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Lecture

Formalism.docx

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Department
Film Studies
Course Code
Film Studies 1020E
Professor
Janelle Blankenship

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Luca Lattavo 1 29 January 2013 Formalism Classical Film Theories: Formalism  Two Paradigms: o Realism & Formalism  The Russian Revolution o A) Marxism and “Dialectics” o B) Formalism and “constructivist” art  The Kuleshov Effect o Director/Important film maker  Eisenstein’s theory of montage o Key theme for this unit Two Paradigms: Realism and Formalism  Film theory from Cinema’s origins to the 1960s can be divided in two camps (or “paradigms”): o 1. Realism o 2. Formalism  Both theories try to answer the question “What is cinema?” by analyzing what is specific to the medium  Realism: Stresses the mechanical, recording nature of cinema and the connection between the camera and the world (e.g. Andre Bazin) o Cinema as a window on to reality  Formalism: Emphasizes the formal properties of cinema that shape filmmaking and our responses (e.g. Sergei Eisenstein) o Cinema as a canvas that shapes/actively constructs reality o Not recording, but creating & constructing artificial, new reality Formalism  Flourished in the silent era Pre-Revolutionary Russia  Political and economic situation in Russia before the revolution: o Autocratic rule of the “Czars” (Russian Monarchs) o 5% of the population were nobles who owned most of the land (and – until 1861 – the peasants) The Russian Revolution 1917  Was led by the Bolsheviks, a faction of the Russian social-democratic party that operated largely underground Luca Lattavo 2 29 January 2013  Revolutionaries formed worker’s councils (= “soviets”)  The Bolsheviks were headed by Vladimir Lenin  Was followed by a civil war (ended in 1920)  The Russian Revolution was the first successful “Marxist” revolution in history Marxism th  Karl Marx: 19 German philosopher and economist. Marx believed…. o That the nature of a society could be explained by how goods were Formally produced and who owned the means of production o That history is the story of increasing oppression driven by economic change where one class after the next seizes power o Wrote the “Communist Manifesto” o The end of oppression and exploitation would come when the workers seized power and took over the means of production (= communism) o That history followed the “scientific” laws of “dialectics” Dialectics  Philosophy based on the principle of Contradiction Formalism and “Constructivist” Art  The 1920s in the Soviet Union was an era of tremendous artistic and intellectual creativity o Formalism (Literature theory) o Constructivism (arts) o Cinema (Lenin: “the cinema is the most important art”) Formalism: The Study of Literature  Importance of form: Literature must be defined by how it says things; form is part of content  “De-familiarization”: Literature/art should make us see the familiar in an unfamiliar way Russian Constructivism  Dismissed “pure” art (art as an end in itself) (Art for art’s sake)  Art should serve social change  Viewer as an active participant  Glorification of machines and modern industry Luca Lattavo 3 29 January 2013  Emphasized the constructed-ness of art  Saw themselves as “engineers” Vladmir Tatlin, Monument to the Third International (1919)  Constructivism as machine aesthetics El-Lissitzky, The Red Wedge (1919)  The politics of form Agitprop Train (Early 1920s)  Art in the service of social change o Revolutionary artists were given a train to use to distribute pamphlets
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