What Is Cinema: orWhen is a Movie More Than Just a Movie? Gary Handman Director Media Resources Center Moffitt Library firstname.lastname@example.org
Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar! S. Freud
…but a movie is almost never just a movie
"Film is more than the twentieth-century art. It's another part of the Twentieth-Century mind. It's the world seen from inside. We've come to a certain point in the history of film. If a thing can be filmed, the film is implied in the thing itself. This is where we are. The Twentieth century is on film....You have to ask yourself if there's anything about us more important than the fact that we're constantly on film constantly watching ourselves." --Don Delillo (The Names) “Everything wants to become television.” --Gregory L. Ulmer (Teletheory: Grammatology in the Age of Video)
What Kinds of Images Move? • Cinema • (aka THE MOVIES: 1886--) • The end product of several millennia of fooling around with moving shadows. • Evolves from: • A simple recording instrument (actualities…) • ...to a toy for manipulating images and simple, linear narratives and stories • …to an art form (the advent of editing) • A collective enterprise: notions of “authorship” and responsibility have changed over the years • A big business with big business aims
What Kinds of Images Move? • Documentaries • Slick and produced (e.g. Ken Burns, Discovery Channel) • Cinema verité (also called Direct Cinema) • Ethnographic film / field recordings • Mockumentaries
What Kinds of Images Move? • Educational / Instructional / Industrial films/video
What Kinds of Images Move? • Promotional films (selling/explaining a program, product, institution, etc.)
What Kinds of Images Move? • Newsreels (the precursor of the 10:00 news)
What Kinds of Images Move? • Propaganda (governmental, political, religious, social)
What Kinds of Images Move? • Primary source materials: raw footage; reality footage • Amateur films (home movies)
What Kinds of Images Move? • TV: Network, Cable • Programming (from sitcoms to sports to MTV to reality shows) • News • Commercials/Infomercials • Public service announcements
The Movies: Approaches to studying the Medium • Nationality • Genres: Sci Fi, Gangster, Film Noir, Musicals, Westerns, porn…etc. • Eras • Styles(e.g. expressionism, surrealism) • Directors(“auteur theory”: Director as “author”) • Actors(Hitchcock: “actors are cattle”) • Audiences/ audience reception
How to Approach the Serious Study of Movies (and TV): • A diversion and popular entertainment • A new and unique form of “grammar” (a new way of describing/viewing/representing the world and of telling stories) • A mirror of collective cultural fantasy, fear, longing, prejudice--a mirror of the zeitgeist…a cultural snapshot or “text” • A shaper of collective fantasy, fear, longing…etc. • Responsible for creating culture of spectatorship • A highly exportable commodity: a global good with impact on global culture.
Documentaries / Ethnographic Film Non-theatrical Film and Video • Roots in the earliest years of cinema: The Lumiere Brothers -- actualities • Look “real” or “honest” and immediate. • Impulse toward revealing the drama in the everyday, the historical. • Attempt to identify and document “Defining Moments.” • Can be either wildly personal or attempt distance • Techniques have been appropriated by other media forms and formats (e.g. Dockers ads)
Documentaries (and TV news, too) Non-theatrical Film and Video • Like movies, a product of the times that create them. • The camera is NEVER totally objective! • The act of choosing/focusing on a subject is SUBJECTIVE! • “Defining Moment” is a subjective construct. • No matter how subtle or artfully concealed: there is ALWAYS a point of view • Editing and other production factors contribute to point of view, tone, overall impact • New technologies = new ways of manipulating the image and documentation of reality, new ways of potentially lying to the viewer. • Critical viewing = “reading” documentary content, documentary techniques, and documentary context.
Non-theatrical Film and Video • Ephemeral materials: • Educational / industrial films • Commercials • Propaganda • Ephemera = the fleeting, temporary. Not intended for the ages (often end up in the dumpster) • Frequently produced for practical/commercial ends. • Like the movies, useful for insights into hearts, minds, and culture-ways of the times in which they were created. • More difficult to find than produced documentaries or feature films.
Race, Gender & the Movies • The Cheat (dir. Cecil B. DeMille, 1915): The movies look at race and sexuality • It (starring Clara Bow, 1927): The movies form fashion • She Done Him Wrong (starring Mae West, 1933): Sexual parody 30’s style (or, Is that pistol in your pocket…?) • The Dentist (W.C. Fields, 1930): Sex and pain…what a laugh • Attack of the 50’ Woman (1958): When nuclear paranoia and gender/sexual paranoia collide • Pillow Talk: (Doris Day and Rock Hudson, 1959): Sex (or lack thereof) in the Eisenhower era • Barbarella (dir Roger Vadim; starring Jane Fonda, 1968): Heavenly bodies on Planet Sixties.
Bodies in Motion • Olympia (Leni Riefenstahl, 1939) • March of Time (newsreel) (1945) • Classroom education films (1950’s) • TV Commercials , 1950’s-60’s • Dialogues with Madwomen (Irving Saraf and Allie Light, 1993)