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Film Art: An Introduction Paperback – 1996


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Film Art is often assigned to college students taking their first film class. Authors David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson do not follow the traditional method of teaching film art through a close analysis of individual films. Instead, they provide an overview of the major issues students confront when they watch movies. In clear, straightforward prose, the authors describe and dissect the complexities of filmmaking, film narrative, film form, and film technique. This book serves as a fine introduction not only to the field of film studies, but also to the theories and concerns of two of the most important scholars in that field.

About the Author

David Bordwell is Jacques Ledoux Professor Emeritus of Film Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He holds a master's degree and a doctorate in film from the University of Iowa. His books include The Films of Carl Theodor Dreyer (University of California Press, 1981), Narration in the Fiction Film (University of Wisconsin Press, 1985), Ozu and the Poetics of Cinema (Princeton University Press, 1988), Making Meaning: Inference and Rhetoric in the Interpretation of Cinema (Harvard University Press, 1989), The Cinema of Eisenstein (Harvard University Press, 1993), On the History of Film Style (Harvard University Press, 1997), Planet Hong Kong: Popular Cinema and the Art of Entertainment (Harvard University Press, 2000), Figures Traced in Light: On Cinematic Staging (University of California Press, 2005), The Way Hollywood Tells It: Story and Style in Modern Movies (University of California Press, 2006), and The Poetics of Cinema (Routledge, 2008). He has won a University Distinguished Teaching Award and was awarded an honorary degree by the University of Copenhagen. His we site is www.davidbordwell.net. Kristin Thompson is an Honorary Fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She holds a master's degree in film from the University of Iowa and a doctorate in film from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has published Eisenstein's Ivan the Terrible: A Neoformalist Analysis (Princeton University Press, 1981), Exporting Entertainment: America in the World Film Market 1907-1934 (British Film Institute, 1985), Breaking the Glass Armor: Neoformalist Film Analysis (Princeton University Press, 1988), Wooster Proposes, Jeeves Disposes, or, Le Mot Juste (James H. Heineman, 1992), Storytelling in the New Hollywood: Understanding Classical Narrative Technique (Harvard University Press, 1999), Storytelling in Film and Television (Harvard University Press, 2003), Herr Lubitsch Goes to Hollywood: German and American Film after World War I (Amsterdam University Press, 2005), and The Frodo Franchise: The Lord of the Rings and Modern Hollywood (University of California Press, 2007). She blogs with David at www.davidbordwell.net/blog. She maintains her own blog, "The Frodo Franchise," at www.kristinthompson.net/blog. In her spare time she studies Egyptology. The authors have also collaborated on Film History: An Introduction (McGraw-Hill, 3rd. ed., 2010) and, with Janet Staiger, on The Classical Hollywood Cinema: Film Style and Mode of Production to 1960 (Columbia University Press, 1985). --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Amazon.com: 7 reviews
62 of 65 people found the following review helpful
The preeminent introductory textbook book on the art of film Jan. 20 2002
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Teaching film requires you to look at film. The second week of my film course (they are always night classes that meet once a week so that you have enough time to actually screen something) I always drag in about 50 videotapes to work through the basic vocabulary of the cinema, covering everything from the close-up ("Queen Christina") to the crane-shot ("Gone With the Wind"), from tracking shots ("Touch of Evil") to the jump cut ("2001: A Space Odyssey"). Film textbooks face an inherent limitation in turns of what they can present on the printed page. However, "Film Art: An Introduction" by David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson is the proverbial exception to the rule. This is the preeminent introductory film textbook because it has literally hundreds of frames from classic and lesser known films, used to illustrate the key concepts of mise-en-scene, cinematography and editing.
"Film Art" is divided into five main sections: (I) Types of Filmmaking, Types of Films" covers how films are produced and the basic types/genres of films. (II) "Film Form" examines both narrative and nonnarrative formal systems in film, using "Citizen Kane" as a case study for narrative form. (III) "Film Style" is the main section of the textbook, dealing with the shot in terms of both mise-en-scene and cinematography, how editing relates shot to shot, and the function of sound. This section concludes with an analysis of film style in five diverse films. (IV) "Critical Analysis of Film" provides four distinct critical frames of reference and analysis of various films: Classical Narrative Cinema in "His Girl Friday," "North by Northwest" and "Do The Right Thing"; Narrative Alternatives to Classical Filmmaking in "Breathless" and "Tokyo Story"; Documentary Form in "High School" and "Man with a Movie Camera"; and From, Style and Ideology in "Meet Me in St. Louis" and "Raging Bull" (and if that last combination does not give you an indication of the breadth of the examples used by Bordwell and Thompson, nothing will). The textbook concludes with a bibliography, glossary and list of helpful websites.
There are two major strengths to this textbook. First, its complete coverage of cinematic concepts. I think that everyone learns how to "read" a film, but the vast majority of people would not know that the baptism sequence in "The Godfather" is a prime example of "American montage." You read this textbook and you will become aware of things you already understood on a more abstract level. Additionally, they do not stop at first or second level terms, but get into the absolute nuts and bolts of cinema. Second, the use of specific examples from numerous films to demonstrate these concepts. Unless you have a film textbook that has a CD-Rom with miniature film clips, you cannot find one superior to what Bordwell and Thompson offer up here. Furthermore, their use of examples clearly demonstrates their formidable knowledge of the field. The only downside to using this textbook in your film class is that you might have a problem convincing your students you know half as much as this pair.
44 of 57 people found the following review helpful
How to get a Degree by not working. May 6 1998
By dgljones - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Way back when I went to University in dear old Blighty. My degree was Film,Tv and Radio Studies, and despite my total lack of application, or to be frank attendance, I graduated with honours and a unhealthy infatuation with Wine, Women and Song. There are two reasons why I graduated, 1 I have the ability to retain information, 2 Film Art by Boardwell and Thompson. Quite frankly the best text book in the history of further education. It is simple enough for the most inexperienced of students, but also it's depth and coverage is enough to give a basic foundation in the most complex of film theory. God bless you Boardwell & Thompsen, and if anyone out there wants both a degree and liver problems as a result of University, BUY THIS BOOK
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
This book covers the basics with a lot of pictures March 24 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I found this book to be a an interesting and
informative look at the history of films.
Well, to be honest, it has lots of pictures
and makes good use of them. If you love film,
you'll love this book.
9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
A better book than this on the art of film?? Naaa!!!!! April 24 2002
By Arturo Serrano - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This book is useful as a university textbook, but is also excellent for filmgoers who would like to understand a bit more than the average audience.
Very complete book about Film Art ad the title says it. Sept. 8 2013
By JorgeO - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It is very complete, and very easy and interesting to read. In just one page I learnt 3 new things, and I do know about film having a Master in Filmmaking from the London Film School... still, this book managed to make me learn new things that I didn't know. Anyone from a film enthusiast to a PhD. can read it and find it interesting and learn from it. I am very pleased that I bought it.


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