Evaluative Judgments of Film
 The basis on which we make evaluative judgments of
films is, to a large extent, also the subject of this chapter.
 Our concerns are to point to cinematic excellence in
several areas:
 cinematography, the care with which a film is
 structure, the completeness and excellence of the script
or story line;
Evaluative Judgments of Film…
 acting and character development;
editing, the care with which separate
“shots” are joined together to achieve a
satisfying form for the film;
music, the way in which sound evokes
emotion or establishes mood.
Evaluative Judgments of Film…
When we evaluate a film, all of these
elements come into play.
It is also true that the qualities discussed
in drama apply to most films, since most
feature films are forms of dramatic
The Subject Matter Of Film
 ...the subject matter of most great films is very difficult to
isolate and restate in words.
 You might say that crime is the subject matter of The
Godfather (1972), or perhaps power, or perhaps even
loyalty and honor.
 All these are part of the subject matter of the film, and
we can see that the complexity of subject matter in film
rivals that any art except literature.
 It may be that the very popularity of film and the ease
with which we can access it has led to ignoring the form
that may be creating insights about the subject matter.
Directing and Editing
 are probably the most crucial phases of
 Today most directors control the acting and
supervise the photography, carried out by skilled
technicians who work with such problems as
lighting, camera angles, and focusing, as well as
the motion of the camera itself ( some
sequences use a highly mobile camera, while
others use a fixed camera).
Some of the resources of the director
when making choices about the use of the
camera involve the kinds of shots that may
eventually be edited together.
A shot is a continuous length of film
exposed sequentially in the camera
without a break.
Some of the most important kinds of shots are:
 Establishing shot: usually a distant shot
establishes important locations or figures in the
 The close-up: The face of a character or an
important object fills the screen.
Some of the most important kinds of shots
The long shot: the camera is very far
distant from the most important character
or object in the shot.
Medium shot: neither up close nor far
distant shot. There can be medium closeups and medium long shots too.
Some of the most important kinds of shots
 Following shot: camera keeps a moving figure in the
frame, usually keeping pace with the figure.
 Point-of-view shot: the camera records what the
character must be seeing; when the camera moves, it
implies the character’s gaze moves.
 Tracking shot: a shot in which the camera moves
forward, backward, or sidewise.
Some of the most important kinds of shots cont’d:
Crane shot: the camera is on a crane or
movable platform and moves upward or
downward through the shot.
Hand-held shot: the camera is carried,
sometimes on a special harness, by the
camera operator.
Some of the most important kinds of shots cont’d:
If you have been watching television or
seeing films,
you have seen all these shots hundreds of
Some of the most important kinds of shots cont’d:
Add to these specific kinds of shots the
variables of camera angles,
types of camera lenses,
variations in lighting, variations in
approach to sound, and you can see that
the technical resources of the director are
The Editor’s Job
The editor, usually assisted by the
director, puts the shots in order after the
filming is finished. ... It helps to know the
resources of the editor, who “cuts” the film
to create certain relationships between
 These relationships, or cuts, are often at
the core of the director’s distinctive style.
Some of the most familiar or the editor’s
choices are:
 Continuity cut: editing so as to produce a sense of
narrative continuity, following the action stage by stage
with different shots. The editor can also use a
discontinuity cut to break up the narrative continuity for
 Cheat cut: using the technique of the continuity cut, but
showing the characters or physical properties in different
relationships to one another.
Some of the most familiar or the
editor’s choices are:
Jump cut: sometimes just called a cut, the
jump cut moves abruptly from one shot to
the next, with no preparation, and often
with a shock.
Cut -in: an immediate move from a wide
shot to a very close shot of the same
scene; the editor may cu-out, as well.
Some of the most familiar or the editor’s
choices cont’d:
 Cross-cutting: alternating shots of two or more
distinct actions occurring in different places (but
often at the same dramatic time).
 Dissolve: one scene disappears slowly while the
next scene appears as if beneath it.
 Fade: fade-in shows a dark screen growing
brighter to reveal the shot; fade-out darkens the
screen, effectively ending the shot.
 Wipe: transition between shots, with a line
moving across or through the screen separating
one shot from the next.
Some of the most familiar or the editor’s
choices cont’d:
 Graphic match: joining two shots that have similar
composition, color, or scene.
 Montage sequence: a sequence of rapidly edited images
designed to build tension and reveal a passage of time.
 Shot, reverse shot: first shot shows a character looking
at something; reverse shot shows what the character
 Our responses to film depend largely on the choices that
directors and editors make regarding shots and editing
almost as much as they do on the nature of the narrative
and the appeal of the actors.
The Participative Experience And Film
 Our participation with the film is often virtually
 There are two kinds of participative experiences with
 One is not principally filmic in nature and is represented
by a kind of self-indulgence that depends upon selfjustifying fantasies.
 We imagine ourselves as James Bond, for example, and
ignore the interrelationship of the major elements of the
 The other kind of participation evolves from an
awareness of all the parts and their interrelationships.
This second kind of participative experience means
much more to us ultimately because it is significantly
informative: we “get” the content by means of the form.
The Participative Experience And Film continued
The fact that film may cause such an
intense sense of participation of the wrong
kind prevents our perception of the content
of the film.
We can see a film and know nothing about
the finer points of its from and meaning
the nuances that make a film worth
experiencing and the pondering over
because of its impact on us.
The Film Image
 The starting point of film is the image.
 Just as still photographs and paintings can move us
profoundly by their organization of visual experience, so
can such images when they are set to motion.
 Many experts insist that no artistic medium ever created
has the power to move us as deeply as the medium of
moving images.
 They base their claim not just on the mass audiences
who have been profoundly stirred but also on the fact
that the moving images of the film; are similar to the
moving images we perceive in life.
Film Image cont’d
 Many early filmmakers composed their films by adding
single photographs to each other, frame by frame.
 Movement in motion pictures is caused by the
physiological limitations of the eye.
 It cannot perceive the black line between frames when
the film strip is moved rapidly.
 All it sees is the succession of frames minus the lines
that divide them, for the eye cannot perceive separate
images or frames that move faster than one-thirtieth of a
 The still frame and the individual shot are the building
blocks of film. Controlling the techniques that produce
and interrelate these blocks is the first job of the film
Camera Point Of View
 Obviously the motion in the motion picture can come
from numerous sources. The actors can move toward,
away from, or across the field of camera vision.
 A final basic way film can achieve motion is by means of
the camera lens.
 Even when the camera is fixed in place, a lens that
affords a much wider narrower, larger, or smaller field of
vision than the eye normally supplies will give the illusion
of motion, since we instinctively feel the urge to be in the
physical position that would supply that field of vision.
 Sometimes technique can “take over” a film by
becoming the most interesting aspect of the cinematic
 Al Jolson’s Jazz Singer (1927) introduced sound,
although it was not welcomed by everyone.
 Some feared that sound might kill the artistic integrity of
film. And that with sound no one would work with the
images that create a film language and that film would
become subservient to drama.
 Film is images in motion. Great filmmakers may exploit
sound and other elements, but they will never make
them the basic ingredients of the film.
 On the other hand, some filmmakers will rely on the
dialogue of the film almost exclusively, using the camera
to do little more than visually record people talking to one
another. Sound in film may involve much more than the
addition of dialogue to the visual track.
Sound cont’d
 Sound may intensify our experience of film.
 Not only do we expect to hear dialogue, but we also
expect to hear the sounds we associate with the action
on screen, whether it is the quiet chirping of crickets in a
country scene in Sounder(1972) or the dropping of
bombs from a low-flying Japanese Zero in Empire of the
Sun (1987).
 Subtle uses of sound sometimes prepare us for action
that is yet to come, such as when in Rain Man (1989) we
see Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise walking toward a
convertible, but we hear the dialogue and road sounds
from the next shot, when they are driving down the
We cannot completely translate filmic
meaning into language, any more than we
can completely translate any artistic
meaning into language.
We can only approximate a “translation”
by describing the connections emotional,
narrative, or whatever - implied by the
sequence of images.
The Context of Film History
 All meanings, linguistic or nonlinguistic, are within some
kind of context.
 Most first-rate films exist in many contexts
simultaneously, and it is our job as sensitive viewers to
be able to decide which are the most important.
 Film like every art, has a history, and this history is one
of the more significant contexts in which every film takes
 In order to make that historical context fruitful in our
filmic experiences, we must do more than just read
about that history.
 We must accumulate a historical sense of film by seeing
films that have been important in the development of the
 Because of the complex technical problems involved
in filmmaking, much experimentation has occurred.
 Today the experimental work is less technical,
perhaps and more a trying out of the technical
 Some more extreme experimenters remove the
narrative entirely and simply present successions of
images, almost in the manner of a nightmare or a
drug experience.
 Sometimes the images are abstract, nothing more
than visual patterns, as with abstract painting.
Some use familiar images, but modify them with
unexpected time-lapse photography and distortions
of color and sound.

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