On the History of Film Style

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The study of cinematic style has profoundly shaped our attitude toward movies. Style assigns films to a tradition, distinguishes a classic, and signals the arrival of a pathbreaking innovation. David Bordwell now shows how film scholars have attempted to explain stylistic continuity and change across the history of cinema.

Bordwell scrutinizes the theories of style launched by André Bazin, Noël Burch, and other film historians. In the process he celebrates a century of cinema, integrating discussions of film classics such as The Birth of a Nation and Citizen Kane with analyses of more current box-office successes such as Jaws and The Hunt for Red October. Examining the contributions of both noted and neglected directors, he considers the earliest filmmaking, the accomplishments of the silent era, the development of Hollywood, and the strides taken by European and Asian cinema in recent years.

On the History of Film Style proposes that stylistic developments often arise from filmmakers' search for engaging and efficient solutions to production problems. Bordwell traces this activity across history through a detailed discussion of cinematic staging. Illustrated with more than 400 frame enlargements, this wide-ranging study provides a new lens for viewing cinema.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (January 15, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674634292
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674634299
  • Product Dimensions: 7.2 x 0.7 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds

Customer Reviews

The way movies really look

10 people found this helpful.
 on September 26, 2000
Have you ever actually looked at a film? David Bordwell answers the tendency of recent film criticism and analysis to concentrate on the ideological and cultural motivations and manifestations of cinema. His interest is in really looking at the films themselves. Such a ‘novel’ standpoint has of course a very long tradition, but Bordwell uses the examination of mise-en-scene, framing, focus, control of colour and contrast values to uncover a great deal that is missed in other readings of cinema. Here is a history of film that a practitioner of cinematography (or plain old photography) will appreciate. He does not underestimate or oversimplify the sublety of a filmaker’s intentions and gives credit to the ability of the director/cinematographer team to invent and develop a sophisticated visual language. Brodwells commentary is reinforced by ‘photograms’ (actual frames) selected from a authoratative familiarity with film that is not restricted to American cinema but includes Soviet, Japanese, Indian and European film. It is only the eyestraining size of their (monochrome) reproduction that is disappointing – but then, we can always go and see the films for ourselves!

Extremely useful book

3 people found this helpful.
 on September 24, 2006
By Nikica Gilic
If you’re a student of cinema, you will have great use of this book, written by probably most influential film scholar around;

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