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Understanding Movies



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This is the 13th edition with a publication date of 7/1/2013.

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A readable, accessible introduction to film


Understanding Movies provides valuable insight into how movies communicate and convey meaning to their audiences through a unique network of language systems and techniques. In a readable, accessible, and sometimes humorous manner, Understanding Movies engages students in the fascinating language of film and helps further their appreciation and understanding of why and how movie watchers respond as they do to different films.


Organized around elements of film, the thirteenth edition of this market leading text provides students with a new way of looking at films that are familiar to them through contemporary coverage and a visually engaging presentation.


Learning Goals

Upon completing this book, readers will be able to:

  • Understand film as an industry
  • Discuss the impact of technology on the film industry

Author Biography

Louis Giannetti is a Professor Emeritus of English and Film at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. He has taught courses in film, literature, writing, drama, and humanities. He has published many articles, both popular and scholarly, on political subjects, literature, and drama. In addition to being a professional film critic for several years, he has written about movies for such scholarly journals as Literature/Film Quarterly, The Western Humanities Review, and Film Criticism. Professor Giannetti is also the author of a book on cinema theory, Godard and Others: Essays on Film Form, published in both Britain and the Unites States. Giannetti’s other books include Masters of the American Cinema (Prentice Hall, 1981), a survey of American fiction films from the perspective of eighteen key figures. Flashback: A Brief History of Film, Sixth Edition (Allyn & Bacon, 2010), written with Scott Eyman, is a history organized by decade outlining the major events, trends, and important filmmakers and their work, with emphasis on the American cinema. Both books are copiously illustrated. Understanding Movies has been a bestselling text in all its previous editions, widely used in the United States and in such countries as Australia, Britain, Singapore, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, and Japan.

Table of Contents

In this Section:

1) Brief Table of Contents

2) Full Table of Contents


1) Brief Table of Contents


Chapter 1: Photography

Chapter 2: Mise en Scene
Chapter 3:
Chapter 4: Editing
Chapter 5: Sound
Chapter 6:
Chapter 7:
Chapter 8:
Chapter 9: Writing
Chapter 10:
Chapter 11:
Chapter 12: Synthesis 

2) Full Table of Contents


Chapter 1: Photography
Realism and Formalism
The Shots
The Angles
Light and Dark
Lenses, Filters, and Stocks
The Digital Revolution
The Cinematographer
Further Reading


Chapter 2: Mise en Scene
The Frame
Composition and Design
Territorial Space
Proxemic Patterns
Open and Closed Forms
Further Reading


Chapter 3: Movement
The Moving Camera
Mechanical Distortions of Movement
Further Reading


Chapter 4: Editing
D. W. Griffith and Classical Cutting
Soviet Montage and the Formalist Tradition
André Bazin and the Tradition of Realism
Further Reading


Chapter 5: Sound
Historical Background
Sound Effects
Spoken Language
Further Reading


Chapter 6: Acting 
Stage and Screen Acting
The American Star System
Styles of Acting
Further Reading


Chapter 7: Dramatization
Time, Space, and Language
The Director
Settings and Décor
Costumes and Makeup
Further Reading


Chapter 8: Story
The Spectator
The Classical Paradigm
Realistic Narratives
Formalistic Narratives
Nonfictional Narratives
Genre and Myth
Further Reading


Chapter 9: Writing
The Screenwriter
The Screenplay
North by Northwest: the Screenplay
Figurative Comparisons
Point of View
Literary Adaptations
Further Reading


Chapter 10: Ideology
The Left-Center-Right Model
Culture, Religion, and Ethnicity
Queer Cinema
Further Reading


Chapter 11: Critique
Theories of Realism
Formalist Film Theories
The Auteur Theory
Eclectic and Synthesizing Approaches
Structuralism and Semiology
Further Reading


Chapter 12: Synthesis
Mise En Scène
Further Reading

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