Lecture 10:
Film Theory
Professor Aaron Baker
Last Time: Stars
• Movie Stars, Their
Images
• What They Are
• Why They Matter to
Us
• George Clooney
2
Today: Film Theory
• What is it?
• Different Uses for
Film
• Realism
• Formalism
3
What is Film Theory?
Lesson 10: Part I
4
Filmic Discourses
• Film Criticism
• Film History
• Film Theory
5
Film Criticism
• Analysis of one
or a group of
films
• A genre,
filmmaker
• Evaluation of
meaning,
importance
6
Film History
• How film as a
medium has
developed,
changed:
-economically
-technologically
-socially
-aesthetically
7
Film Theory
• What Is The
Nature of
Cinema?
• What It Can Do
As A Medium
• How It
Communicates
Meaning
8
Six Models
1. Realist (Formalist)
2. Auteurist
3. Psychoanalytic
4. Ideological
5. Feminist
6. Cognitive
9
Each Different Viewpoint
• Realism/Formalist – How films show
world
• Auteurist – Who creates film
• Psychoanalytic – How film represents,
impacts human development
10
Each Different Viewpoint
• Ideological – How film represents,
impacts viewers’ beliefs and values
• Feminist – How film represents women
• Cognitive – What is the experience of
film viewers
11
Realist and Formalist Film
Theory
Lesson 10: Part II
12
Focus Today: Realism and
Formalism
• What is a film’s ability to show the
world?
• Realism: Film documents reality.
• Limited filmmaker manipulation of what
is shown.
• Formalism: Filmmaker has to interpret
reality, manipulation of film form allows
communication of that interpretation.
13
Italian Neorealism
•
•
•
•
Decade After WW II
Italy in Ruins
Real Locations
Non Professional
Actors
• Challenges of
Everyday Life for
Working People
Bicycle Thieves (1948)
14
Clip #1: Bicycle Thieves
(1948)
• Director - Vittorio De Sica
• Antonio Ricci (Lamberto
Maggiorani) – Factory
Worker
• Post-WW II Rome
• Job Requires Bike
• Unemployment, Poverty
and Crime
15
Andre Bazin
• French Theorist
• Wrote Influential
Essays in 1940s
and 1950s
• Advocated specific
style to preserve
film’s realism
16
Preserve Viewer’s Experience
of Reality
•
•
•
•
Don’t Control Spectator
Keep Ambiguity in the Image
Deep Focus Photography
The Long Take
17
Deep Focus
• Deep Space in Focus
Before Camera
• Fore-, mid-,
background
• Multiple Narrative
Areas
• Clip #2 Citizen Kane
18
Continuity Editing
• Dominant in Hollywood
Films
• Directs Our Attention
As We Watch
• Emphasizes Dialogue,
Reaction, Cause and
Effect
• Creates Clear Space
and Time to Tell Story,
Narrative Continuity
19
Deep Focus/Long Take
• Deep Focus: Three
Planes
• No Editing
• Long Take/Time to
Look, Assess:
-What are character
motivations, emotions?
-What is best for little
Charlie?
20
Continuity Editing Ethical?
• Dirty Harry 1971
• Det. Callahan
(Eastwood)
• Stops Bank Robbers
• Establishing Shot
• Breakdown
• S/RS
• Clip # 3
21
Do You Feel Lucky Punk?
• Harry Takes
Control
• Restores Justice
• Shots Endanger
People on Street?
• Editing Focuses
on Harry,
Robbers
• Emphasizes
Harry’s Heroics
22
Formalism
• Opposite of Realist
Film Theory
• Accepts Need for
Filmmaker to
Interpret What
Shows Viewer
• Celebrates Film’s
Ability to Influence
Audience
Emotionally,
Intellectually
The Underneath, 1998
23
Style
• Realism = Lack of Style
• Formalism: Use Pattern
of Film Form (Style) to
Communicate Ideas,
Impact Audience
• Clip #3: The Cabinet of
Dr. Caligari (1920)
24
Expressionism
• Germany 1910’s, 20s
• Multi-Art Movement
• Expression of Insane
Mind
• Dark, Distorted,
Nightmarish Worlds
• Influenced Hollywood
(Noir, Horror)
25
Stylized Form
• Expresses Cesare’s
(Narrator’s)
Psychosis, Insanity.
• Formalism
Communicates
Psychological
Realism
26
Summary: Realism and
Formalism
• Same Objective: Communicate Insight About
the World
• Different Methods:
-Realism/Give Audience Direct Access to
That World
Vs.
-Formalism/Present an Interpretation of It
• Both Emphasize Ambiguity, Complexity
• Both Require Viewer Interpretation
27
Soviet Montage
• Political Formalism in
USSR
• 1920 First Film School
in Moscow
• Socialism: Society with
Equal Distribution of
Wealth
• Film to Promote This
Idea of Society
28
Lenin, Soviet Leader:
• “Cinema is for us
the most important
of the arts.”
• Challenge of
Unifying Soviet
Society
• 160 million citizens
in USSR
• 100 languages
29
What Kind of Cinema?
• Fiction or
Documentary?
• Popular
Entertainment or
Challenging Avant
Garde
• Agreed on Power of
Editing (Montage) to
Construct an
Ideology
30
Construct a Reality
• Shots Gain Meaning in
Relation to Other Shots
• E.g. Kuleshov Effect
• Actor Mojoukine’s
Expression Juxtaposed
with—
Soup = Hunger
Baby = Happiness
Coffin = Sadness
31
Sergei Eisenstein
• Soviet Filmmaker
• Intellectual
• Studied Literature,
Philosophy, Art,
History
• Multicultural
Influences: Kabuki
Theater, African
Sculpture, American
Indigenous Cultures
32
Eisenstein Starts in Theater of
Attractions
• Like Carnival
• Comedy,
Acrobatics,
• Shock Spectators
• Fire Crackers
• Theater is a Plough,
We Need a Tractor
[to Change Russian
Society].
33
Eisenstein’s Dialectical
Montage (Editing)
• Discontinuity Editing
• Shots Not Fit Together to Tell Story
• Shots in Conflict
• Based on Dialectic:
-Thesis/Antithesis = Synthesis
• Karl Marx’s Principle of History
-Workers/Owners = Revolution
34
Battleship Potemkin (1925)
• Eisenstein’s Historical Film
• 1905 Sailors Mutiny on
Black Sea near Odessa
• People of Odessa at
Waterfront in Support
• Czar’s (Emperor’s) Troops
Violently Suppress Protest
35
Odessa Steps Sequence
• Eisenstein’s Dialectical
Editing Arranges Shots
to Mirror Conflict
between People and
Czar’s Troops
• Clip #5
• Preview of Dialectical
Conflict (Russian
People vs. Czar) that
Would Cause
Revolution in 1917.
36
Formalism in Potemkin
• Eisenstein Stylizes
Reality/History with
Dialectical Editing
• Presents an
Interpretation to
Audience
• Socialism in
Russian Necessary,
Justified
37
Stalin
• Soviet Leader After Lenin
• 1935 Ousts Montage
Filmmakers
• Labeled Their Films Too
Hard to Understand,
Elitist
• Mandated Only Realism
in Soviet Films
38
Summary
• Film Theory – What
Film Can Do
• Realism: Film Can
Record, Document the
World As It Is
• Formalism: Filmmakers
Can Use Stylized Form
to Interpret the World
• Eisenstein’s Potemkin
as Socialist Formalism
39
End of Lecture 10
Next Time: Film Genre
40
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