Additional heuristics

At the exact moment Hana learns about the death of her fianc , the army hospital tent where she is located is suddenly bombed. The bombing is not part of some larger offensive, nor are any consequences indicated in the film. On a literal level, the bombing functions as an element of verisimilitude (it is an event that happens in war). But beyond this, its primary aim is to express Hana's extreme state of mind at hearing the news. In Perkins's terminology, the bombing is first and foremost a...

Analysis

For the purposes of this section I shall limit myself to the first half of the film, concentrating on the distinctive characteristic of Branigan's theory and methodology - the various agents and levels of narration he outlines. The focus of the following analysis is therefore What narrative agent (if any) motivates the selected images And What level of narration can they best be described as operating upon After the Madison's view the first video that has been sent to them (scene 5), the film...

Characters and functions transfer and substitute

The question of expendable characters brings us to the issue of who and what the spectator identifies with, and what, in a classical narrative, is the function of secondary characters. One way to describe them is in Proppian or Greimasian terms instead of centres of autonomy or agency, they are relays, vehicles of transfer. They can signal a displacement, or they can be initiating a chain of substitutions. In this function they are supported by the mise-en-scene and narration, i.e. the formal...

Chronology

The third area of statistical style analysis is chronology. Here again the statistics used can be either descriptive or inferential. A description quantifies and measures the changes in a body of work, usually of a single author. The point here is that an author's work changes in a predictable manner. An inferential study uses these descriptions of change to place an author's work into chronological order where that chronology is unknown or disputed. By identifying a pattern of change, and by...

Classical analysis the opening

In keeping with the points listed under 'Method', we shall concentrate on the logic of the actions, trying to combine elements of the Aristotelian model with those of the structuralist one. For many of the considerations just mentioned, the openings of films take on a privileged role, being in a sense that part which sets up the terms of the system. They pose the enigma, the dilemma, the paradox, to which the film as a whole will appear to give the answer, the resolution. Openings of classical...

Classicalpostclassical Chapter

Contrary to the claims that, with regard to contemporary American cinema, it is 'business as usual', but also contrary to the claim that we must assume a radical break between classical cinema (that of the 1920s to the 1960s), and the mainstream Hollywood product of the past two decades, the chapter has tried to demonstrate that we are here dealing in many ways with a false opposition. The problem of the classical postclassical is rather like a crystal it occupies several dimensions and can be...

Conclusion

What we have done in this chapter is to conduct our three readings of The Silence of the Lambs around each of the three main characters for the feminist case, it is Clarice Starling and her 'problem' that occupies centre stage in our Foucaultian analysis we gave a privileged place to Buffalo Bill as the pathologized target of state power and the 'victim' of abuse from childhood on, seeking violently as well as tenderly to transgender and trans-dress gress an identity imposed on him by societal...

Contents

1 Film theory, methods, analysis 1 2 Classical post-classical narrative (Die Hard) 26 3 Mise-en-scene criticism and statistical style analysis 4 From thematic criticism to deconstructive analysis 5 S Z, the 'readerly' film, and video game logic 6 Cognitive theories of narration (Lost Highway) 168 7 Realism in the photographic and digital image (Jurassic 8 Oedipal narratives and the post-Oedipal (Back to 9 Feminism, Foucault, and Deleuze (The Silence of

Deconstruction method

As we point out in Chapter 1, the aim of theory is to provide guidance on how to establish general methodological principles to analyse texts. But this can lead, in Abraham Kaplan's words, to 'trained incapacity' (1964 29). Our solution is to teach several theories, so that the film student can apply specific theories in appropriate contexts, rather than use the same theory in all contexts. The solution of deconstructionists is more radical. They argue that all general theoretical propositions...

Deconstruction theory

Is there such as thing as a theory and method in deconstructive criticism After all, deconstructionists disparage all attempts to develop general, systematic theories with fixed doctrines and definable, repeatable methods, because they argue that texts cannot be mastered, for they are based upon paradoxes and aporias. Texts elude the grasp of theories, methods, and totalizing analyses that attempt to identify and determine once and for all a text's meaning, or themes. However, this failure to...

Digital realism Chapter

This chapter sets out to prove that new imaging technologies need not function deterministically far from generating new story formats or implying a break with classical mise en sc ne, computer-generated effects can actually reinforce the classical modes. The chapter finds that the traditional theory of realism - as represented by Andr Bazin - continues to have relevance to the analysis of contemporary American film, where the 'new digital realism' of post-photographic images has at times...

Endnotes

1 Cognitive film theorists would no doubt object to our strategy here of using the topic of comparison to identify the similarities between their theory and psychoanalytic film theory. They prefer to use the same topic to identify the differences between their approach and psychoanalytic film theory, and then use the sub-topic of degree to argue that these differences characterize the cognitive approach as superior to the psychoanalytic approach. 2 Precedent 'a j udicial decision in the past...

How to study films

The form of inquiry in film studies involves a distinction between theory, methods, and analysis. Theory. The aim of theory is to make visible the invisible structure that orders and confers intelligibility upon films. The values inherent in all film theories direct theorists' attention to particular aspects of film's general nature or essential properties. Each theory formulates hypotheses about the general nature of film, leading to the formation of declarative knowledge (or 'knowing-that',...

Interpreting the paradigms of interpretation and analysis

These remarks should suffice to explain why in the preceding chapters we have both implicitly and explicitly assumed that contemporary American (Hollywood) movies are important to study, and why they are paradigmatic for the challenges facing film analysis in general. More practically, we have been reviewing but also showing in action some of the particular, historically specific paradigms that have been applied to films, such as mise-eti-scene criticism, thematic readings, and auteurist...

Introduction

Common questions film spectators ask themselves (and each other) after watching a film include What does this film mean What is it trying to tell us Does this film have any significance, or is it simply a form of harmless entertainment, containing as much substance as the popcorn and carbonated drinks consumed while watching the film All these questions are trying to identify on an informal level the film's 'theme', a term originating from literary criticism. Whatever type of text we are...

M

Distribution of shot scale in Jurassic Park (whole film) (bcu big close-up cu close-up mcs medium close shot ms medium shot mis medium long shot Is long shot vis very long shot) Table 3.1. Frequency and percentage of shots in the first 30 minutes of The English Patient Table 3.2. Mean, standard deviation, and skewness of shot length in the first 30 minutes of The English Patient No. of shots 356 Mean 5.1 Standard deviation 8 Skewness 10.9 Standard error of skewness 0.129 Table 3.3....

Method mastering the rules of the video game

Video games possess 'an excess of visual and aural stimuli' but also 'the promise of reliable rules' (Gottschalk 1995 13). These rules, which are reliable in that they are systematic and unambiguous (for they are unencumbered by morality or compassion), constitute the video game's environment, or location, which is not restrained by the laws of the physical world. The game user can experience video pleasure primarily by attempting to master these rules, i.e. decipher the game's logic. Moreover,...

Postclassical Hollywood formal and cultural criteria

It is this high-impact, technologically sophisticated involvement on the part of the primary target audience that Hollywood needed to appeal to which has found in the notion of 'spectacle' a shorthand common denominator. Technological advances in very different fields of popular entertainment (from animatronics in theme parks to computer games on play stations) and at all levels of picture-making and sound reproduction (from IMAX screens to digital sound, from morphing to virtual reality...

Postclassical Hollywood production and reception criteria

There is now a fairly broad consensus among film scholars how to understand the transformations of Hollywood picture-making that took place between the 1960s and the 1980s, which have led to the unexpected revitalization of the American cinema as both an economic and a cultural force. Among the key features are the gradual undoing of the consequences of the Paramount decree of 1947 48, which obliged the studios to divest themselves of their theatre chains and to break up the vertical...

Postclassical reading method

More or less the same dilemma confronts us in our definitions of the 'post-classical', and especially when we try to turn the economic-technological analysis of contemporary Hollywood's mode of production, and Pfeil's formal-cultural definitions of postmodern cinema, into a 'method' for the stylistic analysis of post-classical films post-classical, we now want to propose, are above all those moments in a classical film when our own theory or methodology suddenly turns up in the film itself,...

Psychoanalytic postpsychoanalytic and antipsychoanalytic criticism Chapters and

One of the recurring themes in almost all the chapters has been the element of 'knowingness', of 'irony' and 'pastiche' not only in the generic tone of the films but also in their manner of situating their stylistic and formal procedures. They are aware of their special status of'coming after' the classical mode, reviving it, mimicking it, deconstructing it. But they are so self-assuredly aware of this place and status that they have, in some sense, also overcome it, finding themselves in...

Repetitionresolution

Part of this work, as we have stressed several times, is a certain excessiveness. This makes Die Hard also an example of what Colin MacCabe or Stephen Heath have analysed as a necessary instability of the classical system, its constant breakup of the configurations and their reassemblage. Heath, in his essay 'Narrative Space' (1981 19-75), traces the different kinds of excess and instability in Hitchcock's 'geometry of representation', as they can be seen, for instance, in the different...

Spectacle interactivity and writerly texts

It's not a game, it's an adventure. Every medium has its bias, the stories it cannot tell. We will want to tell the stories that demand interaction. But what does that mean What is the story that can best be told with your meddling The main potential offered by digital media is that it introduces the dimension of interactivity to texts. In Barthes's terms, the text literally becomes writerly -in the sense that it is not completely written before the reader reads it, but is...

Statistical style analysis theory

The statistical style analysis of motion pictures is primarily a systematic version of mise-en-scene criticism - or, more accurately, mise-en-shot criticism. We have already seen that Eisenstein invented the term mise en shot to focus attention on the way shots are staged - that is, the way the parameters of the shot translate the actions and events into film. The advantage of statistical style analysis over mise-en-sctne shot criticism is that it offers a more detached, systematic, and...

Studying Contemporary American Film

Department of Art and Culture, University of Amsterdam School of Film and Television, Chapman University, California A member of the Hodder Headline Group LONDON Distributed in the United States of America by Oxford University Press Inc., New York First published in Great Britain in 2002 by Arnold, a member of the Hodder Headline Group, 338 Euston Road, London NW1 3BH Distributed in the United States of America by Oxford University Press Inc., 198 Madison Avenue, New York, NY10016 2002 Thomas...

The credit sequence

The credit sequence consists of a close-up of a piece of paper, upon which a figure is gradually painted. As the credits finish, the image of the painted figure slowly dissolves into an aerial view of the desert landscape. The two-dimensional brown painted figure changes to a grey colour, and then begins to interact with the undulating sandscape. When the figure finally disappears, the shadow of a biplane takes its place. The camera moves back to reveal the biplane flying over the sandscape. It...

The enigma

Narratives, according to Tzvetan Todorov, can be characterizsed, at their most basic, as structures which begin with a steady state, an equilibrium, a balance. This balance is disrupted by an intervention, an irruption (in Die Hard, the breakup of John and Holly McClane's marriage, the sudden burst of the terrorists' entry into the office Christmas party) which it is the task of the narrative to neutralize and to eliminate, so that finally an equilibrium can be re-established which resembles...

The foreign policy of victimhood

Humiliation before the eyes of the 'son' is also at issue in the scene where the Libyan terrorists gun down Doc Brown, while Marty helplessly looks on - in fact, as we saw, while two Martys helplessly look on. Given the nationality of the assailants, it is not difficult to think of the scene as a metaphor for any number of the then still recent political humiliations of the US Kennedy at the Bay of Pigs, Lyndon B. Johnson in Vietnam, Richard Nixon's impeachment, Jimmy Carter's Iran hostage...

The nature of general categories

Thematic criticism is not an arbitrary activity that involves analysing a film in terms of the critic's idiosyncratic set of values. Instead, it relates films and other forms of human communication to a small, basic set of values universally shared by all humans. For Jonathan Culler, thematic criticism involves analysing a text 'as expressing a significant attitude to some problem concerning man and or his relation to the universe' (Culler 1975 115). Universal humanist values therefore offer a...

Theory video pleasure and narrative cinema

V ideo pleasure requires the player's total immersion in the electronic text, trust in the existence of a code imposed by invisible experts, and the self-affirming and empowering experience of its incremental mastery. Predicated on the ability to rapidly discriminate between circulating signs (some hostile, some neutral, and some friendly), and to appropriately respond to them, such a pleasurable mastery involves a skillful and rapid navigation in a chaotic electronic text, a navigation...

Video game logic and cognitivist criticism Chapters and

Perhaps the most incisive challenges to canonical story construction have come from the study of interactive narrative, and from the cognitivist approach to narration. It now seems at least theoretically conceivable that the conditions of filmic comprehension and of intelligibility can be established on a basis other than the classical narrative models introduced and examined in Chapter 2, and implicitly adhered to in Chapters 3 and 4, even where we tested them by their apparent opposite...

What do film scholars study

There are three broad areas of film study 'Old' film history is based on two assumptions a teleological assumption that focuses the historian's attention on films that display technical innovations, and an essentialist assumption proposing that these technical achievements are important because they exploit cinema's essence. The 'New Film History' (1970s onwards) develops specific, delimited (rather than global) areas of film history to research, and carries out this research using rigorous,...

Why study films

This question should be reformulated to read Why study classical and contemporary American films First, we need to understand the role of narrative in contemporary cinema, because we may have come to a historical watershed, a transformation of the mode of representation, of the logic of the visible we associate with narrative cinema. Second, without classical and contemporary American films one probably would not be studying the cinema. Hollywood film in particular is the American art par...

Feminism and film theory

While the psychoanalytic film theory of Christian Metz, Jean-Louis Baudry, and Stephen Heath had initially concentrated on questions of 'primary identification', on the 'reality-effect' and 'subject construction' as the conditions of the classical Hollywood cinema's legibility and textual coherence, feminist film theory began with the realization that this classical cinema was also a system of visual representation implicated and complicit in maintaining sexual difference, i.e. the uneven...

Chapter contents and alternative films

Chapters 2-9 have an identical structure, or disposition. We identify the main premises behind a traditional film theory, distil a method from it, and then analyse a film. We then identify the main premises behind a more recent film theory, distil a method from it, and then analyse the same film again. Chapters 2-9 are therefore structured in the following way We therefore systematically split up the process of film analysis into its component parts. This makes comprehension and comparison...

Ontology and physical portrayal

Bazin's adherence to realism is clearly manifest in his famous essay 'Ontology of the Photographic Image' (Bazin 1967a). The essence of cinema for Bazin lies in its photographic capability, which mechanically (i.e. directly and automatically) records the light reflected from reality (i.e. the pro-filmic events, or subject matter in front of the camera) and fixes it on film. The light itself, rather than the human hand and mind, directly causes the formation of the photographic image. For Bazin,...

A system of semiotic constraints

Openings, then, are also an opportunity to identify surface and deep structure, and their interrelatedness. Here, the formal-textual operations play through the different repertoire of making continuity out of discontinuity while at the same time 'thickening it' by way of figuration and verbal texture. The Hollywood text is 'closed' but also 'open' there are different entry points for an audience, many of the cues are ambiguous, but it is a planned ambiguity, multi-layered and multi-levelled....

The quantitative analysis of style

One of the few film scholars to apply statistical style analysis to film is Barry Salt. In his essay 'Statistical Style Analysis of Motion Pictures' (1974), and later in his book Film Style and Technology (1992), he describes the individual style of directors by systematically collecting data on the formal parameters of their films. Salt then represents the quantity and frequency of these formal parameters in bar graphs, percentages, and average shot lengths (there will be more on these methods...

Deleuze

Especially in the books co-authored with Felix Guattari, Deleuze has taken up much of the agenda of Foucault's project, notably his anti-Freudianism and his concern with the micro-politics of power, in view of promoting more open (i.e. non-family based) communities and an egalitarian, non-repressive society. Foucault once famously said that 'perhaps one day, this century will be known as Deleuzian' (Foucault 1977 165), arguing that Deleuze causes us to reflect on matters that philosophy has...

Thematic criticism and auteurism

One of the most prototypical instances of thematic criticism is auteurism, the attribution of a single source of a film's intentionality, value, and meaning to the director. It was, as the name suggests, initially formulated in Paris, around the influential journal Cahiers du cin ma. Subsequently, auteurism was taken up by Movie magazine in London (see Chapter 3) and by Andrew Sarris in New York, who for a brief period edited Cahiers du cin ma in English and in 1968 published The American...

Beyond Bazin discursive theories of the impression of reality

Contemporary film theorists replaced the notion of 'photographic realism' with the concept of the 'impression of reality', of which the work of JeanLouis Baudry (1986), Daniel Dayan (1976), Stephen Heath (1981 76-112), Colin MacCabe (1986), and Jean-Pierre Oudart (1990) is representative. Moreover, each develops his theory on a different level Baudry on the level of the apparatus Oudart, Dayan, and Heath on the level of the filmic text and MacCabe within the filmic text. Here we shall briefly...

Deconstruction analysis The poetics of production

A first move in 'deconstructing' Polanksi as the auteur of Chinatown would be to assess the competing claims of the producer Robert Evans, the screenwriter Robert Towne, and the actors Jack Nicholson and John Huston, alongside Roman Polanski, to be considered the initiator, controlling force, decisive authority, or creative centre in the making (and subsequent success) of Chinatown. For instance, in a number of screenwriter's manuals as well as for screen-writing gurus such as Robert McKee...

The symptom does it sustain or subvert the system

Second, a question thus arises about what in the film functions as the symptom around which either a deconstructive or a therapeutic reading can organize itself. What is the element, in other words, that sustains the 'reality' of the film, its verisimilitude as a fiction In classical Hollywood it is often said that gender sustains the film (i.e. women as objects to be traded between men, or as objects to be possessed by the look underpin the narrative functioning), but that this mechanism of...

The emblematic cluster

In an opening scene or sequence, we often find a privileged image or composition which in a sense gathers together diverse and heterogeneous elements in a single configuration, whose meaning will only become fully apparent in retrospect, and which thus functions rather like an emblematic picture, or a condensation of the various narrative motifs, as well as implying a temporal structure of anticipation and foreshadowing. In Die Hard's opening there are a number of such constellations, chief...

The postclassical reading theory

Given that the narrative of Die Hard seems so perfectly readable in terms of the classical model, is there even a need to move to another level and invoke the contested distinction classical post-classical What is it in the film that demands additional explanation The questions bring us back to one of the terms we started with, namely spectacle (which we initially excluded in favour of a discussion of narrative) in order to consider the implicit polemical charge that spectacle and narrative...

Method

The most analytically important variable is the set of formal correspondences between fabula and syuzhet. That is, to What extent does the unfolding syuzhet correspond to the logical, temporal, and spatial nature of the fabula we construct The film analyst can extract a fairly rich methodology from Bordwell's cognitive theory of narration. Bordwell introduces a series of concepts to explain how narration works - that is, how syuzhet and style facilitate and hinder the spectator's construction...

Identification of a general theme

To read a film thematically involves determining its significance, identifying a general level of meaning that links the film's various elements into a unified structure. Roland Barthes argued that 'The force of meaning depends on its degree of syst matisation the most powerful meaning is that whose system takes in the greatest number of elements, to the point where it seems to encompass everything notable in the semantic universe' (Culler 1975 227). This involves relating a particular film to...

The history of film style

Conventional film histories (such as Rotha 1930 Jacobs 1939 Sadoul 1949) chronicle technical achievements, and establish a canon of classic films from various national cinemas that manifest these achievements. In addition, a number of historians and film theorists interpret these technical achievements within a modernist framework, and valorize films that seem to them to exploit film's 'essential', or 'distinctive' aesthetic qualities. These conventional film histories are organized according...

Three facets of realism

Bazin favours the techniques of deep focus and the long take because they maintain cinema's 'essential' or 'distinctive' characteristic, its realism, inherited from the photographic image's indexical link with reality, whereas montage breaks this indexical link (while d coupage is a compromise between montage and deep focus). More specifically, Bazin identifies three facets of realism in the cinema (1) an ontological realism (2) a dramatic realism and (3) a psychological realism (Bazin 1991...

Lacanian analysis

We can see how the basic elements of the Oedipus complex and its 'normal' resolution are present in the film, suitably rearranged. But we can also see that what is usually latent and hidden is here made explicit, indeed at once over-explicit and negated through the humour of situation comedy. It should make us alert to the resistance of the film to analysis - signalled by its 'knowingness' about psychoanalysis - and make us wary of the possible transference occurring between the analyst and the...

Theory digital images and modal logic

We shall now pursue and extend Bazin's theory of realism in the photographic image by considering the status of realism in the post-photographic (or digital) image. The question we want to focus on is Can we explain the impact and popularity of Jurassic Park and The Lost World in terms of their 'realism' or, more specifically, their innovative digital effects that create photo-realistic and credible images of unobservable, nonexistent dinosaurs To answer this question, we need to focus on the...

Miseenscne theory

In the early days of mise-en-sc ne criticism (the early 1950s), mise en sc ne was defined in terms of film's immediate perceptual presence, its physical and concrete rendition of space and bodies on screen. These critics (JeanLuc Godard, Claude Chabrol, Jacques Rivette, Fran ois Truffaut) valorized immediacy and presence because, they believed, it relates to film's specificity, its visual and aural tactility, and, most importantly, its adherence to the truth of surface appearances (for a...

Timetravel and the superegos demand

Whatever this trouble is in the sequel and it seems a fair bet that Biff will have a role to play in it , our analysis has uncovered a complex network of relations that ties paternity and masculinity in this film not so much to gender as is traditionally the case in classical Hollywood but to race and international politics, centred on shame and humiliation, of which the reverse side, according to the New Lacanians, is the 'obscene enjoyment' of the superego. What distinguishes Back to the...

Deleuze reading

There is, first of all, something very Deleuze-Guattarian about the world of The Silence of The Lambs what is striking is the outrageously indecorous mingling of bodies and minds between the three central characters, the seeping, bleeding, and conflating of their discrete and otherwise contrasting psychic profiles. The way their particular somatic selves, kinetic traits, and peculiar intensities are taken apart, mixed up, and reassigned is a good example of what Deleuze and Guattari mean by...

The regime of the brothers

This brings us to our third point what sort of strategy is a Hollywood film following when appearing to make race the discursive site of a symptom, naming it, while at the same time risking subversion of its own ideological project Here another aspect of the political analysis of the post-Oedipal society put forward by the New Lacanians might prove helpful the idea, taken from Freud's later metapsychological writings, notably Totem and Taboo, that with the 'death' of the totemic father social...

Lacan

Jacques Lacan is one of the most radical of Freud's interpreters. He returned to Freud's work and subjected it to a linguistic semiotic structuralist reading, in an attempt to make explicit Freud's 'message'. This message concerns the formation of an individual's subjectivity rather than his ego- identity, and particularly the role played in that formation by a speaker's position in language which, according to Lacan, 'speaks me', even though I may think that 'I am speaking' . 'Identity' would...

Race gender and the male body

Also alerting us to 'surface structures' is another element that did not escape the critics, often said to belong to the arsenal of the post-classical cinema, namely the emphasis on the body, and in particular on the display of the male body Bruce Willis in another one of those Hollywood action roles where the hero's shirt is ripped off in the first reel so you can see how much time he has been spending at the gym. Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times, 15 July 1988 As Ebert implies, the film reflects...

Feminism and film method

What is a feminist reading of a classical post-classical Hollywood film The most widely imitated model is that inaugurated by Mulvey's 1975 essay 'Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema' also in Mulvey 1989 14-26 . This complex and polemical piece has often been reproduced, and in the process also been reduced to a checklist of psychoanalytic concepts, such as fetishism, voyeurism, castration anxiety, phallus, and disavowal. Generations of undergraduate and graduate essays have winnowed her...

Freud and Lacan method Freud

We shall restrict ourselves to a relatively limited number of Freudian themes or tropes, foremost among them the so-called Oedipus complex and - with respect to mainstream films - the Oedipal trajectory of the The Oedipus complex as understood in film studies basically asserts that most mainstream films are stories of the formation of normative identities, and that certain genres, notably the Western, the thriller, and science fiction, are often stories of male cultural initiation, answering...

The classical cinema some cultural definitions

While Aristotle argued that the cultural function of drama is to 'purge' the emotions by evoking 'fear and pity', the Russian formalists did not specify the purpose of narratives in this way. By contrast, L vi-Strauss and his followers, as we saw, offer a number of explanations why story-telling and dramatic narratives are such universal features of human societies. In film studies since the 1970s, these explanations have tended to be narrowed down to those indicated above, namely ideology and...

Symptomatic readings

On one level, the emphasis on looking and its Lacanian elaborations allow us to redefine the plot's overall purpose. No longer aimed at ensuring stable Oedipal identity, Back to the Future's narrative economy of repetitions and variations would serve to ward off 'castration anxiety' if we describe it in Freudian terms , and to bridge the gap between the look and the gaze if we use a Lacanian vocabulary . Either way, the film knows that the attempt must necessarily fail, for not even the 'happy...

Theory the five codes of SZ

Roland Barthes opens S Z by distinguishing structural analysis from textual analysis. 'Structural analysis' refers to an activity that equalizes all texts by reducing them to the same underlying universal system. This is the type of activity Barthes practised in the 1960s, culminating in his famous essay 'Introduction to the Structural Analysis of Narratives' Barthes 1994 95-135 . The primary aim of structural analysis - practised not only by Barthes but also by other formalists and...

Theory Narrative Comprehension and Film

David Bordwell's Narration in the Fiction Film pioneered the cognitive theory of film, which flourished in the 1990s with books such as Joseph Anderson's The Reality of Illusion 1996 , Edward Branigan's Narrative Comprehension and Film 1992 , Gregory Currie's Image and Mind 1995 , Torben Grodal's Moving Pictures 1997 , Carl Plantinga and Greg Smith's eds Passionate Views 1999 , Murray Smith's Engaging Characters 1995 and Ed Tan's Emotion and the Structure of Narrative Film 1996 . These authors...

Theory Narration in the Fiction Film

In Narration in the Fiction Film David Bordwell develops a cognitive theory of film comprehension, which he explicitly opposes to a psychoanalytic theory of film. Psychoanalytic film theorists whom we discuss in Chapters 8 and 9 define the experience of reality as not being delimited by the horizon of consciousness or 'common sense' , but argue that it includes myth, ideology, and unconscious desires and fantasies. According to psychoanalysts, our consciousness is merely the tip or peak of our...

Freud and Lacan theory

What is a classic Freudian reading Although psychoanalysis has always been controversial and in recent years has been subject to devastating critiques, it continues to command support, in the humanities, and especially among literary scholars and film analysts. This is partly because, in many respects, psychoanalysis is in the mainstream tradition of Western hermeneutics, reaching back to biblical exegesis and Renaissance humanism. The most unacceptable part of psychoanalysis for contemporary...

Statistical style analysis method

In his Film Quarterly essay 'Statistical Style Analysis of Motion Pictures' 1974 , Barry Salt aimed to identify the individual style of a director by systematically collecting data on the formal parameters of films, particularly those formal parameters that are most directly under the director's control, including duration of the shot including the calculation of average shot length, or ASL strength of the cut measured in terms of the spatio-temporal displacement from one shot to the next ....

Method Z and film analysis

The first step in Barthes's post-structural analysis of the readerly text involves 'separating, in the manner of a minor earthquake, the blocks of signification of which reading grasps only the smooth surface, imperceptibly soldered by the movement of sentences, the flowing discourse of narration, the naturalness of ordinary language' p. 13 . Barthes goes on to call these blocks of signification 'lexias' and admits that 'this cutting up will be arbitrary in the extreme it will imply no...

The poetics of unlimited semiosis

The second method, as indicated, tries to take literally the mise-en-sc ne critics' focus on marginal details of a film's style and surface signs. By extending their passion for the oblique and the overlooked to its logical conclusion, we are adopting a deconstructive approach to a reading of this film, valorizing aspects that may initially escape the spectator but which will nonetheless appear to follow a certain logic. Both David Rodowick and Tom Conley have developed a deconstructive...

Analysis a feminist reading of The Silence of the Lambs

In several respects, The Silence of the Lambs lends itself to an analysis within the categories of the 'classical' or canonical story format the screenplay shows a clear three-act division, with introduction and coda the first act ends with Clarice's discovery at the Baltimore warehouse the second with the trick offer made to Hannibal by the FBI and the third with the showdown in Buffalo Bill's house the narrative moves are based on repetition resolution the successive encounters between...

The transnationalpostcolonialglobalization theme

Sharon Willis's remarks, along with Pfeil's point about the untranscendable horizon of post-classical or, in his terminology, postmodern cinema being that of transnational capitalism are well taken. If we are to look for a historical framework within which to place the tectonic plates and shifting surfaces of Die Hard's identity politics, the information economy of services, and the 'outsourcing' of manufacture to low-cost labour countries by multinational corporations on the one hand and the...

The sliding signifers

On a technical level, there's a lot to be said for Die Hard. It's when we get to some of the unnecessary adornments of the script that the movie shoots itself in the foot. Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times, 15 July 1988 In all likelihood Ebert intended to make a pun, but one wonders whether he did not speak truer than he knew. The film in any event seems to know, since it certainly fetishizes McClane's feet more intensely than almost any other part of his body, including his bare chest. Starting...

Analysis A Foucault reading

In a Foucault-inspired reading of The Silence of the Lambs, a central place would be occupied by the FBI as an institution externally dedicated to law enforcement and internally to disciplining its members and recruits. What is interesting about the figure of Clarice in this context is that her Oedipal trajectory masks a more fundamental and more paradoxical journey, namely one that signifies Agent Starling's successes killing Buffalo Bill, graduating from the FBI academy as also her failures....

Miseenscne criticism thematic criticism auteurism Chapters and

Perkins's claim that mise en sc ne as a film-making practice is dead, recent film critics have found it worthwhile to apply this concept to contemporary cinema. Adrian Martin distinguishes classical, expressionist and mannerist mise en sc ne, and argues that Perkins is simply lamenting the death of classical mise en sc ne although it has many adherents in contemporary film-making practice . The categories of expressionist, and mannerist mise en sc ne are added to cover new...

Statistical style analysis The English Patient

Data was recorded from the following five parameters of the shot over the first 30 minutes of The English Patient, shot length, shot scale, camera movement, camera direction, and camera angle. For comparative purposes, the same data were recorded from the first 30 minutes of Jurassic Park. Barry Salt has already argued that 30 minutes is a representative sample to analyse. To test this hypothesis, we shall compare the results of the statistical style analysis of the first 30 minutes of Jurassic...

Mse en Scne analysis The English Patient

The English Patient is a highbrow mega-movie that combines technical virtuosity with a large-scale story. The technical credits include veterans such as cinematographer John Seale ASC, ACS, whose credits include Witness 1985 , The Mosquito Coast 1986 , Gorillas in the Mist 1988 , Rain Man 1988 , Beyond Rangoon 1995 , City of Angels 1998 , and The Talented Mr Ripley 1999 and editor Walter Murch, ACE, who edited The Conversation 1974 , Apocalypse Now 1979 , Ghost 1990 , The Godfather, Part III...

Surface structure and deep structure

Much has been made in our classical analysis of the distinction between surface structure and deep structure. Yet these terms are merely spatial metaphors to direct attention to a disparity of dramatic movement, to a cognitive tension, or a difference in emotional patterning or intensity. In some ways, however, Die Hard behaves as if it knew about this purely heuristic distinction. For instance, it constantly alludes to its surface texture, by staging a quite extraordinary play on 'glass'. In...

Three exemplary scenes of the sliding signifier in Chinatown

We shall now examine three scenes in more detail. Two revolve around instances of purely verbal double entendres and puns, and the third is a combination of verbal punning and a sight-gag, rendered sombre by a more mythological reverberation, itself redolent with psychoanalytic symbolism. The first scene concerns the segment where Gittes drives up to the Mulwray mansion for the first time. Altogether three times Gittes tries to enter a space associated with Mulwray's life, and three times he is...

The logic of the actions macroanalysis

Thus, one way of tying these features together and understanding their concerted effect in creating the impression of unity and coherence within a classical narrative film is to study the logic of the actions what a character does, why s he does it, what goals or aims are being pursued, what obstacles are encountered. Classical narrative in this sense is the name for a particular kind of logic - notably a temporal, a spatial, and a causal logic, held together by an overall trust in the efficacy...

Introduction Freud Lacan and Zizek back to the future of symptomatic readings

This chapter begins by interpreting a Hollywood film from the 1980s within the framework of the Freudian model of psychoanalysis which is based on concepts such as the unconscious and repression, the Oedipus complex and the primal scene, primary process thinking and dream-work . It then considers the relevance to film studies of Lacanian psychoanalysis, which is centred on the relation between the imaginary, the symbolic, and the real in the formation of human subjectivity and is based on...

Rules governing the relation between the particular and the general

How do thematic critics move legitimately from the particular to the general That is, how can they make general values adhere to particular films One of the main problems with thematic meanings is their implicit status themes are not immediately 'visible' or self-evident, but must be inferred or generated from a film. In other words, a theme is a 'pragmatic' rather than a 'semantic' feature of a film. Whereas semanticists argue that meanings are embedded in messages, pragmatists argue that...

Miseenscne method

From the above 'theory' of mise en sc ne, we can begin to extract a method of analysis. David Bordwell has already begun to formalize the strategies of mise-en-sc ne criticism 1989, Ch. 8 , although here we shall go much further. Bordwell identifies in mise-en-sc ne criticism an implicit use of the 'bull's-eye schema' and two 'heuristics' the expressivist heuristic and the commentative heuristic. The term 'heuristic' refers to an informal strategy of reasoning that assists us in discovering...

Mnage trois and the sameframe heuristic

When Geoffrey and Katharine's plane arrives at the desert base camp of the Royal Geographical Society's team of map-makers who call themselves 'the International Sand Club' , the whole team travel in a truck to greet them. However, Alm sy remains behind with the truck and watches from afar. The same frame heuristic is relevant in describing this moment, as the whole team plus Katharine and Geoffrey are portrayed in one shot, and Alm sy is shown alone in another shot. Because he remains aloof,...

Zizek and the New Lacanians analysis Shame and humiliation

If we now once more look at Back to the Future, there are a number of features that might attract the attention of the New Lacanians. Foremost among them would be the figure of Biff. The curious relationship between him and Marty is that of antagonist and double, which explains Marty's over-identification with Biff and his role as Marty's nemesis. In more specifically izekian terms, what defines the relationship are, on the one hand, shame and humiliation and, on the other, 'obscene enjoyment',...

Theory classical Hollywood cinema

The debate around the distinction between classical and post-classical Hollywood is often conducted polemically. The question is usually put as is it still 'business as usual' in post-classical cinema, or do we need to change our vocabulary in order to 'do justice' to the movies made in Hollywood since the mid- to late 1970s One faction represented, for instance, by David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson argues that there is no need to change one's approach, insofar as even the contemporary...

Postclassical analysis Narrative structure

Perhaps the case for Die Hard as a post-classical film, Pfeil's remarks notwithstanding, is at its weakest when argued on the basis of its plot development, which follows quite straightforwardly the canonical three-act structure, centred on a male protagonist. However, as one goes through the act division once more, two features invite further comment one is the spacing and pacing of the violent action scenes that intersperse the unfolding of the drama, and the other is the fact that the...

Zizek and the New Lacanians theory

Although not a 'school', the New Lacanians are said to comprise Slavoj Zizek, Joan Copjec and Juliet Flower-MacCannell. They are, broadly speaking, united by a new concern with what has been called the 'ethics' of psychoanalysis and its contemporary political ramifications. According to James Mellard, the New Lacanians emphasize Lacan's late notions of drive, jouissance, and the real at the expense of his early concepts of desire, the imaginary, and the symbolic most are more interested in...

Analysis video game logic in The Fifth Element

Just as the filmic image is a hybrid between the photographic and the digital, the narrative in The Fifth Element is a hybrid between the classical psychologically motivated cause-effect narrative logic and digital video game logic. In the following we shall focus on those moments in the film when video logic becomes apparent. What is significant about The Fifth Element is the way the banal story and its transparent moral are structured and conveyed to spectators. In his discussion of the film...

Thematic criticism method

The starting point of thematic criticism is to look at a film obliquely, to determine what human values it is indirectly communicating. A useful way to begin identifying themes in a film is to keep in mind at the outset the common themes found in all forms of human communication, such as those listed by Bordwell above suffering, identity, alienation, the ambiguity of perception, the mystery of behaviour, freedom, religious doctrines, enlightenment, creativity, the imagination, etc. . Then...

Classical Hollywood narrative two possible models

When outlining some of the possible prototypes of the classical Hollywood narrative, two groups or families come to mind, both of them literary in inspiration one is derived from classical drama and the novel Aristotle's poetics, Russian formalism, G rard Genette the other from oral narratives such as myths, fairy tales, and the early picaresque novel L vi-Strauss, Propp, Bakhtin . In film studies, the first is associated with the canonical story structure as taught in screenwriters' manuals,...

Thematic analysis of Chinatown

In this section we shall focus on how Chinatown establishes the values of its main character Jake Gittes Jack Nicholson , and then explore two of the film's general themes. In the opening scene Jake Gittes, a private investigator who specializes in matrimonial issues, has handed over to Curly, a working-class male client, a set of photos of his wife having an affair with another man. As Curly gets more and more upset, trying to express his anger, Jake is shown to be laid back. He is in control...

Zizek and the New Lacanians method

Although Slavoj Zizek has over the past ten years published some 20 books many dealing with film examples, and some devoted to studies of individual directors, such as Hitchcock, Lynch, Kieslowski 1992 2000 , it is not easy to distil from his writings a transferable or transportable methodology. On the other hand, so distinctive is his approach, so recognizable is his style of argument, and so typical are the examples he chooses that one can as Stephen Heath has done speak of a 'Zizek film'...

Analysis SZ and The Fifth Element

Despite the importance and popularity of S Z in post-structural literary theory, it has rarely been applied to films, with the exception of Julia Lesage's analysis 1986 of Rules of the Game Jean Renoir, 1939 . Raymond Bellour also refers to the proairetic code, the hermeneutic code, and especially the symbolic code in his analysis of North by Northwest, although Barthes's terms are simply integrated into Bellour's more widely focused textual analysis see Bellour 2000 86-7 . However, Lesage...

Thematic criticism analysis Roman Polanski

One thematic analysis of Roman Polanski's films claims 'Polanski's work might be seen as an attempt to map out the precise relationship between the contemporary world's instability and tendency to violence and the individual's increasing inability to overcome his isolation and locate some realm of meaning or value beyond himself Telotte and McCarty 1998 388 . This analysis, although general, is nonetheless quite precise in its delineation of Polanski's themes. It does not simply state that...

The classical cinema some formal definitions

Implied in the cultural definitions above is the recognition that the Hollywood cinema's 'impression of reality', i.e. to pass off as natural something which is historical or ideological, is actually not so much a matter of how real that is which is being filmed the documentary value or veridical status of what is before the camera but how formally elaborated and how culturally ingrained the codes, norms, or conventions are that govern cinematic representation. It is not 'reality' that makes...

Narrative as syllogism the semiotic square

This psychic dilemma of the hero or ideological operation of the narrative can be described also in terms of formal logic or rhetorical strategy. Rather than presenting it as a simple opposition surface structure vs deep structure , of binary pairs male female white non-white American foreign , we could see John McClane's rational action unconscious desire in terms of a more three-dimensional, dynamic process, of which the narrative is the linear, sequential articulation, at the same time as it...

Film Theory On The Waterfront

Allen, Richard 1995 , Projecting Illusion Film Spectatorship and the Impression of Reality Cambridge Cambridge University Press . - 1997 , 'Looking at motion pictures', in Richard Allen and Murray Smith eds , Film Theory and Philosophy Oxford Clarendon Press 76-94. Altman, Rick 1980 , 'Moving lips cinema as ventriloquism', in R. Altman ed. , Sound and Cinema special issue, Yale French Studies, 60 67-79. Anderson, Joseph 1996 , The Reality of Illusion An Ecological Approach to Cognitive Film...

Theory

Films are analysable on the basis of their inherent form and structure. However, this structure is not immediately visible in itself. Instead, certain aspects of it become visible from within a certain theoretical perspective and other aspects become visible from other theoretical perspectives . Moreover, theoretical perspectives may overlap in incommensurate ways. In general, the aim of theory is to make visible the invisible structure that orders and confers intelligibility upon films. The...