1a. Early examples of close analysis were

  • Charles W. Eckert’s “The Anatomy of a Proletarian Film: Warner’s Marked Woman, Film Quarterly (Winter 1973-74).
  • Raymond Bellour’s “The Birds: Analysis of a Sequence,” Cahiers du cinéma (216, Oct.  1969); trans. Ben Brewster, BFI Education Department, 1972, reprinted 1981.
  • Christian Metz’s close analysis of Adieu Philippine in Essais sur la signification au cinéma (Vol. 1, 1967); trans. Michael Taylor as Film Language,  Oxford University Press, 1974. Return to text.

Charles Eckert was my dissertation advisor and I know that he prepared for his Marked Woman essay by taping the film off television with a Portapak reel-to-reel tape recorder and viewing the tape over a hundred times.

1. Roland Barthes, S/Z, trans. Richard Howard (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1974). Further citations from this edition are indicated by page numbers in the text. Writing Degree Zero and Elements of Semiology, trans. Annette Lavers and Colin Smith (Boston: Beacon, 1970).

2. The radical film/literary critic often seeks to raise unconscious ideological mechanisms to the level of consciousness so that we may "gain control" over them. Certainly those critics who combine a Marxist and a psychoanalytic approach, such as Christian Metz in his current work, have that intent. Such radical critical practice serves the function of both consciousness raising and theoretical investigation, but the notion of "gaining control" and ideological change must be dialectically related to a more general economic, social, and political movement for change in the society at large. As Mao asked rhetorically, "Where do correct ideas come from?"

3. Writing Degree Zero and Elements of Semiology, op. cit.

4. Christian Metz, Language and Cinema, trans. Donna Jean Umiker-Sebeok (The Hague: Mouton 1974). Raymond Bellour is concerned with "segmentals" and "supra-segmentals" in film, which are linguistic concepts. He presented a paper on the supra-segmentals in Gigi at the Milwaukee Film Conference in November 1975. See also his "The Obvious and the Code," Screen, 15, No. 4 (1974-75).

5. Umberto Eco, A Theory of Semiotics, trans. David Osmond-Smith (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1976).

6. Stuart Hall, "The Determinations of Newsphotographs," Working Papers in Cultural Studies, No. 3 (1972), p. 65.

7. Ibid. [return to page 2]

8. Roland Barthes. "Rhetoric of the Image," Working Papers in Cultural Studies, No. 1 (1971).

9. In semantics, a seme is a unit of the signified. The seme is that quality which is signified by the connotation, e.g., richness. Both Barthes and Eco conclude that in a semiotic sense the sum of all the connotations in a given society, the sum of all the "semes," define the society's ideological presuppositions.

10. Umberto Eco, "Towards a Semiotic Inquiry into the Television Message," Working Papers in Cultural Studies, No. 3 (1972), p. 114.

11. Hall, p. 66.

12. La regle du jeu: L'avant scène du cinéma, No. 52 (1965). Translation mine. All further citations of dialogue are cited and translated from here.
[return to page 3]

13. Christian Metz, Film Language: The Semiotics of Cinema (The Hague: Mouton, 1971).

14. Laura Mulvey, "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema," Screen, 16, No. 3 (1975); Daniel Dayan, "The Tutor Code of Classical Cinema," Film Quarterly, 28, No. 1 (1974); Raymond Bellour, "The Birds," trans. from Cahiers du Cinéma, No. 216 (1969), available from the BFI.

15. Overdetermination is a Freudian concept, brought into current critical thought by Louis Althusser and frequently used by Barthes in S/Z. To paraphrase Althusser, one can apply his concept to the choices, motives and actions of the characters within a traditional closed narrative: the characters' choices, motives, and actions are inseparable from the total structure of the narrative in which they are found, inseparable from their formal conditions of existence and from the instances they govern. The characters' actions and choices are radically affected by these instances, determining and also determined in the one and the same movement, and determined by the various levels and instances of the narrative they animate. The narrative work as a whole is also overdetermined, reflecting and responding to the contradictions of the society in which it was engendered. See Althusser's For Marx, trans. Ben Brewster (New York: Vintage, 1970), p. 201. For a detailed analysis of the function and mechanisms of overdetermination in a single film, see Charles Eckert, "The Anatomy of a Proletarian Film: Warner's Marked Woman," Film Quarterly, 17, No. 2 (1973-4).

16. Claude Lévi-Strauss, Structural Anthropology (New York: Anchor, 1967), p. 82.

17. Following Lévi-Strauss and Jacques Lacan, Barthes sees sexual differentiation and the exchange value of women as a structural determinant of the creation of both linguistic meaning and commercial or interpersonal "contracts" or relations. Such an analysis of the interrelation between psychic-linguistic-economic structures is deterministic in its premises, and feminists such as Juliet Mitchell who accept these premises do not demonstrate how these structures change across history or under socialism or if they can be fundamentally altered at all. In this particular instance, I would only note in passing that proof of the inadequacy of Barthes' treatment of sexual symbolism is that he cannot deal with homosexuality and androgyny but must treat the story of a man's unwitting falling in love with a castrato only in terms of the antithesis between and "transgression" of an essential maleness and an essential femaleness.

18. Phillipe Esnault, "Le Jeu de la verité," L'avant scène du cinéma, No. 52 (1965), p. 11.

19. See Lévi-Strauss, p. 221.

20. Ibid, p. 45.

21. Norman O. Brown, Life Against Death: The Psychoanalytic Meaning of History (Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press, 1959).

22. Metz, Film Language: A Semiotics of Cinema.

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