Film Studies is an academic discipline focused on the critical appreciation of cinema as an art form as well as its role in, and impact on, culture and society. Some cinema theorists argue that its primary purpose is to understand how best to look at films and understand their meaning. The discipline forms part of the larger subject areas of media studies and cultural studies. The discipline is relatively new, its origins as a systematic body of thought dating back to the latter half of the twentieth century.
The subject is not focused on the technical aspects of film making or production. Rather it is concerned with exploring its non-technical aspects such as the narrative, aesthetics, artistic, ideological, cultural, economic, and political implications of cinema.
Graduates of cinema studies bazinga generally pursue a career in non-technical fields such as film criticism, journalism and media analysis. They also select the subject as a non-major component of programs of study focused on the technical aspects of film-making.
Given the dominance of Hollywood movie commercialism in shaping popular culture, the strong influence of European and other countries on movie production and theory may surprise many people. For example, the Moscow Film School established in 1919 was the first school focused on cinema anywhere in the world.
Similarly, the first serious cinema theorist is widely acknowledged to be Frenchman Andre Bazin (1918-1958). He started writing on the subject in 1943, during the World War II, and was a co-founder of the prominent magazine Cahiers du cinema in 1951 (together with Jacques Doniol-Valcroze and Joseph-Marie Lo Duca). His writings remain a major force in cinema theory and criticism today.
A four-volume compendium of his essays was published After his death between 1958 and 1962 and titled What is Cinema? (Qu’est-ce que le cinema?). A selection from these writings was translated into English; they were published as two volumes, one during the late-1960s and the other during early-1970s.
These two volumes became key texts for many film courses in the English-speaking world, but were never updated or revised. In 2009, a specialist Canadian publisher of film texts, Caboose, spotted an opportunity to take advantage of the relatively favorable copyright laws prevailing in Canada. Caboose compiled fresh translations of many of the most important essays and published them as a new single-volume with annotations by translator Timothy Barnard. That text became the only corrected and annotated edition of the original Bazin writings.
Bazin argued that the best objective for films was to attempt to present an objective reality. He therefore favored documentaries and films in the style of Italian neorealism. From a technical perspective he argued that directors should seek to make themselves invisible; advocated the use of deep focus or large depth of field (favored, for example by Orson Welles) and wide shots (Jean Renoir). Bazin also supported lack of montage, that is, extended continuity through mise en scene rather than montage editing and special effects. All of these Bazin viewpoints are challenged by the modern film studies community. Bazin is nevertheless celebrated as having been an original thinker in his time.
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