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A Hidden History of Film Style

A Hidden History of Film Style: Cinematographers, Directors, and the Collaborative Process

Copyright Date: 2015
Edition: 1
Pages: 248
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  • Book Info
    A Hidden History of Film Style
    Book Description:

    The image that appears on the movie screen is the direct and tangible result of the joint efforts of the director and the cinematographer.A Hidden History of Film Styleis the first study to focus on the collaborations between directors and cinematographers, a partnership that has played a crucial role in American cinema since the early years of the silent era. Christopher Beach argues that an understanding of the complex director-cinematographer collaboration offers an important model that challenges the pervasive conventional concept of director as auteur. Drawing upon oral histories, early industry trade journals, and other primary materials, Beach examines key innovations like deep focus, color, and digital cinematography, and in doing so produces an exceptionally clear history of the craft. Through analysis of several key collaborations in American cinema from the silent era to the late twentieth century-such as those of D. W. Griffith and Billy Bitzer, William Wyler and Gregg Toland, and Alfred Hitchcock and Robert Burks-this pivotal book underlines the importance of cinematographers to both the development of cinematic technique and the expression of visual style in film.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95992-7
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-18)

    Though it has become fashionable in recent years to proclaim the death of auteurism as a mode of filmic analysis, the auteur theory has remained a dominant paradigm in film studies for the past half century. If many academic film scholars now see the concept of “individual creative genius” as outdated, auteurism remains central to published film scholarship, to the teaching of film and media, and to popular writing on film. C. Paul Sellors has identified an “entrenched auteurism” in film studies, or “a strong propensity to consider a film’s director as its author,” even among wellinformed scholars.¹ Not only...

  6. 1 Pioneers in Babylon: D. W. Griffith and Billy Bitzer
    (pp. 19-54)

    The collaboration of D. W. Griffith and G. W. “Billy” Bitzer began during the summer of 1908, when American filmmaking was still in its infancy, and it continued until nearly the end of the silent era. One of the longest and most productive creative partnerships in the history of American cinema, the Griffith-Bitzer collaboration resulted in the production of more than five hundred motion pictures, including many of the most canonical American films of the silent period. If it is true, as David Cook has suggested, that Griffith did more than any other filmmaker “to establish the narrative language of...

  7. 2 Rebel with a Camera: Gregg Toland, William Wyler, and the Development of Deep-Focus Technique
    (pp. 55-85)

    The collaboration of twenty-five-year-old director Orson Welles and his thirty-six-year-old director of photography Gregg Toland onCitizen Kaneremains the most celebrated partnership between a director and a cinematographer in the history of American cinema. Toland provided Welles with what many regard as the most inspired cinematography of the studio era, combining elaborate camera movement and striking compositions that involve multiple planes of focus. Toland had experimented with deep-focus techniques in his collaborations with other directors, but his single-film collaboration with Welles allowed him to make his most extreme departure from the conventional style of the period. The radically new...

  8. 3 Peering into Corners: Billy Wilder, John Seitz, and the Visual Style of Film Noir
    (pp. 86-114)

    In their seminal essay on the visual style of film noir, Janey Place and Lowell Peterson argued that “visual style is the consistent thread that unites the very diverse films that together comprise this phenomenon.”¹ Although some later critics have taken issue with the notion that film noir constitutes a unique stylistic category, I agree with Place and Peterson that the visual style of film noir, as much as its complicated plots, femmes fatales, and terse, elliptical dialogue, distinguishes it from other Hollywood modes of the period. The highly expressive and strongly stylized aesthetic created by a combination of techniques...

  9. 4 The Color of Suspense: Alfred Hitchcock and Robert Burks
    (pp. 115-139)

    Alfred Hitchcock’s reputation as one of the most important visual stylists in the history of the cinema is based in large part on the twelve films he made in the 1950s and early 1960s in collaboration with cinematographer Robert Burks.¹ Along with art directors J. MacMillan Johnson, Henry Bumstead, and Robert Boyle, it was Burks who worked most closely with Hitchcock during this period to achieve the look of several of his most technically innovative and visually stylish films. If the period from 1950 to 1964 was, in the words of Donald Spoto, the “golden age of Alfred Hitchcock masterworks”...

  10. 5 What Rule Are You Breaking? Collaborating in the New Hollywood
    (pp. 140-162)

    In the early 1960s, the ranks of Hollywood cinematographers were still dominated by an old-guard establishment that had changed little in the past quarter century. By the mid-1970s, the profession had undergone a sea change: between 1965 and 1975 most of the older generation of studio cinematographers either died or retired, leaving the field open for a significant influx of new talent.¹ The departure, within a relatively short time, of many of the cinematographers whose camerawork and lighting had defined the style of Hollywood filmmaking for decades represented a major watershed not only in the history of cinematography but also...

  11. 6 Cinematography, Craft, and Collaboration in the Digital Age
    (pp. 163-178)

    In the final decade of the twentieth century, film still represented the medium of choice for the vast majority of American directors, who still used conventional film cameras and celluloid film stocks to capture the images from which their movies were made. While computers had begun to play an important role in the production and postproduction of films, and digital capture was beginning to be explored as a viable option for films requiring extensive special effects, directors and cinematographers continued to rely on film as the basis for their productions.

    Today, fifteen years into the next century, the landscape of...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 179-212)
  13. Works Cited
    (pp. 213-224)
  14. Index
    (pp. 225-234)