Film Theory 341W Blog Journal (Week 11)

Laura Mulvey’s essay on visual pleasure discusses how cinema objectifies women. That’s basically her main argument, or understanding, regarding the male viewers spectator-ship. Mulvey speaks about man’s desire to objectify women on screen. Voyeurism can define what “men” are taking part in when looking at women on screen. She discusses how the male sexual drive increases when a woman is on screen. Psychologically analyzing the male mind, as a woman, can be a difficult task.

She refers to the male viewer as the active spectator, and the female as the passive. This meaning that cinema has evolved into a looking glass (at women) for men. Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho acts as a prime example in agreeing with Mulvey’s theories. Marion Crane, the leading lady of the film played by Janet Leigh, is objectified from the films start until her demise. We see her in the bedroom with her boyfriend at the films start, and from then on Marion’s more of a play toy for our eyes and minds, then a character in the film. She then steals a large some of money, and escapes for greener pastures. Some may view Crane as a self sustained independent woman, who doesn’t need a man to run her life. Is that what Hitchcock thought? I know for certain that’s not what Mulvey believes. Janet Leigh is a beautiful actress. Her looks most definitely drive the male audiences to think various things throughout the duration of the film. Cranes objective beauty made it easy for her to get away with all of the “bad things” she had committed throughout the film.

We, the viewer, weren’t the only ones who were sucked in by Leigh’s seemingly “objective” beauty. Her boss, her “boyfriend,” and the man who entrusted her with thousands of dollars, were blinded by her beauty. They, like the viewer, objectified Leigh, not giving her a fair chance to prove herself differently. She may of gotten away with a few things solely thanks to her beauty, but it was her beauty that led to her death. Norman Bates killed her because she was a sight like no other. Hitchcock was well aware of this when making the film. He was a man who adored women, but I can certainly see how some may construe his on screen antics as sexist.

There is certainly a voyeuristic aspect in looking at film, but to single out men as the primary beneficiaries can be quite misleading. Women objectify male actors on screen equally as much as men do. I cant will myself to succumb to Freudian theory regarding narcissism, penis envy, etc.. It’s at the point where I find it quite difficult to differentiate between psychobabble and reality. Mulvey articulates her points nicely, but as an avid cinema lover,  I “cant” agree with her points regarding male and female viewers.

Film Theory 341W Blog Journal (Week 10)

Jean-Baudry’s apparatus theory seemingly deprives film as an art form, referring to it as a psychoanalytical study. Baudry dismisses the films narrative, and exclusively targets the nature of the viewer in relation to the film on screen. Content poses as an irrelevant entity to Braudry. He perceives the viewer as a “passive observer.” This meaning, the viewer is more of a “subject” than a moviegoer. A film viewer must see a film in his/her perspective; rather, the viewer “will” see the film through their own distinct perspective.

Braudy has varying opinions regarding the “role of the spectator,” few (if none) that I happen to agree with. He defines “watching a movie” as a psychological experience, rather than a means of enjoyment. Well, not entirely. He more often than not will allude to the “sub-conscious” as an immensely intrinsic factor in the motion picture viewing experience.

I happen to disagree with the psychoanalytical facets of Film Theory. I choose not to fall into the trap of dissecting every monotonous psychological detail, in an attempt to evade the explicit subject at hand, the film.  The plot, narrative, cinematography, and all other film related necessities, should be the focal point of all film theorist’s discussions.

I’m not exclusively perturbed by Baudry’s views on “The role of the spectator,” it’s the whole general notion that frustrates me. Theories regarding, Auteurism, Genre, Stars, and all other theories pertaining to the realistic aspects of film, seem to agree with me. Their content may infuriate me at times, but I have the ability to observe them as plausible ideas. I don’t see myself as a ”passive spectator,” as Baudry claims, although I do think about what is transpiring in the plot of the film I am screening. Psychological components do come into play when discussing film, but to abuse this rather loosely defined conception, can seem unnecessary at times.

Abstract films…art? (Go!Go!Go!)

Marie Menken’s (born in New York) experimental short Go!Go!Go! thoroughly aggravated me so, that I felt compelled to write a blog about it. The short film was meant to explore New York City’s rather “intense” lifestyle. It was an eleven minute silent production that peaked my interest merely because of how much I disliked it. The film can be construed as an ode to New York, or the lashing out at the New Yorkers “rushed” way of life.

One would imagine a film set in fast forward, with vast imaginative colors, would be an entertaining experience, but this was not the case. Its monotonous approach at exemplifying the same point increasingly frustrated me. I couldn’t understand if Menken meant to demonstrate the notion of ‘us’ rushing through life, and should just take a second to breathe, or she was complimenting New York’s bountiful cultural achievements. First there were the city workers, than the graduation, than the workers at the dock. I mean I understand her point of showing Time Squares excessive rush to Go! Go! Go!, but to show a graduation in fast forward might spark differing opinions. Why show “common” (opposed to city) life in fast forward?

This happened to be the first week of class were I couldn’t tolerate the materials screened. I don’t see myself as a close minded individual. I love cinema to the fullest extent, American as well as International alike. The films we viewed seemed to irritate me. I reiterate that same point in my “short blog” to advance my attack on abstract films as an art form. Once the film came on with the moth wings glued onto the strips of film I almost completely lost it. I contemplated walking out based on pure frustration, but there was a mere 5 minute’s remaining to class so I elected to stay. How is that art? I thought to myself. Its just a guy who decided to put dead moth wings on a film strip. Am i not a cultured enough individual? Do I not “get” art? I guess so if the moth film didn’t make me gush in awe. I guess I’m not as open minded as I thought I was.

The depressing thought to this all is that I’m probably going to want to see more abstract/ avante-garde films now out of curiosity. Could this be a blessing in disguise? I doubt it, but you never know.

Film Theory 341W Blog Journal (Week 9)

Horror films are known for there ability to distress our sub-conscious. Robin Wood, a well known theorist, discusses horror films in detail. He speaks about the “Return of the Repressed,” in his influential essay “An Introduction to the American Horror Film.” This theory of the “Repressed,” in my rather undemanding opinion, refers to the viewer’s ability to watch and evaluate a horror film.

Horror films are all about human existence, and the impossibilities, rather irregularities, of human interaction. The horror Genre covers life as an art form, a rather extraordinary medium to say the least. Horror refers to the obscure or uncommon ways of dissecting the human mind, the viewers mind, as well as the villains.

A horror film that comes to mind when thinking of gender/sexuality in relation to Woods theories is Friday the 13th (the original, not the horrible 2009 remake). This film exploits teenage sexuality, as well as frightened abandonment. The viewer analyzes the situation ongoing amidst the plot; Jason Voorhees comes for vengeance against the counselors. Their minds contemplate the fear of mortality, as well as other “outlandish” possibilities, rendering everything seemingly possibly. The film viewer is “open minded,” with the belief that anything is in fact a reasonable possibility.

No horror film, lacking any sexual connotation, comes to mind, but I would imagine that Woods theories would in fact apply to this case as well. As long as the sub-conscious is in tact, the horror film should act as a credible door way to the minds imagination.

Film Theory 341W Blog Journal (Week 8)

Many films stay with a person forever, while many are seemingly a “one time deal”. Films such as The Godfather, The wizard of Oz, and Gone with the Wind cause an everlasting effect on the viewer. They all consist of vital scenes that formed the building blocks for modern cinema. Scenes such as when Dorothy and her colorful friends skip down the yellow brick road in The Wizard of Oz, or Don Corleone’s daughters wedding in The Godfather, all link with the viewers memory, regardless of when you saw the film originally.

Silence of the Lambs comes to mind when thinking of notable scenes that resonate with a viewer from a motion picture. The film has one of the most prominent characters in movie history, Hannibal Lecter. He, as well as a few scenes from the film, make the movie a sight to remember. One scene that comes to mind is when Hannibal, played by Anthony Hopkins, meets Clarice, Jodie Foster, for the first time. Hannibal greets Clarice in a mysterious way, “Hello Clarice.” Typing the words ‘Hello Clarice, ‘don’t credit these words with the justice they deserve.

Hopkins “is” Hannibal Lecter. He will always be remembered as the Cannibalistic Psychopath until the day he dies. Another scene that further accentuates this point is when Hannibal is placed on a stretcher, with a straight jacket on, while wearing a muzzle. This scene was meant to signify Hannibal’s clearly psychotic nature. The odd fact to it all was the fact that Lecter was such a brilliant man, why would he choose the route of Cannibalism? The scene is meant to show the true face of human nature. No man should be viewed as how they appear.

The film also had a spectacular scene that will forever reside with whoever has seen the film. The scene had Jodie Foster inside of Buffalo Bill’s house when the lights go out. Foster is unable to see anything, while Bill can see everything. The screen goes green as if we are witnessing the events unfolding in front of us with night vision goggles. If you have seen the film before, you will undoubtedly remember this scene. Its voyeuristic connotation seems to follow the outline of the film as well as tell the viewer something about the mind of a psychopath, Buffalo Bill. During this scene we are seeing life through his eyes, a rather “dark” way at looking at reality.

Many films have that “everlasting aura,” but no psychological thriller will ever have the same effect on me. Silence of the Lambs was a masterpiece, never to be forgotten.

Film Theory 341W Blog Journal (Week 7)

Saying that “Stars” play a vital role in a film’s success is a vast understatement. Film theorist, Miriam Hansen, discusses male star roles in detail, specifically Rudolf Valentino. She views Valentino as a male “Sex Symbol,” he was quite the site for the average American female film-goer. She was fascinated by Valentino’s appeal to the female audience.

Every woman loved Valentino, he portrayed exoticism; he was a vision like no ordinary American male. Every woman wanted to love Valentino, while most males disliked his antics. They felt he was an unnatural male, clearly not used to the sight of an effeminate European male figure. Hundreds of thousands of Americans showed up to the celebration of Valentino’s death. As much as you loved or hated him, you had to admire his iconic prowess.

No modern day actor compares with Valentino’s sex appeal. This was because Valentino was the first of his kind. He was a revolution to female American audiences, a sight never witnessed before. If I were to choose one modern day actor to compete with Valentino’s effect on film audiences, I would decide on Antonio Banderas. He not only can actually act well, but he has a certain sex appeal that female audiences find fascinating (American woman especially).

He’s the ideal man that a woman would desire, but never obtain, at least regarding American Woman. His exotic appeal is similar to Valentino’s, but obviously poses as much less of an iconic figure. Hansen’s beliefs on Star theory and the feminist approach would condone the placing of Antonio Banderes on the long list of exotic male actors that have had a lasting effect on the female viewing public.

Rudolf Valentino was a “one of a kind” act. No entertainer amidst the early 1900’s had such a rigorous effect on female audiences. According to Hansen, he was more of a myth than a man. Valentino was a man like no other, no actor will ever have the same effect on movie audiences, until all traces of film are lost thousands of years from now, and civilization starts over. He was something no American woman has ever seen before, he was an icon.

Film Theory 341W Blog Journal (Week 6)

Rick Altman’s influential Semantic/Syntactic approach covers a substantial portion of the Genre Theory. A film’s “Genre” refers to the unconscious outline of the film, not noticeably apparent to the viewer, but understood none the less. Altman discusses Genre in detail, rendering the subject more complex than one would assume. He produces the idea of the Semantic/Syntactic approach for looking at film.

This psychological approach discusses Genre; what makes a film appealing to a certain criterion of viewer. The Semantic viewpoint consists of the physical entities involved in the actual production that contribute to the type of Genre. The features within a certain film, the special effects in a science fiction film, or the monster in a horror film, would depict the semantic approach. The Syntactic viewpoint for looking at Genre consists of the broader aspect of Genre. The films outline, plot, story, all depict the syntax of Genre.

A hybrid Genre is a film that is consistent of more than one noticeable Genre. A comedy/Musical would be classified as a hybrid Genre, but this specific class of film is not as easy to find as one would like to believe.  High Society (1956) comes to mind when searching for a Musical-Comedy, directed by Charles Walters, starring Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and the always charming Grace Kelly. The film was made as a remake of the romantic-comedy The Philadelphia Story (1940). High Society differed quite drastically from The Philadelphia Story because although both films followed identical storylines, High Society was a musical. Both films fell under different classifications of Genres even with the same plotline attached to both films. While watching the film I gathered that it was a musical (the excess of Diegetic sound played in song and dance gave that away). The film was quite humorous as well, clearly portraying all aspects of a comedy. It wasn’t as if the film was merely an entertaining musical, it had me laughing, compliments to its wit and charm.

The Semantics of the film were the noticeable features of a musical-comedy, song, dance, and romance. The lavish setting of the film and the quirky persona of Grace Kelly, Frank Sinatra, and Bing Crosby also contributed to the semantics of the musical-comedy genre. Bing Crosby himself reflected the syntax of the film. Crosby, being in the film, known as a charming comedian/singer to the viewing public, gave the film an immediate sense of a comedic and musical nature. Sinatra added to the syntactic cause as well, being that he was well known as a singer, as well as an actor.

High Society would fall under the category of a hybrid film according to Altman’s theories on genre. The film has more than subtle hints of comedy as well as musical entertainment.

Film Theory 341W Blog Journal (Week 5)

Sarris has three basic principles, or as he labels them, “premises,” regarding the Auteur theory. One premise is the technique of the director. Can a ‘bad’ director make a great film? Can a ‘good’ director make a bad film? Sarris’ second premise states, over a group of films, a director must exhibit certain recurrent characteristics of style, which serve as his signature. This second premise, to his understanding of the Auteur theory, was meant to discern the difference between a ‘good’ and ‘bad’ director. The noteworthy director, such as the likes of a Welles’ or a Ford caliber filmmaker, will leave his signature, or noticeable mark, into each and everyone one of his films.

Sarris’ third and final principle explores the need for his “Auteur” to implement something useful into their films, in order to validate their film as an art form. He believes that an Auteur should subliminally insert valuable information concerning life lessons into their films.

The two films I’ve chosen to compare with Sarris’ views on the Auteur theory are Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window and Psycho. As we all already know, Hitchcock was an artistic genius. Many of his films appeared similar. Why not? The films he made “worked”, so why fix what wasn’t broken. In both Rear Window and Psycho idea of voyeurism is explored. This notion satisfies all three of Sarris’ principles. Voyeurism is an idea that surfaces in many of Hitchcock’s films. Whether it’s Jimmy Stewart spying on his neighbors with his handy binoculars out his bedroom window, or Anthony Perkins looking through his peephole into the next room.

Both Rear Window and Psycho were critically acclaimed productions, warranting them worthy of Sarris’ first premise. The suspenseful nature of both films poses as Hitchcock’s noticeable mark that Sarris discusses. Hitchcock doesn’t use any ordinary method of presenting suspense; he always builds up suspense in a particular way, which is evident in both films.

Sarris would undoubtedly view Hitchcock as an Auteur. He shows all of the necessary signs that you’re typical “Sarris made” Auteur would show. He’s consistent with the quality of his films, his films are all similar in more ways than one, and he tells the viewer something about life (Feminism, voyeurism, Freudian theory, etc…). I don’t agree with Sarris’ views, nor do I agree with the notion of a singular ‘Auteur’ altogether. Hitchcock was a great director, calling him the supreme author of the film he made, dismissing all other contributing factors, just seems preposterous to me.



Film Theory 341W Blog Journal (Week 4)

Andre Bazin and Sigfried Kracauer have conflicting, yet similar theories regarding the notion of realism. Kracauer believed that a film should be realistic to a certain extent while still maintaining its artistic merit. He focuses less on the technical aspects of film and more on the basic elements pertaining to the production. He believed its all in the staging and manipulation of the camera. He falls under the “Seeing is believing” philosophy, that the world revolves around cause and effect, and not by unpredictability. Kracauer, as well as many others, believed realism can only be made possible through art. Film was “Art,” the most popular art form of the twentieth century.

The idea of realism plays a vital role in producing a successful film, at least that’s what Andre Bazin believes. He respects directors such as Welles’ and Chaplin, merely because of his admiration for their ability to portray reality. Bazin respected Robert Flaherty’s Nanook of the North, because despite the fact that he knew this wasn’t a “true documentary” he respected its ability to portray reality to such a high degree. Bazin enjoyed long-takes and limited edits. These two features of film would fall under the category of a neo-realist film. He liked simple directors, who focused more on the reality of a film and less on the “flash.”

Kracauer’s ideas would appear more applicable towards contemporary American Films. He enjoys the artistic aspect of films, and less on the reality of the production. Bazin was increasingly driven towards the “real”, and further away from the extraordinary. Both theorists believed film was a powerful art form, arguably the most powerful of any form of art depiction.

Many films support both theorists’ claims regarding the notion of realism. One film in particular that correlates with Bazin’s beliefs is Umberto D, directed by Vittorio Di Sica. There are countless long-takes in the film. Di Sica portrays an absolute sense of reality in this particular Italian Neo-Realist film, and does not try to confuse the audience by adding any additional means of storytelling (excess editing, special effects, obscure lighting). The film works without being a visual spectacle. Its realistic characteristics are noticeably evident, yet the film still manages to maintain an immensely entertaining appeal.

Both viewpoints regarding realism are particularly valuable and insightful. I can’t seem to entirely agree with either Kracauer or Bazin, but if I would chose a position I would agree with Kracauer’s beliefs. This is a biased claim, of course, because I am used to modernized cinemas “glorious” antics. Its flashy scenery and intense dialogue captivate my attention, forcing my sub-conscious to take a trip through a ‘fantastical’ faux-reality. It’s also due to the fact that I’m not such a neo-realist lover. Either way, Kracauers view points sit better with me, but I do admire Bazin’s formidable insight.

Film Theory 341w Blog Journal (Week 2)

Rudolf Arnheim was an early film theorist who much like Munsterberg, was vastly interested in the idea of perception and visualization. Arnheim was greatly opposed to the use of sound and color in the cinema. This was due to the fact that he felt those two properties would cause a distraction to the art form aspect of the film, rendering the visual secondary to the films sound. Arnheim had a strong disliking for films that portray realism. He believed that the only movies worthy of his attention were silent productions in black and white. The visual component of a film is what stood out the most to Arrnheim. He believed film like Fritz Lang’s Metropolis should be viewed and studied because of its artistic prowess.

One of Arnheim’s favorite cinematic stars was Charlie Chaplin. He enjoyed Charlie Chaplin a great deal. Although most of Chaplin’s films would be interpreted as realistic films, he still found Chaplin to be extraordinary. One film that Arnheim discusses is The Gold Rush, starring Chaplin. The film had many features constituting a realistic nature, but Arnheim adored it anyway. Why was this so? Arnheim believed film was art. Not all film, but he did believe film should be viewed as a proper art form. What Charlie Chaplin did on the screen and to the world of cinema was in fact “Art.” He didn’t need sound or color to get his point across. Humor was/is a universal entity. Chaplin was a genius in the eyes of Arnheim. Sound and/or color would have taken something positive out of a Charlie Chaplin film, I’d have to agree.

Arnheim believed that there were several things that make a film unique by the addition of unrealistic aspects. He believed the ability to manipulate lighting, depth, time, the absence of color, projection, and the ability to inhabit effective framing were all key elements to a productive worthwhile film.

Arnheim has some very valid points regarding cinema. From 1900-1929 I could understand how a film theorist would argue the innovative nature of sound and color, and view them as intrusions to a popular art form. Amidst the 21st century we see Arnheim’s early views of cinema as preposterous because of our love for modernized cinema. If the average moviegoer was around to witness the creation of film in the early 1900’s would you have taken the side of sound or silent cinema? This is a topic we as film students will never truly comprehend.

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