Understanding Movies

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  • Edition: 12th
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2010-01-21
  • Publisher: Pearson
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For undergraduate courses in Introduction to Film, Introduction to Cinema, and Film Appreciation. Updated in a new 12th edition, this book is organized around the elements of film and provides readers 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, this book engages readers 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.

From Slumdog Millionaire to Transformers, this book provides readers with a new way of looking at films that are familiar to them through contemporary coverage .Organized around elements of film, the Twelfth 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.

Understanding Movies is the best text that I have found which covers the essentials of filmmaking in a logical sequence, comprehensively, using a writing style that will delight the most discriminating reader. -Janine Adkins, Rio Solado College

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


1. PHOTOGRAPHY: Overview.

Realism and Formalism.

The Shots.

The Angles.

Light and Dark.


Lenses, Filters, and Stocks.

Special Effects.

The Cinematographer.

Further reading.

2. MISE EN SCÈNE: Overview.

The Frame.

Composition and Design.

Territorial Space.

Proxemic Patters.

Open and Closed Forms.

Further Reading.

3. MOVEMENT: Overview.


The Moving Camera.

Mechanical Distortions of Movement.

Further Reading.

4. EDITING: Overview.


D.W. Griffith and Classical Cutting.

Soviet Montage and the Formalist Tradition.

Andre Bazin and the Tradition of Realism.

Hitchcock’s North by Northwest:

Storyboard Version.

Further Reading.

5. SOUND: Overview.

Historical Background.

Sound Effects.



Spoken Language.

Further Reading.

6. ACTING: Overview.

Stage and Screen Acting.

The American Star System.

Styles of Acting. Casting.

Further Reading.

7. DRAMA: Overview.

Time, Space, Language.

The Director.

Settings and Décor.

Costumes and Makeup.

Further Reading.

8. STORY: Overview.


The Spectator.

The Classical Paradigm.

Realistic Narratives.

Formalist Narratives.

Nonfiction Narratives.

Genre and Myth.

Further Reading.

9. WRITING. Overview.

The Screenwriter.

The Screenplay.

North by Northwest: Reading Version.

Figurative Comparisons.

Point of View.

Literary Adaptations.

Further Reading.

10. IDEOLOGY: Overview.

The-Left-Center-Right Model.

Culture, Religion, and Ethnicity.


Queer Cinema.


Further Reading.

11. CRITIQUE: Overview.

Theories of Realism.

Formalist Film Theories.

The Auteur Theory.

Eclectic and Synthesizing Approaches.

Structuralism and Semiology.


Further Reading.



Mise en Scène.










Further Reading.




Rewards Program

Customer Reviews

very nice and interesting March 17, 2011
This textbook is a good read for anyone that appreciates movies; the process of what goes into making movies and all of the components that the film makers consider when approaching a product. The various styles of writing, storylines, ideology and drama are really strong areas in the text. This is an excellent book regarding the understanding of movies and their existing relationships to stage plays, musicals, and poetry. I'd recommended to anyone interested in movies, and movie making especially.
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Understanding Movies: 5 out of 5 stars based on 1 user reviews.

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