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Film Theory Review.17472126.pdf


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attempting to approach this new art with what tools critics and theorists had at the ready, film
theory “inherited the history of reflection on literary genre” (13). As upsetting as this could be
for some supporters of what was termed high art, others saw how “film forms an ideal site for the
orchestration of multiple genres, narrational systems, and forms of writing” (12). There were
those against using literary theory who felt that “usually associated with written texts, narrative
could not provide the basis for the construction of a purely visual art form” (37). None the less,
film theory “bears the traces of earlier theories and the impact of neighboring discourses” (10).
Another of the earlier theories is the philosophy of aesthetics. Stam tells his readers that
“aesthetics…emerged as a separate discipline in the eighteenth century as the study of artistic
beauty and related issues of the sublime, the grotesque, the humorous and the pleasurable” (10).
Questions that arose around film regarding aesthetics ask “is art an honorific to be attributed
only to a few films or are all films works of art simply because of their institutionally defined
social status …Is there an ideal style...To what extent are aesthetics linked to larger ethical and
social issues?” For example, “can fascist or racist films...be masterpieces in artistic terms and
still be repugnant in ethical/political terms?” (11).
There was also opposition to cinema being art at all, calling it “an amusement for the
illiterate” or worse (65). Much of the dismay surrounding film considered as art can be found in
the struggle to define it. What is Cinema? Cinema is quite often defined “in terms of other arts –
sculpture in motion…music of light…painting in movement…and architecture in movement”
(33). Though this attached cinema to other art forms, it also “[posits] crucial
differences...movement….light” (33). Some theorists “saw cinema as rooted in photography and
its registry of the indeterminate, random flow of everyday life” (80); “photogenie was thus that
ineffable quintessence that differentiated the magic of cinema from the other arts” (34).

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