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MiseenScèneandFilmStyle

PalgraveCloseReadingsinFilmandTelevision

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Titlesinclude

LezCooke

STYLEINBRITISHTELEVISIONDRAMA

LucyDonaldson

TEXTUREINFILM

EdwardGallafent

LETTERSANDLITERACYINHOLLYWOODFILM

AdrianMartin

MISEENSCÈNEANDFILMSTYLE

FromClassicalHollywoodtoNewMediaArt

MISEENSCÈNEANDFILMSTYLE FromClassicalHollywoodtoNewMediaArt PalgraveCloseReadings

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MiseenScèneandFilmStyle

FromClassicalHollywoodtoNewMediaArt

AdrianMartin

MonashUniversity,Australia

MiseenScèneandFilmStyle FromClassicalHollywoodtoNewMediaArt AdrianMartin MonashUniversity,Australia
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Miseenscèneandfilmstyle:fromclassicalHollywoodtonewmediaart/AdrianMartin,Monash University,Australia. pagescm.—(Palgraveclosereadingsinfilmandtelevision.)

ISBN978–1–137–26994–2(hardback)

1.Motionpictures–Productionanddirection.2.Massmedia–Technologicalinnovations.I.Title.

PN1995.9.P7M3352014

791.4302’32—dc23

2014028973

ForCristinaÁlvarezLópez,whoknowsallthemoves

Contents

ListofFigures

Acknowledgements

Prologue:AttheBalletRuse

1 ATermThatMeansEverything,andNothingVerySpecific

2 AestheticEconomies:TheExpressiveandtheExcessive

3 WhatWasMiseenscène?

4 TheCrises(1):SqueezedandStretched

5 TheCrises(2):TheStyleItTakes

6 SonicSpaces

7 ADetourviaReality:SocialMiseenscène

8 Cinema,AudiovisualArtofthe21stCentury

9 TheRiseoftheDispositif

Epilogue:FiveMinutesandFifteenSecondswithRitwikGhatak

Bibliography

Index

ListofFigures

P.1–P.2 Passion(BrianDePalma,2012)

2.1 Vivresavie(Jean-LucGodard,1962)

3.1–3.2 AnatomyofaMurder(OttoPreminger,1959)

3.3–3.4 OnaClearDayYouCanSeeForever(VincenteMinnelli,1970) 3.5–3.11 Lenottibianche(LuchinoVisconti,1957) 4.1–4.4 Martha(RainerWernerFassbinder,1974)

5.1 TheModerns(AlanRudolph,1988)

5.2 Domino(TonyScott,2005)

7.1–7.5 HowGreenWasMyValley(JohnFord,1941)

8.1–8.2 HouseofCards(Season2,Episode3,2014)

8.3

WebTherapy(Season1,Episode1,2011)

9.1

Emerald(ApichatpongWeerasethakul,2007)

E.1–E.11 TheGoldenLine(RitwikGhatak,1965)

Acknowledgements

ThisbookdrawsonmaterialIhavewrittenoveraperiodofmorethan20years.

Ithasundergonevarioustransformationsalongthatpath;everythingrecycled hasbeenextensivelyrewrittenandrevisedhere,butIthanktheoriginaleditors andpublishersofthetexts. I road-tested some of the ideas in this book before audiences at Monash University, Goethe-Universität, La Trobe University, Reading University, Bauhaus-Universität Weimar, Adelaide International arts festival, Jeonju International Film Festival, University of Otago, University of Wisconsin- MilwaukeeandtheAustralianScreenDirectorsAssociation.Thewriting-upwas finishedinthecongenialatmosphereoftheFilm,MediaandTheatreStudies department,Goethe-Universität,Frankfurt,whereIwasDistinguishedVisiting

Professorduring2013–2015;thankstoVinzenzHedigerandthewholeteam

there.IamindebtedtoRobertNelson,supervisorofmyPhDTowardaSynthetic

AnalysisofFilmStyle(MonashUniversity,2006),fromwhichIhavealsodrawn

andrevisedmaterialforthisbook.Myheartfeltgratitude,fordiverseformsof practical assistance, to Cristina Álvarez López, Girish Shambu, Sarinah Masukor,AnnaDzenisandAndreyWalkling,MiguelGomesandLuísUrbano. AllquotationsfromtextsthatappearintheBibliographyundertheiroriginal FrenchorSpanishtitlesaremyowntranslations.Toindicatethediverseways thatthetermmiseenscènehasbeenrenderedinEnglishlanguageterritories,I haveretaineditsvariantforms(mise-en-scène,mise-en-scène,mise-en-scene, etc.)insidequotations,whilerespectingtheFrenchusageinmyowntext. Research for this project was funded by the Australian Research Council

2010–2012throughMonashUniversityonthetopicof‘BetweenFilmandArt:

AnInternationalStudyofIntermedialCinema’.

Prologue:AttheBalletRuse

Establishingshot:theexteriorofatheatre.ThemusicofDebussybeginsonthe soundtrack for the sake of a smooth transition to inside the hall: the ballet Afternoon of a Faun, choreographed by Jerome Robbins, is beginning, and Isabelle(NoomiRapace)issittingexpectantlyintheaudience.Lighthitsthe stageandatransparentscreenrisestorevealamaledancer(IbrahimÖyküÖnal) lyingstillonthefloor.ToemphasiseIsabelle’sactofspectatorship,thecamera startsfromapositionbehindherhead,racksfocusfromhertothestage,then slowlymovespasther,towardthespectacle. Themusiccontinues–asdoestheforward-trackingcameramovement–but nowweareelsewhere;thesingularscenehasbecomeasequence,knitfrom different,simultaneousactionsinseveralplaces.Dirk(PaulAnderson)stumbles, drunkandobnoxious,intotheendofadinnerpartyheldbyhissometimelover, Christine(RachelMcAdams);sherejectshisfumblingadvances.Mostofthis interplaybetweenthemisplayedoutinone,unbrokenshotalongthegarden path at the side of Christine’s ultra-modern apartment – the sound of their predictableargumenteventuallyfadedoutinfavourofDebussy. Butnowsomethingformallystartlingliterallyentersthepicture:anextreme close-up of Isabelle’s eyes, staring straight ahead, slowly ‘shoves out’, in a sidewaysmotion,theimageofDirkandChristinewalkingandarguing–until

wearriveata50/50,split-screenarrangement(FigureP.1)

Ontheleft-handscreen,wewitnessaclassicalalternationofshotandreverse shot:Isabelle’sgaze,andtheballetinprogress–aperformanceinwhichthe dancers(PolinaSemionovahasalsojoinedthestage)look,forthemostpart, directlyintothecamera(orattheirtheatreaudience),evenwheninthethroesof anintenseclinch–theideaofRobbins’choreographybeingthattheyarelooking into a rehearsal mirror. 1 On the right-hand screen, the long take continues (ChristinesendingDirkoutintothestreet,backhome)untilthetwo-minute mark,whenanothershot/reverseshotvolleybegins:Christinefindsanunsigned note stuck to her front door, instructing her to shower and prepare for

whichisjustthesortofsurprise,game-playing,sexualassignationwe

know(fromearlierinthestory)thatshelikes.

Nowwearewitnessing,acrossthetwoscreens,amixtureofrhythmsand

bed

temporalstructures:astheballetkeepsplayingoutinthecontinuityofrealtime ontheleft(withthefilmcarefullydisguisingitscompressionoftheoriginal choreography), time leaps forward in ellipses on the right: Dirk drives off, basheshiscarintoaroadsign,andreturnstotheapartment;whileChristine followshermysteriouspartner’sinstructions.Therearerhymes,orechoes,from onesideofthescreentotheother:thedancingwoman’samorousecstasyis matchedbyChristine’ssensualelationundertheshower.Whentheclose-up imageofIsabelle’s eyesreturnsfor thethirdtime, itcompletesthe shoving gesturebeganearlier,takingovertheentirescreen,asdothecounter-shotsofthe stage.Thereversealsohappens:Christine’sscreenshovesoutIsabelle’s,inwhat couldalmostbeavisualpunontheirvolatilepowerdynamicsthroughoutthe narrative. Thedecisivebreakinthesequenceoccurswhen,afteralong,mysterious, prowlingSteadicamPOV(pointofview)movementdiscoversChristine,the split-screen aligns two similar medium close-ups: female dancer on the left, Christine with her mysterious partner’s hand caressing her face on the right

(FigureP.2).Suddenly,thereisaquick,full-framezoomintoamaskedface

(DebussyabruptlyreplacedbyPsycho-stylescreechingstrings),andthenthe

gruesomespectacleofaknifeslashingChristine’sthroat,splashingbloodonthe

cameralens–quicklyfollowedbyanothershockcuttothesubsequentscene:

Isabellewakingup,frightened,inbed.Didshedreamwhatwehavejustseen? Thissixandthree-quarterminutesequenceisthecentral,virtuososet-pieceof

BrianDePalma’sPassion(2012).Howfarcouldwegetwithanalysingitifwe

usedthetime-honouredtoolsofmiseenscèneanalysis–putsimply,looking closely at the individual images, their composition, content and staging? Certainly,wecouldisolatemanygermaneelements:themovementofbodies (DePalmastresseshisdebttotheartofchoreography)andofthecamera;the useofdécor(whiteandminimalonbothhalvesorzonesofthescreen),lighting, colour;theunderliningofspecificposturesandgesturesintheperformances Butsuchobservationswouldneedtobeincorporated,soonerorlater,intotwo, overarchingaspectsofthesequence.First,thefactthatitusesasplit,dualscreen –awayofinterrelatingtwodistinctsceneswithoutrecoursetocross-cutting,

exceptforthosemomentswhenDePalmachooses,forimpact,aneditinfull-

screenformat.Andsecond,moresignificantlyfortheaimsofthisparticular

film,thefactthattheentiresequenceexistsforthesakeofagiganticruse,atrick

shamelesslyplayedonitsspectator:eventhoughIsabelleisontheleft-hand

screen,andeventhoughtheshot/reverseshotsyntax‘tells’usthatsheispresent

inthetheatreaudiencethroughouttheballet,therehasinfactbeenasubmerged

ellipsisbetweentheshotofhersittinginthecrowdandhereventuallocation–

whichis,aswewilllearnlater,preciselyinsidetheright-handscreen,waiting

andreadytomurderChristine.

andreadytomurderChristine. FiguresP.1–P.2 Passion (BrianDePalma,2012)

FiguresP.1–P.2 Passion(BrianDePalma,2012)

WhileDePalmahasbeenexploringsplit-screentechniquessinceDionysusin

69(1970)–thedocumentationofawild,experimental,theatricaleventwhich

showsboththeperformanceanditsaudiencesimultaneously–andeventhough

his first use of it within the mystery-thriller genre came as early as Sisters

(1973),Passion’svigorousdeploymentofthedevicecannotbutmakeusthink

ofmuchmultimedia,installationartwithingalleryspacestoday,inthe21st

century.DePalmaprovidesthe‘essentialcinema’–purecinemaHitchcock-

style,hewouldsay–whichcontemporary,digitalartabstractsfurther:aconstant playonoff-screenspaces,onthedifferentkindsoflooking(characterslookat each other and into the camera), and on the polyphonic interplay between multiplescreens,spatialisedacrossthewallsorconstructedzonesofagallery. Wecanfindthiskindofspatialisedcinemaeverywhereatpresent,inelaborate installationsbyChantalAkerman,IsaacJulien, AgnèsVarda,Harun Farocki

(1944–2014)

Aword–nowapopularword–forsuchartworksisdispositif:anapparatus,

arrangementorset-upofinterrelatedpiecesorelements.Passion,initsvery21st

centuryway,offersus,inthisset-piece,aversionofagallery-likeinstallation, butbroughtbackintocinemaandco-ordinatedonasinglescreen:agamewith multipleimagesandsoundtracks,premisedonthepulling-apartandexhibiting of a certain, recognisably Hitchcockian syntax of gazes, objects, camera movementsandsoon.But–tostartwithmyconclusion–hasnotthecinema alwaysbeen,insomecrucialsenses,adispositif?Hasitnotalwaysbeenagame withamultiplicityofspaces,looksandsounds?Hasitnotalwaysbeenthesum –or,rather,theface-off–betweenthedifferentmediathatcompriseit:theatre, novel,radio,music,painting,architecture?DePalmatodayrestorestohitherto smooth,generic,cinematicfiction(as,infact,hehasalwaysdone)someofthe evidentformalfragmentation,thetensionbetweendisplayedpartsandlevels, thatweexperienceinmodernistandpostmodernistartworks. Yet,forallitsdazzling,virtuosicbrio,IbelievethatwhatDePalmaachieves inPassion(andinhisotherbestwork)isstillworthdescribingasmiseenscène –anewkindofmiseenscène,amiseenscènebeyondthesumofoperationswe haveconventionallyregardedasgatheringundertherubricofthisterm.Miseen scèneis,inmyopinionandexperience,stillaproductivewaytoapproachthe explorationofstyle,oraestheticform,incinema–andIamfarfrombeingthe onlycritictodaywhoistryingtoholdontoandredefinetheterm,despiteits conceptuallimitationsorhistoricbaggage. ButthespectacleofPassionpromptsaquestion:didwecollectivelytakea wrongturninfilmstudiesbygraspingtheworkofmiseenscèneorstylein cinemaasamatter–atleast,inthefirstinstance–ofwholenessandfluidity,of organiccoherenceandsingularfictionalworlds,ofacertain‘transparency’or invisibility?Andwhatwoulditmean,now,toshiftgearsandretraceoursteps overthegroundofmiseenscène,tryingtoreconfigureitsclassicmovesina newanddifferentway?Thatisthecentralaimofmybook. Talking mise en scène is also a matter, for criticism and pedagogy, of perspective–ofwhichevertradition,ornation,orintellectualhistoryyouhappen toparticipatein,oridentifywith.Manycentresoffilmculturearoundtheworld areoverlyfixatedonthefamousexampleofCahiersducinémainPariswhich,

inthe1950s,providedonemajororientationfortheexplorationandcelebration

ofmiseenscène.ButIwasraised,asitwere,withaparticular,Britishtradition orlooseschoolofstylisticanalysisfirmlyinmymindasanidea–eventhoughI wasateenagergrowingupinsuburbanMelbourne,Australia,greedilyreading the bound volumes of film magazines in my local library. This tradition is

associatedwithtoweringfiguressuchasV.F.Perkins,AndrewBritton(1952–

1994), Deborah Thomas and Robin Wood (1931–2009), and magazine publicationslikeMovie(UK)and,later,CineAction(Canada).AndwhatIcame tocategoriseasthisexpressiveschoolofcriticalanalysisfounditscounterparts elsewhere:insomeofthefinestcriticsatPositifmagazineinFrance,orinthe

workofTomRyan,myteacherinlate1970sAustralia.

Yet,wedowelltoremindourselves–ortodiscoverforthefirsttime–that miseenscènedidnotalwaysmeanthesamethingtothosepeoplearoundthe worldwhousedtheterm,evensimultaneously,eventochampionthesamefilms

andfilmmakers.Ittooksometimeformetorealisethat,fromthe1950stothe

1970s, what mise en scène meant to Farocki, Frieda Grafe (1934–2002) or HelmutFärberatFilmkritikmagazineinGermanywasnotalwayscompatible withwhatitmeanttoEdgardoCozarinskyinArgentina,toJoséLuisGuarner

(1937–1993)inSpain,toDirkLauwaertinBelgium,toShigehikoHasumiin

JapanortoGuillermoCabreraInfante(1929–2005)inCuba–ortotheregularly

changingcrewatCahierswhich,afterthe1950s,arrivedatseveral,successive,

radicallyalterednotionsoftheconcept,asLuizCarlosOliveiraJrhasshownin hisimportantbookAMiseenScènenoCinema–doClássicoaoCinemade

Fluxo(2013).

So, when the globe of film culture at last opened to me in this way, I discoveredthatmiseenscènewasnotthesimple,expressivetooloffilmmaking that I had once taken it to be. It became plenty of other things as well, in different times and places, for different people – including the sometimes vociferouscritiqueorrejectionofit.Thereisahistory,largelywritten,toallthis mise en scène multiplicity. And it is a history that has never stopped metamorphosingitself. Therefore,anotheraimofthisbookistogive(atleast,withinthelimitofthe languages I can access) a sense of the history and diversity of traditions in internationalfilmcriticism,asithasaddressedmattersofstyleincinema.And myconvictionconcerningtheneedtotakethistypeofinclusiveviewnodoubt reflectsmyownplaceofculturalorigin:Australia,acountryusually–atleast,

untiltheInternetageatthedawnofthe21stcentury–leftofftheglobal(and

especiallyAnglo-European)mapoffilmcriticism’sachievements.Butitisthe case that my sense of what is possible in film analysis and criticism, as it evolvedthroughoutmyadultlife,owesagreatdealtotutelaryfiguresinmy local,Australianscene–brilliantwriters,teachers,speakersandessayistssuch asJohnFlaus,MeaghanMorris,EdwardColless,LesleyStern,RossGibson, SylviaLawson,PhilipBrophyandBillRoutt.Likeeverysmallcinephilenation, Australiahasitsnamesandworksthatnowneedtobeinsertedintoaglobal

history. WhatdidIlearn,orimbibe,fromthisheadycocktailofinfluencesbothlocal andexotic?Perhapsitboilsdowntothisprincipleintuitionorsensibility:that beforeitconjuresaworld,conveysastoryorelaboratesatheme,whatwethink ofasmiseenscène,initsprimarysenseandeffect,showsussomething;itisa meansofdisplay.IamnogreatfanoftheworksofPeterGreenaway(eitherin film,artordiscourse),buthedidonceaskagood,provocativequestionalong

theselines:‘Isn’tcinemaanexhibition?’(Greenaway,1995,p.24)Inthis,Iam

followingupthehunchofMichelMourletofPrésenceducinémamagazine,in

theessaysfirstcollectedinhis1965bookSurunartignoré(‘onanignoredart’,

later retitled in 1987 as ‘Mise en scène as language’) – who, as Geneviève Puertaspointsout,insistedonthepresenceofthescreen,thesiteonwhich thingsareseen,andfromwhichthingsareheard,ratherthantheabstract‘ideas’

or‘encryptedmessagesofasomehowPlatonicthematic’that,bythelate1950s,

characterisedacertainstrandoffilmcriticisminCahiers.‘Itisonthisscreen,

objectoffascination,thateverythingmusthappen’(Puertas,1987,p.20).

Itsometimeshelps(andsometimeshinders)torecalltheoriginsofthetermin theatre:onstage,miseenscèneisabout,inthefirstplace,arrangingfiguresina pleasing or expedient way, revealing them or concealing them in the set, ‘blocking’theactionfortheeyesintheaudience.EliaKazan,whenlecturingon

his directing for theatre, often told an amusing anecdote about an actor he instructedtopacefromonesideofthestagetotheotherduringaparticular

passageinaplay;whenthepuzzledactorasked‘why?’,Kazansuppliedano-

nonsenseexplanation:‘Itgetscoldontheleft,soyoumovetotherightwhere it’swarmer.Butthenitgettoowarm,soyoumoveleftagain.Andsoon’.Kazan simplywanted–needed,throughwhateverintuitivesenseinforminghiscraft andart–tohavethatactoronthemovethroughoutthatscene.Ifprobedasto anydeeperpurpose,Kazanmightwellhaverespondedalongthelinesofwhat DePalmaregularlytrotsouttointerviewers–‘Ilikefilmingbeautifulwomenin motion’–orwhatVincenteMinnellioncenotoriouslyrepliedtotheeditorsof Movie magazine about an ostentatious camera movement in his The Four

HorsemenoftheApocalypse(1962):

Whydoesthecameragoupnow?

Becausehe’swatchingthesky.

Cameron(1972,p.12)

Itisinstructive,today,tobrieflyreturntoMovieco-editorIanCameron(1937–

2010)andhisdefenceofthepublicationofthisexchangeintheearly1960s,

whichsomanypeopleinthejournalisticfilmworldofthetimefoundobvious and ridiculous – a sure sign of all that was wrong and pretentious in the campaign for serious, intellectual cinema criticism. Cameron offered four possible justifications for the camera craning up as the character played by GlennFordcriesoverthedeadmaninhisarms.Thereisanemotionalaspect (theactorisrenderedsmallandcoweringintheframe);asymboliclevel(the cameralooksdowninmoraljudgment);atransitionalorlinkingfunction(the next shot shows those mythic Horsemen in the sky); and a matter of orchestration,inthesensethatthisshotadoptsandextendsthestyleofother cameramovementsinthefilm. Thetwinningofacameramovementwithanactor’sgestureisthuspartand parcelofanentireapproach,onMinnelli’spart,tofilmstyle,andtothecraftof pleasurable, effective stylisation. The director’s approach is, on inspection, logicalandcoherent–‘neitherinevitablenorfoolish’,inCameron’sconcluding

wordsontheissue(Cameron,1972,p.12).Ittakesinthefullgamutfrom

practicalpurposes(toclearlypositionandviewanactor’sexpression)tothose weassociatewithinterpretation,suchassymbolismanddramaticmetaphor.Itis worthkeepingalltheseoptionsandlevels–andrememberingtopayasmuch attentiontonuts-and-boltscraftastowhatmomentsinfilmcanmean–aswe proceedthroughareconsiderationofthelegacyofmiseenscène. So,wecoulddefineafilmdirectorasthepersonwho–atoneleveloftheir profession–prompts,arranges,picturesandcaptures(inthecamera)acertain typeofspectacle,someeventgreatorsmall.Thenheorshecontinuestodeal withthemomentcaptured–findingtherightplace,balanceandtoneforit–at allsubsequentlevelsofproduction(editing,grading,scoring,soundmixingand soon).Or,touseamoreidiomaticterminologyproposedbytheAmericanfilm critic/painter Manny Farber (1917–2008) and his French-born, filmmaker colleagueJean-PierreGorin:directorsareconstantly manœuvringthingsinto place(aprocessthatbeginswithscripting),inordertomakethingshappen beforethecamera;andthentheymustworkthatmaterialtoextractitsmaximum

use-valuewithinthefilmasacompletedwhole(Gorin,2004,p.36).

Ofcourse,ascriticsorstudentsofcinema,wearenotobligedtostopatthat

immediate,surfacelevel–thegestures,themoves,therhythms,thecolours–of

whatconstitutesanyfilmicmiseenscène.Bythesametoken,weshouldnot

forgetit,either.Weshouldbecarefulnottodepart,toobrusquely,forthe‘higher

orderabstractions’thatweregularlytranslatetheevidenceofoursensesinto:

meanings,symbols,metaphors,allegories,directorialintentions,‘worldviews’.

WhenthenowprematurelyretiredHungariandirectorBélaTarrisaskedby

audiencemembersafterascreeningofoneofhisfilms,suchastheeight-hour Sátántangó (1994) – and he is always asked – ‘what did the cat/storm/bird/bottle/whatever mean?’, he tends to roar back: ‘There is no symbolism,noallegory,nometaphor!Thereisjustwhatyouseeandhearon screen!’TheFrenchmasterRobertBressonputitalittlemoremildly,butnoless

concretely,in1966:‘Evenwhenonemakesthe[voice-over]commentaryofa

film,thiscommentaryisseen,felt,atfirstasarhythm.Thenitisacolour(itcan becoldorwarm);thenithasameaning.Butthemeaningarriveslast’(Bresson,

1998,p.462).Partoftheargumentofthisbookisapleatoalwaysattendclosely

andfull-bloodedlytothistypeofmaterialityincinema–amaterialitythatworks on the double register of textuality (concrete properties of the constructed, composedwork)andthespectator’semotions(theaffectsthatfilmscreateinus, theexperienceswehaveofthem). In a sense, this book is about two parallel, overlapping but never exactly aligninghistories,bothofwhich(confusingly)areregularlyconflatedunderthe same,generalnameofmiseenscène.Thereis miseenscène as the global history–stilltobefully,comprehensivelywritten–ofhowfilmmakersmade theirfilms,whatstructuresandeffectsofstyletheycreatedintheirwork;this couldbecalledahistoryofformsincinema.Thenthereismiseenscèneasthe history(again,global)ofwhatcritics,theoristsandcommentatorshavesaid, writtenandthoughtintheirquesttodefineandusetoolstounderstandthefilms theysee,study,analyseandtransmittoothers.Weoftenliketoassumethatthese twohistoriesareone,thattheyproceedinlocksteptogether:cinemamovesand changes,andcritical/analyticallanguagegoeswiththatflow.Sometimes,thisis indeedthecase–althoughperhapswewillnotgraspthefactthatsomecritic, toiling somewhere in the world, ‘nailed’a significant moment of change in

cinema,untilyearslater.Andsuchadécalage–JacquesRancière(2012)would

callitaninevitablebutenablinggap–betweencinemaandthewritingabout

cinemaisparforthecourse.Sometimesouranalyticaltoolsarestuckinthepast

whilethecinemahasmarchedfarbeyondus;atothertimesthelatest,new-

fangled tools happen to prove their worth when suddenly levering open a forgottenchestoffilmhistoryfromlongago,neverproperlyattendedto. Thisbookgivesequalweighttothesedualhistoriesoffilmandcriticism–

becausetheideaofmiseenscène,ifitisanything,istheattempttobuilda bridgeacrossthegapbetweenthem,tomarrythemovementofacriticalthought

withthevividdetailsofthose(tousethetitleofGilbertoPerez’s1998book)

‘materialghosts’wecallfilms.

Note

1.Intriguingly,inthe1950stelevisionversionofthisballet(viewableonYouTube)whichDePalma

himselfconsulted,thedirectorclearlydoeseverythingtoavoidhavingthedancerslookdirectlyintothe

camera/mirror:theyarefilmedfromtheside,fromslightlyabove,anywayexceptfrontally.Sincethe

internationalreleaseofPassion,therehaveappearedmanycontemporarystagingsofthisdanceon

YouTube,somerecordedfromsimultaneous,multiplecameras;butnonethatIhaveseenuseDePalma’s

bold,frontal–andperfectlylogical–into-the-lenstechnique.

1

ATermThatMeansEverything,andNothing

VerySpecific

Whenitcomestothehallowed,foundationaltermsthatshapethefieldoffilm studies–wordslikemontageorcinephiliaorauteurorgenre,wordsthathave launchedamillionbooksandarticles–Ihavecometobelieveitiswisetotake

heedofthewarningofPaulWillemen(1944–2012),asvoicedinthe1990s

(Willemen,1994,p.226).Forhim,suchcherishedwordshaverarelydefined

anythingpreciseincinema;rather,theymarkaconfusion,afumblingattemptto pinpointsomemurkyconfluenceofwildlydiversefactors.Weneedsuchterms, heagreed,butweshouldnotbelieveortrustinthemtoofervently.Rather,they presentasmokescreen(or,inthepsychoanalytictermsusedbyWillemen,a ‘neurotic knot’ or displacement): for some commentators, tantalising as a mysterythatcanpromptfurtherworkintotheirmeaningandorigin;or,forthose whoobedientlytrotthemoutasrotelearning,simplyasphyxiating.Hasanyone ever involved in teaching film not experienced, at some time or other, that horrible,crunchingsensationwhen,onceastrictdefinitionofsomethinghas beenutteredintheclassroom–nomatterhowprovisionally,nomatterhow quicklyfreightedwithnumerousqualifications–youknowthat,allthesame, youhavejusthelpedtofurtherperpetuatethatsmokescreenoffauxcertainty? Willemen,asithappens,wasnottoofondoftheconceptorbuzzwordofmise enscène,either–whenhedidrefertoit(whichwasnotoften),itwasprefixed withawithering‘so-called’–implyingthatitwaseitherabadtermforthe specificthingincinemaitwastryingtodescribe,orthatwhatitwastryingto describewasamuchvasterphenomenonthananythingcountenancedbythe term.Morerecently,JacquesRancièrehasrespectfullybutcategoricallydefined theconceptofmiseenscèneasa‘coarsephenomenology’.Speakingprimarily ofcinephiliaandcinephiles–themadlove(andlovers)ofthefilmicmedium– Rancièredeclares:

[Cinephilia]assertedthatcinema’sgreatnessdidnotlieinthemetaphysical loftinessofitssubjectmatternorinthevisibilityofitsplasticeffects,butin theimperceptibledifferenceinthewayitputstraditionalstoriesandemotions intoimages.Cinephilesnamedthisdifferencemise-en-scènewithoutreally knowingwhatitmeant.[ ]Cinephiliaexplainsitslovesonlybyrelyingona rather coarse phenomenology of mise-en-scène as the establishment of a

‘relationwiththeworld’.(Rancière,2012)

TheaccusationsofWillemenandRancière–ardentcinephilesboth,letitbesaid

–havemorethanalittletruthtothem.Butmiseenscène,itseemstome,is

worthperseveringwith–notleastbecauseitalreadyconstitutesahistoricobject,

abodyofexploratorythoughtintocinemathatcanbeproductivelyrevisited

today.Evenbetter,asIhopetoshow,itcanstillbeusedtoanimatemuch-needed

explorationsintocinema’smateriality.

So,whatismiseenscèneexactly–orinexactly?Anyattempttoarriveata

workabledefinitionneedstogodownseveraldifferent,discursivepaths.

Acleverfilmcritic

Itissometimesusefultostartaninvestigationintothemeaningofawordor term by heading right out into the big, wide, vulgar world – far from the academiccloisterswherewedebatefinedistinctionsandmicro-histories.Mise enscèneisnotaswellknownorpopularisedatermasauteurorgenreoreven

montage;nonetheless,itgetsaround.Intheearly1990s,Iconductedaninformal

survey of occurrences of the term in mainstream media reporting of film, televisionandshowbusiness.Manymediajournalists,afterall,harbourasliver ofacademicfilmstudiestrainingintheirdarkpast–and,ifso,theyliketoboth boastaboutitanddisownitinthesame,dazzlingmanoeuvre.

MattGroening,brilliantcreatorofTheSimpsons,pennedacomicstripin1985

titled‘HowtoBeaCleverFilmCritic’aspartofhisLifeinHellseries(1977–

2012);itcontainsachallenge‘ForAdvancedCleverFilmCriticsOnly!’,which

is:‘Canyouusemise-en-scèneinareviewthatanyonewillfinishreading?’.The AmericancelebritygossipmagazineSpymountedanexposéofthewickedways ofJerryLewis(whose‘sloppy,unevenfilmmaking’,weareauthoritativelytold, wasconfusedbysilly,Frenchcriticswith‘Godardianantiformalism’–strong stuffforSpyreaders),hunteddownthosefew,specialindividuals(including HarryShearerfromTheSimpsons)whohadseenLewis’unreleasedTheDaythe

ClownCriedfromtheearly1970s,anddrollyenquired:‘Themise-en-scènewas

problematic?’(Handy,1992,p.45).Spylongagowentthewayofthedinosaur,

butanotherglossyAmericanshowbizmagazine,Premiere,isstillwithustoday, mainlyinonlineform;atypicalopinionpiecefromthoseyearsbegan:‘Film theorists endlessly debate the influence of Renoiresque mise-en-scèneversus

Eisensteinianmontage.Wesay:Getalife!’(Gelman-Waxner,1991,p.61).

Tothosemerryjournalistsandentertainers,miseenscèneisapretentiousterm

– concerned with something at best secondary but largely inessential to the filmmakingprocess.Itwouldseem,todrawoutthespiritoftheseparodies,that style–which,inthebroadestsense,meansthewaysinwhichthenarrative material of a film is treated, shaped and delivered to the viewer – is an afterthoughtincinema,forthedelectationofonlythemostesotericspecialists.(I canstillhearringinginmyears,fromtwodecadesago,thevoiceofanewspaper sub-editorwhoansweredmyqueryaboutwhyhehadcutmyfinelywrought paragraph on the camera angles in Jane Campion with the immortal words:

‘Cameraangles?Whogivesadamnaboutcameraangles?’).Indeed,comments suchasthesetakeusdirectlybacktotheerawhencriticsfirstfeltcompelledto coin(orappropriate)andfightforthetermmiseenscène. Withinthepopularmedia,thismiseenscènependulumcanalsoswingtothe other extreme. Staying within my early 1990s survey, I recall hearing the Australian reviewer Peter Castaldi, reporting for radio on the Cannes Film Festival screening of Baz Luhrmann’s Strictly Ballroom (1992), make the followingclaim:‘IthaswhattheFrenchcallmiseenscène,whichisdirection– withaspecialtouch’.Thiseffectivelyflipsthepopularassumptionthatmiseen scèneisessentiallyaboutornamentationorsheerdecoration–thespecialtouch ofcolour,fineryorglamouraddedtoasceneorproject–intoapositiverather thannegativevaluation:Luhrmanniscertainlyawell-chosenmanforthatjob,as

hehasprovedinallhissubsequentfilms,suchasMoulinRouge!(2001)andThe

GreatGatsby(2013).

Leavingaside,forthemoment,thatenigmaticandineffable‘touch’,notethe directequationthatCastaldicasuallymadeonair:miseenscèneisdirection, directionismiseenscène.InamorerecentjournalisticquipconcerningLena

Dunham’sTVseriesGirls(2012–),AustralianhumouristHelenRazer(2014)

waxes even more absolute: ‘Nudity becomes mise en scène’. Such stark vacillationwithinmediadiscourses–miseenscèneisnothing,oritiseverything

– is echoed all the way up and down the history of film criticism and

theoreticallyinformedanalysis. Soletusreturn,now,nottothetheatricaloriginsofmiseenscèneoritsvery firstmentionsinthegloballiteratureonfilm,buttoaparticularlysignificant

primalsceneofmiseenscènetalk:the1950s.

Stylematters

InEuropeinthe1950s,andintheEnglish-speakingworldintheearly1960s,the

ideaofmiseenscènewasacriticalspearheaddesignedtofightentrenched, impoverished,casualnotionsaboutcinemainheritedfromotherartisticfields, such as theatre and literature. André Bazin (1918–1958) at the head of the

CahiersteaminFrance,AndrewSarris(1928–2012)inFilmCultureandother

USpublications,JoséLuisGuarner(1937–1993)atFilmIdeal in Spain: all foundthemselvesfacedwiththeneedtocombattheideathatafilmisessentially itsscreenplay–theprejudicethatthisis,commonsensically,whereitstheme, structureandmeaningreside–andthattheworkofstyleincinemaisbasically meretechnique,simpledecoration,‘informationdelivery’oratbestanefficient illustrationofpre-setartistry.(Thebattlestillragestodayinmanyindustrial

debates over the director’s ‘possessory credit’as author of a film – a legal triumphvociferouslychallengedbymanyscreenwriters.)Formwassomething ofadirtyword,inthosedays,tomany:ifadirector’stechniquewastooevident, toovisible–iftheornamentationwastooextreme–itwasseenasabetrayalof

andthusan

indulgentformalism. Earlyattemptsbysympatheticcinephile-criticstodefinetheelementsofmise enscènewere,tobeblunt,prettyvague–gesturestowardanaesthetic,rather thanacarefulorpatientinventoryofitscomponentparts.Nowonderthat,inthe

thecontent,inexcessofthedutytotellastorywellandclearly

early1970s,BrianHendersonlabelledmiseenscènethe‘grandundefinedterm’

of film studies (Henderson, 1980, p. 49) – since he was looking back, for

example,toAlexandreAstruc’sreflectionfrom1959,‘Whatismiseenscène?’,

alyricalpiecewhichanswersitstitularquestiononlywiththebroadestandmost suggestive formulations, such as ‘a way of extending states of mind into movementsofthebody’,‘thatmysteriousdistancebetweentheauthorandhis

characters’or‘aparticularwayofneedingtoseeandtoshow’(Astruc,1985,pp.

267–68).

MuchthesamecanbesaidoftheformulationsinMichelMourlet’s1959

manifesto‘OnanIgnoredArt’–writtenbyatodaystillactiveexpertpractitioner

ofbelleslettreswhoeschewsclose,formalanalysisinfavourofa(farfrom dishonourable)visionofcriticismbasedon‘awakeninginthereader,bymeans

ofpoeticcommunication,thefeelingthataworkarousesinus’(Mourlet,1987,

p.21).Thus,forMourlet,theattempttosummarilydefinemiseenscènecalls

forthanotherflurryoffairlyabstractterms,elementsandelevatedemotional

statesunderthetellingsubheading‘EverythingisintheMiseenscène’:

Thecurtainsopen.Thehousegoesdark.Arectangleoflightpresentlyvibrates beforeoureyes.Soonitisinvadedbygesturesandsounds.Hereweare absorbed by that unreal space and time. More or less absorbed. The mysteriousenergywhichsustainswithvaryingfelicitiestheswirlofshadow andlightandtheirfoamofsoundsiscalledmiseenscène.Itisonmiseen scènethatourattentionisset,organisingauniverse,coveringthescreen–

miseenscène,andnothingelse.(qtdinHillier,1985,pp.223–24)

AccordingtoSamRohdie’sretrospectiveaccountin2006oftheriseofstylistic

criticisminthe1950s:

Ingeneral,miseenscènedenotesanewattitudetothecinemaopposedtothe

]Miseen

scène, as used by the Nouvelle Vague critics, referred to a specifically ‘cinematic’ and natural, realistic rendering of emotion and expression conveyed less by dialogue and the script, than by décor, performance, expressionlinkedtotheactor,tohismovementsandgestures,alsotosettings

andtheuseofthecameraandlighting.(Rohdie,2006)

literarycinemaofthe1930sthatturnedscriptsintoimages[

Thereareproblemswiththisformulation,suchastheassertionthat,inNicholas

Ray’sfilms,‘itiswhatyouseeandthewayyouseeit,notwhatissaid,thatis

crucial’–butthemainpointstillholdsgood:stylematters.Itis,infact,crucial

anddecisive,aswellasdeterminingoverourexperiencesasfilmviewersand

listeners.Thechallengetodayisnottogetcaughtintheold,receivedtrapsand

biasesand,accordingly,toexpandoursenseofwhatconstitutesstyleorformin

cinema–includingitsactionuponusasspectators.

Puremiseenscène?

Critics in the 1950s sometimes, no doubt, erred too far in the direction of assertingthatafilmisnotitsscreenplay(orthenovelorplayfromwhichthat screenplayisderived).Acultofpurestylewastheinevitableoutcomeofthis– andmanyargumentativeconvolutionsbasedonspuriousassumptionsaroseto back it up. In 1957, for example, the celebrated Cuban novelist G. Cabrera

InfanteconcludedhisreviewofTeaandSympathy(1956)byVincenteMinnelli

–adirectorofwhoseworkhewasparticularlyfond–byciting‘twotransitions

thatarepoeticinstants’raisingthemselvesfarabovethetheatricalsource(by

RobertAnderson)thatismerely‘assuccessfulasitismediocre’.Hereishis

descriptionofthefirstoftheseinstants:

Thewomanhasattemptedfutilelytoholdbacktheboyfromgoingtohisdate withthewaitressbecausesheknowsthatheisgoingtoprovehismanlinessby destroyinglove.Sheappearsatthewindowandlookstowardsthepatioofthe school,where,throughsomehedgesandtreesandtherain,thereshines,inan inciting and malignant redness, the luminous sign of the café where the waitressworks.Thescenedissolvestoanotherrain-streakedwindowwhere anotherwoman,thewaitress,closestheblindtoinitiate,oncemorealmostin amechanicalcaricature,theactoflovewhichtheconventionsforbidtothe

firstwoman.(CabreraInfante,1991,p.115)

CabreraInfanteconcludes–howaccurately,Iamnotsure–thatsuchmoments are‘ofcourse,notintheplay.Theycouldnothavebeen.Notonlybecausethey areimagesofpurecinema,butbecausetheyprovethatthetruepoetisnamed

Minnelli’(CabreraInfante,1991,p.115).Heassumesthathischosenmoments

aresuperiortoanythingintheoriginalstagematerial(eventhoughhestillneeds recoursetothescriptedplottoevoketheirparticular,poeticpathos)andthat, implicitly,Minnellidevisedandaddedthem.

WithinthedividedfilmculturesceneofParisinthe1950s,wheretheeditors

of Présence du cinéma (including Mourlet, Pierre Rissient and Jacques Lourcelles) tended to a ‘style for style’s sake’position, some critics within Cahiersducinémagropedtowardaworkablecombinationorinterrelationof

styleandsubject.Inthelate1990s,theIranianpoliticaldiplomatandformer

CahierscontributorFereydounHoyveda(1924–2006)fondlylookedbackinhis

websitepostingsonthepolemicsofthattime,amplifying(undertheheading ‘WhatisMiseenscene[sic]?’)whathefirstwroteinaprogrammaticarticleof

1960titled‘Sunspots’:

InourParisiangroupofthe1950sand1960swedeemedthatthe‘thought’of

afilmmakerappearsthroughhis‘mise-en-scene’[sic].Indeedwhatmattersin afilmisthedesirefororder,composition,harmony,theplacingofactorsand objects,thechoiceofsettings,themovementswithintheframe,thecapturing ofagestureoralook;inshort,theintellectualoperationwhichhasputan initialemotionandageneralideatowork.‘Miseen-Scene’[sic]isnothing otherthanthe‘technique’inventedbyeachauthor-directortoexpresstheidea and establish the specific quality of his work. (Hoyveda, 1999; see also

Hoyveda,1986,p.142)

JoséLuisGuarner,inhisno-lessprogrammaticessayof1962,‘Parmenides’

Glasses:SomeReflectionsonCriticismanditsPractice’(2013),foughtmuchthe

same battle against rearguard notions all around him. Influenced by Bazin, Guarnerarguesthatmiseenscène(inSpanish:lapuestaenescena)isnotmere technique,butawayofregarding,ofexpressingandembodyinganattitude towardhumanbeingsandtheirrelationtotheworld.HeoffersanotherVincente Minnelliexample,thistimefromthefamilymelodramaHomefromtheHill

(1960).

Thesceneinvolvesagruffpatriarch,Wade(RobertMitchum),runningverbal ringsaroundAlbert(EverettSloane),alocalcitizenhopingtoslylymarryhis pregnant daughter off to Wade’s son, Theron (George Hamilton) – who, unbeknownst to both discussants, is actually the child’s father. Suitably humiliatedandsentpacking,Albertslinksoutthedoor,downthedrivewayand allthewaytothelargefrontgateoftheWaderesidence.Thefilmintercutshis sadjourneywiththeactionofWadewho,unnoticedbyAlbert,stepsoutontothe porchand–inasurprisinggestureofcivility–turnsonthelightsatthegate,so thatAlbertisnolongerintotaldarkness.Albertwaveshisfarewellthanksto Wadebeforeexiting–andsufferingtheaddedhumiliationofbeingnoticedbya gossip-pronepasser-by.WithoutgoingsofarasCabreraInfanteinclaimingthat thelightsdetail‘couldnothavebeen’inthescript,Guarnernonethelessseizes onthisdialogue-lessgesturebyWadeastheessentialelementofthescene:‘This smallactionisenoughtogiveanextraordinarilyhumandignitytothescene,at the same time revealing the director’s profound respect for his characters’

(Guarner,2013).

ItisintriguingthatGuarner’spost-filmrecalldidnotretainwhatis,forme,an evenmorestrikinginstance,inthisscene,ofwhatcriticsinthe 1950s (and sometimesbeyond)likedtocall‘puremiseenscène’.Afterthelightsgoonand hehaswavedgoodbye,theshamedAlbertdisappears,foramoment,intothe puredarknesscastbytheshadowofthegate’spillar–afineexampleofthetype oftouchthatCabreraInfanteregardedasa‘poeticinstant’. Yetthisinstantisalsoonethatwecouldeasilyconnecttolarger,systematic patterns of meaning in the film involving light and dark, visibility and invisibility,shameandrespectability,powerandimpotence,andsoon.Thiswas thetypeofinterpretivemodefollowedup(sometimesonlyinasketchygesture towardthetypeoffull-scaleanalysisthatcouldbedone,ifonlyonehadthe

time,meansandopportunity)bytheMovieandPositifcriticsinthe1960s.They

wentinsearchofpattern:motifsunfolding,articulatedacrosstheentirelengthof afilm.Thismethod,basedmoreonlogicalstructuresthanthesometimespurely lyrical effusions of the 1950s critics, has been mocked as the ‘contrast and compare’school of critical analysis, faulted for ‘the kind of mundane and myopicdescriptivenessthathasgivencloseanalysissuchabadrunintherecent

past’(Verhoeven,2000)–thusassimilatingittothetypeofdreary,mechanical

literaryinterpretationdutifullytaughttoyoungteenagersindrearyclassrooms. Butthenotionofpatternremainsanindispensabletoolforanyformoffilm analysis.

Thelandmark1965bookHitchcock’sFilmsbyRobinWoodoffered,forits

time, one of the boldest, pioneering illustrations of this approach (Wood

‘revisited’itfora1989edition,againrevisedin2002).Criticsofthisilkwere

inexorablymovingtowardamoreholisticappreciationoftheinterplaybetween screenwritingandmiseenscène–especiallywhenresearchuncoveredthefact (as it did in relation to Nicholas Ray, for example, thanks to Bernard

Eisenschitz’s1993biography)thatthedirector,althoughuncreditedaswriter

(particularlyintheHollywoodsystem),oftenhadacrucialroleinshapingthe

shootingscriptwhetherbeforeorduringproduction.

Howiswhat

Bythe1970s,criticsandscholarsincludingV.F.PerkinsofMovieandGérard

Legrand of Positif had arrived at composing their major, book-length propositionsoncinemaaesthetics–distillingandrefiningtheinsightsgainedin

the criticism practiced, month in and month out, within their respective magazinesandrelatedpublicforums.Facedwiththesharpdissociationbetween formandcontentthatmostjournalists,non-cinephiliccommentatorsandmany

filmgoersassumedascommonsensereality–andalsowiththestyle-for-style’s-

sakeexcessesofthe1950sand1960s–theyfoughtthisculturalcombatinanew

way.Theirmottowas(touseachaptertitlefromPerkins’lucid1972bookFilm

asFilm:UnderstandingandJudgingMovies)howiswhat–andtheirmission wastodemonstrateit,conclusively,incriticalaction.Thiswasalsotheapproach

inAustraliaoftheinfluentialeducationalistJohnC.Murray,authorinthe1960s

andearly1970softwovaluablepamphlets(1972,1974)onfilmandtelevision

pedagogy.

I discuss aspects of Perkins’well-known book in the next chapter; here I wouldliketoemphasise,foranoverlappingbutslightlydifferentperspective,

Cinémanie,Legrand’sremarkable1979tomeonfilmaesthetics–longout-of-

printandignoredbyvirtuallyallcontemporarycommentators.Legrand(1927–

1999),aremarkablefigure,wasinvolvedwithPositifmagazinefor47yearsasa

monthlycontributorandmemberofitseditorialboard;hewas,aswell,aclose

associateofandcollaboratorwithAndréBretonintheSurrealistmovement,an

accomplishedpoet,arthistorian,andaphilosopherbyprofession.Hewasalso–

andthisisalltoorareintheofteninsularmilieuofFrenchintellectualculture–a

diligent reader of English-language criticism; his book contains several respectfulnodstowardFilmasFilmspecifically. ForLegrand–as,simultaneouslyinGermany,forFriedaGrafe–cinema’s relation to the pictorial arts (especially painting) and architecture are foregroundedinthewayheviews,graspsandanalysesafilm;hisiconological inspiration,inthisregard,derivesessentiallyfromtheworkinarthistoryby Erwin Panofsky (1983). Strong sequences in film, for him, are less discrete scenesthanphysicalevents,inwhichadirectorseizesaspaceorplace(whether nominallyrealorwhollyinvented),animatesitwithactionandinvestsitwith intensityandmeaningthroughdeployingalltheexpressiveresourcesoffilm (resourcesthatheisatpainstoenumerate).Theselocated,physicalevents– addinguptothetotalsequenceofscenesthatcompriseafilm–thenenterinto

various sorts of poetic correspondence: uncanny similarity, ironic inversion, magicalreinvention,parodicrecall,andsoon.

Equallywaryofboththe‘montagecult’issuingfromSergeiEisenstein(1898–

1948)andhisepigones,andofBazin’s(over)emphasisonthelongtake(orwhat

BarrettHodsdon[1992]laterreformulatedas‘openimagestylistics’),Legrand

developsanapproachthatisatoncedialecticalandholistic.Hebroadlyagrees with Perkins’ view that, in narrative cinema, ‘to design an effect involves devisingthemeanstomakeitcrediblebylocatingitwithinthefilm’sworld

]themaintenanceofcredibilityactsasanecessarydiscipline’(Perkins,

1972,pp.96–97).Buthealsoemphasisesamoreprimarylevelofwhatcouldbe

called the cinematic signifier, a concept I explore further in the following chapter.

AlthoughLegrandinsiststhat‘thenarrativenatureoffilmnowhereentersinto

direct(apriori)conflictwithitsplasticnature’(p.76),hisgroundinginthe

visualityoftheiconologicalandiconographicleadshimtoanintensevaluation

of this plastic aspect – that is, the (in the first place) purely aesthetic or spectacularattributesoffilm–whichdistinguisheshimfromthecentralfocuson afilm’sdramaticvaluescharacteristicofPerkins,Woodandmanyothersintheir

wake.Legranddrawsuponafilm-philosophysourcesofarunminedinEnglish-

languagecultures:theItalianphilosopherGuidoCalogero,whowroteinhis

[

1947Lezionidifilosofia(‘PhilosophyLessons’)that:

Inthecinematograph,thesubstantialfiguration,whichisasemantic,utilises

]Theactoriscalleduponto

exhaust, thanks to the external technique of his living person, the entire

asemanticvisionoftheauthor[

novel,butthefilmisanasemanticnarrative,atextureoftableauxthatface

]Themasspublicfollowsafilmlikea

meansotherthanthoseofliterarysemanticity[

]Thedirectorworkstoplaceinmovementand

harmonisethefiguresandgesturesofhisactors,exactlyasapainterworksat moving and arranging, according to his whims, the living images of his

painting.(qtdinLegrand,1979,pp.76–77)

frontandreflectlife[

ForLegrand,theshotisthecrucialunitoffilmstylistics–withtheediting between shots playing a subtle, transitional, non-determining, often purely technical role. Where the shot allows that particular unfolding of screen spectaclewhichis,forhim,theessenceofcinema–notetheresonanceherewith the Présence du cinéma writers, who would broadly agree with Legrand’s characterisation of the filmic medium as a ‘text without language’ or a ‘spectacle-text’ – obvious editing effects strike him as too external to the represented action, too obviously manipulative of it and too crude in their stylisticaction.Withoutfetishisingthelongtakeperse,Legrandaccordsamajor stylisticroletothemobilecamera’sprogressivereframingsofwhateversceneit films–indeed,forhim,itisessentiallyreframingthatarticulatesconnections betweenelementsandcreatesthepossibilityofcomparingdifferentpictorial arrangementsorcompositions(thuscreatingmultipleimagesor‘shots’,loosely defined,withinasingleshot). Legrandisconcernedtoestablishaworkableapproachtoanalysingstylein cinema,andacategorisationofthebasic,differentstyles(whichhenominatesas closed,openandcomposite).Hisangleofattackhereisunusualanddisarming. Unlikesomanyanalystspastandpresent,hedoesnotproceed,inthefirstplace, viaacountingorbreakdownofshotsandangles;rather,heattemptstoseizethe simultaneousinterplayofthree,decisivelevels.Theseare:themultiplerhythms ofafilm(multiplebecausetheyareformedfromthesimultaneousinteractionof shot duration, the rhythm of the dramatic action, and the ‘more or less discontinuousrhythmofexchangesoflooks,gestures,relationsoftheactorwith theobjectsaroundhim’);thepictorialframingsandtheircontent;andlastlythe surface elements that include, for him, the actors’ performances and their ‘photogenic’quality,thevisualaspectsofthecinematography,andthefilm’s rangeofcolours(inwhichheincludestheshadingsofblack-and-white). ThemostdetailedexampleofstylisticanalysisofferedinCinémanieconcerns asequencefromafilmtodaylittleknownoutsideItaly(andpossiblynotvery much inside it, either): Luigi Comencini’s Infanzia, vocazione e prime esperienzediGiacomoCasanovaVeneziano(akaCasanova:HisYouthfulYears,

1969).LegranddescribesasceneinwhichyoungCasanova(LeonardWhiting)

plays a violin serenade, flanked by adoring women at his feet; after the breakdownofthisinitialtableauintocloser,detailshots,an‘admirablecamera

movement’ascendstoframe,inthedistance,thecharacterofAngela(Cristina

Comencini)behindawindow,alsosinging.Thecameradescends,andacut

takesustoanotherangleonCasanova:hisbodytendstotheleft(whereAngela

issituated,off-screen)whiletheotherwomen’sbodiestendtotheright,thus

‘separating’himfromtheobjectofhisdesire.Nightfallsasthemusic,andthe

scene,ends.

‘Themeaningofthescene’,suggestsLegrand,‘ismultiple,withoutrecourse

toanysymbolforeigntothefilm’–apositionverysimilartoFilmasFilm’s

insistenceon‘credibility’asanecessaryartisticdiscipline.TheCasanovascene

is:

]atonce‘moral’,social(thehero‘rises’towardsthechateau’ssummit,but

mustchoosebetweenaromanticsingerandthefarmoreappetising‘cousins’ whoareathisfeet),andontological(the‘flightoftime’banishesthemoment ofdreamanduncertainpleasures,butart–the‘successofalife’accordingto thehistoricalCasanova,the‘portraitofanera’accordingtoComencini–

sublimatesitandfixesitscontradictions).(Legrand,1979,pp.90–91)

[

Legrand also notes the pattern of echoes that springs from the scene: the situationofCasanova‘betweentwowomen’willbereplayedinthefilm’s‘final parodicballet’,andinverted(intermsofgender)inthedepictionofhismother

‘betweentwolibertines’(p.91).

Here we can see at work the fused approach that Legrand takes to the interweavingsandinterconnectionsthatcomprisehischosenscene.Heopposes the isolating of formal elements, or the defining of coded ‘minimal units’ associatedwithlinguistics-basedsemioticanalysisofcinema(againstwhichhis bookwagesasustainedpolemic);rather,asheasserts,‘neitherobjectsinthe décornortheactors’gesturesare“minimal”andindivisibleunitiesonscreen,

theyarenotevenalways“isolatable”unities’(Legrand,1979,p.87).Inrelation

to Comencini’s Casanova, Legrand evokes, in words, an unfolding swirl of expressivemovements(of,variously,thecamera,thebodiesandthemusic)and the‘unpacking’oftheinitialtableauwithitsbodilypostures(apictorialand theatrical arrangement, at first static and then gradually animated within the carefullyarrangedarchitecturalspace)inordertoarriveataclusterofmeanings involvingfixityandflight,artandlife,desireandromance.Asheasserts,good films(marked,asforPerkins,byahighdegreeof‘internalcoherence’)manage totravel(almostmiraculously)fromaninitiallyasemanticmagmaofmaterial andsensoryelementstoaspecificallywrought‘“philosophy”ofspaceandits

contents,aphilosophynotreducibletoanideology’(Cinémanie,1979,p.94).

ThisapproachistakenupwithevengreaterrigourbyLegrand’scolleagueat

Positif,AlainMasson,inhiscriticalpracticeandhis1994book,LeRécitau

cinéma. Wheredoesmiseenscèneenter,asaterm,intoLegrand’ssystem?Where Perkins’bookpointedlyavoidsgivingitaprimaryrole(heusesawiderand more specific range of plain-language functions such as camera viewpoint, gesture and so on), Cinémanie proposes its own eccentric, typographical renderingofmiseenscèneasMISE-EN-SCENE(atleastforthefirstfewpages thatheestimateshisreaderscanbearit).Thisisinordertoindicatethemore inclusiverangeoffunctionsthathistermcarriesincomparisonwithmiseen scèneastraditionallywieldedinfilmcriticism.ForLegrand,miseenscène(I, too, shall now drop the capitalisation and dashes) is an activity which is ‘receivablebythespectatorandblessedwithdiverse“powers”’;itcanappear onlyviaa‘networkofmechanisms’andunitiesofvisual-sonorousreception

(Legrand,1979,p.22).

Thus,miseenscènecomestofunctioninCinémanieasastand-inforthe multi-facetedcreaturewhichisfilmstyleitself–butinaparticular,restricted definitionwhichLegrandviewsasappropriatetothecinematicmedium,namely styleasspectacle,styleasdisplay.Thisisverydifferentfromsomeofthemore mystified trends in 1960s criticism, such as Andrew Sarris’ appeal to an enigmatic ‘interior meaning’in a director’s work (the ‘ultimate glory of the cinema as an art’, it is ‘extrapolated from the tension between a director’s

personalityandhismaterial’,1963)orJeanDouchet’sinsistenceonthespookily

‘occult’, hidden dimension of a cherished auteur such as Alfred Hitchcock

(Douchet,2003).LegrandcouldwellhaveadoptedPerkins’formulationof1990

thatmeaningsincinemaarenothidden–rather,theyarestagedandfilmed, shown and unfolded for us, if we are able to intuit the ‘structure of understandings’thatthefilmhasbuilt.

Inthestrictsense

Fromtheverystartofthecampaignonbehalfofdetailed,appreciativefilm criticism,wecandetectthisinexorableslidingfromaspecificterm,miseen scène, to the larger matter of film style – and then further still, until it encompassessomethingasgrandasfilmcreationorcinematicartistryitself. Thisisamixedblessing:good,becauseithasinspiredalotofpassionatework andofferedsometools(albeitfragmentaryandpartial)forcarryingitout;bad, becauseitcreatesconfusionsandblockages. LookbackatHoyveda’slist:itleapsfromveryparticular,materialtropes,such

as‘theplacingofactorsandobjects’,allthewayto‘theidea’andthequalityof

adirector’swork.Thisconfusionwasinevitablein1960,becausemuchwasat

stake,inculturalterms:notonlythecorrectvaluingofthecontributionoffilm directors,butalsorescuingfromalmostinstantoblivionmanyoftheactualfilms they had made, especially if in little-respected popular genres such as the costume-adventurefilm(FritzLang,JacquesTourneurandMaxOphülsallwent there),theWestern,thegangstermovieorthemusicalcomedy. Manysubsequentdeploymentsoftheterm,however,includingsomeIhave alreadysurveyedinthischapter,willbehauntedbythishistoricambiguity.On theonehand,thetermseemstomean(alittlemystically)everything,cinemaas anexpressiveartformbecomingsynonymouswithmiseenscène;ontheother

hand–asRohdiesocasuallyremarkedinhis2006survey–‘miseenscèneis

nothingveryspecific’. Manyattemptshave,however,beenmadetospecifyit–andthese,too,present problems.Ontheonehand,strictdefinitionsspringfromalaudablyrational, empirical,scientificturnofmind:Idobelievethatweneedtobeable,incertain circumstances,toconstrainorspecifywhatwetakemiseenscènetomeanor coverinreferencetoalltheoperationsandlevelsatplayintheconstructionofa film.Editing,forinstance,entersintomanysignificantrelationswithmiseen scène–afrequentlyoverlookednotion,whichIwillbeatpainstostresslater– but is not reducible to it. On the other hand, and inevitably, rationally circumscribeddefinitionstendtobrutallyamputatethenaive,once-upon-a-time excitementwhichcomeswithclaimingthatmiseenscèneissomemagickeyto theintricaciesoffilmstyle. Letusciteaclassroomfavourite:thestrictdefinitionofmiseenscènefroman earlyeditionofDavidBordwellandKristinThompson’swell-knowntextbook FilmArt:AnIntroduction,whichrefersbacktothestageoriginoftheterm.

IntheoriginalFrench,thetermmeans‘havingbeenputintothescene’,andit wasfirstappliedtothepracticeofstagedirection.Filmscholars,extending thetermtofilmdirectionaswell,usethetermtosignifythedirector’scontrol overwhatappearsinthefilmframe.Asyouwouldexpectfromtheterm’s theatricalorigins,mise-en-sceneincludesthoseaspectsthatoverlapwiththe artofthetheatre:setting,lighting,costume,andthebehaviourofthefigures. Incontrollingthemise-en-scene,thedirectorstagestheeventforthecamera.

(BordwellandThompson,1979,p.75)

Thus,forBordwellandThompson,miseenscènedenotesaspecificensembleof formal elements, and definitely does not include the ‘cutting or the camera

movements,thedissolves,oroffscreensound’ofafilm(p.75).Thisformulation

ismoreambiguousandslipperythanitmight,atfirst,appear:miseenscèneis stagedforthecamera,butdoesnotitselfincludetheworkofthecamera,beyond theratherstaticnotionofpictorialcomposition.But,atleastinfictionalcinema, thereisnever(orveryrarely)adiscrete,purelytheatricallevelintheactual practiceoffilmmaking:everythingthatisdesigned,staged,lit,dressedandso forth,isdonewithaparticularvantagepoint,aparticularangle–orrather,a concatenation of various perspectives and angles – in mind. (It is common practice,forexample,foronlysomuchofasettobebuiltaswillbeincluded withinthecamera’spurview.)Inasense,BordwellandThompsonareusinga methodological couplet I will explore later – Étienne Souriau’s distinction

(1953)betweentheprofilmicandthefilmic–butinawaythatisnottrulyjust,

orentirelyhelpfultostylisticanalysis.

Staging,atermthatBordwellforegroundsinhislaterwork(1997,2005a),is

oneIwillalsouse.It,too,hasatheatricalring;butwhenBordwellspeaks,for example, of staging in depth, he is referring to the combined action of the perspectivetakenbythecamera(andoftendesignedintotheset)andtheactions, figures and objects arranged before it. If we ever need a decent, English translationformiseenscène,stagingisnotbad.Attheveryleast,itfocusesan important element of the concept that I want to preserve throughout the argument of this book: mise en scène is indeed the art of arranging, choreographinganddisplaying–andanessentialpartofthis,inmanyfilmsof manydifferentkinds,happensinwhatisstaged(predominantly,actorsinan environment)foracamera.

Thetime-spacecontinuum

Totakeacontemporaryuseofthetermwhichrespondstoaquitedifferent, ‘pioneering’spirit,ratherthantothesoberneedforalimiteddefinition,wecan turn to John Gibbs’ invaluable 2002 book Mise-en-scène: Film Style and Interpretation–althoughIalreadyhaveaproblemwiththeimmediatecoupling of style with interpretation! In his text, Gibbs enthusiastically endorses the widestpossibledefinitionandapplicationofthetermasfirstsuggestedina

breathless1961textbyRobinWood:

Adirectorisabouttomakeafilm.Hehasbeforehimascript,camera,lights, décor,actors.Whathedoeswiththemismise-en-scène,anditisprecisely here that the artistic significance of the film, if any, lies. The director’s businessistogettheactors(withtheirco-operationandadvice)tomove,

speak, gesture, register expressions in a certain manner, with certain

inflections,atacertaintempo[

significantlywithinthedécor,sothatthedécoritselfbecomesanactor;with

]Itishisbusinesstoplacetheactors

theadviceandco-operationofthecameraman,tocomposeandframethe

shots;regulatethetempoandrhythmofmovementwithintheframeandthe

movementofthecamera;todeterminethelightingofthescene.Inallthisthe

director’sdecisionisfinal.Allthisismise-en-scène.

Themovementofthefilmfromshottoshot,therelationofoneshottoallthe

othershotsalreadytakenornot,whichwillmakeupthefinishedfilm,cutting,

montage,allthisismise-en-scène.[

organicunity[

]Itisalsowhatfusesalltheseintoone

]thetoneandatmosphereofthefilm,visualmetaphor,the

establishmentofrelationshipsbetweencharacters,therelationofallpartsto

]Onecansumupbydefiningmise-

thewhole:allthisismise-en-scène.[

en-scène,withDoniol-Valcroze,quitesimplyas‘theorganisationoftimeand

space’.(qtdinGibbs,2002,pp.56–57)

Somewherebetweenthestrict(BordwellandThompson)andtheloose(Wood) wefind,today,variouspositionsonmiseenscènethatequateit–asLegrand does–withsomespecificaspectofaestheticstyle,oraparticularbundleof stylistic components and operations. Thus, Barrett Hodsdon’s move from a ‘basicdefinition’(‘thestagingofactionbeforethecamerainafictivecontext’) toa‘moreelaborateworkingdefinition’whichis:‘thepreciseplacementof actorsandobjectsbeforethecamerainvariousspatial,pictorialandrhythmic

combinations’(Hodsdon,1992,p.74).OrThomasElsaesser’susefulshorthand:

miseenscèneequals‘visualrhetoric’(Elsaesser,1981,p.10),aconceptthathas

thevirtueofevokingthewaysinwhichnotonlyeachimageisarranged(staged) expressively–whichtendstobethefocusofmuchmiseenscènecriticism–but alsohowdiverseimagesarearrangedinrelationtoeachother,thusbringingin editing, overall treatments of the image (such as colour grading, sepia,

saturation,etc.)andthelargeareaofspecialeffects,bothinthedigitalandpre-

digitaleras.

Allthatauteurismallowed

Boundupinthehistoricdescriptionorinflationofmiseenscèneastheheight– indeed,theverydefinition–offilmstyleisaspecialkindofmyth,orwhat Hodsdoncallsamystique,whichhasbecomeanacutepartofcinephileculture. In this myth, mise en scène is more than merely a special touch or magic

ingredientstirredintothesoup;rather,itcomestodesignateaparticularmoment

orstageinfilmmakingwhichisthehighest,quintessentialmomentofcinematic

creation.Woodexpressesthedramaofthisdecisivemomentinanutshell:‘He

’.Thereisakindof

primalsceneinplayhere:theauteurweavinghisorhermiseenscènerighton the spot, on the set, during filming. This is a theory of production, in the industrialsense–notpre-productionplanningorpost-productiontreatmentsbut whatisknownasprincipalphotographyor,morecolloquially,‘theshoot’.It privilegeswhatthedirectorcapturesonfilm–thestagedpro-filmic–andhow thecameraframesandapprehendsit.EvenacommentatorsuchasHodsdon momentarily betrays this reductive, fantasising tendency when he speaks lovingly of ‘the mobile camera [that] could almost imperceptibly shift a narrativefromaprosaictoapoeticmode(MaxOphüls,OrsonWelles,Vincente

Minnelli,SamuelFuller)’(Hodsdon,1992,p.81).

Ofcourse,themomentofshooting,theproductionphase,isimportant–but only(Iwillargue)asimportantaseveryotherlevelandstageintheartandcraft offilmdirection.Ifweseekaholisticandauthenticappreciationoffilmstyle, we need to give up the myth of the divinely inspired director on the set, conjuring movie magic with an inspired camera movement, a clever rearrangementofdécor,thetweakingofalightingpattern,orthewelcomingofa spontaneousgesturefromanactor.Notcompletely,ofcourse:movieloreisfull oftaleswhichconvinceusthatthistypeofinspiredmomentofcreationdoes indeedhappen,andperhapsoften–althoughnotalwayssolelybecauseofthe director!Butweneedtohavedonewiththedreamthat‘creationonset’isthe

onlyorprimarysitewhereafilmismade,orwhereitbecomesart.

Whydidweeverfallforthismyth?Auteurismdeservessomeoftheblame. Notforitsessential,irrefutablepremise–thatthedirector,whilerarelyworking orinventingalone,isnonethelessthecentral,organisingpointofthecreative process,theonewhocanimplementacohering,systematicvision–butforsome ofthebaggagethat,historically,hasbecomeattachedtoit.Sincethenotionof

miseenscènearose,innosmallpart,fromtheattemptinthe1950stoartistically

valoriseHollywoodproductsofthestudioera,thedirectorwasusuallypictured

assomeonesurroundedbyconstraintsandinterventions–particularlyatthepre-

andpost-productionstages.Thescriptwaspre-set,theactorswerealreadycast,

thecontractsetdesignersandcostumierswerewheeledintoprovidetheirusual

contribution,theeditingwasoftenoutofthedirector’shands

doubtsomerealityinthispicture;afterall,anauteursuchasJosefvonSternberg

delightedinboasting–howeverdisingenuously–thathecameontothesetin

ordertoweavearabesquesoflightandshadowaroundwhateverawfulscriptto

hasbeforehimascript,camera,lights,décor,actors

Thereisno

whichhehadbeenassigned(Sternberg,1988).

Criticswere,however,alittletooeagertoacceptthisscenarioasthebasisfor theiranalyticalpractice.EventhesophisticatedattemptbyPeterWollen,inthe

late1960s,toredefineauteurisminahopefullyscientificmannerfellpreytothe

myth:forhim,adirector’s‘corethematic’istobedecipheredbythecritical

mind‘screeningoutthenoise’(inaninformation-systemssense)addedbythe

studiosystem,genre,collaborators,screenplayconventions,andsoon(Wollen,

2013).Itislittlewonder,then,thatinthisfancifulimaginingofwhatitisthata

directordoesandhowheorshecommunicatesviathemediumoffilm,the

momentofshootingwouldbecomethedecisivemomentofcreation–because,

logically,itcanbeconstrued(andthis,too,issomethingofafantasy)asthe

virginal,untouchablestageofthatprocess.Yetthepowersandresourcesof

expressivityinanyartformcannotbereducedtoasolestageormomentwhena

setofgivenmaterialsis‘transcended’–atrulyRomanticnotion.

Apartfromitsroleinoneculturalwaroranother,miseenscèneasabandied-

about term in the 1950s and 1960s was also linked to a particular kind of experience:cinephileexperience.Hodsdonrelatesitto‘criticaleuphoria’–the delightindiscoveringfilmsandsharingtheirmostdazzling,virtuosicmoments– andaneraof‘phenomenologicalcriticism’(coarseorotherwise)beforetherise

ofamoresystematic,rigorous,hard-linetheoreticalapproachinthe1970s.Yes,

headmits,thetermwasvague–but,preciselybecauseofthat,intoxicating;it allowedcinephilestogesturetosomethingthatsettheircinemaexperienceapart from,ontheonehand,‘theobviousandbasictrademarksoffilmicstorytelling that normally ensnared the public’ and, on the other, the encroachment of television,which,onadailybasis,cheapenedtheresourcesofvisualrhetoricin its programs and, indeed, in its broadcast schedules, brutally ‘assimilated,

downgradedandfractured’themoviesofthepast(Hodsdon,1992,p.73).No

wonder there was a lust in the air for a little transcendence – as well as a particulartypeofchargednostalgia.

Inthemood

Inrecentyears,somescholarsandcriticshaverevivedtheconceptofmiseen scène in the context of a general engagement with affect – the spectator’s emotionalstatestriggeredbyafilm–overandabovetheliteraryordramatic niceties of thematic meaning. This has had important consequences for the current conceptualisation of form and its action in cinema. The Australian scholarAnneRutherford,forinstance,eschewsuseofthewordstylebecauseof itsconnotation(inmanyminds)ofsomethingextraneousormerelydecorative,

while proposing mise en scène to be usefully synonymous with ‘energetic

]thatorganicunity,thatelusivequalityofflowandenergythat

movesafilmandmovesusasspectatorswithit’(Rutherford,2012,p.305;see

alsoRutherford,2011).

This,atfirstglance,seemsnottoofarremovedfromMourlet’sorAstruc’s

rhapsodiescirca1959;butthedefinitioncomesintoitsownwhenRutherford

analyses (in films by Wong Kar-wai, Quentin Tarantino, Lee Myung-se and others) ‘the setting-in-motion of spatio-temporal relationships’ (Rutherford,

2012,p.302).Inthisaccount,thedynamismofmovementandtheoftenhighly

artificialmeansthatcinemausestoinciteemotionbecomemorecrucialtoa theoryoffilmthannotionsofthephotographicindex,that‘pieceofreality’ caughtbyacamera.Here,cinema–whileneverentirelygivingupitsindexical connection to flesh-and-blood elements, such as actors – moves closer to animationandtoabstraction. Whatwemighttodaycallanenergeticordynamicapproachtofilmstylehas itsrootsinthetypeoftheoreticalapproachestocinemathatcametoprominence during the 1970s. Jean-François Lyotard (1978), Stephen Heath (1981) and Claudine Eizykman (1976) all gestured to this type of understanding, using Freudianandpost-Freudianpsychoanalysisastheirmodelforintroducingthe actionofpsychicdrivesintoboththemakingoffilmsandtheirreception.Within

aquitedifferentcriticaltradition,RaymondDurgnat(1932–2002)alsoinsisted

onacomplex,dynamicmodeloffilmstructure:‘Structuremustbefunctional,it

existstotransferloadsandstressesinexactlythesamewayasanengineering

structureexiststodiffuseortoconcentrateortoreorganisepressureswhichare

exertedatparticularpoints’(Durgnat,1974,p.262).

process[

Somefilmmakers–particularthoseofareflectivebent–wouldagreetothis. ForChilean-bornRaúlRuiz,whatSigmundFreudoutlinedasthemechanismsof thedream-work–thecondensations,displacementsandoverdeterminationsthat createwhatwesee,hearandfeelinourdreams–aretheveryoperationsofmise enscèneitself.Inastrikingformulation,RuizcalledtheseFreudianmechanisms ‘themiseenscèneofthedream’.Hence,transposingthisconceptdirectlyto cinema,allmiseenscène,nomatterwhetheritisworkingonthemostobviously dreamlike or the most seemingly naturalistic material, has the function of

‘producingdisplacementsofintensity,andcondensations’(Ruiz,1999,p.84).It

warpsandstressesthescene,twistingitpotentiallyintoastrangeshape,oran

unforeseendirection.

Formypart,attheoutsetofthisbook,IwanttoholdontoRuiz’ssenseofmise

enscèneasalwayspotentiallytransformative–buttransformativeinwaysthat

refertotheentirematerialityofcinema,notsolelytheinspirationofadirector

on set or the phenomenological subjectivity of enraptured viewers. Transformationisnottranscendence.Miseenscènecantransformtheelements ofagivenscene;itcantransformanarrative’sdestination;itcantransformour moodorourunderstandingasweexperiencethefilm.Styleisnotasupplement tocontent;itmakescontent–andremakesit,too,inflight.Rutherfordisatleast partlyrightwhenshesuggeststhatmiseenscène‘istheonlyconceptwehave’

(Rutherford,2012,p.305)thatcanhelpuscapturethisverymaterialpracticeof

magic.Bytheendofthisbook,Ihopetohaveaddedafewmoreconcepts.

2

AestheticEconomies:TheExpressiveandthe

Excessive

Whatisinvolvedinfilmstyle–or,toputitanotherway,whatconstitutesthe

aestheticsofthecinematicmedium?Whataretheelementsthatcomprisethe

stylisticensembleofanygivenfilm,oroffilmasamediumingeneral?The

basicinventoryofstylisticelementsincinemacanbeuncontroversiallylisted:

propertiesoftheimage(miseenscène,hereincludingthepictorialelementsof camera framing and production design); properties of the soundtrack; acting performance;andediting.Moredifficultisthetaskofdecidingontheaesthetic economyoftheseelementsinrelationtoeachother,andtotheirnarrativeand thematiccontexts;aswellasinrelationtotheirintendedoractualeffectonthe cinema spectator. Aesthetic economy, a concept overlooked in much film studies,isthecentralsubjectofthischapter.

Ifwelookatthehistoryofaestheticanalysisofcinemasincethe1950s,two

broad, influential schools can be discerned, each of which posits its own preferredeconomyofhowfilmswork:theclassicalandthepoststructural,which Icall,respectively,theexpressiveandtheexcessive.

Styleandsubject

Theacademicstudyofcinema,initsrelativelybriefhistory,hasbeenmarkedby a seismic changeover between a classical aesthetics, on one hand, and the various modernist and postmodernist movements that have followed and contestedit,ontheother–inparticular,theintellectualmovementthatcan looselybedescribedaspoststructuralism.Inpubliccommentaryandreflection

oncinema,onecandatethischangeoverfairlypreciselyaroundthemid-1960s,

once the various ‘new cinema’movements around the globe had spread the

modernist innovations wrought by the Nouvelle Vague in France and post neorealistfilmmakersin Italy such as Pier Paolo Pasolini and Michelangelo Antonioniduringtheearlyyearsofthedecade. Althoughthedescriptionofexactlywhatclassicalcinemamightoncehave been, or still is today, is the subject of ongoing debate (see Britton, 2009; Hansen, 1999), there is little doubt that a classical aesthetics looks for and favoursfilmsthatcanbeconstruedasorganic,coherent,meaningful,controlled art. (I make no distinction here between so-called art cinema and commercial/entertainment cinema – both are, or can be, cinematic art.) And worldcinemahasnoshortageoffilmsthatcanbeprofitablyapproachedinthis classicalway,fromthehighlyprofessionalisedstudiofilmsmadeinAmerica

duringthe1940sand1950s,throughtothelush,big-budget,costumedrama

productionsmadeinMainlandChinasincethe1980s–indeed,twoadaptations

ofStefanZweig’snovellaLetterfromanUnknownWoman,directedfirstin

AmericabyMaxOphülsin1948andtheninChinabyXuJingleiin2004,could

serveasrhetoricalmarkersofthistraditionanditsendurance. Asatraditioninfilmcriticismandanalysis,classicismhasmanytributaries anddiversepractitioners.Withoutmakingfinedistinctionshere,Iwillsimply pointtoarangeofnames,beyondthoseIhavealreadymentionedwhoare associatedwithMovieorPositif:thesewouldincludeGeorgeWilson,Dudley Andrew,KathleenMurphy,PeterLehmanandWilliamLuhr,YvetteBíró,J.P. Telotte, Jacques Lourcelles, Sylvia Lawson, Jean-Loup Bourget, Matt Zoller SeitzandEliseDomenach. Classicalaestheticsrestsuponaparticularproposition(explicitorimplicit) abouttheidealeconomyorinterrelationshipbetweenthevariouselementsof filmicstyle–and,evenmoredeterminingly,therelationofstyletosubjector story.(Forreasonsthatwillbecomeclear,Ipreferusingthecoupletofstyleand subjecttothemorepopularlyknown,butalsoirreparablyabused,formand content.)Inessence,accordingtoclassicism,styleexiststoservethesubjector story.Thisisanexpressiveeconomy:styleexpressessubject.AsRolandBarthes (whowasseverelycriticalofthismodeofeconomy)onceputit,wherethe classicalartistproceedsfromsignifiedtosignifierinordertofindthebestway toconveyanidea,feelingorsituation–goingfrom‘contenttoform,fromidea

totext,frompassiontoexpression’(Barthes,1974,pp.173–74)–theanalyst

proceeds from the signifier back to the signified, tracking the intended or achievedmeaning.(Barthes,truetohispoststructuralmood,drollyaddedthat thismakestheartistagod,andthecriticapriestdecipheringthewritingofthat god.) Crucialtothisprocesswithintheclassicalsystemiseachfilm’screationofits

ownfictionalworld,itsparticularreality(howeverstylisedorsurreal)whichacts asamirror(reassuringorcritical)ofourown.Dramaticillusionmattersnotso muchforitself(itisnotamatteroffoolingorhypnotisingthespectatorinto acceptingapieceoftrickery)asforthemimeticmetaphoritcanofferviewers. (Foratheoryofthisinrelationtothegeneralrealmoffictionandart,seePaul

Ricoeur,1977.)Thefictionalworldbecomesadramatisationandembodimentof

aperspective(theperspectiveofthestoryteller,howeverwewishtoconstrue that narrative agent – as the individual auteur-director or something more collectiveorabstract)particulartoeachfilm.Thissymbolicworldactivates(in

thewordsofAndrewBritton,2009,p.323)‘thatpossibilitywhichisopento

mimesisofconstructingcriticalmetaphoricalmodelsofreality’. However,beforeitcanbuildanddeliverasymboliccharge,thefictionalworld must be, in the first place, a relatively stable, logical, integral, coherent construction with its own (largely implicit) laws or rules that maintain its functioning (see Eco, 1985; Perkins, 2005). In the practical business of filmmaking,agreatdealofcraftandenergygoesintothisbasicbusinessof creatingandholdingtheillusionofagivenfictionalworld,ofestablishinga senseoftimeandplace. Thecentralanchorofclassicalcinemaisthecreationofacertainkindoffilmic characterorpersonage,whatispopularlyknownasthethree-dimensionaltype:a fictionalbeingwhoisconsistentandrecognisablebutevolvinginthecourseof the narrative; a person with a conscious and unconscious psychology, with motivations that frequently must be discerned by an act of interpretation; a characterbroughtintoexistencebythesubtle,intricateworkoftheperforming actor. It is a common sense assumption, held by many in the filmmaking industry–aswellavastmajorityofspectators–thatfilm(ortelevision),asa medium,isessentiallystoriesaboutpeople,theiractionsandemotions.Likeall commonsenseassumptions,thisneedstobechallengedandexpanded–which is another aim of this book. But there can be no doubt, at the outset, that characterisationisaprincipaldrive,andamajorsourceofpleasure,behindevery kindofclassicallyinformedorclassicallyderivedcinema. Withaworldinplace,astoryintrainandcharactersevolving,theclassical filmthengetsdowntoitsmostintricatework–precisely,itsmoment-to-moment style. What does classical style serve? Above all, a theme, or (to be more precise)athematicstructureorpattern.Itisfacile(althoughawidespreadreflex) toreducethemesinfilmtobanalproverbs,truismsormessages(like‘waris hell’or‘overcomeyourfeartobecomeyourself’)–somethingthatbadfilms tendtodo,aswell.Buttheme–whatLegrandcallssemanticity–iswhatgives symbolicdepthandweighttothebasicbuilding-blocksofstory,characterand

fictionalworld. Istressthemoment-to-momentactionofstyleincinemabecause,justasa themeisnotamerestatement,style(inthebestclassicalcases)isnotamere coating(comprisedofsuchstrategiesasacertaincolourscheme,amoodyscore or fast editing) laid over the story. Style is what articulates,modulates and develops a thematic structure/pattern. And a theme – precisely as a living, mobilestructureratherthananinert,reducibletokenortemplate–ismorelikea question (I think of it as the driving semantic question of a work) than a statement,thuscreatingastructureofmulti-layeredcontrasts,comparisonsand ongoingconsiderationsthatgetweighedupinthecourseofafilm.Hencethe centrality,withinclassicalaesthetics,ofthedevicesofmotifandrhyme–those patterningtropeswhichshapethearticulation,modulationanddevelopmentofa thematicstructure.Correspondingly,withinthisaestheticmodel,theelaboration of a method of interpretation is equally crucial: the uncovering, collecting, comparing, contrasting and building up of these tropes into a gradual, accumulativeandfinallyoverallreading. The uncovering of thematic meaning in a film is sometimes mistaken (particularly by those either new or hostile to it) as a superficial trawling operation devoted to spotting symbols – stark icons with rather fixed, sedimentedmeanings(adovemeansfreedom,gunequalsphallus).Indeed,the notionthattheclassicalfilmcanbearbitrarilydrilledinto,andthattheselected elementsarethenaffixedwithprefabricatedmeaning-tags,iscentraltoDavid Bordwell’slargelydisapprovingaccountoftheprocedureofthematicreadingin MakingMeaning (1989). To counter this view, I offer a sketch of how the interpretationofafull,classicalworkcanproceed.

Doortodoor

DavidCronenberg’sAHistoryofViolence(2005)showsthat,insteadoftaking

recoursetopasted-onsymbolismtosignalitstheme,aclassicallystructured work more often cannily systematises into a meaningful pattern what are ordinary,everydaygesturesandactions:walking,eating,driving,andsoon.In fact,onewayofgaugingadirector’sskillandinventivenessistoseehowthey areabletoilluminatesuchusuallytaken-for-grantedactivities.Thisnotionis central to Japanese scholar Shigehiko Hasumi’s remarkable body of critical

analysis(discussedinChapter7)aswellasPerkins’assumptionthatclassical

directorsworkwithintheverisimilitudeoftheirgivenfictionalworlds,rather

thanbreakingthisverisimilitudeinordertoimposeorheavilyunderlinethe

significanceofasituation.ItalsounderliesMasson’sassertionthatthechallenge

foranyinventivefilmmakeris–viathetwinprocessesofmotivation(inthe strictsenseofcreatingnarrativemotifs)andthematisation–tobring‘renewal andchange’tothe‘familiarandtheunoriginal’elementsinthat‘heavyresidue ofpurematerialexistence’whichconstitutesthe‘phenomenalworld’(Masson,

1992,p.168).Evenwheretheseparticularcriticsdonotnecessarilymakeagreat

displayofusingthetermmiseenscène,itisclearthatwhattheymostvalueand closelyinspect–gestures,settings,physicalactions,andthepeculiarlycinematic renderingoftheseelements–fallsundertherubricoftheterm. AHistoryofViolencecouldbedescribed,inbroadterms,asaninvestigation– adramaticessay,inthissense–intothresholdsindaily,socialanddomesticlife, andtheirflimsiness:thethinlinebetweencivilisationandsavagery,between law-and-order and criminality, between the present, clean masquerade that peoplemaintainandtheirpastsins,betweenanadoptedidentityandarepressed ordiscardedone.ThiswayofstatingthethemewasnotsomethingIimposedon thefilmfromtheoutset;itcametomegraduallyafterIbegantonotice,duringa firstviewing,anunobtrusivedetailwhichgentlyinsists:theuseofdoorways withinthestagingofmanykeyscenes.Furtherviewingsconfirmedtheexistence ofthispatterninthefilm.Adoorwayis,ofcourse,aliteralthreshold,ubiquitous indailylife,andCronenbergcleverlyplacesitatthecentreofeveryturning pointofthefilm:itiswithinandarounddoorwaysthatmurdersoccur,thata wifemistakesherhusbandforahome-invader,thatstrangersenterthedomestic space,andsoon. Twoinauguralstructuresofthisextremelyrigorousnarrativefilmcanalsobe mentioned here. It begins with what appears to be an allusion to, and condensationof,thefirstminutesofJohnFord’sclassicWesternTheSearchers

(1955):twomen(playedbyStephenMcHattieandGregBryk)exitthedoorofa

cabin-likemotelroom,thecameratrackingbackwardto(asitwere)drawthem out (see Gibson, 2005). At the end of this elaborate, extended long take (3

minutesand45secondswhilethecreditsappear)inwhichthetwocriminals

driveashortdistance,talkandargue,theyoungerofthemheadsbackintothe motel’smainoffice:herewefindasimilartraumatothatwhichdrivesThe Searchers,amassacredfamily–inFord’scase,awhitesettlerfamilykilledby NativeAmericans. Thesceneimmediatelycuesustoalevelofthefilmasawholethatbothered some otherwise admiring critics: so many of its elements seem likegeneric quotestakenfrommovielore–criminalheavies,happyfamilyaroundthedinner table, the friendly small-town cop, the quaint main street with its modest businesses,andsoon.Intruth,thefilmisanexcavationofacertain‘Americana’ iconography–fromtheevocationofFord’sWesternsrightdowntotheechoesof

CharlesIvesinHowardShore’ssparselyusedmusicalscore–whichitlinkstoa

widespreadsocialsensibilityorideology:thebeliefinsecondchancesforthe

sovereign US individual, the possibility of starting over or being born

again

it,theimplicationsofit–thatthefilmposes,attheheartofitsthematicand stylisticsystems,asanagonisingsemanticquestion. ThebeginningofAHistoryofViolenceinauguratestwotypesofnarrative

folds(aconceptelaboratedbyNicoleBrenez,2007).Thefirstisalarge-scale

anamorphosis,wherebythefinalscenedoesnotmerelyreiterate(intermsof

motif)oranswerthefirstinaneatrhymebut,inadeepersense,unfoldsits

meaning in an ultimate, dramatic way: to the two consecutive doors of a demolisheddomesticspaceintheopeningscenecorrespondthetwoconsecutive doorsatwhichthehusband(ViggoMortensen)haltsonhiswaytothefamily dinnertable,wherewhatisstaged–withunsettlingambiguity–isthesupposed reintegrationorrepairofthehome,ratherthanitsdevastationatthehandsofa violent,criminalmale.

Thesecondtypeoffoldaccomplishedislocal,inthat,viaastrongtransition-

linkage, the film establishes at its outset a meaningful alternation of and comparison between two narrative threads or worlds that seem, initially, unconnected:fromthemurderofalittlegirlatthemotelwepasstothescream ofanothergirl,inherbed,awakeningfromanightmare.Thiscreatesathematic structurewithseverallevels:notonlyarewebeingaskedtosuperimposethe girlsandbeginacomparisonoftwoworlds,butthehintthatthefirstscene mighthavebeenagruesomedreamimaginedwithinthedomesticspheresetsup

acentralthemeofidentitydisturbanceinthestory.Astheanti-hero’sgangster

brother(WilliamHurt)lateraskshim:whenhedreams,ishehisoldselforhis

newself?

SomethingcharacteristicofCronenbergasanauteur,workinginthetradition

ofLuisBuñuel,canbenotedhere:thewayinwhich,withoutovertlyviolating

therulesorconventionsofsurfaceverisimilitude,heisabletoinsinuatethe

surrealistdimensionofadreamworld,inwhichaspectsofthestorycometo

representunconsciousphantasmsanddrivesbelongingtothesocialandcultural

contextasmuchastoindividualcharacters.

Anditisthisveryconversion–thepossibilityofit,theferventbeliefin

Classicalriffs

Even within the brief, preliminary sketch I have offered, the analysis of A HistoryofViolenceoffersanexampleofaclosed,finitereading–finiteinthe sensethatitpromisestocaptureallofthemeaningfulelementsintheworkand

exhaustivelyinterrelatethemwithinaframeworkofartisticsystem,orderand

coherence.Thedegreeofopennessinathematicstructurehas,however,long

beenapointofdebateamongcritics,eventhosewhobroadlyaccepttheprecepts

ofverisimilitude,narrativecoherence,andsoon.HereIwillnotesomeofthese

productivedifferencesorvariations–riffsonclassicism.

Thosecriticsworkingwithinthetenetsofaclassicaleconomywhodiligently

followthetracksofafilm’sownunfoldingseetheirtaskofinterpretationas

intuitingandexplicatingwherethefilmtakesus,andwhatbalanceofthematic

propositionsitultimatelyleavesuswith;Barthesnoted(againdisapprovingly)

that, in the classical narrative text, ‘semic space’(i.e., thematic meaning) is ‘alwaysgluedtohermeneuticspace’(i.e.,narrativeunfolding)where‘thepoint isalwaystolocateintheperspectiveoftheclassictextaprofoundorfinaltruth

(theprofoundiswhatisdiscoveredattheend)’(Barthes,1974,pp.171–72).For

classically minded critics, such effects of profundity would, by definition, constitutetheforceofemotionalepiphanyaffordedbythegreatmovies(Letter fromanUnknownWoman,ineitherofitsversions,providesacanonicalexample initsfinalminutes–asdoes,indeed,AHistoryofViolence)–orgreatliterature

ofthekindanalysedinthe1950sbyVladimirNabokov(2002)inhisdiscussion

oftheartisticstructureofepiphanyinMarcelProust. Intherecentre-evaluationsthathaveoccurred,aroundtheglobe,concerning the enormous contribution of André Bazin to film theory and criticism, a

somewhatdifferentwayofconsideringthisissuehasemerged.HervéJoubert-

Laurencinsuggeststhatweabandonthereceivedwisdomthatanalysis‘unpacks’ afilm–openingandunfoldingoutahithertoclosedobject.Thefilmasawork ofartis–andremains–openandalive,inhisview,fullof‘thepowerand

expectationofrevitalizationateverynewscreening’(Joubert-Laurencin,2011,

p. 201). Any decent act of criticism, however persuasive or seemingly systematic,offersonlyaprovisionalclosureofit,amaking-senseofitaccording tosomeparticularperspective.Thenourfutureviewings,ourrevisitationofthe film–ifweareattunetoitsrichnessandstrangeness–re-opensourprocessof understandingandappreciatingit,perhapsfromaquitedifferentangle(thetimes moveon,wechangeandperspectivesshift).Thismodelormetaphorhelpsto explainwhywecanwatchourfavouritefilmsoverandoveragain–ratherthan

feelingthatwehaveexhaustedthemonceandforall. ThemaverickcriticRaymondDurgnat–anindividualistratherthansomeone relatabletoaspecificschool,althoughhewroteforabewilderingnumberof publicationsandmanagedtocarryonanimplicitdialoguewithallofthem– tookadissenting,expandedviewofthismatterofclosedoropenreading.Inhis

surrealist-inspiredunderstandingofwhathetermedsemanticcomplexity(1982),

afilm’sthematicstructureis‘notastatementtobedecodedbutajunglegymfor thoughts to swing on’(Durgnat, 1987, p. 266). Or, as he put it on another occasion,‘TheGrandDesignislessOneThemeIllustratedbyThisStorythan ThisStoryOpeningontoVariousIdeas’.Hebrokedowntheideaofaunitaryor coherentthematicstructureintofour,overlappingstructures:

(I) a mosaic (i.e., a configuration of interwoven configurations, some uncompletedbutstronglyimplied);(II)achameleon(changingcontextspick outdifferentpatterns);(III)aRorschachtest(toreviewthefilmistoreview

itsaudiences);and(IV)apalimpsest.(Durgnat,1984a,p.314)

Wherethemosaicisstill,approximately,aclassicalpattern,thefigureofthe palimpsestanticipatespoststructuralapproaches–makingDurgnataparticularly significant, border-crossing seeker of a synthesis between modes of critical analysis.

Pathstopoststructuralism

Inthehistoryoffilmcriticism,theclassicalaestheticfindsoneofitsprincipal andmostinfluentialstatementsinPerkins’FilmasFilm,butitcanbetraced

backmuchearlierinthecentury,atleasttoLouisDelluccirca1920.According

to André S. Labarthe (as we shall later see), it was Delluc who first differentiated,inordertothenrelatewithinaparticularaestheticeconomy,the subject of a film from its ‘rendering’ (Labarthe, 1967, p. 66). The poststructuralistmovementtookasitsmissiontheviolentoverturningofthis classicaleconomyofstyletosubject–aswellasthe‘sovereign’,commanding consciousness or agency imputed to the artist/auteur as envisaged by Romanticism. But no intellectual movement emerges, fully blown, from nowhere;severalpathstopoststructuralismwithinthehistoryoffilmcriticism canbeobserved. First, a word on poststructuralism’s immediate predecessor: structuralism, whichinits‘cine-structuralist’incarnationgeneratedmuchattentioninthelate

1960sandearly1970s,buthasleftlittleinthewayoflastinglegacyinthefield.

Cine-structuralism – which represented the first incursion of a ‘scientific’ methodincinemastudies,oratleastaspirationallyso–wascharacterisedby,on oneflank,attemptsatdefininganarratologyofcinemawithitsstructuresand

codesofstorytelling;and,onanother,semanticflank,applyingClaudeLévi-

Strauss’structuralanthropologyofculturalfieldsto(mainlypopular)cinema.

FilmnarratologywasinformedbyBarthes’earlywritings(particularlyhis1966

‘IntroductiontotheStructuralAnalysisofNarratives’,inBarthes,1977),and

laterbythemoreludicandpermutationalpossibilitiessuggestedbytheworkof

A.J.Greimas(1987),whosefamous‘semioticsquare’wasdesignedtogenerate

semanticvaluesacrosscharactersorpositionsinanarrative.

Structuralistfilmnarratology,however,effectivelyrepressedquestionsofstyle andstylistics.Inmanynarratologicalanalysesoftheperiod,itisasif,inone sphere of a film, there are actants, narrative moves, informational cues, proaireticandhermeneuticcodes(thesetermsderiveessentiallyfromBarthes’

celebrated1970bookS/Z[1974]);andthen,inanother,completelyunrelated

sphere,thereistheworkofthecamera,editing,soundandsoon.Styledoesnot even get to tell the story, let alone communicate a theme, in this discombobulatedset-up. Butthisthawquicklybegantounfreeze.Onehistoricmarkerofthemoveto

poststructuralismistheworkofJean-AndréFieschi(1942–2009),aninfluential

criticwhostraddled Cahiersducinéma (writing probably the first Lacanian

critiquesoffilms)intheearly1960s,andtheburgeoningareaofuniversity-

basedsemiologicalstudies(teachingalongsideNoëlBurch)inthemidtolate 1960s. Fieschi, in one of his major entries for Richard Roud’s Cinema: A

CriticalDictionary(publishedin1980butcomposed,largely,inthefirsthalfof

the1970s),heralded F.W.Murnau’s Nosferatu (1922) – ‘with this film the modern cinema was born’– by brandishing a decisive gesture of economic rearrangement:‘Nosferatu marks the advent of a total cinema in which the plastic,rhythmicandnarrativeelementsarenolongergradedinimportance,but

instrictinterdependenceuponeachother’(Fieschi,1980,p.710).Thissignals,

therefore,anapproachwhichaimsnottoabolish‘storiesaboutpeople’,butto

relativisenarrativewithintheentiresetofformalandstylisticpossibilitiesin

cinema.

Doingandbeing

If, within the history of British film criticism since the early 1960s, Movie

magazinestoodforclassicismwhilethejournalScreeninthe1970sspearheaded

severalvariantsofpoststructuralism,thenMonogram(alsooperatingfromthe

late1960stothemid-1970s),underthechiefeditorshipofThomasElsaesser,

soughttooccupyamid-waypositionthatisworthbrieflyrevisitinghere–for similartensionsbetweencompetingmethodologieswerebeingplayedoutin manycountriesatthetime.(Foramorecomprehensiveaccountofthehistorical

journeyoftheideaofmiseenscènethroughBritishfilmcriticismfrom1946to

1978,seeGibbs,2014.)Twoinstancesofapieceofcriticismaddressingandina

senserewritinganother,priorpiece–whichisoneofthewaysinwhichthe historyoffilmcriticismasapracticeevolves–canbeconsideredinthislight.

Ina1973issueofMonogram,MarkLeFanutookMoviewritersRobinWood

andMichaelWalkertotaskfortheir(inhisopinion)overlyclassicalanalysisof

ClaudeChabrol’sfilmsoftheNouvelleVagueperiodandbeyond;Walker(1975)

subsequentlyofferedavigorousreply.(Thedebatebetweenthesecriticsover Chabrol has been taken up again by Jacob Leigh, 2013.) To read the films accordingtoasolelyexpressiveeconomy–asreflectingthemoraldilemmasof thecharacters,theuniversaltruthsoflife,therealityofcontemporaryFrance, andsoon–would,accordingtoLeFanu,betooverlookorevenrepressthe possibilityofafilmstylethat:

[

]function[s]asamodeofirony,anartisticformawareofitsownideology

[

]InLeBoucher[1968]anyemphasisonthe‘psychology’ofthecharacters

is misleading for it encourages us to ignore the aspects of the film most remarkable:namelyitsrepeatedinsistenceonitsownfictions,aseriesofclues aboutitselfaskingtobeconsidered.Thereiseverywhereanovertsymbolism, puzzlingandironical,asitseemstodareusbyitsveryobviousnesstoofferan

] We are witnessing a movement away from the sign

meaningsomethingtoasituationwherethesignrefersonlytoothersigns,

][Chabrol]isdirectinghisattackonthetyrannyofthe

signifié[signified],thatfixityofmeaningandsense.(qtdinWalker,1975,p.

otherfictions[

‘interpretation’[

48)

Monogramdidnotgiveupexpressiveaccountsoffilms,especiallythoseina classicalmode;rather,itsoughttoopenthediscussionofsuchworkouttoother sortsofculturalcontexts(suchasgenreandideology)andintellectualcurrents (see Bordwell, 2005b). It explicitly tried to maintain, on the one hand, a respectfulappreciationoffilmmakingcraftandartistryand,ontheotherhand,

the kind of liberation of criticism for which much poststructuralist rhetoric militated. The editorial of the first issue stated that its writers were not ‘persuadedthataparticularpoliticalcommitmentwillnecessarilydisposeof,or

]concerningevaluationand

resolve,certainfundamentalaestheticproblems[

meaning,wewilltakeafilmonitsowntermsandrespectitsparticularframeof

reference’(Elsaesser,1971,p.ii).

However,anotherMonogrampiece,anowcanonical1972textbyElsaesseron

cinematicmelodrama,founditselfinturnrewrittenin1978bySamRohdie,

editor of Screen in its most radical period. (Rohdie had, in 1972, penned a swingingdenunciationofPerkins’FilmasFilmandMoviemagazineas the

embodiment of conservative tendencies in film analysis.) Rohdie cites the followingvividpassage–itselfaninterestingconjunctionofexpressiveanalysis andanother,still-tentative‘culturalstudies’methodattemptingtomovebeyond it–fromElsaesser’sevocationofasceneinDouglasSirk’sWrittenontheWind

(1957)andits‘visualmetaphors’:

[A]yellowsports-cardrawingupthegravelleddrivewaytostopinfrontofa pairofshiningwhiteDoriccolumnsoutsidetheHadleymansionisnotonlya powerfulpieceofAmericaniconography,especiallywhentakeninaplunging high-angleshot,butthecontraryassociationsofimperialsplendourandvulgar materials (polished chrome-plate and stucco plaster) create a tension of correspondences and dissimilarities in the same image, which perfectly crystallisesthedecadentaffluenceandmelancholicenergythatgivethefilm

itsuncannyfascination.(Elsaesser,1987,p.53)

Rohdie’smove,whencitingthispassagesixyearslater,wastore-orientits

emphasis:forhim,suchafilmicmoment‘doesnotrepresentafunctionofdoing

orcommunication[

emphasismine).Thus,filmsdonotdothings(suchastellstoriesandbuild fictional worlds) or communicate meanings (themes, moral reflections, etc.);

rather,theyexistassurfacesorobjects(nothomogenousbutheterogeneous),as dynamicactionsinthemselves,andascommentariesonpreviousfilmswithina givenculturalcontext.Theformal,stylisticelementsoflight,shape,colourand movementnowmattermoreforthemselvesthanforwhatevercontentorsubject they help to represent or convey – and interpretation (or reading) must, accordingly,shiftitsattentiontothesesurfaces,andtheirhistoryasculturalsigns orfigures,ratherthanthesupposedlyhiddendepthsofawork.Onecouldnot find a more perfect, shorthand unpacking of the famous semiotic triad of signifier/signified/sign: in Rohdie’s account, the film has become a pure signifier,asignonlyofitself(orofothersigns),notofsomerealityorrealm outsideitself.

]butratherafunctionofbeing’(Rohdie,1978,p.20,

Ahugebeast

In1973,ex-CahierscriticJacquesRivettedescribed‘thecinemaI’mafter’inthe

followingterms:

screen,tobeeffective[

] These are films that impose

]WhatImeanisthat

thereisaweighttowhatisonscreen,andwhichisthereonscreenasastatue mightbe,orabuilding,orahugebeast.Andthisweightisperhapswhat Bartheswouldcalltheweightofthesignifier (Rivette,1977a,p.49)

]filmsinwhich,inverydifferentways,thisfactof

a narrative spectacle comes into play [

themselvesvisuallythroughtheirmonumentality[

Rivette’s reference to Barthes and his influence is apposite. Poststructuralist

thought,takingitscuefromBarthes’1971essay‘FromWorktoText’(1977),

made a division between a film as a work (conforming to the precepts of classicalaesthetics)andafilmasatext–althoughthisdistinctionismeantto imply, in Barthes, less two different kinds of artworks (objects that can be designatedasexactlyeitherclassicalormodern)thantwodifferentways of readingorusingvirtuallyanyartwork.

TheTextcanbeapproached,experiencedinrelationtothesign.Thework

]in

thefieldofthetext[

closesonasignified.[

]isrealisednotaccordingtoanorganicprocessof

maturationorahermeneuticcourseofdeepeninginvestigation,but,rather,

accordingtoaserialmovementofdisconnections,overlappings,variations.

ThelogicregulatingtheTextisnotcomprehensive[

]butmetonymic;the

activityofassociations,contiguities,carryings-overcoincideswithaliberation

ofsymbolicenergy[

];thework–inthebestofcases–ismoderately

symbolic;theTextisradicallysymbolic:aworkconceived,perceivedand

receivedinitsintegrallysymbolicnatureisatext.(Barthes,1977,pp.158–59)

]Thegenerationoftheperpetualsignifier[

ThesensewhichBarthesheregivestothetermsymbolicisverydifferenttothat which informs Ricoeur’s notion (adopted for film criticism by Britton) of symbolicormetaphoricfictionalworlds.Barthesstresseswhatheconsidersthe containmentofmeaning(andoftheinterpretativeact)asconstitutiveofthe classicalethos.Inclassicism,meaningridesalongthecleartrackslaiddownfor it by the central elements of the fictional world: stable, three-dimensional characters,acoherentplotandasystematicallyorderedthematicdevelopment. Classicists,ofcourse,wouldnotseethisassomethinglamentable,orasanerror

ofmethod;Perkins,forexample,speaks(likeDouglasPye,2010)ofgrasping

the‘structureofunderstandingsthefilmhasbuilt’(Perkins,1990,p.59).

InBarthes’visionoftheText,however,meaningsproliferate,free-associating fromtheconfinesoftheworkandbeyondit;heprovidedamodelofsuch

analysis–textualanalysis,asitcametobeknown–inS/Z(1974).Textual

analysisoffered,initsheydayandbeyond,afreermodeofinterpretation(anda more creative mode of writing, less tied to academic protocols) than that elaboratedbyclassicalaesthetics. Wherethetextis(inBarthes’term)polysemic,theclassicalworkoffersakind of policing of meaning – or, to pick a less inflammatory metaphor, an orchestrationofit.Wherethefilm-worktriestopresentitself(asmuchasit possiblycan)asahomogenous,seamless,unifiedartisticobject,thefilm-text declaresitsinherentlyheterogeneous,polyphonic,splinteredcharacter.Where theclassicalworkiscontainedandunostentatious,aimingtostayincontrolofits elements,themodernorpostmodernworkisexhibitionisticandperformative,a work‘inpieces’thatflauntsitsshiftsintexture,tone,mood,topic,direction, address,courtingwaywardness,unrulinessandexcess.(Onthetheoryofexcess

incinema,seeKristinThompson,1999a.)Thus,ifclassicismistheschoolofthe

expressive,poststructuralismistheschooloftheexcessive. Historically, poststructural film analysis is associated with, in France, Raymond Bellour, Jacques Aumont, Marie-Claire Ropars (1936–2007), magazinesincludingÇa/CinémaandHorsCadre,andthecriticalcareer(asbrief

asitisbrilliant)ofthevideoartistThierryKuntzel(1948–2007);inAmerica,the

first eight years of Camera Obscura; in Britain, Screen during the 1970s (especially Wollen, Willemen, Claire Johnston [1940–1987], Laura Mulvey, ColinMacCabe,StephenHeath,SteveNeale);inSpainwithSantosZunzunegui. All over the world, journals (some short-lived) appear amidst the thousand, blooming flowers of the poststructuralist moment, or appear later under its lingeringinfluence:Cine-TractsinCanada,TheAustralianJournalofScreen Theory,Skrien in the Netherlands, Filmkritik and Montage AV in Germany,

FrameworkintheUK,FilmcriticainItaly

Today,therearemanywhowork,

in various ways, with the legacy of this era, particularly via the enduring deconstructionistphilosophyofJacquesDerrida,orGillesDeleuze’sworkon

cinema(1986and1989):DaiJinhua,DavidRodowick,MaryAnnDoane,Akira

MizutaLippit,PatriciaPisters,TomGunning,BéréniceReynaud,D.A.Miller, Tom Conley, Laleen Jayamanne, Bill Krohn and Carlos Losilla rank among them. Just as a classical approach draws up for itself a certain list of preferred

Masters – Max Ophüls, Jean Renoir, Kenji Mizoguchi, Otto Preminger – poststructuralcritiquerespondstoaquitedifferenttasteincinema.Formsof comedy,often‘underground’innature,includingburlesque,grotesque,camp andqueer,fromRedGroomstoJohnWatersandGreggAraki;thedelirious avant-gardeworksofCarmeloBene,ManuelDeLanda,KennethAngerand StephenDwoskin,pitchedatamaximumintensityofstylisationfromstartto

end; the décor/costume-mad ‘bent’ melodramas of Ulrike Ottinger, Werner SchroeterortheKucharbrothers;the(variously)neo-Baroque,neo-Mannerist, decidedly trippy films of Raúl Ruiz, Alejandro Jodorowsky and Andrzej Zulawski–allthesehavecometoconstitute,inadeliberatelyraggedway,a

counter-traditionthatsetsouttobridgecertain,disreputableformsofpopculture production(suchasthecontemporary‘trashcomedy’)withthemanyoutpostsof experimentalcinema. Intheannalsofcriticismanditslegendary,polemicalwarsofsensibility,the taste for excess is best summed up by Michel Chion in 1985, disdainfully comparingwhatPositifmagazinevaluedinthefilmsofJohnBoorman–‘talent,

] meaning, content, eloquence’ (how wholesome and

boring!)–withwhatCahiersducinéma(Chion’shomeatthetime,beforehe

defectedtoPositifinthe1990s)prizedaboveall:‘creationasrupture,excess,

risk,disequilibrium,error,dynamism’(Chion,1985,p.xiii).Thisdeclaration

showswellthecomradelylinkforgedbetweentheinnovationsofthevarious

NewWavesofcinemaaroundtheworldinthe1960sandthepoststructuralism

erectedinitswake.

rhythm, vitality [

Tofilmaconversation

Letussketch,asforAHistoryofViolence,howaclearlyexcessivefilmcalls

forthananalysisinthissamespirit.Vivresavie(1962)is,likemanyworksby

Jean-LucGodard,avirtualmanifestoofmodernistanti-coherence–sometimes teasing in its elusiveness, sometimes outrageous in its provocations against viewersandcriticsalike.Eveninthismoreseeminglyminimalistandcontrolled film(whichborrowsitsmoodandlookfromanamalgamofcanonicalgreats:

Bresson,Antonioni,CarlDreyer,RobertoRossellini),Godardholdstruetothe impulsiveness that has characterised much of his career: it is a collage (the favoured art-derived term used to describe his work in the 1960s) full of digressions,cameos,jokeinsertions,variousbluntinterventionsonthedirector’s part(suchasviolentjump-cuteditingtomatchthefiringofamachinegun)and, especially,quotationsofallkinds(anecdotesandparablestold,passagesfrom booksrecited,filmswatched)–indeed,muchoftheplotseemslikeapastiche fromtheBmoviestowhichitisdedicated. ThestoryofVivresaviesometimesstopsdeadfortableauxthatfunctioneither ascooldemonstrations(adocumentary-likemontageoftheworkadaylifeofa prostitute,acafédiscoursefromlanguagephilosopherBriceParain)orcomedic turns(acrookincongruouslylaunchesintoastand-uproutine,mimickinghowa childblowsupaballoon).Thefilmisaparadoxicalobject:althoughexplicitly

divided into twelve tableaux and following a complex, novelistic trail in its depiction of the decline and fall of a desperate woman, Nana Klein (Anna Karina),muchofthefilmrefusestoadduptoanythingconventionallysatisfying ormeaningfulintermsofcharacter,themeorfictionalworld.Infact,V.F.

Perkinswrotealengthyessayinthelate1960sinwhichhetried,butfailed,to

cometogripswiththefilmwithinhisownclassicalcriticalsystem;hecanonly

conclude,despitethequalityofisolatedmoments:

In suggesting these interpretations, I am conscious of choosing the least unlikely connections rather than of elucidating meanings developed

convincinglyinthefilm’sstructure[

unwillingnesstoallowthemoviethedegreeofanonymitythatafullycoherent

workassumes[ ]Thecontextisseverelylimiting.(Perkins,1969,p.39)

]PerhapsthebasicfaultisGodard’s

Aestheticanonymityis,tolookatitfromadifferentangle,thelastthingon Godard’smodernistmind.Forapoststructuralcritic,onepathintotheanalysis ofVivresaviewouldbethroughadetailofGodard’suniqueworkingprocess:he commissionedfromcomposerMichelLegrandathemeandelevenvariations (‘becausethat’sthewaythefilmisconstructed’,asLegrand[qtdinBrown, 1994, p. 189] recalls the director’s brief) but, in the final edit and mix, characteristicallyoptedtouseonlythree,constantlyrepeatedfragmentsfrom oneofthevariations.Thefilmasawholecanalsobeconsideredasasuiteof truncatedvariationsthataremissingtheirdominanttheme,thekeyorcorefrom whichtheyarederived.AsPerkinsdiscovered,itishardtopinpointwhatthis filmiscentrallyabout,asitraisesanddropssomanysubjects:prostitution(as sociologicalrealityandexistentialmetaphor),non-communicationinthemodern world, language and thought, existence and essence, the world as outward appearanceorinnermentalprocess,andsoon. Butwhatifwerefusethefacile,once-fashionablerecoursetodeclaringthat the film is thus about everything that passed through Godard’s mind during

filming,orthatitisadocumentary/diaryofParisin1962–whilestillwishingto

analyseitsmodernism?Afilmiccollage,yes;butisthereanythingtobemadeof this collage, beyond the brute fact of its dazzling heterogeneity of textures, moodsandelements? Perkins inadvertently stumbled upon one of the central formal or stylistic principlesunderlyingthiscollagewhenhemusedthatitseemstooffer‘astring

ofsuggestionsastohowonemightfilmaconversation’(Perkins,1969,p.33)

(Figure 2.1). Put differently and more pointedly, Godard’s film explores a questionofhowtorepresent–notincompletelyuniversalorgeneralterms(how

to film the world, how to tell a story?), but in terms of specific items of representationthatbecome,inacomplex,non-literarysense,thesubjectsofthe film.(Thisapproachwascentrallyseizeduponbyalater,post-poststructuralist methodology emerging in Europe: the figural analysis of film; see Martin,

2012a.)OnecansensewhatVivresavieisaddressing(orquestioning)onlyby

lookingandlisteningtoitclosely,momentbymomentandshotbyshot.Each

newshotseemstoask,fromthecamera-positionofGodard:howamItoframe

orregard(inthedoublesenseofthatword)whatIamseeingbeforeme,what

positionamItotakeupinrelationtoit?

positionamItotakeupinrelationtoit? Figure2.1 Vivresavie (Jean-LucGodard,1962)

Figure2.1 Vivresavie(Jean-LucGodard,1962)

Thefilmbegins,duringitscreditsequence,withthreeviewsofNana/Karina, almost completely in the dark: left profile, right profile, head-on. The shots evoke at least three social practices of image-making: police mug-shots of criminals(Nanawillindeedbelaterinterrogatedbypolice);portraitureinart (Godardnotedatthetimethatpainterlytableauxarefrequentlyportraits);and thetestshotsthatareroutinelymadeonafilmsettotestlightsandmake-up,as wellastotryoutkeyposesoftheactors.Alloftheseimage-practicesareforms ofdocumentationordescription:theyseektonaildownthesubject-as-object, and posit another subject, out of frame, who is attempting this task of circumscription. So there is already a multiple relation, three parallel (not necessarilyintersecting)trackssetupbythefilm:societytriestofixawomanin herplaceinsideoroutsidethelaw;GodardtriestofixKarina(hiswifeatthe time),hismuse,oncelluloid;thehistoryofartandrepresentationsupplyicons

ofWoman. Inthesubsequent,nominallymorerealisticscene,Nanaisonlyeverviewed fromtheback(Godardianprovocation)andspeaks,incharacter,ofherdesireto becomeanactress.Immediatelythison-screenpersonisacomplexamalgam:at onceanactor(Karina);athree-dimensional,psychologicalindividualwithneeds

andwants(Nana);andafigurethatisunformed(Masson,1994,p.18,notesthat

thefilm’sfirstthreeportrait-shotscouldimaginablybeofthreedifferentpeople), hard to catch (the back view sunders her voice from her lips, the standard guarantee of a film character’s reality), without clear identity, selfhood or definition,exceptinthegazesofothers(producers,clients,pimps,spectators, Godardthedirector).Swiftlyinthecourseofthefilm,shealsobecomesasign (of iconic, movie-made glamour and femininity), as well as a subject for metaphoric speculation, a kind of philosophical emblem: she is repeatedly alignedwithonefableoranotheraboutthenatureandfateofthehumanbeing, havingorlackingaheart,asoul,freewill WhereaclassicalcriticsuchasPerkinsfindsthisall-over-the-placequality, thisproliferationoflevelsonwhichthecharactersignifies,tobeaproblemfor coherence,thetheoristKajaSilvermanandfilmmakerHarunFarocki,intheir 1998 book Speaking About Godard, hail this constant shifting and lack of definition as the very subject of the film: it ‘accommodates relationships between the most divergent of terms, since it does not predicate those

relationshipsonthebasisofidentity’(SilvermanandFarocki,1998,p.6)–

whereidentitydoesnotmeanpersonalidentity,butratherthephilosophicnotion of exact likeness, being identical, identicality. In cinematic terms, they are referringtothenon-alignmentofKarina,Nana,theunformedfemalefigure,the iconicimageandsoon:atnopointdothesevariousavatarsofacharacteraddup toasingle,whole,unifiedcreature,andhenceNananeverbecomesidentical withherself–sheisalwaysinexcess. AnanalysisofVivresavie,then,wouldseektoretracetheaction,movement andshiftingcontoursofthequestion‘howtorepresentthiswoman’?asthey

unfoldacrossthefilm.InLeoBersaniandUlysseDutoit’s2004bookFormsof

Being, militantly poststructural in its orientation (via the school of literary deconstructionism),thisphilosophicnotionofthenon-identicalityofterms– what Perkins would name and fault as the discrepancy between levels and elements–israisedtothelevelofanevaluative,aestheticprincipleaswellas virtuallyamoralorsocio-politicalinjunction(benotidenticalwithyourself!).In

theiraccountoffilmsbyGodard(Contempt,1963),TerrenceMalick(TheThin

RedLine,1998)andPedroAlmodóvar(AllAboutMyMother,1999),identicality

isassumedtobethestructuringprincipleofanoppressivesocialnorm,andthese

progressivefilmsasanattackonthatprinciple–justasJean-FrançoisLyotard assumed when he considered the (to him) over-regulated economy of

mainstreamnarrativefilminhis1973manifesto‘Acinema’(1978).Thisisa

questionableassumptioninitssweepinggenerality;butthereisnodoubtthatit

suggestsanew,productivekindoffilmanalysisthatmanagestomakemoreof

theconstituentheterogeneityofthecinematicmediumbeyondthemere,stark

factofit.

Whichsideareyouon?

The comparison between classical (expressive) and poststructural (excessive) approachestofilmstylethatIhavesketchedinthischapteris,inonesense, alreadyapartofhistory–eventhoughIferventlybelievethatthefundamental differences between their respective economies form the basis of an overall aestheticsofcinemaand,especiallytoday,giverisetotheidealofanaesthetic programwhichwouldattempttocombinewhatisbestfromboth‘schools’. But,takenasanepisodeincultural(andpolitical)history,howareweto assess,inretrospect,the‘war’betweenclassicismandpoststructuralisminfilm studies?Ioffertwopointstowardsuchanassessment. First,somethingundoubtedlyshiftedininternationalfilmcultureduringthe

1970s.Formanyintheacademiccommunityoffilmstudies,thetypeofstylistic

appreciationrepresentedbyMovieorPositifwasexchanged–ratherbrutally,in some cases – for the type of textual analysis favoured by poststructural methodologies.Involvedinthiswasanunderstandabledrivetolegitimisethe studyofthefilm,tomakeitempirical,systematic,evenscientific.Thus,merely ‘critical’endeavour–andtheproudlyamateurmagazinecultureoftenassociated with it – was swapped for the academic sphere, with its ‘hard’theoretical language, peer-reviewed journals and weighty books published by university presses.Reductivecaricaturesofapasteraofnaivelycinephiliccritique,cast

asideasmerelyeffusiveorimpressionistic(witheringlydescribedinonemid-

1980sconferenceasthe‘geewhizschooloffilmappreciation’,andattributedto

nerdy males), reigned supreme as a rhetorical, one-upping manoeuvre for a while. Filmtheoryhasinvestigatedmanyfruitful,complexareassincethatturbulent

changeoverofparadigmsinthe1970s:historicalcontexts,spectatorship,race

andgender,film-and-philosophy,andsoon.Butiteffectivelydroppedtheball onsensitive,stylisticanalysis–ofthekindthat,atitsbest,accompaniedand

elevatedtheinvestigationsofthe1950sand1960s.Thisispartofthereason

whytherehasbeensomethingofaheroiccomebackforstylisticanalysisin

manyquartersoverthepastdecadeorso(seeChapter3).Thesemioticshiftin

the 1970s to analysing codes and structures (such as point-of-view or shot/reverseshot)didnottrytointegratethepreviousattentiontotone,mood, modulationandemotionalaffect.Thisissomethingthatisfarmorepossible today,inthelightofrecentstudiesofaffect,thedistributionofinformationor

knowledgeinafilm,andrelatedissues(seeRutherford,2011;Pye,2010).

Ontheotherhand(andthisismysecondpointofhistoricalretrospection),it hastobesaidtoday,categorically,thatthepoststructuralrevolutionincinema studies–despitesuccessivewavesofstrongcritique,andthefactthatit,too, eventually went under the bus of intellectual history with its ever-changing fashions and fads (overtaken, for instance, by a far less text-based, Cultural Studies approach in the 1980s) – was, and continues to be, enormously significant.Itexposedatruththathadhitherto,duringthereignofclassicismin thisfield,remainedburied:filmisaheterogeneousart,asignifyingformwith levels that frequently escape the best controlling hands and make their impressionbeyondthetidyframeworksofthematicinterpretation. Andfilmis–equallyinescapably–amaterialart.Poststructuralistcritique, whateveritsownmethodologicaldeliriumsorexcesses,gavethosewhofully engagedwithitapalpablesenseofthepervasiveformaldimensionofcinema,a visceral,feltclosenesstotheframe-by-framedetailsandworkingsofcinematic style.Rivettewasright:thescreen-spectacle,thismediumofdisplay,isahuge beast. Those (and I was among them) who discovered the writings of Barthes, DerridaandJuliaKristevaatthesametimeastheyencounteredthefilmsof ChantalAkerman,MichaelPowell/EmericPressburgerandSergioLeonewere privytoahistoricallynewexperiencethatwasatonceintellectualandsensual. Theyexperiencedthetangibilityofcuts, colours,gestures,framings, camera movements,soundandmusiccuesincinema–monumentally(asRivetteputit) andatoneremovefromtheclassicalprotocolsofplotandcharacter.Textual analysisofferedaninitiationintothisbruteleveloffilmicmateriality.Itislittle wonderthatAndrewSarris–acriticformedinadecidedlydifferenthistorical momentoffilmculture–wassoaffrontedbywhathetermedthese‘frameby frame heretics’(a label that delighted many of us at the time) and ‘stilted structuralists’–neitherofwhom,inhisloftyformulation,couldencompass‘an encyclopaedicawarenessofnotonlytheuniverseoffilmitself,buttheexact position of film in the universe’ (Sarris, 1975, p. 18), which pushes transcendencewithavengeance! The difference between classicism and poststructuralism, between ‘expressives’and‘excessives’(ifImaybeallowedtostereotypeindividualsfora

moment),iscaughtformeinananecdotaldetailIhaveobservedovera30year

period:wherecriticsoftheformerpersuasioninevitablyspeakofthedramatic (or comedic) values of a film, those of the latter persuasion use a different buzzwordtoencapsulatetheirengagement:textuality.Thewordmaynowseem dryandtheoretical–andaltogethertooliteraryinitsconnotation–but,during thefinestdaysofpoststructuralism,itwasanythingbut.Ishallneverforgetthe

excitementofone1980scinephilewhobouncedoutofascreeningofFederico

Fellini’sAndtheShipSailsOn(1983)exclaiming:‘It’snotafilm,it’satext!’

Andwhatheborewitnessto,withthishipshorthand,washissensationofan overflowinglyprofuse,materialmovie,heterogeneousandexcessiveinthebest possibleway. Evencriticswhoarenotespeciallypoststructuralintheirorientation,suchas MassonandPetrKrálatPositif,beginfromthepositionthatthefilmicimageis, inescapably, dense with detail, an embarrassment of riches that are hard to wrangleintoacoherent,artisticform.Andnotionslikeheterogeneity,excess, non-alignmentorbeingpermanentlyinprocessarenotsoeasilywipedawayby anassertiverecoursetothetenetsofa‘plainspeaking’,classicalhumanism. Butmychiefinteresthereisfilmanalysis,notphilosophicaldebate–anditis ontheaestheticplanethatthepoststructuralchallengematters.For,oncewe have managed to grasp the complex structures of thematic meaning, world buildingandcharacterformationinafilm,therearestillotherthings,harderto describe,that‘exceedthegrid’,thatinsist:certaininexplicableaffects,aplayof colour,anintensityofrhythm,allthosepure(ornotsopure),highlymaterialand tangiblesignifiersthatBarthesevokedundertheshorthandofthe‘grainofthe

voice’(Barthes,1977),whichremaincentraltothecriticalworkonfilmby,for

example,LesleyStern(1995,2012).

These insistent elements are essential for the investigation that I am undertakinghere.Thequestionforfilmaestheticstodayiswhether,orhowfar,it ispossibletomergeandsynthesisetheinsightsofclassicalandpoststructural approaches.

Anon-intentionalmethod

Atthisprovisionaljuncture,Icalluponthewiseadviceofacriticwhohas movedbetweenstarkly differentschools,methods andmediathroughouthis career and who, in his recent analyses, successfully bridges old and new

methodologies.Inhis2002accountofStanleyKubrick’sEyesWideShut(1999),

MichelChionsuggests:

[

]thereisagreattemptationtoconstructthe‘perfectinterpretation’,which

wouldmeanthatthefilmwouldnolongerbeanymorethanacodedmessage made transparent. The disadvantage of this approach is that it erases everythingwhichbringsaworkaliveandconsistsofdetailsoftextureand particulareffectswhichdonotnecessarilyhaveanythingtodowiththemain theme.

Therightwaytoworkonafilm–toavoidtooclosedaninterpretation–

seemstometobetowatchitseveraltimeswithnopreciseintentions.

Asinapoliceinquiry,oneshouldnotsetupanyhierarchiesorlookinany particular direction. One should not banish emotions and projections, but ratherbringthemtolight,formulatethemandbeawareofthem,letthem float. Inthisinquirythereisultimatelyneithercriminalnorcrime.Ourgoalwill simply be to raise a few hypotheses to cast light on the way that a film ‘speaks’tousandwhatit‘speaks’about. Afilmisasystem,notofmeanings,butofsignifiers.Wemustgoinsearchof

]andwecandothisonlybymeansofanon-intentional

thesesignifiers[

method;forincinema,thatartthatfixesrhythms,substances,forms,figures and all kinds of other things onto a single support, the signifier can sit anywhere.

Atthesametimewemustwatchthefilmasthoughcontinuallyrediscovering it;wemustretainthetracesofourveryfirstimpressions,ofallthatwas charming,intriguingorboringatfirstsight,whilealsonevercensoringwhat

wehaveunderstoodornotunderstoodfirsttimeround.(Chion,2002,pp.37–

38)

3

WhatWasMiseenscène?

Oneafternoon,whenIwas15yearsold–aprecociouscinephile–IsawOtto

Preminger’s Anatomy of a Murder (1959) for the first time, on a humble, domestic, black-and-white television set. Although Preminger was already a nameonthelists(compiledfromthestandardcoffee-tableguidebooksofthe era)offilmmakersandfilmsIhadconvincedmyselfIneededtocatchupwith,I had no real notion, back then, of the kinds of intense cults of cinephilic adoration,situatedallovertheworldatdiversemomentsoffilmcriticism’s

history,thathadbeen(andwerestilltobe)inspiredbyhisworkfromthe1940s

throughthe1960s.

ButIshallneverforgettheemotionthatIexperiencedthatday–andonevery

subsequentviewing–whenconfrontedwithaparticularmoment86minutesinto

thisgreatfilm.Itwasamomentofinitiationforme–initiationintothemystique or cult of cinephilia. And that is a cult intimately connected with a certain apprehensionofmiseenscène. Themomentinquestionispartofacourtroomsceneinwhichthelawyer Biegler(JamesStewart)managestofinallyintroduceevidenceofarapeintohis defense of a soldier (Ben Gazzara). Ascene of dynamic theatricality: both prosecutionattorneyLodwick(BrooksWest)andBieglerplaytothecrowd(the jury)intheirverydifferentways.Preminger,whobeganhiscareerasdirectorin theatre,likestoplayoutscenesinwhatdramaturgsrefertoasstepsorbeats, which break up, structure and mark out the stages of an event. Even more

intricately,Premingerlaysout,inawide-angle,one-minutetake,theback-and-

forthofthetussleofpowerandpersuasionbetweenthesetwo,clevermen.First,

LodwickspeakswhileBieglersits(Figure3.1);thenthelatterstandsanddraws

levelwithhisopponentinordertodeliveramonologuebeforeJudgeWeaver

(JosephN.Welch)thatendswiththeline‘Ibegthecourt

anotherstep–nowpositionedquiteclosetothecamera(Figure3.2) – and

’;thenhetakes

lowershisvoiceintoadramaticwhispertorepeat,‘Ibegthecourt

cutintotheapple.’Thisisaninstancewherescripteddialogueanditsdelivery

areanabsolutelyintegral,superblytimedpartofthemiseenscènethrill.After

theJudgedeliberatesforafewagonisingshotsandseconds,thetensionbreaks;

thetrialcancontinuealongthisnewline.Intheparlanceofscreenwriters,the

filmhasjustreachedaturningpoint,andswungitselfuptoanewlevelof

intrigue.

toletme

intrigue. toletme Figures3.1–3.2 AnatomyofaMurder (OttoPreminger,1959)

Figures3.1–3.2 AnatomyofaMurder(OttoPreminger,1959)

Howtoexplainthetearfuleuphoriathatthismomentunfailinglyproducesin

me–andinsomanyfaithful,multi-timeviewersofAnatomyofaMurder–

beyond the elementary fact that it signals an important breakthrough in the story?TheeffectsofPreminger’smiseenscène–and,indeed,ofanentireera and ethos of mise en scène criticism – are caught in Brian Henderson’s descriptionofasimilarlystagedsceneinOrsonWelles’ChimesatMidnight

(1966):‘asequenceofactionsandmovements’,hewrites,detailingtheever-

changingrelationshipbetweentheactorsandthecamerawithinlong-heldshots,

‘inturnrealizesadelicateandprecisesequenceofemotions’(Henderson,1980,

p.61).Thisistheprocessthatcriticsofthe1950sgaveanevenmorecondensed

formulation: mise en scène as the movement of bodies in space – a space constantlydefinedandredefinedbythecamera.

Thosewerethedays,myfriend

Inthesame,Preminger-likespirit,whentheItaliandirectorSergioLeonediedin 1989, his one-time screenwriter Bernardo Bertolucci handily summed up an entireeraofcinema–aswellascritics’favouritewayofspeakingaboutit–by offeringthefollowingevocationofwhatmiseenscèneentailed:‘therelationship betweenthecamera,thebodiesofthepeopleinfrontofit,andthelandscape’

(Bertolucci,1989,p.78)–and,althoughhewasthinkingprimarilyoftherocky

desertsinLeone’sWesterns,letustakethelibertyofconceivinglandscape,more

inclusively,asenvironmenttotakeinbuiltaswellasnaturalsettings.

Bertolucciencapsulatedheretheclassical,time-honouredwayweimaginethat

miseenscènehappensinpractice:inasetoronlocation,thedirectorsizes

everythingup,guidesactorsintotheirspots,findsapositionforthecamera(ora

and after various trials and

amendments,voila!,ithappens:moviemagic–thekindofmagicincarnatedby JamesStewartforPremingerwhenheleansforward,closetothecamera,and whispers about that metaphoric apple. A chemistry of bodies and spaces, gesturesandmovementscaughtonfilm,irrefutably,nomatterwhatwasinthe scriptbeforehand,orwhateveristohappenintheeditingandsoundtrackrooms later. Andthismagicdidhappen,often.BeforethefilmsofMizoguchiorRenoir, PremingerorWelles,NicholasRayorSatyajitRay–or,indeed,Bertolucci– cinephilesrightlygaspattheexpressiveeloquenceandpowerofthatthree-point relation of camera-actor-environment as it clicks into place with precision. RecallAstruc’sevocation:miseenscèneis‘awayofextendingstatesofmind

intomovementsofthebody’(Astruc,1985,p.267).

Thisis,onmanylevels,whatIhavedescribedasaclassicalvisionofmiseen scène,whatitisandhowitworks.Andalsosomethingofanostalgicvision, giventhatittendstoenshrineaparticularperiodofcinema(roughlyfromthe

mid-1920sthroughtothemid-1960s)asthegreatestperiodoffilmicartand

craft–judginglaterdevelopmentsinfilmstyleasdecadentaberrationsorsigns of a sloppy decline in standards. The directors’names I have listed above encapsulatenotjustacriticalagenda,butalsoacertaintasteinfilm.Raymond

Bellour(2000a)looksbackuponthisclassicalvisionofmiseenscène–which

‘zone’ for it, if there is to be movement)

hepredominantlyassociateswithafoundingfatherofthenotion,Astruc–asa precise,particularculture,anideal,dreamor‘cause’bornofacertaintimeand

place(inhisaccount,Franceofthe1940sand1950s).Hedescribesthisculture

ascorresponding‘tobothanageandavisionofcinema,acertainkindofbelief

inthestoryandtheshot’(Bellour,2003,p.29).Itsrituals(viewing,writing,

editing and publishing magazines or books, collecting stills, posters and soundtrackalbums)tendtomakeaconsideredfetishofparticularportionsof

worldcinema–classicalHollywood,Japaninthe1950s,Frenchcinemaofthe

1930s (especially by Renoir) among them – and quietly exclude the rest of

globalfilmhistory.Wecanseetheledgerofthis1950stastepreservedinaspic,

as it were, in the clips chosen and reworked by Jean-Luc Godard in his

monumentalHistoire(s)ducinémaseries(1988–1998).

The orientation of this brand of mise en scène criticism, furthermore, is overwhelminglytowardsfiction – with the particular ‘belief in the story’or investment in the fictional world it allows; documentary, animation and experimentalfilm–tonameonlythethreemostglaringabsences–rarelygot muchofalook-inatCahiers(somenotable,exceptionalarticlesaside)during

the1950sandwellintothe1960s.Whynot?Theanswerissimple:theydidnot

matchthelineamentsofthisparticulardream-visionofwhatcinemawas,whatit didbest.

LikeLegrand,Bellour(2000a)evengivestheverynameofmiseenscènea

tweak.Withacertainsmile,hecallsthisnostalgicfilmculturela-mise-en-scène (‘the’ mise en scène), so as to distinguish it from other, potential conceptualisationsofthetermasatheoryormethod.Butla-mise-en-scèneisat onceacircumscribedpieceofculturalhistory,andawayoflooking–andof making–thatpersistsintoourpresentday.Therehavebeen,andcontinuetobe, manyfine,sensitivecommentariesbyfansandscholarswhohavedevotedtheir lifetothisparticularcauseofclassicalmiseenscène–indeed,ithassomewhat returnedtoapositionofintellectualfavourtoday,forsomeverygoodreasons, afterhavingbeeneclipsedforseveraldecades(forexamples,seeElsaesserand

Buckland,2002;Klevan,2005;Keathley,2011).

Theclassicalconceptionofmiseenscèneisimportantnotonlybecauseithas

givenbirthtobothmarvellous,poeticfilmsandimpassioned,precisecriticism,

butbecauseitstillexistsincontemporarycinema.Itmaynotbethedominant

style of our current period, but it is still available, at any moment, to any

filmmaker,asatradition,asasetofresourcesorstrategies.Weseela-mise-en-

scène, often in strikingly unadulterated forms, in works by Stanley Kwan (Rouge, 1988), Todd Haynes (Far From Heaven, 2002, a homage to Sirk),

TerenceDavies(TheHouseofMirth,2000),ChristianPetzold(Jerichow,2008)

andmanyothers.Inthissense,miseenscèneisnot–andisneverlikelytobe–

entirelydead.Anyfilmmaker,inanyaudiovisualmediumthatallowsthethree-

pointinterplayofbody,spaceandenvironment,canstillproduceamomentas intenseandeffectiveasPremingerdidinAnatomyofaMurder. Film criticism is, beyond the evidence of words and images on pages (or online),alsothestoryofpersonalallegiances,identifications,strongemotional investments – some of which take place publicly and socially, others which occur only within the deep recesses of the imaginary, part of the legendary solitudeofthelife-longcinephilepersonalitytype.AsmylittlePremingerstory shows,Icutmyteethasayoungcinephileonla-mise-en-scène.Ialsofeltthe need, a little later, to rebel against it, to overthrow what I felt to be its constraininginfluenceonme–toembracewhatIsawasanopposingviewor theory(i.e.,poststructuralism)andatotallydifferentcultureofcinema.But, today,inthisbook,myoverallaimisnottoplayfavourites,choosesidesor stagesomeimaginaryOedipalwarofthegenerations;mygoalistosynthesise diversetoolsandapproaches,whereverandhoweverIcan.SoIwillstartby consideringmiseenscène,asitwasonceclassicallyconceived,asoneofthese usefulandworthytools.

Whatdidwehavethatwedon’thavenow?

So what was this mise en scène of yesteryear – and still, if sometimes unfashionably,oftoday?Beforedepartingfarfromtheclassicalconception,I wanttoimmerseus,forthischapter,rightinit–tobecertainaboutwhatisat stakewhenweevokeandexplorethisarea,andnotmerelydismissitwithaglib caricature,astoooftenhappens.AsTerrySmithwiselynoted–andwecould map his comment about the current, fierce debate between Art History and VisualStudiesontothehistoricsplitbetweenclassicismandpoststructuralismin filmstudies–‘Itisafalsemovetotrumpetthevalueofonedisciplineby contrastingtheproductivityofaradicalinnovationwithinthatdisciplinetothe most conservative tendency in another, while at the same time taking those

partialitiestoberepresentativeofthewholediscipline’(Smith,2013,p.198).

MyPremingerexamplecamefromtheendofthe1950s:aperiodthatmany

cinephiles identify as a special age of maturity in those works informed by

classicalprinciplesofmiseenscène.Afterall,1959wastheyearofHoward

Hawks’ Rio Bravo, Minnelli’s Some Came Running, Hitchcock’s North by

Northwest,Lang’sIndiandiptych

asahistoricthreshold:justbeforethe1960sandtheVietnamwar,beforethe

manyNewWavefilmmovementsaroundtheworld,beforetheTVeraofpop

asitalsomarkedwhatwassoontobenoted

consumptionthatweseetodaybothglorifiedandcriticisedintheseriesMad

Men(2007–2014)–inshort,asjournalistslovetosay,theendofacertain

innocence. Mynextexample,however,comesfromastrangefilmthatarrived–withan

evidentsenseofstrain–attheendofthatturbulentdecadeofthe1960s,when

‘Hollywood’itselfnolongerseemedtosignifywhatitoncedidassystemorasa dream:VincenteMinnelli’s‘paranormal’musicalOnaClearDayYouCanSee

Forever(1970).Andyetitisafilmwhere,onceeveryfewscenes,theheroic

ethosofmiseenscèneassertsitselfandshinesthrough. Anextremelytroubledproductionthatunderwentmajorrevisioninediting,On aClearDaywasnotasuccessonitsinitialrelease,andfewcinephileshave botheredtoreclaimitsince–evenfromwithintheranksofthedirector’smost devotedfansandspecialistcommentators.But,glowinglikejewelsamidstthe uncertaintiesofitsmakingarethepurestinstancesofmiseenscènethatany criticcouldeverwishtodiscover.Hereisoneofthem. Alargeset,Minnellibehindthecamera,andarisingstar:BarbraStreisand. Thesolonumber‘WhatDidIHaveThatIDon’tHave’(musicbyBurtonLane,

lyricsbyAlanJayLerner)occursaround90minutesintoOnaClearDayYou

CanSeeForever.Itissimpler,initsrangeandscopeofelements,thanmanyof theanthologicalmusicalsequencesforwhichthepublicatlargeremembersthis

director,fromfilmslikeMeetMeinSt.Louis(1944)orThePirate(1948)–and

yetitsmasteryofspaceandgestureistotal,itsuseofsignificantprops(suchasa large,trèsmodernechairforpsychoanalyticpatients)unflagginglyinventive,its

acceleratinganddeceleratingrhythmsprecise.AsJoeMcElhaney(2003)has

observed,inMinnelliitislessthevirtuosityorpictorialbeautyoftheshotitself thatmatters,butratherwhatthatshotallowshimtodo,dynamically,withthe frame. Thesceneisasoliloquy,awomansingingtoherself(andaboutherself)inan expansiveofficespace–asetuponwhichMinnelliisabletoringmanychanges ofmoodandaspectthroughoutthefilm.Streisandbringsmuch,asaperformer, tothisscene:inparticular,awayofplayingwithexhaustion.Shefrequently givestheimpressionofbeingabouttocollapse,onthevergeofimplosion–and howfittingthisisfortheweak-willedcharactersheplayshere.But,justassheis crumpling up and sinking to the ground – her shoulders falling, her head drooping, her arms listless – she mimics the finding or mining of some indomitableenergywithin:sheswellsup,takesastep,beginstopossessthe frameand,indeed,theentirespaceofthedécor.Andthenshewiltsagain,and flowersagain–sofitting,oncemore,forafilmwithsomanysupernaturally bloomingplants–overandover.Evenhercharacternamecuesustothis:Daisy.

Thesong(includingaspoken-wordbreakandDaisy’sendofatelephonecall) isstagedwithinaseriesofonlythreeshots,totallingsixandahalfminutes.The firstshotbeginswithDaisy’sreactiontothetaperecordingsofhersessions, which she has accidentally discovered, with her less-than-friendly hypno- psycho-therapist,Marc(YvesMontand);itrunsforthree-and-a-halfminutes. Daisy’sdilemmaisunusual,andthesongsheperformsisdevotedtocataloguing allitsramifications:Marchasfalleninlovewithaformerselforincarnationof Daisy,fromanothertimeandplace(England),emergingunderhypnosis–a gregarious,scandalous,free-loving,nouveaurichearistocratnamedMelinda. Daisybeginsthesongwhilesheleansagainstanopenwindow;shebeginsto walkalongonesideoftheroomduringhersecondline,thecameratracking back,infrontofher:

Idon’tknowwhytheyredesignedme

Helikesthewayheusedtofindme

HelikesthegirlIleftbehindme

Thecamerastopsandreframesherstatic,foramoment,infrontofawideview oftheroom(bookcases,aspiralstaircase),assheflounders,flailsherarms,and experienceswhatDaffyDuckoncecalled(inatrulypsychoanalyticmoment) ‘pronoun trouble’, the musical score underlining and punctuating her exclamations:

Imeanhe Imeanme

Nowsheflopsdownintothechairwhichwemaynothaverealisedwasjust belowtheframeline–theusualpositionforhersessionswithMarc(shealso falls,inthismovement,intoapooloflight:anironiccommentonMarc’srather unsuccessfulmodeofpsychoanalytictreatment!).Thesongcontinuesinitsslow, balladphase;Minnelli’scameraperformsanequallyslowmovementintoDaisy, matchingtheliltingrhythmofNelsonRiddle’sarrangement.Daisydeliversher next line with a delightfully comic, Jewish inflection (as if to smooth the alternationbetweenspeechandsong)beforereturningtopathos:

WhatdidIhavethatIdon’thave?

WhatdidhelikethatIlosttrackof?

WhatdidIdothatIdon’tdothewayIdidbefore?

Thensheleansforwardinthechair:

Whatisn’ttherethatoncewasthere?

WhathaveIgotagreatbiglackof?

Daisyrisesfromthechairandbeginsthesametired,roboticwalkingasbefore;

thecameratrackswithherasshesings(Iamincludinghereonlyaselectionof

thelyrics).Afterstoppingatadifferentwindow,shewalks(alittlefasternow,in

timewiththemusic’sintensification)alongabankofflowersandplants(Daisy’s

contributiontotheinteriordesignofMarc’soffice),idlytouchingthem,aswe

have already seen her do often in the film, as she passes. Coming to the

bymypast’,she

provisionalconclusion,inthesong,thatsheis‘outclassed

sitsdown,again,nowata(third)windowledge.Thecamerabeginsaslow

movementintoamediumclose-upherinthisspot:

Whatdidhelovethatthere’snoneof?

WhatdidIlosethesweet,warmknackof?

Wouldn’tIbethelategreatmeifIknewhow?

Betweenthelong-heldnotesthatconstitutethelasttwowordsofthispartofthe

now?’– Minnelli finds an

unobtrusivespottocuttohissecondset-up:areframingofDaisy,samepose,in mid-shot,butwiththecameraswiftlytrackingbackandslightlyoverhead,into thecentreoftheroom,ashervoiceandthefinalchordsdieaway.Daisynow

appearssmallintheframe(Figure3.3).

song – ‘oh, what did I have I don’t

have

Butthesceneandthesongarefarfromover.Daisywandersintheroomonce

again,moreexhausted/implodedthanever.Duringthis54secondshot,Daisy

alternatesbetweenagitationandexhaustionasshetalkstoherselfinasoliloquy;

musiccontinuesasunderscore,butthesongitselfdoesnotyetreturn.

Ithoughthekindalikedme.Butallthetimehewasthinkingofsomeoneelse

–me!Oh,thesequestions!Hewasn’tinterestedinme.Hewasinterestedin

me!OhGod,whydidIhavetocomealong?

Avisualcutonmovement–avariationontheprecedingcutwithinasung phrase–getsustothethirdshot,whichlaststwominutes.Daisy’stransitional gesturehasaprecisenarrativeresonancewithinthetotalcontextofthestory:she turnsherheadtothephoneandreadiestopickupthereceiver,telepathically knowing it is about to ring. With telephone in hand, she vents her anger, throwingsupposedlyhigh-class,Britishphrasesathimlike‘Tallyho,Doctor’ and‘kipperedherring’.

Theslammingdownofthereceiverbackinitsplaceisthepercussivecuethat

announcesamoodchangeandpicksupthescene’senergy.Nowthesongisback

full-forceinanup-tempoarrangement,andBarbralaunchesstraightin,thistime,

withoutneedofasemi-spokentransition:

WhatdidIhavethatIdon’thave?

WhatdoIneedabigsupplyof?

WhatwasthetrickIdidparticularlywellbefore?

Ontheword‘well’,Daisyisoff,too:shelaunchesherselfintofrenziedmotion,

andthecamerakeepspacewithher(Figure3.4).Shestruggleswithputtingon

hercoatandthenhistrionicallytakesafewstridesandthrowsitdown;she

retracesvirtuallyherentirepreviouspatharoundtheroom–tothewindow,

alongtheflowers–allthewhilefranticallygesticulatingwithherarms.

WherecanIgotorepair

Allthewearandthetear?

TillI’monceagainthepreviousme.

Allthewearandthetear? TillI’monceagainthepreviousme. Figures3.3–3.4 OnaClearDayYouCanSeeForever

Figures3.3–3.4 OnaClearDayYouCanSeeForever(VincenteMinnelli,1970)

Theconfusionanddesperationexpressedintheline‘wherecanIgo?’isliterally

visualisedinDaisy’sfranticexplorationoftheset,whichnowoffersnopointsof

rest.Anespeciallyresonantgestureattheendofthatverse–Daisygivingthe

psychoanalyticchairanangryspin–cuesafastcameramovementintoher.

Moreagitatedwalkingandmorearmwavingfollow–with,thistime,Daisy

grabbingontowoodbeams,iftosupportherself.Thesongreachesitsgrand,

self-inquisitorialfinale:

Oh,whatdidIknow?

Tellmewherediditgo!

What,oh,whatdidIhave

Themiseenscèneherereachesitsexpressivepeak:Streisand’sarms,stretched outoneachsideofherbodycompletelyfillthewidescreenframe,whichshe utterlycommandsinthismoment;Minnellihasmanoeuvredthetophalfofher bodyintoamid-shot–andthishastheforceofaconventionalclose-up,sincehe hasfilmedmostoftheprecedingactionwithherentirebodyinframe.Butwhen shefinishessingingtheword‘have’,themusicstops,herclenchedfistsgotoher sides,belowframe–andthemoodsnaps.Daisycanhardlybreathe;depression

hasreturned.Thelastwordstakeherafull35secondstoexpelasshegathers

her things and limps out the door, the music coming to its melancholic, diminuendoconclusion:

I

don’t have now.

Thecamerahasheldbackinthisfinalphaseofthescene,nolongerfollowing hermovements,onlyshiftingtoreframetheactionofherexit–thefinalmusical note accompanied by Daisy’s plaintive, defeated sigh, audible when she is almostentirelyoff-screen.Thelastframes,inpuresilence,showanemptyset. Whatascene!Acinephilelikemecanhappilywatchitforever.Itcontainsso many dramatic or comic beats (à la Preminger), so many expert spatial modulations and mood changes, so much entrancing camerawork – and my description,brutallyselectiveasallsuchliterarydescriptionsmustnecessarily, unavoidablybe,leavesoutmanyofitsfelicitousmicro-moves.WatchingOna ClearDayYouCanSeeForeverhelpsustorealisewhysomanycinephileswho veneratemiseenscènearealsodiehardfansofthemusicalgenre,aswellasof operaandthemoreexperimentalformsof‘cine-dance’–andwhydiscussionsof directorialandstylistictechniqueinfilmsooftentakerecoursetoananalogy withdancechoreography:notmerelybodiesinspace,butthedynamicprinciples

of attraction and repulsion that govern their proximity or distance. Godard describedthemusicalsofGeneKellyandStanleyDonenasthe‘idealisationof

cinema’(Godard,1972,p.87)–whichmeantnotonlythattheytappedintoand

expressedrealmsofdream,fantasyandlonging,butalsothattheyexploredan

idealtypeofheightened,lyricalfilmstyle;astylethatwillfinditsapotheosisin

cinemahistoryinatraditionrangingfromMurnauandBorisBarnetthrough

PowellandPressburgerandontoDarioArgentoandTimBurton.

AtthebeginningofthattraditionwefindMurnau,inthe1920s,writingapre-

manifestoforanethosofmiseenscènewhichdidnotyetbearthathallowed name–forhim,itwassimplyamatterofdefiningtheaestheticpotentialitiesof cinema as a moving-image medium. His chosen analogy happens to be architecture–hespeaksof‘architecturalfilm’–ratherthandance:

WhatIrefertoisthefluidarchitectureofbodieswithbloodintheirveins moving through mobile space; the interplay of lines rising, falling, disappearing;theencounterofsurfaces,stimulationanditsopposite,calm; construction and collapse; the formation and destruction of a hitherto unsuspectedlife;allofthisaddsuptoasymphonymadeupoftheharmonyof bodiesandtherhythmofspace;theplayofpuremovements,vigorousand

abundant.(qtdinEyman,1990,p.79)

Finecare

Filmcriticismhasuselesslyexhausteditselfovermanyyearspittingthemagic

ofmiseenscèneagainstotherlevelsoftechniqueinthecraftoffilmmaking:

againstobviouseffectsofmontage,ononehand;againstmerelyconventional ‘shotbreakdowns’ordécoupage,onanotherhand. Buttherehasalwaysbeenalinethroughthediscontinuous,globalhistoriesof film analysis which has stressed the interdependence and interpenetration of thesevariouslevels.Withoutgoingtotheextremeofoncemoreclaimingthat miseenscèneisthenameforeverythinginvolvedincreatingafilm,canwe,at least,expandtheclassicalnotiontoincludeamoreholisticviewofitsprocess?

In1956,agreatgifttocriticismwasofferedbyJean-LucGodardinhisshort

text ‘Montage, My Fine Care’; it provides an early intuition of a possible rapprochement between what were already being posed, at the time, as the mutuallyexclusivenotionsofmontagecinema(filmsessentiallystructuredand formedinediting)andmiseenscènecinema(filmsessentiallycreatedonsetor inanenvironment,inexpansivelongtakes).LikeRobinWood,Godardfirstasks ustoimaginethedrama,internaltothedirector,ofcinematiccreation:

Supposeyouseeanattractivegirlinthestreet.Youhesitatetofollowher.A quarterofasecond.Howtoconveythishesitation?Thequestion:‘Howto approachher?’willbeansweredforyoubymiseenscène.Butinorderto makeexplicitthisotherquestion,‘AmIgoingtoloveher?’,youwillhaveto grantimportancetothequarterofasecondduringwhichbotharise.(Godard, 1968,pp.47–48) 1

Thelessonhedrawsfromthis:

Iftodirectisaglance,toeditisabeatingoftheheart.Toanticipateisthe characteristicofboth.Butwhatoneseekstoforeseeinspace,theotherseeks

intime.(Godard,1968,p.47)

Godardstressestheoverlapbetweenthephasesofon-setdirectionandediting:

‘Oneimprovises,oneinventsinfrontoftheMoviolajustasonedoesontheset’

(Godard,1968,p.48).Whatheisafter,ultimately,isanintegratedmodeof

graspingfilmiccreativity–especiallyforfilmmakers:

Editing,therefore,atthesametimethatitdenies,announcesandpreparesthe wayforthemiseenscène;theyareinterdependentoneachother.Todirectis

toplot,andonespeaksofaplotaswell-orpoorly-knit.(Godard,1968,p.49)

Letmeaddasimplebutcrucialterminologicalpointhere,inthespiritofthe youngGodard:ratherthanwrapourselvesinknotsoverthemultiple,contested

meaningsofwordslikemontageordécoupage(seeKeathley,2011;Barnard,

2014)–andtohelploosenthegripthattiesmiseenscèneexclusivelytothe

majesty of autonomous, long takes – we can simply assert that cutting, conceivedinnumerousways,isabsolutelycrucialtotheworkingsofmiseen scène.Asoftenas,inthecourseofmyexamplesinthisbook,Iwilladmirethe dexterityofasingleshotorchestratedandsustainedoverone,three,fiveorten minutesandpreservedassuchintheflowofasequence,Iwilljustasoftendraw breathattheexpressiverightness,beauty,poetryoraudacityofacut–whichis somethingthatfilmmakersworklongandhardtoachieve.(AgnèsGuillemot,

Godard’sfilmeditorthroughoutthe1960s,onceputthisperfectly:‘Thefewer

cutsthereare,themoreimportanttheybecome’[JousseandStrauss,1991,p.

62].)

Asfarasmanypractitionersareconcerned,thegranddebateofmiseenscène

vs.découpage/montageisstrictlyanon-issue:whethertheyplanfor‘coverage’

(decidingonhowmanyanglesorset-upstheywillshootascenefrom,with

specificcutstobefiguredoutlaterinediting),workfromadetailedstoryboard

ofindividualshotsalreadybrokendown,ormakeuseofamoreorlesselaborate

‘master’shot(allormostoftheactioncoveredinoneshot),cuttingisalmost

alwayspartofthestyleequation.Infilmcriticism,JonathanRosenbaumhas

longmilitatedforthissortofrapprochement,forexampleinrelationtothecase

ofChantalAkerman:

ItismisleadingtotalkmerelyaboutAkerman’smiseenscèneinspiteofher close attention to framing, because from that vantage point, many of her movieslookratheranemic.It’sherdécoupagethatmatters–thatis,notonly whathappensinhershotsbutwhathappensbetweenthem,amongthem, acrossthem,andthroughthem.(Thesamethingappliestopracticallyallof themostimportantfilmmakersinthehistoryofmovies:RobertBresson,Carl Dreyer,SergeiEisenstein,AlfredHitchcock,KenjiMizoguchi,YasujiroOzu, JeanRenoir,AndreiTarkovskyandOrsonWellesmaybeknowntousas masterdirectors,buttheirartisultimatelytheartofdécoupageratherthan

simplymiseenscène.)(Rosenbaum,2012)

Inhisremarkable1971texton‘TheLongTake’–likesomanyofthebesttexts

infilmcriticismhistory,onenevertakenupascomprehensivelyasitcouldhave been–BrianHendersonexploresandextendsGodard’ssenseofthecomplex relationsbetweenmiseenscèneandotherstylisticprocesses.Hegesturestoward what he calls ‘a comprehensive descriptive rhetoric of filmic figures’

(Henderson,1980,p.8).Forinstance,hediscussestheintrasequencecutas

functioninginamixedrealmbetweenmiseenscèneandediting–indeed,giving

risetowhathedarescall‘mise-en-scènecutting’:

Anentirecategoryoflong-takeorintrasequencecuttingconcernstherelation

ofcameratoscriptanddialogue.Adirectormaycutfrequently,evenonevery

line,andifhedoessotheresultisakindofmontage,thoughoneboundinits

rhythmtotherhythmofthedialogue,notitselfanindependentrhythm.Atthe

otherextremehemay,asMizoguchioftendoes,cutonlyonceortwicewithin

alongdialoguesequence.Ifhedoesthelatter,thenhiscutmustbecarefully

mediatedandplacedinrelationtothedramaticprogressofthescene,coming

atjustthatpointatwhichtherelationshipsatstakeinthescenehaveripened

intoqualitativechange–achangereflectedintheneworalteredmise-en-

scène.(Henderson,1980,p.55)

ThesepassagesfromGodardandHendersongiveagoodsenseofthekindsof

complex decision making processes that are part and parcel of narrative

filmmaking(seeBacher,1976and1996).Inhisvaluable1981article‘Moments

ofChoice’,V.F.PerkinsarguesthatHollywooddirectorswerenotnearlyso

hamstrungartisticallyasweliketoimaginethem,heroically,tohavebeen:

OldHollywoodwaswellawareofhowmuchitsproductstoodtogain,as

entertainment,fromastylethatrendereditsdramaeffectivelyandmadeit

]Itvaluedand

rewardedtheabilitytocontrolperformance,imageandeditingsoastocreate moodsandviewpointsthroughwhichthestorycouldgripandpersuadethe audience.Veryseldomwouldadirector’scareersufferfromanoisyinsistence ongettingaparticularfabricfortheset,aparticularlensforthecameraora particularcastingforanapparentlyinsignificantrole.Directorswerepaidto believe that every little thing mattered – and to prove it by their results.

(Perkins,2006)

look,moveandsoundasifithadasenseofdirection.[

Perkins’accountisincreasinglyborneoutbytheemergingdocumentation– withintheareaofresearchknownasgeneticcriticism,thatis,tracingthemaking of a film from its initial idea to its conclusion, through all its stages of elaboration–oftheactualworkthatHollywooddirectorsdid.

Amapandadream

Therearemanyfinestudiesintheannalsofcriticalliteraturedevotedtothemise enscènestrategiesofdirectorsincludingPreminger,Minnelli,Sirk,Rayand Ophüls.However,ifpushedtonominateoneoftheclearest,purestexamplesof thisartoperatingatitshighestpointofsophisticationandarticulationwithinthe

1950s‘goldenage’,IwouldchooseasectionofLuchinoVisconti’sLenotti

bianche (White Nights, 1957) – a film which was a particular source of inspirationforthe highlyartificialand lyricalstyleof JacquesDemyinthe

1960s(TheUmbrellasofCherbourg,1964)andbeyond.Furthermore,thescene

allowsmetoproposesomesystematicprinciplesatworkinclassicalmiseen scène–principlesthatcanguideanalysisofmany,diverseexamplesofthis particularaspectoffilmicart. Sixty-sixminutesintoLenottibianchecomesanexhilaratingdancesequence. Itisimpossible,withintheflowofthenarrativeaction,toseparatemysegment cleanlyfromwhatimmediatelyfollowsit,butIwillarbitrarilydefineitinterms ofplace:fromtheentranceofMario(MarcelloMastroianni)andNatalia(Maria Schell) to the dancing room of the Nuovo Bar (like all the film’s sets,

meticulouslybuiltatCinecittà)totheirsuddenexitfromit,asNataliafleesinthe hopeofmeetingherloveratanearbybridge,andMariogiveschase.Itisa

comparativelylongblockofaction–11andahalfminutes–althoughitflows

quickly and engagingly, because Visconti (as we shall see) is a master at

modulatingandvaryingatmosphere,thematicstructureandstorytellingpoint-of-

view. Letusbeginwiththematterofplace.Aninventivemiseenscènecanpropose manylively,surprisingwaysofdiscoveringandexperiencingalocale–notonly itsarchitecturallayout,butalsointermsofitschangingaspectsandmoodsasit isseeninsuccessivelydifferentlights(whichisliterallythecasehere)andin differentways,fromvariousangles.ViscontibeginsthesequenceasMarioand Nataliaenteraparticular,innerroomofthebar–pointedly,hedoesnottrace theirentrancethroughthefrontdoor.Thefacadeofthisplaceissomethingwe

willseeonlyinthefinalshots,11minuteslater.

So,formostofthesequence,thefilminhabitsthisone,largeroom.Itisa squarespacewiththreedoorways(allofthemusedinthescene,markingits variousphases)andnowindows.Viscontimapsthespaceinstages–especially usingthecueofNatalia’slookingaroundtheroom–allowingustogradually noticecertainofitsfixtures:alargeposterononewall;apiano,jukeboxand drumkitalonganother.Smalltableslinethespace,butitscentreisempty–left fordancing,asweshallsoondiscover.Viscontideliberatelydelaysanything resemblinganoverall,establishingshotuntilwellintothescene;likewise,he deploysmastershots(asubstantialpartoftheactioncoveredwithoutacut)for purely expressive, rather than functionally informative, purposes. Richard T.

Jameson’sremarkthat‘ithasalwaysbeenoneofthespecialpleasuresofmovies

thattheydreamworldsandmapthematthesametime’(Jameson,1990,p.32)

fitsVisconti’sstyleperfectly. Ifmiseenscèneisbodiesinspace,dancescenesare(aswehavealready observed)primecandidatesforpurecinema.Butwhatcanadirectoractuallydo withthesedancingbodiesinaspace?AlexandreAstruc(whocastMariaSchell ayearafterLenottibiancheinhisownfeature,Unevie)expressedthematterin anabstractandabsolutewaythatisnotentirelyhelpfultoushere:‘Whatis caughtbythelensisthemovementofthebody–animmediaterevelation,like allthatisphysical:thedance,awoman’slook,thechangeofrhythminawalk,

beauty,truth,etc.’(Astruc,1985,p.266).Butthisquestion,inpractice,isnever

abstract;eachdirectormustworkoutaresponseinmaterialterms,inthecontext

oftheparticularstorytheyaretelling.RecallingMurnau’sdescriptionofthe

architecturalartoffilm,wecanproposethatafilmmakerthinsoutorthickensa

scenethroughtheprecisewaythatheorshefillsandemptiesaframewitha

massofbodies.Thisis,allatonce,amatterofrhythm,textureandmood–as wellasdramaticandthematicintent. Fillingandemptyingaframe,usingbodiesandobjectsassignificantprops,is alsoamatterofestablishingandplayingonwhatAlainBergalaidentifiesas intervals–thechangingdistances,closeorfar,installedbetweenthemajor, physicalpointsinascene(suchasitsprincipalcharacters).Oneaspectofthis elasticity–akeyfeatureofcinema’splastic,dynamicform–shouldbenoted fromtheoutset,asViscontiusesitsoprominentlyandartfully:whatBergala

(2000,p.30)amusinglynamestheelectricconductorprinciple,whichvisibly

markstheintervalbetweentwopointsviathephysicalintermediaryofaserial chain:examplesincludeacrowdofpeopleseparatingtwolovers(frequently

usedincinema,forinstanceinthefinaleofRossellini’sViaggioinItalia,1954)

andthetensespacebetweenstaticcharactersfilledupbysuchobjectsasthe

picketsinafence(BergalanoticesthisinHitchcock’sTheBirds,1963)oraline

ofsuitcases(inWesAnderson’sTheRoyalTenenbaums,2001).

Onewayofappreciatingclassicalmiseenscèneistogaugehowadirector usesthebasicverisimilitudeofagivensituationforexpressivepurposes–acore tenet,aswehaveseen,oftheaestheticmodelsofferedbyPerkinsandLegrand.I referheretotheessential‘givens’ofascene,iftheyhavebeenestablished (whichisnotalwaysthecase,especiallyinweaklydirectedfilms):theweather, temperature, precise time of day or night, the lighting conditions that can realisticallybelongtosuchaplace,itsarchitecturallayout.Viscontiisattuneto alltheseavailablefactors;heconfidentlyestablishesthemandthencreatively usesthemasthesceneprogresses. Forinstance,itisahotnight(asmanygesturesoffanning,drinking,etc., indicate).ThescenepreciselymarkshowpromptlyNataliaremoveshercoat (andthenstrokesitinherlap,stillconstrainedbyshyness),asdistinctfrom Mariowhoonlydiscardssomeofhisobviouslytoowarmgarmentslater,inthe midstofdancing.Thisisitselfamiseenscèneprinciple:differentiatingthe personalities and functions of characters via the diverse, distinct ways they respond (consciously or unconsciously) to the shared conditions of their environment. Thematically,thefilmisaboutamanandwomanatcross-purposes:Natalia longs for another, absent guy and, while waiting for him, spends time with Mario,whoinstantlyfallsinlovewithher.Inthelead-uptothissequence–and duringmuchofthestory–Mariotriestoengineersomeintimacybetweenthem, aprivatespacewheretheycanconcentrateonlyoneachother;hehopes,inthis way,tosparkreciprocalaffectionfromher.So,themiseenscènetackleswhatis, historically,oneofitsrichestfields:theinterrelationofprivate(intimate)and

public(sociallife)–thelatter,usually,impingingontheformer.(Remember,for instance,thespotlighttrainedmercilesslyontheteenagecoupleatadancehall in American Graffiti, 1973.) Depending on where the scene needs to go dramatically,thedirector–justasmuchasthecharacters–canstructureit almostasanactivepursuitofthelonged-formomentofintimacy:whenandhow canithappen?Onthelevelofthefilm’sstyle(integratedwiththeactionas scripted),itmightoccur,forinstance,bywayofaveryclosetwo-shotthat excludesallsurroundings;orauseofdifferentiatedfocusintheshot(loversin

focus, crowd out of focus); or a manipulation of the soundtrack (diegetic, incidental music giving way to scored, soundtrack music). Visconti proves himselfwellawareofthefullgamutofsuchdeviceshere. To dig deeper into the thematics of this particular film, a constant and consistentironycanbeobserved:theoppositionbetween(private)coupleand (public)masswithwhichthesceneworksisalsoachoicebetweentwodifferent lifestyles,oneold-fashionedandtheothermodern.WhereMarioandNatalia dreamofone-to-oneromanticfusion(albeitwithdifferentobjectsofadoration!), thedancers–aswellasthesong‘ThirteenWomen(andOnlyOneManin Town)’soontomakeitsappearance–expressthefunoptionofmorecasualand multipleattachments.Noteventheprincipaldancerinthecrowdstickswiththe samepartner,oncethemusicchanges! Thesequencedeftly worksitsway throughfivephases. Initsfirstphase,

MarioandNataliasitatatable;thereisonlysomescattered,languorousslow-

dancinghappeningaroundtheroom,andanItalianballadplayingverysoftly. MariotriestoengageNataliainconversation,butsheimmediatelystartslooking aroundtheroom,commentingonthedancers(‘Ican’tdance’,sheconfesses). Oneminuteintothesequencealoud,rock’n’rollsong(presumablyfromthe jukebox glimpsed in the corner) is triggered: the aforementioned ‘Thirteen Women’ by Bill Haley and the Comets, first released three years before Visconti’sfilm.Letusnoteasubtletrickofcrafthere:thesongrunsforjust underthreeminutes,butacleversoundeditextendsthetrackandgivesthe director the full five minutes and 15 seconds he needs to fully develop the action! This song gets almost everyone in the room up dancing, and hence immediatelyaltersboththespaceandthegeneralmood,aswellastherelation

between private and public for our central couple: their area is instantly impingeduponbylunging,kicking,swingingdancersand,asNataliabecomes intoxicatedbythegeneralmood,Marioismorebothered,knowinghisplayfor

herattentionisfastdisappearing(Figure3.5).

This second phase of the sequence introduces new elements that create a particulartypeofintrigue.Viscontifeaturestwoskilledrockdancers(oneof

whom,DirkSanders,alsoworkedwiththedirectorinoperaandhasarolein

Godard’sPierrotlefou[1965]).Thecameraexecutesaslowmovementtowards

this second couple as they dance, exuberantly claiming the space; simultaneously,theyapproachthecamerainatango-likestep.Whentheyreach

thepointofalmostatwo-shotclose-up(Figure3.6)–themanpointedlystaring

off-frame, goadingly, at Mario and Natalia (this spatial relation has been implicitlyconstructedinprecedingshots)–Viscontiintroducesaboldstylistic move.Hisdancersflingeachother(whilestillholdinghands)rightoutsidethe leftandrightedgesoftheframe!Andthey‘snapback’together,twiceover. Literally,theelasticprincipleofmiseenscèneinaction.ThatViscontimeansus tocomparethetwocouplesisclinchedinthematch-cutengineeredatthisshot’s end: the dancers exit screen right and in the next shot enter screen left – introducingaparallelslowcameramovementintoMarioandNatalia. Thesequence’sthirdphaseiscuedingeniouslybyVisconti:inthecourseofa semi-circulartrackingshotaroundthetablewhereMarioandNataliasit,wepass from the high point of the dancing crowd interrupting the couple (much to Mario’schagrinanddiscomfort),fillingandemptyingpocketsoftheframe;toa reframing that shows both Mario’s persistence at trying to hold Natalia’s attention, as well as her increasing sense of abandon as she focuses on the commotionaroundthem;andfinallytoacompositionwherethecoupleare squashedintotheright-handedgeoftheframe,asmultiplerevellersgowild.Yet thisiswherethescenetips,becauseMariomakesasurprisemove,inboththe literalandmetaphoricalsenses:hestandsup,takesthecentreoftheframe,and

invitesNataliatodance(Figure3.7).Ifhecannotbeatthem,hewilljointhem!

Inthecontinuationofthissame,complexshot(whichrunsalittleovertwo minutes) another move occurs, which presents the comparison of the two couplesinadifferentway:theychangepartners,andthelessinhibiteddancers leadourmaincharactersintodifferentzonesofthecrowdedspace.Thisiswhere theelectricconductorprinciplekicksin,duringthesubsequentshots:Mario, disturbed,triestolookabove(hejumps)andthroughthebodiesmovinginthe

crowdtofindhisbeloved(Figure3.8).Simultaneously,Viscontiextendsthis

effect to our vantage point as spectators: the foreground of the frames is increasinglycloggedwithbodiesinblurredmotion.Viscontioftenplayssuch hide-and-seekgameswiththeviewerintermsofwhatcanbeseenclearlyonly forfleetingseconds,andforthisheemploys(inturnorinvaryingcombinations) severalmiseenscèneresources:framing,choreography,theset’sarchitecture, lighting. MariofinallymakesitacrosstheroombacktoNatalia,butnotbeforethe sceneadoptsanew,freshperspective:ahighanglecoveringaroundtwo-thirds

oftheentireroomspace(Figure3.9).Filmsoftenengineer(asBergalanotes,

2000,p.29)thiskindofperspectivalswitch:wehavehithertobeen‘with’the

charactersandtheirinteractions,literallyattheirlevel,followingtheunfolding ofthescenegesturebygesture–andsuddenlyweseethetotalityoftheevent. When Visconti cuts to a reprise of this high angle, the fourth and most spectacularphaseofthesceneisinaugurated:acircleclearsforthestardancer, Sanders,toperformsolo.Inaflushofexhibitionistictriumph,hemakesan appealwithhiseyesforNataliatojoinhiminthecentre–thuspromptingMario, eventually,totakethestagehimself,dancinginacrazy,ungainlybutinspired way.Thisisthesimplest,leaststylised,mostdirectlytheatricalpartofthemise enscène:allthecameraneedsisagoodspotfromwhichtorecordMastroianni’s expertdisplayofhischaracter’stouchingclumsiness.Viscontiknowswhento stopshowingoff,style-wise,andlethismalestarshowoffinstead. When this contest is over and the song finally ends, our central couple embrace,andtheframeisimmediatelyemptiedofallbodiesexcepttheirs–the instantmoodchangeisbrutallymasterful.Now,toenhancethismomentbutalso topreparethenextphaseofthescene,Viscontiengineersanotherperspectival switch–utilisingtheprominent,frosted,lit-up,swingingdouble-doorwaywe have spotted in the background throughout. An extra from the previous commotion exits this door into an adjoining room; as the doors swing, we glimpse(anotherhide-and-seekeffect)ourwould-beloversstillstandingalone,a littledazed(Figure3.10). From here the scene passes to a view behind the windownearwherethecouplereturntosit.Aromanticballadfromthejukebox begins,andcouples(notablyfewerthanbefore)beginslowdancing. Thealterationofthemiseenscène’sco-ordinatesforthisfifthphaseistotal. Themoodofthemusiciscompletelydifferent.Moststrikingly,Viscontiusesa bold lighting effect which is grounded, semi-realistically, in a detail that is revealedlater:thelightssuspendedoverthestreetoutsideswingwildlyinthe wind(anothercrucialweatherelementofwhichViscontimakesmaximumuse). So,inside,onceinternallightingisextinguished,thedarknessisbrokenbya mobilespotlightthatcreatesanelaboratemaskingeffect–renderingespecially poignantthealmost-but-never-quite-therenatureoftheintimatemomentthat Mario seeks with Natalia. When the couple joins the other slow-dancers, Viscontistagesanothercomplexseriesofshots:althoughthecoupleisframedin a tight two-shot, the frame is still under siege from neighbouring dancers, intrudingwiththeirownfacesandbodyparts–andfurthermore,Marioand Nataliaareoftenplunged,forsecondsatatime,intopitchdarkness,frustrating

ourviewofthemwhileabruptlyshiftingourattentiontoothers(Figure3.11).

Withthewomanwhoearlierexitedthroughthefrosteddoors,Visconticreates

anothercomparativecouple,asshere-entersandshimmiesseductivelytowardsa soldieronleave–thesamesoliderintowhichNataliawillcollideassheflees. WhattriggersNatalia’sflight?Thesceneshiftsperspectiveoncemore,witha differentextraexitingadifferentdooroftheroom,toescapefromtheheat;from thisspotonabalcony,thecameracanobserveamiddle-agedwomancalling fromanearby window,angrilytelling someonethatitis‘wellafter 10.00’. Nataliarealises,inapanic,thatshemaymisstherendezvouswiththemanshe loves.Assherunsout,andweseethefrontpartofthebarthatwehavenot previouslyglimpsed,thesoundtrackalsometamorphoses:forthefirsttimeinthe scene,NinoRota’sscoreisusedtounderlinethedrama.(Fellinicouldnever havekepthisbelovedcomposeroutofthepictureforsolong!)Withbothcentral charactersdisappearingfromview,oneafteranother,downthestreet,weareleft withthememoryoftheirpoignantdialoguecoupletonthedancefloor:

withthememoryoftheirpoignantdialoguecoupletonthedancefloor:
withthememoryoftheirpoignantdialoguecoupletonthedancefloor:
Figures3.5–3.11 Lenottibianche (LuchinoVisconti,1957) N:Now,too,IcansaythatI’vebeendancing.
Figures3.5–3.11 Lenottibianche (LuchinoVisconti,1957) N:Now,too,IcansaythatI’vebeendancing.

Figures3.5–3.11 Lenottibianche(LuchinoVisconti,1957)

N:Now,too,IcansaythatI’vebeendancing.

M:NowI,too,cansaythatI’vebeenhappy.

Astrucmaynothavebeenterriblypreciseinhisdescriptionofthecomponent elementsofmiseenscène,buthispoeticevocationfitsthetaskhere:‘Some strangeseductiveforcemakesitseemthat,quitenaturally,allthatisstillan

expectationherewillsomedaybecompletelyfulfilled’(Astruc,1985,p.267).

Magicalshotorformalbluff?

In both the writings and the films of Jacques Rivette, we can observe a symptomaticshiftingofpositions,severaltimesover,inrelationtotheidealand the practice of mise en scène. These shifts registered not only his personal predilections,buttheargumentsgoingonaroundhim–atCahiersducinéma,

and in the larger world of progressive filmmaking where he became an increasinglykeyfigure.ThissurveyofRivette’sthought,inthreesnapshots,will servetointroduceusthevariousdeathsandrebirthsofmiseenscèneacrossthe decadestofollow–thesubjectofmynexttwochapters.

1954:Rivette,asamemberoftheCahierscrew,isnotwholly,butcertainly

decisively,undertheinfluenceofthetutelaryfigureofAndréBazin.Letus briefly recall (as it is a topic discussed exhaustively elsewhere, by many commentators)Bazin’schampioningofthelongtakeandopenimagestylistics in directors as diverse as Renoir, Welles and Rossellini. When we read the jokestersofPremiereevokingtheboguswarof‘montagevs.miseenscène’, whattheyarenodoubtdimlyrecallingfromtheirearlyuniversitydaysisa pulverisationofBazin’smultifacetedcriticalpracticeintoadogmaticcredoor prescriptive theory: to best capture and respect reality, films must (so the caricature goes) shoot in lengths of time that are as little broken up or manipulatedaspossible–hence,thenecessityforlongtakes,openframesand thenon-interventionofediting. Bazinwas,infact,nowherenearasrigidasthis–inhisbookonRenoir, unfinishedathisdeath,hehadnotroubleentertainingthenotionthat‘realism

doesnotatallmeanarenunciationofstyle’(Bazin,1974,p.106)–andhehad

nospecifictheory(orbarrow)ofmiseenscènetopush.Ashealwaysdid,Bazin letfilmsnewandoldsuggesttheaestheticparametersandpossibilitiesofthe medium of cinema as it unfolded in history – to the point of eventually suggesting that the camera ‘delivers’reality in the most advanced films not throughsheerphotographybut‘inthemannerofaciphergridmovingacrossa

codeddocument’(Bazin,1974,p.108),analmostpoststructuralmetaphoravant

lalettre!ButBazindidindeedstakehishandontheconvictionthat,atleastfor filmmakingthatstrovetobeinsomewayrealistic,‘cinematicexpressionmust

bedialecticallyfusedwithrealityandnotwithartifice’(Bazin,1974,p.106)–

with many later commentators overlooking the dialectical part of that formulation. BrianHendersondrawsouttheconsequenceofBazin’sinterest–andwhat becamehardened(bycommentatorsanddetractorsalike)intohis‘position’–on miseenscène:

Itisgenerallythoughtthatthetruecultivationandexpressionoftheimageas such – as opposed to the relation between images, which is the central expressivecategoryofmontage–requiresthedurationofthelongtake[ ]It isthelongtakealonethatpermitsthedirectortovaryanddeveloptheimage withoutswitchingtoanotherimage;itisoftenthisuninterrupteddevelopment

whichismeantbymiseenscène.Thusthelongtakemakesmiseenscène possible.Thelongtakeisthepresuppositionoraprioriofmiseenscène,that is, the ground or field in which mise en scène can occur. It is the time

necessaryformiseenscènespace.(Henderson,1980,p.49,myemphasis)

Hendersongoesontocriticallyprobethispresupposition,asI,too,doinother partsofthisbook.Butletusholditinourminds,forthemoment,asacertain chronotopeofaparticularmomentinfilmculturehistory,andturntoRivette’s

1954review(1985)ofOttoPreminger’sAngelFace(1953)withintheframeof

thatmoment. PremingerisamongthefilmmakersRivetteadmires–albeitambivalently– andforapproximately‘Bazinian’reasons.Butthecriticalsoregistersacertain doubtorhesitation–aswellasanintuitionconcerningwherecinemaisheaded in future. Always temperamentally drawn to what is new, strange or confounding,Rivetteconfesses,confrontedwithAngelFace,thathemightwell ‘enjoyadifferentideaofthecinemamore’–namely,thestill-reigningAmerican classicismofHawks,HitchcockorLang,filmmakerswho‘firstbelieveintheir themesandthenbuildthestrengthoftheirartuponthisconviction’–butthat Premingerintrigueshim,becauseheinsistsasa‘case’tobereckonedwithand accountedfor.RivetteintuitsasubtleshiftinaestheticeconomythatPreminger’s

filmsseemtosignalintheearly1950s:

Premingerbelievesfirstinmiseenscène,thecreationofaprecisecomplexof setsandcharacters,anetworkofrelationships,anarchitectureofconnections, ananimatedcomplexthatseemssuspendedinspace.Whattemptshim,ifnot the fashioning of a piece of crystal for transparency with ambiguous reflectionsandclear,sharplinesortherenderingaudibleofparticularchords unheardandrare,inwhichtheinexplicablebeautyofthemodulationsuddenly

justifiestheensembleofthephrase?(Rivette,1985,p.134)

RivetteissensitivetotheobjectionthatPreminger’sstyle,inthetermsthathe has just characterised it, is ‘probably the definition of a certain kind of preciosity’–buthenonethelessinsiststhatitisnot‘someabstractaesthete’s experiment’,nomereformalismforitsownsake.Rather,Premingerappealsto Rivetteasaninstanceofanewwayofworking,anewartisticprocessthatwill

findmanyechoesinRivette’sownfuturefilmsofthe1960sand1970s:

Inthemidstofadramaticspacecreatedby humanencounters,he would insteadexploittoitslimitthecinema’sabilitytocapturethefortuitous(buta

fortuitythatis willed),torecord theaccidental(buttheaccidentalthatis created)throughtheclosenessandsharpnessofthelook;therelationshipsof thecharacterscreateaclosedcircuitofexchanges,wherenothingmakesan

appealtotheviewer.(Rivette,1985,p.134)

InhisAngelFacepiece(tellinglytitled‘TheEssential’),Rivetterecyclesboth thegrandquestionofAstruc(‘whatismiseenscène?’)andtheevengrander questionofthefather-figureBazin:‘whatiscinema?’.Hemergeshisanswersto

bothpuzzlesinthisvery1950sformulation:‘Whatiscinema,ifnottheplayof

actor and actress, of hero and set, of word and face, of hand and object?’

(Rivette,1985,p.135).Rivettethecriticquicklystepsfromtheorytopractice–

‘anexamplewouldbebetter’–andcites‘theheroine’snocturnalstrollamong thetracesofthepast’inthepenultimatesequenceofAngelFace.Thisscene indeedoffersaterrificexampleofPreminger’slongtakemiseenscène–aswell asacharacteristiccinephilicfetishitem,sincethesceneisallgestures,objects and music (by Dimitri Tiomkin), and no words, not to mention being (as cinephilesofthetimelovedtosay)theapotheosisofJeanSimmons! LikeCabreraInfanteonMinnelli,Rivetteseesinhischosenscene,considered asadramaticdeviceinthescreenplay,‘theunmistakableclassictemptationof themediocre’.Pitythepoorscreenwriters,includingFrankNugentandBen Hecht!However,Rivettesetsouttoredeemthesceneinthefamiliar(andalso somewhatobscure)termsofapure,directorialmiseenscène:

ButPremingerismorethanauthorofthisidea,heistheonewhoinventsJean Simmons’uncertainfootfall,herhuddledfigureinthearmchair.Whatcould havebeenbanalorfacileissavedbyastrikingabsenceofcomplaisance,the hardnessofthepassageoftimeandlucidityofthelook;orrather,thereisno longereitherthemeortreatment,facilityorluck,butthestark,heart-rending,

obviouspresenceofacinemathatissensitivetoitscore.(Rivette,1985,p.

135)

1969:Preminger’scinema–especiallyasithaddevelopedinthe1960sthrough

bigger-budgetproductions–wasnolongerso‘sensitivetoitscore’forRivette.

Now,inthewakeof1968,andinthemidstofapublicseminaronradical

theoriesandpracticesofmontageledbythreemembersoftheCahierscrew, Rivetteresponds(somewhatobediently)tothetermsofaverydifferentdebate– wherePremingernowfiguresonthevillainside.Miseenscèneitself,aswielded inthisdiscussion,becomesabadobject(itevenrequiresscarequotes),a‘formal

bluff’tracedbacktoGermandirectorG.WPabstinthe1920sand1930s,whose

malignfunctionwastoeffectthe‘liquidationofexpressionism’.

Theaestheticof‘miseenscène’[is]aformalbluffwhicheventodaystill governs the entire European and Hollywood cinema: [René] Clement, Preminger, [Grigori] Chukhrai, [Francesco] Rosi. This technique of manipulating‘reality’,wherethedirectoristhemoreorlessinvisiblemaster, quicklyceasedtobetheartofmontagetobecometheartofdécoupage(and

concomitantly,of‘framing’andthe‘direction’ofactors.)(Rivette,1977b,pp.

81–82)

Muchisgoingundertheaxehere:miseenscèneasaprofessional,mainstream

practice is assimilated all at once to the ideological alibi of realism, to an insidious ‘invisibility’ or transparency of film form and to functional, conventionalshotcoverage(whichisthesenseinwhichdécoupageiswielded here). Even camera framings and the guidance of actors are ridiculed! The gesture is also anti-Bazinian, with (in its time) a modish vengeance: where

‘forbiddenmontage’wasacatchphraseoncepositivelyassociatedwiththeex-

Master,by1969itcarriedthetaintofarepressiveinterdiction–andsomontage

(inallitsforms)hadtoberehabilitatedovermiseenscène. Itisoddindeedtolookbackonthispronouncement,giventhatRivettehimself cametoberightlyhailedasamasterpractitioneroftheartofmiseenscènein

the1970sandbeyond,quiteproudlyorganisinghisstyleoffilmmakingentirely

aroundit.(Hispreferreddirectorialcreditstabilisesonscreen,overthecourseof hiscareer,as‘Miseenscène–JacquesRivette’.)Rivettehadtakenanotherturn inhisthinkingbythen,andarrivedatatypeofcinematicneo-classicism.Thisis

not(asIwillargueinthenextchapter)simplythe1950sethosofmiseenscène

nostalgicallyrevisited,butanaestheticrenewaltakingon,inavigorousway, many of the most glorious attributes of mise en scène as past masters like Preminger,Murnau,MizoguchiandWellesoncepracticedit.

So,1989:RivettegoestoseePeauxdevaches(1989)bynewcomerPatricia

Mazuytwiceintwoweeks.InClaireDenis’absorbingtwo-partdocumentary

JacquesRivette,theNightWatchman(1990),the(bynow)veteranofmiseen

scène moves – of long takes, ensemble configurations and full-framings in scrupulouslydetailedenvironments–recountstohisfamouscritic-interlocutor, SergeDaney,theexperienceofascenefromneartheendofMazuy’sfilm.This vividretelling,caughtbyDenis’camerainastatic,longtake,isitselfastirring spectacle–amiseenscèneofdescriptivewordsandevocative,bodilygestures from Rivette. Aren’t the greatest acts of film criticism always a recreation, throughtheirownaestheticmeans,ofthefilmstowhichtheybearhomage?That

iscertainlythecasewithRivetteonPeauxdevaches,thefollowingtranscription

capturingonlyatraceofthespeaker’spassionateenthusiasm.

AfilmthatimpressedmewasPatriciaMazuy’sPeauxdevaches.Iwasmoved

bythefilmforanumberofreasons.Fromthestart,youfeellikethefilmis

leadingsomewhere,andthemoreitgoeson,thebetteritgets,themorethe

relationshipsbecomebothmoreintenseandalsomoremysterious.Andwe

suddenlycometoascenewhichIfoundextraordinary,soshatteringIwentto

seeitagainthefollowingweek,bothforthepleasureandtocheckonthat

scene,andseewhathappenedandhowitwasfilmed.

ThefirsttimeIalmosthadthefeelingofthosescenesthatyoudream,Ioften

dothat.IdreamI’minacinema,watchingafilmandseeingwonderfulthings,

butthenIwakeupandit’sgone.Buthere,itwasonscreen,Ihadn’tdreamed

it!

ItwasJean-FrançoisStévenin’sfinalscene

name.Likeeveryoneelse,Italkaboutfilmsusingtheactors’names!Jean-

Françoissetsoffontheroad;that’sthefirstshotofthescene.Inthenextshot,

weseeSandrineBonnairerunningtowardshim.Shecatcheshimup,triesto

stophim,andtheycarryonwalkingandtalkingforawhile,untiltheyfallinto

eachother’sarmsandkiss.AndJean-FrançoisturnstoSandrineandsays:

‘Bringthegirlandcomeawaywithme’.That’sallonetake,hand-heldI

think,fairlybumpybutfollowingthemovement.Itlooksgood,thecamera

accompaniesthecharacters.Suddenlythere’sthisclose-uponJean-François,

whichshockedmethefirsttimeIsawthefilm–becauseitcutsintothis

wonderfullongshot,andshowshimwatchingSandrineafteraskingher.It’sa

shortshot,followedbyareverseangleclose-uponSandrine,whodoesn’t

answer–shejustlooksathim.Thenherfacebeginstomove,shebeginsto

move,andweunderstandbyhermovementthatshe’sgoingtohim–buthe’s

nolongerthere.Thecameracontinuesfollowingherfrombehind;wefollow,

thecameramovesbehindher,andweseeJean-Françoisheadinguptheroad,

stoppingthetruckthat’scomingtowardsus,andclimbingaboard–allinthis

shotthatstartedonherface.ItallhappenedfromJean-François’reactionto

Ican’trememberthecharacter’s

thefactthatshedidn’treply–andhisleaving,allthathappenedoffcamera,

weonlysawSandrine’sface,thenhermovement,andthat’sit,it’sover,he’s

gone.It’svirtuallythelastshotofthefilm.

Ithoughtitwasamagicalshot,verywellfilmedand,atthesametime,it

conveysemotionthroughtheinventiveuseofthecamera.Youalmosthaveto

beafilmmakertoappreciateit;itwasverysimplydone.

Fromtheheroicageofmiseenscèneinthe1950sthroughitsradicalcritiquein

the1960sandontoitsvariousreformulationsinsubsequentdecades:Rivette

bearswitnesstosomeofthesechangesinhisfilmsandinhispronouncements.

Hisexampleshouldopenoureyestothemalleabilityofmiseenscèneasa

conceptinhistory–culturalhistory,filmhistoryandthehistoryofcriticism

itself.Itistheseassortedchallengesandchanges,onseveralfronts,thatthe

followingtwochapterswillsketch.

Note

1.IhaveamendedNellCox’stranslation(Godard,1968,pp.47–49)slightly;wheresherendersmiseen

scène(somewhatforgivably)as‘direction’,thealternativetranslationbyTomMilne(Godard,1972,pp.

39–41)retainsmiseenscènebutuses‘montage’insteadofediting,whichhas(inthiscontext,atleast)a

misleading,morestridentconnotationinEnglish.

4

TheCrises(1):SqueezedandStretched

Three striking image-events from the opening, two-minute scene of Jerzy Skolimowski’s Walkover (1965): a young, anonymous woman (Elzbieta Czyzewska)staringintenselyintothecameraasatrainpullsinbehindheronthe platform(attheconclusionofhergaze,shewillcommitsuicidejustoff-screen, underthetrainwheels);ayoungman,Andrzej(Skolimowskihimself),filmed firstfromoutsidethetrainandthenfromwithinit,leaningoutthewindowand ignoringthecommotionontheplatforminordertochattoTeresa(Aleksandra Zawieruszanka),whomhespotsoutsidethetrain;andlastly,Andrzejemerging outofthebustlingcrowdnexttoTeresa,astheyapproachtheexit. Fourshots,fourdifferentcamerapositions,atleast?No:justone.Inasingle

takethatbogglesthecinephilemindandstill,almost50yearslater,defiesour

capacitytograsphowhedidit(especiallyonsuchlittlemoneyandonlythe mostbasictechnicalresources),Skolimowskiarrangesallthesediverseevents andmovementsinasingleflow–althoughflowisnotthebestwordtoconvey thejolting,jarringtransitionsheemployshereandthroughouttheentirefilm. ThefirsttwoactionsinWalkover–thewoman’sfinalmomentsoflife,andthe pulling-in of the train that manoeuvres Andrzej into the exact centre of the screen–appeartohavebeenshotinamirror,orsomereflectivesurface.When the camera suddenly and quickly zooms out, this mirror or glass pane is physicallypushedasidebySkolimowskiinsidethescene–andnowwerealise thatthecameraisbehindhim,onthetrain,asheleansoutthewindowandtalks toTeresa,outside,inthemiddle-groundoftheshot.Thecamerastayswhereitis asthetrainbeginstomovescreen-rightandagrowingcrowdofpeoplejostle along the platform towards the death-scene. Suddenly, on a wild, romantic impulse,Andrzejgrabshiscoatanddisappearsfromtheframe;amomentlater, heisoffthetrainandpartofthecrowd.AshereachesTeresa,thecamera executesazoom(slower,thistime)toframethetwomaincharactersinside

anotherframe,providedbytheplatformexit.

1965:WeareinthemidstofthePolishNewWave,aloose,postFilmSchool

movementledbyRomanPolanski,AndrzejWajdaand–withanespecially

restless, modern edge – by Skolimowski. Walkover, his second feature, is a dazzlingexerciseinstyle,marriedtothemesofyouthrevolt,dissatisfactionand alienation: the territory that the director made his own across projects subsequently realised in several different countries, including Le départ

(Belgium,1967)andDeepEnd(Britain/Germany,1970).Walkoverisamongthe

firstfilmstorigorouslyexperimentwiththeextendedlongtake,uninterruptedby

editing(Skolimowskiboaststhat,atonepoint,heusedtheentire11minutesof

thefilmreelinthecamera,andthatthereareonly29cutsintheentirefilm)–

almostadecadebeforeChantalAkermanandTheoAngelopoulosmadeita

definingfixtureoftheirworkinthe1970s.

Yetmanyelementsweassociatewiththelongtakeinthe‘slowcinema’trend

oftoday,andcelebrateintheworkofBélaTarr,LisandroAlonsoorHouHsiao-

hsien–unityofspace,timeandaction,aslowlyaccumulatingsenseofduration, acontemplativeregardofplaceandgesture,‘flow’inasedateandcontinuous

sense–arequiteforeigntowhatSkolimowskiwasdoingwiththistoolin1965.

AlthoughheclaimstohavenotseenanyofGodard’smoviesuntilaftermaking his own first films, Skolimowski’s work on cinematic style has evident, transnationalaffinitieswithwhatGodardandothersweredoinginthisperiod andthroughouttheremainderofthedecade. Fragmentation–anaestheticofcinematiccollage–wasthekeynoteformany filmartistsinthisperiod.Whereotherfilmmakers(suchasAlainResnaisand DusanMakavajev)werecreatingfragmentationthroughmontage,Skolimowski soughtit,paradoxically,insidethelongtake.Whilepreservingtheunityoftime – like today’s slow cinema, but at a much faster pace, Skolimowski makes extensiveuseofpassagesofwalkingorridingonvariousformsoftransportation –heengineersnumerous,suddenshiftsofperception;wecouldcallthemviolent reframings,butreframingsthatoperatequitedifferentlytotheswish-pansBazin once praised in Renoir’s films of the 1930s. Mirrors, frames within frames, constantmobilityofcharactersandobjects,trickyexitsfromand(re-)entriesinto

theframe,andespeciallythatgreatmarkerof1960sand1970scinema,thezoom

lens–dubbedbyonecommentatorthebioniceye(Belton,1980/81)–alllabour

togethertogivetheeffectofaconstantredrawingorreinventionofthesceneas wewatchit,ofteninstartlingandradicalways.AndifWalkoverdiffers,inthis, fromtoday’sslowcinematactics,italsooffersanalternativetoHollywood’suse

ofthelongtake.ThisisastrueofHollywoodinthe1950s–MichaelWalker

(1970,p.40)comparesSkolimowski’s‘totalobjectivityofviewpoint’withthe

identificationandinvolvementwithcharacterscreatedinthefirstshotofWelles’

TouchofEvil(1958)–asitisoftheHollywoodoftoday;BruceHodsdon(2003)

noteshow,‘ratherthanaggressivelyorapprehensivelydissectingspace,asis oftenthecaseintheeraoftheSteadicam,Skolimowskiscansit,fresco-like’. Skolimowski takes a classical mise en scène principle – the filling and emptyingoftheframe,aswesawinVisconti–andsharpensit,exaggeratesit, knocksitoutofitspreviousshapeandorder.Hisart,boundlesslyinventive,isto placemiseenscène,asweformerlyknewit,incrisis.

Chaseit

Walkoverhadabigimpactonmanyfilmcriticsaroundtheglobeinthemid-

1960s.Twoyearsafteritspremiereontheworldstage,theechoofitsimpact

resurfacedinaone-pagebilletoropinionpiecebyAndréS.Labarthepublished

inCahiersducinémain1967.Itwastitled‘Mortd’unmot’(‘DeathofaWord’)

–andtheword(orterm)inquestionwasmiseenscène.ForLabarthe,miseen

scèneisaparticularwayofapproachinganddiscussingcinemathat‘symbolises

wellasubstantialhistoryofcinematicart’andis‘effectivelyapplied,withequal

] to the latest Otto

Preminger’(Labarthe,1967,p.66).Thedomainofmiseenscène,asLabarthe

seesit,canbedescribedaswhatis‘beyondthesubject’ofafilm–thatis,how thatsubject,assetoutinthewordsofascreenplay,isrenderedortreatedbythe film’s style. For him, this is a long-established protocol in film criticism, predatingthewritingsoftheoriginalCahiers auteurists by 40 years: ‘Since [Louis]Delluc,tojudgeafilmisalwaystojudgetheperformanceoftheactors, thequalityofthedialogue,thebeautyofthephotography,theefficacyofthe

montage

expressesor(Labarthe’sterm)rendersastory.

Labarthein1967believedthatmiseenscènewasalreadyathoroughlyold-

fashionedconcept.Mostfilmcriticism,heasserts,hadscarcelyevolved‘for30

ease’to films ‘from L’Arroseur arrosé [Lumières] [

’– in other words, a classical economy, in which style serves,

or40years’(i.e.,sincethe1920sor1930s!)–and,ifso,‘onlyinsideadomain

defined by the concept of mise en scène’. Cinema itself had moved on for Labarthe,especiallyinthataestheticallyandpoliticallyturbulentdecadeofthe

1960s.Therewasa‘newcinema’–acriticalcatchphraseofthetime–thatcould

nolongerbeadequatelyaccountedforwithintheclassicaldomainofmiseen

scènefilmmaking.Hisrallyingcry:‘Isaythatwestilldon’thave,todayin1967,

a just dialogue between criticism and the films of Godard’. Cahiers as a magazinewasheavilyonthesideofGodardbut,inLabarthe’sview,struggled withtheperennialproblemofalagordiscrepancybetweenadvancesincinema

andadvancesincriticism:itwasstilltinkeringwithanold,nowsuperseded criticalapparatus,tryinginvaintoadjustthediscussionofmiseenscènetothe presentday–butclearlyfailing.Heimploreshisreader:‘Whatistheuseofthis term that we must ceaselessly explain, ceaselessly re-upholster with circumstantialclarificationsaccordingtothefilmsandtheauteurs?’ WhatalternativecriticalmodeldidLabarthehaveinmind?Ashistextmoves intoprogrammaticmode,hedeclares:

Miseenscèneisnotonlyrendering,