Accordingly, readers more interested in emphasizing the originality of films or directors would find our work at best preliminary. A more complicated methodological question comes up here. We decided to select two batches of films. The second batch consisted of another two hundred films we picked because of renown, acknowledgment in the trade literature, and other factors.
Researchers often study a group style by picking influential works and valued creators. But Hollywood film style did not originate or sustain itself in this fashion. There is no single creator or cadre of creators to whom one can attribute the style. Griffith is often considered the central innovator, but his films are in many respects untypical of what would become the classical cinema. When Kristin and I asked Dore Schary about what films influenced studio filmmakers of the s, he said there was no single film, but everybody who made films wanted some of the lively energy of the play version of The Front Page.
Twenty-five years later, and after studying a lot more movies from the era, I still think that we are dealing with a collective invention.
It develops more in the manner that visual perspective, or, to take a musical analogy, Western tonality did. Certainly there were powerful filmmakers who took the received style in fresh directions, and sometimes those creators influenced others. It was maintained for decades by a host of creators both major and minor, famous and anonymous.
Gathering data from films en masse seems to suit a collective trend.
Did it make us seem conservative theorists? In a word, no. The word was already circulating in French and English-language film talk. On the first page of the book we pointed out that it dates back at least to the s. In the same word, no. The worry about terminology recalls a point made by Karl Popper.
In science, we take care that the statements we make should never depend upon the meaning of our terms. Even where the terms are defined, we never try to derive any information from the definition, or to base any argument upon it. This is why our terms make so little trouble. We do not overburden them. We try to attach to them as little weight as possible…. This is how we avoid quarreling about terms. Perhaps this is one reason the literary humanities make so little progress in producing reliable knowledge.
But very little hangs upon it. It is that substance that may have proven most fruitful in CHC.
Hollywood Studio System (DAPS 6 and 7)
We made claims about a wide variety of historical processes, and those claims impelled later scholars to test them—sometimes to contest them, sometimes to refine them, sometimes to find further support for them. The book seems to have helped scholars of a certain temperament find a fit between the film industry and film artistry. Some have speculated that the book pluralized the field, turning research away from abstract theory or Theory toward more concrete and empirical research programs.
This is partly true, but I think CHC had little effect on the two primary tendencies in film studies. Once the Theory was derived from Foucault or Lacan, now it comes from Zizek or Deleuze, but the conceptual and rhetorical moves are the same. For such academics, the intuitions of the sensitive critic, perhaps steered by an approved theory, will always be preferable to inductive inference based on historical research.
Again, this is largely a matter of the different research questions that people are inclined to ask. I think, for example, I came up with a better way to explain my idea of narration in the book devoted to that subject.
The invocation of mental schemas in the Hollywood book seems to me cumbersome. Fortunately many scholars have since then dug into Hollywood recording and scoring practices with far more precision, largely supplanting my account. More or less a new way to think about film. Our effort to articulate the premises and vagaries of Hollywood filmmaking offered me my first opportunity to practice a historical poetics. You could find an intriguing film, and then shuttle to and fro between that and other films that manifested similar strategies of storytelling or style.
And the researcher could bring those patterns out, and seek causes within the filmmaking community for this whole dynamic. Once I realized that I was pursuing a poetics, I started to understand why some scholars resisted my conclusions. Judicious criticism of one stripe or another is taken as the heart of film studies. So anything that smacks of generalization does violence to the integrity of the film at hand.
In addition, an emphasis on aesthetics is suspect. But in arguing further for the persistence of classical principles in the s and s, I found new areas of innovation within the system, particularly with respect to narrative structure. I keep learning that ingenious filmmakers can renew this tradition almost indefinitely. Similarly, some readers have objected that my conception of classical storytelling is too tidy, that Hollywood films are more disjointed than I allow. More broadly, my thoughts on plot unity emerge in Planet Hong Kong , which is another attempt to characterize a popular mode of filmmaking.
There I suggest what a tradition of genuinely episodic storytelling looks like, and I try to characterize the other principles that emerge to shape these movies. In that book as well I try to connect style with mode of production which led the Variety reviewer to characterize me as a Marxist. My books on the history of style and the traditions of cinematic staging are further studies in norms and their creative recasting.
Analysis on the Studio System of Hollywood in the Golden Era
Many of my online essays and blog entries bear on the same issues. My study of Eisenstein is at once an auteur analysis and an account of a director who himself explicitly aimed to create a poetics of cinema. In sum, if anyone is tempted to take what I wrote in CHC as definitive, or as my final thoughts, I urge them to turn to my later work. By studying Hollywood with my two collaborators I was constantly reminded that art-making is a human activity, guided by will and skill, working on materials inherited from others.
And this activity takes place within a community of artisans, who are sharing information but also competing to do something fresh. Perhaps one reason that I worked well with them was that Herbert Eagle had introduced me to the Russian Formalists before I arrived at the University of Wisconsin.
I find symptomatic criticism finding subtexts of race, sex, sexual, and class ideologies within films a valuable critical project because I believe that many people see such ideologies while watching films. However, I also believe that Neoformalism has the greatest critical scope for describing and analyzing works of art. When I came onto the project in the late s, also influential for me were Marxism and the ideological critique of romantic authorship since these theories assumed a historical materialist base. This philosophical position was much more credible to explain history and historical change.
It also fit with my biography as a working-class daughter who was a first-generation college student. It matched my political progressivism. Turning to an eclectic group of Marxist theorists—Harry Braverman, Raymond Williams, Jean-Louis Comolli, John Ellis, Louis Althusser, and other analyses of modes of production—I looked for and found valuable explanations about how and why labor divided and constructed systems of bureaucracy and work patterns to insure both the standardization and differentiation of an entertainment product.
Peterson, and others, similar general issues permeated both sets of literature even if the theoretical explanations differed. Differences do exist between these volumes and the project of CHC. I was focused on the past rather than contemporary practices. While I used interviews published in trade papers, I did not engage in ethnographic research: most of my subjects were elderly or deceased.
Moreover, I was trying to capture the discursive establishment of the production practices ca. The current production of culture work indicates that little has changed in the Hollywood mode of production and its discourses in the past ninety years. The talk amongst workers and their labor practices continue to be crucial in understanding how films and television programs are financed and created. Variations also need to be studied, of course, but a strong sense of what remains the same and what differs offers a growth of knowledge and a historical account.
Trying to tie together work of the s and s with the present excitement about these questions is an important and worthwhile research project. Additionally, a whole field of scholarly study of screenwriting practices has developed over the past thirty years.
- Classical Hollywood Cinema – Deep Focus Review – Movie Reviews, Critical Essays, and Film Analysis.
- describe a library essay.
- art history dissertation proposal.
- who published essay concerning human understanding.
Of course, questions have been raised about parts of the industrial and institutional analysis. One criticism of the mode of production sections was their failure to discuss the broader industry.