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Richard Barsam


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W. W. Norton & Company has been independent since its founding in 1923, when William Warder Norton and Mary D. Herter Norton �rst published lectures delivered at the People’s Institute, the adult educa- tion division of New York City’s Cooper Union. The �rm soon expanded its program beyond the Institute, publishing books by celebrated academics from America and abroad. By mid-century, the two major pillars of Norton’s publishing program—trade books and college texts—were �rmly established. In the 1950s, the Norton family transferred control of the company to its employees, and today—with a sta� of four hundred and a comparable number of trade, college, and professional titles published each year—W. W. Norton & Company stands as the largest and oldest publishing house owned wholly by its employees.

Copyright © 2010, 2007, 2004 by W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.

Since this page cannot accommodate all the copyright notices, the Permissions Acknowledgments section beginning on page 559 constitutes an extension of the copyright page.

All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. Third Edition

Editor: Peter Simon Senior Project Editor: Thomas Foley Senior Production Manager: Benjamin Reynolds Developmental/Manuscript Editor: Carol Flechner Electronic Media Editor: Eileen Connell Managing Editor, College: Marian Johnson Assistant Editor: Conor Sullivan Book design: Lissi Sigillo Index by Cohen Carruth, Inc.

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Barsam, Richard Meran. Looking at movies : an introduction to �lm / Richard Barsam and Dave Monahan.—3rd ed.

p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index.

ISBN 978-0-393-93279-9 (pbk.)

1. Motion pictures. 2. Cinematography. I. Monahan, Dave, 1962– II. Title. PN1994.B313 2009 791.43—dc22


W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 500 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10110 www.wwnorton.com

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ISBN 978-0-393-11652-6 (ebook)


RICHARD BARSAM (Ph.D., University of Southern California) is Professor Emeritus of Film Studies at Hunter College, City University of New York. He is the author of Nonfiction Film: A Critical History (rev. and exp. ed., 1992), The Vision of Robert Flaherty: The Artist as Myth and Filmmaker (1988), In the Dark: A Primer for the Movies (1977), and Filmguide to “Triumph of the Will” (1975); editor of Nonfiction Film: Theory and Criticism (1976); and contributing author to Paul Monaco’s The Sixties: 1960–1969 (Vol. 8 in the History of the American Cinema series, 2001) and Filming Robert Flaherty’s “Louisiana Story”: The Helen Van Dongen Diary (ed. Eva Orbanz, 1998). His articles and book reviews have appeared in Cinema Journal, Quarterly Review of Film Studies, Film Comment, Studies in Visual Communication, and Harper’s. He has been a member of the Executive Council of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies and the Editorial Board of Cinema Journal, and he cofounded the journal Persistence of Vision.

DAVE MONAHAN (M.F.A., Columbia University) is an Associate Professor of Film Studies at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. His work as a writer, director, or editor includes Ringo (2005); Monkey Junction (2005); Prime Time (1996); and Angels Watching over Me (1993). His work has been screened internationally in over fifty film festivals and has earned numerous awards, including the New Line Cinema Award for Most Original Film (Prime Time) and the Seattle International Film Festival Grand Jury Prize for Best Animated Short Film (Ringo).

About the Authors

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To Students xiii

About the Book xv

Acknowledgments xix

CHAPTER 1 Looking at Movies 1 Learning Objectives 2

Looking at Movies 2

What Is a Movie? 3

Ways of Looking at Movies 5 Invisibility and Cinematic Language 7

Cultural Invisibility 9

Implicit and Explicit Meaning 11

Viewer Expectations 13

Formal Analysis 14

Alternative Approaches to Analysis 20

Analyzing Movies 23

Screening Checklist: Looking at Movies 23

Questions for Review 24

Movies Described or Illustrated in This Chapter 24

CHAPTER 2 Principles of Film Form 27 Learning Objectives 28

Film Form 28

Form and Content 28

Form and Expectations 33

Patterns 35

Fundamentals of Film Form 39 Movies Depend on Light 39

Movies Provide an Illusion of Movement 42

Movies Manipulate Space and Time in Unique Ways 44

Realism and Antirealism 50 Verisimilitude 52

Cinematic Language 53 Analyzing Movies 56

Screening Checklist: Principles of Film Form 56

Questions for Review 57

Movies Described or Illustrated in This Chapter 57


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CHAPTER 3 Types of Movies 59 Learning Objectives 60

The Idea of Narrative 60

Types of Movies 64 Narrative Movies 64

Documentary Movies 65

Experimental Movies 70

Hybrid Movies 76

Genre 78 Genre Conventions 81

Theme 81 Setting 82 Presentation 82 Character Types 83 Story Formulas 83 Stars 83

Six Major American Genres 83 Gangster 83

Film Noir 86

Science Fiction 89

Horror 92

The Western 95

The Musical 98

Evolution and Transformation of Genre 101

What about Animation? 103 Analyzing Types of Movies 108

Screening Checklist: Types of Movies 108

Questions for Review 109

Movies Described or Illustrated in This Chapter 109

CHAPTER 4 Elements of Narrative 113 Learning Objectives 114

What Is Narrative? 114

The Screenwriter 115 Evolution of a Typical Screenplay 116

Elements of Narrative 119 Story and Plot 120

Order 125

Events 127

Duration 128

Suspense versus Surprise 132

Repetition 133

Characters 134

Setting 138

Scope 139

Narration and Narrators 140

Looking at Narrative: John Ford’s Stagecoach 142

Story 142

Plot 144

Order 144

Diegetic and Nondiegetic Elements 144

Events 144

Duration 147

Suspense 147

Repetition 147

Characters 147

Setting 147

Scope 149

Narration 149

Analyzing Elements of Narrative 151

Screening Checklist: Elements of Narrative 151

Questions for Review 151

Movies Described or Illustrated in This Chapter 152


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CHAPTER 5 Mise-en-Scène 155 Learning Objectives 156

What Is Mise-en-Scène? 156

Design 161 The Production Designer 162

Elements of Design 164 Setting, Decor, and Properties 164 Lighting 167 Costume, Makeup, and Hairstyle 169

International Styles of Design 175

Composition 182 Framing: What We See on the Screen 183

Onscreen and Offscreen Space 184 Open and Closed Framing 185

Kinesis: What Moves on the Screen 191 Movement of Figures within the Frame 192

Looking at Mise-en-Scène 194 Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow 194

Sam Mendes’s American Beauty 198

Analyzing Mise-en-Scène 204

Screening Checklist: Mise-en-Scène 204

Questions for Review 205

Movies Described or Illustrated in This Chapter 205

CHAPTER 6 Cinematography 207 Learning Objectives 208

What Is Cinematography? 208

The Director of Photography 208

Cinematographic Properties of the Shot 210 Film Stock 210

Black and White 213 Color 215

Lighting 218 Source 219 Quality 220 Direction 220 Style 224

Lenses 226

Framing of the Shot 229 Implied Proximity to the Camera 232

Depth 236

Camera Angle and Height 242 Eye Level 242 High Angle 243 Low Angle 243 Dutch Angle 244 Aerial View 246

Scale 246

Camera Movement 247 Pan Shot 249 Tilt Shot 249 Dolly Shot 249 Zoom 251 Crane Shot 251 Handheld Camera 254 Steadicam 255

Framing and Point of View 256

Speed and Length of the Shot 257

Special Effects 261 In-Camera, Mechanical, and Laboratory Effects 261

Computer-Generated Imagery 262

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Analyzing Cinematography 266

Screening Checklist: Cinematography 266

Questions for Review 267

Movies Described or Illustrated in This Chapter 267

CHAPTER 7 Acting 269 Learning Objectives 270

What Is Acting? 270 Movie Actors 271

The Evolution of Screen Acting 276 Early Screen-Acting Styles 276

D. W. Griffith and Lillian Gish 277

The Influence of Sound 278

Acting in the Classical Studio Era 280

Method Acting 283

Screen Acting Today 285

Technology and Acting 289

Casting Actors 291 Factors Involved in Casting 291

Aspects of Performance 295 Types of Roles 295

Preparing for Roles 296

Naturalistic and Nonnaturalistic Styles 298

Improvisational Acting 300

Directors and Actors 301

How Filmmaking Affects Acting 303 Framing, Composition, Lighting, and the Long

Take 303

The Camera and the Close-up 306

Acting and Editing 308

Looking at Acting 308 Barbara Stanwyck in King Vidor’s Stella Dallas 311

Hilary Swank in Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby 313

Analyzing Acting 317

Screening Checklist: Acting 317

Questions for Review 317

Movies Described or Illustrated in This Chapter 318

CHAPTER 8 Editing 319 Learning Objectives 320

What Is Editing? 320

The Film Editor 322 The Editor’s Responsibilities 324

Spatial Relationships between Shots 324 Temporal Relationships between Shots 325 Rhythm 331

Major Approaches to Editing: Continuity and Discontinuity 335

Conventions of Continuity Editing 335 Master Shot 337 Screen Direction 339

Editing Techniques That Maintain Continuity 340 Shot/Reverse Shot 340 Match Cuts 341 Parallel Editing 344 Point-of-View Editing 347

Other Transitions between Shots 347 The Jump Cut 347 Fade 350 Dissolve 351 Wipe 351 Iris Shot 351 Freeze-Frame 352 Split Screen 354

Looking at Editing 355

Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund’s City of God 359

Analyzing Editing 364

Screening Checklist: Editing 364

Questions for Review 365

Movies Described or Illustrated in This Chapter 365


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CHAPTER 9 Sound 367 Learning Objectives 368

What Is Sound? 368

Sound Production 369 Design 370

Recording 371

Editing 371

Mixing 372

Describing Film Sound 373 Pitch, Loudness, Quality 373

Fidelity 374

Sources of Film Sound 375 Diegetic versus Nondiegetic 375

Onscreen versus Offscreen 377

Internal versus External 378

Types of Film Sound 379 Vocal Sounds 379

Environmental Sounds 381

Music 383

Silence 388

Types of Sound in Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds 389

Functions of Film Sound 393 Audience Awareness 394

Audience Expectations 395

Expression of Point of View 396

Rhythm 397

Characterization 399

Continuity 399

Emphasis 400

Sound in Orson Welles’s Citizen Kane 401 Sources and Types 402

Functions 403

Characterization 404

Themes 406

Analyzing Sound 407

Screening Checklist: Sound 407

Questions for Review 407

Movies Described or Illustrated in This Chapter 408

CHAPTER 10 Film History 411 Learning Objectives 412

What Is Film History? 412

Basic Approaches to Studying Film History 413

The Aesthetic Approach 413

The Technological Approach 414

The Economic Approach 414

Film as Social History 414

A Short Overview of Film History 415 Precinema 415

Photography 415 Series Photography 416

1891–1903: The First Movies 417

1908–1927: Origins of the Classical Hollywood Style— the Silent Period 421

1919–1931: German Expressionism 423

1918–1930: French Avant-Garde Filmmaking 426

1924–1930: The Soviet Montage Movement 427

1927–1947: Classical Hollywood Style in Hollywood’s Golden Age 430

1942–1951: Italian Neorealism 434

1959–1964: French New Wave 437

1947–Present: New Cinemas in Great Britain, Europe, and Asia 440

England and the Free Cinema Movement 441

Denmark and the Dogme 95 Movement 442

Germany and Das neue Kino 443

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Japan’s Nubero Bagu 444

China and Postwar Filmmaking 444 The People’s Republic 445 Hong Kong 445 Taiwan 446

1965–1995: The New American Cinema 447 Analyzing Film History 453

Screening Checklist: Film History 453

Questions for Review 454

Movies Described or Illustrated in This Chapter 455

CHAPTER 11 Filmmaking Technologies and Production Systems 459 Learning Objectives 460

The Whole Equation 460

Film, Video, and Digital Technologies: An Overview 462

Film Technology 462

Video Technology 465

Digital Technology 465

Film versus Digital Technology 466

How a Movie Is Made 467 Preproduction 467

Production 469

Postproduction 470

The Studio System 471 Organization before 1931 471

Organization after 1931 471

Organization during the Golden Age 473

The Decline of the Studio System 476

The Independent System 477 Labor and Unions 479

Professional Organizations and Standardization 480

Financing in the Industry 481

Marketing and Distribution 483

Production in Hollywood Today 486 Maverick Producers and Directors 489

Thinking about Filmmaking Technologies and Production Systems 490

Screening Checklist: Filmmaking Technologies and Production Systems 490

Questions for Review 491

Movies Described or Illustrated in This Chapter 492

For Further Viewing 492

Further Viewing 495 Academy Award Winners for Best Picture 495

Sight & Sound: Top Ten Best Movies of All Time 498

American Film Institute: One Hundred Greatest American Movies of All Time 499

Entertainment Weekly: One Hundred Greatest Movies of All Time 502

The Village Voice: One Hundred Best Films of the Twentieth Century 505

Further Reading 509

Glossary 543

Permissions Acknowledgments 561

Index 567


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To Students

In 1936, art historian Erwin Panofsky had an insight into the movies as a form of popular art—an obser- vation that is more true today than it was when he wrote it:

If all the serious lyrical poets, composers, painters and sculptors were forced by law to stop their activ- ities, a rather small fraction of the general public would become aware of the fact and a still smaller fraction would seriously regret it. If the same thing were to happen with the movies the social conse- quences would be catastrophic.1

Decades later, we would hardly know what to do without movies. They are a major presence in our lives and, like personal computers, perhaps one of the most influential products of our technological age. In fact, some commentators feel that movies are too popular, too influential, too much a part of our lives. Since their invention a little more than a hundred years ago, movies have become one of the world’s largest industries and the most powerful art form of our time.

A source of entertainment that makes us see beyond the borders of our previous experience, movies have always possessed powers to amaze, frighten, and enlighten us. They challenge our senses, emotions, and intellect, pushing us to say, often passionately, that we love (or hate) them. Because they arouse our most public and private feelings—and can overwhelm us with their sights and sounds—it’s easy to be excited by movies. The challenge is to join that enthusiasm with under- standing, to say why we feel so strongly about par- ticular movies. That’s one reason why this book

encourages you to go beyond movies’ stories, to understand how those stories are told. Movies are not reality, after all—only illusions of reality—and (as with most works of art) their form and content work as an interrelated system, one that asks us to accept it as a given rather than as the product of a process. But as you read this book devoted to looking at movies—that is, not just passively watching them, but actively considering the relation of their form and their content—remember that there is no one way to look at any film, no one critical perspective that is inherently better than another, no one mean- ing that you can insist on after a single screening. Indeed, movies are so diverse in their nature that no single approach could ever do them justice.

This is not a book on film history, but it includes relevant historical information and covers a broad range of movies; not a book on theory, but it intro- duces some of the most essential approaches to interpreting movies; not a book about filmmaking, but one that explains production processes, equip- ment, and techniques; not a book of criticism, but one that shows you how to think and write about the films you study in your classes.

Everything we see on the movie screen—every- thing that engages our senses, emotions, and minds—results from hundreds of decisions affect- ing the interrelation of formal cinematic elements: narrative, composition, design, cinematography, acting, editing, and sound. Organized around chap- ters devoted to those formal elements, this book encourages you to look at movies with an under- standing and appreciation of how filmmakers make the decisions that help them tell a story and create

To Students

1 Erwin Panofsky, “Style and Medium in the Motion Pictures,” in Film Theory and Criticism: Introductory Readings, ed. Leo Braudy and Marshall Cohen, 5th ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), p. 280.


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the foundation for its meaning. After all, in the real life of the movies, on the screen, it is not historians, theorists, or critics—important and valuable as their work is—but filmmakers who continually shape and revise our understanding and apprecia- tion of film art.

The second century of movie history is well under way. The entire process of making, exhibit- ing, and archiving movies is fast becoming a digital

enterprise, especially outside of the mainstream industry. As the technology for making movies con- tinues to evolve, however, the principles of film art covered in this book remain essentially the same. The things you learn about these principles and the analytic skills you hone as you read this book will help you look at motion pictures intelligently and perceptively throughout your life, no matter which medium delivers those pictures to you.


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About the Book

Students in an introductory film course who read Looking at Movies carefully and take full advantage of the accompanying DVD and other support mate- rials surrounding the text will finish the course with a solid grounding in the major principles of film form as well as a more perceptive and analytic eye. A short description of the book’s main features follows.

A Comprehensive Overview of Film Recognized from its first publication as an acces- sible introduction to film form, Looking at Movies has expanded its coverage of other key topics in its Third Edition to be as comprehensive as possible, too. Three new and significantly revised chapters tackle important subject areas—film genres, film history, and the relationship(s) between film and culture—in an extensive but characteristically accessible way, thus rounding out the book’s cover- age of the major subject areas in film studies.

New Chapter 1, “Looking at Movies” Focusing on the formal and cultural “invisibility” at play in film, this entirely new chapter strives to open students’ eyes to the machinations of film form and encourages them to be aware of the unspoken cultural assumptions that inform both the filmmakers’ work and their own viewing. A sus- tained, jargon-free analysis of Jason Reitman’s Juno (2007) anchors the chapter and points stu- dents immediately toward the goal of acquiring the single most important skill in the study of film: an analytical eye.

New Chapter 3, “Types of Movies” This chapter, built from the previous edition and from entirely new material, significantly expands Looking at Movies coverage of documentary, exper- imental, and animated films, and offers an entirely new, twenty-five-page introduction to film genre that helps students see why and how genre is such an important force in film production and film con- sumption. Six major American film genres—the gangster film, film noir, the science-fiction film, the horror film, the Western, and the musical—are dis- cussed in depth.

New Chapter 10, “Film History” This new chapter provides a brisk but substantial overview of major milestones in film history, focus- ing on the most important and influential move- ments and filmmakers.

A Focus on Analytic Skills A good introductory film book needs to help students make the transition from the natural enjoyment of movies to a critical understanding of the form, con- tent, and meaning(s) of movies. Looking at Movies accomplishes this task in several different ways:

Model Analyses Hundreds of illustrative examples and analytic readings of films throughout the book provide stu- dents with concrete models for their own analytic work. The sustained analysis of Juno—a film that many undergraduates will have seen and enjoyed but perhaps not viewed with a critical eye—in

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Chapter 1 discusses not only its formal structures and techniques, but also its social and cultural meanings. This analysis offers students an acces- sible and jargon-free introduction to most of the major themes and goals of the introductory film course, and it shows them that looking at movies analytically can start immediately—even before they learn the specialized vocabulary of academic film study.

DVD Tutorials Disc 1 of the Looking at Movies DVD offers 25 sepa- rate “tutorials”—written directed, and hosted by the authors—that complement and expand upon the book’s analyses. Ranging from 1 minute to 15 minutes in length, these tutorials show students what the book can only describe, and they further develop students’ analytical skills.

“Screening Checklists” Each chapter ends with an “Analyzing” section that includes a “Screening Checklist” feature. This series of leading questions prompts students to apply what they’ve learned in the chapter to their own critical viewing, in class or at home. Printable versions of these checklists are available on the Looking at Movies website, at www.wwnorton.com/ movies.

“Writing about Movies” Written by Karen Gocsik (Executive Director of the Writing & Rhetoric Program at Dartmouth College) and Richard Barsam, “Writing about Movies” is a clear and practical overview of the process of writing papers for film-studies courses. This supplement is packaged free of charge with every new copy of Looking at Movies and is also available on the Looking at Movies Web site, www.wwnorton.com/movies.

The Most Visually Dynamic Text Available Looking at Movies was written with one goal in mind: to prepare students for a lifetime of intelli- gent and perceptive viewing of motion pictures.

In recognition of the central role played by visu- als in the film-studies classroom, Looking at Movies includes an illustration program that is both visu- ally appealing and pedagogically focused, as well as accompanying moving-image media that are second to none.

Hundreds of In-Text Illustrations The text is accompanied by over 700 illustrations in color and in black and white. Nearly all the still pictures were captured from digital or analog sources, thus ensuring that the images directly reflect the textual discussions and the films from which they’re taken. Unlike publicity stills, which are attractive as photographs but less useful as teaching aids, the captured stills throughout this book provide visual information that will help stu- dents learn as they read and—because they are reproduced in the aspect ratio of the original source—will serve as accurate reference points for students’ analysis.

Five Hours of Moving-Image Media The two DVDs that are packaged with every new copy of Looking at Movies offer 5 hours of two dif- ferent types of content:

> On disc 1 are the 25 tutorials described above. These DVD tutorials were specifically created to complement Looking at Movies, and they are exclusive to this text. The tuto- rials guide students’ eyes to see what the text describes, and because they are presented in full-screen format, they are suitable for presentation in class as “lecture launchers” as well as for students’ self-study.

> On disc 2, we offer a mini-anthology of 12 complete short films, ranging from 5 to 30 minutes in length. These short films are accomplished and entertaining examples of the form, as well as useful material for short in-class activities or for students’ analysis. Most of the films are also accompanied by optional audio commentary from the film- makers. This commentary was recorded specifically for Looking at Movies and is exclu- sive to this text.


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Accessible Presentation; Effective Pedagogy Building on its reputation as the clearest and most accessible introductory film text available, Looking at Movies, Third Edition, has been revised to be even clearer and more direct in its presentation of key concepts than its previous editions. The first three chapters of the book—“Looking at Movies,” “Principles of Film Form,” and “Types of Movies”— new to the Third Edition, provide a comprehensive yet truly “introductory” overview of the major top- ics and themes of any film course, giving students a solid grounding in the basics before they move on to study those topics in greater depth.

Having proven popular with students and teach- ers who used the Second Edition, the pedagogical features introduced in that edition have been retained. The following sections describe the high- lights of the text’s pedagogy.

Learning Objectives A checklist at the beginning of every chapter pro- vides students with a brief summary of the core concepts to be covered in the chapter.

Extensive Captions As in previous editions, each illustration in Looking at Movies, Third Edition, is accompanied by a cap- tion that elaborates on a key concept or that guides students to look at elements of the film more ana- lytically. These captions expand on the in-text pre- sentation and reinforce students’ retention of key concepts.

Questions for Review “Questions for Review” at the end of each chapter test students’ knowledge of the concepts first men- tioned in the “Learning Objectives” section at the beginning of the chapter.

Chapter-by-Chapter Pedagogical Materials on the Web (www.wwnorton.com/movies)

> Chapter overviews provide a short prose summary of each chapter’s main ideas.

> The “Learning Objectives” section reviews core concepts for each chapter.

> More than 250 quiz questions test students’ retention of core concepts.

> Printable versions of the end-of-chapter screening checklists allow students to take notes during screenings.

> The entire “Writing about Movies” supple- ment is available in convenient searchable and downloadable PDF format.

> The full text of the glossary is available online for easy reference.

ebook An ebook version of Looking at Movies is also available, offering students an alternative to the printed text that is less expensive and that offers features—such as animated frame sequences of select illustrations—that are unique to the ebook. Students buying the ebook also receive the two sup- plementary DVDs. Visit www.nortonebooks.com for more information.

Ancillaries for Instructors Instructor Resource Disc For each chapter in the book, there are over 50 lec- ture PowerPoint slides that incorporate art from the book and concept quizzes; the Instructor Resource Disc also includes a separate set of art and figures from the book in PowerPoint and JPEG formats.

Test Bank Available in Microsoft Word–, ExamView-, Blackboard-, and WebCT-compatible formats, the test bank for Looking at Movies offers nearly 500 multiple-choice questions.

WebCT and Blackboard Coursepacks These ready-to-use, free coursepacks offer chapter overviews and learning objectives, quiz questions, streaming video of the DVD tutorials, questions on the DVD tutorials and short films

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