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We can identify three broad areas of inquiry in film studies: film history, film theory, and film analysis.

The problem with old, or traditional, film histories is that they are informally written by amateur historians. Their histories are governed by at least two underlying assumptions: a teleological assumption that focuses the historian's attention only on films that display technical innovations, and an essentialist assumption proposing that these technical achievements are important because they exploit cinema's essence, or inherent capabilities. Traditional film histories therefore consist of lists of films organized linearly, from primitive films displaying little technical achievement or innovation (which are not perceived to exploit cinema's essence) to more sophisticated (more 'cinematic') films. Furthermore, these histories are usually global and general, based on the writer's selective memory of films or on faulty secondary sources, resulting in a vague and patchy history of film. The 'New Film History', which emerged in the 1970s as film studies became institutionalized in the university, developed specific, delimited (rather than global) areas of film history to research, and carried out this research using rigorous, systematic, and explicit methods, including the extensive citation of primary archival evidence, all of which has resulted in the complete revision and rewriting of traditional film histories. Film theorists do not study film as an unproblematic, pre-given entity, but as a complex and littleunderstood medium with it own properties and cultural and social effects. Film theorists therefore challenge and go beyond the common-sense ideological understanding of film as a mere form of harmless entertainment, and instead maintain that it is an intrinsically significant medium integral to twentiethcentury modern and postmodern society. The problem when carrying out film analysis is to make the process manageable. Analysts study film as an abstract and idealized object, extracted from its context of production and reception. Although this may sound like a limitation (as reception studies scholars argue), this process of abstraction and idealization is in fact the necessary first step in making analysis possible. To make the analysis of film manageable involves, initially, delimiting the boundaries of the object of inquiry, which requires the film scholar to judge at least some of the elements which come under the heading of 'film' to be irrelevant and insignificant. Only at a later stage can the discarded elements be studied. This accounts for the progression from structuralism to post-structuralism; the progression in psychoanalytic film theory from the study of unconscious mechanisms (such as voyeurism and fetishism) that fix the film spectator in place, to theories of fantasy that conceive the spectator's relation to the film as fluid and heterogeneous; the shift from the analysis of films to reception studies, which focuses on texts and discourse surrounding a film; and, in cognitive film theory, the progress from the study of the spectator's rational mental activities to the spectator's emotional activities. Film analysis has traditionally privileged narrative. And one of the many problems narrative raises is to understand its centrality to cinema, which in turn may mean to understand the centrality of narrative in our culture, and by extension, in Western systems of representation. It is in this context that another object of inquiry stands out: what has variously been called 'New', 'post-classical', or 'contemporary' American cinema (with a continued emphasis on Hollywood). Two of the many problems to be addressed include: What is the role of narrative in contemporary American cinema? And: What is the relation between classical and contemporary American cinema? These problems require us to interrogate American cinema both as a formal system and also as an ideological discourse, in order to assess why classical American cinema in particular turned so massively to narrative, and to determine if contemporary cinema is post-narrative, or whether the classical/contemporary distinction is made on other criteria (which presupposes that contemporary cinema continues the narrative tradition of classical cinema). How does theory relate to methods and to their application in analysis? The common assumption is that theory functions as a frame of reference for methods, as a conceptual scheme that enables the film scholar to analyse and formulate problems (for example, is post-classical Hollywood cinema dominated by narrative logic?), thereby providing the analyst with guidance on what to look for when analysing a film, and how best to analyse it. In a now celebrated statement in his book Making Meaning, David Bordwell questions the determinate link many film scholars assume exists between film theory, methods, and analysis. Bordwell argues that film analysis is not directly influenced by film theory. Instead, he

argues that film analysis follows general human cognitive and inferential abilities - the same ones used when making a quilt or constructing furniture (Bordwell 1989: xii). In this book we argue for the common assumption that a determinate link exists between theory, methods, and analysis; that is, that theory plays a key role in developing methods and in conducting analyses of films. 1.3. How to study film? We have addressed what to study and why study it. But now we come to the big question: How do we study contemporary American films? In the remainder of this chapter we shall endeavour to answer this question by outlining the form of inquiry in film studies. The following chapters will add substance to this form by focusing on practice. The form of inquiry in film studies involves a threefold distinction between (i) theory, (ii) methods, and (iii) analysis. 1.3.1. Theory Films are analysable on the basis of their inherent form and structure. However, this structure is not immediately visible in itself. Instead, certain aspects of it become visible from within a certain theoretical perspective (and other aspects become visible from other theoretical perspectives). Moreover, theoretical perspectives may overlap in incommensurate ways. In general, the aim of theory is to make visible the invisible structure that orders and confers intelligibility upon films. The invisible structure is unknown and cannot, therefore, be discovered by means of inductive procedures such as taxonomies. At the same time, the structure is not unknowable, for it can be represented as a system of theoretical hypotheses, concepts, or propositions, which only have a tentative or speculative status. Theories therefore offer explanatory depth rather than mere empirical generalizations. A particular theory enables the analyst to identify specific aspects of a film's structure, and to look at and listen to the film from the perspective of its own values. There is no value-free perspective from which we can directly 'see' and 'hear' a film; we can only 'look at' and 'listen to' a film with a particular set of values. The aim of theory is to construct different conceptual perspectives on a film, each informed by a specific set of values. A biased or value-laden theory not only is inescapable, but is also the condition of knowledge, and of applying methods that guide analysis. Reflective deliberation on the values inherent in a theory and its methods of analysis is the starting point for choosing a theory and applying its methods in an appropriate way. The values inherent in all film theories have directed theorists' attention to particular aspects of film's general nature or 'essential' properties. For example: Classical film theorists tried to define film as an art by focusing on its 'essence', which they located either in cinema's photographic recording capacity (e.g. Andre Bazin), or its unique formal techniques that offer a new way of seeing (e.g. Rudolf Arnheim). Film semioticians attempted to define film's specificity in terms of a specific combination of codes. Cognitive and psychoanalytic film theorists focus on the specific nature of the interface between film and spectator: either the way a film addresses unconscious desires and fantasies, or the knowledge and competence spectators employ to comprehend films. Each theory formulates hypotheses about the general nature of film, leading to the formation of declarative knowledge - in the terminology of the philosopher Gilbert Ryle, 'knowing-that' (Ryle 1949: 28-32). Theory's system of interrelated, tentative hypotheses need to be justified - that is, grounded and tested. In principle, this is achieved by means of analysis guided by methods extracted from theories. 1.3.2. Methods Every discipline establishes standards of professional competence - or, negatively, pressure to conform to professional standards. To gain competence in film studies involves, to a significant extent, the mastery of methods, since the methods of film studies constitute the 'acceptable' (the profession's preferred) ways of carrying out film analysis. The term 'method' is used here simply to refer to procedural knowledge, rather than declarative knowledge. In Ryle's terminology, it is 'knowing-how': using a set of

skills or procedures to achieve a goal (Ryle 1949: 28-32; 40-41). Procedural knowledge, or method, provides tools for the analysis of films. Methods turn film analysis into an explicit, systematic, and repeatable discipline based on reliable procedures; it avoids relying on intuition, introspection, and hidden assumptions. Of course, this can be perceived as a hindrance rather than a benefit, stifling creative thinking and turning students into drones all producing the same routine analyses of films. Abraham Kaplan calls this 'trained incapacity' - 'the more we know how to do something, the harder it is to learn to do it differently' (Kaplan 1964: 29). However, we can overcome this 'incapacity' by learning several incompatible methods, rather than dogmatically adhering to one or two. Film analysts therefore have three choices: to base their analyses on unqualified assertions instantaneous judgments and spontaneous opinions of a film; to adhere dogmatically to one theory and its method of analysis, resulting in 'trained incapacity'; or to learn several theories, so that they can apply specific theories in appropriate contexts, rather than use the same theory in all contexts. In Studying Contemporary American Film we adopt the third option. Our approach to teaching several theories and methods of analysis is to make explicit the procedures in conducting any analysis. To achieve this aim we shall borrow from ancient rhetoric, particularly Aristotle's The Art of Rhetoric. For Aristotle, rhetoric is a general activity that produces knowledge. It is not tied to a particular subject matter, nor does it simply consist of the study and use of artificial, inessential ornaments of discourse that function to persuade listeners or readers of an argument that is not in their best interest. As a discipline that produces knowledge, rhetoric identifies the discursive aspect of any subject matter, the stages involved in an entire course of reasoning, from start to finish. By promoting rhetoric to the level of knowledge, Aristotle equated it with the study of grammar and logic. 1.3.3. Analysis After theory and methods, the third and final part of the answer to the question 'How to study film?' involves analysis. One major objective of close textual reading is to address the problem of cinematic signification: of how a film creates meaning. The question could be phrased in the form of a series of paradoxes. Is there not a contradiction between, on the one hand, the perception of a film as a continuous experience, with the action often starting in medias res (without a narrator setting the scene or introducing the characters, and the story developing its own momentum, as it follows a more or less linear trajectory right to the end) and, on the other hand, the fact that when we look at the strip of celluloid, or even when we slow it down on the video player, a film is made up of wholly discontinuous, discrete and separate entities (individual scenes, which themselves consist of segments)? Each segment is furthermore a series of individual shots, and the shots themselves - at least in the photographic mode - consist of tens or hundreds of individual frames. As an industrial, technological product, film is a commodity, produced to make money and created on the basis of a complex and sophisticated division of labour and tasks, with a high degree of specialization in each of its branches of production. Its textual basis is the shooting script, itself a historically evolved practice, at one end comparable to a blueprint for an engineering. Studying Contemporary American Film project, on the basis of which tasks are allocated, schedules distributed, and budgets worked out; and at the other end, comparable to a poem in which strictly conventionalized forms, such as length, rhyme-scheme, and metre, nonetheless allow for the most extraordinary versatility and ingenuity. This tension between heterogeneity and homogeneity applies not only to the image but to the sound as well: it, too, gives the illusion of continuity while in actual fact, sound fragments are normally spliced together to produce the impression of a persistent and always present sound ambience. Sound is separately recorded, in order to be matched, mixed, and dubbed. It undergoes a considerable amount of work and processing, because it serves a complex set of functions in respect of narrative and image. In order to make either sound or image into material for filmic signification one needs first of all to separate and break down the various elements, before they can be combined.

The essential discontinuity of the image and the discontinuity of the sound therefore combine, in both classical and contemporary American film, in various ways. The most basic functions are to serve as spatial markers, either synchronous to indicate co-presence of sound source and representation, or in counterpoint to indicate off-screen space. As a temporal marker, synchronicity signifies simultaneity, but sound can often structure the future of the narrative (anticipating events through musical motifs, for instance), or it can act as narrative memory (an echo or reminder). There is always a kind of dialogue going on between sound and image: the sound asks 'Where?', and the image replies 'Here' (see Altman 1980). This question-and-answer game (or this 'dialogue' which Noel Carroll calls the 'erotetic' principle (1996a: chs 5 and 6)) serves to establish an illusion of presence, of a time-space continuum, and thereby generates the impression of realism. Realism in this sense, too, relies on separation and division. The relation of sound to image could be called the double confirmation of a double illusion: two falsehoods in this instance make one truth. The film analyst tries to explain the functioning of the film as a coherent and continuous experience. But this raises two problems: (1) How is it that a film suggests a world that is seamless, always already there, continuous beyond the film's frame and the film's time, while at the same time it tells a story, builds up a narrative, develops an intrigue, a drama with beginning, complication, climaxes, and resolution? The second problem is even more difficult to come to terms with: (2) How does a film create the impression of a world 'out there' (of which we are merely the invisible witnesses) when all the while the film itself only exists for our benefit, 'in here', thereby cunningly disguising that it only aims at and addresses us? One could say that the first problem involves two kinds of logic: the logic of the actions in a film, and the logic of the spectator's position vis-a-vis the action. So strong is this impression of unity and coherence that Hollywood films in particular seem to obey some principle of regularity, maybe even some sort of 'law'. Traditionally, therefore, the logic of the actions has been discussed by asking whether film possesses a language or a grammar. In which case, the object of inquiry for analysis might be to define this film grammar, this language of cinema. The result of this move was a reorientation of film studies, its transformation into a semiotics of film. Largely owing to the work of Christian Metz, the question of whether film is organized according to the same principles as is language - for instance, with a vocabulary or a semantics, and a grammar or syntax - has been given the answer 'yes and no'. While this seems a pretty unsatisfactory answer to most people, film theorists have actually learnt a lot about film this way, especially for analysis. Nonetheless, some scholars have concluded that linguistics may have been a dead end for film studies, perhaps even the wrong way altogether to look at the problem. Others merely criticized the kind of language model used (i.e. that of Ferdinand de Saussure) and that other ways of thinking about language (e.g., Charles Sanders Peirce, Noam Chomsky, George Lakoff) might turn out to be more productive. The extensive involvement of film analysis with semiotics, structural linguistics, transformational grammar, and the study of metaphor has been complemented by an equally extensive discussion of narratology, theories of narrative, narration, and focalization, in order to understand how a filmic text obtains its cohesion, how it constitutes a 'signifying system'. Already during the heyday of semiotics, Metz attempted to classify, correlate, and order narrative sequences in fiction films (see 'Problems of Denotation in the Fiction Film' (Metz 1974: 108-46)). For the second problem, of how the film addresses and positions the spectator, narratology has proved one of several entry points. In order to describe what is sometimes called the 'enunciative' level as distinct from the narrative level, scholars have, again, borrowed from both structural linguistics (Emile Benveniste) and Freudian psychoanalysis to explain the reality effect that this classical narrative system attains and the phenomenon of identification which puts the spectator, as it were, inside the action. The psychoanalytic approach has proceeded from the assumption that a film necessarily positions us as voyeurs (which turns the film into an exhibitionist), but also that it involves a particular form of suspension of disbelief, or 'disavowal', characterized as typical of fetishism (Octave Mannoni's 'I know, but nonetheless ...'). This approach has been thematized by feminist film criticism and film theory, and is associated with the names of Laura Mulvey, Teresa de Lauretis, Kaja Silverman, Tania Modleski, and LindaWilliams, among many others.

Other scholars, most notably the 'cognitivists', represented by David Bordwell and Edward Branigan, are not convinced by psycho-semiotics. They have instead preferred to examine theories of 'narration', and - borrowing from Gerard Genette - have tried to elaborate a model of filmic narration which dispenses with the notions of enunciation/identification, or voyeurism/fetishism, as well as with the distinction between 'narrative structure' and 'identification', replacing both by the concept of 'narration'. Narration can deal with all these processes, once it is seen as an act of structuration, hierarchizing, and prioritizing, the result of which is both an impression of structure (of the form, the patterns inherent in the work) and an effect of comprehension and identification (subject-effect, whether gender-specific or not). Hence the greater emphasis placed by such scholars on levels of narration and instances or modes of narration (see Chapter 6). In a more common-sense usage, narration might be seen as the process by which the relationships between the impression of'out there' and 'in here' are being negotiated, manipulated, and controlled. One could add that analysis tends to assume - for methodological, and therefore more or less purely pragmatic or procedural reasons - that meaning is located 'out there' in the text. Calling a film a 'text', however, is at first sight a fairly counter-intuitive and arbitrary procedure, because a text is something composed of language, something one reads, while a film is viewed by the eye or experienced by the ear, i.e. it is above all a sensory-perceptual environment. Whether intentional or not, text and analysis refer us to the study of literature, and it is a reminder that what we do in Film Studies is actually historically and methodologically related to the study of literature, and in particular to that tendency within literature which used to be called 'practical criticism' or 'close reading': it regards novels, plays, and poems as freestanding, self-contained works, as objects. In the famous phrase of Cleanth Brooks, citing the English Romantic writer John Keats, a poem is like a 'wellwrought urn' - a self-sufficient object of beauty which you can handle, pick up, turn around and inspect from all sides. That's how analysis sometimes treats a film - cut loose from its conditions of production, cut loose from its creator(s), and also cut loose from its condition and history of reception (i.e. its spectators and audiences). In which case it is probably quite fitting that an urn is the sort of receptacle in which you keep the ashes of your dear departed after you have cremated them - and that's probably what some readers new to film studies may think: analysis is a way of turning a living film into a corpse, and not only a corpse, but a heap of ashes. But analysis is different from interpretation (understood here as a 'hermeneutics of suspicion' - the search for hidden and repressed meanings). The object of close analysis in this sense is not necessarily to arrive at a new or startling interpretation of a film or a sequence of a film, but rather the opposite: to explain what David Bordwell has called the 'excessive obviousness' of a Hollywood film based on a classically constructed film scenario, and what Raymond Bellour has called the interplay of 'the obvious and the code', in a famous essay on a scene from The Big Sleep (Bellour 2000: 69-76). What both writers allude to is the fact that we can all understand a Hollywood film, we can all react to it, we are all experts in judging it. And we can learn how it is put together: we can study its building blocks and structural principles. Indeed, a Hollywood film usually gives us its instructions for use: it comes with its own manual (see Chapter 2). What is of interest is the functioning of film as a system of relations and interdependencies, complex in its means, obvious in its effects. We therefore need to focus attention on the formal, symbolic, narrative, and figurative processes typical of and standardized in the American cinema: a system that, historically speaking, remained extraordinarily stable from about 1920 to at least the 1970s, i.e. for about 50 years, if not much longer. Bordwell, Staiger, and Thompson (Thompson 1999; Bordwell et al. 1985: 367-77), for instance, have frequently affirmed that they think the classical cinema is still intact and in use today, and there is a lot of evidence to prove their point, when one thinks of the extraordinary success of the films by a thoroughly classical contemporary film-maker such as Steven Spielberg. But there are many counter-examples to indicate that contemporary American cinema is postclassical and post-narrative. Rather than conceive of classical cinema as an absolute norm, we need to relativize it, to demonstrate that it exists now asjust one film practice among many.