Film Theory: An Introduction / Edition 1

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What is the relationship between cinema and spectator? That is the central question for film theory, and renowned film scholars Thomas Elsaesser and Malte Hagener use this question to guide students through all of the major film theories - from the classical period to today - in this insightful, engaging book. Every kind of cinema (and film theory) imagines an ideal spectator, and then imagines a certain relationship between the mind and body of that spectator and the screen. Using seven distinctive configurations of spectator and screen that move progressively from 'exterior' to 'interior' relationships, the authors retrace the most important stages of film theory from 1945 to the present, from neo-realist and modernist theories to psychoanalytic, 'apparatus', phenomenological and cognitivist theories.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
'Any publication with Thomas Elsaesser's name on it is cause for anticipation. This jointly authored volume reaffirms not only Elsaesser's comprehensive command of the diverse theoretical projects that constitute "film theory" but also the creative capacity of both authors to reframe concepts and debates in a way that shakes up and rejuvenates the field.' - Felicity Collins, Screening the Past

'...the book presents a coherent argument while at the same time exhibiting a breadth of theoretical expertise.' - David Sorfa, Liverpool John Moores University

'Film Theory possesses a robustness to match its sophistication, and an approach that feels as though it has been road-tested. This book stands a very good chance of wide adoption in introductory film studies courses, as preparatory reading, or as a text to be worked through chapter by chapter, supplemented by close analysis of the theories at issue, and screenings of the films discussed. The combination of sophistication and robustness should ensure that it will prove effective both at undergraduate and at graduate level.' - David Trotter, Cambridge University

'With admirable concision, Elsaesser and Hagener's book manages intelligently and insightfully to use its own new and unique framework to cover virtually all of film theory, suggest the schools it divides into and their stakes, and to relate this to film history, to broader philosophy, and to transformations that film is undergoing in the age of the digital.' - Dana Polan, New York University

Praise for the German version of Film Theory.

'Each chapter begins with a succinct sequence analysis that provides a foundation for the theoretical discussion that follows. Instead of foregrounding the theory and then "applying" it to the film, the authors invite the student to refer back to the film as the chapter progresses, critically considering how the practical enunciation of key theoretical concepts might (or might not) occur. The authors argue that this act of reflection should not terminate with the film that prefaces each chapter, but rather should inspire the student to draw connections between the theory and other films they have previously seen. This productively encourages the student to familiarize itself with theory by connecting it to his or her own larger framework of experiences with cinema.' -Medienwissenshaft 2/2008

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780415801010
  • Publisher: Taylor & Francis
  • Publication date: 12/16/2009
  • Edition description: Older Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 232
  • Sales rank: 900,981
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Thomas Elsaesser is Professor of Film and Television Studies in the Department of Art and Culture at the University of Amsterdam. A renowned film scholar, he is the author and editor of many books, including Weimar Cinema and After, also published by Routledge.

Malte Hagener is Associate Professor of media studies at the Leuphana Universität Lüneburg. He has written Moving Forward, Looking Back: The European Avant-garde and the Invention of Film Culture, 1919-1939 and edited many volumes, including Cinephilia: Movies, Love, and Memory.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii

Introduction: film theory, cinema, the body and the senses 1

1 Cinema as window and frame 13

Rear Window



Open and closed film forms (Leo Braudy)

Classical cinema

Central perspective

Rudolf Arnheim

Sergej Eisenstein

André Bazin

David Bordwell

Cinema as shop-window and display

2 Cinema as door - screen and threshold 35

The Searchers

Entry into the film

Etymology of screen

Thresholds of the cinema/movie theater

Beginnings: credits and credit sequences

Neo-formalism (Bordwell/Thompson)

Post-structuralism (Thierry Kuntzel)

Michail Bachtin

Door/screen as filmic motif in Buster Keaton and Woody Allen

3 Cinema as mirror and face 55


Béla Balázs

The close-up

The face

Face as mirror of the unconscious

Christian Metz

Jean-Louis Baudry


Early cinema and the close-up (Tom Gunning)

Reflexive doubling in modern (art) cinema

Mirror neurons

Paradoxes of the mirror

4 Cinema as eye - look and gaze 82

Blade Runner

Active and passive eye

The mobile eye of early cinema

Dziga Vertov




Laura Mulvey

Feminist film theories

The Silence of the Lambs

Historicity of modes of perception

Regimes of the gaze

The big Other (Jacques Lacan)

Slavoj Žižek

The panoptic gaze (Michel Foucault)

Niklas Luhmann and self-monitoring

5 Cinema as skin and touch 108


Critique of "ocularcentrism"

Skin and identity

The New world

Vivian Sobchack


The (re-)turn to the body

Avant-garde practices

Body and genre (Linda Williams, Barbara Creed)

The skin of film (LauraMarks)

Accented cinema (Hamid Naficy)

Siegfried Kracauer

6 Cinema as ear - acoustics and space 129

Singin' in the Rain

Sound as spatial phenomenon

Silent cinema and the introduction of sounds

Sound in classical cinema

The acousniêtre (Michel Chion)

Reversals in the hierarchy of image and sound


Materiality and plasticity of sound

7 Cinema as brain - mind and body 149

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Propaganda and cult films

Five concepts for connecting mind and cinema

Gilles Deleuze

Annette Michelson

Torben Grodal

Mind-game films

Mind and body, spectator and film




Embodiment and disembodied vision

Conclusion: digital cinema-the body and the senses refigured? 170

Toy story

Animation and (photo-)graphics

The future of projection

Screens: bigger and smaller

The new body norm: face or hand?

Productive contradictions: digital cinema, virtual reality, media convergence

Interface and portal instead of window, door and screen

Monsters Inc. and doors

Public and private

Mobility and hybridity

Film theory and philosophy: radical reformulations or rescue missions?

Notes 188

Bibliography 207

Index 214

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