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A Pocket Guide to Analyzing Films

Robert Spadoni (Author)

Available worldwide

Paperback, 192 pages
ISBN: 9780520280700
August 2014
$24.95, £16.95
Other Formats Available:
The perfect concise guide to the formal analysis of film. Designed to be used by readers at many levels of knowledge, this book moves systematically through the elements that make up most films, focusing on aspects of the art of cinema that are common across history and national cinemas.

From form and narrative to mise-en-scène and cinematography to editing and sound, Robert Spadoni introduces and explains the principles and conventions of film in engaging, straightforward language. In addition to illustrating film techniques with almost 200 images—most of them in color—the book explains ways to find patterns and meaning in films through such concepts as motifs, development, and motivation.

Thumbnail readings of exemplary films further lay out the essentials of formal analysis. Film illustrations include frame enlargements from Stagecoach, Psycho, Jeepers Creepers, Persepolis, Groundhog Day, Take Shelter, and more. Modestly priced and packed with images, A Pocket Guide to Analyzing Films is ideal for students in a wide range of film courses who are looking for an easy-to-read guide to film analysis to accompany and enhance their course materials.

1. Film as Form
A Viewer-Centered Approach
Conventions and Genres
Three Kinds of Response
Referential Meaning
Explicit Meaning
Implicit Meaning
Symptomatic Meaning
Evaluating Films: Why Not To
Five Principles
Similarity and Repetition
Difference and Variation

2. Film Narrative
Narrative Basics
Plots and Stories
Diegetic and Nondiegetic Elements
Cinematic Time
Cinematic Space
Restricted versus Unrestricted Narration
Objective versus Subjective Narration
Putting the Range and Depth of Story Information Together
Narration in a Scene from Jeepers Creepers

3. Mise-en-scène
Location and Studio Filming
Stylized and Unstylized Settings
Costume and Makeup
Two Kinds of Shadow
Lighting Quality and Direction
Lighting in Classical Hollywood Cinema
Acting and Performance
Shifting Patterns on the Screen
Mise-en-scène in a Scene from West Side Story

4. Cinematography
The Shot’s Photographic Nature
Tone, Texture, Color
Fast and Slow Motion
The Appearance of Depth
Focus and Depth of Field
Special Effects
Framing the Image
The Frame’s Size and Shape
Onscreen versus Offscreen Space
Camera Angle, Level, Height, and Distance
Moving the Frame
The Long Take
A Long Take in Letter from an Unknown Woman

5. Editing
Editing Basics
Four Kinds of Edit
Four Kinds of Emphasis
Two Approaches to Editing
Editing for Continuity: Classical Hollywood Cinema
Editing for Discontinuity: Soviet Montage
Some Final Thoughts on These Two Approaches
Editing in a Sequence from Psycho

6. Sound
Diegetic Sound and Space
Diegetic Sound and Time
Diegetic Sound and the Real World
Sound and the Whole Film: A Scene Transition in Take Shelter

Robert Spadoni is the author of Uncanny Bodies: The Coming of Sound Film and the Origins of the Horror Genre. He is an associate professor in the English Department at Case Western Reserve University, where he teaches film studies.
"...a sharp, compact guide to deconstructing films in the most useful fashion. Clean, carefully thought out, and intelligent, this guide allows the cinematic newcomer to analyze just what makes a film work, as well as how all of the various elements of a film combine to create a coherent vision. Highly recommended."—W.W. Dixon CHOICE
"Robert Spadoni’s well-written and well-organized short guide to film/media aesthetics helps fill a significant gap for students and professors in assorted history/criticism courses. While many departments devote an entire course just to introducing the elements of film style, those in film history surveys, genre courses, and other specialized topics also need a succinct introduction to mise-en-scene, editing, sound design, camera movement, and narrative structure even when not the course’s major subject. Spadoni’s book provides a much-needed (and in my experience often requested) introduction to film aesthetics useful for both majors and non-majors enrolling in general education courses devoted to film and media arts." —Dr. Rick Worland, Southern Methodist University

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