Saturday, April 30, 2011

Braudy - The World in a Frame

Braudy, Leo. The World in a Frame: What We See in Films. Garden City, N.Y.: Anchor Press, 1976.


Notes the emergence, beginning with Matthew Arnold in the 1890s, of a hierarchical perspective towards art within art criticism. Meanwhile, there was also an increasing tendency within different arts toward their essential natures: paint in painting, verbal in novels, etc. Thus early and recent film attempted to raise film to a higher plane as an art by concentrating on its material essence: light, sound, celluloid.

Braudy wants to get away from traditional conceptions of film's aesthetic value, which often mistakenly compare it to other arts. He would like to take it on its own, and refute three key attacks: 1. Popularity and commercial success mean it isn't great art. 2. Collective nature of film creation and the immposibility of giving one person credit mean it isn't great art in the Romantic tradition. 3. The mechanical nature of film creation means its creators aren't real artists. All of these pieces are, for Braudy, important to understand in the context of film history.

Braudy highlights three critical approaches in three sections of the book
1.Varieties of Visual Coherence - FRAME
-visual and aural form
-place of objects in film and how they gain significance
-open and closed visual form

2. Genre: Conventions of Connection - CONNECTION
-context of social myth and reality
-genre, influence of tradition and convention
-themes and characters created by genre films
-narrative and thematic form
-History of film

3. Acting and Characterization: Aesthetics of Omission
-psychological relation to the individuals in its audience
-connections we make with the faces and the bodies on the screen
-actors and actresses who dynamism threatens to disrupt the careful arrays of form

Levine - Highbrow/Lowbrow
Arnheimian - "Films are not more real than other arts, nor should their realism be taken for granted."
Kracauer - Followed Arnheim, who was really responding to attacks that film wasn't art. Kracauer blamed film, to an extent, for paving the way for Hitler. 1920s German films were created in studios and thus not realistic and thus bad.

On Arnheim-Kracauer
"At the extreme of one view was unqualified praise for the animated cartoon; at the extreme of the other was similar paise for the documentary. Both, in their most polemical forms, tended to ignore or deride subject matter, narrative conventions that could not be discussed in visual terms, and acting." 32

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