Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Mulvey - "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema"

Mulvey, Laura. “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.” From Braudy, Leo, and Marshall Cohen. Film Theory and Criticism: Introductory Readings. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999, 837-848.

Mulvey applies Freudian analysis to break down the gender issues she sees as inherent in mainstream Hollywood cinema. She notes that while independent films are increasingly economically possible, such films can only position themselves in opposition to the norm she is describing here.

There are two contradictory aspects of the pleasurable structure of looks within Hollywood cinema
1. Scopophilia
2. The narcissistic aspect of identifying with the male lead as the ideal likeness of the self (ego). There is pleasure in seeing the male lead exert power and get the girl in the end.

Mulvey subsequently breaks down how these aspects play out in film - how directors position the female lead as the object of the look, how the medium emphasizes female as object (darkened room, you can't see the camera)

She discusses the films of Sternberg & Dietrich, and the construction of Dietrich's characters as erotic objects. Then she goes further into Hitchcock's Marnie, Vertigo, and Rear Window as key examples.

Key Terms
scopophilia - taking other people as objects, subjecting them to a controlling and curious gaze. As in, the film audience's pleasure taken from watching an actress as sex symbol. Voyeurism.

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