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Studying Early Hollywood: The Search for a Storytelling Style

>>From the Library of
Congress in Washington DC.>>Daniele Turello: So
good afternoon and welcome. I’m Dan Turello. I’m a staff of the Kluge Center. And before we begin,
I want to remind you that we are filming
today’s event for placement on the library’s iTunes
and YouTube channel. And please silence your
cellphones and any other device that might interfere
with the lecture. This has been a week of
David Bordwell events which started last Wednesday with
a visit to the cool Packard Campus, which houses the library’s National
Audio Visual Conservation Center. And there were lots of amazing
things about this visit. It was a really superb day. But one of the things that stuck
with me was witnessing the dialogue. Everyone on the technical
staff was very familiar and had engaged with David’s work. And it was inspiring to see this
dialogue between film history and active film conservation. And then last Monday,
David hosted James Schamus, who was down from New York City. He screened his film
“Indignation,” which was adopted from a Philip Roth novel and
it was a fantastic discussion following that. And that brings us to today. And it’s a bit of a better
sweet occasion because it’s– it marks David’s conclusion of
his time here at the Kluge Center as the Kluge Chair
in Modern Culture. The Chair in modern culture is one
of the five original Kluge Chairs. The Chair holder typically focuses
on modern arts and the media and their impact on
societal development. And David has simply been a
superb chair in every way. I’ll give you a brief run down
on his distinguished work. But before that, I think I could
tell you everything I needed to tell you by remembering that
he arrived at the Kluge Center on the first day and was
wearing a sed [phonetic] jacket from the Quentin Tarantino
Inglourious Basterds. So on a scale, if there is a
cool scale from zero to 10, David is consistently a 12. And it’s been a real pleasure
and honor to have him here. In terms of a more formal
introduction, rendition of his work, he is the Jacques Ledoux
Professor of Film Studies, Emeritus at the University
of Wisconsin, Madison. He has written on all manner of
subject matter related to film. Some of his titles include The
Classical Hollywood Cinema: Film Style & Mode of Production,
Ozu and the Poetics of Cinema, The Cinema of Eisenstein, On
The History of Film Style, Planet Hong Kong: Popular Cinema
and the Art of Entertainment. So you see his range is broad. Perhaps the book that he’s most
well-known for is Film Art: An Introduction, which has
been reprinted numerous times and has made its way into
most syllabi of film schools around the country
and around the world. Here at the Kluge Center, he has
been drawing on the resources of The Motion Picture Broadcasting
and Recorded Sound Division. And today’s talk comes from
this research and it is titled, “Studying early Hollywood: The
Search for a Storytelling Style.” Please join me in welcoming David. [ Applause ]>>David Bordwell: Thank you. Thanks to so many of the people
I’ve seen, my colleagues and friends at the Kluge Center and at The
Motion Picture Broadcasting and Recorded Sound
Division for showing up. I’m very pleased to
see you all here. It is based on my research here. And I have many people to
thank but that’s for later. For now, I just want to sketch out
a little bit of what I’ve been doing over the last two and a half
months in hopes of persuading you that it’s interesting or
even might be important. The larger project is indeed the one
called The Art of Cinema, 1908-1920 and I hope to convince you that
that’s a good focus because I think in a way, the modern cinema and the
classic cinema begin in that period. My focus was also on stylistics, the way movies are using the
medium to tell their stories. And I’ve focused particularly
on the period because I couldn’t do everything. I decided to simply deep-dive into
the period, 1914 to about 1918, which coincided with
the war, of course, but I was not really concerned
to relate it directly to the war. We can talk about that if
you want because I know many of you are interested in that
period and its relationship– the relationship of the
war to culture at the time. So let me start. Let’s take a case. Let’s take a case. How are you going to show on
film face-to-face encounters, two people having a
conversation was one another? Well, here’s an example. From Hidden Figures, a recent
film you might have seen, where the computer, as she’s
called, faces off against the boss of the NASA agency
she’s working for. And instead of playing out
that scene in the entirety of that long two-shot, we
get a cut to her speaking– explaining why she takes
so long– such long breaks. And then, we have another cut
to him looking at her answering and speaking to her, asking
her further questions, and then we have a
shot of her again. And I’d point out to
you that the shot of her isn’t the same
one we had before. It’s a different framing
or much closer to her. Now, this may seem no news. This seems very natural. In fact, you might ask, how else
would you film a face-to-face encounter except by setting it up
and then singling out each person in turn as they take
turns in the conversation? Well, it goes back. We go back to hundred years from
2016 to 1916, Reginald Barker, the man you saw at the
beginning in my first slide, handled it much the same way. We have our master shot, not
in the wide screen like we have with Hidden Figures, but that’s
a more recent development. Master shot of the two people
engaged in conversation, more than a conversation, a cut to
her reacting, a cut to him reacting. And then another shot of
her, closer, just as we had in Hidden Figures, sort of intensifying our
attention on her reaction. So, you think again. So what, how else would
you film a conversation? Well, it turns out that if
you assume cinema is invented around 1895, it takes
about 20 years for people to figure out how to do this. It would seem to be the most natural
spontaneous thing in the world. And yet, it takes a
long time for filmmakers to adopt this particular manner of representing these
face-to-face encounters. Before that, things were shot
very differently, long shots, distant shots, long-held
shots as in The Passion of the Christ, the
early Lumiere film. And then 10 years later,
Accidents Will Happen. You see it’s very flat,
very distant and no cutting. Filmmakers start in the [inaudible]
to mount more complicated scenes than the examples I’d just given
you, but they don’t use editing. Now, one of the points of
using that example of the– of Hidden Figures and
Vain Desires is that it guides your
attention, doesn’t it? Those shots, those cuts point you
to what’s important in the scene. But a scene like Ready Money or
the scene of The Sign of the Cross, it just seems to be
dumping everything in. It seems to be a kind of mess. So the question is, what would
make anyone think that this, for 20 years, is preferable
to this cleaner, neater more efficiently
way of lining things up. So, my tasks today are these. I want to sketch the filmmaking
context of that period, to suggest the circumstances
that would lead to people, intelligent people like ourselves,
to make that kind of choice. I’d like to consider how the
trend toward editing got going. And then I’ll try to
consider an alternative style which actually was the
loser in that battle. And then I’ll sketch some
causes very briefly at the end, some causes for the
developments that we see. So let me start with
the period, the context. This is an important period,
as I said at the outset, because it’s really the emergence
of many dimensions of filmmaking. First, the business of
film, film industries. You start to get the consolidation
of the international film business around World War I, the
creation or revamping or decline of major European firms like Nordisk
in Denmark, Film d’ art in France, Svensk Filmindustri of Sweden. And especially important
for our purposes is the fact that at this point, we
start to see the birth of Hollywood in that period. The major studios which are still
with us today, Loew’s or Metro, Fox, Paramount, Universal,
Goldwyn, United Artists, and the very tailend
around 1920, Columbia. All these studios are really
started in one form or another, sometimes pretty crude as business
enterprises in this period. So the market film industry
is about 100 years old. We also had many important artists– film artists working in
those industries, Urban Gad, Gallone in Italy, Feuillade,
Gance, Griffith, of course everybody knows that name. Mack Sennett, Cecil B.
DeMille, Thomas Ince, Charlie Chaplin, again,
very familiar. These are the people whose
careers start in that window. At the same time, the
industry is starting to show us what movies
can be like in exhibition. We had the emergence of what we
might call our movie theatres. Early on, legitimate theatres were
converted for film screenings. This is after the period before 1908
where films are shown in carnivals, in small storefronts, so-called
Nickelodeons and so on. But around this period of
1908, we have purpose-built– or purpose-rebuilt film theatres. And especially with the
rise of the feature film. The feature film was
a film initially that simply could be featured. You could advertise it that
people would come by name rather than simply treating
it like YouTube. You just turn it on and what– you walk in or whatever
is playing is playing. A feature film is originally
just one that could be advertised by title. But later, this so-called feature
film was as we know it today, is a long movie, is a separate
long movie as opposed to a short. The length might vary. It might be a two-reeler, a
three-reeler, or a four-reeler and gets standardized around the
mid themes at about five reels or about an hour and
10 minutes or so. Seven minute though, but that
could be a little bit less. So the feature comes in, and
that reinforces the growth of these movie theaters, these
purpose-built movie houses. So let’s go to Wisconsin
for a while. I don’t recommend it all the
time, but let’s do it now. Let’s go with the Baraboo,
Wisconsin, 1916. If you went to see a movie
in Baraboo, Wisconsin, you go to the Gem Theatre
and it’s a movie house. It’s not that different from a movie
house in the town you grew up in. It’s rather different from a
multiplex as they are today, but a single screen
theatre, you go in, you pay your money,
you watch a few movies. More elaborately, still
in Wisconsin, and this is why I really do
wish for a time machine, 1916, the Butterfly Theatre in Milwaukee. This is one gorgeous look
in movie theatre, isn’t it? This is not even yet
a picture palace. There isn’t that huge inside, but
it’s magnificent on the outside. I’d go there today if I
could, no more, of course. But this gives you a sense of the
scale of the American film industry at this period, with–
exhibitors can actually invest in a venue like this. OK, not just in Wisconsin, the
American Cosmograph Theatre in Cairo is a very
impressive theatre. And, of course, the Palads
Teatret, which is about the size of a train station in
Copenhagen in 1912. Movies are now big business. Thousands and thousands of people
want to see them around the world. Reflecting the same
thing is the emergence of a culture around movies. In fact, all the things now, we
think of as part of, you know, movie buzz, the movie world being
a standard file, start that. You have the rise of film
culture as the film press. In France, for instance,
the Cine-journal, and several other journals and you
have major critics and theorists of cinema emerging in
France at this period. Same as through in other countries. In the USA, you’d start
to have trade papers, newspapers devoted just to the film
business, Moving Picture World, Photoplay, and you’ll have
critics and theorists here too, most famously I suppose,
Hugo Munsterberg. And just a look at Photoplay from
the period, with Pearl White, a charmer that she is,
it’s not that different. It’s not that different. Same kind of culture, same kind
of buzz in this whole churn of entertainment, infotainment
is there in the beginning. I want to focus on something else. The way that movies behave, the
look, I can’t say sound of movies at the time, and I believe
the true foundations for the way movies behave
now were laid down then. Artistically, you’ve got the
emergence of certain kinds of appeals and forms,
for instance, stars. This is the beginning of the
star system in this period. This does in years, 13 years,
Asta Nielsen, Charlie Chaplin, William S. Hart, Mary Pickford,
and so on and so forth. The genres that we still have today
are formulated at this period. Detective films, societies,
melodramas, horror. They’re all there. So even science fiction is there. The formats, as I’ve mentioned,
the multiple-reel film, the idea that a reel movie is at
least an hour and 10 minutes long. And the dramaturgy, the
structuring of stories. The thing is when you have a
longer film like a feature, how do you complicate it? How do you tell a story
that lasts 50 or 60 minutes? Kind of between a novel and a short
story, how do you fill that out with an interesting plot that
will keep people interested? Well, my argument is this. Because of this immense growth
in audiences and film culture, and the development of the long
film, there’s a pressure to develop to use the medium in ways, to use
film, staging, shooting, cutting, performance, in ways that are suited to telling these more
lengthy and complex stories. So, a couple of trends develop. I’m being schematic here for
the purposes of exposition, but I think this is
pretty much true. On the one hand, filmmakers decide
the thing we’ve seen already. The option that we mentioned, we
cut the scene up as John Ford does for instance, in straight shooting. You’re going to have a western. You’re going to have a
showdown with western. Big close ups of the two guys facing
each other down on the city street, just like [inaudible] would, just
the way what Clint Eastwood would, the same, the editing option. The other option is to do
things a little differently. You do it through staging. Instead of cutting the scene
up, you move your actors around the frame in
various patterns. That’s the loser. There are many options, or many
tasks that you need to fulfill if you’re going to use
film to tell stories. You have to engage the
audience emotionally. You have to find ways to align
them with characters and so on. There are many different things. I’m just going to focus on one, which is kind of a
precondition for all the others. And that is directing the audience’s
attention to follow a story on stage in a novel, wherever, in a ballet, whatever narrative form
you’re talking about. The attention of the
audience has to be focused on particular items
of, in the array. So the question is given film,
how do you focus attention? Well, editing offers the choice. Editing says, here’s how you do it. You cut the scenes up. You either cut them by
showing two events or more, taking place at roughly the same
time, and you switch from one to the other, so-called
crosscutting. As The Birth of a Nation is in
Birth of a Nation with Griffith, while Lillian Gish is
besieged in this parlor, the Ku Klux Clan is
riding to her rescue, back and forth, back and forth. And then so, the eyes
are like pointed up, novels did this all the time. This is not– This is
simply a straightforward, but kind of intensifying and
focusing of what novels have done in terms of intercut chapters or even intercut sections
within a chapter. While X is strolling in the
park, Y is murdering his wife, back and forth, back and forth. So that’s adapted to film and editing is necessary
to make it work. The other option is so-called
scene analysis or scene dissection where you’d take a master
shot or this and break it up into its component parts. So while the little colonel is
recovering from this battle wounds in the bivouac hospital, he’s lying
there and we got a shot of him. And he hears Lillian Gish
playing her mandolin, I guess that is her banjo. While we understand the emotional
interaction that’s starting to emerge between them. And it’s the focusing
of the attention with the separate close-up shots of
them that drives our understanding and response to the drama. So editing does that focus
of attention for you. And that’s what happens essentially
in the course of the themes. The dominant style
for handling those one on one encounters is a standardized
pattern of continuity editing. This and other things, I’ll be mentioning some
that you’ve seen before. At a 1917 film based on
Wilkie Collins’ novel, “The Woman in White”,
you’d get a master shot, and then you’d get a closer view as Count Fosco opens the
door and Marian is there. And then you’d get a
reverse angle on the husband who has been standing off the one
side, looking suspiciously at her. And then another view of the
three, but a different framing. And by this point, they’re thinking
OK, we don’t need to see that, all of that painting and all
that candle around the left. We just go tighter
in on the characters. This is very modern and it’s
very much what has developed on those period based on editing. So for moment to moment,
your attention is focused on what each character
is doing or saying to, in relation to the others. And what develops at
this point among critics and historians is a kind of
chauvinistic claim about editing. It’s so powerful. It transcends time and space because
it cuts around all over the place. It focuses our attention, rivets
us to particular things going on. It has to be. It’s not only a great tool. It has to be the uniquely
cinematic technique. No other medium has an exact
equivalent for editing. So the theorists and critics say. And in a way, cinema was destined
to reveal its essence as editing. More and more, if you read, people
in the 20s and 30s are saying, we had to get rid of all
that other stuff in order to find the real true
essence of cinema. Its fate was to be an
editing-based medium. Why? Well, it directs and
maintains attention as we’ve seen. And it permits what we
might call camera ubiquity. That camera can be
anywhere in time and space. And then, the cut becomes a kind
of beat or kick, a little bump. You may perceive it. You may not perceive it. Ideally, you don’t
perceive it most of the time because the filmmaker’s technique
is aiming to make it invisible. But sometimes, as in this
later segment I’d show you from Hidden Figures, actually
it functions as a beat. As the couple kiss, we cut
to an extreme long shot that we had not seen before. But it gives a kind of
code into the scene. It concludes the scene. OK, we’re backing discreetly
away from them. This is so powerful. How can you not fake? This is the engine
that drives cinema. You’d get so many–
It buys you so much. It gets you so many advantages. Take this which I found
here in the archive. But I never heard of it before, it’s a very interesting film
called, “The Running Fight”. Earlier in the scene, the curtain is
revealed to have someone behind it. There, you can see the
couple in foreground, the father and the daughter. And someone is peering in at them. Later, a different setup,
camera setup of that sort of office laboratory, shows the
men gather around the retorts and stuff and the curtain. And then thanks to good old camera
ubiquity, boom, we’re in closer to the hand that emerges
from the curtain. Then back to the master
shot, the shot is fired, back to the hand, the
pistol is dropped. So, you could not miss it. You could not misunderstand
that that pistol shot was fired from behind that curtain. If we’d had only the long
shot, this little shot here, who knows what you
would have thought. Interestingly later in the film,
we do find out who fires the shot. It’s a woman who’s been taken
to a mental institution. She’s had a kind of
breakdown after doing this. And so we see her on
her deathbed confessing. And what’s done is on the
left-hand side of the frame, she’s lying on her bed
and there’s an attendant, you can see I hope,
bending over her. The right-hand side of the frame
is a replay of the shooting from behind the curtain,
if you can see that silhouette there
on the front-right. Here. This is her, shooting. Here’s the scene– the present-time
scene of her in the institution. So the camera has not
only jumped back in time, it’s given us two spaces and
two times in the same framing. You know, this is a celebration
of the power of cinema. And of course it’s not– you
imagine, well, we could do this in a comic strip, sure,
but it doesn’t move. One of the things I discovered or
at least I should have known before but kind of was brought home to me during my stay here was
what I might call the punch of the axial cut. Now an axial cut is editing which doesn’t vary the
angle on the subject. It comes right in on
the camera axis. So the camera is pointed this way,
we have a shot from here, then here, then here, boom, boom,
boom, straight in. So for instance, in “The Typhoon”,
while woman’s Asian lover, Japanese lover is arguing with
her French lover in his study, we see her listening in the bedroom. And we cut back to the quarrel
between the men and we cut back to her, but note that we’ve
had axial cut back to her. It’s punching up our attention. It’s focusing our attention. Just in case, you know,
remember, she’s listening. Also, it’s a kind of mimicry
of her act of attending. The fact that she’s focusing more and more what the men
are saying makes us– is echoed in a way by
this closer view of her. And finally, as the quarrel gets
going, we go even tighter to her, boom, boom, boom, three axial
cuts on her sort of sandwiched between shots of the men. For even bigger punch, I
found in “The Juggernaut”, a magnificent film,
unfortunately only a fragment, released the same week as
“Birth of a Nation” actually. A woman has been rescued from a
train wreck that’s taken place on a bridge, the bridge is
collapsing, the cars are underwater. It’s a fantastic scene. And she’s been rescued, she’s
hauled up by the man who loves her, but it looks like she’s dead. The axial cut takes us in closer. Is she dead or isn’t she? Bang, it’s a very percussive
kind of cut. And then again, in on her. So here, there’s nothing in
between, we go boom, boom, boom. And then back a bit, and
there’s the suspense moment, will she revive or not? Is she really dead? Cut to the close-up of
her lifting her head and cut back to the master shot. He doesn’t even realize
it but we do. That’s in alignment with us. So here, all the cuts are
along that camera axis and are being used very carefully
to enhance the emotional effect of what we’re seeing, the
suspense of the moment and kind of riveting our attention to whether
her eyelids will flutter or not. One more example. This hasn’t gone away. The axial cut is still with us. You see it on TV almost every night. I picked a film I like,
“The Hunt for Red October”, when our two heroes are being fired
upon from the guy in the stadium up above, the station
up above, boom, boom, boom, axial cuts all the way. And most action films use
axial cuts for this kind of, you know, fist-in-your-face look. So that’s an example. Camera ubiquity from narrative
purposes gives you something else, it buys you omniscience, can also
have that bump or pump effect that I mentioned but it
lets you go anywhere. Here’s a beautiful example
from another film I saw of Rich Motion Picture
Division [phonetic], “The Bargain”, also
by Reginald Barker. William S. Hart is set on sides
by the sheriff and his men. He’s trapped in his room and we get
a master shot of him in the room. We go outside to the door
he’s pointing his pistol at. The sheriff and his men are outside,
but they’re on the other side too, a closer shot of Bill
looking at the door. And now we go walk to the other side where we see the deputy
hammering away at the window. He starts to break the window
in fact to kind of get– to surround or ambush Bill. And then we got the shot completely
from around the other side. So we can see the deputy and actually see the glass
breaking in this shot. So the camera has been able
to hop around anywhere. It can go inside the
room, outside the room, at different points within the room. Thanks to editing, completely
clear, completely coherent and focusing your attention
instant by instant on each dramatic development. Now he really is surrounded. So as I said, by 1917, editing wins. You are not a competent filmmaker
if you don’t use editing by 1917 in America, in America this is. There are a few refinements. I’ll just mention one enhancement. “Victory”, we see it a little
bit later, 1919, filmmakers start to give a kind of redundant
cue to let us– to remind us that these
characters were in proximity, so shoulders come in. You start to have what we call
now OTSs, over-the-shoulder shots. This come in the same golden
period I’m talking about. If you love shoulders,
you’ll love Hollywood cinema because they are everywhere. And again, same thing we find in hidden figures,
shoulders all the time. So that’s one of the enhancements. There are a few others. But basically, the
foundation has been laid. Editing is the dominant
mode of expression for commercial mass market cinema. So what’s the alternative? What did editing defeat? Well, what’s been come to be called
mostly by film scholars rather than filmmakers, tableau cinema. Here, the emphasis is on
staging rather than cutting and a fixed camera rather than
that camera ubiquity that we get with the power of editing. It’s very strong in European
cinema in the period I’m discussing where editing is generally
more minimal. Take this early example,
beautiful example, very early, “The Assassination of Duc du Guise”. This is– You might think
it’s like a theater play. It looks like very theatrical. I want to try to convince
you it’s not theatrical. But at any rate, this becomes
very elaborate in Europe, very refined in a film like “Life
of an Evangelist”, the Danish film. You get shots of incredible
complexity in a single framing, with apertures of people
poking in and out, the sort of peekaboo effect. It’s all over the place. It really is a very refined and
delicate art and it hangs on longer, this tableau approach,
in Europe than in the US. But what is it really? I’ll try to explain. At first glance, as I mentioned, it seems very theatrical,
and that’s not wrong. If you think in terms of
acting or performance, it does draw on theatrical
traditions, such as the Italian diva
films where you have kind of operatic acting style
captured by the camera. It wouldn’t be wrong
to call that dimension of expression there
theatrical I think. But in another respect, it’s
very indebted to painting and in fact is somewhat
anti-theatrical. If you think about pictorialist
filmmakers like the Yevgeni Bauer in Russia, we have images
that you just want to look at and look at for a long time. Allan Levinson [assumed
spelling] talked about this. You want to soak yourself in them
and they seem to owe much more to the traditions of
academic 19th century painting than they do to theater. But I’m going to try to argue
that film is partly theatrical, partly painterly, but also
something else, something different. And I have to give an example
from an early Danish film, one of my favorites
called “Pat Corner”. There are scenes in “Pat
Corner”– It’s a detective film. There are scenes in “Pat Corner”
that are indeed very theatrical. The one I show you is of a man
trying to break into a bank that has all these
different bank vaults in it. And he doesn’t seem to notice
that he could simply walk around the edge of the wall. The theatrical convention is that
he is on the other side of the wall, burrowing in while
the guard is listening for what’s the noise
being caused here. We just take for granted that there’s been a
fourth wall sliced away and he really can’t walk around. That’s a classic theatrical
convention. But, later, at the end of the
film, when the client comes in to congratulate our detective
Pat Corner for a great solution to the case, he comes
striding into his office. And you can see him
there, moving in I hope. And then he takes up a position
to thank Pat and shake his hand. In the course of that though, he
blocks that third man who’s a clerk. You see the clerk there in that
second shot standing there? The client, the third frame I’m
showing you, stands in his way. You can’t see him. The clerk knows this and so,
he takes a step to one side. He just steps in to let– just
moves like this so you can see him, just like me and this stupid
column, you know, like this, this. Well, Pat steps in front of
him and says, “Oh, no problem, I was happy to solve your case.” But the clerk is not to be defeated, because he just takes
another step back to the left and we can see him
again, scene-stealer, OK? My point is it wouldn’t
work on the stage. It could not work on the stage. It isn’t theatrical. It’s purely cinematic. Why? Well, because at
least in Western Theater, but a lot of Asian Theaters
too, at least those I know of, the audience can be arranged
in a circle or semicircle. But the stage is lateral, the stage
is a rectangle, it’s horizontal, as here in this room, this
is a theatrical setup. My playing space is this stretch
right here, and you’re arranged in a kind of semicircle around it. Well, if we go back to Elizabethan
theater, back still further to ancient Greece,
we find this array. And it still continues into the
Renaissance with Lope de Vega, it continues with Eugene O’Neill and
other playwrights using these kinds of horizontal, lateral
staging as the norm in theatre. And it makes sense
for the very reason that you could see right
now, sight lines, right? Every one of you has a different
sight line to me right now. No two angles are the same. So, if we’re going to have me
and maybe my co-players hashed out across here, interacting, we have to do it pretty
much on a horizontal line. It can have some variance. I can turn my back if you
want to look at– if I want– the director wants you to look at a
player, I can go on stage of course. But basically, this is the axis of
action in theatre, but not in film, because film isn’t theatre. Film is a projection system. It’s an optical projection system. In that respect, it’s like
Renaissance perspective, classic Renaissance perspective. I’ll show you this
example from the period. People at that time were
thinking about this. It’s a pyramid, a tipped-over
pyramid with the point resting on the lens. That’s the playing space
of every film shot. Indeed, certainly, every live action
film shot, it’s even that way in CGI and in animation as
well, for the most part. There are some more experimental. But the most part, this is
the optical rule of cinema. Even though when you look at a
film frame, it seems to be a space, a cubic space with something
just sliced out of it, and all those people standing in
the box, mm-mm, it’s that shape. That’s what– That’s the contents of the container, that
tapering pyramid. And indeed, in 1913, very
helpful for my purposes, a screenwriting manual
spelled it all out. This is the stage base, right
there, that pie-slice-shaped wedge of action is what the camera
captures, different from theatre. OK, so what? Well, here’s an example
by the way of a film that includes a theatre performance. And you can see the difference
I think rather clearly. In the stage in the distance, people
are spread out like a gatefold. But in the space in front
of it, people arrayed in all these different angles,
but our camera sees only one spot. The camera has only one sightline,
wherever the camera happens to be. By the way, that film was
by Sergio Leone’s father. So what happens now with
the task of storytelling? What happens with the
problem of guiding attention? How do you do that with
that kind of playing space? Well, my argument would be that
the punch and bumps that you feel with editing, it gets replaced
by something we might call flow, a continuous mobile changing
of what we’re seeing onscreen. A simply example from a
fairly kind of crude example but it’s illustrative
from the Tannhäuser film “David Copperfield”,
not in your collection. I took this from a DVD. Two features I think
are worth mentioning. First, because of that tapering,
that triangular wedge-shaped piece of space, there’s a lot of
depth in a cinematic image. Theatre space is shallow,
film space can be deep. So, you have depth staging. Here in “David Copperfield”,
when Betsey comes to the office and greeted by Uriah Heep and
Micawber sitting there at the desk, everybody gets their own little
piece of the space, foreground, middle ground and background. That means you can do something
that’s not so effective on theatre, what I call blocking and revealing. You can have the figures
in the foreground mask at certain times what’s
in the background. So what happens is as the man
who’s ruined Betsey’s investments, I forget his name, you
probably remember, apologizes. Becky steps over so you can’t
really see Uriah Heep’s reaction. He’s engineered the whole thing. He’s stolen the money. And while David talks with
Micawber there on the back, the contrite lawyer bends down. Betsey listens to him and then
bends down to forgive him. And then you get Uriah
Heep’s reaction. See in there on the far right,
peeking and gloating there. Now, as I said, this is a TV
frame, so there would be more for the original audience to see,
and it’s a simple example of this. But you see how the revelation
of his reaction has been delayed by the blocking of his face. And when Betsey moves,
he can pop out. This seems really simple, but it
couldn’t work that way on the stage. Some of the peoples in the– people
in the audience would see him, Uriah, all the way through if
they were sitting over there. So that’s kind of flow yielded by
depth, gets picked up undeveloped through this blocking
and– revealing strategy. It’s worth mentioning that the
kind of depth the people think about in cinema usually is
associated with the 1940s. We tend to think of Orson
Welles and his comrades as developing deep space
or deep focus cinema. And it’s true, he does in the ’40s. But I would point out
that the foreground planes in the ’40s cinema
tend to be much closer, much more aggressive
and in your face. In the 1910s, what
we get is something that in some ways is
more attractive. It’s less violent use of foregrounds
where the characters are cut off at the waist or the hips or the
crotch or the knee or whatever to give a more fuller
sense, more air around them. But if you have more air around
them, you also have more room to play that little chess game of
choreography of the other figures. So let me just run a couple passes
through here, once that I saw here. I was lucky enough to see
over in the Madison building. Take “The Case of Becky” from
1915, a very interesting movie about a woman with a split
personality induced by hypnosis, kind of a schizophrenic case. She comes to get a job at this
dry good store and the camera as you see is cut off around the
knee or by the calf and the– what we get are three figures, the
supervisor then the women supervisor and Becky and a man
in the background. And so we have depth already. In this case, it’s
a little exceptional because the camera budges a little,
it swivels a bit, it pans as we say. Because as the woman supervisor
takes her back behind the counter, this is kind of an audition to
see how she does with customers, the camera nudges itself over a
little bit but still keeps the guy in the background for us. You still get that rich depth. But what they did that’s
rather daring, I think, is they don’t follow the way
a modern filmmaker would, the people as they walk all the
way to the edge of the counter, the clerk and Becky,
they hold on the guy. They let– He lets the
others go off screen in a way no theatre director
would ever let them go off stage and lets us– there’s’
really nothing else much to look at except that guy. So his reaction is
very salient for us. And indeed, as Becky comes
up and she looks at him, his reaction changes
and changes again. And you get a sense of the
rapacious interest on his part. And by the end, when Becky has dealt
with the customer and turned away, you can tell he’s kind of sizing
her up as a possible girlfriend without a close-up, no cuts,
just a little bump of the camera, and gave us just that moment to look
at him and be aware that he is going to be important in this
interaction that’s coming up. So that flow that I’m talking
about substitutes for the– a percussive break that
you get with editing, and is in many ways no
less effective I think. Let me show some tactics
in this strategy. “The Circus Man”, I read a
little blog entry about this, so you can look at it
online if you want. Here’s a nice simple
example, I think. The young man is uprighting the guys who sent this woman’s husband
to jail for some years. And he’s giving him
a piece of his mind. Whenever you see a door in tableau
films, keep your eye on the door, something is going to happen. And– But he is dead center, he’s
almost at the geometrical center of the picture format, and
the wife pulls him away. It looks like a perfectly
spontaneous gesture. Don’t be so aggressive,
you know, he’ll hurt you. And indeed, the man on the
left is pushing a little bit. But, then, by virtue of the young
man’s pulled back to the right and the business man’s aggressive on
the left, he actually, businessman, you have to believe
because it’s true, actually, moves his body a little
bit this way to allow us to see the woman’s husband come
in, just released from jail. This sort of micro-choreography
of these figures, moving slightly, this way and that, it’s the same
thing as the clerk in “Pat Corner”, only it’s orchestrated now. Actually someone has
planned it to be this way and to make the attention
saliency be on that center zone that the husband is going
to come bursting into. If you want a comparison with
film and something, maybe not film on theatre but film and dance
would be a better example. Here’s another example, a subtler
one, I think, from Lois Weber and Phillips Smalley’s
film “False Colours”. And again, I put this on my
blog, you can look at it. The young woman in the
center is being consoled by the theater manager on the right. Her father who has abandoned her
when she was a baby has come in. And there he is standing
on the background. There, you get the
depth, the kind of depth that I’ve actually talked about. And then, he comes
forward to apologize. He’s very sad for what he’s done. And the choice is what
the daughter will do. In the background steps, Director
Lois Weber is also one of the stars in the film, who has
pretended to be the daughter. She’s won this man’s
affection by pretending to be the long-lost daughter. And so she’s completely upset because of course she’s
had this massive deception. And the father and the
daughter being reunited is by no means guaranteed. The father then, in a gesture
contrition, begs forgiveness. Lois Weber in the background, even
though she is star, turns away and it’s a good thing too because the father’s hand
would have blocked her anyway. The crooked of his arm would have–
you couldn’t have seen her face, again, perfectly calculated. The gesture and the two faces in the
middle, that’s what we need to see. We don’t need to see Lois Weber yet. And then, when the hand comes
down and he offers his hand in friendship, we get her
watching apprehensively. So here, what depth is being done– being used for is to give
us both action and reaction. The two planes has give us
two dimensions of the drama, the possible reconciliation
of father and daughter and the self loathing really
of the woman who has pretended to be the daughter, all in the same
frame, no cuts, needless to say. And at the end, when she begs
forgiveness and begs the father to take– to try again, to try to win the daughter
over, we get her moment. She pops out saliently,
father turned away, the theater manager has been
standing there like fireplug; he hasn’t done anything
on the far right. We don’t need– he– if he
did, it would be a problem. Part of this is some people
have to stand very still, unlike that clerk in “Pat Corner”. And of course to make sure that we see Lois Weber’s anguished
expression, the daughter turns away, motivated of course is her
clasping into herself and crying. This is Subtler, I think, than
“The Circus Man” example I gave you because the flow is being
maximized on two levels. And the emotional power is very
great without the cutting option. This is not– My stills aren’t so
great from this, another film I saw over across the street,
“The Sign of the Cross”. This might seem t be the prototype
of the mess, the messy tableau. It’s one of those sword-and-sandal
pictures, then you have Marcus talking to Nero
with Poppaea crouching on his elbow, and a major figure of this
counselor on the left and tons of people behind, it
looks rather messy. Well, that’s– this taken
out of isolation, it does, but let me give you
a little context. The scene begins with one of
those orgies where people seem to be having much more fun than us. And Nero is– he got people
spread around, dancing, all this. But then what happens is
they get cleared away, the whole open area gets emptied
out, all those revelers vanish and in comes Marcus from the
depth, from the distant depth. He comes in and that’s the
frame I showed you before with him hailing Caesar and making
his proposal that at least one of the Christians be
speared, the woman he loves. Poppaea objects. She has a right on Marcus anyway. She objects and we get to see her
saliently by virtue of that gesture. She occupies the frame center,
Marcus pivots a little bit to her. She really commands your attention
within the big, big, dense frame. Nero says, “Let me think about it. I’m ruling this way.” And he stretches his hand
across Poppaea’s face. So, we can’t see her reaction. He hold his arm out there in
his decree and that’s what has to be emphasized here, the gesture, the way the father’s gesture was
emphasized in a much cleaner, more open frame in the
Lois Weber example. So even in a very densely
packed composition, this kind of micro-movement of
choreography can take place. Let me give you a couple
more virtuoso moves. I know I’m collecting
butterflies specimens actually. I’m just looking for all these
different beautiful things. “The Man from Home”,
this will be De Mille. This is a mind-boggler but I’ll
just give you a piece of it. And by now, you know
what to look for. Door opens, we’ve got a door,
something is going to happen around that door, the light pours
in beautifully, and this woman who has abandoned her husband, just
standing there, very confident, standing there in her
beautiful sheath. But then when he comes
in, she’s less confident. And he comes roaring in there. And suddenly, we can
see those people behind. See those people crouching
behind the woman with a kind of feathered hat and
the man, and he’s ready to wreak some violence on her. He’s been a political
prisoner; she’s betrayed him, gone off with another man. And so, he’s ready to fight. There’s a struggle
on the front plane. The woman with the hat
very kindly turns away. You see her? She sort of pivoted to
embrace that other guy. You see– You can still
see her feather. Use that as your marker. And another man, the
villain of the piece, is revealed far in
the background there. You see him there in a strip of– a part of this involves
making sure faces can be seen against darker backgrounds, so
that he’s against that gray wall between the two black curtains. So he’s watching but he’s
moving towards the window. And as he does so, the real
enemy, the returning refugee, realizes he is the one he should be
going after and turns towards him. Everybody looks in that direction
and I swear this is true, the villain back there by the
curtain steps into a spotlight. His face just bursts out at
you, no way you don’t see that. He’s opened up the curtains
so the guard can come in and the guard comes in to
arrest this escaped fellow. Our man, he’s an American of course,
and he stands up for this guy. So he says, “If you’re
going to arrest him, you have to arrest me too.” I love the way the wife just sits
crouching there this whole thing, doesn’t try to get
out, just sits there. She’s the equivalent of
that theatrical manager. And in comes the commissar
who’s going to save the refugee from the back. And everybody turns so
that you’d be a fool not to look in that direction. And then the quarrel ensues
and there’s much more. I’m just giving you
a couple highlights. But you can see how much you can do
with that combination of deep space and blocking and revealing,
lighting parts of the set, but also actors block certain key
actions because actors can move. They move to reveal
to reveal things. One more, again, we
go back to Lois Weber. Earlier in the scene that I showed
you, the theatrical manager arrives in the apartment, greeted
by the daughter and apprehensively by
the impostor, Lois. The father is waiting
out in the wings there. We know that she can’t see him. The theatrical manager goes on in,
the daughter senses somebody else is out there and already
also back there in the background is
a little worried. And the father comes in and
this is really pretty good. He steps up and blocks
the two women we just saw, so that only the daughter’s
horrified reaction is visible. And then, he moves a little
and you get the other reaction, the reaction of Lois, the
impostor, and even the man on the left who’s kind
of there to balance to be the next part of the scene. This flow is remarkable
and it’s pointed. It’s as if they drew a dotted
line around each of these figures that pop out, this kind
of peekaboo effect. Well, back to 1917, bye-bye tableau. I can’t find any American films that
use these techniques after 1917. In fact, I can’t use any– find any
in 1916 that use these techniques. Don’t say they’re completely
extinct but I haven’t found any yet. In that window between 19–
particularly 1911 to 1914-15, people really tried this in America. The Europeans hung onto it longer. It persists to the
teens as I say here. And some directors get very
hip to American methods, someone like Abel Gance
in Paris figures out the American continuity
system immediately and does virtuoso things with it. Victor Sjöström does as well
in 1918 on Sweden, but it’s slower to achieve some saliency. By 1920 though, really only
the Germans cling to it. And the reason is simple,
I think, because German– Germany didn’t import American
films until 1920, January 1st, 1920. So they’re not seeing the
William S. Hart films, the things like the
Lois Weber films, all these things I’ve been showing
you, they’re not seeing them. And what you get though are
some very interesting options of the tableau method. I don’t have time to go into
this but particularly interesting for instance is Robert Reinert’s
films, “Opium” and “Nerven”, which kind of looked forward
to Orson Welles in a way with those big foregrounds,
the big head that we saw and we saw in “Citizen Kane”. But they also seem to employ the
tableau method of jamming things in and having figures
peek in and peek out. The daughter there on the
lower frame sticks her head out from behind that
cabinet, for instance, while her father just moves
in the foreground there. So even the tableau gets
subjected to a kind of retortion where the camera is closer
than it would have been, it’s not just cutting people
off and fully down the body, it’s framing them tighter
but they’re still squeezing in all these other things. Tableau staging, I think it’s
rediscovered at various points in film history and on with this. In early CinemaScope for instance,
many of the techniques that we see in those 1910s films are
spontaneously revived. I’m not saying that CinemaScope
directors of Hollywood went back to the archives and
watched these old films. It’s just that when they decided
they couldn’t cut in CinemaScope, wrong, but they thought they
couldn’t cut in CinemaScope, they reverted to that same
single shot tableau method. So, for instance, James Mason
and Suzy Parker are there with Joan Collins, that fine
doorway on the background. Joan Collins coming in,
Suzy moves to the left, into the kind of the
middle foreground, James Mason looks after her. Here comes Joan. Joan goes to a mirror. Mirrors are much beloved
in the 1910s. And James is left standing
there at that classic framing, and then she goes out
in the background again, leaving James there, just
what we’ve been seeing in the 1910s, revived in the 1950s. Again, that didn’t last too long. It does return more
strongly, I think, in what we might call
Asian minimalism. Filmmakers like Hou
Hsia-hsien in Taiwan, who gets heavily I think imitated by
Chinese filmmakers on the Mainland and in Japan as well, develops
a kind of modern version of the tableau approach, I think. So for instance, when the
gangsters meet in “City of Sadness”, the camera is one spot,
they come and sit down, and you get this little geometry of
heads, display of heads, blocking and revealing each other,
different expressions there. I hope you can see some of
those, until the climax bursts out with the man on the far left, threatening the other
man on the left. So, the tableau is not
absolutely dead in world cinema but it certainly, I would say, is dead in mass market
commercial cinema, because Hou Hsia-hsien is not
making mainstream films even to this day, I suppose. Finally, I want to say
some things about why. Why did the editing
approach gain supremacy? There are several possibilities and
we can talk about them if you want, but the one I think is most
compelling, at least as a major if not the only cause, you know,
the conditions of post-production and particularly production in
the American cinema at the time. Remember I mentioned this
explosion of filmmaking because there’s an immense
popularity of the medium. They way you shoot a tableau is
really dependent on the director. The director is the
conductor of the orchestra. The director is shouting out–
Remember, this is a silent cinema and directors have megaphones. The director is shouting
out, move, pause, step behind the table,
pause, and so on. In fact, you can argue in fact
the bump that we get with editing, the little sense of a bump in a
cuts is kind of matched by poise– a position, freezing into place,
pausing in tableau cinema. So the rhythm of the
scene is partly dependent on people halting and
just not moving. The director commands
that because that’s where the focus of
attention has to be. So the director is really king and controls the moment-by-moment
recording of the thing on the camera. But the problem with that for a mass
market film industry is you can’t really change much
in post-production. You don’t have close-ups to cut to. You don’t have anything
but this one long ribbon of film that’s one long scene. You can interrupt it with
titles, and maybe if you want to take a few things out a
little bit, but it’s very hard to alter those shots
in post-production, those long take tableau shots. So you see here as an example of
it, this is an earlier film studio. This is about 1907 or 8 I suppose. But you can see, the directors
are all lining up there, the cameras are all lined up,
several settings lined up side by side, because they’re
filming side by side. And the directors are
really calling the shots, well I should say, the shot. But with editing, there
are two strong advantages. One– For a mass market
industry, one is you can plan out all the shots in pre-production. Today, we have storyboards,
animated storyboards done digitally, but you can map out every
shot in advance if you want. You can make a shot
list, you can change it, you can make the whole
movie in your head on paper or on the screen before
you expose any film. Also, producers like the
possibility of editing, because you can change things. If a scene seems to be too slow,
you have something to cut away to. The producer always
says, “I need coverage. Show me different positions of the
camera, different parts of the scene so I can pick up the pace, I can emphasize a performance
thing I like. I can cut out this actor
who is too mean,” and so on. That means the director is no longer
in the driver’s seat scene by scene and the film can be controlled by
many other hands, the producer, the editor, people
further down the line. I’ll show you an image from–
This is from an exchange, a film exchange, not a
film production company. Typically, when films arrive, you
know, in a city or really a center of distribution, people usually
women would be assembling them for distribution to
the actual theaters, and they’re checking the film, in
this case, probably they’re cutting in some titles, possibly tinting
the film, doing various things. The point is that once you’ve
got cuts, you can change things around in many, many ways. You could if you were
one of women working in this exchange actually
cut out things that local sensors
didn’t want to see. You can simply take them out. In Chicago, maybe they
don’t a play it. But in Cleveland, you could see it. So all those kinds of manipulations
are much more usually done with editing. So, I would argue that among
the prime causal reasons for the push towards editing
is the need for controlled, predictable mass production. If the tableau is the
friend of the directors, let’s say editing is the
invention of producers. I’ll give you a quick example
of what that look likes when the producer is
in the driver’s seat and you get the layout
of shots scene by scene. This is a 1917 film now lost I
believe called “Love or Justice”, but you can see very clearly,
at Nan’s table, we have scene 5. They called shots scenes then. At Nan’s table, Bill comes to the
table, moves around to Nan’s side, seems to be carefully– everything
is mapped out for the performer. Nan listens a moment then looks
off toward the other table. That’s at scene 5. And the OK scribbled through
it means we made the shoot, we did what we were supposed to do. Then, scene 6, flash
close shot on Jack Dunn, close shot on Jack allowing
waiter’s hands to come in. Even specifying the shot scale,
only see the waiter’s hands, don’t see the waiter, and place
the sandwich and the drink. He stares at them moodily. Again, OK, we made the shot. Above it though is
something interesting. Before scene 5, someone scribbled
in 4A, long shot, 4B, close-up boy. That was done on the set. But please not that now, the script
becomes a record of the production. We now know that the director
or somebody said, “Look, we better have a couple
more shoots here”, maybe to give more playing
time or maybe it’s to clear up where this action
is taking place. OK, the script girl, that’s what
she was called, wrote in 4A, that’s not 5 but there was a 4
before that that we don’t we see. This is 4A, a different shot , a
long shoot and 4B, the close-up. And those are X’ed out
as having been completed. So, the script is controlling
not just production in the front office
from the distance. Moment by moment in the filming,
you’re fitting what you do into the script, i.e. into the
shots as they’re punching along. I want to thank everyone
who’s assisted me here and it’s a long list. So, here is the list. These are the people
in the Kluge Center in the Motion Picture Division,
strangers who gave me directions on the street, all these
people I owe a lot. I really have benefited
enormously from my stay here. I’m grateful for– to the
Kluge center for inviting me to participate in their
important work and to– particularly to my friends in
the Motion Picture Division across the street who had then come
unfailingly courteous and helpful. I really have enjoyed my stay here. I wish it could go on forever. But thank you for your attention. And of course, I’m happy
to answer any questions or respond to any comments. Thanks very much. [ Applause ] How do you want to handle questions? You want me to take them or
do you want to take them?>>Daniele Turello:
You can take them and there’s a mic roaming around.>>David Bordwell: OK. There’s a roaming mic. Yes, please? Hi.>>Hi. I’m unsure about this but
is basically montage was developed by Kuleshov and Eisenstein
on the ’20s or was it the– and didn’t Eisenstein
commend D.W. Griffith for– So, those techniques
of editing really sort of were developed very early. I mean, Griffith didn’t himself
invent them, he just put–>>David Bordwell: No, he didn’t.>>– got them in one package. But now this montage itself was
just this hyperkinetic form editing in vague meaning. How does this film spit into
what you’ve been saying?>>David Bordwell: It’s
a very good question. These films were seen
in– the films or the kind of films I’m describing
were seen in many parts of the world during the teens. And they eventually made their way
to Russia and were taken up the by the younger generation
filmmakers, the one you mentioned
Kuleshov, Eisenstein, Pudovkin, they saw them as–
it is perfect example of what I’ve been describing. They saw them as the
coolest new thing. The tableau ruled Czarist cinema. But once the revolution took place, the young directors decided
this is the way to go, just as Lenin wanted electrification and power plants and
things like that. They were able hitch their
wagon to that star and say, look, we have to modernize. And the Americans are the source
of this kind of modernity. So, we will take what
the Americans did. And in fact, you know,
we call it Soviet montage but the Russians called
it American montage, because they saw themselves very
much as influenced by this trend. And as you say, they
pushed it farther. They realized that there are
more possibilities in montage than the Americans have realized. You can make shots very, very short. You can make abstract points with
shots and that’s kind of an error in some of the teen’s films. There’s moralizing or allegorical
films that use sort of abstract– use editing for abstractions. But of course, people like
Eisenstein went much farther with that, it sends us in
“Strike” and “October”. So, they push the American
continuity system to a kind of crisis, I would argue,
and create a kind of cinema of discontinuity that’s built
on the continuity system. They keep pushing and
pushing in various ways. Each one of them has their own
style, those major soviet directors. But you’re right. This is where it becomes
a new kind of cinema. The other point you raised about
Eisenstein is dead right also. But that’s in a period
of Eisenstein’s work where he’s looking–
he’s less of a radical. He writes that essay, “Later”. And he’s less of radical
than he was in his 20s. And he’s looking for classical
sources for what cinema has done. He’s trying to give cinema
a distinguished lineage in the history of the arts. So just as he’ll say, “Well,
here’s a framing here from Pudovkin that reminds you of
Del Greco,” and so on. He’ll try to give a kind of
intellectual authority of legitimacy to what cinema has been as in cinema
is the next logical step for him in the evolution of
the arts in general. So, naturally, what the 19th
century novelists were doing, Griffith with his crosscutting
in “The Cricket on the Hearth” is what Griffith did. Griffith did it too
but he did it on film. He swallowed up another art
form and pushed it farther. So that’s a particular position
Eisenstein wants to push. But you’re right. This American cinema is
very, very influential on the Soviet montage people. Yes, Andrei, please?>>Doctor Bordwell, thank
you for this lecture. A couple of years ago, I
was watching George Clooney on “Inside the Actors Studio”. And James Lipton asked him, what’s the most important
aspect of directing? And Mr. Clooney didn’t hesitate. He said, point of view. And I thought about that
quite a bit since then. So, point of view not just in the
sense of emphasis but identification to get the audience to identify
with a particular character. So my question is, for you, in
this period that you’ve focused on for study, do you —
did you see, shall we say, instances of the beginning of some
of these techniques for the purpose of enhancing identification?>>David Bordwell: Mm-hmm. Well, I think there’s two or
three ways to deal with it, yes. One is we could identify
with figures that we see simply
because we see them. We’re very responsive
to faces and postures and those can enhance identification
and I think that’s the actor’s craft in both of the trends that
I’m trying to analyze. You get a powerful sense
of empathy for instance in that Lois Weber example. But a more broader sense, I think, what you’re asking is even more
interesting and that is one of those faults of the
tableau cinema, you can argue, is that it doesn’t allow for
that kind of optical point of view, the editing does. You can’t really put the
camera in the shoes or the eyes of another character
in the tableau cinema. Everything is based on
a kind of omniscience. We see everything we need to see and
then maybe it’s not like the kind of omniscience on the theatre stage. Nevertheless, there’s a sense
of hovering over the action and we may be aware of things
that the actors aren’t, often because they’re standing
with their backs to each other. So, there is a harder hill to climb
to get that kind of say, let’s say, Hitchcockean shot of person
looking, shot of what they see, closer shot of looking,
closer of what they see, that kind of intensification
on point of view is harder to achieve in the tableau cinema. And if that’s one of the routes
we can take to an identification, then that’s, you know, one of
those things that it is a deficit of the tableau cinema and probably
help the advance of editing. So it comes in– POV shots come in
very early in the history cinema, then they drop out for a while. They’re usually just stunts or
what Tom Gunning calls attractions. Later, they get integrated
into stories and editing is the
way it’s done, yeah. So that mention of point of view
is really, I think, you know, there’s a bias in editing
towards that. But of course, you know,
empathy takes many forms and you can find lots of cases
where extreme long shots, people are watching in the
extreme long shot and crying. You think of the end of say, Kiarostami’s “Through
the Olive Trees”, I don’t know if you’ve
seen that film. Well, it’s prolonged long
shot, it must be a mile away. I don’t know how far away it is. And everybody is riveted, and feeling for the
character who’s in that shot. So, there are many avenues,
I think, towards that kind of identification you’re
talking about. But certainly, it can be bought
pretty cheaply through cutting. Yes, please?>>When you said the tableau system
survived in Germany till 1919-1920, then began running “The
Cabinet of Dr. Caligari”–>>David Bordwell: Yes.>>And that seems like tableau film
because they certainly want you to make use of those sets. But it also incorporates
these shot cuts of Cesare. So, I wonder how you
would categorize Caligari?>>David Bordwell: Yup, yup. That’s a great point. I didn’t have time to elaborate
on this but you’re quite right. What happens in the teens in
both America and Europe is that directors start to sort of go
halfway or partway towards editing, the tableau directors through
a simple axial cut in and out. So for instances, they understand
you’re supposed to emphasize things, but instead of building the
scene out of cuts the way in an American would, you simply
have the tableau, it goes on and on and on, and then boom,
an enlargement of a face, and then boom, back into tableau. This might thought of as like
a proto-continuity system. You’re always in the master shot. And that is what you get in
Caligari for the most part. You get the enlargements of
either Cesare or the doctor, often in an iris, a kind
of circular-shaped mask which emphasized that, a kind of a
little italicization of that Roman. But Caligari also uses
crosscutting, a lot of crosscutting. And that shows by that
point, American cinema’s– that’s seen everywhere now. The people adapt that. Even Fayyad who is very
conservative adopts crosscutting. So, it’s a partial
concession, I would say, to the American system, Caligari. But Caligari, you’re
certainly right. The absorption of the
sets and the emphasis on a quasi-dance-like performance
style in both Cesare of course, but in the others, is there too. So, there a lot of compromises
in that tableau tradition, particularly after the
Americans would get out there. Caligari was made when they could
see American films as is the film that I mentioned, “Nerven”
by Reinert, which was made the
same year as Caligari. And in my view, if you
can see it, it’s on DVD. You can get on online. “Nerven” would be as
famous as Caligari if people had seen it outside
Germany but it wasn’t well-known, it wasn’t preserved in
archives, and not so– it wasn’t as publicized in
such a self-congratulatory way as Caligari was. But in general, your point is
quite right, that there are– these films have sort of
partial use of each tradition and sometimes it’s just the matter
of using one more than another. Yup? This side.>>The French Criticoms wrote this
in, wrote about the superiority of the deep focus or the
deep sets and it seems to have something in
common with tableau. It’s more, I think– he was saying
the audience had more freedom, you’re not directed every single–
And also, there’s more ability to– it’s more of a contemplative–>>David Bordwell: Yes.>>– cinema than the editing style. Do you agree with that? Do you see a similarity
with tableau? How do you relate that?>>David Bordwell: I
really am listening. I’m just trying to find an image,
I think, that will help us. Yeah. What I would say is this, that
Bezen [assumed spelling] generalizes from the Welles and Wyler
films he’s been seeing. And he wants to know
where they come from. And I guess the complicated argument
about that deep focus style, if I can show you this, there, that. His argument as I understand,
it goes like this. Back in the day, there is what
he calls primitive deep focus, and that would include
the very earliest films, mostly those shot outdoors like the
Lumière films and things like that where you can see lots of space
in the background, cityscapes, people moving around, all that. You have primitive deep focus but
that’s kind of given automatically by the camera, the nature
of lighting, and so on. And then, thing become very
hermetic in the studios, you’re inside the studios
and cutting rules. And then, by the ’30s,– Bezen’s,
this is a story Bezen tells. By the ’30s, everybody knows how to
cut, and sound has been mastered, so we know how to cut
for sound cinema. So, there’s a kind of
equilibrium reached throughout 1939 where you can really use this
standard continuity system to say anything. You can tell a gangster film. You can tell a musical, whatever. What Welles and Wyler do is they
come to fulfill a kind of prophecy of synthesizing the primitive deep
focus and the cinema of editing. His argument is that shot like
this is a kind of compact diversion of a close-up, a medium
shot and a long shoot. It’s as if Welles had figured out a
way to give us all the information that would normally be given in an
edited sequence in a single frame. He spaced them out almost– Bezen, you know, suggests it’s like
an explode a diagram of a motor, you know, like all the pieces
are kind of hovering in space but it’s within this one diagram. So his argument is the
primitive deep focus is absorbed but classicized or
continuitized in Welles and Wyler. So the version of deep focus
he has here is a synthesis of the continuity, editing tradition and what he called
primitive deep focus. From my standpoint, he
can’t be blamed for this because people didn’t see the films,
he didn’t know about these films of the teens, the tableau
films of the teens, which are not primitive deep focus
in the way he’s thinking of it, but also aren’t editing either. So, to my sense, Bezen, you know, he saw what he could see
and he said what he can. But there’s a sense in which that argument sees everything
is evolving towards this. He was a very much a
pretentious critic. He thought this is really kind
of the end of cinema style. There’s no further to go than this. We can have color, yes. We can have 3D. You can have those things. But as far as style is concerned,
it’s pretty much a dead end. We’re finished. Welles and Wyler have given
us the perfect form of cinema. Editing is given to us in a way that it respects the
integrity of time and space. So the problem with editing
is it chops everything up. Here, we get the world organized,
dynamized, focused for our attention without doing those things. And it’s part of his theory about
what is really artistic cinema, the value of certain
kinds of filmmaking. That’s my take on it anyway.>>Daniele Turello: Let’s
thank David Bordwell.>>David Bordwell: Thank you. [ Applause ]>>This has been a presentation
of the Library of Congress. Visit us at

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