Film Theory


Film Theory

Film Theory

David Bordwell: Website on Cinema
David Bordwell is, if you are going to read film theorists, the one to read. See generally: David Bordwell, Making Meaning: Inference and Rhetoric in the Interpretation of Cinema (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1989) and David Bordwell & Noël Carroll, Post-Theory: Reconstructing Film Studies (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1996) [David Bordwell--Wikipedia]

Film Interpretation Revisited
David Bordwell

Film Theory

Film Criticism after Grand Theories

Radicalism in Light

Two or Three Things I Know About Meaning

Is Film Theory Bullshit? A Look Back at Noël Carroll's Mystifying Movies
Stephen Rowley

Film Theory and Theory Critics (Wikipedia)

Rudolph Arheim André Bazin David Bordwell Ray Carney Molly Haskell James Monaco Christian Metz Laura Mulvey Hugo Münsterberg Andrew Sarris Vivian Sobchack

Theory: Transplanted Literary Criticism

The Limits of Ideological Criticism

Politics and Ideology

Bibliography: Michael Ryan & Douglas Kellner, Camera Politica: The Politics and Ideology of Contemporary Hollywood Film (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1988); Graeme Turner, Film as Social Practice (London: Routledge, 2nd ed., 1993); Bill Nichols, Ideology and the Image (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1981)

Course Syllabi

Film Theory and Culture

Film Theory and Criticism

Film Studies

David Bordwell Blows the Whistle on Film Studies
article in Lingua Franca, 2000


Bibliography: Film Theory


Theoretical Frameworks


Film Theory and Aesthetics: Notes on a Schism
Carl Palantinga, Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism

Anarchist Theory

Toward an Anarchist Film Theory: Reflections on the Politics of Cinema
Nathan Jun

Apparatus Theory

Apparatus Theory

Auteur Theory

Auteur Theory

Cognitive Theory

A Case for Cognitivism
David Bordwell (1989)

A Case for Cognitivism: Further Reflections
David Bordwell

Feminist Theory

Feminist Film Theory

Feminist Film Theory
Anneke Smelik

Feminist Film Theory
Anneke Smelik

Feminist Film Theory and Female Spectatorship

Bibliography: Judith Mayne, The Woman at the Keyhole: Feminism and Women's Cinema (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990); Constance Penley (ed.), Feminism and Film Theory (London: Routledge, 1988)

Formalist Film Theory

Formalist Film Theory

Humanistic Approach

The Humanistic Approach to Film: "My Brilliant Career"
Coralie Cederna Johnson (citing “The Humanist Approach: Traditional Aesthetic Responses to the Movies,”in Bywater & Sobchack, Introduction to Film Criticism 24-47 (New York: Longman, 1989))

[" Everyone seeing a film for the first time makes a value judgment, even if it is only based on an emotional response, but the humanist goes back to probe these initial responses more deeply. The student of the humanist approach seeks to learn what film can tell about the human condition by searching for the answers to several questions asked of other art forms. What kinds of ideas—political, religious, historical, or philosophical—are hidden beneath the surface of film?"]

Film as an Art and the Humanistic Tradition

Humanistic Inquiry and Political Signification in Film Studies

Marxist Theory

Marxist Film Theory


Phenomenological Film and Media Studies

Faraway, So Close: A Phenomenology of Film Spectatorship
Frank C. Lemmon, thesis, Emory University


Bibliography: Allen Casebier, Film and Phenomenology: Toward a Realist Theory of Cinema (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991); Vivian Sobchack, The Address of the Eye: A Phenomenology of Film Experience (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1991) [Vivian Sobchack -- Wikipedia] [Vivian Sobchack Interview]


Postmodernist Film

Postmodernism and Film

Postmodernism Through Film

Psychoanalytic Theory

Psychoanalytic Film Criticism

Forum for Movies and the Mind

Psychoanalysis, Film, and Television

Rediscovering the Gaze

Psychoanalysis and Film Theory: ‘A New Kind of Mirror'

Psychoanalysis and Film Theory: Reflections and Refutations

Film Theory, Psychoanalysis, and Figuration: On Endless Night: Cinema
and Psychoanalysis, Parallel Histories

Mulholland Dr. and Psychoanalytic Theory

Bibliography: Christian Metz, The Imaginary Signifier: Psychoanalysis and the Cinema (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1981)


Film, Classical Rhetoric, and Visual Literacy
Colleen Tremonte, Journal of Teaching Writing

Toward a Rhetoric of Film: Identification and the Spectator
Gilberto Perez, Senses of Cinema

Bibliography: John Harrington, Rhetoric of Film (New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1973)


Film Semiotics

The Cognitive Semiotics of Film
Warren Buckland

Bibliography: Christian Metz, Film Language: A Semiotics of the Cinema (New York: Oxford University Press, 1974)(transl. Michael Taylor); Jean Mitry, Semiotics and the Analysis of Film (Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 2000)(transl. Christopher King); Warren Buckland, The Cognitive Semiotics of Film (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000)

Structuralist Theory

Structuralist Film Theory

Transpersonal Dimensions

Resources for Further Inquiry into Transpersonal Dimensions of the Cinema

Recommend Reading

Robert C. Allen (ed.), Channels of Discourse: Television and Contemporary Criticism (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1987)

Essays focus on television but draw extensively on film theory. The essays on narrative, genre study, psychoanalysis, feminist criticism, semiotics, and reader-oriented criticism are accessible for novice students; each author presents a helpful survey of bibliographical sources for the theory surveyed.

J. Dudley Andrew, The Major Film Theories: An Introduction (New York: Oxford University Press, 1976)

David Bordwell, Making Meaning: Inference and Rhetoric in the Interpretation of Cinema (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1989)

Bordwell's book is a bit philosophical for the beginner but presents a brilliant analysis of the way film critics find and create meaning in "reading" film. There are references to hundreds of films, many which the casual film viewer will not have seen.

A review of Making Meaning: Critical Occasions: David Bordwell's Making Meaning and the Institution of Film Criticism

David Bordwell: David Bordwell's website on cinema

Bibliography: Film Theory and Criticism

Rudolph Arnheim, Film as Art (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1969)

André Bazin, What Is Cinema? (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967-71) (Essays selected and translated by Hugh Gray)(2 vols.)

__________, Bazin at Work: Major Essays & Reviews from the Forties & Fifties (New York: Routledge, 1997)(trans. Alain Piette and Bert Cardullo, Bert Cardullo ed.)

Giuliana Bruno, Streetwalking on a Ruined Map (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1993)

Noël Burch, Theory of Film Practice (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1981)(trans. Helen R. Lane)

__________, In and Out of Sync: The Awakening of a Cine-dreamer (Brookfield, Vermont: Wildwood House, 1990)

Tim Bywater & Thomas Sobchack, An Introduction to Film Criticism: Major Critical Approaches to Narrative Film (New York: Longman, 1989) (Film criticism from a journalistic, humanist, auteurist, genre, social science, historical, and ideological/theoretical perspectives)

Stanley Cavell, The World Viewed: Reflections on the Ontology of Film (New York: Viking Press, 1971)

Paul Coates, Film at the Intersection of High and Mass Culture (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994)

Jim Collins, Hilary Radner & Ava Preacher Collins (eds.), Film Theory Goes to the Movies (London: Routledge, 1993)

Anthony Easthope (ed.), Contemporary Film Theory (Longman Higher Education, 1994)

Sergei Eisenstein, Film Form and The Film Sense (Cleveland: World Publishing Co., 1963)

______________, The Film Sense (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, rev. ed., 1975) (trans. & ed., Jay Leyda)

John Ellis, Visible Fictions: Cinema, Television, Video (New York; Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1982)

Brian Henderson, A Critique of Film Theory (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1980)

Ian Jarvie, Philosophy of Film: Epistemology, Ontology, Aesthetics (New York: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1987) (emphasis on aesthetics and philosophy)

Gerald Mast, Film/Cinema/Movie: A Theory of Experience (New York: Harper & Row, 1977)

__________, Howard Hawks, Storyteller (New York: Oxford University Press, 1982)

Gerald Mast, Marshall Cohen & Leo Braudy (eds.), Film Theory and Criticism: Introductory Readings (New York: Oxford University Press, 4rd ed., 1992)

Judith Mayne, Cinema and Spectatorship (New York: Routledge, 1993) [review]

Marc Crispin Miller (ed.), Seeing Through Movies (New York: Pantheon, 1990)

Toby Miller & Robert Stams (eds.), Film and Theory (Blackwell Publishers, 1999)

James Monaco, How To Read a Film (New York: Oxford University Press, 3rd ed., 1999)

Edward Murray, Nine American Film Critics (New York: Frederick Ungar, 1975)

Tom O'Brien, The Screening of America: Movies and Values from Rocky to Rain Man (New York: Frederick Ungar, 1990)(how movies shape contemporary values)

_____________, The Future of an Illusion: Film, Feminism, and Psychoanalysis (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1989)

William H. Philips, Analyzing Films: A Practical Guide (Toronto: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1984)

Stephen Prince, Movies and Meaning: An Introduction to Film (Boston : Allyn and Bacon, 1997)

D. N. Rodowick, The Crisis of Political Modernism: Criticism and Ideology in Contemporary Film Theory (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2nd ed., 1994)

Philip Rosen (ed.), Narrative, Apparatus, Ideology: A Film Theory Reader (New York: Columbia University Press, 1986)

Jonathan Ross, The Incredibly Strange Film Book: An Alternative History of Cinema (London: Simon and Schuster Ltd., 1993)

Michael Ryan & Douglas Kellner, Camera Politica: The Politics and Ideology of Contemporary Hollywood Film (Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1988)

Janet Staiger, Interpreting Films (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1992)

Murray Smith, Engaging Characters: Fiction, Emotion and the Cinema (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995)

Burgoyne Stam & Lewis Flitterman, New Vocabularies in Film Semiotics (London: Routledge, 1992)

Robert Stam, Film Theory (Blackwell Publishers, 1999)

Ed S. Tan, Emotion and the Structure of Narrative Film: Film as an Emotion (Mahwah, New Jersey: 1996)

Sue Thornham (ed.), Feminist Film Theory (Edinburgh University Press, 1999)

Gregory Ulmer, Teletheory: Grammatology in The Age of Video (Routledge: New York, 1989)

Paul Willemen, Looks and Frictions (England: British Film Institute, 1993)

Linda Williams, Viewing Positions: Ways of Seeing Film (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1994)

Trevor Whittock, Metaphor and Film (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990)

Bibliography: Narrative Theory

David Bordwell, Making Meaning: Inference and Rhetoric in the Interpretation of Cinema (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1989)

____________, Narration in the Fiction Film (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1985)

Edward Branigan, Narrative Comprehension in Film (London: Routledge, 1992)

Seymour Chatman, Coming to Terms: The Rhetoric of Narrative in Fiction and Film (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1990)

______________, Story and Discourse: Narrative Structure in Fiction and Film (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1978)

John L. Fell, Film and the Narrative Tradition (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1974)

Avrom Fleishman, Narrated Films: Storytelling Situations in Cinema History (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992)

Sarah Kozloff, Invisible Storytellers: Voice-Over Narration in American Fiction Films (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988)

Nick Lacy, Narrative & Genre: Key Concepts in Media Studies (New York: St. Martin's Press, 2000)