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Formulation of the Classical Hollywood Style. The Classical Narrative. CAUSE & EFFECT Primitive period (1894-1908), most common framing the long shot Impossible to see facial expressions & small gestures Presented “too much” for viewer With classical model, this changed

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  • CAUSE & EFFECT

    • Primitive period (1894-1908), most common framing the long shot

      • Impossible to see facial expressions & small gestures

      • Presented “too much” for viewer

    • With classical model, this changed

      • Multiple lines of action

      • Narrative material broken down

      • Editing, camera distance, inter-titles, acting articulated cause & effect


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  • CAUSE & EFFECT & REALISM

    • Basis of cause & effect narrative was compositional unity

    • Reality has accidents & coincidence; not the classical narrative

    • Realism important for mise-en-scène

  • The classical film begins in medias res

    • Begin in middle of action; we learn about characters & previous events through exposition

    • In primitive film, we learn little about characters or events before film began


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  • THE PSYCHOLOGICALLY BASED CHARACTER

    • Film turned toward literature for characters with multiple traits

      • These character traits were necessary to motivate action

      • Characters have only traits needed for the narrative

      • “Realistic” traits will motivate some later action or event


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  • SUBJECTIVITY

    • With increase in length & complexity, additional traits added

    • By 1915, mental subjectivity seen in some films

      • Earlier films had included subjectivity

      • Usually only as basis for entire film or when absolutely necessary

    • With classical film, portions of objective narrations could be subjective


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  • OTHER WAYS TO PERSONALIZE CHARACTERS

    • By 1909, most important characters were given names

    • By the mid-1920s, they were also given “tags”

    • Star system also helped to personalize characters


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  • CHARACTER GOALS

    • Characters in primitive films reacted to events; in classical films have clear goals

    • Goals met with obstacles

  • CHARACTER & TEMPORAL RELATIONS

    • As films became longer, plots initially covered more story time

      • But generally showed only “high points”

      • Temporal gaps marked with inter-titles


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  • Films began to cover less time

    • More, briefer, temporal gaps

    • Sought ways to make narration less self-conscious

  • This was solved in several ways:

    • Concentrating on character actions & goals

    • Technical devices marked deviations from chronological order

      • Fades or dissolves instead of superimpositions

      • Also motivated by the narrative

  • DEADLINE important to structuring temporal progression


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  • THE FUNCTIONS OF INTER-TITLES

    • EXPOSITORY TITLES

      • Common in primitive cinema

        • Summary expository titles

        • Establishing expository titles

      • In later silent era

        • “LITERARY” inter-title

        • The “ART” inter-title

        • Sometimes used to establish setting

        • Or used non-diegetic images to convey idea


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  • THE “AMERICAN” STYLE OF ACTING over expository titles)

    • 1909-1913, shift in acting style

      • More restrained style; emphasized facial expressions & small gestures

      • Improvements in film stocks, lighting equipment, make-up, etc.; better actors

    • Helped bring about CHC editing style:

      • Close-ups needed to fully utilize this style of acting

      • Breakdown of space required continuity rules


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  • UNITY & REDUNDANCY over expository titles)

    • All of these features appeared in the primitive cinema

      • But not used systematically with conventionalized meanings

      • Might use 1 of these features, & build the narrative around it

    • Classical cinema codified devices, used to create unified feature-length films, redundant narratives


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Formulation of the Classical Hollywood Style over expository titles)

The Continuity System


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  • THE CONTINUITY SYSTEM & SPACE over expository titles)

    • Editing increased as films became longer & more complicated

      • A potentially disruptive force

      • Required a system to maintain unity

    • After 1907, industry, trade press & “how-to” books promoted continuity as essential for a “well-made” film

      • Referred to both narrative continuity & clearly-articulated space & time

      • Continuity then came to refer specifically to editing guidelines


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  • ESTABLISHING SHOTS over expository titles)

    • Originally, films consisted of 1 long take with a fairly distant framing

    • Then, a number of these shots (tableaux)

      • No change in space or time within shots; changes between tableaux

      • Joined by expository inter-titles

    • With multiple shot scenes, these became establishing shots

      • Used to establish mise-en-scène & show most of the action

      • Came at beginning & end of scene; closer shots pointed out details, showed expressions, etc.


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  • ANALYTICAL EDITING editing system

    • IN THE PRIMITIVE ERA

      • Cut-ins used rarely

        • Most often medium shots, from same angle as establishing shot

        • They were used to:

          • Show facial expression

          • Show details not visible in the establishing shot

          • To indicate POV

          • To limit space for special effects

      • Cut-ins avoided if possible; actors moved closer to camera


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  • BY THE MID-TEENS editing system

    • Cut-in became much more common

    • No longer had to be motivated by POV, a specific detail of information

      • Could be from any angle

      • Could give a better vantage point

    • Increase in film length & editing made cut-in more acceptable

    • By 1917, cut-in a staple of continuity editing system


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  • SCREEN DIRECTION & THE 180° RULE editing system

    • Originally, no editing, therefore no problem

    • Later, 1-D sets & backdrops made it impossible to violate rule

    • Audience conceived of as if it were a theater audience

    • With analytical editing & 3-D sets, the tradition continued

      • Breaks in continuity occurred, but relatively rare

      • They occurred due to:

        • Shots taken out of continuity without script girls

        • The lack of formal guidelines


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  • MULTIPLE SPACES editing system

    • CONTIGUOUS SPACES joined by character movement, eyeline match, shot/reverse shot system

    • NON-CONTIGUOUS SPACES

      • Most often articulated using crosscutting

      • Could compress time; important with short films

      • Later, used to expand time; important with longer films


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  • SPACE & THE SPECTATOR’S ATTENTION editing system

    • Attention of viewer guided using other elements of film style

    • STAGING IN DEPTH

      • Actors began to move toward the camera

      • After this, actors began to be placed more in depth

      • Helped bring the viewer into a 3-D space


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  • SETTINGS & DEPTH editing system

    • Painted backdrops had advantages, but lacked verisimilitude

    • As soon as studios could afford 3-D sets, they did so

    • Late 20s, efforts to eliminate difference between location & studio shots

    • 3-D sets allowed for more extensive analytical editing


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  • DEEP FOCUS CINEMATOGRAPHY editing system

    • During most of silent period, efforts to achieve greatest depth of field

    • But only 2 planes were in deep focus (middle ground & background)

    • Deep focus made staging in depth possible

    • However, lighting was needed to draw this attention


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  • LIGHTING FOR CLARITY & DEPTH editing system

    • During teens, movement away from even, overall illumination & towards selective lighting

    • An effort to motivate light as coming from diegetic sources

    • Hollywood refined backlighting, creating “rim” lighting


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  • FRAMING AS A GUIDE FOR THE SPECTATOR editing system

    • Classical cinema centered important narrative information

    • Camera movement began as a way to center action in frame (reframing)

    • Served other functions also:

      • Tracking & panning to follow actions

      • Panning & tilting to reveal or conceal information

  • With increased planning of shots, camera movement not as necessary


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  • STABILITY AFTER 1917 editing system

    • By mid-20s, CHC style reached a high degree of stability

      • Many models to follow

      • Young filmmakers in 1920s had films as their models

      • Informal apprenticeship program

      • Trade papers, instructional manuals, etc. perpetuated style

      • Trade organizations also helped to perpetuate CHC style

      • Adherence to “quality filmmaking” rewarded by audiences & studio heads


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  • CONTEMPORARY RECOGNITION OF STANDARDIZATION editing system

    • Standardization regarded as a positive force

    • Early years regarded as a separate era

    • Progress “halted” now that “near perfection” had been attained

    • After this point, changes in CHC style relatively small

      • Minor changes such as increased graphic continuity

      • Assimilation (& “taming”) of other styles