Essay: Classical Hollywood Cinema

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Classical Hollywood Cinema

The time period between 1927 and 1960 in the American film industry is famously known as the 'Golden Age of Hollywood'. It is during this era when Hollywood filmmaking took huge strides and witnessed enormous growth, both locally and internationally. This time period gave birth to the 'Classical Hollywood Cinema' or the 'Classical Hollywood Narrative'. These terms refer to the employing of various visual and sound styles, aided by modes of productions in the making of films. According to David Bordwell, an American film historian and film theorist, the styles used by the Classical Hollywood Cinema has take influence from the ideas and the resurgence of mankind in the Renaissance period as its main point of focus. The purpose of this research paper is to focus upon the success of the Classical Hollywood Cinema in using various style and techniques to ensure success for the filming industry.

The two major theories in existence and in use during this Golden Age were the Realist filming theory and the Formalist filming theory. The theory of Formalism has been in the filming industry for more time than the Realist theory. The Formalist theory emphasizes on the practice of creating a likening of the film for the spectator by effectively utilizing all the technical elements of a film such as, sound effects, background imagery, appropriate lighting, editing and set design. Through these elements, Formalism aims to bring out the emotional and intellectual essence of a film in the eyes of the spectator. This theory suggests that with proper application, these elements, the film comes to par with the audience's expectations, which are to achieve pure entertainment, by adding interest to the film. With such measured structuring of the attractions in the film making process, this theory aims to change the mental processes of the viewer.

On the other hand, the Realist theory of filming has been a rather new concept than the Formalist theory. Despite of that, the Realist theory has achieved numerous applauses by many famous film theorists and critics, and has witnessed success in the arena of the motion pictures. This theory suggests that the film production should focus on displaying the reality, as that is what the viewer observes on the screen and psychologically demands for. In 1945, Andre Bazin, a famous film theorist, used the history of art to make the deduction that cinema was identified to be as the fulfillment of the carving human beings have for representation of reality (Bazin 196). He referred cinema as the art of the reality, as cinema registers the spatiality of the items and the space they occupy.

The concepts of Realism and Formalism have been a part of the cinema for quite some time now. Many theorists of cinema studies have debated in favor of both the theories. They have argued that both the theories have resulted in a positive development for the cinema and have created a rather more improved and enhanced basis of spectatorship. During the Golden Age, many filmmakers in the Classical Hollywood Cinema have worked upon to bring upon a new method of creating films. One of these methods has been to utilize a synthesis between the forms of Realism and Formalism in the producing of motion pictures to provide the spectators a revitalized method of entertainment.

The merging of these two concepts was vital on the spectator of the movie and its positioning. To create an experience of enjoyment, film makers have to focus on the spectators to make an entertaining movie. It is a common belief amongst film theorists that it is crucial to make identification and the positioning of the spectator before creating a film. This does not only lead to an enjoyable experience but also makes it possible for the film have meaning. Without this understanding of the spectator, the images on the screen are meaningless. In the words of Baudry, a film theorist, "Thus is articulated the relation between the continuity necessary to the constitution of meaning and the 'subject' which constitutes this meaning: continuity is an attribute of the subject" (Baudry, Ideological Effects of the Basic Cinematographic Apparatus 44). This explains that it is the spectator of the film that gives the meaning to the images on the screen. The positioning and the relation of the spectator is the factor that provides a meaning to the narrative.

Since the Golden Age, many of the motion pictures produced in Hollywood have used a mixture of both the concepts of Formalism and Realism. This blend or mixture is focused to be achieved not anywhere near the extremities of the two concepts, but rather on a middle ground. The films that employ such blends can be classified as 'Classical' in the Hollywood. Via this fusion, the Classical Hollywood Cinema intends to use the elements of formalism, such as set location, background music, lighting effects, makeup, etc., with the elements of Realism, that help to maintain the effect and touch of reality, to achieve the formation of a Hollywood Classical.

Through this synthesis, the spectator is positioned in such a manner that the impact of the elements of reality in the film relate to the scenes and experiences from the spectator's own personal life, that makes the film more meaningful (Dayan 30). On the other hand, the elements of Formalism employ their effectiveness by creating a more enjoyable and entertaining experience for the spectator. Various examples of such fusions exist in the Hollywood Classics. One of them is the critically applauded motion picture, the Citizen Kane. Released in 1941, this film exercises the elements of both Formalism and Realism to achieve better cinematic experience for the spectator. The techniques of Realism employed within several shots of the film were a deep focus camera that focused on all objects (fore, middle or background) positioned in the picture frame, the lengthy shot takes that aid the spectator in not only understanding the characters but also their backdrop conditions, and a chronological newsreel that focused on the life events of Kane in order of occurrence rather than going back in time midst of the film to explain the story so that the viewer gets a clarified story that is build close to reality. These were aided by elements of Formalism, such as camera angles, acting styles, lighting, editing, set design and sound effects, to leave the spectator in a position where he might consider the film to be more expressionistic.

The Auteur Cinema focuses on the ideas, vision and perspective of the director, as an author, in the making of the film. This leads to the film acquiring meaning from the director, rather than the spectator himself. The spectator is positioned in such a way that he uses the director's point to experience the movie, rather than relating it to his life. Similarly, the films that utilize Formalist and Realist concepts separately provide the spectator a differed experience from what they could have achieved from a synthesized version of the two concepts. This differed version would not be as enjoyable for the viewer as the fusion version, because it would focus on factors that do not fully focus on the positioning of the spectator but rather than making the elements utilized as the centre of attention.

It is believed by many film theorists that the Hollywood enforces various methods to standardize the basis of spectatorship in the cinema. These methods include various factors of Formalism and Realism, such as continuing editing, the instruments of film making and styles of acting. According to Jean-Louis Baudry, through the mechanics and the system of representation, such as the spectator before the screen, the editing, the camera and projecting, the cinematic apparatus used in film making produces an ideological position. In this position, the spectator is presented with an impression… [END OF PREVIEW]

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