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Lesson 08: The Art Film. Professor Aaron Baker. Previous Lecture. Approaches to Film Authorship Steven Soderbergh’s Film Traffic (2000). Today’s Lecture. Art-Film Narration -Objectivity -Subjectivity -Authorial Commentary Central Station (1998) History of the Art Film.

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Lesson 08: The Art Film

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lesson 08 the art film

Lesson 08:The Art Film

Professor Aaron Baker

previous lecture
Previous Lecture
  • Approaches to Film Authorship
  • Steven Soderbergh’s Film Traffic (2000)
today s lecture
Today’s Lecture
  • Art-Film Narration



-Authorial Commentary

  • Central Station (1998)
  • History of the Art Film

Antonioni’s L’Avventura (1960)

hollywood vs art cinema
Hollywood Vs. Art Cinema
  • Continuity
  • Causal, Spatial, Temporal Clarity
  • Genre
  • Utopian
  • Avoidance of Choice
  • Invisible Style
  • Gaps
  • Ambiguity
  • Less Genre
  • Realism


-Subjective (Form)

  • Authorial Commentary
hollywood realism
Hollywood Realism
  • Everything Fits
  • Strong Cause/Effect
  • Protagonists Solve Problems, Achieve Goals
  • Justice, Love, Reward
  • Happy Ending
art film realism
Art Film Realism
  • Complexity
  • World Unknown, Absurd
  • Episodic Events
  • Indeterminate Form:

-Long Takes

-Abrupt Cutting

  • Viewer Interprets

Y Tu Mama Tambien (2001)

objective reality
Objective Reality
  • Alienated Characters
  • Challenge of Communication
  • Actual Locations
  • Hand Held Camera
  • Available Light
  • Non Professional Actors
real time
Real Time
  • Slower Pacing
  • Long Takes
  • Less Plot Ellipsis of Story Time

Che (2008)

less cause and effect
Less Cause and Effect
  • Gaps
  • Chance
  • No Deadlines
  • Characters Lack Motives, Clear Traits

Mission Impossible II (2000) Racing to stop bioterrorism.

episodic structure
Episodic Structure
  • Events Simply Occur
  • Less Causal Linkage
  • Parallelisms
  • We Compare Agents, Attitudes, Situations
  • Viewer Judgment

The Edge of Heaven (2007)

part ii art film narration subjectivity
Part II: Art-Film Narration - Subjectivity

The desert conveys the rejection and dislocation felt by Amelia in Babel (2006)

mise en scene and character subjectivity
Mise-en-Scene and Character Subjectivity
  • How we see the film’s world expresses

mental states of


  • Point of View Shots
  • Light, Color
  • Editing
character more than plot
Character More Than Plot
  • Boundary Situation
  • Self Discovery
  • “Private Individual’s awareness of fundamental human issues” – Bordwell
  • Existentialism

Stanley Tucci’s character chooses creativity over money in Big Night (1996)

  • Character Subjectivity
  • Authorial Commentary
  • Extreme wide angle in

Do Right Thing: Intense feelings of character or filmmaker’s judgment?

  • Blue tint in Cincinnati scenes:
    • Actual Quality Light (Realism)
    • Expression Judge’s Temperament (Subjectivity)
    • Authorial Commentary (Character’s Arrogance)
bordwell different motives create ambiguity
Bordwell: Different Motives Create Ambiguity

“A realist aesthetic and an expressionist

aesthetic are hard to merge. The art film

seeks to solve the problem in a sophisticated way; through ambiguity. .

. . . . Put crudely, the procedural slogan of

art-cinema narration might be: ‘Interpret

this film . . . to maximize ambiguity.’”


Open Ending

  • Contrasts with Hollywood Resolution/Happy Ending
  • Questions Not Answers
  • “The ‘open’ ending . . . of the art cinema . . .will not divulge the outcome” --Bordwell
director fatih akin
Director Fatih Akin:

“If the characters

returned to

Germany, perhaps

the ending would

be neater. But I like

open endings.”

part iii art film narration authorial commentary
Part III: Art-Film Narration - Authorial Commentary

"I wish you a disturbing evening!" This is how Michael Haneke, who won Best Director award at Cannes in 2005 for Caché (Hidden), introduced his films at a festival in London.

narration foregrounded
Narration Foregrounded
  • Open Ending = Story Unfinished
  • Self Conscious Narration
  • Film is not real life but a representation of it.
  • Flashbacks, Flashforwards
  • Filmmaker as Commentator
art film auteur
Art Film Auteur
  • Interviews
  • Criticism
  • Festivals
  • Awards
  • Marketing Device

David Lynch

journalistic writing fatih akin
Journalistic Writing: Fatih Akin

Fatih Akin is a German film director of Turkish descent. He was born in Hamburg in 1973 and studied visual communications at the city's College of Fine Arts. He made his first film, Short Sharp Shock (1998), and won the Golden Bear award at the Berlin Film Festival with his 2004 film Head- On, which brought him to the attention of international audiences. His latest film, The Edge of Heaven, won the Best Screenplay Award at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival.

- From Spiegel Online

  • Arriving “Late in the Game”
  • Anxiety of Influence, Harold Bloom
  • Art filmmakers know history of cinema (Filmschool, VCRs, DVDs)
  • “The more you know, the more you understand the gap that separates you from the great tradition, and the more you fret about what you can contribute” --David Bordwell
response to anxiety
Response to Anxiety
  • References, Allusions to Other Films
  • Films Built from Other Movies As Well As Reality
  • Show Cinematic Knowledge and Taste
about edge of heaven
About Edge of Heaven
  • “One scene involving children and a firearm seems almost a direct allusion to Iñárritu’s [Babel]”

--Peter Keough in The Boston Phoenix

complexity unknown
  • Rio de Janeiro
  • Poverty
  • Dora, Retired Schoolteacher
  • Josue, orphan
  • How will they survive?
episodic events
Episodic Events
  • Dora Writes Letters
  • Josue’s Mother Killed
  • Robbery in Station
  • Dora Attempts to Sell Josue
  • Trip to Find His Father


objective reality1
Objective Reality
  • Brazil, Fifth Most Populus Country in World
  • Has One Third of Population in Latin America
  • Extreme Economic Inequality
  • Most of Its 200 Million Poor
  • Dora’s and Josue’s lives represent this condition
influence of italian neorealism
Influence of Italian Neorealism
  • Decade After WW II
  • Italy Empoverished by War
  • Real Locations, Available Light
  • Non Professional Actors
  • Challenges Faced by Working People

Shoeshine (1946)

central station in neorealist style
Central Station in Neorealist Style
  • Real Locations, Available Light (Central do Brasil)
  • Non Professionals (Vincius de Oliveria)
  • Challenges Faced by Working People (Dora’s “Retirement”, Finding Josue’s Father)
clip 1 robbery in train station
Clip #1: Robbery in Train Station
  • Poverty and Crime
  • Police Violence As Social Control in Brazil
  • Realism in subject, Location and Long Take
  • Please watch clip from Central Station.
finding josue s father in sertao
Finding Josue’s Father in Sertao
  • Escaping the City
  • Backcountry in Portugese
  • Dry, desert region of Northeast Brazil
  • 67% Illiterate
  • Per Capita Income $2000
director walter salles on the sertao
Director Walter Salleson the Sertao:

“During the location scout, I was surprised. . . .we were ceaselessly invited to sleep over, to share a room . . . some food, by people who barely subsist.”

subjective landscape
Subjective Landscape
  • We see beautiful landscape of Sertao as Dora’s better side emerges
  • Trip with Josue is her “boundary situation” of self discovery
  • Please watch clip # 2
people s stories
People’s Stories

What is great about the stories from the people in Central do Brasil is that they are so forthcoming, genuine and unfettered, . . . Only much later, . . . Dora goes through her conversion and discovers the need for telling those stories . . . .Dora’s realization that the stories of the people are the source of identity and at the same time the expression of these neo-realist stories are economically viable, even if it is only through her letter writing.--Felix Rebolledo


art film authorship
Art Film Authorship
  • Walter Salles
  • MFA University of Southern California
  • Central Station Nominated Best Foreign Film 2003
  • British Newspaper TheGuardian: Salles One of Top 40 Directors in World
roots in modernism
Roots in Modernism
  • 1920s
  • Expressionism
  • Surrealism
  • Workings of the Mind
  • Form
critical discourse
Critical Discourse
  • Analysis of Art Film Ambiguity
  • Journals and Books
  • College and University Courses
  • Europe = Art
  • U.S. = Commerce

Critic John Simon

post ww ii existentialism
Post WW II Existentialism
  • Auteur Theory
  • Director As Creative Individual in Absurd World
  • Viewer Same Creative Responsibility
  • College Educated Audience
  • Art Houses
new hollywood
New Hollywood
  • Decline of Studio System 50s-60s/Young Audience
  • Influence of Art Film Style/French New Wave
  • Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
  • Independent Cinema
  • Art-Film Narration



-Authorial Commentary

  • Central Station (1998)
  • History of the Art Film

Luis Bunuel’s Viridiana (1961)

discussion question
Discussion Question
  • After you see Central Station, on the eboard answer the following question as well as respond to a classmate.
  • What is the film’s strongest art-film tendency:
    • Objective reality
    • Subjective reality
    • Authorial commentary
end of lesson 8
End of Lesson 8

Next Lecture: Documentary