January 8, 2013 – FILM LECTURE
Today’s Topic: The Classical Film
Narrative or non-narrative system (narrative, rhetorical, categorical, associational,
Stylistic system (describe film’s overall form, determine primary techniques and
interactions, identify patterns, propose functions for techniques)
Formal analysis demands a focus on films as self-sufficient entities and thus an exclusive
privileging of the textual.
We think about films as texts, or self-sufficient entities.
Formal analysis is not the only way to approach the study of film, for there is always an
outside to a text.
This semester, we are going to have an opportunity to go beyond the textual in film and
Textual analysis is surrounded by larger things. Outside the film text, we have the
extratextual (which surrounds the text, which is outside the text). For example, some
examples of the extratextual are publicity (which can affect how we see the film or how
we perceive it), reviews, DVD bonus material (modifies the meanings we take from a
film), academic analysis (influence the meanings we make of a film), social reality (what
prevails at a time the film is made, released and viewed).
There is also the intertextual which surrounds a text, which refers to the way 2 or more
texts influence each other. It is the relationship between/among one or multiple texts. An
intertextual reference is the reference one work of art makes to another work of art.
This week, we start a 4-week section focusing on the text or textual. Then we will
emphasize the intertextual, and then the extratextual. All the types of films we will see in
this section are historically determined. We will be emphasizing the form of these films
first and foremost. How do the films tell these stories? What stories do they tell?
The Classical Film: The classical film derives from classical Hollywood cinema (the type
of cinema produced by Hollywood from the late teens through the 1950s, or the Golden
Age of Hollywood).
We must remember that the Hollywood model has been very pervasive and influential
since the 1920s. How did Hollywood operate during the Golden Age? Film production
was dominated by 5 studios (Fox, Warner Brothers, Paramount, MGM, Radio Picture…)
There was also the little 3 (United Artists, Columbia, Universal).
The Big 5 were vertically integrated companies. For ex, Warner Bros would make and
produce a film, and then show it in its own theatre. In general, studios worked with their
own employees (had actors under contract) and had a specific style. For example,
Paramount had an identity, it had a European sensibility because it employed a lot of
Serial manufacturing = a way of making films. The automotive industry popularized
serial manufacturing. The Hollywood wanted to sustain an ongoing slate of films that would provide a comforting familiarity for customers. In order to achieve the level of
output desired, studios had to make films quickly.
The producer-unit system (a produced had to shepherd a project through its initial
conception till the end) resulted in a constant circulation of labor within a studio. This led
to the standardization of form. Under this system, each editor had to be interchangeable
with any other editor. As a result, every editor had to learn to do his or her job in a
specific way. There was no room in this system for personal idiosyncrasies. There was a
restricted range of options. People were trained to do their jobs in a consistent fashion, in
accordance with a style that prevailed in a certain studio. There was no place for
individual artists in the studios. The studio sy