Film Theory & Criticism Books
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.
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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.
This is an exploration of the figuring of absence in film. This study considers the placement of the breathing body in the film experience and its implications for the study of embodiment in film and sensuous spectatorship. Davina Quinlivan shapes her engagement with film by the foregrounding of the human body in the filmic diegesis and the viewing experience. This emphasis on the human body as an breathing body coupled with its fresh engagement with continental philosophy, Post-Structuralist Film Theory and Contemporary Western Cinema, makes a unique and valuable contribution to the field. Case studies are taken from the work of major directors, including Cronenberg and von Trier. Key concepts explored are filmic space (air and the elemental in film), corporeality (bodies on screen and the film itself as a breathing body) and inter-subjectivity (community and sociality). It makes a notable contribution to the study of film sound and haptic perception.
'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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In Moving Environments: Affect, Emotion, Ecology, and Film, international scholars investigate how films portray human emotional relationships with the more-than-human world and how such films act upon their viewers' emotions. Emotion and affect are the basic mechanisms that connect us to our environment, shape our knowledge, and motivate our actions. Contributors explore how film represents and shapes human emotion in relation to different environments and what role time, place, and genre play in these affective processes. Individual essays resituate well-researched environmental films such as An Inconvenient Truth and March of the Penguins by paying close attention to their emotionalizing strategies, and bring to our attention the affective qualities of films that have so far received little attention from ecocritics, such as Stan Brakhage's Dog Star Man. The collection opens a new discursive space at the disciplinary intersection of film studies, affect studies, and a growing body of ecocritical scholarship. It will be of interest not only to scholars and students working in the field of ecocriticism and the environmental humanities, but for everyone with an interest in our emotional responses to film.
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.
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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.
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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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The contemporary German directors collectively known as the "Berlin School" constitute the most significant filmmaking movement to come out of Germany since the New German Cinema of the 1970s, not least because their films mark the emergence of a new film language. The Berlin School filmmakers, including Christian Petzold, Thomas Arslan, Angela Schanelec, Christoph Hochhausler, Ulrich Kohler, Benjamin Heisenberg, Maren Ade, and Valeska Grisebach, are reminiscent of the directors of the New German Autorenkino and of French cinema des auteurs of the 1960s. This is the first book-length study of the Berlin School in any language. Its central thesis - that the movement should be regarded as a "counter-cinema" - is built around the unusual style of realism employed in its films, a realism that presents images of a Germany that does not yet exist. Abel concludes that it is precisely how these films' images and sounds work that renders them political: they are political not because they are message-driven films but because they are made politically, thus performing a "redistribution of the sensible" - a direct artistic intervention in the way politics partitions ways of doing and making, saying and seeing. Marco Abel is Professor of English and Film Studies at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln.
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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).
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.
L. A. Rebellion: Creating a New Black Cinema is the first book dedicated to the films and filmmakers of the L. A. Rebellion, a group of African, Caribbean, and African American independent film and video artists that formed at the University of California, Los Angeles, in the 1970s and 1980s. The group-including Charles Burnett, Julie Dash, Haile Gerima, Billy Woodberry, Jamaa Fanaka, and Zeinabu irene Davis-shared a desire to create alternatives to the dominant modes of narrative, style, and practice in American cinema, works that reflected the full complexity of Black experiences. This landmark collection of essays and oral histories examines the creative output of the L. A. Rebellion, contextualizing the group's film practices and offering sustained analyses of the wide range of works, with particular attention to newly discovered films and lesser-known film-makers. Based on extensive archival work and preservation, this collection includes a complete filmography of the movement, over 100 illustrations (most of which are previously unpublished), and a bibliography of primary and secondary materials. This is an indispensible source book for scholars and enthusiasts, establishing the key role played by the L. A. Rebellion within the histories of cinema, Black visual culture, and postwar art in Los Angeles.
This book deals with the early intellectual reception of the cinema and the manner in which art theorists, philosophers, cultural theorists, and especially artists of the first decades of the twentieth century responded to its advent. While the idea persists that early writers on film were troubled by the cinema's lowly form, this work proposes that there was another, largely unrecognised, strain in the reception of it. Far from anxious about film's provenance in popular entertainment, some writers and artists proclaimed that the cinema was the most important art for the moderns, as it exemplified the vibrancy of contemporary life. This view of the cinema was especially common among those whose commitments were to advanced artistic practices. Their notions about how to recast the art media (or the forms forged from those media's materials) and the urgency of doing so formed the principal part of the conceptual core of the artistic programs advanced by the vanguard art movements of the first half of the twentieth century. This book, a companion to the author's previous, Harmony & Dissent examines the Dada and Surrealist movements as responses to the advent of the cinema.
Danish filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg's searing film Festen ("The Celebration") was the first film from the Dogme 95 stable. Adhering to Dogme's cinematic purity -- no artificial lighting, no superficial action, no credit for the director, and only handheld cameras for equipment -- Festen was a commercial and critical success, winning the Jury Prize at Cannes in 1998 and garnering world-wide attention. The film is set at the sixtieth birthday party of Helge, the wealthy patriarch of a large Danish family. The birthday festivities take a turn when Helge's son Christian raises a toast and denounces Helge for having raped and abused him as a child, along with his twin sister, who recently committed suicide. The film explores the escalating consequences of Christian's announcement, from the stunned dinner party's collective denial, to violence, to an unexpected catharsis. C Claire Thomson's study examines the history and context of the film, setting it within the Danish cultural and socio-political milieu. It examines the place of the film as a work of national cinema and examines its pioneering role as an experiment in digital cinema.
Andre Bazin's writings on cinema are among the most influential reflections on the medium ever written. Even so, his critical interests ranged widely and encompassed the new media" of the 1950s, including television, 3D film, Cinerama, and CinemaScope. Fifty-seven of his reviews and essays addressing these new technologies their artistic potential, social influence, and relationship to existing art forms have been translated here for the first time in English with notes and an introduction by leading Bazin authority Dudley Andrew. These essays show Bazin's astute approach to a range of visual media and the relevance of his critical thought to our own era of new media. An exciting companion to the essential What Is Cinema? volumes, Andre Bazin's New Media is excellent for classroom use and vital for anyone interested in the history of media.
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From the dawn of cinema, images of Indigenous peoples have been dominated by Hollywood stereotypes and often negative depictions from elsewhere around the world. With the advent of digital technologies, however, many Indigenous peoples are working to redress the imbalance in numbers and counter the negativity. The contributors to Reverse Shots offer a unique scholarly perspective on current work in the world of Indigenous film and media. Chapters focus primarily on Canada, Australia, and New Zealand and cover areas as diverse as the use of digital technology in the creation of Aboriginal art, the healing effects of Native humour in First Nations documentaries, and the representation of the pre-colonial in films from Australia, Canada, and Norway.
This history covers the filmmaking tradition often referred to as cinema militant, which emerged in France during the events of May 1968 and flourished for a decade. While some films produced were created by established filmmakers, including Chris Marker, Jean-Luc Godard, and William Klein, others were helmed by left-wing filmmakers working in the extreme margins of French cinema. This latter group gave voice to underrepresented populations, such as undocumented immigrants (sans papiers), entry-level factory workers (ouvriers specialises), highly intellectual Marxist-Leninist collectives, and militant special interest groups. While this book spans the broad history of this uncharted tradition, it particularly focuses on these lesser-known figures and works and the films of Cinelutte, Les groupes medvedkine, Atelier de recherche cinematographique, Cinethique, and the influential Marxist filmmaker Jean-Pierre Thorn. Each represent a certain tendency of this movement in French film history, offering an invaluable account of a tradition that also sought to share untold histories.
Cult Film as a Guide to Life investigates the world and experience of cult films, from well-loved classics to the worst movies ever made. Including comprehensive studies of cult phenomena such as trash films, exploitation versions, cult adaptations, and case studies of movies as different as Showgirls, Room 237 and The Lord of the G-Strings, this lively, provocative and original book shows why cult films may just be the perfect guide to making sense of the contemporary world. Using his expertise in two fields, I.Q. Hunter also explores the important overlap between cult film and adaptation studies. He argues that adaptation studies could learn a great deal from cult and fan studies about the importance of audiences' emotional investment not only in texts but also in the relationships between them, and how such bonds of caring are structured over time. The book's emergent theme is cult film as lived experience. With reference mostly to American cinema, Hunter explores how cultists, with their powerful emotional investment in films, care for them over time and across numerous intertexts in relationships of memory, nostalgia and anticipation.