Can't Sleep (France); Michael Haneke: Hidden (France/Austria); Urszula Antoniak: Code Blue (Holland/Poland) and Claire Denis: The Bastards (France).
Ronnie Reagan's bizarre legs are sufficient reason to watch John Loves Mary (1949), a picture so ordinaire it needs this bizarre touch. When the faces in this historic still from the Museum of Modern Art are cropped, Reagan could pass for a butch lez from the Women's Army Corps who is about to put the old make on a fluff (Patricia Neal). -- from Cruising the Movies Cruising the Movies was Boyd McDonald's "sexual guide" to televised cinema, originally published by the Gay Presses of New York in 1985. The capstone of McDonald's prolific turn as a freelance film columnist for the magazine Christopher Street, Cruising the Movies collects the author's movie reviews of 1983--1985. This new, expanded edition also includes previously uncollected articles and a new introduction by William E. Jones. Eschewing new theatrical releases for the "oldies" once common as cheap programing on independent television stations, and more interested in starlets and supporting players than leading actors, McDonald casts an acerbic, queer eye on the greats and not-so-greats of Hollywood's Golden Age. Writing against the bleak backdrop of Reagan-era America, McDonald never ceases to find subversive, arousing delights in the comically chaste aesthetics imposed by the censorious Motion Picture Production Code of 1930--1968. Better known as the editor of the Straight to Hell paperback series -- a compendia of real-life sexual stories that is part pornography, part ethnography -- McDonald in his film writing reveals both his studious and sardonic sides. Many of the texts in Cruising the Movies were inspired by McDonald's attentive inspection of the now-shuttered MoMA Film Stills Archive, and his columns gloriously capture a bygone era in film fandom. Gay and subcultural, yet never reducible to a zany cult concern or mere camp, McDonald's "reviews" capture a lost art of queer cinephilia, recording a furtive obsession that once animated gay urban life. With lancing wit, Cruising celebrates gay subculture's profound embrace of mass culture, seeing film for what it is -- a screen that reflects our fantasies, desires, and dreams.
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What defines quality in contemporary Hollywood film? Although often seen as inhospitable to such work, the studios of the blockbuster-franchise era continue to produce features that make claims to higher status. Films such as The Social Network, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and Mystic River are marked as distinctive from the mainstream norm. But how exactly, and how are such qualities mixed with more familiar Hollywood ingredients, as found in larger doses in other examples such as Blood Diamond and the blockbuster-scale Inception? Quality Hollywood is the first book to address these issues, featuring close analysis of case study films, critical responses and the wider notions of cultural value on which these draw. Geoff King argues that such films retain a presence as a minority strand of studio output. The reasons for this combine factors relating to economics, the power of certain filmmakers and Hollywood s investment in its own prestige."
Both a precursor to and a critical member of the French New Wave, Agnes Varda weaves documentary and fiction into tapestries that portray distinctive places and complex human beings. Critics and aficionados have celebrated Varda's independence and originality since the New Wave touchstone Cleo from 5 to 7 (1962) brought her a level of international acclaim she has yet to relinquish. Film historian Kelley Conway traces Varda's works from her 1954 debut La Pointe Courte through a varied career that includes nonfiction and fiction shorts and features, installation art, and the triumphant 2008 documentary The Beaches of Agnes . Drawing on Varda's archives and conversations with the filmmaker, Conway focuses on the concrete details of how Varda makes films: a project's emergence, its development and the shifting forms of its screenplay, the search for financing, and the execution from casting through editing and exhibition. In the process, she departs from film history's traditional view of the French New Wave and reveals one artist's nontraditional trajectory through independent filmmaking. The result is an intimate consideration that reveals the artistic consistencies and bold changes in the career of one of the world's most exuberant and intriguing directors.