Since the 1970s, many academics and teachers have been taking the study of film out of Film Studies by producing curricula and critical literature hostile to notions of artistic endeavour and aesthetic value. Montage simply is the joining together of different elements of film in a variety of ways, between shots, within them, between sequences, within these. This book offers specific experiences of montage. Though there are clusters of experiences and practices that films share in common, each film is specific to itself. The book is led by that specificity towards these clusters and away from them then back to the films once more. Eadwaerd Muybridge's studies of human and animal locomotion consisted of photographed plates that reproduced bodies in movement in a sequence of still photographs he published in 1887. These reproductions, though sequential, were composed of intermittent, discontinuous immobile units, in effect, a linked series of snapshots. The game in Cahiers du cinéma is based on sixty-nine photographs that Kitano took of various subjects at different times and places, mostly in Japan, some in Africa. The notion and practices of the shot sequence were crucial for Pier Paolo Pasolini's formulations. The Kuleshov effect is the effect of desire. No shot in an Eisenstein film is ever complete because it reappears either analogically, or graphically, or in luminosity or by a contrast of beats and movements (the steps, the hammocks, descents, ascents). The book also discusses the works of David Wark Griffith, Eric Rohmer, and Alfred Hitchcock.
This book consists of 50 categories arranged in alphabetical order centred on film modernism. Each category, though autonomous, interacts, intersects, juxtaposes with the others, entering into a dialogue with them and in so doing creates connections, illuminations, associations and rhymes which may not have arisen in a more conventional framework. The categories refer to particular films and directors that raise questions related to modernism, and, inevitably thereby to classicism. The book is more in the way of questions and speculations than answers and conclusions. Its intention is to stimulate not simply by the substance of what is said, but by the way it is said and structured. Most attention is given to the works of Michelangelo Antonioni, Bernardo Bertolucci, John Ford, Jean-Luc Godard, Howard Hawks, Alfred Hitchcock, João César Monteiro, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Nicholas Ray, Alain Resnais, Roberto Rossellini, Luchino Visconti and Orson Welles. The apparent arbitrary order and openness of the book, based as it is on the alphabet is indebted to Jean-Luc Godard’s interrogation of History and of film history especially true in his stunning Histoire(s) du cinema.
In any film, a shot change in a succession of images is a rupture even if it is used to constitute a continuity as is mostly the case. In Alain Resnais's films continuity is almost never the object of shot changes. In the classical system, the shot is effaced on behalf of the whole into which it is integrated. No shot in his films is singular. It contains all manner of similitudes and paths and into which it can enter and depart, like Carlos, like exterior voices, like an image that then multiplies into images like it, of women, of desire, of losses. Carlos is a refugee from Franco's Spain and a professional revolutionary seeking to overthrow the Spanish dictatorship. La Guerre est finie is a film that takes place in an instant in an interval between two rivers, two crossings, and two lives.
Étienne-Jules Marey was a Positivist scientist interested in quantity and measurement. His photographs, however (multiple movements in a single image), give an image where time and space overlap and interpenetrate and where nothing is solid or substantive. And to achieve the analytical precision he wanted, Marey eliminated the usual and customary dimensions of the image: its linear one-point depth perspective, its tonal modelling, the volume of its figures, its hierarchy of detail and its implied chronology (Eadwaerd Muybridge's sequences). When Marey was presented with Muybridge's studies of a bird in flight, he was disappointed. Muybridge's locomotion studies were composed of fixed instances within a continuous movement. In Muybridge's photographs, which were, like his other experiments, taken by multiple cameras, the images of the bird lacked precision or clarity. Muybridge produced multiple photographs set out in a series of individual moments, Marey a single photograph of multiple moments.
The frequent images of projections in La Guerre est finie are like mirages that other images give rise to. All the images are erotic and enticing in part because the women they call up are imaginary, unknown, absent and the projection is intensely private like so much else in the film, and in part their eroticism is given to them because Carlos is not only a revolutionary. Distinctions of real and imaginary, present and absent, past and present, are not secure because the images of the film are not secure, even Spain is a chimera, dreamt in France by the Central Committee, by the young militants, by Nadine, by Marianne, and by Carlos. Alain Resnais's montage is not an operation of finding accords, but of the opening out of images towards others that they seem to call to or beckon, not exactly a link, nor a binding, but affinities.
Some of the leading young American filmmakers of the 1940s and 1950s had come to the cinema from a theatre background that had been radicalised in the late 1930s where visual values and 'reality' rather than the text and the word had become most important. Samuel Fuller came to the cinema not from theatre with its cultural and literary resonances, but from a world that was more crude, more direct and less cultivated, the world of tabloid journalism and mass media sensationalism. Fuller worked in tabloid journalism from the age of 12 years old, eventually becoming a reporter, then a crime reporter. Fuller's films are intensely realistic, but with an intensity and amplitude that unsettles their realism. In Forty Guns, Griff Bonell and his brothers Wes and Chico are out on a road in a desolate landscape stretched across the cinemascope surface of the screen.
In Vertigo, James Stewart's look is as important as the figure of Novak whom he regards and who he transforms by his desires: it combines the objective (the object seen) and the subjective. The Hitchcockian system of shot (object) /counter-shot (look) needs to be considered in this context. Every image in a Alfred Hitchcock film has a double aspect. Even the most documentary, plain and seemingly innocent Hitchcock image contains something disquieting and unsettling. In Vertigo, in Madge's studio and in Elster's office, an initial ordinary frontality and symmetrical balance in the framing and editing of shots becomes distorted, askew, unbalanced and imperceptibly so, less perceived than felt. In Hitchcock what comes into play between shot and counter-shot is the look as in Rear Window where the foreshortening of space (a distortion) is a matter of a perverse, secretive, voyeuristic look through a camera lens that brings the distant close.
The linkages between shots in David Wark Griffith's films are 'matched' in the sense that no matter how strained these matches may be to a point that they seem to 'jump' (Intolerance) , to expose a gap, the continuity that underlies them is always reasserted. One of Griffith's most beautiful Biograph films is the 12 minute The Unchanging Sea made in 1910. The Adventures of Dollie, made in 1908, is among the earliest films Griffith made for Biograph. It tells the story of the kidnapping of the little girl Dollie and her subsequent reappearance. Essentially, The Adventures of Dollie presents a linear series of events. Time is successive based on logical connectives of consequent action. Griffith's invention of new cinematic means, primarily of montage, were stimulated by the desire to transpose the effects of the legitimate naturalist theatre (where language was central) to the cinema (where speech was absent).
The sequence at the Odessa Steps is one of the most dramatic and famous in The Battleship Potemkin and possibly over the whole of Sergei Eisenstein's work, but it is not exceptional in its structure compared to other sequences in that film and in other films. The Odessa Steps sequence has a number of features relating to the organisation of time and of space dependent on procedures of montage and the composition of shots. From the beginning of the film, Eisenstein constructs series of shots along graphic lines and lines of movement. There is an apparent development and continuity in Eisenstein's early films, but these continuities do not belong to a natural course of the action but rather to a correspondence between shots. The central montage strategy of Eisenstein is a montage of correspondences whereby elements distant in time and space and from different realities are brought together.
Of all Sergei Eisenstein's films Strike retains best of all the promise and mutual interests of the Russian cultural avant-garde and of the Bolshevik political revolution. Strike is both a great film of European modernism and a testament to the energies and hopes of the Bolshevik Revolution. Before Eisenstein made Strike in 1925, he had worked for some years after the Revolution in theatre, primarily the theatre of Meyerhold associated with Proletkult. Eisenstein transforms the shot (and montage) by making every shot not singular and narrowly directional, but divided and multiple. Typage and the recourse to non-diegetic interventions have the effect of destroying the unity of the fragment by fragmenting it into more than a single element and dividing it between the fictional and the commentative, the fictional and the outside-the-fiction, the diegetic and the non-diegetic, the character and the type.