Understanding Movies

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  • Edition: 10th
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2008-01-01
  • Publisher: Prentice-Hall Press
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Helps readers understand how the many languages of film work together to create meaning. Louis Giannetti organizesUnderstanding Movies around the key elements of filmmaking, including cintematography, Mise en Scène, movement, editing, sound, acting, drama, casting, story, screenwriting, ideology, and theory. He synthesizes every element through a complete case study:Citizen Kane . This book's ideas are illuminated with hundreds of high-quality still photos, more than 70 in full color, taken from movies such asThe Matrix, Almost Famous, jackass the movie, Chicago, Lord of the Rings, Mystic River, and Traffic . New in this edition: a full section on contemporary special effects and computer generated imagery (CGI); up-to-the-minute information on new developments in film technology; more coverage of recent films and filmmakers; more ethnic diversity (including new material on the Islamic cinema); and more lavish use of color and high-quality paper. An updated Companion Website contains animations, video clips from interviews with movie professionals, and Research Navigator access toNew York Times film reviews. For everyone who wants to understand the artistry and meaning of the movies.

Author Biography

Louis Giannetti is a Professor Emeritus of English and Film at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland

Table of Contents

Prefacep. ix
Acknowledgmentsp. x
Photographyp. 1
Overviewp. 2
Realism and Formalismp. 2
The Shotsp. 11
The Anglesp. 13
Light and Darkp. 18
Colorp. 24
Lenses, Filters, and Stocksp. 29
Special Effectsp. 35
The Cinematographerp. 39
Further Readingp. 46
Mise en Scenep. 47
Overviewp. 48
The Framep. 48
Composition and Designp. 60
Territorial Spacep. 70
Proxemic Patternsp. 81
Open and Closed Formsp. 88
Further Readingp. 97
Movementp. 99
Overviewp. 100
Kineticsp. 101
The Moving Camerap. 118
Mechanical Distortions of Movementp. 129
Further Readingp. 139
Editingp. 141
Overviewp. 142
Continuityp. 142
D. W. Griffith and Classical Cuttingp. 147
Soviet Montage and the Formalist Traditionp. 163
Andre Bazin and the Tradition of Realismp. 178
Hitchcock's North by Northwest: Storyboard Versionp. 191
Further Readingp. 216
Soundp. 217
Overviewp. 218
Historical Backgroundp. 218
Sound Effectsp. 225
Musicp. 229
Musicalsp. 237
Spoken Languagep. 241
Further Readingp. 254
Actingp. 255
Overviewp. 256
Stage and Screen Actingp. 257
The American Star Systemp. 269
Styles of Actingp. 286
Castingp. 299
Further Readingp. 304
Dramap. 307
Overviewp. 308
Time, Space, and Languagep. 309
The Directorp. 318
Settings and Decorp. 323
Costumes and Makeupp. 337
Further Readingp. 348
Storyp. 349
Overviewp. 350
Narratologyp. 352
The Spectatorp. 355
The Classical Paradigmp. 359
Realistic Narrativesp. 364
Formalistic Narrativesp. 368
Nonfictional Narrativesp. 371
Genre and Mythp. 377
Further Readingp. 388
Writingp. 389
Overviewp. 390
The Screenwriterp. 390
The Screenplayp. 398
North by Northwest: Reading Versionp. 403
Figurative Comparisonsp. 409
Point of Viewp. 418
Literary Adaptationsp. 421
Further Readingp. 426
Ideologyp. 427
Overviewp. 428
The Left-Center-Right Modelp. 434
Culture, Religion, and Ethnicityp. 443
Feminismp. 454
Gay Liberationp. 462
Tonep. 468
Further Readingp. 471
Critiquep. 473
Overviewp. 474
Theories of Realismp. 476
Formalist Film Theoriesp. 483
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.


The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes. -- MARCEL PROUST, NOVELIST AND ART CRITIC Cineliteracy is long overdue in American education, and not just at the college level. According toThe Television and Video Almanac,the average American family watches about seven hours of television per day. That's a lot of time watching moving images. Yet, for the most part, we watch them uncritically, passively, allowing them to wash over us, rarely analyzing how they work on us, how they can shape our values. The following chapters may be of use in understanding how television and movies communicate, and the complex network of language systems they use. My purpose is not to teach viewers how to respond to moving images, but to suggest some of the reasons people respond as they do. In this tenth edition, I have retained the same principle of organization as the earlier editions, structuring the chapters around the realism-formalism dichotomy. Each chapter isolates the various language systems and spectrum of techniques used by filmmakers in conveying meaning. Naturally, the chapters don't pretend to be exhaustive: They're essentially starting points. They progress from the most narrow and specific aspects of cinema to the most abstract and comprehensive. The chapters are not tightly interdependent: They can be read out of sequence. Inevitably, such a looseness of organization involves a certain amount of overlapping, but I have tried to keep this to a minimum. Technical terms areboldfacedthe first time they appear in each chapter, which means that they are defined in the Glossary. Each chapter has been updated to reflect recent developments in the field. I have also included many new photos and captions, most of them from recently released movies. The final chapter, "Synthesis:Citizen Kane," is a recapitulation of the main ideas of the previous chapters, applied to a single movie. The chapter can also serve as a rough model for a term paper. VCR and DVD has allowed film analysis to be much more systematic, because a movie in cassette or disk form can be repeated many times.Citizen Kaneis an ideal choice because it includes virtually every technique the medium is capable of, in addition to being one of the most critically admired films in history and a popular favorite among students.

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