David Bordwell On the History of Film Style

ISBN 13: 9780674634282

On the History of Film Style

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9780674634282: On the History of Film Style
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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 André Bazin, Noël 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.

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About the Author:

David Bordwell is Jacques Ledoux Professor of Film Studies at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Review:

[Bordwell] explains how film scholars have tried to codify stylistic continuity and change over the past 80 years. Beginning with the 'Standard Version' of stylistic history as espoused by Robert Brasillach and Maurice Bardeche, he moves on to treat Andre Bazin, Noel Burch, and more recent research programs...Liberally illustrated with frame enlargements, the book is informative, provocative, and recommended for all libraries.
--Neal Baker (Library Journal)

On the History of Film Style is an important addition to the growing body of scholarly work in film historiography. Bordwell's analysis is perceptive and lucid in its discussion of how historians and theorists have sought to explain the changes in film style in the relatively short history of the cinema. It is to the text's advantage that Bordwell utilizes an abundance of frame enlargements to illustrate major points. Above all the book justifies a return to film studies as a humanistic discipline worthy of scholarly pursuit and a continuation for further research programs to be developed through investigative inquiry.
--Ronald W. Wilson (Institute of Film Studies, Nottingham)

Bordwell is always sharp and often funny...[He] has a wonderful way of making aesthetic propositions sound plausible while discreetly hinting at what he thinks is their error...[On the History of Film Style] surveys the field [starting] with what he calls 'the Standard Version' of the history of film style...Bordwell next summarizes Bazin's 'dialectical' version of film history...[and] offers a brilliant account of the history of staging in depth, taking us from Meliès and Porter through Sjöström's Ingeborg Holm and Stroheim's Greed to Preminger's Fallen Angel, Cukor's A Star is Born and Speilberg's Jaws.
--Michael Wood (London Review of Books [UK])

Bordwell, the most prolific of film scholars, is certainly not anti-aesthetic. He is, if I may use appreciatively a word that it has been fashionable to use disparagingly, a formalist. In his approach to film style and film history, he takes after such art historians as Heinrich Wölfflin and E.H. Gombrich. At the outset of his latest and perhaps best book, On The History of Film Style, he asks Gombrich's question: 'Why does art have a history?' And though he does not exactly answer the question--neither did Gombrich--at the close he has earned the right to assert with some pride: 'There are people who can look at a film and say with good accuracy when and where it was made.' In the book's last chapter he takes a sustained look at an issue dear to Bazin, staging in depth, and gives an illuminating account of its stylistic history, of the ways it has varied and evolved, technically and expressively, with the use of shorter and longer lenses, short shots and long takes, in the works of filmmakers from Victor Sjöströ to Steven Spielberg, Sergei Eisenstein to Theo Angelopoulos, Otto Preminger to Hou Hsiao-Hsein. No one since Bazin has treated depth in such depth. And to this central issue of film aesthetics Bordwell brings a larger awareness of film history and a freshly discerning eye informed by that awareness. His discussion of film style under the regime of shallower focus brought on by color and wide screen--an area little explored--seemed to me especially impressive...This stylistic history...yield[s] penetrating critical insights.
--Gilberto Perez (Chronicle of Higher Education)

[On the History of Film Style is] exquisitely logical and virtually inarguable...There is so much that is helpful, useful, illuminating and superbly presented here: the explication of André Bazin's 'dialectical' view of film history and the unity of Noël Burch's 35 year-long 'oppositional program'; the account of how archives, libraries and traveling collections of prints have decisively shaped the 'canon' of film histories; and--most decisively--the rebutting of several highly influential, grand, neo-Hegelian scenarios of the cinema as a medium that slowly 'unfolds' or evolves towards its essence.
--Adrian Martin (RealTime)

This superb, insightful synthesis critiques the dozen or so major approaches to the cinema's stylistic development...[This] volume has all the familiar Bordwell virtues: enviably clear prose, copious documentation, superbly chosen film stills that concretely illustrate salient points, and keen, intelligent polemics. A pioneering study highly recommended for upper-division undergraduates, graduates, and faculty.
--S. Liebman (Choice)

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Bordwell, David
Published by Harvard University Press (1998)
ISBN 10: 0674634284 ISBN 13: 9780674634282
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