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Film Studies: Film Theorists
A guide with resources pertaining to film studies.
On this page you will find various works by important film theorists in history, works at the University of Kentucky and elsewhere. Many of them have set the foundation for what film would become, shaping the direction of it in their writings and filmmaking.
Laura Mulvey (1941 - ) is a British feminist film theorist, working at the University of London in Birbeck as a professor if film and media studies. Her most famous work, Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema, introduced the idea of the male gaze to media, which posits that we view media and film through the eyes of a man because the camera has the eyes of a man. She takes on an extremely feminist point of view in all the work that she does, pulling from psychoanalytic practices such as Freud to examine gender in film and the way it is perceived. Some work with queer theory has been grounded in the work of Mulvey, applying her idea of the male gaze to LGBTQ+ spectatorship of film.
A new edition of Laura Mulvey's groundbreaking collection of essays, originally published in 1989. In an extensive introduction to this second edition, Mulvey looks back at the historical and personal contexts for her famous article Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema , and reassesses her theories in the light of new technologies.
The article discusses the influences behind the essay “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema" written forty years ago by Laura Mulvey. Topics discussed include the changes society has undergone from forty years ago to the present, the research done by the author at the women's liberation reading group and the inferences made that empowered feminism.
Carol Clover (1940 - ) is an American professor of film studies at the University of California, Berkeley. Her most famous work, Men, Women, and Chainsaws, details gender in horror and what being a woman in horror entails. Her work with this and the horror genre as a whole has contributed the final girl trope to horror, which now defines the slasher genre. Her feminist perspective on film, specifically horror, was in stark contrast to the views that people had prior to horror.
Men, Women, and Chain Saws investigated the appeal of horror cinema, in particular the phenomenal popularity of those "low" genres that feature female heroes and play to male audiences: slasher, occult, and rape-revenge films.
This article is on film and medieval literature. It discusses the notion of authorship and the world of modern genre film and differentiates Hollywood films from European films, stating that the art of European or foreign film is conventionally defined as more lyric, philosophical and adventurous. The author shares her experiences working on the European cinema and discusses her views on genre and art cinema and specifies cultural consequences behind each.
B. Ruby Rich
B. Ruby Rich is an American scholar and professor of film. Known for coining the term "New Queer Cinema", Rich is a renown film academic in the field of queer theory. Beginning her work with film as the director of the New York Council On the Arts, she later went on to write for The Village Voice. She has worked as a cultural critic and theorist since the mid 1970s, and she has become known for being one of the most important feminist film critics worldwide. She is closely aligned with independent film movements.
B. Ruby Rich designated a brand new genre, the New Queer Cinema (NQC), in her groundbreaking article in the Village Voice in 1992. This movement in film and video was intensely political and aesthetically innovative, made possible by the debut of the camcorder, and driven initially by outrage over the unchecked spread of AIDS.
In the hope that a new generation of feminist film culture might be revitalized by reclaiming its own history, Rich introduces each essay with an autobiographical prologue that describes the intellectual, political, and personal moments from which the work arose. Travel, softball, sex, and voodoo all somehow fit into a book that includes classic Rich articles covering such topics as the antiporn movement, the films of Yvonne Rainer, a Julie Christie visit to Washington, and the historically evocative film Maedchen in Uniform.
Luis Buñuel (1900 - 1983) was a Spanish filmmaker known for his work with making the surrealist genre of film what it is today. His most famous work, Un Chien Andalou, done with Salvador Dali, was written with the idea that nothing was supposed to make clear, rational sense. It would become the foundation for surrealism as a whole, specifically French surrealism. It revolutionized the ideal of avant-garde filmmaking, filmmaking meant to be viewed solely as art and not for consumerism. He was known for being influenced by mise-en-scene, and taking a critical eye to athiesm and religion.
Sergei Eisenstein (1898 - 1948) was a Soviet film director and film theorist, credited with pioneering the idea of montage. To him, it was important to tell the story of the film through connected images, which can display the meaning of the film. The "collision" of images in his word evoked certain emotions. His films primarily dealt with social issues, such as the now infamous Battleship Potemkin (1925). He had visions of communism and critiques of capitalism in nearly all his films, which, ideologically, was opposite to the dominant ideals of the society, and his work was regularly suppressed due to this.
Sergei Eisenstein's greatness lies not only in his films, such as Potemkin or Ivan the Terrible, or his contributions to the technique and art of the cinema but also in his contributions as a theoretician and philosopher of the art. This edition includes a new translation of Eisenstein's essay on Orozco. Originally published in 1982.
Eisenstein begins his article with the basic problem of all forms of art: how is theme or content changed from an object of reality into an object of art and what is the secret of the method of art? The rest of his presentation gives examples of different art forms to show how reality is transformed into art. Cinema has a special status among arts because best films “are larger than life.”
It states that the paper discusses several aesthetic, technical, and theoretical questions related to Soviet historical films, such as the nature of historical truth, the primary task of Soviet artists, and the relationship of film to literature. The discussion uses the Marxist perspective as the sole and authoritative ideological guide for Soviet filmmakers. Further, the paper also cites the difference between historical text to historical film.
Kristin Thompson (1950 - ) is an American film theorist and author known for her work with close analysis of film, the history of film, and "quality television", a genre likened to the art film genre. She also coined the term neoformalism, an analytical technique that sprouted from Russian Formalist thinking. She has written multiple textbooks with her husband, including a very famous one over film aesthetics. She has also worked extensively with film history. Her big contribution to film theory has been the idea of "quality television", which is TV that is argued to be of a higher quality due to style, content, or subject matter.
Neoformalism encourages the critic to deal with each film differently and to modify his or her analytical assumptions continually. She proposes a formal historical way of dealing with realism, using Bicycle Thieves and The Rules of the Game as examples. Stage Fright and Laura provide cases in which the classical cinema defamiliarizes its own conventions by playing with audience expectations. Other chapters deal with Tati's Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot and Play Time and Godard's Tout va bien and Sauve qui peut (la vie).
Derided as simple, dismissed as inferior to film, famously characterized as a vast wasteland, television nonetheless exerts an undeniable, apparently inescapable power in our culture. The secret of television's success may well lie in the remarkable narrative complexities underlying its seeming simplicity, complexities Kristin Thompson unmasks in this engaging analysis of the narrative workings of television and film.
Rudolf Arnheim (1904 - 2007) was a German artist, author, perceptual psychologist, and film theorist. Greatly influenced by art history and psychology, he applied Gestalt Theory to film and art, revolutionizing the way filmgoers viewed film. His work with art mainly focused on the perception and sensation of experiencing art, and he began writing about film in the 1920s with Stachelschwein, and this kicked off a lot of his writings about film and art in general. His argument was generally that art was utilized in a way to change the world around you, and to make that world a better place.
Focuses on the questioning of the dominance of shapelessness in our world, and the denial of the validity of order and understanding, as well as the ability to define existing structures.
François Truffaut (1932 - 1984) was a French film maker, known as the father of the French New Wave film movement. His directorial work was credited with spawning the French New Wave movement due to the fact that he was rejecting normalized ideals of what cinema was supposed to be. French New Wave came to be defined by that rejection, becoming renown for being a European Art House movement. It generally deals with upheaval of social norms and radical experimentation with style, editing, narrative, and framework. His film The 400 Blows is credited with kicking off this movement.
André Bazin (1918 - 1958) was a renown French film critic and theorist. Known as the co-founder of the extremely influential Cahiers du cinéma, his work with realism is still used today in film theory. He argued that realism should be the most important part of viewing film, and that interpretation should be left up to the spectator such that things like montage are done away with so the spectator see what is going on for what it is. He argued films should be viewed through "objective reality", and that film should be personally linked to an author, an early basis for auteur theory.
The article discusses the audacity of Soviet Cinema. The part of the Soviet cinema's originality is its audacity in portraying living historical figures. Its phenomenon was a logical extension of the new communist art, an art by living craftsmen that exalts history. The audacity of the Soviet cinema could be considered as an admirable application of historical materialism. The cinema had numerous remarkable films including, The Third Blow, The Battle of Stalingrad, and The Vow, a war films which depicts the apocalyptic disorder of the military battle.