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Transcript of Richard Dyer
"[Cinema] Mattering has tended to be affirmed
in one of two ways: the formal-aesthetic and the
social-ideological." The formal-aesthetic value of film study Film matters for its artistic merits
- championing film as a serious/relevant object of study
-debating the merits of particular films
(i.e. "is this film any good?"; "is cinema generally any good?") Qualitative vs. quantitative assessments -what/why a certain kind of art (cinema/painting/sculpture) is valued in a particular socio-historical context The auteur theory (auteurism) example (p. 3) -emerges in the 1960s (a crucial moment for the establishment of film as a serious discipline)s
-"This [academic discourse] made the case for taking film seriously be seeking to show that a film could be just as profound, beautiful, or important as any other kind of art, provided, following a dominant model of value in art, it was demonstrably the work of a highly individual artist."
-e.g. Nicholas Ray (Rebel Without A Cause), Orson Welles (Citizen Kane)
-contemporary examples? The linear (chronological) overview
of film as an academic object of study 1. realist theory
-films should depict reality as objectively as possible
(e.g. the use deep focus [Orson Welles]; wide shots [Jean Renoir]; long takes [Vittorio De Sica] that preserve the "true continuity" of objects in nature The linear (chronological) overview
of film as an academic object of study (cont'd) 2. formalist theory
-challenges theories of realism
-Sergei Eisenstein (Battleship Potemkin)
-focuses on the formal (technical) elements of a film (e.g. lighting, scoring, sound & set design, use of color, shot composition, editing)
The linear (chronological) overview
of film as an academic object of study (cont'd) 3. semiotics
-cinema structured as a language
-Roland Barthes; Christian Metz
Sergei Eisenstein (Battleship Potemkin)
-focuses on the "grammar" or "syntax" of visual cues and their signification (e.g. the use of the colour red in M. Night Shyamalan's The Sixth Sense) The linear (chronological) overview
of film as an academic object of study (cont'd) 4. phenomenology
-focuses on the experience of the film image (how films make us "feel")
-draws explicitly upon what we consider to be the nature of perception and consciousness
-Vivian Sobchack (The Address of the Eye) The linear (chronological) overview
of film as an academic object of study (cont'd) 5. psychoanalytic film theory
-develops in the 1970s
-coincidence of Freud's writings & the inception of the cinematic apparatus
-"links formal elements [of the film text] to unconscious psychic processes, most influentially in the feminist treatment of the point-of-view shot, whose organization is seen to privilege the male look at women in ways which either sadistically punish or satisfyingly fetishize the always threatening image of women to the male psyche" (p. 4) Fatal Attraction (1987) The social-ideological value of film -the film-as-art discourse argues that film is intrinsically worth studying (art for art's sake)
-the social-ideological discourse argues that films should be studied symptomatically (e.g. as exemplary of their particular social/historical/cultural context)
-e.g. the story content of Sam Mendes' American Beauty as social commentary; the non-linear format of Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction as statement about the modern experience of fragmented reality The social-ideological value of film (cont'd) -cultural studies approach to film analysis
-emerges alongside TV and popular music/culture
-concerned with the politics/ideologies/social and cultural representations within film texts
-e.g. the depiction of different kinds of social groups in Rent
-argues that the textual/visual cues/facts within film texts construct a perception of social reality (whether or not that social reality is a reality at all) The social-ideological value of film (cont'd) -"hard sciences" approach to film analysis (most recent)
-"talk of the culture of an enterprise is widely accepted as a key explanatory concept" (p. 7)
-e.g. quantitative (vs. qualitative) study of consumption practices/audience attendance/focus groups Culmination of the argument (p. 7):
"I want to insist that in particular, the aesthetic and the cultural cannot stand in opposition. The aesthetic dimension of a film never exists apart from how it is conceptualized, how it is socially practiced, how it is received; it never exists floating free of historical and cultural particularity. Equally, the cultural study of film must always understand that it is studying film, which has its own specificity, its own pleasures, its own way of doing things..." Some things to think about.. 1. Why/how is this essay defined as a "critical" approach to the history of film studies?
2. What does Dyer teach us about how film texts have been studied in the past, and how they should be studied from here on in?