A Short Guide to Writing About Film Chapter 2 Beginning to Think, Watch, and Write
What are you going to analyze? • Characters? • Technological innovations? • Effect on audience? • Auteur theory? • Formal elements? • Cinematography • Lighting • Art Direction
Movies & Context • Film, literature, music, dance, architecture • Film industry and technology • Cinerama • IMAX • The Matrix • Film as commercial enterprises • Usually requires more research • Awareness of audience
Subject Matter & Meaning • “Films not just about a story, character, a place or a way of life, but also about ‘a way of seeing these elements in our live.’” • Films are constructed according to certain forms and styles that arise from many historical influences. • A confluence of art, technology, and commerce.
Starting an Analysis • Look for key moments, patterns, or images • Note which elements of the movie strike you as unfamiliar or perplexing • Note which elements are repeated to emphasize a point or a perception
Starting an Analysis II • What does the title mean to the story? • Why does the movie start the way it does • When was the film made? • Why are the opening credits presented in such a manner against this particular background? • Why does the film conclude on this image?
Starting an Analysis III • How is this movie similar to or different from the movies I have seen recently or from those of an older generation? • Does this film resemble any foreign films I know? • Is there a pattern of striking camera movement, perhaps long shots or dissolves or abrupt transitions? • Which three or four sequences are the most important?
Starting an Analysis IV • Infinite variety of questions, but you must first learn to jot down information about props, costumes, camera positions, and so on, even during a first screening, and then choose the most telling evidence.
Taking Notes • Look for dramatic moments or major themes • Citizen Kane’s “Rosebud” • Mookie breaks the window of the pizzar parlor in Do the Right Thing • What about Unforgiven or How the West Was Won?
Taking Notes II • Cardinal rules: • Preliminary research • Can’t write everything • “Sooner the better” • Find a take • Patience • Discuss! Discuss!
Exercises • Choose a single short sequence froma film and annotate it as precisely as you can. Describe those annotations in clear, precise prose. Are there any conclusions you can draw or interpretations you would make about the sequence? (See also Looking at Movies (211, 214-216)