Defining Italian Neorealism

In my history of film courses I have at various times taught three films defined in film histories as quintessential examples of Italian neorealism Open City Roberto Rossellini, 1945 , The Bicycle Thief Vittorio De Sica, 1948 , and Umberto D Vittorio De Sica, 1952 . Open City is famous for launching the movement, The Bicycle Thief for reaffirming the neorealist aesthetic, and Umberto D for being the last real or genuine neorealist film. Before showing the film, I try to define Italian...

Narrative Innovations In Citizen Kane

Citizen Kane Glass

Most Hollywood films of Welles's time, like His Girl Friday, were narrated primarily from an omniscient or unrestricted point of view by an invisible narrator. Because of our omniscient perspective, our ability to see and know more than the characters on the screen, and our illusion that we are looking with impunity into a world which is unaware of our gaze, Hollywood movies give us a feeling of power. Citizen Kane begins by luring us into the pleasure of being the all-knowing spectator. At the...

Sequence Analysis The Odessa Steps In The Battleship Potemkin

Battleship Potemkin

In the Odessa Steps sequence a crowd of friendly citizens has gathered on the steps leading down to the port of Odessa to celebrate the victory of the mutinous sailors over the Czarist officers on the battleship Potemkin, which is now waving the red flag of revolution offshore. Suddenly, from out of nowhere, lines of government soldiers appear at the top of the steps, and begin firing into the crowd. The action of this scene alone is an attraction or spectacle. As filmmakers have always known,...

Expressionist Techniques In The Last Laugh

High Angle Shot Film

In his groundbreaking film The Last Laugh Der letzte Mann 1924 , Murnau achieved expressionistic distortions of the cinematic world not by photographing painted expressionist sets, but by capitalizing on the expressive capacities of the cinematic apparatus extreme camera angles, special optical effects, and exuberant camera movements.4 The film vividly portrays the emotional deterioration of an aging doorman Emil Jannings at a luxury hotel in a big city when he is demoted from his proud station...

Postmodern Themes In Woody Allens Films

The first film in which Woody Allen overtly reflected on the predicament of human beings in a postsacred world is Love and Death 1975 . Here, the main character and by implication the audience is given hope that there is a God and hence a meaningful, coherent moral world order, only to have the illusion rudely exploded. The night before Boris Woody Allen is to be executed for the attempted assassination of Napoleon, an angel of God appears in his cell to reassure him that at the very last...

Expressionism In Citizen Kane

Citizen Kane High Angle Shot

Andr Bazin puts Welles in his pantheon of realist directors, along with Renoir, Rossellini, De Sica, Stroheim, Flaherty, and even Murnau whom he praises for choosing the moving camera over editing in the construction of many of his filmic scenes . Yet Citizen Kane is also a film in the tradition of German Expressionism. Like Murnau, Welles externalized the subjectivity of his characters and especially of Kane by means of psychologically charged settings, acute camera angles, distorting lenses,...

Early Versus Modern Sound Theory

By the end of 1929, the conversion of the motion picture industry to sound was all but complete in the United States. Nearly every theater had installed sound equipment. So much did the public love the novelty of the sound film that the best-made silent film could not compete at the box office with the worst, most clumsily crafted talkie. But many film directors, film theorists, and aestheticians believed that the image defined the essence of cinema and was the feature that distinguished it...

Expressive Miseenscene In The Last Laugh

While I have been primarily emphasizing the way Murnau uses photographic effects, that is, cinema-specific means, to project the subjectivity Figure 18. The grandeur of the city created through special effects the use of model shots and forced perspective. The Last Laugh, 1924, Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau Stiftung. of his character, no assessment of the visual power of The Last Laugh would be complete without a discussion of the film's mise-en-scene. The look of The Last Laugh set a new standard...

The Death Of The Author In Annie Hall

Annie Hall Coney Island

At the beginning of Annie Hall, after the credits fade out, we are stunned to see an image of Woody Allen himself in a medium close-up, speaking directly to the camera and by implication to us, the spectators sitting in the film audience. He is wearing clothing familiar to audiences who have seen him in his stand-up comedy routines or on late night talk shows a tweedy sports jacket, a shirt but no tie, and his trademark horn-rimmed Figure 60. Woody Allen seems to be speaking as himself directly...

Dialectical Cinematography

Dutch Angle Shot The Right Thing

Spike Lee also creates conflicts in Do the Right Thing through selfconsciously expressionistic cinematographic effects. These heighten the visual excitement of the action and add intensity to the slowly building plot tensions in a way that is reminiscent of, if not directly influenced by, techniques Eisenstein discussed nearly seventy years earlier in his essays on film form. Eisenstein wrote Absolute realism is by no means the correct form of perception.13 By this he means that the...