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Classical Hollywood cinema

Point of view and communication

James Zborowski

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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Introduction

Point of view and communication

James Zborowski

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

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James Zborowski

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

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James Zborowski

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

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Conclusion

Categories and conversations

James Zborowski

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

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Postscript

Education, communication and film studies

James Zborowski

) 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

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James Zborowski

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

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‘United Nations children’ in Hollywood cinema

Juvenile actors and humanitarian sentiment in the 1940s

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Michael Lawrence

Rehabilitation Administration, stated in his November 1943 acceptance address: ‘We must be guided not alone by the compelling force of human sentiments but also by dictates of sound common sense and of mutual interest.’ 8 However, it is to those ‘human sentiments’ that Hollywood cinema’s ‘sorrowful spectacle’ of suffering children (sorrowful meaning both showing and causing grief) is most likely (and

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From silent screen to multi-screen

A history of cinema exhibition in Britain since 1896

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Stuart Hanson

The exhibition of films has developed from a lowly fairground attraction in the 1890s to the multi-million pound industry of today. This book charts the development of cinema exhibition and cinema-going in Britain from the first public film screening in February 1896 through to the opening of 30-screen 'megaplexes'. It recounts the beginnings of cinema and in particular its rapid development, by the eve of the Great War, as the pre-eminent mass entertainment. The book considers developments of cinema as an independent entertainment, the positioning of cinemas within the burgeoning metropolitan spaces, the associated search for artistic respectability, the coming of sound and a large-scale audience. The period from 1913 to 1930 was one in which the cinema industry underwent dramatic restructuring, new chains, and when Hollywood substantially increased its presence in British cinemas. Cinema-going is then critically analysed in the context of two powerful myths; the 'Golden Age' and the 'universal audience'. The book also considers the state of cinema exhibition in Britain in the post-war period, and the terminal decline of cinema-going from the 1960s until 1984. It looks at the development of the multiplex in the United States from the 1960s and examines the importance of the shopping mall and the suburb as the main focus for these cinema developments. Finally, the book discusses the extent to which the multiplex 'experience' accounts for the increase in overall attendance; and how developments in the marketing of films have run in tandem with developments in the cinema.

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Daisy Connon

Towards a Theory for African Cinema is an English translation of a talk given in French by the Tunisian filmmaker and critic Férid Boughedir (1944–) at a conference on international cinema, which took place in Montreal in 1974. In his presentation Boughedir discusses the vocation of the African filmmaker, who must avoid succumbing to the escapism and entertainment values of Western cinema and instead strive to reflect the contradictions and tensions of the colonised African identity, while promoting a revitalisation of African culture. Drawing on the example of the 1968 film Mandabi (The Money Order) by the Senegalese director Sembène Ousmane, Boughedir conceptualises a form of cinema which resists the influences of both Hollywood and auteur film and awakens viewers, instead of putting them to sleep. Boughedir‘s source text is preceded by a translator‘s introduction, which situates his talk within contemporary film studies.