Cover Image

Larger ImageView Larger

Figures Traced in Light

On Cinematic Staging

David Bordwell (Author)

Available worldwide

Paperback, 327 pages
ISBN: 9780520241978
March 2005
$34.95, £27.95
A film tells its story not only through dialogue and actors' performances but also through the director's control of movement and shot design. Figures Traced in Light is a detailed consideration of how cinematic staging carries the story, expresses emotion, and beguiles the audience through pictorial composition. Ranging over the entire history of cinema, David Bordwell focuses on four filmmakers' unique contributions to the technique. In-depth chapters examine Louis Feuillade, master of the 1910s serial; Kenji Mizoguchi, the great Japanese director who worked from the 1920s to the 1950s; Theo Angelopoulos, who began his career as a political modernist in the late 1960s; and Hou Hsiao-hsien, the Taiwanese filmmaker who in the 1980s became the preeminent Asian director. For comparison, Bordwell draws on films by Howard Hawks, Michelangelo Antonioni, Yasujiro Ozu, Takeshi Kitano, and many other directors. Superbly illustrated with more than 500 frame enlargements and 16 color illustrations, Figures Traced in Light situates its close analysis of model sequences in the context of the technological, industrial, and cultural trends that shaped the directors' approaches to staging.

1. Staging and Style
2. Feuillade, or Storytelling
3. Mizoguchi, or Modulation
4. Angelopoulos, or Melancholy
5. Hou, or Constraints
6. Staging and Stylistics

David Bordwell is Jacques Ledoux Professor of Film Studies and Hilldale Professor of Humanities at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Among his books are Film History: An Introduction (with Kristin Thompson, 2002), Planet Hong Kong: Popular Cinema and the Art of Entertainment (2000), and On the History of Film Style (1997).
“Figures Traced in Light makes us feel as though we have received a long and elaborate postcard from a friend who has gone on an expedition to some terra icognita. This latest communication, dated 2005, is excellent. . . . The cleverness and agility of the comments never burden Bordwell’s respect for the filmic text.”—Film Quarterly
"The choreography of cinematic creation is stunningly revealed in this learned and lively book. Finely historical with meticulous descriptions of directors, actors, and cameras in motion, Figures Traced In Light registers for the first time the abiding patterns of cinematic staging around the world and through the years. "—Janet Walker, author of Trauma Cinema

"David Bordwell is undoubtedly the most productive and influential film historian at work today. His magisterial Figures Traced in Light combines incisive close analyses of compelling filmic artifacts with a painstaking attention to all pertinent research materials. Eschewing any abstract notion of Film, he stresses the labor, thought, and creativity which goes into the staging of individual films."—Eric Rentschler, Harvard University

IV "Limina - Carnica" Award for Italian and International Film Studies Books published in 2005, Carnica Assicurazioni and Movimento del Turismo - Delegazione del Friuli-Venezia

Join UC Press

Members receive 20-40% discounts on book purchases. Find out more