Tom Gunning – Cinema of Attractions
What is the cinema of attraction?
- It is a cinema based on the quality that Leger celebrated: its ability to SHOW something.
- Discussing early cinema- before 1906
- The cinema of attractions construts a different relationship with the spectatos: the
recurring look at the camera by actors
- Cinema displays its visibility
- The cinema of attractions directly solicits spectator attention, inciting visual curiosity,
and supplying pleasure through an exciting spectacle – a unique event, whether fictional
or documentary, that is of interest in itself. The attraction to be displayed may also be of a
cinematic nature, such as the early close ups just described or trick films in which a
cinematic manipulation (slow motion, reverse motion...) provides the films novelty
- Accoding to Eisenstein, theatre should consist of a montage of such attractions, creating a
relation to the spectator entirely different from his absorption
- Like a circus, becoming a spectacle
- Even when presented in the nickelodeons that were emerging at the end of this period,
these short films always appeared in a variety format, trick films with farces and cheap
- These acts had no narrative
- MORE NOTES ON EARLY CINEMA IN NOTEBOOK – 4 charactersitics of early
Eisenstien: Cinematographic Principle and the Ideogram:
- Cinema is montage
- A picture of a dog and a mouth = to bar
- A mouth and a child = to scream
- A knife and a heart = sorrow
- In cinema we combine shots the are depictive single in meaning, neutral in content into
intellectual contexts and series
- Comes from the Japanese and hyroglifics
- Montage is conflict
- As the basis of every art is conflict (an ―Imagist‖ transformation of the dialectical
- Conflict is potential montage
- You can frame a shot by putting a rectangle around it
Peter Wollen: the Auteur Theory –
- NOTES IN NOTEBOOK!! - The auteur theory does no limit saying te director is the main author of the film
- In time, owing to the diffuseness of the original theory, two main schools of au¬ teur
critics grew up: those who insisted on revealing a core of meanings, of the¬ matic motifs,
and those who stressed style and mise en scene. There is an impor¬ tant distinction here,
which 1 shall return to later.
- Nowell-Smith has summed up the auteur theory as it is normally presented today:
- One essentia] corollary of the theory as it has been developed is the discovery that the
defining characteristics of an author's work are not necessarily those which are most
readily apparent. The purpose of criticism thus becomes to uncover behind the super¬
ficial contrasts of subject and treatment a hard core of basic and often recondite mo¬ tifs.
The pattern formed by these motifs . , , is what gives an author's work its particu¬ lar
structure, both defining it internally and distinguishing one body of work from another.
- Howard Hawks is a good example of an auteur because he has made films in many
different genres (western, gangster..)
- What the heros go through (hawksian heroes)
- All heroes in Ford‘s film all represent the fact they are in a ford film
- An auteur has a certain look to their films which the audience can identify that THAT
director made that film. You can tell by looking at it (tim burton – dark..)
- What the auteur theory does is to take a group of films—the work of one director—and
analyse their structure. Everything irrelevant to this, everything non-pertinent, is
considered logically secondary, contingent, to be discarded.
- What the auteur theory demonstrates is that the director is not simply in com¬ mand of a
performance of a pre-existing text; he is not, or need not be, only a metteur en scene.
- I think it is important lo detach the auteur theory from any suspicion that it simply
represents a 'cult of personality' or apotheosis of the director. To my mind, the auteur
theory actually represents a radical break with the idea of an 'art' cinema, not the
transplant of traditional ideas about 'art' into Hollywood.
PETER WOLLEN on Godard as Counter-cinema
1. Narrative Transitivity/ Intransitivity
(instead of one thing following another, there are gaps and interruptions, episodic structre)
2. Identification. Estrangement
(instead of empathy and emotional involvement with characters, there is direct address,
multiple and divided characters commentary to camera)
3. Transparency/ Foregrounding (instead of not calling attention to its construction, the film makes the structures of the film/
text visible to spectator)
4. Single diegesis/ Multiple diegesis
(instead of one coherent world, many that don‘t necessarily go together)
5. Closure/ Aperture
(the film is open-ended and inter-textual- lot‘s of quotations and parody, a surplus of
6. Pleasure/ Unpleasure
(instead of merely entertaining the spectator, aiming to dissatisfy and change him or her)
7. Fiction. Reality
(trying to break through the seamless fiction with real life, breaking down representation with
STAN BRAKHAGE: metaphors on vision
- To see is to retain – to behold
In ―The Voice of Documentary, Nicholas points to 4 Historical styles of documentary:
1. Direct Address style of the Griersonian tradition- the ―Voice of God‖ at its most
2. Cinema Verite‟s ―reality effect‖
3. Interview style that incorporates direct address (characters and/or narrator speaking
directly to the camera
4. “Self Reflexive‖ – in the sense that they reflect on how they‘re made and who they‘re
made by - These SR documentaries mix observational passages with interviews, voice over,
intertiles that show the filmmakers overtly as a participant witness and active fabricator
- Reminds spectator that meaning is produced.
5. Speculation – Animated
Documentary style has constantly evolved and redefined itself.
Ever since the earliest films were made, filmmakers have invented new technologies and
storytelling solutions that have, in turn, suggested additional and more innovative
possibilities to younger filmmakers who have seen and learned from the work of their
Before 1900, films were extremely short and really just captured moving images in a
single event or scene.
Moving pictures were seen as such a novelty, their mere existence was enough to
The best examples of these black and white documentaries is the fascinating footage of
the brothers Auguste and Louis Lumière, shot at their studio in Lyons, France.
Cinema Vérité: Taking advantage of technological developments in image and sound
recording equipment, the French Cinéma vérité, similar in name to Kino Pravda, took
documentary filmmaking to a new level of realism by using handheld cameras on
location to capture events as they occurred.
No more staged battle scenes. Cinema vérité shows you the real thing.
Direct Cinema: The North American variation of Cinema vérité, known as the Direct
Cinema style, was developed and preferred by trend-setting filmmakers Michel Brault,
Pierre Perrault, Richard Leacock, Frederick Wiseman and Albert and David Maysles.
Various Takes on Direct Cinema: Following the Direct Cinema style, most filmmakers
shoot for reality, but contemporary directors are generally divided into two groups--those
who, like Michael Moore, enter the story and influence its outcome, or those who, like
D.A. Pennebaker, remain objective observers who watch and film as their story develops.
Big Budget Small Budget: Commercially successful documentaries such as Super Size Me,
March of the Penguins and An Inconvenient Truth have given nonfiction features a much
broader reach and yielded bigger budgets for some documentary filmmakers. On the other
hand, very affordable digital recording equipment now makes it possible for almost anyone
to make a documentary, which guarantees a proliferation of nonfiction films, which will
undoubtedly give rise to the development of new and highly individual styles of documentary
―Voice‖ is not just style – voice conveys social POV, how it speaks to us and how it organizes
the material it presents to us
1. Voice of the text (author/director/editor) – is usually about those of interviewees,
comments on them 2. Voice of interview subjects – witnesses, experts
3. Voice of found – footage
4. Voice of titles
Nichols says these styles produce different kinds of GAPS between theVoice of the film and
the Voices of the elements the film includes.
Eg, Purely Observational documentaries seem to ―close the gap between a fabricated
realism‖ and ―reality itself‖
Some Interview-Style documentaries just treat their interviews as puppets for their POV – or
assume that witnesses always tell the truth.
Brakhage: Mothlight ―What a moth might see from birth to death‖
Would you call this a documentary?
No, because a documentary is something that gives us information about something
It just shows really fast scrambles of images
Creature Comforts – shot film of animated animals discussing their work
- Jobs matched animals
- Dog talking about helping humans, doing something they enjoy
- Animals are optimistic as if they chose what kind of job they wanted
Working Man‟s Death - documentary
Workers in the mines in Russia
Workers in Nigeria killing goats for a living because they are poor
Narrative is progression with goats. In Russia, the goats were cuddled by the family –
made a connection with the goat, as opposed to slaughtering of the goats in the other
Workers in Russia had no money – they were working for a living
Workers in Nigeria had money and were slaughtered goats. They said that they wouldn‘t
want to steal but they don‘t mind killing 350 goats in a day
6. Transcoding is the direct digital-to-digital conversion of one encoding to another. This is
usually done to incompatible or obsolete data in order to convert it into a more suitable
format. When transcoding one lossy file to another, the process almost always introduces
7. In true transcoding, the bit stream format of one file is changed from one to another
without its undergoing another complete decoding and encoding process. This usually is
possible if the source and target codes are sufficiently similar. However, support for this
process very much depends on the case.
2 Cinema- Author-driven, Art Cinema (not communist)
Sound- soundtrack is independent of image track.
Terms used in sound production:
Direct Sound- Music, noise, and speech recorded from the event at the moment of filming;
opposite of postsynchronization.
Postsynchronization- The process of adding sound to images after they have been shot and
assembled. This can include dubbing of voices, as well as inserting diegetic music or sound
effects. It is the opposite of direct sound.
Dubbing- The process of replacing part or all of the voices on the sounds track in order to
correct mistakes or record dialogue.
Mixing- Combining two or more sound tracks by recording them onto a single one.
FUNCTIONS OF SOUND
1. Sensory impact
2. Provides narrative information and explanation (dialogue, sound effects SFX)
3. Conventional associations of specific sounds (connotations)
4. Sound/image relation
c) Anticipation and expectations
TYPES & FUNCTIONS OF SOUND IN FILM 1. Speech (dialogue)
-speech is performed: emphasis, punctuation, tone, dialect
-dialogue overlap: used in continuity editing to smooth over a cut
-theme music: leitmotif
3. Noise (sound effects/SFX)
Example Movie: The Piano
There is a voice over- insight to her thoughts, internal diagetic sound
The voice over also gives the audience information about the location, time period, and situation.
The voice, because she has actually hasn‘t spoken since she was six years old, is an interpretation
of what her voice may sound like.
It sounds somewhat younger than maybe a woman her age.
SOUND PRESPECTIVE- The sense of a sound‘s position in diegetic space, indicated by
volume, pitch timbre, and sound reproduction.
TEMPORAL DIMENSIONS OF SOUND
SYNCHRONOUS SOUND- Sound that is matched temporarily with movement occurring in the
ASYNCHRONOUS SOUND- Sound that is not matched temporarily with the movements
occurring in the image, as when dialogue is out of synchronization with lip movements.
SOUND BRIDGE- Sound derived from one scene which briefly carries over to another scene.
*You do not need to know “simultaneous sound” and “non-simultaneous sound”.
Example Movie: Alphaville Some of the sound effects were impossibly loud; however, some of the fighting sounds were
There was a great deal of intense music at the beginning, even when there was no action. It set
up for later events.
The score was very ON or very OFF.
Room tone is very intense only when the lady speaks, and her use of meter and ―sir‖ is a
The music is in a waltz, and the movements seem to be in threes as well.
The man in the bathroom is definitely a surprise element.
STYLE: The repeated and salient uses of film techniques characteristic of a single film or a
group of films (eg. A film-maker‘s work or national movement).
Stylistic Systems: 4 sets of film techniques:
The term ―style‖ may be applied to:
a) Individual film (eg. The style of RLR)
b) Group of films united by 1) artist (eg. Director‘s or actor‘s style) or 2) historical period of
production (eg. 1) film noir style of post WWII Hollywood and 2) 1960s French New
Wave films and finally 3) historical period in film‘s technical development. Examples
include: post 1927s sync sound, late 1930s- late 1950s Technicolor and post 1980s digital
c) Larger cultural or aesthetic movements: eg. Expressionism, constructivism, surrealism,
art deco. Think of your own examples of different ―covers‖ that have emerged in the recent decades.
Compare the styles of the original and remake; what I similar? What is different? What
seems to be the trend for these remakes?
Thinking about these covers, there are all sorts of differences and choices that are made. This
is the same in film.
Films ALWAYS have a distinct style that is either copied or re-done, depending on the intent
of the director.
Films hat are remade often change in style.
Trace Patterns: do they reinforce the narrative? Do they go beyond the narrative function?
"Avant-garde" is a word from the French, meaning "ahead of the crowd."
Avant-garde film makers want to experiment with new ideas, forms, techniques, and
expressions, and are often said to be ahead of their times.
Avant-garde films are characterized by a high degree of experimentation, whether it is in
manipulation in narrative materials, in highly stylized visual representation, or in radical
departures from the norms or conventions current at the time; avant-garde film is always a
vehicle for the filmmaker‘s expression.
Often, avant-garde films focus on the lyrical, the abstract, formal beauty for its own sake, and
therefore may avoid conventions of narrative. Abstract film has also been called "absolute" film.
Avant-garde films are often iconoclastic, mocking conventional morality and traditional values;
the filmmaker's intense interest in eccentricities and extremes may shock for the viewers.
Indeed, the avant-garde film maker‘s purpose may be to wake or shake up the audience from the
stupor of ordinary consciousness or the doldrums of conventional perspective.
Such highly expressive and unconventional films may become cult classics and acquire the
description, avant garde, as a result.
Some avant-garde films are called experimental, in the sense that the films may be experiments
to explore how the camera can emulate and/or enhance human visual perception.
Avant garde film differs from indie film in the way that indie or low budget films are still
connected to the Hollywood system in sort way or another. Indie and commercial film rely almost exclusively on narrative film, and there is almost always
some sort of introduction, body and conclusion.
CLASSICAL HOLLYWOOD CINEMA....KINDA
Points made about the introductory clip (takes place in police station) without classical
-No introduction to the main characters
Classical Hollywood style directs your eyes and ears to look and listen.
The main purpose of a mainstream Hollywood film is to tell you, the viewer, a story. But though
all mainstream films are based around a plot or narrative idea and contain various scenes and
sequences all of which contribute to the overall story, on a more fundamental level all films can
be boiled down to just two core building blocks: the shot and the cut. As such, the use of camera
and editing are crucial elements of moving image language.
The basic components of the classical Hollywood style are:
• Narrative flow is pieced together out of small fragments of action in such a way that the piecing
together goes unnoticed and the action appears continuous.
• Sequences that occur at the same time but in different places are intercut to create narrative
• Dialogue sequences are constructed by a series of over the shoulder shots from one participant
in the dialogue to the other
• The gaze of the viewer is linked to the gaze of the main characters through a series of shots that
show a character and then show what the character is looking at.
As cinema first evolved in the early 20th century, a particular style of shooting and editing
geared towards making film narratives easier to understand developed. This became known as
the continuity style and it proved popular with both filmmakers themselves and with audiences.
The continuity style has since become the moving image‘s most conventional and dominant
mode of visual storytelling.
The most important aspect of this particular style is that it encourages you the viewer to become
enthralled and captivated by a story but actively discourages you from consciously noticing the
editing and camera techniques that are being used to tell it. The continuity style deliberately sets out to make the camera, camerawork and editing invisible
or, at the very least, unobtrusive. The events on screen seem to take place within a world of their
own. They look as though they have simply been captured by some kind of unseen observer, who
just happened to be watching and recording the action from convenient and suitable positions or
angles. This is the key to the continuity style; its ability to tell a story whilst at the same time
hiding the storytelling mechanisms themselves.
You, the audience member, are drawn into the narrative. You feel as if you are seeing the story
unfolding onscreen. The techniques are deliberately used in order to effect precisely the right
emotional response in you and at the right moment. The result is seamless and engaging
storytelling and great filmmaking can really make us feel as if we are actually participating in an
Filmmakers developed formal methods that made shooting relatively quick and easy:
• shoot whatever scenes are most economical to shoot at a given time (shoot out of sequence
• cover any given sequence from as many different angles as possible and with multiple takes of
each angle to give the producer and editor a lot of material to choose from
• edit the material to create linear continuity, cut on movement, keep eyelines matched
(maintaining the direction a person is gazing from one shot to another)
The continuity style is a form that is economical to reproduce. Once the basic methods of
shooting and editing a film became institutionalised in the early part of the 20th century it was
easy to keep doing it that way. Although every studio during the classical period of Hollywood
production (roughly between the late 1910s to early 1950s) performed slight variations on the
continuity style, its basics were constant and used by everyone.
1 World – Capitalist Countries
2 World – Communist Countries
3 World – non –aligned countries, mostly poor, colonized developing countries
Cold War terms from the 1950s + 1960s
1945 and 1962, 100 new nation states were liberated from former imperialist control. However, despite their supposed ―liberation‖ from colonizing countries, most of these newly
―liberated‖ nation- states in the Third World continued to function under NEO-COLOIALIST
1 Cinema- Hollywood cinema
2 Cinema – Author –driven, Art Cinema
3 Cinema -
1) Meant to stimulate revolutionary thought or political action in spectator
2) Meant to help in the mission of cultural determinance for a new nation state living under
the conditions of Neo-colonialism.
- A cinema of the ―now‖
- Radically situational, militant political cinema.
- Dissolve cinema into the life of the people
- NOT necessarily from the 3 World
- NOT about individual expression
- NOT a particular genre or mode
- NOT only a documentary or narrative
Week 21 – 11 May - Globalization: Third Cinema
Ilha das Flores (Isle of Flowers) (Jorge Furtado, Casa de Cinema de Porto Alegre, Brazil,
1989, 12m, Eastmancolor, sd)
- a film about how everything is connected – the tomato grown and picked by the Japanese
man which is sent to the grocery in exchange for money which was bought by the woman
who sells perfume at a higher price to make a profit which is taken home for her pork and
tomato sauce. One of the tomatoes is bad so she throws it in the garbage which is taken to
the Isle of Flowers which is separated from the other garbage as organic and given to the
pigs to eat and is then given to poor people to pick at for 5 minutes.
- What distinguishes a human from other mammals? It‘s highly developed brain and it‘s
opposable thumb and money
- Why did we laugh at certain parts?
- Where they said most people eat pork – not Jews
- Places where it stated to obvious came across as funny
- Pigs ate history test – then explained the history of history test
- Christ is a Jew – then showed images from holocaust
- Why make a documentary about extreme poverty this way?
- The general is usually s sob story about – people get desensitized
- This film catches your attention, it has a funny aspect to it What would you argue if shown a clip from this?
- Montage within the frame and that it is te driving narrative and produces what you see in
- The form was like someone reading the narrative, the script
3.23.09 Early Cinema
FOUR CHARACTERISTICs of EARLY CINEMA
1) What he calls the AUTARKY of each frame – (an autarky is an economy that does no trade
with the outside world, ... An example
of a current autarky is North Korea)
In this mode, then, the emphasis is on a SERIES of STATIC TABLEAUS that are relatively
contained, rather than giving a sense of CONTINUOUS, UNBROKEN SPACE
2) There is a NON-CENTERED quality to the image – by which Burch means
- the film doesn‘t guide your gaze or tell you WHAT TO LOOK AT
- ―Worker‘s leaving the Lumiere Factory‖ – there‘s no clear sense of what you‘re supposed
to look at
- Often, there was the presence of a ―LECTURER‖ in the early cinema
- In JAPAN, this lecturer was known as the ―BENSHI‖ – so popular that it delayed the
coming of SOUND CINEMA
- This is the person that would direct your gaze and tell the spectator what to look at.
3) CAMERA DISTANCE -- in the PRIMITIVE MODE is fairly standard in that the human
bodies it figures are usually at 2/3 the height of the screen
-Gives an effect of EXTERIORITY
-Often difficult to identify characters, let alone IDENTIFY WITH characters
-No PSYCHOLO-GISATION of characters or appeal to any kind of interiority or
PSYCHOLOGICAL MOTIVATION for actions -These films don‘t BRING YOU IN as a spectator and involve you in the scene – in the
way that the CLASSICAL HOLLYWOOD
4) NON-CLOSURE: These films not always narrative, or assume you KNOW the STORY
- Melies films often just seem to END, even ―TRIP TO THE MOON,‖ which is
one of the most NARRATIVE in this period
- instead of CLOSURE, there‘s a CATASTROPHE or a BEATING – as at the end of
―Watering the Gardener‖ (1895)
- So, this is a very WEAK form of CLOSURE in comparison to CLASSICAL
- Of the shorts you saw in your screening, probably the one that comes closest to the
typical Classical Hollywood form of CLOSURE is ―Rescued by Rover‖ (1905) in which
the upper-middle class family (including mother, father, dog, and rescued baby) are
reunited at the end. So, this is already getting towards the end of the PRIMITIVE MODE
So, all of these formal structures, in addition to the temporal length of these films, work against
EVOLUTION OF NARRATIVE CONTROL OF TIME AND SPACE in Early Cinema
-one film = one scene = one shot
-deep space, and deep focus, often emphasized through diagonal lines in the composition
extending from the foreground of the screen into the background (e.g., Arrival of Train)
-concentration on actuality
-one film = many scenes; one scene = one shot (usually--we find exceptions in many of his
-shallow, stage space; illusion of deep space created artificially through sets and backdrops
-immobile camera (stage and props move) -long shot camera distance
-dissolves between shots/scenes
-trick editing to create 'magic' transformations
-screen action not controlled or centered on screen: distracting narrative action
-emphasis more on monstration than narrative economy
-one film = many scenes; one scene = manyshots
-outdoor and studio locations
-deep space in exteriors (use of diagonals) and shallow stage space
-camera movement (pan, tilt, tracking)
-long shot camera distance (with close-up of bandit firing at camera)
-straight cuts between most shots
-faster pace of editing
-action is carried over from shot to shot
-cut may occur before narrative action in a shot is complete (e.g., before all of the bandits
have gone off-screen)
-chase film: strong narrative structure creates trajectoryof shots linked through editing
-one film = many scenes; one scene = many, many shots
-outdoor and studio locations
-deep space in both interiors and exteriors (no 2-D props)
-extensive camera movement (pan, tilt, tracking, crane)
-wide range of camera distances (extreme close-up, close-up, medium close-up, medium
shot, three-quarter shot, medium long shot/full shot, long shot, extreme long shot)
-cuts in to closer camera distance in scene, and gives different perspectives on characters
-acting style: toned down (different from theatrical acting)
-directional lighting, and use of shadow
-camera angles (low angle, high angle)
-complex shot transitions (straight cut, dissolve, fade in, fade out)
-frame within a frame (mask, iris)
Parallel Editing (also called crosscutting and intercutting):
-two or more lines of narrative action occurring simultaneously("meanwhile")
-accelerated montage: shorter and shorter shot length (controlled pacing of cutting)
1) "last-minute rescue": lines of narrative action converge (often after accelerated montage) to end
in climax; dramatic climax is also a visual climax
2) thematic or metaphorical comparison and contrast (also called "associative montage"); In
Intolerance, the theme of "intolerance" is built through comparing and contrasting 4 different stories 3) emotional parallels: editing can illustrate character thoughts, memories, feelings, desires: what
Griffith calls "objects of attention"
4) metaphysical parallels: e.g., two "destine