On the History of Film Style

On the History of Film Style

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The study of cinematic style has in many ways shaped attitudes towards films. Style assigns films to a tradition, distinguishes a classic and signals the arrival of an innovation. This book aims to show how film scholars have attempted to explain stylistic continuity and change across the history of cinema. The author explores the theories of style launched by Andre Bazin, Noel Burch and other film historians. In the process he celebrates a century of cinema, integrating discussions of the film classics such as "The Birth of a Nation" and "Citizen Cane", with analysis of more current box-office successes such as "Jaws" and "The Hunt For Red October". The contributions of noted and neglected directors are examined, and the author considers the earliest film making, the accomplishments of the silent era, the development of Hollywood, and the strides taken by European and Asian cinema in recent years. The book proposes that stylistic developments often arise from filmmakers' search for efficient solutions to production problems. The author traces this activity across history through a detailed discussion of cinematic staging.show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 336 pages
  • 182 x 240 x 24mm | 703.06g
  • Cambridge, Mass, United States
  • English
  • New.
  • 0674634292
  • 9780674634299
  • 425,542

Review quote

[Bordwell] explains how film scholars have tried to codify stylistic continuity and change over the past 80 years. Beginning with the 'Standard Version' of stylistic history as espoused by Robert Brasillach and Maurice Bardeche, he moves on to treat Andre Bazin, Noel Burch, and more recent research programs...Liberally illustrated with frame enlargements, the book is informative, provocative, and recommended for all libraries. -- Neal Baker Library Journal On the History of Film Style is an important addition to the growing body of scholarly work in film historiography. Bordwell's analysis is perceptive and lucid in its discussion of how historians and theorists have sought to explain the changes in film style in the relatively short history of the cinema. It is to the text's advantage that Bordwell utilizes an abundance of frame enlargements to illustrate major points. Above all the book justifies a return to film studies as a humanistic discipline worthy of scholarly pursuit and a continuation for further research programs to be developed through investigative inquiry. -- Ronald W. Wilson Institute of Film Studies, Nottingham Bordwell is always sharp and often funny...[He] has a wonderful way of making aesthetic propositions sound plausible while discreetly hinting at what he thinks is their error...[On the History of Film Style] surveys the field [starting] with what he calls 'the Standard Version' of the history of film style...Bordwell next summarizes Bazin's 'dialectical' version of film history...[and] offers a brilliant account of the history of staging in depth, taking us from Melies and Porter through Sjostrom's Ingeborg Holm and Stroheim's Greed to Preminger's Fallen Angel, Cukor's A Star is Born and Speilberg's Jaws. -- Michael Wood London Review of Books [UK] Bordwell, the most prolific of film scholars, is certainly not anti-aesthetic. He is, if I may use appreciatively a word that it has been fashionable to use disparagingly, a formalist. In his approach to film style and film history, he takes after such art historians as Heinrich Wolfflin and E.H. Gombrich. At the outset of his latest and perhaps best book, On The History of Film Style, he asks Gombrich's question: 'Why does art have a history?' And though he does not exactly answer the question--neither did Gombrich--at the close he has earned the right to assert with some pride: 'There are people who can look at a film and say with good accuracy when and where it was made.' In the book's last chapter he takes a sustained look at an issue dear to Bazin, staging in depth, and gives an illuminating account of its stylistic history, of the ways it has varied and evolved, technically and expressively, with the use of shorter and longer lenses, short shots and long takes, in the works of filmmakers from Victor Sjostro to Steven Spielberg, Sergei Eisenstein to Theo Angelopoulos, Otto Preminger to Hou Hsiao-Hsein. No one since Bazin has treated depth in such depth. And to this central issue of film aesthetics Bordwell brings a larger awareness of film history and a freshly discerning eye informed by that awareness. His discussion of film style under the regime of shallower focus brought on by color and wide screen--an area little explored--seemed to me especially impressive...This stylistic history...yield[s] penetrating critical insights. -- Gilberto Perez Chronicle of Higher Education [On the History of Film Style is] exquisitely logical and virtually inarguable...There is so much that is helpful, useful, illuminating and superbly presented here: the explication of Andre Bazin's 'dialectical' view of film history and the unity of Noel Burch's 35 year-long 'oppositional program'; the account of how archives, libraries and traveling collections of prints have decisively shaped the 'canon' of film histories; and--most decisively--the rebutting of several highly influential, grand, neo-Hegelian scenarios of the cinema as a medium that slowly 'unfolds' or evolves towards its essence. -- Adrian Martin RealTime This superb, insightful synthesis critiques the dozen or so major approaches to the cinema's stylistic development...[This] volume has all the familiar Bordwell virtues: enviably clear prose, copious documentation, superbly chosen film stills that concretely illustrate salient points, and keen, intelligent polemics. A pioneering study highly recommended for upper-division undergraduates, graduates, and faculty. -- S. Liebman Choiceshow more

Table of contents

The Way Movies Look: The Significance of Stylistic History Defending and Defining the Seventh Art: The Standard Version of Stylistic History A Developing Repertoire: The Basic Story Film Culture and the Basic Story The Standard Version: Central Assumptions Coming to Terms with Sound Bardeche, Brasillach, and the Standard Version Against the Seventh Art: Andre Bazin and the Dialectical Program A New Avant-Garde The Evolution of Film Language Toward an Impure Cinema From Stylistic History to Thematic Criticism The Return of Modernism: Noel Burch and the Oppositional Program Radicalizing Form The Institutional Mode and Its Others Living Shadows and Distant Observers Prospects for Progress: Recent Research Programs Piecemeal History Culture, Vision, and the Perpetually New Problems and Solutions Exceptionally Exact Perceptions: On Staging in DepthIdeology and Depth Making the Image Intelligible Dumb Giants Depth, Decoupage, and Camera Movement Redefining Mise en Scene Expanding the Image and Compressing Depth Eclecticism and Archaism Notes Indexshow more

About David Bordwell

David Bordwell is Jacques Ledoux Professor of Film Studies at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.show more

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