Fleeting Information

Maya Deren makes a metaphor on page 153 where she compares the parts to a film to those of a table.   She states that there are a multitude of characteristics to the table that different people would appreciate more such as an artist would appreciate its color, an antiques dealer its age, and a child “its inaccessible height.”  She goes on to say that, if the table were in a scene and it were to break, only one of its characteristics might be appreciated, it’s age (due to frailty), and all other information about that table would be useless.  The color had no role in its destruction and neither did its height.  This point resonated with me because, without the consideration of metaphor, in any scenario where you know the outcome, you can exact what piece of information is the most important and determine that the rest of the information is useless in terms of progressing a story.  Within the metaphor, it brings film to a point of definition.  You can interpret frames of a film in a multitude of ways but when it comes to the contextualization of those frames, as the film moves forward, there are less interpretations that can be made because most of the given information begins to be stripped away and meaning begins to reveal itself.

I found this point to be so interesting because I rationalize it as like trimming fat from an essay or removing filler from a story.  To have this applied to the idea that films are forms of art fueled by ideology, it makes sense that in the same way we try to wrap up a persuasive essay, we want to go from broad to specific, and I can see how that can be done in film from plot, to production, to ideology.

So close that he could hardly fail to grasp it

The above quote, from Gastby but appropriate for our discussion of Day for Night, is pretty perfect for Truffaut’s thesis. The dream scenes really stuck out to me… I loved the fact that we journey inside the director’s head for three vignettes and discover his inner psychological desires. For Truffaut, a cinematic masterpiece is his green light. And when we finally discover that the child is walking towards Citizen Kane posters (and struggles to reach for the posters of the masterpiece), we see that Truffaut desperately wants to make a piece of art that will allow us to see the world through his lens. I think it’s interesting to compare a man like Gatsby (a man made entirely from his own imagination) and Truffaut who is creating an entire world from his own imagination.

So to jump to a new topic regarding idealogical cinema apparatus – perhaps Baudry is completely right. All film is idealogical. There is no way for a film to be real. Truffaut confirms this with his behind the scenes look at the filmmaking process. But can’t life be purely idealogical? Can’t film not offer a better glimpse at reality than some people who choose to be alternative versions of themselves? Or is the alternative versions of ourselves merely alternate realities we create and thus all of reality is true verisimilitude, but art can never accomplish this due to the means of artistic communication may it be a brush, a guitar, or a camera. I’ve often found film to be far more educational regarding human interactions and communication styles than real life. Film paints life in an understandable way. I love that film is idealogical. It is a fantasy a collaborative group of artists create to help explain reality (when the film is trying to recreate life through a story).

I think all of us, may it be Gatsby, Truffaut, or anyone in the class, is in some way an idealogical version of themselves. That is how we see the world. It is natural. What Baudry argues is that film takes our idealogical lens and turns it into reality… Perhaps that’s the greatest mystery of them all. We all want to attain what is out of reach. We all want to secure our idealogical vision for our future. Sometimes it is so close we can hardly fail to grasp it. Film is our way of dissecting that inner quest – a quest that through cinema can bring us all together over a common ground, whether we read the film in similar ways or not.

At Land and Meshes of the Afternoon

I noticed several connections in the two short films we watched and the readings we’ve had. The idea of the montage was used throughout these films. Combining images to create a new narrative. When the protagonist of At Land climbs up driftwood roots to find herself on a dining room table, crawling through vegetation and along the table, and several other possible examples utilized this effectively to move the film forward. In addition to this I recall reading about a similar idea in which the camera, while in motion, is blurred to simulate a quick pan, and in the blur is the cut that was made from some sort of tower back to the protagonist on the beach.

Many of these ideas were utilized in Meshes of the Afternoon as well. But sometimes instead of using a montage or way to cover up a change, cuts were used instead. With keys turning into knifes right on screen.

I do not know if this is a popular opinion, but I disliked both these films very much, and while I see how they connect to our discussions and readings, I found them dull and difficult to get through.

“By Means of the Cinema, We can Observe the World.”

The title of this post was taken directly from Kuleshov’s piece on Montage, because it was a phrase that resonated with me. From our discussions it was pretty clear to me that ‘Film cannot portray Reality’ because reality is not as vivid or interesting. By this I mean, we can all have exciting, dramatic, scary, sad, happy moments happen in a matter of 2-6 years, but reality is no one wants to watch 2-6 years of footage. We want to see 90 minutes, of all the events, but in short bits.

So yes in the sense of time, we can’t mimic reality. But when I read this phrase “By means of cinema, we can observe the world,” I just thought that it is true because we can expose each other to our different experiences. Sure they won’t be ‘reality,’ but they do reveal a familiarity that we can all connect to or an unfamiliarity that we can contrast. The artist/director makes a decision on the cuts and edits such that they stray away from reality or sense of realness, but the content is what I am focusing on. For instance, if I traveled the world to film the harsh and problematic issues of immigration and nationalism in Europe and had a showing at Lafayette.  I would be able to reach to an audience who has not been exposed to issues of the ones I have footage of.

So in that sense, cinema does expose others to a world. In this hypothetical scenario, my film would be the vehicle to exposing lafayette members outside of just Easton or the USA.  But my representation may not be accurate? or will it? Regardless of the response to that question, I know that through the means of cinema, I am showcasing a part of a world that was a personal experience that I had. (hypothetically speaking) Which might be different than others who have been in Europe, or similar? (or will be another case of the help?)


Towards the end of class, we started discussing the barrier of the fence that restricted the young Truffaut from reaching images of the movie Citizen Kane. I believe this barrier represents the problems that went into the making of his film “Meet Pamela”. Truffaut runs into problems left and right. One of the actresses needs to be in a bathing suit but refuses because she is pregnant. Another actress is too drunk to perform her lines. The main character dies and the script needs to be rewritten. Alfonse and Julie are both on the verge of mental breakdowns which makes it impossible to keep shooting.

As the director, Truffaut has to deal with all of these problems. It gives him severe anxiety throughout, which explains his reoccurring dream as a young boy on the street. In both the dream and real life, Truffaut gets around these barriers. As a young boy he reaches through the fence and slyly grabs the images of Citizen Kane. As a director, he fixes all the problems he encounters some way or another.

I believe these barriers are true to what happens with film making. It is a challenge and directors, as well as actors, are always being tested. Barriers symbolize the difference between reality and make believe in films. The actors in La Nuit Americane get mixed up with what is real life and what is acting. For example, Julie and Alfonse, characters of love interest in the film, end up together in bed even though Julie is happily married. Boundaries were broken, and the actors often said they were quitting films, it was just too hard. I think there is a constant struggle with people involved with films, going back and forth between these boundaries (or barriers) of reality and film.

Defining Reality

Reflecting back on our class discussion today, I kept thinking about what was said about Kuleshov’s piece on montage and how he believes cinema can define reality. The point was made that perhaps the reality Soviet’s sought to portray was more mundane than that of the bourgeoisie American reality, with the in class comparison being Soviet photography in the 1970s that showed people standing in a field. Thinking about it more, and at the risk of sounding overly pretentious and critical, I think it is important for us to consider what “reality” means to an author when they write about cinema’s relation to it. Additionally, I think it is important for us to keep both the time period and place that a piece of film theory was written. Surely Baudry, Mayne, and Kuleshov would all agree that cinema works within an ideological framework. However, Kuleshov distinguishes himself from the rest of the authors we are reading because he does not criticize exclusively American films. The issues that Baudry and Mayne seek to address, as well as their shared point about cinema’s inability to portray reality, focus only on how it applies to classic Hollywood films.

Kuleshov, on the other hand, addresses American, European, and Soviet films. When speaking about the reality that film can portray, I believe he is speaking exclusively about Soviet film’s ability to do just that; given his background and the analogy he used about the capitalist vs. communist newspapers in the beginning of the piece, I think it is logical to conclude that he writes from a pro-Soviet, anti-capitalist perspective, and therefore believes that only Soviet films are rooted in any sort of reality. Additionally, I think it is important to remember the time period that he is writing in: 1935. During this time in the Soviet Union, socialist realist was the predominant genre of art, whether it was painting, literature, or film. Socialist realism as a genre sought to show the bright “reality” that the future held once communism became fully entrenched in society. Thus, art that fell under the socialist realist genre, which was most art that was available to the public at this time, created a reality that people believed was achievable, but did not necessarily reflect the reality that they were experiencing at the time. I would argue, therefore, that by asserting that cinema reflected reality, Kuleshov was not employing the same definition of reality as those who examined exclusively American cinema.

I’m not entirely sure what this rant all adds up to, but I think it speaks to the importance of keeping both the author’s mindset and the period each piece was written in in mind.

An Historical Anectdote to go alongside Mayne’s Argument

After reading  Paradoxes of Spectatorship Judith Mayne points out that cinema as an emerging discipline the “responses to appartatus theory are founded on a gap between the ideal subject postulated by the apparatus and the spectator who is always in an imperfect reation tothat ideal” (9). She used the “ideal romance reader” example as a way of explaining this relationship with the intentions of showing the veiwer, as a spectator, that they should be aware of this relationship.  This argument was no doubt very dense and abstract and I found myself understanding her argument better when I thought of a small anectdote from literary history, specficially fairty tales. In Jack David Zipes author of Fairy Tales and the Art of Subversion he explains the universality of fairy tales with the purpose of soothing “the anxieties of children or help them therapeuticallly to realize who they are” (Zipes 6).  During Louis XIV’s reign the french began designing their folk tales into literary fairy tales,  including Cinderella and Little Red Riding Hood.  But these literary fairy tales were “designed to rearragne the motifs, character, themes, functions, configurations in such a way that they would address the concerens of the educated and ruling lcass of late feudal and early capitalist societies” (Zipes 6).  Keeping Mayne’s argument in mind the french arisotcrats were trying manipulate the gap between specatator and the apparatus in order fix imperfect relation and create their “ideal citizens.” This historical anectdote in conversation with Mayne’s article, for me, gives an idea of what the possible consequences of homogeneity.


Change is not one outside but inside our mind

Unlike Baudry’s article which felt to fly far over my head upon reading it, but makes quite a bit more sense after our class dissection of it, I thoroughly enjoyed Hugo Münsterberg’s “Why We Go to the Movies”. It was interesting to read how the photoplay emerged from stage performances and became its own entity.  At first thought, I found an incredible amount of similarity between theater and the “mere imitation of the theater” (movies) but reading farther into Münsterberg’s discussion the differences and the reasons behind the differences became clear. Unlike a live production, Münsterberg explains that “moving pictures allow a rapidity in the change of scenes which no stage manager could imagine.” After a certain point, the stage becomes limited while the ability of film can stretch much farther. A relatable example Münsterberg uses is the effects needed to portray a believable fairy-tale and an illusion of magic. While it is clumsy and unbelievable on stage, in a film we have the ability to see a “man transformed into a beast and the flower into a girl” and accept it as simply part of that world.

I found an important quote to be on page 14: “The stage can give us only changes in the outer world; but if we suddenly neglect everything in the room and look only at the hand which carries the dagger, the change is not one outside but inside our mind. It is a turning of our attention. We withdraw our attention from all which is unimportant and concentrate it on that one point on which the action is focussed.” While viewing “La Nuit Américaine” (or “Day For Night”), directed by Francios Truffaut, I noticed this came into play.  One of the first images of the film was a panning shot showing a small park with people of all ages wandering around. The shot is continuous and speeds up and slows down depending on what the camera is focussing on. While the shot pans it is difficult to find a central focal point, but as it slows and falls in motion with Alphonse (Jean-Pierre Léaud), it is comfortable to focus on his actions and ponder about his intentions. This is an example of the concentration that Münsterberg describes in the above quote, even though the article was written in 1915 and the film premiered in 1973.

This “crowd scene” was especially impactful on me because once the scene was complete we heard the director’s voice. Then the same scene was shown again but this time there was a voice overlay by the director telling actors where to go and what to do. Finally, the scene was shot for a third time but this time we are witnessing it from above and the audience is able to see the film equipment around the scene used for shooting. The assumption by Münsterberg gave an interesting lead to a few paragraphs explaining how the human mind works and how memory can be paralleled in film. Story lines overlap and actions, thoughts, and events, both past and present, jump around each other in random order, mimicking our natural mental play. Many films, including “La Nuit Américaine” popped into my head upon reading this.

La Nuite Americaine and Citizen Kane

Many of our readings thus far have attempted to grapple with the issue of film’s potential to capture an objective reality. At the risk of overgeneralizing all the authors we have read, the consensus, unsurprisingly, is that film does not capture any sort of reality. Instead, film presents a highly controlled and artificial representation of reality based on the manipulation of the various pillars of film form, as well as the manipulation of space and time. The artificiality of cinema and struggle to portray any form of reality was also at the center of La Nuit Americaine (1973), as the film depicted the creation of a movie. Many of the shots showed the juxtaposition of what one would see if watching the film that was being made and all the equipment and behind the scenes work that goes into creating this “other world.” Thus, La Nuit Americaine offered a metanarrative of sorts, as it sought to showcase to the audience just how fabricated films are. Of course, the viewer should also be aware that this “behind the scenes” take on what goes into making a movie is in and of itself an artificial take on the reality of producing a film.

In order to convey to the audience the difference between cinema and reality, the film employed a number of techniques, such as the overhead shot of filming the pool scene, in which half the pool only had the actress swimming around and the other half of the pool was covered with a platform for the camera to sit on. What was the most interesting means, and perhaps the most mysterious way, to showcase the fabrication of reality that film creates was the repeated dream sequence. Three times, the audience saw the director sleeping; the beginning of these sequences started with a shot of the director sleeping with marquises overlaid, indicating the competing realities of real life versus film. After, the audience was launched inside the head of the director and watched his dream. It was not until the third sequence that we saw the dream play out in full, in which the little boy steals still photos of the film Citizen Kane (1941) that were on display.

The little boy stealing the photos from Citizen Kane is an interesting and subtle way of illuminating what La Nuit Americaine has to say about the reality that film presents as well as all the characters’ struggle to understand the difference between real life and film. Citizen Kane, of course, examines the life and legacy of the recently deceased Charles Foster Kane; the interviews conducted offer multiple realities of the same person, all of which revolve around his public life. The competing versions of Kane, as well as the inability to fully understand his private life, which turns out to be the key to understanding why his last words were “Rosebud” demonstrates the same type of tension between reality and artificiality that film possesses.