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Showing posts from June, 2009

" Interview With The Vampire " and Evolution in the Horror Film Genre

The rules and expectations within film genres are like a language with evolving rules of grammar; its evolution is a give and take between filmmaker and audience, guided by cultural changes as well as technological advances. For a film genre to survive it must communicate, remain relevant, and in the process of creation and viewing it must engage both filmmaker and audience. A successful film genre must constantly reinvent itself and change with the times. The vampire film genre has held audiences in its spell almost since the beginning of film history. The 1922 German film "Nosferatu," directed by Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau featured a supernatural vampire, an unlicensed version of Bram Stoker's "Dracula" (whose estate sued and won), and the Dracula character appeared again in Universal's "Dracula" of 1931 (featuring Bela Lugosi). However, the vampires in both films are quite different. "Nosferatu" presented the hideous creature of European

Howard Hawks and Auteur Theory in Film Criticism

Auteur theory is often associated with the French film review periodical "Cahiers du cinéma" and has carried a major impact on film criticism since it was advocated by film director and film critic François Truffaut in 1954. Simplified, Auteur theory explores a director's influences on a film, considering the director one of the film's authors. Of course, in European Union law the film director is always considered an author of the film but this doesn't usually hold true in Hollywood. Since auteur theory was never summarized in a collective statement, its use could be broadly interpreted. Truffaut and those who wrote for Cahiers expected directors to wield the camera like a writer's pen (Alexandre Astruc's notion of the caméra-stylo or "camera-pen"), superimposing the director's vision on the film through the mise en scène, therefore diminishing the screenwriter's role. Filmmakers such as Howard Hawks, Alfred Hitchcock and Jean Renior wer

Alfred Hitchcock ' s " Rear Window " and a Life in the Shadows

In "The Art of Fiction," John Gardner talks about the "fictional dream," the movie running in our minds as we read the words of a story. This can be a precarious process and many of its elements depend on the ability and attitude of the reader. The reader must be carefully guided by a narrator, often a character within the story or a reliable witness to the action. Film allows its audience to take a more passive role in understanding the story. Cinematic narration relays its story through visual cues which may compact a greater amount of information in a shorter time. While written and cinematic narration both convey description and viewpoint, the old saying holds true and "a picture is worth a thousand words." The 1942 short story “It Had to Be Murder" by Cornell Woolrich, the basis for Alfred Hitchcock's film "Rear Window," echoes the sense of doom and personal impotence found in much of Woolrich’s fiction. Because of his homosexuality

Film Truth and Dziga Vertov ' s " Man With a Movie Camera "

Primarily in the 1920's, filmmakers such as Dziga Vertov experimented with a theory called kino pravda, or "film truth." Perhaps even more of a montage than what was produced by Pudovkin and discussed by Eisenstein , kino pravda set out to capture fragments of reality and combine them to reveal a deeper truth, one not readily visible to the naked eye. This truth would be one accessible only through the eye of the camera. Vertov called fiction film a new "opiate for the masses" and belonged to a movement known as kiniks (or kinokis) who hoped to abolish non-documentary film-making. His "Man With a Movie Camera" was Vertov's response to critics who rejected his earlier "One-Sixth Part of the World." Because of its experimental nature, Vertov worried this later film would be ignored or destroyed, hence the film's opening statement: "The film Man with a Movie Camera represents AN EXPERIMENTATION IN THE CINEMATIC TRANSMISSION Of visua

Eisenstein and the Dialectic Theory of Film

At its core, a dialectic is simply a conflict. But Soviet filmmakers, especially Sergei Eisenstein, elevated these conflicts to an art form and their dialectic theory of film has made a substantial impact on cinematic visual aesthetics. Eisenstein used a juxtaposition of conflicting images to create a montage, believing the effect could bring about consequential social change. Unfortunately, films built on this technique, such as his Battleship Potemkin (1925), now come across gimmicky and in some cases laughable. However, the dialectic theory of film has not left us. The dialectic has been proven itself an effective way to condense an argument and persuade the audience, sometimes in less than 30 seconds. You can readily find any number of examples by flipping through a few television channels, watching a few commercials. The conflict may be presented through colliding words, colliding images, or both. MAN: So are you trying to watch your weight? WOMAN: No, why? MAN: Nothing, it’s jus