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Point of view and communication

This book explores the theoretical and critical concept of filmic point of view. Its case studies are six acclaimed and accomplished instances of ‘classical Hollywood cinema’: Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (Capra, 1936), Only Angels Have Wings (Hawks, 1939), Letter from an Unknown Woman (Ophuls, 1948), Vertigo (Hitchcock, 1958), Anatomy of a Murder (Preminger, 1959), and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (Ford, 1962). The book’s particular contributions to the study of filmic point of view are to use ‘communication’ as an idea which permits new ways of approaching this topic, and to offer detailed explorations of the filmic representation of character experience (including character ‘consciousness’ and interaction), and of the relationship of film to other media of communication (especially print media and the novel). With respect to character experience, it is argued that the often-held distinction between an inner realm of thought and feeling and an outer realm of behaviour and objects fails to do justice to the human experience of ‘being-in-the-world’ and film’s ability to represent it. With respect to film’s relationship to other media, it explores the traversing of the public, the private and the social that narrative fiction film represents, in a way that aligns the medium with the novel. The book is offered as a demonstration and defence of the value of a ‘conversational’ critical method that entails detailed scrutiny of our film-viewing experiences and of the language we use to describe those experiences, and eschews the construction of a taxonomy designed for general applicability.

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Point of view and communication

Introduction: point of view and communication This book engages closely with six masterpieces of the classical Hollywood cinema under three large topic headings. The films are (in chronological order, rather than as ordered in this book): Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (Capra, 1936), Only Angels Have Wings (Hawks, 1939), Letter from an Unknown Woman (Ophuls, 1948), Vertigo (Hitchcock, 1958), Anatomy of a Murder (Preminger, 1959) and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (Ford, 1962). The topics are point of view, distance and communication. I offer what follows as a work of

in Classical Hollywood cinema

all that it implies upon how works of art are apprehended by their audiences; and, standing between these two concerns just mentioned, the relationship that the medium establishes between the camera’s human subjects and film audiences. One way in which Benjamin views photography and cinema is as forms of transcription. The near instantaneity of the capturing of photographic images is what allows art, for the first time, to keep pace with life as it unfolds: 46  Classical Hollywood cinema [P]hotography freed the hand of the most important artistic functions … Since

in Classical Hollywood cinema

films (and my case study films in particular). 8  Classical Hollywood cinema Representing character consciousness in novels and films The ability of prose narration to represent human consciousness is one important topic within studies of literary point of view. So successful and subtle are novelistic representations of human consciousness that critics and theorists who compare novels and films often find the latter markedly inferior in this regard. George Bluestone, in his book Novels into Film (1966), suggests that ‘The rendition of mental states – memory, dream

in Classical Hollywood cinema
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Categories and conversations

upon questionable assumptions about a division between an inner realm of thought and feeling and an outer realm of behaviour. In presenting my argument, I attempted to 112  Classical Hollywood cinema s­ ummarise and synthesise the arguments of a range of thinkers, and I drew upon and appealed to my experiences of engaging with my case study films, and sought to do justice on the page to these experiences by trying to arrive at the most precise and evocative descriptions and formulations possible. I drew upon concepts such as ‘being-in-the-world’, for example, but

in Classical Hollywood cinema
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Education, communication and film studies

) as friends, who offer us company, which we choose (or choose not) to keep.2 It is, however, also crucial for Booth that such metaphorical conversations and friendships give rise to conversations between live (if not co-present) interlocutors: ‘To me the most important 116  Classical Hollywood cinema of all critical tasks is to participate in – and thus to reinforce – a critical culture, a vigorous conversation, that will nourish in return those who feed us with their narratives.’3 Stanley Cavell suggests that criticism is ‘a natural extension of conversation

in Classical Hollywood cinema

communication in relation to its object of study, it will often conceive of it in terms of what Bordwell aptly describes as ‘the classic communication diagram: a message is passed from sender to receiver’.3 This is the way that communication is 86  Classical Hollywood cinema c­ onceptualised within accounts of filmic narratology and point of view that postulate ‘sending’ entities such as implied authors and narrators and corresponding ‘receiving’ entities such as implied readers and narratees. It is the way that Kristin Thompson describes what she sees as a widespread

in Classical Hollywood cinema
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the basis of a realist mode of presentation which has been called The Classical Hollywood Cinema’. 1 With the commercial implementation of synchronised sound recording in the late 1920s and early 1930s, these conventions became institutionalised, and although there have been stylistic variations at different times over the years, most films use this securely entrenched, very familiar set of realist, structural

in Film editing: history, theory and practice
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Bordwell’s interventions

Barr’s or Perkins’s 224 The life of mise-en-scène account, offers a new way of discussing the scene under consideration. The two scenes are the incident with the bag in River of No Return and the jeep ride from Carmen Jones discussed in Film as Film. The history is motivated by an agenda which becomes clear when one realises that the article appeared in the months preceding the publication of The Classical Hollywood Cinema and Narration in the Fiction Film: I want to suggest some of the ways a historical poetics of Hollywood cinema would treat the stylistics of

in The life of mise-en-scène
Arthur Seaton and the arc of flight

. This is not enough when it comes to accounting for the differences between one film and another. The problem is in the methodology. As Douglas Pye explains in his discussion of the Bordwell model: The phrase ‘Classical Hollywood Cinema’ has itself achieved widespread currency among film critics and theorists. In effect, it has become a shorthand carrying the illusion of shared assumptions – we all know what that is. Whether we do is clearly another matter, but Bordwell, Staiger and Thompson’s codification – by far the most detailed we have – shows every sign of

in The British New Wave