Siegfried Kracauer's American Writings

Siegfried Kracauer's American Writings: Essays on Film and Popular Culture

SIEGFRIED KRACAUER
Johannes von Moltke
Kristy Rawson
With an Afterword by Martin Jay
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: 1
Pages: 304
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt1pph0v
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    Siegfried Kracauer's American Writings
    Book Description:

    Siegfried Kracauer (1889–1966), friend and colleague of Walter Benjamin and Theodor Adorno, was one of the most influential film critics of the mid-twentieth century. In this book, Johannes von Moltke and Kristy Rawson have, for the first time assembled essays in cultural criticism, film, literature, and media theory that Kracauer wrote during the quarter century he spent in America after fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe. In the decades following his arrival in the United States, Kracauer commented on developments in American and European cinema, wrote on film noir and neorealism, examined unsettling political trends in mainstream cinema, and reviewed the contemporary experiments of avant-garde filmmakers. As a cultural critic, he also ranged far beyond cinema, intervening in debates regarding Jewish culture, unraveling national and racial stereotypes, and reflecting on the state of arts and humanities in the 1950s. These essays, together with the editors' introductions and an afterward by Martin Jay offer illuminating insights into the films and culture of the postwar years and provide a unique perspective on this eminent émigré intellectual.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95200-3
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Preface: Notes on This Edition
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction: Affinities
    (pp. 1-26)

    On 15 April 1941, the small steamshipNyassaleft Lisbon on its regular trans-Atlantic route. For this particular passage, however, the comparatively small ship was retrofitted with two large dormitories in cargo holds forward and aft; instead of accommodating 451 passengers at full capacity, as it had on its previous trip, it now carried a total of 816. Disembarking in New York after the ten-day voyage, passengers described the conditions aboard ship as ʺabominableʺ and reported clashes among travelers with frayed nerves.¹ Yet as they left theNyassa, a sense of relief predominated: most arrived in the United States as...

  6. PART I. A CULTURAL CRITIC IN NEW YORK
    • [PART I Introduction]
      (pp. 27-32)

      This section collects Kracauerʹs broad-ranging contributions on cultural questions of the war and postwar era, through the 1950s. Published in a variety of venues—from general-interest magazines such asHarperʹsto more academic journals such asPublic Opinion Quarterly, and from specialized periodicals on film and theater to the influentialCommentary—the articles tackle an array of subjects, including current trends in Hollywood, the work of filmmakers such as Jean Vigo and Preston Sturges, the popularization of psychoanalysis, the role of Jewish culture in postwar America, and the usurpation of the humanities by quantitative methods adopted from the natural and...

    • 1 Why France Liked Our Films (1942)
      (pp. 33-40)

      What would an intelligent European observer learn about American life from American films? I feel somewhat disquieted by the necessity of operating in the field of rather personal impressions, but fortunately the ground is solid: it is an incontestable fact that throughout the last decade the American film continued to attract the intellectual elite in Europe. True, Hollywood exported mainly grade A pictures to France—pictures that had no difficulty in competing with the bulk of the average home-made talkies. But their power of enchanting European spectators was due not so much to their comparative perfection as to certain specific...

    • 2 Hollywoodʹs Terror Films Do They Reflect an American State of Mind? (1946)
      (pp. 41-47)

      Films saturated with terror and sadism have issued from Hollywood in such numbers recently as to become commonplace. The trend undoubtedly had its source in the requirements of wartime propaganda. The original task was to depict the threat of Nazism to the American public—Gestapo tortures, shining parades that alternated with silent agonies, life under the oppressive atmosphere of Nazi-conquered Europe, etc. But even in wartime, the trend went beyond exposing brutality. Along with anti-Nazi films, a number of movies appeared that cultivated the same kind of horror sheerly for the sake of entertainment. And now, with the war over,...

    • 3 Jean Vigo (1947)
      (pp. 47-50)

      I saw Jean Vigo for the last time in the summer of 1934. He looked even younger than he was—an adolescent with a pointed face, about to die from tuberculosis. Very few people knew his name then, or his work.A propos de Nice[France 1930, dir. Jean Vigo] had been shown in a few theaters only,Zéro de conduite[France 1933, dir. Jean Vigo] had been considered too ʺharshʺ for general release, and, if I am not mistaken,[Lʹ]Atalante[France 1934, dir. Jean Vigo] had not yet been released. As a rule, rebels are not popular, and in...

    • 4 The Revolt against Rationality (1947)
      (pp. 51-54)

      The sizable number of recent volumes presenting in popular form analyses of race prejudice and suggestions for dispelling it indicate the wide diffusion and acceptance of both a standard analysis and a standard therapy for race prejudice. Let us look briefly at three of these books and their prescriptions.

      Mr. George de Huszar, in theAnatomy of Racial Intolerance(New York: H. W. Wilson, 1946), has made an intelligent compilation of excerpts from magazine articles, research papers, and books, mostly written during the war and reflecting the apprehension then current of a rise in intolerance during the reconversion period. Dr....

    • 5 On Jewish Culture (1947)
      (pp. 54-56)

      Mr. Cohen defines the term ʺJewish cultureʺ in a way that seems particularly commendable to me. He naturally rejects the escapist attempt at wholesale assimilation; but he no less fervently repudiates the current wave of Jewish nationalism, which, stressing differences rather than similarities, tries to establish a new intellectual ghetto. ʺThere is no such thing as pure Jewish culture,ʺ he says. And with that sense of the culturally relevant to which each issue ofCommentarytestifies, Mr. Cohen insists that our community leaders should neither misconceive of Jewish culture as a tool for survival nor blindly refuse hospitality to the...

    • 6 Filming the Subconscious (1948)
      (pp. 57-62)

      These notes on several recent experimental films are inspired by the growing response to this genre. When Cinema 16, an organization specializing in the distribution of avant-garde films of all kinds, presented its first program in New York last fall, most of its performances were sold out in advance.¹ The same interest stirs in Los Angeles, Chicago and Minneapolis. And Amos Vogel, the young director of Cinema 16, tells me of unknown amateurs whose film experiments are so promising that he plans to show them in future programs. There seems to be a new avant-garde movement in the making. In...

    • 7 Psychiatry for Everything and Everybody The Present Vogue—and What Is Behind It (1948)
      (pp. 62-72)

      Psychiatry and particularly psychoanalysis are now enjoying an amazing vogue in this country. In the pre-war decades, the vogue was confined to intellectuals; today it has spread until it has become a mass phenomenon. In the words of Dr. C. Charles Burlingame, a leading psychiatrist: ʺHundreds of thousands of persons, satiated with a superficial knowledge of the psychological implications of life and literally preoccupied with psychiatric terminology, are beginning to interpret every trivial thought and feeling in psychological terms.ʺ

      Particularly symptomatic of the fascination psychiatry exerts today are Hollywoodʹs psychological films—a trend that began around 1944 and remains unparalleled...

    • 8 Those Movies with a Message (1948)
      (pp. 72-81)

      Films supplement real life. They lend color to public opinion polls. They stir our awareness of the intangible, and they reflect the hidden courses of our experience. They point out situations that are often difficult to grasp directly but show, under the surface, what we think about ourselves. This is particularly true of screen motifs that seem to have been introduced unintentionally. The makers of films are vitally interested in the mass public, and such motifs—provided they occur with some regularity—can be assumed to bear on the attitudes, desires, and reactions of many, many people.

      Films mirror our...

    • 9 National Types as Hollywood Presents Them (1949)
      (pp. 81-104)

      UNESCO has begun to inquire into the nature of tensions inimical to mutual understanding between the peoples of the world. Part of this ʺTensions Projectʺ is an analysis of ʺthe conceptions which the people of one nation entertain of their own and of other nations.ʺ

      It seems likely indeed that international understanding depends to some extent on the character of such conceptions—particularly if they assert themselves within the media of mass communication. Among these media the film is perhaps the most impressive.

      If we are to study national images as presented in films, two broad areas for research immediately...

    • 10 The Mirror Up to Nature (1949)
      (pp. 105-108)

      There is no doubt that our films meet with increasing criticism and, even worse, disaffection. Among the possible reasons for this regrettable state of affairs one seems to me essential: Hollywoodʹs realistic-minded films—that is, the main body of its output—are strikingly lacking in real-life experience. Perhaps it was always this way, except for a few gangster films or so. But people themselves have changed. Exposed to the impact of the post-war world, they can no longer get a thrill out of films which, under the pretence of reflecting this world, either misrepresent or elude it. As matters stand,...

    • 11 Preston Sturges, or Laughter Betrayed (1950)
      (pp. 109-115)

      Preston Sturges, who has been typecast as an entertainer, is undoubtedly more than this: his own credo (expounded inSullivanʹs Travels[1941]) as well as his habit of framing his plots with significant stories reveal him as a searching, introspective mind.¹ And, besides, what if Sturges were a mere entertainer? Nothing should be taken more seriously than entertainment that ingratiates itself with the anonymous millions. Mass attitudes of far-reaching consequence often find an outlet in seemingly insignificant pleasures.

      In the early ʹ30s, when he began writing screen scenarios, Sturges did not always feel like laughing. His imagination centered around men...

    • 12 Art Today A Proposal (1961)
      (pp. 115-117)

      The Arts are presently in the focus of interest; and they have acquired a reputation which cannot be explained only from a wider recognition of their inherent values. Rather, the significance attributed to Art today seems to be an answer to current social needs. In worshiping the arts people obviously try to meet these needs. The cult of Art fulfills a social function.

      Note, first, that we witness the emergence of a society in which more people than ever before are free, in terms of both income and time, to enjoy artistic achievements. A potential mass audience for art exhibitions...

    • 13 About the State of the Humanities
      (pp. 117-123)

      The following remarks on the state of the humanities in this country summarize observations made during the last four or five years. In addition, they take into account the opinions of several European scholars with whom I discussed our intellectual situation.

      To begin with, in academic circles there is a strong awareness that, because of their heavy teaching load, our young humanistic scholars have not enough time on their hands efficiently to advance their career chances. In order to get ahead in the profession they must build up a reputation by doing research of their own and publishing as much...

    • 14 A Statement on the Humanistic Approach
      (pp. 124-127)

      I. The ideal of exact science—to arrive at laws and predictions by way of experiment and measurement—tends to overshadow, in the social sciences, psychology and affiliated cultural fields, the aspirations of what may be called systematic qualitative analysis or the humanistic approach. Generally speaking, the procedures of exact science are increasingly applied to phenomena which differ from the subject matter of exact science in that they are historical entities and as such carriers of unique values and qualities.

      This is in a measure legitimate, for within the fields previously reserved to qualitative appraisals and humanistic insight there are...

    • 15 Talk with Teddie (1960)
      (pp. 127-132)

      (1)Concept of Utopia:I argued that he uses this concept in a purely formal way, as a borderline concept (Grenzbegriff) which at the end invariably emerges like aDeus ex Machina. In my opinion, I told him, Utopian thought makes sense only if it assumes the form of a vision or intuition with a definite content of a sort. T. was inclined to admit the justice of my argument. He says—of course, he would—that he will deal with the concept of Utopia in future, more systematic & elaborate works. His intention is then to show that the concept...

  7. PART II. FILM REVIEWS
    • [PART II Introduction]
      (pp. 133-136)

      In this section, we have assembled Kracauerʹs reviews of individual films, written between 1941 and 1961. These are occasional texts: we find Kracauer reviewing an average of one film every other year, and not even all of these reviews were published during his lifetime. While there can be no question, then, of comparing his reviewing activities with his paid employment at theFrankfurter Zeitung, where his reviews appeared at a rate closer to every other day, the texts assembled here do provide insights into Kracauerʹs critical predilections and his continuing elaboration of criteria for film and cultural criticism.

      When Kracauer...

    • 16 An American Experiment (1941)
      (pp. 137-138)

      Orson Welles, barely 26 years old, who in the past has attracted much attention as radio man, author, actor, and theater director, is again the talk of the town with his filmCitizen Kane, which premiered on Broadway in May. This film is his work in every sense of the word; for not only does Welles play the protagonist of the piece, but he also directed, produced, and co-wrote the film, not to mention the fact that he drew on the actors of his Mercury Theater, all of them new names in Hollywood. The film caused a stir if only...

    • 17 Dumbo (1941)
      (pp. 139-140)

      The new model brought out this year by the Walt Disney studio is a flying baby elephant. He comes to life in the film that bears his name,Dumbo, a charming picture filled with marvelously conceived episodes. Despite this, Disney continues in it a development the problematic nature of which has grown more and more apparent sinceSnow White[USA 1937].

      InPlane Crazy, Disneyʹs first Mickey Mouse cartoon [USA 1928], a little auto is changed through the power of the cartoonistʹs pen alone into an airplane, which takes flight with Mickey at the controls. InDumboa similar miracle...

    • 18 Film Notes from Hollywood (1941)
      (pp. 141-141)

      In view of the growing tendency toward purely informational and propagandistic films, the most recent announcement from the Hays Office warns against neglecting the predominance of the feature film designed for the purpose of entertainment. ʺKnowledge is not to be gained at the expense of entertaining elements,ʺ says Mr. Hays, ʺrather, it results from entertainment.ʺ

      According to a report from Twentieth Century–Fox, the production costs of a film are now calculated in advance with almost scientific precision. Following a recently proposed scheme, the following percentages of the total costs of a film are budgeted, on average: no more than...

    • 19 A Few American Films (1941)
      (pp. 142-143)

      To date, Hollywood has not produced many color films, but those that have recently appeared show noticeable progress. One of them,Blood and Sand(Twentieth Century–Fox [USA 1941, dir. Rouben Mamoulian]) revisits the theme of a Valentino film from 1922, takes place in a chromatically fertile Spain, and serves the desire for pomp and mass spectacle. Based on a novel by the Spaniard Ibáñez, it describes the life of a bullfighter, including a vamp episode and without neglecting to show how wobbly is the glory of these darlings of the masses and how much misery lurks behind the glamor....

    • 20 William Wylerʹs New Bette Davis Film (1941)
      (pp. 143-145)

      The Samuel Goldwyn production company has now released the new Bette Davis filmLittle Foxes[USA 1941], directed by William Wyler. Both for its qualities and for its flaws, the film represents an important work that met with great success in New York. Based on a stage play, the film takes place in the South and largely amounts to a character study of the mean, avaricious Regina Giddens, who sets out to win over her husband, a mortally ill banker, for the vague financial projects of her unscrupulous brothers, with whom she makes common cause; when, having seen through the...

    • 21 Flaherty: The Land (1942)
      (pp. 145-145)

      The weak sides of this film are too obvious to dwell upon. Its plot lacks precision and fails to get hold of the very problems it attempts to attack; thus the last part dealing with the marvelous machines is of a naivety that seems to be somewhat obsolete in the face of actual life. The simplicity of representation is adequate to that of Flahertyʹs mind; it would have been possible, for instance, to shape the relations between commentary and pictures in a more interesting way. Perhaps Flaherty has worked too long on his film; this would be an explanation for...

    • 22 For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943)
      (pp. 146-150)

      For Whom the Bell Tolls, Paramountʹs screen version of the famous Hemingway novel, is a film as ambitious as it is long. Made from a work of high literary standards, it puts on airs giving everyone to understand that it is a work of art as well. Nobody can overlook the amount of craft and thoroughness invested in this film. The outcome is nevertheless pitiful; for, apart from a few episodes, the film is sheer boredom throughout its three hoursʹ length—a failure which has been certified by multiple press reviews. How did it happen that so many efforts resulted...

    • 23 Paisan (1948)
      (pp. 150-156)

      Roberto RosselliniʹsPaisan[Italy 1946] surpasses hisOpen City[Italy 1945] in breadth of vision and significance.Open Citywas still a drama;Paisanis an epic, comparable only to[The Battleship] Potemkin[USSR 1925, dir. Sergei Eisenstein], though profoundly different from it.

      This new Italian film consists of six real-life episodes which take place during the Italian Campaign. They seem entirely unconnected, except for the fact that their succession corresponds to the advance of the Allied armies. The first episode records the adventures of an American patrol immediately after the landing in Sicily. Led by an Italian peasant girl,...

    • 24 The Decent German Film Portrait (1949)
      (pp. 157-161)

      Within the last few months, several German postwar films have come to us from the Soviet zone of occupation. One of these,Marriage in the Shadows[Germany 1947, dir. Kurt Maetzig], though not precisely a work of art, at least represents a serious attempt at self-scrutiny. It is, moreover, a film essentially German in technique and outlook; though it was made under Russian auspices, there is no significant evidence of Russian influence to be found in it. It offers, therefore, certain indications of the present state of the German mentality.

      This is all the more useful because current reports from...

    • 25 The Eternal Jew (1956)
      (pp. 162-165)

      This is the only full-length Nazi documentary against the Jews I know of. One thing is sure: it was made after the Polish campaign (which gave the Nazis an opportunity to shoot scenes in the Jewish ghettoes). But it might as well have been compiled only at a time when the war took a bad turn for the Nazis. There is one fact which makes me assume that much. The film amounts to a wholesale condemnation of the Jews and all that is Jewish, yet achieves this goal in a very forced and artificial way. In fact, this film is...

    • 26 A Few Notes on The Connection (1961)
      (pp. 165-166)

      (1) The main shortcoming of this film [The Connection(USA 1962, dir. Shirley Clarke)] is that the milieu of the ʺjunkiesʺ is nowhere contrasted with the normal everyday world. The noises from street and yard are not enough to impress this world on the spectator. (I think of the childrenʹs voices, the firetruck, etc.) Everyday life through shots of people, street pictures, etc., should have been introduced at the beginning, intermittently, and certainly at the end. Why? Because only in this way there would have been a sufficient and pictorial counterweight against the jaded and stagnant band of the drug...

  8. PART III. BOOK REVIEWS
    • [PART III Introduction]
      (pp. 167-170)

      Besides films, Kracauer continuously reviewed books—and not only in the field of film studies. Upon his arrival in the United States, Kracauer humbly offered his services to theNew York Timesas book reviewer, but had to reject his first commission (a book on economics) as too far afield.¹ While he did end up placing the occasional review in theTimes,² his book reviews, like his other writings, appeared in a broad array of venues and ranged from short notices about French and German releases in the journalBooks Abroadto reviews for film magazines such asNew Movies,...

    • 27 In Eisensteinʹs Workshop (1943)
      (pp. 171-173)

      Eisensteinʹs name is for ever bound up with his filmPotemkin[USSR 1925], which, through its content as well as its methods, not only impressed the world, but also influenced the development of the whole cinema. Significantly, Dr. Goebbels in the early days of the Nazi regime praisedPotemkinas a pattern and intimated that the Nazi ʺrevolutionʺ should be glorified by films of a similar structure. Thus films intervene in the course of history. It must be added, however, thatPotemkinwould have been impossible without the examples the American film director D. W. Griffith set inThe Birth...

    • 28 The Russian Director (1949)
      (pp. 173-176)

      Film Formis a sequel toFilm Sense, the first Eisenstein anthology. The new publication—compiled by the author himself shortly before his death and, like its predecessor, edited expertly by Jay Leyda—includes several pieces never translated before; it is of particular interest because it covers the evolution of Eisensteinʹs thinking from 1928 to 1945. During this period his esthetic conceptions underwent profound changes, reflecting those of the political regime. Eisenstein accepted Stalinism and went far in adjusting his artistic views to the exigencies of a rigidly totalitarian system. This is evidenced by everything he wrote in later years....

    • 29 The Movie Colony (1942)
      (pp. 176-178)

      Before considering Mr. Rostenʹs book [Hollywood: The Movie Colony—The Movie Makers(1941)] itself I should like to speak a word of praise for the understanding of its sponsors, the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Rockefeller Foundation, who enabled the author to x-ray that complicated organism called Hollywood. Writers in Europe have rarely been given the opportunity of scrutinizing actual social problems under such favorable conditions. And Mr. Rosten seems to have been particularly well equipped to write this extensive study, for he combines the faculty of immediate observation with a far-reaching sociological background, a vivid concern for...

    • 30 A Lady of Valor (1947)
      (pp. 178-181)

      In his biography of Adah Isaacs Menken—an American actress who in the middle of the 19th century stirred sensation everywhere between Virginia City (Nevada) and Paris—Allen Lesser tries to penetrate the secret in which this amazing Jewish woman wrapped herself. Driven by human curiosity as well as a genuine interest in stage life, he patiently elicits from old documents, newspapers, theater programs, and photographs the truth behind a legend, or at least that part of the truth which is enclosed in pertinent facts. And since he assembles these facts with literary taste and condoning irony, the result is...

    • 31 The Teutonic Mind (1948)
      (pp. 181-183)

      The disgraceful speed with which the German universities surrendered to Hitler shocked a world steeped in admiration of German scholarship. And even though fifteen years have passed since then, this debacle still affects us as something utterly abrupt and incomprehensible. In the preface to his book [The Abuse of Learning: The Failure of the German University(1948)], Lilge promises to explain the causes of the German cultural surrender. As a critical history of the conflicting ideas that ruled German university life from about 1800 to 1933, this is an excellent work. But it falls short of its promise.

      Dr. Lilge...

    • 32 Consciousness, Free and Spontaneous (1948)
      (pp. 183-185)

      In this volume [The Psychology of Imagination(1948)] Sartre again proves himself a genuine thinker. His is a prolific mind which branches out into various fields without ever relinquishing its intensity. Such a combination of latitude and power of penetration would be all but inconceivable, were it not bound up with an essential poverty of life substance.

      Sartreʹs treatise is in the main a phenomenology of imagination. From the outset he insists that our consciousness is able spontaneously to produce mental images. Consciousness, that is, asserts itself not only in perceiving the real, but in calling forth the imaginary. There...

    • 33 Indologian Holiday (1948)
      (pp. 185-187)

      This handsome volume of essays by the late Heinrich Zimmer [The King and the Corpse: Tales of the Soulʹs Conquest of Evil(1948)], a publication of the Bollingen Series, is the yield of what can be called an Indologianʹs holiday. Zimmer was not only a scholar versed in Sanskrit texts, but a profoundly agitated mind living in the present as well as in the past. So he wandered to and fro between the ages, trying to decode the symbolic language of old myths in terms of contemporary experience. Here is the result of his wanderings. Expertly edited by Joseph Campbell,...

    • 34 Portrait in Film (1948)
      (pp. 188-190)

      Parker TylerʹsChaplin: Last of the Clownshas all the virtues and weaknesses of his earlier books. It is an inextricable blend of real depth and false glamor. Reading this book is like riding on a seesaw: at one moment you are fascinated by the author and at the next exceedingly irritated.

      Tyler conceives Chaplin as a clown with an alter ego. To support his thesis, he draws heavily on biographical facts, which, in his opinion, indicate that the real Chaplin suffered from a flaw: he grew up in poverty, was small of stature and frustrated as a lover. This...

    • 35 Total Teaching (1949)
      (pp. 190-191)

      There is an ever increasing demand for audio-visual aids in child and adult education. Schools, government agencies, churches, community centers, business enterprises—all of them have formed the habit of drawing on films as an effective means to further their aims. What has been achieved so far? And what might be done in the future?Film and Education [A Symposium on the Role of the Film in the Field of Education]provides some of the answers. It is a symposium of 37 contributions which supersedes the widely scattered literature on these topics by a one-volume survey of the immense field...

    • 36 Pictorial Deluge (1950)
      (pp. 192-195)

      Ours is an age of pictorialization. Wherever we go or stay, pictures surround and besiege us. They stare at us from the pages of our tabloids and popular weeklies, pass across the screen in a nonstop procession, and, with television seeking new outlets, increasingly invade the last refuges of introspection, the bars. There is no baseball game which cannot vicariously be attended by anybody everywhere; nor is there a remote work of art that would evade mass reproduction. Thus a situation arises in which we are literally flooded with sights and spectacles—a vehement and interminable pictorial deluge.

      In his...

    • 37 Movie Mirror (1950)
      (pp. 195-196)

      In their study of the movies [Movies: A Psychological Study], Martha Wolfenstein and Nathan Leites analyze many American ʺAʺ films released since September 1945 and a handful of recent British and French films. Their purpose is to establish the common story motifs of each national cinema and then apply them as clues to the subconscious processes that motivate the behavior of contemporary Americans, Britons and Frenchmen. This psychoanalytical approach to film content rests upon the assumption, plausible in itself, that films reflect or express actual fears and hopes.

      The manifest themes of Hollywoodʹs postwar movies are brought out convincingly. The...

    • 38 Réflexion faite (1952)
      (pp. 197-198)

      René Clair, who gave usUn chapeau de paille dʹItalie[France 1928],Sous les toits de Paris[France 1930], and other wonderful films, assembles in this book his writings on the cinema—a series of articles, manifestoes, and speeches most of which he composed in the period from 1922 to 1935. The material is brought up-to-date by regular inserts in which the author of 1950 comments on the opinions of his former self, sometimes mitigating their intransigence and for the rest corroborating them in a majority of cases. This does credit to his critical acumen, rare in a creative artist....

  9. PART IV. TOWARD A THEORY OF FILM
    • [PART IV Introduction]
      (pp. 199-200)

      This final section assembles a series of articles that Kracauer wrote during the 1950s, when he generally tried to avoid occasional work on reviews and freelance publications such as those reprinted in the previous sections. Instead, alongside his taxing work reviewing grant applications and compiling reports for institutions such as the Bollingen Foundation, Voice of America, Columbia Universityʹs Bureau of Applied Social Research, and UNESCO, Kracauer dedicated himself to completing his ʺbook on film aesthetics.ʺ Besides the apparently arduous writing process itself, this work included conversations and written exchanges with colleagues and friends (among them Erich Auerbach, Meyer Schapiro, Rudolf...

    • 39 Stage vs. Screen Acting The Theoretical Differences Are Fundamental (1950)
      (pp. 201-204)

      In the primitive days when [Gabrielle] Réjane and Sarah Bernhardt acted before the camera as they acted on the stage, the result was pitiful. Why? What was wrong on the screen with the very acting that made audiences in a theatre ecstatic?

      The answer is to be found in the two major ways in which stage and film acting differ.

      First, in order to project the character he is portraying from the theatre stage to the theatre audience, the stage actor mustaccentuatehis costume, gestures, facial expressions and inflections. But the screen actor must underplay, and eschew almost all...

    • 40 The Photographic Approach (1951)
      (pp. 204-213)

      Instantaneous photography grew out of a desire older than photography itself—the wish to picture things in motion. This was a challenge to photographers and inventors. As early as the late 1850ʹs, stereoscopic photographs appeared which evoked the illusion of capturing crowds and action. With these stereographs, instantaneous photography virtually entered the scene.

      In nineteenth-century France, the arrival of photography coincided with the rise of positivist philosophy and the concurrent emphasis on science. Hence the marked concern, in the childhood days of photography, with truth to reality in a scientific sense—a concern which not only benefited the realistic trend...

    • 41 Silent Film Comedy (1951)
      (pp. 213-217)

      Silent film comedy, which reached its apogee in America during the ʹtwenties, originated in France where its essential traits were developed long before World War I. At a time when the art of story-telling was still unknown—D. W. Griffith had not yet entered upon the scene—this genre had attained near perfection. It was rooted in the traditions of the music hall, the circus, the burlesque and the fair, spectacles drawing in varying degrees on the eternal fascination which catastrophe, dangers and physical shocks exert on civilised man. From its outset film comedy piled up these kinds of thrills...

    • 42 The Found Story and the Episode (1956)
      (pp. 217-225)

      (a) Résumé of the two preceding chapters: Feature films follow the lines of a story or intrigue. However, there are various story types; and the question arises whether or not they are equally adequate to the medium. To answer this question it would seem best to differentiate between story types according to form and content and first to inquire into the possible impact of differences in form. Do certain story forms facilitate cinematic treatment while others are likely to obstruct it? As has been shown so far, the theatrical story—that is, a story type patterned on the theatrical play—...

    • 43 Letter to the Editors of film 56 (1956)
      (pp. 226-226)

      I appreciated the spirit that emanates from the first article, ʺPanorama 1955.ʺ¹ This is a fresh start,it sets the right tune.² I believe that the social approach to film production is much needed; I only wish that you would attempt in the future more systematically to discern what is socially and politically wrong or right also in the aesthetic domain. Generally speaking, it seems to me that you overemphasizemanifest content³ at the expense of other considerations. But the manner of photography, of camera takes, and of editing methods contributes a lot and should be considered in the overall...

  10. Afterword: Kracauer, the Magical Nominalist
    (pp. 227-236)
    Martin Jay

    Theodor Adornoʹs ambivalent tribute to his friend Siegfried Kracauer on the occasion of his seventy-fifth birthday in 1964, subtitled ʺDer wunderliche Realist,ʺ appeared inNotes to Literatureas ʺThe Curious Realist: On Siegfried Kracauer.ʺ¹ Other versions of the title have included ʺeccentricʺ or ʺwhimsical realist.ʺ² Clearly, it has not been easy to renderwunderlich, which the dictionary equates with ʺstrangeʺ or ʺodd,ʺ into English. It may therefore be permissible to add yet another candidate for the troublesome adjective, based on theWunderor miracle inwunderlich: ʺmagical.ʺ This rendering foregrounds the capacity for wonder in Kracauerʹs personality, that thinking with...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 237-276)
  12. Index
    (pp. 277-290)