THE WORLD IN A FRAME: What We See in a Film by Leo Braudy

THE WORLD IN A FRAME: What We See in a Film

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Braudy, Professor of English at Columbia University and author of Jean Renoir: The World of His Films (1972), has turned out an ambitious work on movies which argues vehemently that it is inappropriate to apply the aesthetic canons of literature or purely visual art to films--which alone strive to achieve creative expression within ""a situation that is commercial, collective, and technological."" Despite its explicit and emphatic popular orientation, this is a demanding, rarefied book. In a tripartite scheme Brandy discusses the formal, structuralist demands of film; the importance of critically disdained ""genre"" movies; and the way screen actors achieve characterization by nuance and complexity by reticence. Films are unique, says Brandy, because ""In a film nothing exists in itself, only in the way it is used, whether it is a river by Renoir, a crucifix by Bunuel, a gun by Lang, a car by Penn, or a beach by Bergman."" Context is everything; genre flicks take on surprising implications when they play against ""generic expectations."" Running throughout the book is Braudy's elaborately developed distinction between ""closed"" and ""open"" styles of filmmaking, for which his paradigmatic directors are Fritz Lang and Jean Renoir. Lang is the master of the hermetic, fatalistic world in which the viewpoint is that of the omniscient director; Renoir is the supreme creator of a more provisional, contingent reality where the viewer is a guest rather than a captive. A holistic, evolutionary view of cinema which, despite meticulous organization, is more suggestive than didactic.

Pub Date: May 28th, 1976
Publisher: Doubleday