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Short essay on Film as Mass Medium

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❶For example, films like Mother India, Naya Duar, Awara have their message still fresh in the minds of the people.

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Movies cater to the tastes of different men and women. A light-hearted person would like a comedy film. Some people have liking for action movies. Some like drama films while other have liking for devotional films.

Exposure to Excellent Art Work: Besides acting, it presents us excellent camera work, songs and dances, exciting and romantic love scenes, and heavenly natural scenery of distant places.

Educative value of Cinema: The educative value of cinema is no less. Almost every film tries to teach a moral lesson. In the end the villain is vanquished and the hero, despite enormous difficulties, ultimately winds.

Seeing famous foreign places by travelling is too much costly. Cinema presents us the same in a more alluring way but at a negligible cost. Intelligent people use it as a medium of culture and education. History and geography, art and sculpture, song and dance can be taught much more lively and interestingly through cinema than through dull lectures on them. Knowledge acquired in this way remains deeply imprinted in our mind. Tommy, who acknowledges his inclination to tell whoppers, is subjected to a final burst of peril.

The s eyewitness cycle laid out some options for future thrillers. Some passages are straight mimicry, albeit on a much smaller budget. In recent decades filmmakers have revised the premise in ways typical of post- Pulp-Fiction Hollywood. Vantage Point multiplies the eyewitnesses and uses replays to conceal and eventually reveal information. The novel and the film recast the eyewitness schema by making the eyewitness unable to recall exactly what she saw, thanks to an alcoholic blackout. This uncertainty raises the possibility that the eyewitness is actually the killer.

With its goal-directed protagonist and trim four-part plot structure, The Window is a completely classical film. As often happens, a forgivably flawed character gains our sympathy by being treated unfairly but triumphs in the end. A man emerges from drunken sleep to discover a murdered woman at his bedside and gets a call from someone who claims to have watched him commit the crime. There are doubtless many earlier eyewitness thrillers, which the indefatigable Mike Grost could tabulate.

The screenplay by Mel Dinelli that I consulted, with help from Kristin, is a rather detailed shooting script dated 23 October There are plenty of discussions of thrillers on this site; try here and here. Apart from the chapter in Reinventing Hollywood , you can find overviews here and here. For more images from my summer movie vacation, visit our Instagram page. Thanks very much to Bart Verbank for correcting my embarrassing name error in Rear Window!

Monday July 23, s Hollywood , Directors: De Palma , Directors: Koepp , Film genres , Film history , Narrative strategies , Narrative: Suspense Comments Off on The eyewitness plot and the drama of doubt. Errors and some diction are corrected, though, and the color films I discuss are illustrated with pretty color frames, not the black-and-white ones in the first edition. The new Preface and a more expansive Afterword explain the origins of the book and develop ideas that I pursued in later research.

The book analyzes three perspectives on film style as they emerged historically. One, what I call the Basic Version, was developed in the silent era and saw the discovery of editing as the natural development of film technique.

The book goes on to show how a revisionist research program launched in the s built upon these earlier perspectives. Younger scholars sought to answer more precise questions about certain periods and trends. The revisionist impulse is best seen in debates on early cinema, which I survey.

In my last chapter I try to do some stylistic history myself. I analyze particular patterns of continuity and change in one technique, depth staging. In turn, directors like Marguerite Duras, in India Song , can revise those norms for specific purposes. On the History of Film Style was generally well-received.

Anyone seriously interested in Film Studies should read it. The book is available for purchase on this page. Selling the book helps me defray the costs of paying Meg and digging up color frames. So I reiterate my thanks to them all. And I hope this new edition, if nothing else, stimulates both viewers and researchers to explore the endlessly interesting pathways of visual style in cinema.

Cinematography , Film technique: Editing , Film technique: Performance , Film technique: Staging , Film technique: The Fall of Berlin Between and a tightly coordinated bureaucracy shaped every script and shot and line of dialogue, while Stalin frowned from above.

The million Soviet citizens were exposed to scores of films pushing the party line. We like to probe received stories and traditional assumptions.

In my book on Eisenstein, I suggested that this prototypical Constructivist opens up a side of modernism that is artistically eclectic, and even conservative in its gleeful appropriation of old traditions. Now we have a new book telling a fresh story. Filmmaking under Stalin draws upon vast archival material to argue that filmmaking, far from being an iron machine reliably pumping out propaganda, was decentralized, poorly organized, weakly managed, driven by confusing commands and clashing agendas.

Censorship was largely left up to the industry, not Party bureaucrats, and directors and screenwriters enjoyed remarkable flexibility. Was this an ideological juggernaut? Aiming at a hundred features a year, the studios were lucky to release half that. In 95 films were planned, but only 53 were produced and 34 made it to screens. From on, those millions of spectators saw only a couple of dozen annually.

The nadir was , with 9 releases. Hollywood studios released over The flood of propaganda was more like a trickle. Theatres were forced to run old Tarzan movies. When quantity became thin, apologists claimed that quality was the true goal. Critics and insiders admitted that nearly all the films that struggled into release were mediocre or worse.

Not According to Plan shows that Soviet institutions were incapable, by their size, organization, and political commitments, of organizing a mass production film industry. Efforts to set up something like the U. Boris Shumyatsky, who visited Hollywood and tried to create something similar at home, got his reward at the muzzles of a firing squad. But brute force like this was rare; there were few administrators and creators to spare. The great plan was to have a Plan—specifically, a thematic one.

Starting from themes rather than plot situations, the overseers could judge only final results, which meant enormous investments in development and production—all of which might never yield a politically correct movie.

Masha shows in rich detail how policies and routines worked against large-scale output. One of the most striking of those policies was the veneration of directors. A great irony of the book is that Hollywood filmmaking, with its platoons of screenwriters both credited and uncredited, was more collectivist than production in the USSR. Soviet directors enjoyed enormous stature and power. They were often the moving force behind a production, bringing on writers and then recasting the script during shooting.

As Masha puts it:. The filmmaking community, and specifically film directors, never gave up on the standard of artistic mastery. They listened to the signals sent by the Soviet leadership, but then incorporated these into their own professional value system, which developed in the s outside the purview of the state.

The role of the producer let alone the powerful producer scarcely existed. To a surprising extent, Soviet cinema encouraged the director as auteur. Masha has a fascinating chapter on the changing conceptions of the Soviet screenplay. This initiative, predictably, failed. There followed other variants: Masha traces the work process of screenwriting and the mostly futile efforts of literary figures to leave their stamp on a production.

A similar stress on process characterizes her occasionally hilarious case studies of censorship. Some of these expose the limits of industry self-censorship. The artistic and popular success of Soviet films during the New Economic Policy had spurred hopes for a mass-market sound cinema that was also of high quality.

What crushed that dream? Masha gives us the hows the machinations of the studios and government bodies and the whys the underlying causes and rationales. Nearly all English-language film histories ignored it, or reduced it to boy-loves-tractor musicals. So Kristin and I wanted our textbook Film History: As a result I sought to mount an argument that Stalinist cinema was worth our attention, especially from the standpoint of film technique.

The run-of-the-mill productions seemed fairly shambolic, but the top-tier dramas revealed an academic style that interested me. Some films recalled, even anticipated, innovations taking hold in Europe and America, but other creative choices were surprisingly offbeat, and not what we associate with standard propaganda.

Granted, classic continuity editing rules the fiction films of the s and s, and the most flagrant extremes of the montage style were purged.

But some moments recall the silent era. These passages are typically motivated, as in Hollywood and other national traditions, by rapid action. Military combat calls forth stretches of frame shots of bombardment in The Young Guard, Part 2 The combat scenes of The Battle of Stalingrad include very brief shots. In one passage, an artillery blast consists of three frames—one positive, a second negative, and a third positive again, creating a visual burst.

The abrupt disjunctions of the s style can be felt a little in one cut of The Fall of Berlin , when at the end of a long reverse tracking shot, Alyosha and his comrades rush the camera. Cut to Hitler recoiling, as if he sees them. A little more unusual is the embrace of wide-angle lenses, often more distorting than in Western cinema. Wide-angle imagery was used by s filmmakers, often to caricature class enemies or to heroicize workers.

The same sort of thing can be seen in Kutuzov , when a soldier is presented in a looming close-up, or in Front , when a gigantic hand reaches out for a telephone. This use of wide angles to give figures massive bulk continued through the s, as in The Cranes Are Flying The s aggressive wide-angle shots run parallel to Hollywood work, when in the wake of Citizen Kane , The Little Foxes , and other films, many directors and cinematographers created vivid compositions in depth.

Obliged to show meetings of saboteurs, workers, generals, and party leaders, Soviet filmmakers had to dramatize people in rooms, talking at very great length. The result was a tendency toward depth staging and fairly long takes. The low-angle depth shot stretching through vast spaces became a hallmark of this academic style in the s and after. As a solution to the problem of talky scenes, staging of this sort makes sense as a way to achieve some visual variety, and to show off production values.

By the s, such flamboyant depth became even more exaggerated. We see it in the telephone framing from Front above, as well as in The Young Guard Part 1 , below left and the noirish stretches of The Vow , below right. Is this a reference to the globe ballet in The Great Dictator? The Soviets valued fixed focus as well, as several shots above suggest. Hence many shots use distant depth. At one point in The Great Citizen , when a woman interrupts a meeting, the official in the foreground trots all the way to the rear to meet her.

Another way to activate depth was to rack focus. In this scene of Rainbow , the man who has betrayed the village comes home and discovers a delegation waiting to try him. Focused or not, some of these shots push important action to the edge of visibility in a way that would be rare in American cinema.

In A Great Life , a snooper is centered but sliced off by a window frame and kept out of focus, while a trial scene is interrupted by a figure far in the distance who bursts in to announce a mine collapse. The Great Citizen shows Shakhov discussing a suspect, who hovers barely discernible in the background over his left shoulder.

I enlarge the fellow and brighten the image. If American movies favor titles called The Big …. In the USSR, calling something big summoned up monumentality. Stalinist culture was grandiose in its architecture, sculpture, painting, literature, and even music, with symphonies of Mahlerian length and oratorios boasting hundreds of voices. Accordingly, one effect of the depth aesthetic was to grant the characters and their settings a looming grandeur.

Earth-changing historical events were being played out on a vast stage that framing and set design put before us. Naturally, battles are on a colossal scale. Napoleon broods in the foreground Kutuzov and troops march endlessly to the horizon The Vow. If God favors the biggest battalions, God would seem to love the Russians a prospect that otherwise seems invalidated by history.

The Battle of Stalingrad. Parlors and committee rooms are remarkably big, and even prison cells The Young Guard Part 2 and farmhouses The Vow have plenty of room. Not only were the s silent classics monumental; they became monuments. Moments in the Stalinist cinema seem to refer back to that era.

The Battle of Stalingrad evokes the mother with the slain child on the Odessa Steps, and The Vow has the nerve to superimpose on Stalin friend of farmers an image of concentric plowing from Old and New. These can be taken as cynical ripoffs, but in a way they testify to the fact that great silent films had forged some enduring iconography.

Eisenstein aside, he stands in my viewing as the director who played around most ambitiously with the academic style. Perhaps he was encouraged in this by his young codirector Mikhail Doller, but Pudovkin had already tried out some audacious strokes in A Simple Case and Deserter For a high Stalinist example take Minin and Pozharsky This tale of seventeenth-century warfare seems virtually a reply to Alexander Nevsky , as Mother responded to Strike One battle shows the Russian forces rushing from the left in tight tracking shots, while the enemy forces move from the right in panning telephoto.

Especially striking are axial cuts, beloved of Soviet filmmakers for static arrays, employed in movement. Horses sweep past a tent in extreme long-shot; they smash into the tent in long shot; and in a closer view the tent lies trampled as other horses continue to flash through the foreground. The shots are 50 frames, 38 frames, and 13 frames respectively.

For a moment, we might be back in the great era of Soviet editing. During the parade for the departing airmen, for instance, a young man happily tossing papers, in another grotesque wide-angle shot.

Match on action cut to another figure, close to the camera and moving in the same direction. This figure wipes away to reveal a man reading a newspaper.

This sort of weird graphic match becomes a stylistic motif in the film. Later, when the rescue has been completed, another crowd scene yields a similar pattern of depth smeared and exposed. In Admiral Nakhimov Pudovkin and Doller employ the smear-cutting technique during a battle scene. Stills are totally unable to capture the way this looks.

Even stranger is the moment when soldiers rush toward a distant fortification, with a latticework basket in the foreground. Cut to the hill edge, with a comparable blob moving leftward through the frame. The oddest part is that this second shot is only six frames long, and every frame after the first is a jump cut; that is, some frames have been dropped as the blob makes its way across the image.

What kind of director thinks like this? The films acknowledge the s tradition as well. We get waving crowds, the stone lions, and a reminder of those famous steps. In sum, the Stalinist cinema holds a unique interest for students of the history of film style. Not only did it apparently constitute a significant development in technique, but in forming a tradition, it provided a counterpart and sometimes a counterpoint to developments in the West.

For all the behind-the-scenes bungling, it became much more than a propaganda vehicle. My questions were different. I was driven by my interest in Eisenstein and comparative stylistics. So I tried to investigate the formal and stylistic norms of Soviet cinema. Some of those norms Eisenstein helped create, and then revised for his own ends.

Still, I feel like a butterfly collector picking out vivid specimens for an expert to explain. How did filmmakers manage to create these remarkable images?

What technical resources, of lenses and lighting rigs and film stock and set design, permitted them to craft these striking shots?

Were their peers and masters insensitive to this official look? Was it taken for granted? Or was it self-consciously promoted and taught? And how, at a more micro-level, do these patterns function in the individual films? As for the whys: Why did filmmakers embrace these options rather than others? And why did they develop, sometimes apparently in a spirit of play, some oddball technical innovations?

Such questions seem to me compelled by films that turn out to be more artistically interesting than most commentators have noted. One of the most corrupt and brutal political systems in world history produced films of considerable interest, and a few of enduring value. I hope experts try to figure this all out. I bet Masha Belodubrovskaya will lead the way. Her new book is a splendid start. This is a good place to thank all the people who helped me see Stalinist films in archives over the decades.

The depth aesthetic of high Stalinist cinema proved valuable when s bureaucrats decided to make Stalin disappear. See our online supplement to Film History: But they make him a slim, hip metrosexual. Revisionism can go too far. Monday January 22, Books , Directors: Pudovkin , Film history , Film technique: Therefore, they have the potential to play an important role as a medium of entertainment, information and education and as a catalyst for social change.

Films are popular because they entertain. They are a facet of a mass culture and mass art. They generate mass mediated culture arising from elite, folk, popular or mass origins. Almost every person of the society has participated in the activity of going to cinema hall and enjoying a film.

According to Jovett and Linton, "obviously there is still something unique and inherently appealing about going to the movies", and this is clearly different from other mass media experiences". The social institution of movie going is firmly established in our society and movies have played an important part as one of the factors contributing to the dramatic changes which have taken place in the last 50 years in the way we live and also in how we perceive the world around us.

They have provided us not only with entertainment, but also with ideas, and it would be difficult to conceive of our society without them. The films take as their starting point those aspects of society with which we have become familiar. They create twist plots and use other narrative devices which infuse the story with sufficient new elements to attract an audience.

Films draw heavily from reality, portraying situations that have resemblance to the everyday stresses and aspirations of viewers' lives. The movies recognize the link between their lives and films in both general and specific terms. The ease of comprehension helps the viewer to assume the role of the characters and to identify with them quickly and effectively.

Films appeal to their primary emotions and sentiments. Films provide photographic realism, vivid visual presentation in which the images are already fully established, easily identified and followed.

Melodrama in films draws suppressed fears and desires into a public realm, but suggests personal solutions. The viewers are active participants in the construction of the image that both represents present reality and allows them to escape as future fantasy. Tudar , pointed out that the darkened theatre, combined with the heightened intensity of the message stimuli, the increased sense of social isolation that it creates, and the relaxed posture of the movie viewer make the message more emotionally potent.

Thus, films leave lasting impression of the message. For example, films like Mother India, Naya Duar, Awara have their message still fresh in the minds of the people.


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For the first twenty years of motion picture history most silent films were short--only a few minutes in length. At first a novelty, and then increasingly an art form and literary form, silent films reached greater complexity and length in the early 's.

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Silent Cinema On the contrary to popular belief, the history of animation did not begin with Walt Disney’s sound film Steamboat Willie in Before that film there was a popular tradition, a film industry, and a vast number of films – considering nearly of Disney’s (Hayward ).

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