A Pocket Guide to Analyzing Films

A Pocket Guide to Analyzing Films

Robert Spadoni
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: 1
Pages: 190
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt7zvzxw
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  • Book Info
    A Pocket Guide to Analyzing Films
    Book Description:

    The perfect concise guide to the formal analysis of film. Designed to be used by readers at many levels of knowledge, this book moves systematically through the elements that make up most films, focusing on aspects of the art of cinema that are common across history and national cinemas.From form and narrative to mise-en-scène and cinematography to editing and sound, Robert Spadoni introduces and explains the principles and conventions of film in engaging, straightforward language. In addition to illustrating film techniques with almost 200 images-most of them in color-the book explains ways to find patterns and meaning in films through such concepts as motifs, development, and motivation.Thumbnail readings of exemplary films further lay out the essentials of formal analysis. Film illustrations include frame enlargements fromStagecoach, Psycho, Jeepers Creepers, Persepolis, Groundhog Day, Take Shelter,and more. Modestly priced and packed with images,A Pocket Guide to Analyzing Filmsis ideal for students in a wide range of film courses who are looking for an easy-to-read guide to film analysis to accompany and enhance their course materials.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95876-0
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xi-xi)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-4)

    A Pocket Guide to Analyzing Filmsis founded on the belief that most any film can be better understood and appreciated when it is viewed as a system in which the parts relate to each other and together make up the whole. Thinking about a film in this way is sometimes called “close reading” and sometimes “textual analysis.” We will call it formal analysis.

    Because it focuses exclusively on describing the methods of formal analysis, and on making a case for their usefulness regardless of one’s specific interest in the cinema, this book leaves out a lot of things. It...

  5. FORM
    • 1 Film as Form
      (pp. 7-46)

      What is form? Think of form as the way the different parts of an artwork relate to each other and how they come together to make up the whole. We are conceiving of the artwork as asystem.

      This book has two major emphases. One is analyzing a filmas a film, really digging into the particulars of what makes it a film versus being a work in another medium, such as literature or theater. The second emphasisis seeing the whole in terms of the parts and seeing the parts in terms of the whole. There’s a half-hour French...

  6. NARRATIVE
    • 2 Film Narrative
      (pp. 49-68)

      Many if not most of the films we watch tell stories. A film’s narrative constitutes a major subsystem within the total work. In this chapter we’ll first consider somenarrative basics, then turn to a vital force animating every film narrative, itsnarration.

      What is a narrative? Most simply, a narrative is a set of events unfolding in time and space, linked by cause and effect. We will come back to this definition, but first let’s consider two sets of terms.

      Two words that are often used interchangeably but mean different things areplotandstory. A film’s story includes...

  7. STYLE
    • [Introduction]
      (pp. 69-70)

      Story films break into narrative and style. Chapter 2 was about film narrative. The next four chapters are about film style, which is the sum of all the techniques that concretely make up a film. Now, as we move closer to the surface of the film, the terms of our analysis grow less abstract. A filmmaker decides to restrict the narration in a scene. That’s pretty vague. How exactly does she do this? She needs to make decisions, like where to put the camera, when and whether to cut from one angle to another, and where to place the actors...

    • 3 Mise-en-scène
      (pp. 71-88)

      Originally a French theatrical term meaning “put in the scene,” mise-en-scène is everything in front of the camera. If we imagine our basic building block, the shot, as a box, mise-en-scène is everything inside this box. Mise-en-scène splits into four main categories—and let me stress that starting now, we really begin to move systematically through a large set of terms. I’ll continue to remind you where we are in the big picture—what umbrella term we’re underneath and what term that term is underneath—but your efforts will pay off if you review these relationships as you go. The...

    • 4 Cinematography
      (pp. 89-120)

      Story films divide into two subsystems, narrative and style, with style breaking into four components, the first two of which—mise-en-scène and cinematography—center on what we’re calling the basic building block of cinema, the shot. With mise-en-scène we pictured the shot as a box—even though, of course, it isn’t really a box. Mise-en-scène, as powerful a concept as it is, only gets us so far. Films are moving photography, and all sorts of things can happen over the course of a shot that never could if the contents of the frame really were in front of us as...

    • 5 Editing
      (pp. 121-150)

      We’ve so far examined two of the four major components of film style and two ways of looking at the shot: mise-en-scène and cinematography. If all films consisted of a single shot and were silent, we’d be finished with our tour of film form now. But most films combine shots into patterns. They juxtapose images, and many films construct out of these combinations spatial and temporal wholes. And most films have sound. This chapter looks at how shots are combined, that is, at editing. The last chapter will consider film sound.

      We have the shot, and as we’ve seen, there’s...

    • 6 Sound
      (pp. 151-164)

      Form in story films consists of narrative and style, with style consisting of four components, the last of which is sound. As I noted about framing and editing, there’s something elusive about sound. Framing and editing exist at the margins of the visible. Sound is even harder to study. It’s not even visible. And we are a visually oriented culture. When we mean “Do you understand?” we often ask, “Do you see?” And we have the expression “Seeing is believing.” People bring to films a deeply ingrained focus on the visual. This has led to a tendency to neglect film...

  8. Conclusion
    (pp. 165-168)

    A film is a network—a relationship of parts to each other and to the whole. If you understand how it all comes together, you will better grasp the singular moment. Attend to the moments, and you bring the big picture into clearer focus.

    If you’re interested in exploring such real-world issues as the effects of technology on our evolving sense of ourselves, and asking philosophical questions—like “What does it mean to be human?”—formal analysis can help you investigate how films explore and ask these same things. InBlade Runner: The Final CutSpecial Agent Deckard envisions a...

  9. INDEX
    (pp. 169-177)
  10. Back Matter
    (pp. 178-180)