FRENCH IMPRESSIONISM
PART 2
Lecture 11
Three Phases
• 1) 1918-1922 pictorialist
• 2) 1922-1925/1926 (most unified)
– Rapid cutting as in La Roue (Gance, 1922)
– Ex: The Smiling Madame Beudet
• 3) 1926-1929
– Stylistic diffusion
– Ex: Menilmontant and The Fall of the House of
Usher
FRENCH IMPRESSIONISM: MODE OF REPRESENTATION
1. On subject matter or referentiality
– Standard: literary text adapted for screen esp.
melodrama, naturalist novel, historical epic
– Narrative avant-garde:
• Substituted reality for literature
– Louis Delluc: “So you have nothing to say? Walk about, look
around you, really look. The street, the subway, the streetcars,
the shops are filled with a thousand dramas, a thousand good
and original stories.” (quoted in Abel)
– Auteur vs. metteur-en-scene
• Photogénie (from a collection with the same title,
written by Louis Delluc in 1920)
PHOTOGÉNIE 1: ON THE SUBJECT OF REPRESENTATION
1. The real and natural are the basis of film
representation.
– Epstein on The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari:
“If you must say about a film that it has beautiful sets,
I think it would be better not to speak about it at all;
the film is bad. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is the best
example of the misuse of sets in cinema… Everything
in Caligari is a set: first the décor itself, next, the
character who is as painted and tricked up as the set,
finally, the light which is also painted—an
unpardonable sacrilege in cinema—with shadows and
halflights illusionistically laid out in advance. Thus
the film is a still life, all its living elements have been
killed by strokes of the brush.”
– Landry on Caligarism
FRAME ENLARGEMENT FROM
THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI
From The Fall of the House of Usher
(Epstein, 1928)
PHOTOGÉNIE 2: ON THE PHOTOGENIC SHOT
• Every detail of reality can be extended into the ‘realm of the
wondrous’ (René Clair)
• Something irrational, ineffable in this quality—it escapes
articulation. Epstein: “The cinema is essentially supernatural.
Everything is transformed…”
• The camera/screen transformed the real into something radically
new through camera but also framing, lighting, directional
movement within the frame—the camera’s ability to poeticize and
aestheticize
• Objective: to make us see ordinary things as they have never been
seen before, as if we were seeing them for the first time—to
defamiliarize the familiar
– Jean Epstein: “the camera lens…is an eye endowed with inhuman
analytical properties…an eye without prejudice, without morality, free
of influences, and it sees in the human face and gestures traits that
we, burdened with sympathies and antipathies, habits and inhibitions,
no longer know how to see.” (quoted in Abel 292)
Photogénie
Photogénie
Photogénie
PHOTOGÉNIE 3: ON THE PHOTOGENIC SEQUENCE
(I.E. ON PHOTOGÉNIE AND EDITING)
PHOTOGÉNIE 3: ON THE PHOTOGENIC SEQUENCE
(I.E. ON PHOTOGÉNIE AND EDITING)
PHOTOGÉNIE 3: ON THE PHOTOGENIC SEQUENCE
(I.E. ON PHOTOGÉNIE AND EDITING)
FRENCH IMPRESSIONISM: MODE OF REPRESENTATION
1. On subject matter or referentiality
2. On narration and representation
– Standard: intertitles, uninterrupted narrative
flow, focus on action, objective and omniscient
narration
– Narrative avant-garde:
•
•
Few or no intertitles
Privileges subjectivity; shifts emphasis from action to
perception (Ex: The Smiling Madame Beudet)
–
*Two kinds of subjectivity*
TWO KINDS OF SUBJECTIVITY
1. Impressions of characters in the film
– Ex: Menilmontant
– Ex: The Smiling Madame Beudet
2. Impressions of the filmmaker
Photogénie becomes complete when that
poeticization is in the service of an authorial voice
and vision, in the service of the auteur
– Ex: Menilmontant
– Ex: The Fall of the House of Usher
Madame Beudet’s Day Dreams
WHOSE PERSPECTIVE?
FRENCH IMPRESSIONISM: MODE OF REPRESENTATION
1. On subject matter or referentiality
2. On narration and representation (how the story gets
told filmically)
3. Editing and Continuity (how time-space is organized)
–
Standard: linearity, logical causal relations between
shots, spatial-temporal continuity style (helped by
analytical and contiguity editing, match on action)
Narrative avant-garde:
–
•
Play with contiguity and eyeline matches
–
•
Ex: Menilmontant
Continuity often based on graphic, rhythmic, associative,
connotative relations
–
–
Ex: rapid montage in La Roue: graphic and rhythmic
Ex: associative and graphic montage in Menilmontant
EDITING DEVICES: PLAY WITH CONTIGUITY
MENILMONTANT
EDITING DEVICES: RAPID CUTTING, RHYTHMIC AND GRAPHIC MONTAGE
FROM LA ROUE (1922)
EDITING DEVICES: ASSOCIATIVE MONTAGE
MENILMONTANT
EDITING DEVICES: CONNOTATIVE MONTAGE
FROM MENILMONTANT (1926)
TECHNIQUES OF FRENCH IMPRESSIONISM
• Optical devices
– Superimposition
– Distortions
– Masks
– Filters
– Soft focus
• Transitions
– Fades
– dissolves
Optical Devices: superimposition
From The Smiling Madame Beudet (1922)
Optical Devices: superimposition and p.o.v. distortions
From The Smiling Madame Beudet (1922)
Camera Devices: moving camera, subjectivity without p.o.v.,
photogénie
From Menilmontant (1926)
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