I still see things that are not here. I just choose not to acknowledge them.
– John Nash, A Beautiful Mind


I’m your average Jane when it comes to movies. As a member of Netflix, I’ve opted for the one-movie-at-a-time-for-$6.99 package. The only technical film operation I am familiar with is filling my online movie queue, checking snail mail, and pressing “play.” Thank goodness for Richard Barsam’s guide, Looking at Movies: An Introduction to Film. Without it, the lexicon used both in the production/direction and analysis of film would be lost on me. The closest I have come to analyzing film technique, aside from story, is when I found porn in my genealogical research. Essentially, until now, I’ve preferred to see without really looking.

That said, and since class didn’t officially have to write for today, I’m just going to wrap up Chapter 1, “What Is a Movie” for myself. You?re welcome to read along.

To summarize ultra-simplistically, a film is both form and content inextricably intertwined on celluloid (unless it’s digital). That’s the easy part. It’s the myriad ways in which form and content can be manipulated that blows my mind:

  • Through the camera lens (as both perspective and frame)
  • Coexpressibility of time and space (parallel edits and montages)
  • Lighting (chiaroscuro: a term that describes contrasts of light and dark which I?m thrilled to recognize from an oil painting class)
  • Via the constructed illusion of realism and the opposite, or antirealism (fantasy, sci-fi, thrillers)
  • Striving for verisimilitude: a convincing appearance of truth based on “realistic” expectations as well as a filmmaker’s and audience’s mediation of conventional and innovative cinematic language (scenes, sequences, dissolves, etc.)
  • Through a flexible dependence upon the conventions and overlap of genres and subgenres
    • Narrative or fiction (action, biopics, comedy, fantasy, film noir, etc.)
    • Non-fiction (factual, instructional, documentary, propaganda)
    • The conflation of both via historiographic metafiction (This note is my own written especially for Michael)
    • Animation (drawing, puppet or clay animation, pixilation, computer animation)
    • Experimental film (Un Chien Andalou – An Andalousian Dog, as the book translates – is on UbuWeb if you want to see it. The eyeball scene is a trip.)

In the end, it is all simply an illusion of movement – but a complicated one at that. And so here we end where we’ll begin another day…


FoYoInfo: English Department Visiting Scholar
Jim Collins Lectures on Film and New Media
April 8th, 7-9 p.m. in Saint Joseph Hall

Does anybody wanna go?
(The old Postmodernism gang perhaps?)


PS: How odd to be reading references to the filming of Brokeback Mountain on the day that Heath Ledger was found dead.