Film: A Very Short Introduction

Film: A Very Short Introduction

Michael Wood

Language: English

Pages: 144

ISBN: 0192803530

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Film is arguably the dominant art form of the twentieth century. In this Very Short Introduction, Michael Wood offers a wealth of insight into the nature of film, considering its role and impact on society as well as its future in the digital age. As Wood notes, film is many things, but it has become above all a means of telling stories through images and sounds. The stories are often quite false, frankly and beautifully fantastic, and they are sometimes insistently said to be true. Indeed, many condemn movies as an instrument of illusion, an emphatic way of seeing what is not there. And others celebrate the reverse: that film brings us closest to the world as it actually is. "Photography is truth," a character says in a film by Jean-Luc Godard. "And cinema is the truth twenty-four times per second." But they are stories in either case, and there are very few films, Wood observes, even in avant-garde art, that don't imply or quietly slip into narrative.

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movement, and the movement is often real. If we had been at a railway station in France on a famous cinematic occasion, we would have seen the train too, the camera didn’t make it up. And what we see now on the screen when we watch that piece of early film – the Lumière Brothers’ Arrivée d’un train en gare de La Ciotat (1895) – is not just technology. It is the result of a technology that allows us to supply the missing movement and to miss the too-swift passage of the empty spaces. What haunts

which we think of (just nebulous old stories), but the odds are they’ll be Gene Kelly movies anyway. In the second of the Demy movies, Kelly appears himself, playing an American composer looking for an old friend in Rochefort. He falls in love with Françoise Dorléac, who plays the sister of her real-life sister Catherine Deneuve (‘Nous sommes des soeurs jumelles/Nées sous le signe des jumeaux’, is their opening song), and at one point is given a bravura spot, which glances at his version of ‘I

us, if anything haunts us, is knowledge of a state of affairs not a rival vision – the invisible reality haunts the world of the visible and often infinitely plausible ghosts. ‘Who you gonna believe, me or your own eyes?’ This is Chico Marx’s question to Margaret Dumont in Duck Soup (1933), and a great moment in early film theory. I’ll return to it later in this chapter. We have to believe our own eyes, we don’t really have a choice. But sometimes we have to believe other agencies as well.

But even Benjamin didn’t imagine the flower would just keep getting bluer, and the endlessness of the riddle and its permanent spiralling contradictions have fully dawned on us only lately. Steve Edwards asks ‘to what extent are digital images photographs?’, and answers that both digital and chemical photography represent a presumably pre-existent world. ‘But, as pixels are progressively transformed, this relation is weakened.’ The relation of picture to world was always weaker than the grand

Panofsky 29, 31, 65 parallel editing 22 Parapluies de Cherbourg, Les (1964) 97–8 parodies 83–4 of gangster films 104 Passion of Joan of Arc, The 22, 41, 110, 111 Peck, Gregory 36 perception of movement 3–5 perception of reality 13–16 Pesci, Joe 102 Petit Soldat, Le (1960) 50–1 Pfeiffer, Michelle 33 photography 8–11 and cartoon 76–7 from movies 1–3 as truth 50–1 Player, The (1992) 20–1, 34 Poetics (Aristotle) 10 Porgy and Bess (1959) 95

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