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CSC: Visual Rhetoric & the Persuasion of Cinema

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Lauren Glenn

on 17 January 2014

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Transcript of CSC: Visual Rhetoric & the Persuasion of Cinema

Now What?
Visual Rhetoric
Seeing Justice, Seeking Justice:
refers to the practice of analyzing and/or describing how
images communicate meaning
advance arguments.
It may be thought of as the rhetorical analysis of images using the familiar vocabulary of rhetorical theory (such as ethos, pathos, and logos), but with a supplementary vocabulary unique to the analysis of the visual (e.g., with reference to color, graphic design, iconography, etc.)
The Day My God Died
Documentary Traditions
Visual Rhetoric in Hollywood
Invisible Editing
The Whistleblower
Visual Rhetoric and Cinematic Persuasion
Sontag's concept of the caption in "On Photography"
Sontag's concept of experience via. photography in
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their "thus saith the Lord" far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.
Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.
(1) Assumptions we make & expectations we have re: the genre (documentary vs. fiction)
(2) The filmmaker's (artist's) persuasive use of visual rhetoric
(3) How images are taken and re-purposed for larger issues
Cinema Verite or Direct Cinema:
as the situation unfolds (following)
hand-held cameras
voice over narration and sit down interviews are used very sparingly
many hours of film shot, edited to concisely tell the story
editing is often as important as shooting
Expository Mode:
collects footage that functions to strengthen the spoken narrative
Voice-Over narrative works to explain images
Observational Mode:
No Voice-Overs or Interviews
Spectators left to deduce their own meaning
...I'm going to
convince you
I am this.
I am really this,
2. Visual Rhetoric
3. How Images Are Used (in U.S.)
Root Problem
Editing Can Be Used to...
Editing Can Be Used to...
Draw the spectator into the film's world
Collapse or Expand Time
Editing Can Be Used to...
Create Meaning
Editing Can Be Used to...
Draw Attention to Something in the Frame
1. Expectations from Genre
2. Visual Rhetoric
3. How Can/Should Images be Re-Purposed?
Discussion Leader:
Lauren Glenn, PhD Candidate,
UF Film and Media Studies

Showing Next (Feb. 8, 2013):
refers to the practice of analyzing and/or describing how
images communicate meaning
advance arguments.
It may be thought of as the rhetorical analysis of images using the familiar vocabulary of rhetorical theory (such as ethos, pathos, and logos), but with a supplementary vocabulary unique to the analysis of the visual (e.g., with reference to color, graphic design, iconography, etc.)
Seeing Justice, Seeking Justice
Visual Rhetoric and Cinematic Persuasion
Visual Rhetoric
Thematic Devices
Joseph Michael Straczynski
Based on a true story...
Christine Collins
Gordon Stewart Northcott
“There must exist a paradigm, a practical model for social change that includes an understanding of ways to
transform consciousness
that are linked to efforts to
transform structures

-bell hooks, killing rage: Ending Racism
Visual/Acoustic Rhetoric
Thematic Devices
Saving Private Ryan
Steven Spielberg
Flags of Our Fathers
Clint Eastwood
“…plac[es] his iconic identity of rugged American masculinity in tension with a broader vision of individual and social wholeness." - Sara Vaux
words, images, sounds
Real = image desaturation,
low-tech mediation,
camera shaker & hand-held footage,
"grunt" pov --> sacrificial soldier
Spielberg's Reality Code:
Iconic Images
1. Tensions between the individual & the community

2. Systematic corruption of the city government,
police force, and medical establishment

3. Psychiatry as a tool in gender politics of the 1920s

4. Tension between social justice and personal revenge
“...Eastwood breached the boundaries of a genre that had dominated American moviemaking for generations, the western. Robert Jewett and John Shelton Lawrence are correct in slotting the majority of American westerns (and a good deal of other popular literature and film) into [...] the
'myth of the American superhero.'
Like Jewett and Lawrence, I have tracked the
proliferation of violent heroic redemptive figures (asexual men in love with violence)
and watched with alarm as the
model of American power and arrogance (America as savior of the world)
has repeated itself in political and international policy even as it saturates novels, films, TV and video games. Although “the hero” is an enduring literary and mythological figure,
when the character is linked to stories of conquest and domination of lands and peoples at the expense of community and peace, the model must be challenged.”
(Sara Vaux, The Ethical Vision of Clint Eastwood, xiv).
Our job was to entertain the whole family. To make it fun and sell a lot of toys. It was a franchise. The last ones is really about what we're going through, the extraordinary gap between the haves and the have-nots...
Nolan chooses to minimize the amount of Computer Generated Imagery for special effects in his films, preferring to use practical effects whenever possible. For instance, his films Batman Begins and Inception had 620 and 500 visual effects shots respectively, which is considered minor in comparison to contemporary visual effects epics that can have around 1,500 or 2,000 VFX shots
His films share several common characteristics. In addition to actors who appear in multiple films, Nolan's visual style emphasizes urban settings, men in suits, generally muted colors - bordering on a monochromatic palette, dialogue scenes framed in wide close-up with a shallow depth of field, and strong emphasis on location and architecture, typically modern. His films draw heavily on neo-noir characteristics, with Nolan himself noting that he considers all of his films to belong to the genre.[95] In terms of characters, his films usually revolve around obsessive protagonists, with some kind of psychological disorder, who are seeking vengeance over the death of a loved one.
The term film noir (French for "black film") was coined by critic Nino Frank in 1946, but was rarely used by film makers, critics or fans until several decades later. The classic era of film noir is usually dated to a period between the early 1940s and the late 1950s. Typically American crime dramas or psychological thrillers, films noir[a] had a number of common themes and plot devices, and many distinctive visual elements. Characters were often conflicted antiheroes, trapped in a difficult situation and making choices out of desperation or nihilistic moral systems. Visual elements included low-key lighting, striking use of light and shadow, and unusual camera placement.
Unlike classic "films noir", neo-noir films are aware of modern circumstances and technology—details that were typically absent or unimportant to the plot of classic film noir. In the films of the early 1940s and '50s, audiences are led to understand and build a relationship with the protagonist or anti-hero. Neo-noir films of post-1970 often reverse this role. Unconventional camera movements and plot progression remind them that they are merely watching the film and not partaking in the story.
Director Christopher Nolan stated that the idea behind the film was "a person who would confront his innermost fear and then attempt to become it".
Mystery writer Andrew Klavan, writing in The Wall Street Journal, compared the extreme measures that Batman takes to fight crime with those U.S. President George W. Bush used in the War on Terror. Klavan claims that, "at some level" The Dark Knight is "a paean of praise to the fortitude and moral courage that has been shown by George W. Bush in this time of terror and war." Klavan supports this reading of the film by comparing Batman—like Bush, Klavan argues—"sometimes has to push the boundaries of civil rights to deal with an emergency, certain that he will re-establish those boundaries when the emergency is past."[148][dead link] Klavan's article has received criticism on the Internet and in mainstream media outlets, such as in The New Republic's "The Plank."[149] Reviewing the film in The Sunday Times, Cosmo Landesman reached the opposite conclusion to Klavan, arguing that The Dark Knight "offers up a lot of moralistic waffle about how we must hug a terrorist – okay, I exaggerate. At its heart, however, is a long and tedious discussion about how individuals and society must never abandon the rule of law in struggling against the forces of lawlessness. In fighting monsters, we must be careful not to become monsters – that sort of thing. The film champions the anti-war coalition's claim that, in having a war on terror, you create the conditions for more terror. We are shown that innocent people died because of Batman – and he falls for it."[150] Benjamin Kerstein, writing in Azure, says that both Klavan and Landesman "have a point," because "The Dark Knight is a perfect mirror of the society which is watching it: a society so divided on the issues of terror and how to fight it that, for the first time in decades, an American mainstream no longer exists."[151]
self-indulgence in fear will not prevent injustices (such as the mugging/murder of his parents)
mastering personal fear &
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