>elements and links

>I have been hunting through some old film theory books I have sitting on my shelves. One topic that always fascinates me is the question of what makes a film a film? Related is what makes a film cinematic? Other questions arise: What are the fundamental elements of cinema? or, What are those salient characteristics that make a film distinct from a non-film? I’ve dealt with some of these questions in my post on Jeff Wall. And somewhat less in my post on Cindy Sherman. Both of which deal with non-cinema art that has (debatedly so) cinematic qualities. Some other interesting comments and debate related to the topic are at Girish’s blog on the work of Michael Snow. In this spirit, and tangentially related, here is an interesting quote from one of those old film theory books:

But a problem surfaces at once regarding film. What are the elements? Most film aestheticians seem to think they have to start by identifying unique elements of film, thus defining cinematic specificity in terms of attributes and capacities of the medium or of what is urged as the viewer’s properly cinematic experience. Thus we have Rudolf Arnheim’s “distortions” or “restrictions” “of the images we receive of the physical world,” which properly exploit the “peculiar possibilities of cinematographic technique”; Eisenstein’s “shot and montage, [which] are the basic elements of cinema”; F. E. Sparshott’s “technologically determined” “alienated vision” of dreamlike film space and time; Bazin’s “filtered” imprintings, which are “fragments of imaged reality”; V. F. Perkin’s “opportunities of the medium,” which amount to the discipline implied by cinema’s recording/realistic and creating/illusionistic aspects in narrative mainstream films; Siegfied Kracauer’s “basic” and “technical” properties of the medium; and such precise specification of the cinematic elements as Christian Metz’s “audio-visual, moving, multiple, mechanical, iconic images.”

We agree on the importance of all of these aspects of film. Analyzing them, we can say much about what makes films filmic. But it seems to us that they are not minimal, but emerge from elements. What elements? Areas for the visual aspects of film design, sounds for the auditory, words for the verbal. We don’t think we need define special elements of film, though it is quite natural to use terms like those above in a very different context from determination of the elements of film. To use them is to discuss film history, to consider and report on what has been, is, or could be most characteristic of films. The terms are for what Christian Metz calls the “language” that has developed from film’s “fine stories,” a language of connotations deposited with the knowledgeable film viewer like Bazin’s “fine carpet of silt and gold dust,” as a set of special expectations of film experience.

-from Film Criticism: A Counter Theory, by William Cadbury & Leland Poague, (1982), p. 5


Some links for the curious:

Spark – according to the site: Spark is your guide to the Next Big Thing. On-air and online, join Nora Young for a surprising and irreverent look at tech, trends, and fresh ideas.

Photography of the Unexpected and Neglected Architecture – a fascinating photographic collection of old and abandoned buildings and structures. Each one could be the location for a film, or scene within a film.

Mars Hill Audio bonus interviews – great, thought provoking discussions on just about anything to do with the arts, culture, society, and faith.

Some stunning film miniatures by artist Sheri Wills.

An interesting tidbit on the scale & potential of solar power.

Some uplifting news from Reuters. It’s nice to know that someone is covering the important stuff in the midst of all the fluff.

I hope the food is as good as the view, or as valuable as one’s life.

Some of the blogs I’m reading:

The Amateur Gourmet is a witty, insightful, and refreshingly fun food blog. You will find restaurant reviews, recipes, personal anecdotes, and lots of observations on the world of food.

I just discovered Thompson on Hollywood. Anne Thompson is deputy editor at Variety. This is her personal blog where she can let loose a bit from all that professional industry insider writing she’s does at her day job.

Another great food blog, The Girl Who Ate Everything is full of excellent photos and fun stories.

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