Film theories in Hitchcock Studies

adapted from Jane Sloan, Alfred Hitchcock: A Filmography and Bibliography and Robert Kapsis, Hitchcock: The Making of a Reputation

auteur criticism structural criticism (formal system) social and political Hitchcock (reflection-ofsociety approach: sociological and historical criticism) psychoanalytical criticism feminist criticism production of culture approach (industrial model) reception theory technical analysis ("how he does it") Hitchcock and film history

The auteur theory:
Developed by French film theorists as "politique des auteurs." Among these theorists, several were particularly interested in Hitchcock: Francois Truffaut, Claude Chabrol, Eric Rohmer. 1. Despite the collaborative nature of movies, a film has an "author," who is the director. 2. As an artist, a director can work within conventional forms and genres and still impose a distinctive "vision" on the films. "Auteur" critics downplay historical or infrastructural elements to emphasize the "vision" or unified sensibility that structured the film. These critics prefer to examine a director's full body of work, looking for recurring themes, symbols, and motifs that define the auteur's vision. Auteur criticism also tends to prefer directors who worked in conventional genres (suspense, westerns, etc.), because they provide the best opportunities to see how a distinctive sensibility can manifest itself even with cliched material.

Structural criticism:
Structuralism looks at a film or any other "text" as a signifying system, a set of patterns or relationships. The meaning of a work (or a body of work) comes not so much from inherent meanings of its individual elements, as from how they interrelate within a "formal system." In Hitchcock studies, structural analysis has emphasized thematic oppositions and other recurring patterns. Various critics have suggested various key patterns: doubling, pursuit and flight, activity and passivity, voyeurism and 'the gaze,' and so on. Genre, considered as a set of conventional patterns within a basic formula, is one interest in structural criticism. Plot patterns (such as the falsely-accused man) are recurring structural elements related to genre. Film techniques such as subjective (point-of-view) shooting can also be analyzed as structural elements. Semiotics, a form of structuralism, uses the concept of codes to discuss conventional ways that things are done in texts. Codes are cultural phenomena because they are learned. Nevertheless, through familiarity codes come to seem natural rather than cultural: this process is called "naturalization." There are various categories of codes, including cultural codes (for

Production of culture approach (industrial model):
The production of culture approach to film emphasizes the making of movies as an industrial process. (It is also known as the infrastructural approach because it emphasizes the internal workings of the film business.) The most fully developed industrial model was the Hollywood studio system, which Hitchcock worked in for over 25 years. (His work in the European and British film industries of the 1920s and 1930s provides a somewhat different model.) The production of culture approach is contrary to the auteur theory, in that it emphasizes filmmaking as a collaborative process as well as a business. Criticism following the industrial model emphasizes the threestage process of pre-production, production, and postproduction--in Hitchcock's case, his collaboration with writers, producers, editors, publicists, and others in creating films. A very important part of the studio era was the star system, which affected Hitchcock's selection and use of actors.

Reception theory:
Reception theory, also known as the reader-response approach, gives an essential role to the viewer (or 'reader'), rather than treating the "text" as a unique entity separate from readings of it. This approach considers meaning as something produced, "negotiated," or "fabricated" by an interaction of the film with its viewer. In other words, reception theory analyzes the reading of a text as a communicative process. Reception theorists emphasize the "horizon of expectations" that a viewer brings to a film or any other text. These expectations are determined both by the human perceptual apparatus and by the "interpretive community" that any individual viewer is a part of. Members of an interpretive community share previous textual experiences as well as cultural assumptions; this shared background leads individuals within the community to approach and interpret particular texts in similar, predictable ways. Among the shared artistic factors are genre (considered as a set of expectations for a familiar film type), the artist's reputation (Hitchcock as "the Master of Suspense"), and infrastructural factors such as marketing and publicity. Ideology comprises shared cultural and social assumptions within the community. Although reception theory deemphasizes the idea that a text has one correct interpretation, it also rejects the notion that all

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