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On The History Of Film Style

The book analyzes three perspectives on film style as they emerged historically. One, what I call the Basic Version, was developed in the silent era and saw the discovery of editing as the natural development of film technique.

On the History of Film Style


The study of cinematic style has profoundly shaped our attitude toward movies. Style assigns films to a tradition, distinguishes a classic, and signals the arrival of a pathbreaking innovation. David Bordwell now shows how film scholars have attempted to explain stylistic continuity and change across the history of cinema.

Bordwell scrutinizes the theories of style launched by Andr Bazin, No l Burch, and other film historians. In the process he celebrates a century of cinema, integrating discussions of film classics such as The Birth of a Nation and Citizen Kane with analyses of more current box-office successes such as Jaws and The Hunt for Red October. Examining the contributions of both noted and neglected directors, he considers the earliest filmmaking, the accomplishments of the silent era, the development of Hollywood, and the strides taken by European and Asian cinema in recent years.

On the History of Film Style proposes that stylistic developments often arise from filmmakers' search for engaging and efficient solutions to production problems. Bordwell traces this activity across history through a detailed discussion of cinematic staging. Illustrated with more than 400 frame enlargements, this wide-ranging study provides a new lens for viewing cinema.

So style seems to be one of the topics for discussion again, at least in film history. Art historians might learn a lot from reading David Bordwell and listening to his version of how another historical discipline of visual imagery reconciles questions of style with both history and theory.

The history of film chronicles the development of a visual art form created using film technologies that began in the late 19th century.The advent of film as an artistic medium is not clearly defined. However, the commercial, public screening of ten of the Lumière brothers' short films in Paris on 28 December 1895 can be regarded as the breakthrough of projected cinematographic motion pictures. There had been earlier cinematographic results and screenings by others like the Skladanowsky brothers, who used their self-made Bioscop to display the first moving picture show to a paying audience on 1 November 1895 in Berlin, but they had neither the quality, financial backing, stamina, or the luck to find the momentum that propelled the cinématographe Lumière into worldwide success.[1] Those earliest films were in black and white, under a minute long, without recorded sound and consisted of a single shot from a steady camera.The first decade of motion pictures saw film moving from a novelty to an established mass entertainment industry, with film production companies and studios established all over the world.

Popular new media, including television (mainstream since the 1950s), home video (mainstream since the 1980s), and internet (mainstream since the 1990s) influenced the distribution and consumption of films. Film production usually responded with content to fit the new media, and with technical innovations (including widescreen (mainstream since the 1950s), 3D and 4D film) and more spectacular films to keep theatrical screenings attractive.

Systems that were cheaper and more easily handled (including 8mm film, video and smartphone cameras) allowed for an increasing number of people to create films of varying qualities, for any purpose (including home movies and video art). The technical quality was usually lower than that of professional movies, but improved with digital video and affordable high quality digital cameras.

The use of film as an art form traces its origins to several earlier traditions in the arts such as (oral) storytelling, literature, theatre and visual arts. Cantastoria and similar ancient traditions combined storytelling with series of images that were shown or indicated one after the other. Predecessors to film that had already used light and shadows to create art before the advent of modern film technology include shadowgraphy, shadow puppetry, camera obscura, and the magic lantern.

In 1887, the German inventor and photographer Ottomar Anschütz started presenting his chronophotographic recordings in motion, using a device he called the Elektrischen Schnellseher (also known as the Electrotachyscope), which displayed short loops on a small milk glass screen. By 1891, he had started mass production of a more economical, coin-operated peep-box viewing device of the same name that was exhibited at international exhibitions and fairs. Some machines were installed for longer periods, including some at The Crystal Palace in London, and in several U.S. stores. Shifting the focus of the medium from technical and scientific interest in motion to entertainment for the masses, he recorded wrestlers, dancers, acrobats, and scenes of everyday life. Nearly 34,000 people paid to see his shows at the Berlin Exhibition Park in summer 1892. Others saw it in London or at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair.Though little evidence remains for most of these recordings, some scenes probably depicted staged comical scenes. Extant records suggest some of his output directly influenced later works by the Edison Company, such as the 1894 film Fred Ott's Sneeze.[12]

Advances towards motion picture projection technologies were based on the popularity of magic lanterns, chronophotographic demonstrations, and other closely related forms of projected entertainment such as illustrated songs. From October 1892 to March 1900, inventor Émile Reynaud exhibited his Théâtre Optique ("Optical Theatre") film system at the Musée Grévin in Paris. Reynaud's device, which projected a series of animated stories such as Pauvre Pierrot and Autour d'une cabine, was displayed to over 500,000 visitors over the course of 12,800 shows.[13][14] On 25, 29 and 30 November 1894, Ottomar Anschütz projected moving images from Electrotachyscope discs on a large screen in the darkened Grand Auditorium of a Post Office Building in Berlin. From 22 February to 30 March 1895, a commercial 1.5-hour program of 40 different scenes was screened for audiences of 300 people at the old Reichstag and received circa 4,000 visitors.[15]

In June 1889, American inventor Thomas Edison assigned a lab assistant, William Kennedy Dickson, to help develop a device that could produce visuals to accompany the sounds produced from the phonograph. Building upon previous machines by Muybridge, Marey, Anschütz and others, Dickson and his team created the Kinetoscope peep-box viewer, with celluloid loops containing about half a minute of motion picture entertainment.[16] After an early preview on 20 May 1891,[17] Edison introduced the machine in 1893. Many of the movies presented on the Kinetoscope showcased well-known vaudeville acts performing in Edison's Black Maria studio.[18] The Kinetoscope quickly became a global sensation with multiple viewing parlors across major cities by 1895.[19] As the initial novelty of the images wore off, the Edison Company was slow to diversify their repertoire of films and waning public interest caused business to slow by Spring 1895. To remedy declining profits, experiments, such as The Dickson Experimental Sound Film, were conducted in an attempt to achieve the device's original goal of providing visual accompaniment for sound recordings. Limitations in syncing the sound to the visuals, however, prevented widespread application.[20] During that same period, inventors began advancing technologies towards film projection that would eventually overtake Edison's peep-box format.[21]

Multiple inventors including Wordsworth Donisthorpe, Louis Le Prince, and William Friese-Greene experimented with prototype motion picture projection devices in the pursuit of creating and displaying films. The scenes in these experiments were usually filmed with family, friends or passing traffic as the moving subjects. Most of these films never passed the experimental stage and their efforts garnered little public attention until after cinema had become successful.

In the latter half of 1895, brothers Auguste and Louis Lumière filmed a number of short scenes with their invention, the Cinématographe. On 28 December 1895, the brothers gave their first commercial screening in Paris (though evidence exists of demonstrations of the device to small audiences as early as October 1895).[22] The screening consisted of ten films and lasted roughly 20 minutes. The program consisted mainly of actuality films such as Workers Leaving the Lumière Factory as truthful documents of the world, but the show also included the staged comedy L'Arroseur Arrosé.[23] The most advanced demonstration of film projection thus far, the Cinématographe was an instant success, bringing in an average of 2,500 to 3,000 francs daily by the end of January 1896.[24] Following the first screening, the order and selection of films were changed often.[25]

The Lumière brothers' primary business interests were in selling cameras and film equipment to exhibitors, not the actual production of films. Despite this, filmmakers across the world were inspired by the potential of film as exhibitors brought their shows to new countries. This era of filmmaking, dubbed by film historian Tom Gunning as "the cinema of attractions", offered a relatively cheap and simple way of providing entertainment to the masses. Rather than focusing on stories, Gunning argues, filmmakers mainly relied on the ability to delight audiences through the "illusory power" of viewing sequences in motion, much as they did in the Kinetoscope era that preceded it.[26] Despite this, early experimentation with fiction filmmaking (both in actuality film and other genres) did occur. Films were mostly screened inside temporary storefront spaces, in tents of traveling exhibitors at fairs, or as "dumb" acts in vaudeville programs.[27] During this period, before the process of post-production was clearly defined, exhibitors were allowed to exercise their creative freedom in their presentations. To enhance the viewers' experience, some showings were accompanied by live musicians in an orchestra, a theatre organ, live sound effects and commentary spoken by the showman or projectionist.[28][29] 041b061a72

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