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The essay film

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❶Views Read View source View history. The word essay derives from the French infinitive essayer , "to try" or "to attempt".

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Read research data and market intelligence. In recent years the essay film has attained widespread recognition as a particular category of film practice, with its own history and canonical figures and texts. Mechanically created, cinema defies mechanism: If Marker has now been welcomed into that canon and — thanks to the far greater availability of his work — into the mainstream of primarily DVD-educated cinephilia, it is rarely acknowledged how much of that work cheerfully undercuts many of the long-held assumptions and pieties upon which it is built.

An appealingly simple formulation, the term has proved both taxonomically useful and remarkably elastic, allowing one to define a field of previously unassimilable objects while ranging far and wide throughout film history to claim other previously identified objects for this invented tradition.

In the scope of its application and its association more with an amorphous sensibility as opposed to fixed rules, the essay film bears similarities to the most famous of all fabricated genres: The essay film, however, has proved even more peripatetic: And while noir, despite its occasional shadings over into semi-documentary during the s, remains bound to fictional narratives, the essay film moves blithely between the realms of fiction and non-fiction, complicating the terms of both.

If the mystical strain described above represents the Dionysian side of pure cinema, Soviet montage was its Apollonian opposite: No less than the mystics, however, the montagists were after essences. Eisenstein , Dziga Vertov and Pudovkin , along with their transnational associates and acolytes, sought to crystallise abstract concepts in the direct and purposeful juxtaposition of forceful, hard-edged images — the general made powerfully, viscerally immediate in the particular.

The relentlessly unidirectional focus of classical Soviet montage puts it methodologically and temperamentally at odds with the ruminative, digressive and playful qualities we associate with the essay film. Against the seamless, immersive illusionism of commercial cinema, montage was a key for decrypting those social forces, both overt and hidden, that govern human society.

And as such it was method rather than material that was the pathway to truth. Fidelity to the authentic — whether the accurate representation of historical events or the documentary flavouring of Eisensteinian typage — was important only insomuch as it provided the filmmaker with another tool to reach a considerably higher plane of reality.

Midway on their Marxian mission to change the world rather than interpret it, the montagists actively made the world even as they revealed it. In doing so they powerfully expressed the dialectic between control and chaos that would come to be not only one of the chief motors of the essay film but the crux of modernity itself.

At the dawn of the cinematic century, the American writer Henry Adams saw in the dynamo both the expression of human mastery over nature and a conduit to mysterious, elemental powers beyond our comprehension. So, too, the modernist ambition expressed in literature, painting, architecture and cinema to capture a subject from all angles — to exhaust its wealth of surfaces, meanings, implications, resonances — collides with awe or fear before a plenitude that can never be encompassed.

The nimble movements and multi-angled perspectives of the essay film are founded on this negotiation between active choice and passive possession; on the recognition that even the keenest insight pales in the face of an ultimate unknowability. The other key inheritance the essay film received from the classical montage tradition, perhaps inevitably, was a progressive spirit, however variously defined. The Grierson ian documentary movement in Britain neutered the political and aesthetic radicalism of its more dynamic model in favour of paternalistic progressivism founded on conformity, class complacency and snobbery towards its own medium.

But if it offered a far paler antecedent to the essay film than the Soviet montage tradition, it nevertheless represents an important stage in the evolution of the essay-film form, for reasons not unrelated to some of those rather staid qualities. The Soviet montagists had created a vision of modernity racing into the future at pace with the social and spiritual liberation of its proletarian pilot-passenger, an aggressively public ideology of group solidarity.

The Grierson school, by contrast, offered a domesticated image of an efficient, rational and productive modern industrial society based on interconnected but separate public and private spheres, as per the ideological values of middle-class liberal individualism.

What this domesticated dynamism and retrograde pursuit of high-cultural bona fides achieved, however, was to mingle a newfound cinematic language montage with a traditionally literary one narration ; and, despite the salutes to state-oriented communality, to re-introduce the individual, idiosyncratic voice as the vehicle of meaning — as the mediating intelligence that connects the viewer to the images viewed.

It is, of course, with the seminal post-war collaborations between Marker and Alain Resnais that the essay film proper emerges. This also marks the point where the revolutionary line of the Soviets and the soft, statist liberalism of the British documentarians give way to a more free-floating but staunchly oppositional leftism, one derived as much from a spirit of humanistic inquiry as from ideological affiliation.

Originally conceived as commissions by various French government or government-affiliated bodies, the Resnais-Marker films famously ran into trouble from French censors: Les statues meurent aussi for its condemnation of French colonialism, Night and Fog for its shots of Vichy policemen guarding deportation camps; the former film would have its second half lopped off before being cleared for screening, the latter its offending shots removed.

Night and Fog Appropriately, it is at this moment that the emphasis of the essay film begins to shift away from tactile presence — the whirl of the city, the rhythm of the rain, the workings of industry — to felt absence. The montagists had marvelled at the workings of human creations which raced ahead irrespective of human efforts; here, the systems created by humanity to master the world write, in their very functioning, an epitaph for those things extinguished in the act of mastering them.

To overstate the case, loss is the primary motor of the modern essay film: The image and sound captured at the time of filming offer one facet of reality; it is only with this lateral move outside that reality that the future reality it conceals can speak. What will distinguish the essay film, as Bazin noted, is not only its ability to make the image but also its ability to interrogate it, to dispel the illusion of its sovereignty and see it as part of a matrix of meaning that extends beyond the screen.

No less than were the montagists, the film-essayists seek the motive forces of modern society not by crystallising eternal verities in powerful images but by investigating that ever-shifting, kaleidoscopic relationship between our regime of images and the realities it both reveals and occludes. Few documentaries have achieved the cult status of the minute A propos de Nice, co-directed by Jean Vigo and cameraman Boris Kaufman at the beginning of their careers. Occasionally the filmmakers remind us of the sea, the birds, the wind in the trees but mostly they contrast people: As often, women bear the brunt of any critique of bourgeois consumption: The message is clear, even if it has not been heeded by history.

The subjectivity and speculative approach maintained throughout are more akin to the essay tradition than traditional propaganda in their rejection of mere glib conveyance of information or thunderous hectoring. Instead Jennings invites us quietly to observe the nuances of everyday life as Britain enters the final chapter of the war. Against the momentous political backdrop, otherwise routine, everyday activities are ascribed new profundity as the Welsh miner Geronwy, Alan the farmer, Bill the railway engineer and Peter the convalescent fighter pilot go about their daily business.

He worked across film, painting, photography, theatrical design, journalism and poetry; in Diary his protean spirit finds expression in a manner that transgresses the conventional parameters of wartime propaganda, stretching into film poem, philosophical reflection, social document, surrealistic ethnographic observation and impressionistic symphony. Managing to keep to the right side of sentimentality, it still makes for potent viewing.

The success of the campaign contributed to a golden age of short filmmaking that would last a decade and form the crucible of the French essay film. Les statues meurent aussi co-directed with Chris Marker explored cultural memory as embodied in African art and the depredations of colonialism; Night and Fog was a seminal reckoning with the historical memory of the Nazi death camps.

Resnais explores the workings of the library through the effective device of following a book from arrival and cataloguing to its delivery to a reader the book itself being something of an in-joke: His hand, seen in close-up, is one of many in the film; rather than objects of medical curiosity, these hands — some fingerless, many distorted by the disease — are agents, always in movement, doing, making, exercising, praying. Posing a question of aesthetics, The House Is Black uses the contagious gaze of cinema to dissolve the screen between Us and Them.

It was to the latter that Godard and Gorin directed their Letter after seeing a news photograph of her on a solidarity visit to North Vietnam in August And what of her expression of compassionate concern?

Letter to Jane is ultimately concerned with the same question that troubled philosophers such as Levinas and Derrida: Those who insist it was all downhill for Orson Welles after Citizen Kane would do well to take a close look at this film made more than three decades later, in its own idiosyncratic way a masterpiece just as innovative as his better-known feature debut.

Mankiewicz had been the real creative force behind Kane. As a riposte to that thesis albeit never framed as such , F for Fake is subtle, robust, supremely erudite and never once bitter; the darkest moment — as Welles contemplates the serene magnificence of Chartres — is at once an uncharacteristic but touchingly heartfelt display of humility and a poignant memento mori.

And it is in this delicate balancing of the autobiographical with the universal, as well as in the dazzling deployment of cinematic form to illustrate and mirror content, that the film works its once unique, now highly influential magic. The Bundesrepublik Deutschland is shown as a nation of people who can deal with everything because they have been prepared — taught how to react properly in every possible situation.

Whatever job we do, we know it by heart; we also know how to manage whatever kind of psychological breakdown we experience; and we are also prepared for the end, and even have an idea about how our burial will go. This is the nation: Viewed from the present, How to Live in the German Federal Republic is revealed as the archetype of many a Farocki film in the decades to follow, for example Die Umschulung , Der Auftritt or Nicht ohne Risiko , all of which document as dispassionately as possible different — not necessarily simulated — scenarios of social interactions related to labour and capital.

There is a difference between a movie review and a movie analysis and it is important to understand this difference. A film analysis is not the same as a film review and a critical review of a film is not something that is generally requested in academic circles.

Writing movie reviews is generally best left to the media. You might also be wondering what can be gained through analyzing film. According to the University of North Dakota , movies are the following:. The University of Colorado discusses the different types of movie analysis papers that can be written. The two primary types are the critical essay and the theoretical essay. The critical essay can look at the following:. Remember that a single essay can cover more than one of these types of analyses.

You will need to determine the type of essay you will be writing and which of the above analytical elements you will include. It is also important to conduct an analysis of film reviews and integrate what other people think of the movie into your analysis. Once you have done this, you are ready to outline your analysis. Once you have watched and possibly re-watched your assigned or chosen movie from an analytical point of view, you will need to create a movie analysis essay outline.

This is pretty straightforward and follows the same type of outline as you would use for a literary analysis or an article analysis. The outline is as follows:. You can find a great critical analysis template at Thompson Rivers University. The first film analysis essay example we will take a look at it for Do the Right Thing. This is a film directed by Spike Lee that was released in In , it appeared on the list of the most controversial movies.

Although it is a famous movie, many people have not seen it, yet Do the Right Thing essays are frequently assigned. Library of Congress has published a great article on Do the Right Thing. This will be helpful when writing an analysis on the subject.

When writing an analytical essay on Do the Right Thing , you can follow this simple plan to organize your work. Start your Do the Right Thing essay with general info about the movie, director, etc. Mention that in , the film was admitted to be the 96th greatest American movie. Explain in your essay why the movie is considered to be so controversial. In your analysis of the movie, discuss the major themes raised in the film. What conflicts other than that of race do you see? Then, analyze the main characters of the movie.

Finally, you need to explain the main idea of the film, the reason why it was made. Who did the right thing? This is a story of a man who one day realizes that he is living a false life and that everything around him, including his wife, parents, and friends is not real. Preparing an analytical essay about The Truman Show might include some of the following ideas:. Here are examples of how the last three ideas on this list can be presented.

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The essay film, however, has proved even more peripatetic: where noir was formulated from the films of a determinate historical period (no matter that the temporal goalposts are continually shifted), the essay film is resolutely unfixed in time; it has its choice of forebears.

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An essay has been defined in a variety of ways. One definition is a "prose composition with a focused subject of discussion" or a "long, systematic discourse". It is difficult to define the genre into which essays .

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Why is the essay film such an important and influential form of cinema today, a reference point for so many filmmakers, critics and curators? It is because it combines the best qualities of the documentary and experimental modes of filmmaking. Database of FREE film studies essays - We have thousands of free essays across a wide range of subject areas. Sample film studies essays!

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Introduction. The term “essay film” has become increasingly used in film criticism to describe a self-reflective and self-referential documentary cinema that blurs the lines between fiction and nonfiction. Writing a film analysis essay is an assignment that is less likely to terrorize those who fear the idea of writing an essay, because it allows them to write about something most people enjoy. Film analysis is not the same thing as writing a movie review, which involves passively watching a movie. An.