Chapter 1 The Art of Watching Films The cinema is a work of art when motion conforms to a perceptible rhythm with pause and pace and where all aspects of the continuous image related to the whole. ——Josef Von Sternberg THE CHALLENGES OF FILM ANALYSIS We must somehow remain almost totally immersed in the experience of a lm while we maintain a high degree of objectivity and critical detachment....
Chapter 1 The Art of Watching Films
The cinema is a work of art when motion conforms to a perceptible rhythm with pause and pace and where all aspects of the continuous image related to the whole. ——Josef Von Sternberg
THE CHALLENGES OF FILM ANALYSIS
We must somehow remain almost totally immersed in the experience of a lm while we maintain a high degree of objectivity and critical detachment.
Therefore, if we wish to develop the proper habits of analytical viewing, we should see a film at least twice whenever possible. In the first viewing we can watch the film in the usual manner, concerning ourselves primarily with plot elements, the total emotional effect, and the central idea or theme. Then, in subsequent viewings, because we are no longer caught up in the suspense of what happens, we can focus our full attention on the hows and whys of the filmmaker's art. Constant practice of the double- or multiple-viewing technique should make it possible for us to gradually combine the functions of two or more viewings into one.
Film analysis does not end when the film is over. In a sense, this is when it really begins. … and a mental replay of some parts of the film will be necessary for any complete analysis.
THE VALUE OF FILM ANALYSIS
Analysis need not murder our love of the movies. We can experience beauty, joy, and mystery intellectually as well as intuitively. With the tools of analysis, we can discover the deepest reaches of understanding that only the poet within us can fully appreciate. By creating new avenues of awareness, analysis can make our love for movies stronger, more real, more enduring.
The analytical approach allows us to raise this intuitive grasp to a conscious level, bring it into sharp focus, and thereby make more valid and definite conclusions about the film's meaning and value.
…through analysis, we can reach a higher level of understanding about films, a level where we are reflecting on the most significant aspects of the film art as opposed to the merely mundane, the practical, and the technical. Film analysis enables us to understand some elements habitually, thus freeing our minds to concentrate on the most significant questions.
…our critical judgments enter into the process, analysis should fine-tune our tastes...It seems logical to assume that the more understanding we have, the more completely we will appreciate art. If the love we have for an art form rests on rational understanding, it will be more solid, more enduring, and of greater value than love based solely on irrational and totally subjective reactions.
BECOMING A RECEPTIVE VIEWER
One of the most difficult prejudices to overcome is that which leads us to dismiss certain categories of films.
A crucial rule for anyone seriously interested in movies: It's not what the movie is about that makes it good or bad, but how it is about it.
PREPARING TO SEE A FILM
we must remember that criticism-journalistic, academic, or otherwise-is a highly subjective process. If we take any single review or even a series of reviews too seriously before seeing a film, we will restrict our ability to judge the work independently. Also, if we rely too much on the reviews, we may completely lose faith in our own judgment and end up in a tug-of-war between critical opinions.
DEEPENING OUR RESPONSES TO FILMS
ANALYZING YOUR RESPONSES TO A FILM
1. Do you have any strong prejudices against this particular type of film? If so, how did these prejudices affect your responses to the film? Does this film have any special qualities that set it apart from other films of the same type?
2. How much do your personal and highly subjective responses to the following aspects of the film affect your judgment: actors in the film, treatment of sexual material, and scenes involving violence? Can you justify the sex and violence in the film aesthetically, or are these scenes included strictly to increase box-office appeal?
3. What were your expectations before seeing the film? How did these expectations influence your reaction to the film?
4. Was your mood, mental attitude, or physical condition while seeing the movie less than ideal? If so, how was your reaction to the film affected?
5. If the physical environment in which you watched the film was less than ideal, how did this fact influence your perception?
6.If you watched the movie on a screen, in which scenes do you feel you lacked the intensity of involvement needed to enjoy the film most completely? which scenes does the small-screen format work?
7.If you read reviews or scholarly essays before your viewing, what observations or opinions caught your interest? What is your own opinion after having seen the movie?