Thursday, February 10, 2011

Gerald Mast - Film/Cinema/Movie

Mast, Gerald. Film/Cinema/Movie: A Theory of Experience. New York: Harper & Row, 1977.

Mast begins with an assessment of prior film criticism literature, noting a divide between those who think the ideal form of film is that which strives to portray nature... (4-5)
Kracauer, Metz, Bazin, Cavell (most theoretical opinion)
...and those who think the ideal is that which explorers the medium to its full creative potential as an art.
Meliers, Arnheim, Eisenstein

Mast is sympathetic to the second group (he calls them the dissenters), but ultimately he acknowledges that films set out to do either/or, and thus a successful film is one that explorers the outer reaches of either side of film's inherent qualities.

Another key piece of Mast's argument is that sound has ALWAYS been a part of film. Before "talkies" films were accompanied by recorded music or a pit orchestra, or even a live narrator.

Key Terms
kinesis - the essential quality of cinematic movemet
mimesis - the photographic, filmic quality of mimicking reality and the human condition
kinesis/mimesis - film can do either, and is best when it explores either to its full extent

(Mast doesn't mind using film, cinema, and movie as synonyms, but he also spends time at the outset differentiating between them at their most literal forms.)
film/filmic: p.9 the spatiality and compositional values essential to the medium itself - the photographic nature, applied to movement. Neither time nor sound have anything to do with film.
cinema/cinematic: the unique process which uses film to produce movement in time. (10)
movie: a specific kind of cinematographe recording that usually fullfills certain conventions of length, narrative form, commercial production, audience expectation of entertainment.

Mast spends the 2nd half of the book discussing kinesis and mimesis, as well as the qualities of film, which he breaks into three categories: (239-242)
Succession (time): the literal (shot length, motion effects), imagistic (visual, rhythmic, transition effects), structural (narrative, kinesis of music, visual kinesis)
Image: filming (lens, filter, exposure film, cinematography, post-production), toning (lighting, colors), content (object, composition, action)
Sound: Music (background, special), words (sounds, meanings/dialogue, narration), noise (natural, tonal underscoring, narrative functions)

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