Michel Chion’s Soundscapes

by Charlie Donnelly

The majority of meaning in film is derived from association. Whether this association is present in the form of the eyeline effect or the Kuleshov effect, no larger message can exist without relying on the audience’s ability to join elements in their minds. To Michel Chion, the associations made between visuals and sound seem equally important as any visual association.

In his discussion of the association between sound and visuals, Michel Chion, a prominent film theorist and the author of Film, A Sound Art claims there are three categories of sound that can be coupled, blended, and traversed in a multitude of different ways as opposed to the simplistic categories of only “offscreen” and “onscreen” audio.

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A Man Escaped (1956) – The Many Uses of Sound in Film

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by Aditya Tandon

A Man Escaped, directed by Robert Bresson, is a film based on the remarkable escape of Andrew Devigny from the Fort Montluc prison in Lyons during the Nazi occupation of France during the Second World War. It tells the tale of Fontaine, a man from the French Resistance, his experiences in prison, the other inmates he meets, the escape plan he hatches, and a young boy named Jost who joins him in his final days.

Given the title of the film, there is obviously little suspense as to the outcome of Fontaine’s period at Fort Montluc, and yet, Bresson succeeds in keeping the audience fully invested during the 101 minutes duration of the film. Principally – although certainly not purely – he does this by giving enormous importance to the sounds in the film and the various purposes they serve, amplifying the volume to such a great degree during many parts that he is almost forcing us to pay extremely close attention to them.

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Invisible Cinema: The Creative Processes of Post-Production Sound

by Julian Spencer

There’s a very different air in the room when a screening begins: “Our feature film today, a revolutionary work in silent film…” Already, sporadic blips of white electronic light begin to pervade the otherwise uninterrupted darkness of the theater as students prepare alternative entertainment to the silent spectacle on screen. Whispers run through the crowd. I hear a neighbor ask: “Why can’t we just watch a normal movie?” Even if a score accompanies a work, there’s no denying that a lack of dialog makes a movie a much less appealing choice for a filmgoer; when is the last time you sat down to watch a Chaplin for family movie night?

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Is Found Footage Believable?

by Grace Park

Peterson proposes analyzing film by first fitting a global schemata, like a narrative, to the film, then working outward to increasingly more open-ended, local schemata, like metaphors. Peterson structures his method of film analysis by breaking down avant-garde film into minimalism and assemblage; found footage falls under assemblage and is defined as “heavily edited collection of footage from disparate sources, with an emphasis on juxtapositions of disparate images.” That juxtaposition includes the order of the images, the audio overlaid with footage, and special effects. In found footage films, seemingly unrelated images are made meaningful in the context of each other. As Abigail Child explains in her interview, found footage editing involves taking apart each source’s narrative by removing its internal links, then combining the footage with clips from other sources to allow the mind to link together a new narrative. This approach of reading meaning into found footage contrasts directly with Sontag’s claim from last week that film should be felt more and analyzed less.

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Montage in Cinematography—Lev Kuleshov and Sergei Eisenstein

by Renato Corghi

Reading 1: Montage as the Foundation of Cinematography by Lev Kuleshov

Purpose: Lev Kuleshov makes his purpose for writing this piece clear: to familiarize reader with the work of the Kuleshov group. More specifically, he is relating the process by which he developed his theory about montage and what his findings were. He breaks this process down into separate chronological stages.

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Barry Jenkins’s Moonlight: A Masterclass in Expressive Camerawork

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by Jacob Benigeri

Moonlight is a film directed by Barry Jenkins and is based off the play In Moonlight Black Boys look Blue, written by Tarell Alvin McCraney. Moonlight was both a critical and a commercial success, grossing $65.2 Million and winning three Academy Awards. Moonlight tells the story of Chiron, a young sensitive African American, who feels pressured to conform to the hyper masculine norms in his Miami environment by hiding his sexuality and personality. The film is divided in three chapters, Little, Chiron, and Black. The three chapters show the how Chiron evolves as a character, and does so effectively by casting three different actors for each stage of his life. Little is about the lost young boy who deals with other kids who bully him, Chiron is predominantly about him dealing with his mother’s addiction and discovering more about his sexuality, and finally Black is where Chiron has completely repressed his real self and portrays himself in a hardened, stereotypical gangster facade. The actor, Trevante Rhodes, who plays adult Chiron summed up one of the most important points of this film in an interview when he said “films like this, allow you to understand that life is a growing process and it’s important to understand that that’s okay.” The film is predominantly about growth and Chiron’s struggles with being different, how he becomes okay with who he is.

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Reading Susan Sontag’s “Against Interpretation” for Film Studies: Transcendence and the ‘Vocabulary for Forms’

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It’s easy to interpret a painting. You might say, “the boy’s stance in this piece is a symbol of his lost innocence,” or “the triangle represents the futile project of man to escape his own death.” But Susan Sontag would ask us to re-evaluate these statements, as for her, they demonstrate not an understanding of a work of art, but an evasion of it.

What exactly does this mean? In her famous essay, “Against Interpretation”, Sontag clarifies: “In most modern instances, interpretation amounts to the philistine refusal to leave the work of art alone. Real art has the capacity to make us nervous. By reducing the work of art to its content and then interpreting that, one tames the work of art. Interpretation makes art manageable, comfortable” (5). Interpretation is, then, a reductive process… When we make art legible to us by disassembling it into digestible parts, we miss it entirely. Naturally, this dissection leaves a work of art incapable of being viewed as a whole—and thus, as Sontag argues, of being enjoyed for what it is and what emotions it could elicit within us. In this bog of interpretation, something like the the glitz and glamour of the parties in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, The Great Gatsby, are transfigured: we disallow them from making us feel, from captivating and enthralling us, because we know that they are nothing more than signs of the corruption and decadence of the American Dream. 

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