French Film Theory in the 1920’s

For the readings for February 17th, the authors discussed the concept of visualization and what do we really see or comprehend when we watch films. First of of, Films and TV differ from all other forms of media such as portraits, radio, or music. We have audio and visual senses in film. So the producer of a film doesnt have the easiest job to capture our senses. But what really are our senses? Is it more of a dream like continuation of reality and life perspective as Breton believes. Is it symbolism and messages as Epstein opines? Epstein may believe what we see is brain nerves penetrating from one point in our body to another point. Artoud may not even believe that what we see is truly what we see.

What makes a successful film is something that takes us out of reality. A lot of times our lives may be dull and boring, or simply we may have difficult and hard experiences and we are merely looking for an escape. The Cinema with friends on a lazy Sunday afternoon may relieve that. When my friend and I are sitting watching a movie, how are we being captured? The fact that we (our minds) are entering the story world makes a somewhat successful movie. Epstein opines that the film is merely just a bunch of images together. The images make a communication between myself and the film story. I get tapped into the film world because I desire to. I communicate with the different symbolism differently than my neighbor. I may look at something red in the film as romantic or sexual and my friend may view it as blood or danger. Each one of us may adapt differently into the story world. So how is that proper communication? As a child, we have come across the game titled “broken telephone”. The film communication is somewhat like that. I communicate differently with the symbolism in my own ways. It may not be right or wrong, but i become a slave to my senses and my imagination.

One particular part of the reading that annoyed me somewhat was Magnification by Jean Epstein. For some reason, the concept of close-ups in films found her dislikes. We lose comprehension of the object or scene as a whole when we see a little part of something. We may not know what that small part of the screen even is which alters our perception and freedom of choice to know the beauty of the object as a whole. For instance showing a close up of a baby in a carriage or a woman breast feeding her child, we only see that small little sphere of reality. Germain Dulac wants the entire scene to be in our sphere of reality, not that small microcosm. Another concluding issue, though not raised by the authors, but my own opinion, is the sense of closeups in pornographic or love scenes. Media knows the dominant male viewers are only interested in focusing on the physical body of the female so the closeups with be emphasized to cater to their wishes. The type of bed sheets, the man’s body, or the color of the carpet doesnt matter in a scene such as that. Only the female body parts- unfortunately or fortunately= depending how you want to communicate with the film.

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2 Comments

  1. Amy Herzog Said,

    February 16, 2010 @ 3:42 pm

    Elliot, I think you hit on a key theme running throughout these diverse readings– the relationship between film and our physical processes of perception, our senses. Each is also concerned with some idea of the unconscious. We’ll talk a great deal more about this in class, but you raise some really interesting questions regarding realism and subjectivity. If part of our reaction to film has to do with our individual, physical response to what we see, and the different memories and emotions that are triggered, are our responses completely subjective? What kind of reality, if any, is being tapped into if the communication taking place is determined by our interior world? Or is there a more complex interaction at work?

    The example of the close up in pornography is a FASCINATING subject for us to debate! Hope that someone will comment on this….

    And we’ll talk more about Epstein’s take on the close up, but just to clarify, he’s extremely enamored with the power of the close up. For him, the loss of context and comprehension brings with it a very productive potential to see things in a new light. For him, the close up allows us to penetrate the “unconscious” of reality.

    Thanks for getting the conversation started!

  2. christina421 Said,

    February 17, 2010 @ 11:14 pm

    I shared the same idea that Prof. Herzog discussed in class in regards to voyeurism and the close up and the capability of film being able to penetrate through our senses by visual images. We are not able to stare at a person and dissect each part of them without being considered a freak or just plain creepy. In reality, there are boundaries. As someone discussed in class today, he looks at someone as long as he can before they turn to see him staring. With film, there is a freedom to do so. When it comes to pornography, this is really the only way one can truly be engaged as a sexual voyeur without being restricted to time or space. The close-ups of different parts of the body: the lips, the hands, the torso, skin, and genitalia is truly bizarre to walk in on mid-action because it looks so foreign to the eye until a few seconds later when you register what you are looking at. The female body considered more aesthetic and I personally find it distasteful to look at male genitalia whereas female genitalia is tucked away and not loosely hanging out for everyone to see. For those that enjoy watching pornographic films, it is more erotic to see a closeup of an action or of a body part because the camera has the ability to get as close to the person or closer than we can in reality. If the action is taken from a further distance, the scene wouldn’t be as risque or as erotic. The closeups are what turn viewers on. I believe that other films getting close-ups of a face or of body movement, such as the the trembling of a lip when someone is about to cry or the clenching of the hands when angry or or in distress, is as equivalent to pornography in the sense that we push the boundary of how close we are getting to the subject. Porn shows a lot of what most people do not do in the confines of their homes, close ups are just the same unless a person you know is comfortable enough with you to look closely at the creases of their skin. There’s a beauty in the way a closeup captures its subject.

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