Film 3200 New Waves - Theory explication - Fall 2013
Due: 4 November 2013 in tutorial and to Moodle (by 11:59pm), where it will be submitted to Turnitin academic honesty software
Value: 20% of final grade
Write a 5-6 page (1250-1500 word) essay that explicates ONE of the passages below taken from some of the required readings.
Explicate – “1. ‘analyze and develop (an idea or principle) in detail’; 2. ‘analyze (a literary work) in order to reveal its meaning.’” (Apple Dictionary)
• In addition to a detailed explanation of the meaning of the passage, you must connect the passage to thegeneral arguments of the essay as a whole. Given that this is a short essay, you are not expected to summarize the whole essay, but your explication of the passage should demonstrate general understanding of the essay as a whole.
• Define and explain any specialized terminology. • You are not required to use secondary sources, although you are welcome to do so.
Follow customary citation practice, using the Chicago Style. • Finally, you are invited to critique and/or comment on the passage, but only after you
have demonstrated adequate understandingof its argument. A. From Christian Metz, “Some Points in the Semiotics of the Cinema”
1. Contrary to what many of the theoreticians of the silent film declared or suggested (Ciné langue, ‘visual Esperanto,’ etc.), the cinema is certainly not a language system (langue). It can, however, be considered as alanguage, to the extent that it orders signifying elements within ordered arrangements different from those of spoken idioms—and to the extent that these elements are not traced on the perceptual configurations of reality itself (which does not tell stories). Filmic manipulation transforms what might have been a mere visual transfer of reality into discourse. Derived from a kind of signification that is purely analogous and continuous— animated photography, cinematography—the cinema gradually shaped, in the course of its diachronic maturation, some elements of a proper semiotics, which remain scattered and fragmentary within the open field of simple visual duplication.
The "shot"—an already complex unit, which must be studied—remains an indispensable reference for the time being, in somewhat the same way that the "word" was during a period of linguistic research. [...] It constitutes the largest minimum segment [...], since at least one shot is required to make a film, or part of a film—in the same way, a linguistic statement must be made up of at least one phoneme. To isolate several shots from a sequence is still, perhaps, to analyze the sequence; to remove several frames from a shot is to destroy the shot. If the shot is not the smallest unit of filmic signification (for a single shot may convey several informational elements), it is at least the smallest unit of the filmic chain.
2. The semiotics of the cinema can be conceived of either as a semiotics of connotation or as a semiotics of denotation. [...] The study of connotation brings us closer to the notion of the cinema as an art (the "seventh art"). [..,] the art of film is located on the same semiological "plane" as literary art: The properly aesthetic orderings and constraints—versification,composition, and tropes in the first case; framing, camera movements, and light "effects" in the second—serve as the connoted instance, which is superimposed over the denoted meaning. In literature, the latter appears as the purely linguistic signification, which is linked, in the employed idiom, to the units used by the author. In the cinema, it is represented by the literal (that is, perceptual) meaning of the spectacle reproduced in the image, or of the sounds duplicated by the sound-track. [...] The study of the cinema as an art—the study of cinematographic expressiveness—can therefore be conducted according to methods derived from linguistics. [...] But there is another task that requires the careful attention of the film semiologist. For also, and even first of all, through its procedures of denotation, the cinema is a specific language. The concept of diegesisis as important for the film semiologist as the idea of art. The word is derived from the Greek "narration” and was used particularly to designate one of the obligatory parts of judiciary discourse, the recital of facts. [...] It designates the film's represented instance (which Mikel Dufrenne contrasts to the expressed, properly aesthetic, instance)—that is to say, the sum of a film's denotation: the narration itself, but also the fictional space and time dimensions implied in and by the narrative, and consequently the characters, the landscapes, the events, and other narrative elements, in so far as they are considered in their denoted aspect. [...]
B. From Louis Althusser, “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses (Notes towards an Investigation)”
1. I believe I have good reasons for thinking that behind the scenes of its political Ideological State Apparatus, which occupies the front of the stage, what the bourgeoisie has installed as its number-one, i.e., as its dominant Ideological State apparatus, is the educational apparatus, which has in fact replaced in its functions the previously dominant ideological State apparatus, the Church. One might even add: the School-Family couple has replaced the Church-Family couple.
Why is the educational apparatus in fact the dominant ideological State apparatus in capitalist social formations, and how does it function?
For the moment it must suffice to say:
i. All ideological State apparatuses, whatever they are, contribute to the same result: the reproduction of the relations of production, i.e. of capitalist relations of exploitation. ii. Each of them contributes towards this single result in the way proper to it. The
political apparatus by subjecting individuals to the political State ideology, the 'indirect' (parliamentary) or 'direct' (plebiscitary or fascist) 'democratic' ideology. The communications apparatus by cramming every 'citizen' with daily doses of nationalism, chauvinism, liberalism, moralism, etc., by means of the press, the radio and television. The same goes for the cultural apparatus (the role of sport in chauvinism is of the first importance), etc. The religious apparatus by recalling in sermons and the other great ceremonies of Birth, Marriage and Death, that man is only ashes, unless he loves his neighbour to the extent of turning the other cheek to whoever strikes first. [...]
iv. Nevertheless, in this concert, one ideological State apparatus certainly has the dominant role, although hardly anyone lends an ear to its music: it is so silent! This is the School.
2. [...] you and I are always already subjects, and as such constantly practice the rituals of ideological recognition, which guarantee for us that we are indeed concrete, individual, distinguishable and (naturally) irreplaceable subjects. [...]
But to recognize that we are subjects and that we function in the practical rituals of the most elementary everyday life (the hand-shake, the fact of calling you by your name the fact of knowing, even if I do not know what it is that you 'have' a name of your own, which means that you are recognized as a unique subject, etc.)—this recognition only gives us the 'consciousness' of our incessant (eternal) practice of ideological recognition - its consciousness, i.e., its recognition - but in no sense does it give us the (scientific) knowledge of the mechanism of this recognition. [...]
As a first formulation I shall say: all ideology hails or interpellates concrete individuals as concrete subjects, by the functioning of the category of the subject.
This is a proposition which entails that we distinguish for the moment between concrete individuals on the one hand and concrete subjects on the other, although at this level concrete subjects only exist insofar as they are supported by a concrete individual.
I shall then suggest that ideology 'acts' or 'functions' in such a way that it 'recruits' subjects among the individuals (it recruits them all), or 'transforms' the individuals into subjects (it transforms them all) by that very precise operation which I have called interpellation or hailing, and which can be imagined along the lines of the most commonplace everyday police (or other) hailing: 'Hey, you there!'
C. From Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, “Identification and Distancing: Aristotle and Brecht.”
1. It's not enough, then, that the spectacle alsobear clear ideas, revolutionary messages rationally projected upon the spectator, if the spectacle presents itself as an affirmation of those very myths which govern us without our paying attention to them and which constitute a serious obstacle for the full development (within reality, not within the spectacle) of those ideas and those messages. So that ideas don't remain imprisoned within the spectacle, the spectacle itself must demystify those aspects of reality that are manifestations — often inconsistent ones — of a reactionary ideology.
I want to put my emphasis here on the spectacle that seeks to make effective inroads on discovering reality's most profound layers — the demystifying spectacle — one which makes us advance another level in pursuing genuine consciousness. That is, the spectacle that produces a new spectator will be the one which does not exhaust itself exposing a criterion — no matter how revolutionary this criterion might be or seem, or one people could also arrive at via criticism or slogans or commonplaces. Rather, such a spectacle thrusts spectators into the street chock full of uncertainties, with only the path indicated — the path they will have to pursue when they cease being spectators and become actors in their own life.
2. Mythology, insofar as it's an illusory understanding, can level everything and set itself up in the center of a world deprived of all reality, in the middle of a desert populated only by imaginary figures. These fantasies have to be dissipated before viewers can be made to face reality in new ways, i.e., to stop being spectators. In this way the spectacle itself can equally serve to create or reinforce myths or help destroy them. For centuries it has occupied itself almost exclusively with the first task. And surely it will keep on creating new myths, because that is also a constant human need. But at this historical moment, the most urgent task imposed on spectacle is demystification — a task which Brecht began in his plays and theoretical writings more than fifty years ago and which we have to continue to develop. We must continue to place new demands on the relation of spectacle to spectator.
We have already seen how viewers' class consciousness can remain asleep — momentarily defenseless — during the spectacle. That seems to be one of spectacle's obvious results when it incarnates a reactionary spirit and is the ideological product of an exploiting class consciousness — that is, when it's pure "ideology," in the narrow sense. The fascination commanded by the hero in an Aristotelian drama is a resource that can elevate spirits but which usually diminishes rational thinking. Of course, this has most effect in immature spectators — in children, vulnerable because of their age, or in any kind of adolescent consciousness. Surely when we speak about people, we can't absolutely postulate the specific moment of their development, as such. Mature people are qualitatively different from children or adolescents since every moment has its specificity. Nevertheless, for a long time now, the so- called "average spectator" has been established by North American cinema (the Hollywood leisure-time spectator) as a viewer of any age, but one whose mental age corresponds to age 12. Of course, any reference to those viewers' class consciousness is set aside because it's presumed that from the moment they encounter the spectacle, they stay asleep. At least that's what Hollywood film has aimed for and what it has largely achieved.
D. From Julio García Espinosa, “For an Imperfect Cinema.”
E. From Geoffrey Nowell-Smith, Making Waves.N.B. If YOU CHOSE TO EXPLICATE A QUOTATION BY NOWELL-SMITH, YOU MUST PROVIDE EXAMPLES OF HIS ARGUMENT FROM 1-2 FILMS SCREENED IN CLASS.
1. [From “Introduction”] The first breakthrough [of new cinemas] was to see Hollywood (an by extension other conventional cinemas) as a fundamentally inexplicit cinema, this is to say one in which the marks of enunciation are suppressed or naturalized and the stories are told which appear to be telling themselves rather than being developed from a position in which the audience can locate and, if necessary, challenge. By contrast, the new cinemas, or some of them, told stories in which the points of enunciation were always in some way and to some degree explicit. This might take the form of direct reminders to the spectator of the way the
1. Must the revolutionary present and the revolutionary future inevitably have "its" artists and
"its" intellectuals, just as the bourgeoisie had "theirs"? Surely the truly revolutionary position,
from now on, is to contribute to overcoming these elitist concepts and practices, rather than
pursuing ad eternumthe "artistic quality" of the work. The new outlook for artistic culture is no
longer that everyone must share the taste of a few, but that all can be creators of that culture.
Art has always been a universal necessity; what it has not been is an option for all under equal
conditions. Parallel to refined art, popular art has had a simultaneous but independent
Popular art has absolutely nothing to do with what is called mass art. Popular art needs
and consequently tends to develop the personal, individual taste of a people. On the other
hand, mass art (or art for the masses) requires the people to have no taste. It will only be
genuine when it is actually the masses who create it, since at present it is art produced by a
few for the masses. Grotowski says that today's theater should be a minority art form because
mass art can be achieved through cinema. This is not true. Perhaps film is the most elitist of all
the contemporary arts. Film today, no matter where, is made by a small minority for the
masses. Perhaps film will be the art form which takes the longest time to reach the hands of the
masses, when we understand mass art as popular art, art created by the masses. Currently, as
Hauser points out, mass art is art produced by a minority in order to satisfy the demand of a
public reduced to the sole role of spectator and consumer.
images were being put together or of the image-maker who was responsible for putting them where they were, or that of less obvious but nevertheless unambiguous indicators that the film unrolling in the spectator’s presence represented not a substitute reality but an alternative take on what reality might be. To the former category would belong, in very different ways, Jean- Luc Godard or Federico Fellini; to the second, and again in quite different ways, Michelangelo Antonioni or Ingmar Bergman.
The vocabulary employed in this approach was that of semiotics, which began to influence thinking about film in France from about 1964 onwards, though somewhat later in Britain and in the USA. [...]
[...] in 1983, the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze published the first of two volumes of reflections in the nature of cinema, subtitled ‘L’image mouvement.’ This and a second volume ‘L’image temps,’ which followed in 1985, set out to ground a fundamental distinction in the cinema between films (the great majority at all times) characterized by what he called the ‘movement image’ and those (a minority, almost all of them relatively recent) characterized by a different form of image entirely, the ‘time image.’ Put very crudely, in movement-image films where is movement in space as required by the necessities of the action, but time has no real presence in the film except as a vector along which action takes place. Tentatively, however, beginning in a small way with Italian neo-realism in the 1940s, and more emphatically with, for instance, Antonioni or Alain Resnais in the early 1960s, time begins to make its presence felt as something in itself, above and beyond the forward movement of the action. The new cinemas of the 1960s are not all time-image cinemas, but many of them are, and across a wide spectrum.
2. [From “Antonioni”] Antonioni’s characters, like those in films generally, are not free-standing entities. They are brought into being by story and mise-en-scène, and both story and mise-en- scèneare elusive in the extreme. Mysteries are evoked but never solved and the narrative never reaches the moment of truth that a solution would provide. [...] Even in films which do not have a mystery written into the plot, facts are withheld from the audience or the characters or both – not so that they can be revealed in due time but because they have no real pertinent existence. The world of the films is the fleeting world the audience sees and there is no more solid world underlying it and capable of acting as a guarantor of its truth. In the epigraph to Sam Rodhie’s book on Antonioni, the director is quoted as saying, “the world, the reality in which we live is invisible ... hence we have to be satisfied with what we see.”
What we see in Antonioni films is a pared-down narration, consisting of a series of views of spaces where characters enter, perform their actions, and depart. In conventional film narration, spaces are defined by the characters who occupy them and by the actions performed in them, and the succession of spaces (the editing of shots) is determined by the continuity of the action. In Antonioni’s films space precedes the action and asserts its reality independently of the action performed within it. Although there are conventional matched- action cuts in the films, there are also many shots which begin or end with no character in frame at all (most notably in The Eclipse). The character makes an appearance in the shot, redefines the space as the space of the action, then disappears, restoring to the space its original independent reality. What anchors the narration is not a story but a composition.