The Pauline Kael thread reminded me that I haven’t gotten around to finishing her famous essay, “Trash, Art and Movies” (I think that’s the title). And I was wondering if there are any other famous essays about films, filmmaking and filmmakers that people could recommend. Since essays are shorter, I think reading some of them and discussing them here would be a cool thing.
My famousometer is not properly calibrated, but:
Truffaut’s A Certain Tendency in French Cinema
Here’s a .pdf of Bazin’s The Myth of Total Cinema
lol with Bazin…..
I will check these out, and I know I can count on you to discuss this with me, right? :)
All representational images are mediated.
End of Bazin discussion !
I never really liked Bazin’s writings.
Vertov, on the other hand, interested me frequently.
Vertov is brilliant. One of my favorite writers on cinema. Bazin is a bit turgid and he interests me more for historical reasons. Truffaut was great. Certainly one of the best. If anyone wants to discuss any of these in detail let me know. I haven’t read many of these essays in ages and it would be a good reason to get re-acquainted with them.
I’ll nominate another very important article. ‘For an imperfect cinema’ by Julio Garcia Espinosa:
“I never really liked Bazin’s writings.”
Hugh Gray’s translation of Bazin, the way most English-speakers encounter his writing, is, frankly, not very good, so it tends to muddle Bazin somewhat.
Vertov is so rhetorical and manifesto-y—all those, dashes, ellipses, and . . . exclamation points, my god, the exclamation points!
What’s with all the Bazin bashing? You’re all under his spell right now whether you agree with his actual words on paper or not. Follow the humility of Bordwell, who declared him the greatest film critic of all time before proceeding to take down his arguments.
I agree with Bobby about Truffaut. We reverse their statuses now because of the films they made, but in film criticism, Truffaut was the flame-throwing revolutionary while Godard was the petty bourgeois shit. Truffaut almost single-handedly took down the entire Western film criticism establishment, making it possible to love Hitchcock and Nick Ray and Ernst Lubitsch and many many more.
I love polemical writing. That’s why I love Vertov. And his columns are like futurist art design. While Truffaut was great, Godard was no slouch with his pen. Though I think him more within the Bazin tradition while Truffaut was of the Vertov breed.
Bobby’s right- I didn’t mean to diminish Godard’s criticism, which was generally excellent. It’s just that Truffaut waged a war in criticism while Godard waged a war in filmmaking, and I fear Truffaut’s war is being forgotten because it’s not on youtube or Criterion.
Another good one…
Notes on Film Noir, by Paul Schrader
Now that’s a classic, though his categorizations are a bit haphazard.
If anyone wants to discuss any of these in detail let me know.
The plan is to start threads on some of these essays. So please be on the lookout (although I’ll probably track you down, if you don’t show up. ;)
It would probably be interesting to look at some pre-auteur, pre-Soviet montage crit as well, but it may be tougher to source that on-line.
I’ve read some of that in the American Film Critics book. People grappling with what to make of cinema. Is it an art form, what sort of vocabulary do we use to describe it, etc. But I do remember some of those critics speaking of certain directors in auteurist terms.
In this book is the single essay on Surrealist and Dadaist film that should the most famous of all.
Starting reading the Bazin piece, “Myths of Filmmaking,” but the references (to earlier filmmakers?) and use of French phrases made the reading difficult. Is the piece mainly about the myths regarding the actual invention or development of camera and filmmaking techniques?
“The Myth of Total Cinema”, you mean?
Oops. Yeah, that’s what I meant.
Basically he’s arguing that the basic drive underlying cinema (and the photographic image generally prior to the invention of motion picture technology) is the desire to recreate reality with complete fidelity, which is not possible, hence the “myth” part, but that the history of film up to that point could be read as a progression toward that end.
The Bazin bashing is truly baffling to me. “All representational images are mediated?” Uh, “The Cahiers axiom is this: that the cinema has a fundamental rapport with reality and that the real is not what is represented, and that’s final” (Daney). Bazin would be the first guy to admit this, as he spent his entire career examining the ways in which filmmakers take views of reality, which is always a question of mediation and ethics. So, right. The version of Bazin that has him as a kind of naive soothsayer comes from people who’ve only read one of his essays. Any close reading of his articles on neorealism, for instance, radically complicate that characterization. It’s about as silly as saying that Eisensteinian montage doesn’t deal with mise-en-scene (it does, just not in the famous essays).
In addition to those already listed, I’ll throw in some others:
Christian Metz – “The Grand Syntagmatique”
Jean Epstein – “On Certain Characteristics of Photogenie”
Mary Ann Doane – “The Masquerade: Theorizing the Female Spectator”
Tom Gunning – “The Cinema of Attraction: Early Film, Its Spectator, and the Avant-Garde”
Colin MacCabe – “Theory and Film: Principles of Reality and Pleasure” and “Realism and the Cinema: Some Brechtian Theses”
Andrew Sarris – “On the Auteur Theory in 1962”
J. Dudley Andrew – “The Well-Worn Muse: Adaptation in Film Theory and History”
Lee Edelman – “Rear Window’s Glasshole”
Dai Vaughan – “From Today the Cinema Is Dead”
Oh, and of course, Mulvey’s oft-maligned “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema”
Also Farber “White Elephant Art vs. Termite Art”
Thanks for the response, Matt.
Btw, I recently searched for the “White Elephant Art vs.Termite Art” essay online, but no luck. If anyone finds it, can s/he post a link?
Did we ever get around to discussing any of these essays in detail? Or did we just list a bunch of names and titles as usual.
Unfortunately, we haven’t (or at least I didn’t start any threads). I tried reading “The Myth of Total Cinema,” but I didn’t finish it. Hopefully, I can get to some of these and start a discussion.
Might as well add this one to your queue Jazz as it has to be one of the most quoted essays on art in the modern era. The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction
It isn’t about movies per se, but it has greatly influenced much of the writing on the subject, directly or indirectly.