Sunday, October 4, 2009

Essays from early editions of Film Art: An Introduction

David Bordwell has posted PDF versions of a number of interpretive essays (case studies of individual films). These were included in early editions of Bordwell and Thompson, Film Art: An Introduction, but were not carried over into more recent editions. Most are concerned with narrative construction; some are presented specifically as samples of film criticism.

Here is the link to his site: David Bordwell. This is not the home page; it's the page for Film Art. Find the essay download buttons about half way down the page.

And here is a list of the essays, which are written with clarity and concision and thus might serve not only as starting points for student projects but as models for their writing. I have noted points relevant to sound.

The Man Who Knew Too Much
dir. Alfred Hitchcock, 1934. From
Film Art, 2nd edition (1988): 292-295.
--Described as "a model of narrative construction," this film -- like its 1956 remake -- has a famous scene in which an assassination is attempted during a concert.

dir. John Ford, 1939. From
Film Art, 4th edition (1992): 366-370.

Hannah and Her Sisters
dir. Woody Allen, 1985. From
Film Art, 4th edition (1992): 376-381.
--"Woody Allen's Hannah and Her Sisters examines the psychological traits and interactions among a group of characters." One paragraph in the essay discusses the varied treatment of intertitles, which serve to introduce (and so articulate) scene or section changes. Sometimes the intertitles are silent, sometimes spoken by characters.

Desperately Seeking Susan
dir. Susan Seidelman, 1985. From
Film Art, 4th edition (1992): 381-387.

Day of Wrath
dir. Carl Dreyer, 1943. From
Film Art, 4th edition (1992): 387-391.
--In a web of motifs of all kinds, the musical motif or theme plays a role. Here it is the familiar chant melody
Dies irae.

Last Year at Marienbad
dir. Alain Resnais, 1961. From
Film Art, 4th edition (1992): 391-396.
--"Abrupt changes on the sound track accentuate the film's discontinuities."

Innocence Unprotected
dir. Dušan Makavejev, 1968. From
Film Art, 4th edition (1992): 401-406.
--"It is useful to think of its form as a collage, an assemblage of materials taken from widely different sources." Among those are songs and song performances.

Clock Cleaners
dir. Walt Disney, 1937. From
Film Art, 4th edition (1992): 418-420.

Tout va bien
dir. Jean-Luc Godard, 1972. From
Film Art, 4th edition (1992): 436-442.
--Three principles of separation--interruption, contradiction, and refraction--operate throughout this film, affecting not only narrative and images but, to an equal degree, sound.

High School
dir. Frederick Wiseman, 1968. From
Film Art, 5th edition (1996): 409-415.
--This documentary is in cinema verite style; it "uses no voice-over narration and almost no nondiegetic music."