compare and contrast formal/social analyses of two films

Introduction to Film Studies 1

Question Description

Basic Description: For this assignment, you will be required compare and contrast formal/social analyses of two films that have been screened for our class (that is, are on our syllabus and in our official class screenings).

A few notes about the essay:

--One of the films may be the film you wrote about in your first paper.

-- Please do not write a paper about BOTH Rear Windowand Citizen Kane, since the films are both works of the classical Hollywood system. You might write about one or the other as one of the two films you are analyzing.

--You are welcome to consult outside sources for material, but if you do so you should be absolutely certain that you cite them in your paper as sources using an established citation format (MLA, Chicago, APA). If citing secondary works, please cite at least one text we have read in class, so we can be sure you have checked those as well.

Tips for Writing:

  • Unlike the first paper, your unit of analysis is an entire film, not just a single scene or sequence. An analysis of a film, however, is built out of readings of individual scenes or elements. In this spirit YOU WILL LIKELY WANT TO FOCUS ON 2-3 SCENES FROM EACH FILM as evidence of your point.
  • While our sequence analysis focused on formal techniques and their relation to the larger film, here you will want to expand your formal reading to include the social/political/historical dimensions that we have been discussing in the second half of the class. Thus, in addition to a consideration of sound, cinematography, editing, narrative structure, etc. you will also want to consider issues around race, gender, nationality, historical context, political environment, etc.
  • As a compare contrast, your argument will derive from finding similarities and differences between the two films. For a formal social comparative analysis, a thesis might pursue one of the following structures:

NOTE: As a resource for general advice on writing papers on films, see Nichols’s Engaging CinemaChapter 12, especially, in this case, 441-42 on the search for a topic.

Similar formal strategies, divergent social contexts

“While both FILM A and FILM B utilize classical continuity editing and place their characters in gritty natural settings, FILM A utilizes these techniques to uphold traditional moral values about x while FILM B explores the manner in which they unravel in the face of conflict.”

Divergent formal strategies, similar formal context

While both FILM C and FILM D explore the role of masculinity in the context of harsh natural environments, FILM Cs use of handheld cinematography, tracking shots and natural lighting do x while Film Ds reliance on montage techniques offer a more fractured view overall.

Some divergence, some similarity (the mixed model)

Film E and Film F both utilize low key lighting and other Film Noir techniques to explore the evacuation of political commitments within bourgeois capitalism, for Film E this implies x whereas for Film F this upholds y.

Please keep in mind the paper-writing techniques we have discussed in relation to the first essay and in your sections: developing a clear argument/thesis, dynamic arguments, key sentences (especially topic and concluding sentences), and writing about the film in a way that avoids simply describing (avoiding extended plot summary of two or more sentences in a row) or reviewing it as a good or bad film.

NOTE: In your argument and sequence analyses, you do not need to mention every technique. You’ll notice from the sample essays in Nichols and the Film Analysis book that the sequence analyses emphasize one or two or three techniques the argument foregrounds. You should analyze only those techniques that help your argument (rather than an encyclopedic catalogue of all techniques in a sequence).

Sample formal techniques for the Argument:

These are techniques and themes around which you might develop your argument (they are not arguments in themselves)

The familiar main areas of technique and their contribution to filmic narrative

-- the evolution of editing/importance of editing to narrative
-- the role of sound in filmic narrative
-- how camera work (distance, movement, for example) contribute to the narrative
-- the role played by mise-en-scene (lighting, sets, costumes, actors) in the overall filmic system
--the construction of film narrative (plot/story, cause/effect, Classical Hollywood narrative, etc.).

Sample social contexts you might consider (there are many more)

-- how gender is constructed in the narrative and how it functions in the films more generally (consider, for instance, costume or lighting effects).
-- how social forces (bigger than the will of any one character) are depicted in the films
-- how do race and/or ethnicity function in films and how are they coded/constructed technically
-- the role of genre in the viewers’ experience of a film
-- how the films construct and utilize space in their narratives? You might consider private and public space.
-- how work or play is represented (technically) in the films and how it stands in for class
-- in what ways does generational conflict play an important role in the films and how is it constructed technically.

Some topics you may consider:

1. Political perspective and social attitude 2. The individual and society as represented in the film 3. Emotional impact 4. Structure of the narrative 5. The social function of a film7. Omissions, absences, and questions of emphasis

My TA's requirements:

- You must engage with a minimum of 2 readings from the syllabus (you may not use EC). - Though not required, you may cite outside sources, but they must be academic analyses (blogs and reviews are not allowed).

For the movie, you can choose:

Rear Window, Alfred Hitchcock, 1954, USA; Screening: Ali, Fear Eats the Soul, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1974, Germany 94 mins; Do the Right Thing, Spike Lee, 1989, USA; In the Mood for Love, Wong Kar Wai, 2000, Hong Kong;

And for movies, I would like to choose Rear Window and another one I have no idea, so it depends on you. I can send you the clips of them but I can't post the mp4 here. And if you have some ideas, you can just text me.

Unformatted Attachment Preview

1 FILM AS A LANGUAGE Film Is a Visual Language E very language makes communication possible by means of sym­ bols or sigris. While we usually think of languages based on words, films rely on images. These images can be put together in almost any way. Even if they do not seem to make sense, viewers routinely find meariing in their juxtaposition. Films such as Godfrey Reggio's Koyaanisqatsi (1982), for example, bring together images from a vast array of locations around the world. Koyaanisqatsi is an elo­ quent plea for harmony between man and nature. There is no com­ mentary or dialogue at all, no main characters, no plot in the usual sense,, a'nd the only sound is Philip Glass's mesmerizing music. Yet the film makes sense to most viewers. It does not necessarily mean the same thing to everyone, nor do viewers necessarily agree on the mer­ its of the film, but almost all viewers agree that there is � formal pat­ tern and a consistent structure that conveys expressive meaning. The patterns of organization -that operate most'frequently in films and that viewers �xpect to encounter are conventions, a customary way 29 30 CHAPTER 1 FILM of doing things, rather than grammatical rules. (All words that appear cally function as guidelines for selecting certain types of images (shots two activities that build a film from isolated shots. Film conventions, including genre conventions, vary over time and with the type of film under consideration, but among the most univer­ sal are those that create continuity. Continuity includes all the ways of organizing shots so that the transition from one shot to the next does not jar the viewer. Something occurs in the first shot-the character looks in a particular direction, for example-and this motivates or jus­ sion or Internet websites needs to be familiar with the basic elements of film language. Spectators need a comparable familiarity to under­ stand and interpret what they see. This basic knowledge is a prerequi­ site for all film communication, not just those instances that are artis­ tically or aesthetically remarkable. The artistic use of film language is but one possible use. The art of cinematic expression receives consid­ eration at many points in this book, but it is not the exclusive focus. Whatever use is intended, all films rely on the basic building block of the In other cases, a musical soundtrack continues smoothly beneath a series visual or aural, is called from diverse sources, as in the case of Koyaanisqatsi. Many conventions govern the creation of continuity and are discussed further below. Films use images to convey emotional impact, express various states of mind, tell a story, or present an argument. The reliance on con­ ventions to achieve these ends helps explain film's universal appeal. Viewers can draw on their experience of previ?us films and on their 0 F ·�INEMAT1 C Anyone communicating in film or other audiovisual fonps·like televi­ tifies a cut or edit to another shot, most likely to what the character sees. of shots. The music creates a sense of cont:jnuity even if the images come 31 COMM U NI CATION: THE S I G N establishing shot to example). The selection and arrangement of sounds and images are the LANGUAGE THE 8 A 5.1 C U NIT of domestic space in melodramas and of landscape in westerns, for reveal the overall space of a scene followed by a closeup of the hero, for A The Semiotics of Film in bold are explained in the text and listed in the Glossary.) These basi­ example) and for arranging them into scenes (an AS sign. The ·study of communication, be it verbal or nonverbal, semiotics. Semiotics defines a sign as the smallest meaningful unit of communication. Words are only one of many kinds of sign. In film, each shot functions as a sign. In fact, within each shot, there may well be a variety of signs mixed together : the scowl on the hero's face; the smug look of superiority on the vil­ lain's; the scruffy suit worn by the hero that signifies his ethic of har-d work for low pay; the very elegant suit worn. by the villain that signi­ fies his preference for the easy life, regardless of whom he might hurt experience of interpreting what they see in the world around them. If in getting it. American there is subtlety and complexity involved in understanding films, it dresses drug kingpin Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington) in profes­ sional, understated attire but presents Richie Roberts (Russell Crowe)-the cop who brings him down-in cheap, scruffy clothes, as involves grasping the nuances made possible by a range of different, often competing conventioqs and interpreting the metaphorical impli­ cations of what we see. A slightly raised eyebrow; exactly when a shot cuts to another; the angle from which the camera views a scene; the Gangster (Ridley Scott, 2007), for example, if to say that impressive appearances are deceptive and unimpressive ones a sigt?. of genuine principles. insertion of a sudden sound, the placement of the actors in relation to Because viewers usually recognize what an image represents quite each other-these are the small things that distinguish one film from quickly, it may seem as if the meaning is already in the image; the another and that challenge the viewer's interpretive skills. viewer simply notes it. This, however, is incorrect. What an image • II • 32 CHAPTER 1 FILM AS A LANGUAGE 33 represents, or signifies, is not in the image but in the beholder. The shadowy face may be shot that way to suggest untrustworthiness, spectator instantly attaches a signified, the meaning of a given image, but it remains up to the viewer to interpret the specific look of the to the signifier, the thing seen or heard. The signifier is what is mate­ image as meaningful. . :: , rially presented to the viewer. The signified is the meaning the viewer 3) A fihn signifier will not mean the same thing to every viewer. A shot supplies to it. Together they form a sign. To recognize an image of an that includes the American flag in the background will carry dif­ apple as an apple requires that the viewer already have in her mind an ferent meanings for a highly patriotic American and an anti-Amer­ idea of what an apple looks like. A visual signifier, a photo of an apple, ican foreigner. A violent fight between hero and villain may signify can then instantly have the proper signified attached to it. bravery and skill for one viewer and a resort to crude brutality for Without prior knowledge, a word or image is meaningless. another. These variations cannot be fully controlled by the film- "Demit" may look like a word, but is it? A trip to the dictionary will . maker. By the same token, they help account for the fact that a tell us it means "to resign." Wtth this signified attached "demit" range of different, valid interpretations exist for the same film. becomes a meaningful set of letters, a word. A shot of a shadowy fig­ ure moving down a narrow alleyway may look like a person, but is it? Perhaps it is the shadow of a moving object; maybe it is important to Alfred Hitchcock stages the dramatic climax to his film North by Northwest (1959) on the faces of the four American presidents carved the story but maybe not. A gap suddenly opens up between the signi­ into Mount Rushmore. In doing so, he presents a set of signifiers that fier and the signified. The felt need to supply a signified intensifies. If mean different things to different viewers. Some may simply recog­ the shadow is of a person, who is it and what is she ·doing? If the viewer nize it as a dangerous site, since the hero (Cary Grant) and heroine recognizes the shadowy figure as the heroine, it's likely that the shot (Eva Marie Saint) could fall off the rock at any moment. Some will rec­ will now become meaningful: perhaps the viewer realizes that the ognize that faces are carved into the stone and that the heroes are on heroine wants to warn the hero of danger or that she is, in fact, about the brow of one of the faces, just above the nose. Others will recognize to betray him, depending on what is already known about the story. that the faces are famous American presidents (George Washington, The strict separation between materially present signifiers and assigned meanings or signifieds has three important implications: Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, and Theodore Roosevelt). Some may recognize the irony of the hero battling villains who are involved in espionage against the United States on the faces of four presidents 1) 2) The image as signifier, and its relationship to any accompanying who helped define the United States as a nation. Yet others will rec­ sounds, is the raw material with which the filmmaker works. The ognize an element of humor in a deadly fight taking place on the face image is comparable to the painter's paint or the musician's notes. of a president. Finally, some will recognize that the scene is strikingly The options sketched out below in relation to the expressive, per­ similar to the climax of another Hitchcock film, suasive, and poetic techniques of the cinema catalogue ways in which the hero confronts the villain atop the Statue of Liberty. The which a filmmaker can shape images, or sounds, to convey just image or signifier, in other words, offers extra rewards for those who Saboteur (1942), in the right tone, feeling, and meaning. bring familiarity with its social and formal context. Such viewers draw Despite this shaping effort, the viewer must still assign meaning more meaning from the scene because they can assign more signifieds to the image and its relationship to any accompanying sounds. A to the images presented. CHAPTER 34 FILM 1 AS A ---- -- ing, cars, guns, etc.) and their possible meanings before seeing them in External Reality -- a film. This is why silent cinema was called a universal language: it relied on viewers' familiarity with visual signs. Almost all viewers recognize a :ii.-;�; System -- Cinema as � �-=-----------.-----------� r=� TheSignifier ' The actual image TheSign film shot of a hat as a hat. They might well be able to infer things about its wearer as well from the type of hat and how it is worn. Similarly, viewers recognize something about a character's social status from her Interpreting a film shot requires both perceiving the image, the signifier, and assigning an appropriate meaning to it, the signified clothing, expressions, gestures, and actions. They might also recognize the actor playing the character. Part of the pleasure of seeing a silent (1917) comes :� IMAGES AS A SIGN SYSTEM In most cases, the viewer is familiar with common signifiers (cloth­ short by Charlie Chaplin such as 35 LANGUAGE [Zl Easy Street (1917) or The Immigrant from recognizing the character of the tramp that Chap­ lin had begun to develop as his primary screen persona. T H E S I G N AND I TS RE FERENT of a metal object TheSignified The meaning the viewer assigns to the image: "toy gun,,, "weapon," "Colt .45" - -- :�: ;;:The actual gun used in the shot -r-- - . _ ..... -- _.. .- .- .- .- _ _ ..... _ _ _ ....- .... ..... ..... - Paradigmatic axis (possible shots that could be used: various weapons) SignB' Most cinematic signifiers possess a referent. The referent is what a sign refers to outside the language in which it appears. A photo of a·hat is ' a signifier and the viewer's response, "This is a hat," generates the sig.. nified, but the referent would be the actual hat used in the photo. This SignA referent, the hat, exists in physical reality. Almost all photographic ' Sign B Sign C SignD � � tJ;� images, but not all computer-generated images, have a referent. A viewer, for example, may recognize that the specially equipped car � driven by James Bond is an Aston Martin. The actual car is the refer­ ent. It exists outside the world of the movie and the language of cin­ Narrative: Composed Synatagmatic axJs (arrangement of actual shots that compose the film) ema. But this particular car now functions as a signifier. The viewer­ ognizes that the Aston Martin signifies what a Volkswagen would not (wealth, driving prowess, sophistication). In terms of signifieds, this par­ ticular car reinforces Bond's image as someone adept with technical · gadgetry, his skill at daredevil maneuvers, ·and his sophisticated taste in A filmmaker chooses each shot from a set of possible shots that work in a luxury goods. The diagrams in Figure whip, sword, rope, or other weapons would also work. The sum of the given context. Here the shot is of a gun, but shots of a knife, pitchfork, 1. 1 show the relations of the dif­ ferent parts of the sign and how any communication involves selecting specific signs from�a repertoire of available signs and then. assembling the selected signs into a meaningful sequence. :i II of shots that •' advance the story available choices exists on the paradigmatic axis. This amounts to all the choices that work in a given context: one is chosen and the others are not. CHAPTER 1 FILM IMAGES AS A SIGN SYSTEM (CONTINUED) Similarly, each sign couples with other signs to form a chain. In the with any accompany ing sounds. This means more than choosing. to sequence represented in Figure 1.1, a shot of the hero cuts to a shot of film a face, say; it becomes a question of how to film a face. Is it shot axis consists of the actual arrangement of the chosen signs: the hero, gun, villain, and the hero's action. This axis unfolds over time. The paradigmatic axis is sometimes called the metaphoric axis and the syn- · � � 37 A LANGUAGE involves the way a filmmaker selects and arranges images, together a gun pointed at him and then to a shot of the villain. The syntagmatic r AS tagmatic the metonymic. In any language, the selection of one sign from a range of possible signs and the arr�ngement of these choices into a series are the two steps that allow communication to occur. · _,_'!.. . *- ..-ii:"!'.:t.:"' . .�o...;:.&.!''.!"'ICT.� from above, or below? Is it in color or in bl�c� and white·? With bright I ! fl, light from nearby or dim light from further away? Every shot raises 1' adigffiatic range of choices available and then arranges these choices ti into syntagmatic scene , sequences, and, ultimately, entire films. 1• questions like these. The filmmaker chooses one opti0n .fr om the·par­ · [i Although it may seem to be merely the backdrop for.the action, the � natural or built environment is not simply documented in films but can ;z.:::... """':":t:L.� • also carry metaphorical meanings. In the classic Japanese film Woman of the Dunes. �iroshi Teshigahara, 1964), about a man who stumbles upon a modest house at the foot of huge sand dunes and cannot escape The Expressive, Persuasive, and Poetic Uses of Film Technique it; and in The Cruwd•(1928), King Vidor's.remarkable silent film study of urban alienation, both the looming sand dunes and the huge office act as signifiers of isolation and of the power of invisible, almost inex­ · Filmmakers expend considerable effort to shape the images they plicable forces. They provide a visible stand-in for what cannot be shoot. They place the camera with great care. They select camera shown (power, dominance, hierarchy, and so on). As such, the images lenses and arrange the lighting to fit the needs of the story. Actors play have not only real life referents but important signifieds. They allow specific parts or agreements are struck with non-actors. The director the thematic- concerns of the films to· find visual expression. may start, stop, and repeat a specific shot as many as twenty, thirty, eighty times. A scene may be shot from a multitude of angles, which . · For a filin to fulfill an expressive, persuasive,- or ·poetic purpose it must utilize signifiers that convey the desired feelings, tones, and atti­ then requires intricate lighting and, later, editing, including the intro­ duction of music and sound effects, to assemble It into the most effec­ quality evident one director may choose to have him do something tive form for a given purpose. These expressive elaborations move a film from being "mere film," or just a factual document, however valu­ truly heinous,.�uch as torture female captives i� ��s,prison-basement _ as serial killer_����ff�lo Bill"_does in The Silence ofthe Lambs Gonathan able such a document might be as evidence, to something that reveals the attitude, perspective, or point of view of its maker. Expressive tech­ Demme, 1991). Another director, with the same goal, may have the tudes effectively. A character may be a cruel monster; to make this :H�- . monstrous character compel an honorable, loving person to do some­ thing unforgivably cruel. In Sophie's Choice (Alan Pakula, 1982), for niques create an emotional impact on the viewer. Style involves the particular way a filmmaker makes use of cine­ example, the greatest horror of Sophie's (Meryl Streep's). deportation matic signifiers. It also refers to broad categories like realism to which to a Nazi concentration· camp is not physical violence,· but the calm, many works belong. Style is always medium specific. Film style clinical command of the doctor assessing new arrivals. He tells her CHAPTER 1 FILM AS A LANGUAGE 39 she must choose which of her two children will go to the left with her different times and spaces that would not otherwise be possible. Every and which to the right and certain doom. He forces her to act as an edit also introduces the possibility of deception Gust as a person is accomplice in the murder of her own child. Expressivity, persuasive­ about to be hit, the film might cut to a shot from a different ·angle as ness, and poetic effect amounts to a question of how a filmmaker rep­ the character recoils, eliminating the n��S to actually hit the actor or resents her own conceptio.n of the world to an audience. to fake the blow in a single shot). To be as adept as possible, a filmmaker must be familiar with the Sometimes considered an alternative to editing, long takes are repertoire of choices available as a result of technology and tradition. shots that are noticeably more extended than usual: the viewer gains James Cameron could not have shot the masses of passengers tum­ the most obvious plot information from the shot but the shot lingers, bling across the decks of the Titanic as effectively or safely as he did, or things continue to happen without a cut occurring. Some directors for e�ample, without the use of computer-generated images (CGI) favor long takes to allow action to occur in real time; it demonstrates that placed lifelike figures created on a computer onto the d�ck of the that no deception took place in staging the action. The documentary sinking ship in Titanic (1997). CGI.does �ot photograph objects but creates them from software; it offers a huge range of. options for film Grizzly Man (Werner Herzog, 2005) contains numerous shots made by the film's protagonist, Timothy Treadwell, in which he and creating entirely fabricated images, or altering images that have real­ wild Alaskan bears share the same frame, and therefore the same time world referents. and space in realicy. No form of editing could convey the same sense An attentive viewer must also be familiar with this r:epertoire of of Treadwell's extended proximity to the creatures that will ultimately choices a director faces to recognize her decisions as choices rather than as simply the product of the camera's·mechanical' ability to record Sokurov, 200 ...
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Final Answer

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Last Name 1
Rear Window and Do the Right Thing
In this analysis, the two chosen films are Rear Window and Do the Right Thing. Rear
Window is among the greatest from the Master of Suspense. This film comprises of a single
setting, non-complicated narrative, and a simple structure. However, Rear Window was not
significant just because of its impressive camera techniques and its capability to formulate a
thriller from a person's extremely limited POV. It likewise detonated the barricade between the
watchers and the object of its scrutiny. The film starts as the curtains in the apartment that Jeff
lives in are raised; he starts looking out via the Window. Fixed in our chairs as resolutely as Jeff,
we only witness what he can perceive; the plot discloses for us together with him (Hitchcock et
al. 52). Nevertheless, when we view many things that are none of our concern, we develop a
slight feeling of guilt. Do the Right Thing is a film written and produced by Spike Lee,
concentrate on one day of the livelihood of ethnically diverse individuals who work and live in
Brooklyn New York which is a neighborhood of lower class individuals. Nevertheless, this day
happens in one of the sunny days during the summer. The film concentrates on how the moral
decisions, race, and social class of the characters may depict a significant impact on the
interactions of the individuals. It begins with the characters rising to start their normal daily
activities and ends with a neighborhood demonstration after a police force unreasonably confine
and murder a young black person by the name Raheem. For battling an elderly Italian American
owner of the restaurant by the name Sal inside his pizzeria, and later on the streets. Even though
this film was released in 1989, following its social annotation on the impact of ethnicity on

Last Name 2
police cruelty is still as significant today just as during its release in 26 years ago. The paper
aims to compare and contest social and formal analysis of the two films.
Social Analysis
Gender and Race
After going through Doing the Right Thing, there are two related social themes available;
ethnic and racial divisions. It is apparent that Spike Lee always tried to explain some of the racial
questions in America. It is pretty easy to comprehend the time it came from: even though one
should not anticipate modern cinematography, however, this was entirely different Brooklyn that
most of us Know. It is apparent that the area is a neighborhood with scattered low income
individuals, just as it was some years back. When the problem of racism augments in the
incidence of police brutality, the disparity between hate and love eventually becomes excellent,
and the habit of going with the right thing is hurled out of the Window. People are no longer
interested in what is right for them, but instead, as the blind crowd, ruining the neighborhood that
nurtured their culture. Hitchcock possessed a somewhat comprehensive view of how women and
men suit in the society back in 19590s, accurately as it was depicted in the film. Without
supporting or criticizing these roles, the film arranges ...

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