Sunday, May 23, 2010

Andre Bazin and the Evolution of Cinema

In Bazin’s article “The Evolution of the Language of Cinema,” he breaks down the progression of cinema after the silent era. Bazin believes that by 1928, the silent era had reached its artistic peak, and that sound was not there to destroy cinema but to fulfill it’s potential. Between 1928 and 1930 a new form of cinema was being created, through the introduction of sound a new form of editing was also being revolutionized. Certain aesthetics of the silent era were to be carried over to the sound era, though not so much of “setting silence over against sound than of contrasting certain families of styles, certain basically different concepts of cinematographic expression.” Between 1920 and 1940 there were two opposing trends, of the director who put faith in the image or the director who put faith in reality (or one can relate to the “plastics of the image” or relate to the “resources of the montage”). With the invisible use of montage, the scenes are broken down for analytical purposes. The three montage processes are:

a.) Parallel Montage: A sense of the simultaneity of two actions taking place at a geographical distance by means of alternating shots from each.

b.) Accelerated Montage: A multiplicity of shots of ever-decreasing length.

c.) Montage by Attraction: The reinforcing of the meaning of one image by association with another image not necessarily part of the same episode.

Montage can substitute a vision of an event to alluding to an event. Montage can create a sense or meaning not contained in the image but derived from the juxtaposition. Bazin believes that, “the meaning is not in the image, it is in the shadow of the image projected by montage onto the field of consciousness of the spectator.” Bazin believes that Soviet cinema “carried to its ultimate consequences the theory and practice of montage, while German school did every kind of violence to the plastics of the image by way of sets and lighting.” (I question if he is referring to German Expressionism, ie: “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari”?) Bazin then points out that it does not appear that cinema was at a loss of ways of saying what it wanted, in place like France, Sweden or the U.S.

In America from 1930 to 1940 seven major types of film were being made; (1) Comedy (2) Burlesque Film (3) Dance & Vaudeville (4) Crime & Gangster (5) Psychological & Social Dramas (6) Horror & Fantasy (7) Western. The French however were making stark somber realism, or poetic realism. By 1938 or 1939, (especially in France and the U.S.) had reached a level of perfection, through technical process and the maturing of different kinds of drama. By 1930, Panchromatic stock was being commonly used as well as a growing understanding for microphone potential and the standard use of the crane. It is believed that all the technical requirements were in place by 1930, for the art of cinema.

The standard pattern for editing was in a universal standard state by 1938. There was a verisimilitude of space in which the position of the actor is determined, even during close-up. And the purpose of the editing was dramatic or psychological. The typical procedure with sound films by 1938 was shot-reverse-shot, where in the dialogue scene, the camera followed the order of the text, showing the character who was delivering the speech. Orson Welles is cited for changing some of the rules with “Citizen Kane.”

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