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terms name only some of the configurations of 'Film and Linguistics'. They need to be explored as separate conceptual categories, but also form a unity when viewed in the context of successive historical debates and moments of theoretical reflection. While conceptual distinctiveness derives in part from the inner logic of the disciplines involved, the historical framework is defined by the cinema's variable status within 20th century culture: as an art form, a communication medium, a mode of representation, and finally -- in this context most importantly -- as a specific form of signification. The rapport between film and linguistics is itself part of a history, that of our society's changing view of art and the conditions of its production and reception. In the case of the cinema, 'the only art form', as Bela Balasz remarked, 'that owes its existence entirely to capitalism' (quoted in Witte, 1972, p 153), as long as the object of attention is the film, attributed to an individual, the film language/film grammar model predominated. When attention focused on the spectator as 'reader' of a text, more properly linguistic models found favour, since they provided a perspective on language as a set of rules valid irrespective of individual input and constructing not merely an intelligibility, but an intelligibility for someone. If the film language/film grammar model carries prescriptive overtones, a preference for classification is evident in the concepts that film scholars have drawn from linguistics. Though the debates are not without polemics, one can recognize the distinctions between an emphasis on pragmatics (the importance given to the spectator's 'inscription' in the film), syntactics (the internal relations of film units or segments) and semantics (what produces or controls meaning). There is also a marked difference between approaches that use verbal language as the model for non-verbal languages, and those that begin with semiotics in order to understand the cinema within a cultural theory of signs. The encounter between linguistics and film was arguably crucial in constructing film as a theoretical object. Even in non-linguistic work on cinema, an increasing concern with methods at once rigorous and systematic testifies to the impact of linguistic procedures, as in Gilles Deleuze's revival of phenomenology (Deleuze, 1984, 1985), or in recent studies drawing on cognitive theory (Branigan, 1988; Bordwell, 1989), where the emphasis is anti-linguistic. 1. Signification What brought film studies initially into contact with linguistics was not the fact that the cinema (since its beginnings) had combined images with language, whether spoken (during the film-performance) or written (in the form of intertitles). The appeal to language was prompted by a number of theoretical and philosophical issues around the question of signification. How can a photographic reproduction of reality be a meaningful statement about this reality? As Christian Metz put it: 'we need to understand how films
are understood', or in Bill Nichols' phrase: we need 'to understand images of the world as speech about the world' (Nichols, 1985, p. 259). 1.1. Expression versus Signification The emphasis on signification stands in a tension to a set of questions centred on the cinema as the mechanical reproduction of the natural expressiveness of the real, an act of copying rather than an act of language and of signifying, unmediated by the intervention of signs or recourse to a system, neither inflected by intentionality nor comprehended by acquired skills: the cinema's realism or 'reality-effect'. Theorists of realism (Hugo Munsterberg, Rudolf Arnheim, Siegfried Kracauer, and André Bazin) already raised the problem of how films are understood, relying on the psychology of perception or phenomenology to account for the fact that films not only give an impression of reality, but are intelligible, while remaining interpretable by different users in very different ways. The question whether signification resides in the film or in the processes it activates in the spectator also implies whether such a separation is valid. Theories of the cinema have always emphasized the constructed nature of filmic representation: where they differ is in locating the source of that construction. If linguistically-based theories attribute it to society, ideology and symbolic systems, realist theories identify the mind as itself generating the structures which make the perceptual data and stimuli intelligible. Both currents have a history, but it is the former that will occupy us most. The emphasis here is on linguistics and semiology, giving only brief consideration to the social, ideological or psychoanalytic ramifications of the topic (although in academic film studies, it was the latter that predominated during the 1980s). 1.2. Discontinuity, Continuity, Segmentation, Pertinence In terms of perception, a film is an experience of continuity, while at the material level, it is made up of discontinuous, discrete entities: individual scenes, each consisting of a series of individual shots, and each shot numbering many individual frames. The 'semiotic' problem is therefore that of, firstly, segmentation and identifying pertinent units, and secondly, establishing a hierarchy among pertinent units, isolating such properly linguistic features as phonemes, morphemes, clause, or aspect, tense, mood. It will lead semioticians of the cinema to consider film within the context of André Martinet's double articulation (Metz), to suggest a triple articulation (Umberto Eco), or to the distinction between segmental levels (the shot, the autonomous segment) and supra/sub-segmental levels (Raymond Bellour). These considerations all reversed the realist perspective, which however persisted in the assumption of the frame or image as the pertinent unit and became one of the major theoretical blockages in the field. Behind the semiological problem stood a critical agenda: if the reciprocal relation between (perceptual) continuity and (material) discontinuity was at the heart of the cinema's power to signify, film semiology could account for its dominant ideological function: to naturalize the act of representation via the 'impression of reality'.
Furthermore, the fact that films were almost universally understood meant that signification had to be explored at the level of possible deep-structures -- the level which in linguistics is the province of grammar and logic -- which also meant that one was looking for articulations other than the individual image. For defining the image as the pertinent unit posed a second problem, involving continuity in another dimension: the moving image, projected on the screen, is bounded by the frame, creating a visual space which continues beyond, into what is not visible but present, so-called 'off-screen space', an aspect of signification important to film theory from Bazin to the development of psychoanalytic film semiotics and the concept of 'suture' (see Heath, 1981), but which is not immediately amenable to linguistic analysis. Despite these difficulties, the fact that the image track and the sound track in the classical narrative film are combinations of discrete elements suggests that 'representation' is always already 'signification', and that one is dealing with some kind of language system. A semiological analysis is tempting, but also problematic, especially when based on a phonological model of the sign. Starting with Boris Eikhenbaum, Roman Jakobson and Sergei Eisenstein, to Jean Luc Godard, Christian Metz, Umberto Eco, Pier Paolo Pasolini and Peter Wollen, film theorists and filmmakers have looked to structural accounts of language (mostly inspired by Saussure, but occasionally drawing also on Peirce, and more recently, on Chomsky) for models of how to understand filmic meaning. 2. The Language Analogy: A Historical Retrospect The idea that film is like a language is as old as the medium itself and has often been used in a proselytizing spirit, either by pioneer filmmakers anxious about the prestige of their craft, or by those who, among the avant-gardes of the 1920s, wanted to claim for this originally popular entertainment the status of an art form. 2.1. Cinema: The Esperanto of the Eye Campaigning for the importance and dignity of film, the American film-maker D.W. Griffith was one of the first to use the language model: he talked of 'moving pictures might have saved the situation when the Tower of Babel was built' (quoted in Hansen, 1985), stressing the universality, untutored comprehension and communication potential of the new medium. Vachel Lindsay, the American poet, in 1915 compared cinema to Egyptian hieroglyphs and foresaw as momentous a cultural transformation as the invention of printing. Griffith is often called the 'father of film-language', because his development of parallel editing to signify temporal simultaneity through spatial contiguity was distinct from the mere sequential recording of events or human actions in front of the camera. He systematically exploited discontinuity in his editing to construct cause and effect chains according to a distinct story-telling logic (influential in the Hollywood film industry), but which especially in a film like Intolerance (1916) freed itself from any time-space continuum, a practice emulated by European directors and avantgarde filmmakers.
Kuleshov. He did recognize that the language of cinema had to be identified at a level other than the individual shot. Eisenstein. distinguished between referent. combination and juxtaposition needs to be distinguished from the popular logomorphism which often regarded a close-up of a hand. the term 'film language' refers more to the level of parole or 'performance' than to that of langue or 'competence'. who in several essays from the mid-1920s onwards ('A Dialectical Approach to Film Form'. 1918). as it is even in Bazin. they invariably lead to a new idea. it could be argued. but 'philological'. Vertov. sometimes based on analogies with the Chinese ideogram and the idea of 'pairing'. division. a dilemma inherited by countless textbooks. Griffith and the Film today'. Even Pudovkin seemed to endorse this simplistic view of both the cinema and language. p. More overtly. which emerges from the juxtaposition as a new quality' (Eisenstein. it is to be found in the editing practice of the young Soviet cinema. at other times on an abstract idea emerging from the clash of two images. in which case we are not dealing with a 4 . 'grammar' or 'technique' of film-making. 1949. Murnau). however. signifier and signified (though he never employed these terms). Raymond Spottiswoode published 'A Grammar of the Film' in 1935. and it was the possibility of a (universal) film grammar which came to preoccupy those influenced by his writings. The German and Russian avant-gardes' concern with intermittence. or a character's back as 'part of the cinematographic alphabet' (Le Film. 2. Either there is evolution. and his theory of montage. Eisenstein. when short pieces of film were put end to end by distributors in order to make up an evening's program. 1949) explored some of the key aspects of editing as a form of cinematic language. in contrast to the accidental montage effects typical of early cinema. while linguistically. did not differentiate clearly between the semantic and the syntactic dimension. and above all Eisenstein. Pudovkin. in which a descriptive approach is often at odds with a normative dimension. Discussion of film language in the 1920s tended to compare the individual shot to a word in a sentence. 'Dickens. Montage and Film Grammar Eisenstein's conception of film language was quite eclectic. but he also wanted film montage to be granted the kind of intentionality and control over meaning associated with linguistic utterances. 'Film Language'.W. 'If two arbitrary elements are joined together. theorists in the 1930s had the notion of filmic grammar as a set of rules gradually developed by professional filmmakers and more or less rigidly adhered to. 50).2. Their use of 'language' is clearly not structural. how-to guides and histories of the 'art'. propagating the notions of 'montage' and 'film grammar'.Griffith's influence can be seen in the films of the German 'Expressionist' school (Fritz Lang and F. and even by analogy to musical counterpoint. 1967). Noting the many conventions and regularities that seemed to govern the formal and narrative construction of films. signalled in the title of one of his most famous essays: 'The Evolution of Film Language' (Bazin. Pudovkin's (and Eisenstein's) use of the film language analogy points to a battle over the control of meaning in the context of film production and distribution/exhibition. His notion of film grammar.
isolated as the signifying unit. but stood in opposition to mechanical reproduction.. Delluc. For them. rhythm. and Louis Delluc. of the history of the drama. In this first phase. evidently very problematic. One of the most ardent defenders of 'film as art' put it bluntly: 'The motion picture art is a great high art. as an obtrusive interference with the art of the real which the cinema had made possible. rather than on the basis of the individual image as the signifying unit.. For such a double conjuncture the writings. usefully points to a connection which was to become fundamental in the contact between linguistics and film: the exploration of filmic signification by narratology and discourse theory. filmmaker and critic in France.3. p 6). originally part of vaudeville or music hall. Similar sentiments were voiced by Riccotto Canudo. while for others 'film language' included the notion of mechanical reproduction. of the practice of the drama and the history and practice of art. The people I hope to convince of this are (1) the great art museums of America. debating whether film was a temporal or a spatial art. Formalism. given that most of 5 . The concept of film grammar. While the 'realists' saw any selection or arrangement. film and linguistics was poised between approaches focused on the image. Canudo insisted on the language analogy because they sought to highlight the creative and expressive role of this interference. such as editing and montage. expressivity.language. Film as Art A persistent claim among avant-garde circles was that the cinema. those waging battle for 'film art' sought criteria which the medium shared with the other arts: plasticity. but signalled opposition to any 'spontaneous' expressivity of the filmic image. should be accorded the dignity of an art form. Balasz in particular had a life-long preoccupation with the 'language of the cinema'. 1922. or there is language. The most important texts to explore these formal affinities and differences among the arts are Balasz' Der sichtbare Mensch (1924) and Arnheim's Film as Art (originally published in 1933). It was the 'poetic' aspects of film which first drew their attention to the cinema... who was as much interested in the iconicity of the filmic image as he was in the grammar of film narrative. To complicate matters further. Lindsay.. 2. 3. The latter preoccupied Eisenstein. teaching and not least the films of Eisenstein remain exemplary. not surprisingly. whereas writers appealing to film language were often at pains to identify the cinema's specificity. (3) the critical and literary world generally' (Lindsay. in which case historical change would have to be understood as structural transformations. an early theorist of the cinema. (2) the departments of English. Structuralism and the Need for Legitimation Only with the Russian Formalists do we find a group of intellectuals and scholars who explored in detail the relations between film and language. the term film language included the 'language of nature' as revealed by still photography and moving pictures. and approaches starting from the many semantic/syntactic relations that result from joining images.
Metz discusses at length his debt to Jakobson in 'Metaphor/Metonymy or the Imaginary Referent'. 1987. is nevertheless present (Eikhenbaum. which represents defined structural portions that are actually perceivable' (Eikhenbaum. 14. 1974 and Willemen.. However.them (Boris Eikhenbaum. Jakobson's celebrated 6 .. Stylistics of the cinema would then be based upon filmic syntax. As one recent commentator has noted: 'Yuri Tynianov likened the shot to a line of verse and sought the cinematic equivalents of epithets. Eikhenbaum also developed the concept of 'internal speech'. also defined linguistically).2. the notion of language itself is far from consistent in Formalist writings (see Revuz.. and above all Roman Jakobson. In Eikhenbaum alone four distinct uses of the notion of 'language' can be identified (the conventional character of every language. found its way into film theory. did not produce much strictly linguistic analysis of narrative' (Bordwell. Those who defend cinema from the imitation of literature often forget that though the audible word is eliminated from film. 3. 1974. For Boris Eikhenbaum. Similarly.. which in turn is echoed by film semiologists. p. Marie Claire Ropars (1976) and Raymond Bellour (1990). notably Stephen Heath (1973). Yuri Tynianov. 3. 1974). it was their theoretical work not concerned with film which. the relation between stylistic norm and poetic transgression. see also Levaco.]. 1974 . especially the first and third notion. a key chapter in The Imaginary Signifier. 1981). consciously or unconsciously. despite its call for a return to the study of language as a material. This was partly because their literary criticism. the opposition between everyday language and art or poetical language. the way in which the shots were linked into 'phrases' or 'sentences'[.. but that 'film viewing is accompanied by a continual process of internal speech. since it is to some degree 'language'. while the fourth was to influence Roland Barthes in his distinction between style and écriture. similes. conventionalized metaphors or verbal cliches. ie internal speech. Victor Shklovsky) were first and foremost literary scholars. suggesting not only that combination or selection of images in films are often. metaphors and other poetic devices. p. film was to photography as poetical language was to practical language [. p. the thought. 22). To treat film as an absolutely non-verbal art is impossible.. and finally. All four kinds of language have been important in studying the cinema. one proceeds to the articulation. because of its major influence on French structuralism and on Lévi-Strauss.1. Beginning with the smallest parts which comprise the nature of the material itself. Minimal Units and the Formalists' View of Language The Formalists' reference to film as language (what they called 'cine-language') is connected with the quest for minimal units: 'Any art which is perceived in time must possess a certain articulateness. Yet the Formalists did not rigorously compare language as a system to cinema. 17). based on figures of speech.]. language as a social device of communication where the intention to communicate is crucial.. Roman Jakobson and Structuralism As to the professional linguists among the Formalists.
Associated with Etienne Souriau.pioneered a structuralist and anthropological 7 . with respect to filmic specificity. the recourse to linguistic notions was part of a cultural strategy: to help break down the division between high culture and popular or folk culture. were in the areas of narratology (Souriau). 3. and including the Russians Formalists -. The Filmology Movement in France Theoretical writings about cinema during the 1920s and 1930s in Europe -. as it had been for the Formalists. and on the other. a similar agenda took shape. narratology and film-poetics. even if Bellour's more obvious source is Metz's 'Grande syntagmatique' (see Section 5. and setting it off from the latter's reliance on Saussurean linguistics (Bordwell. phenomenology. the other Le cinéma ou l'homme imaginaire -. Finally. This newly-acquired status surfaced in the so-called 'Filmology Movement' in Paris after the Second World War. 1988). which was to have major consequences for the relationship between linguistics and film. which had to be defined in its unique essence. who in two path-breaking studies -. Partly in reaction to this merging of Formalism with Structuralism. directly engaged on a cultural front. they saw the cinema's rapport with the other arts as both a function and a limit condition. 1985. their writings tried to work out the relation between the means of expression and materiality of those means. stressing the former's importance for filmstylistics.from the filmmaking avantgarde to Balazs. rhetoric: Cohen-Seat) and in systematically describing the cinema's psychological features (Mitry) rather than clarifying a linguistic basis in the narrow sense. the 'specificity' of cinema and film. there has also been a tendency to invoke Formalist theory in film studies against Structuralism. Thompson. 1990). by developing methods of analysis which could be seen to apply to both with equal success.definition of poetic language as the projection of paradigmatic relations onto the syntagmatic axis found a confirmation in Bellour's analyses of classical Hollywood narratives and his reference to 'textual volume'. filmology was instrumental in laying the ground for a systematic and institutionally based theory of the cinema. The greatest advances therefore. on the one hand. exploring the philosophical aspects of film (epistemology. Central to this process of differentiation continued to be the affinity between cinema and literature. Instead of a set of ideas pursued by individual theorists or avant-garde groups. film theory after the war became an academic subject and took root as a discipline. to study the cinema's 'impression of reality'.3. Kracauer. below). Regarding the first. This agenda may well explain why their writings were 'rediscovered' in the 1960s. leading to a concern with method. Film remained a 'given object' (Casetti. Gilbert Cohen-Séat and Jean Mitry.are to some extent united in their need to legitimate cinema as an important cultural fact and the art form of the twentieth century. With the Russian Formalists. Arnheim.one on the star phenomenon. when thanks to the pervasive influence of structuralism in the fields of mass-cultural artefacts. The exception is Edgar Morin. Jakobson's essay on 'Categories of the Russian Verb' proved a fertile impulse for film narratology. The filmologists' main purpose did not differ radically from earlier approaches: the objective continued to be.
Metz extended. Given some of the conclusions Metz arrives at. 1990a. but on the spectator. 4. The question was once more the relation of object to method. other than by making it the field of an academic discipline. as actively passive (the psychoanalytical notion of 'regression'). partly from his intellectual style (precise to the point of pedantry in details. published as Essais sur la signification au cinéma I in 1969. In 1971 appeared Langage et Cinéma. it 8 . writers tried to define the specificity of film. the semiology of the cinema' (Odin. On closer inspection. qualified and restated them in subsequent pieces. 81). From an object of value. is at first sight a mere exercise in taxonomy. rather than recasting the issues raised in the Essais in a more rigorous linguistic terminology. this may seem paradoxical. but that his method.1. Metz not only fails to make a case for the pertinence of linguistics to the study of the cinema. Ambiguities arise partly from the timing of Metz's intervention (during the first wave of enthusiasm for linguistics in literary and cultural studies). but broke with the notion of film having to defend its cultural status. and it has been argued that. The shift away from this paradigm was to usher in a radically new interest in linguistics and cinema. a cautious and systematic book which. In each case s/he was above all an object of observation (sociological or psychological). seemingly breaking off in order to start up somewhere else. but also from the fact that his work appears to follow at least three lines of inquiry. p. and it is in this context that linguistics began to play a major role in resituating film theory. which focused neither on the object film nor its textuality. in this seminal essay at least. separate from the film and thus not implicated in the processes of signification. Having identified a crucial set of problems in his 1964 article. within its own terms cannot be called semiological (Henderson. Partly continuing this tradition (still strong in the early writings of Metz) and looking for ways of differentiating film from the other arts (as in some of the essays by Bazin). and occasionally as active (the film/dream analogy first advanced by Munsterberg). if scientifically inspired methods could be shown to be pertinent. earning him the reputation of having founded 'a new discipline. The Rediscovery of Saussure and the Linguistic Revival The film theories that emerged in France during the 1950s and 1960s owe their origin to the academic context of filmology. Metz was the first to bring to filmic signification categories derived from (Saussurean) linguistics. 4. diffident when it comes to making general claims). since in its Saussurean form it offered the most scientifically oriented body of theory available for the study of cinema. Christian Metz The starting point was the publication in 1964 of Metz's 'Le cinéma: langue ou langage' in Communications 4 (an issue also featuring Barthes' 'Eléments de sémiologie' and 'Rhetoric de l'image'.perspective. 1980). Most of the writings so far considered theorized the spectator as passive (the many studies of the 'impact' of film on different groups of spectators). along with essays by Tzvetan Todorov and Claude Bremond). film became a possible object of science.
its sentences are unlimited in number. Their editing broke the very rules theorists had claimed to be the 'grammar of cinema'. Nonetheless. raised by Eisenstein as well as by Bazin and Mitry. thus trying to overcome the opposition expressive art form/ communication system while still insisting on the possibility of the cinema being like a language: 'In the cinema. since directors like Godard and Truffaut had shown with their use of jump cuts. Metz seems to come down in favour of art. 'the imaginary signifier'. In 1977. but also raising the fundamental problem of considering cinema as language. on the level of the "sentence".. 'history/discourse'. but in a different sense. as an art form... 'metaphor/metonymy and the imaginary referent').mounts an oblique. the units of content are also merged with those of expression. Eco. Metz takes up the debate whether the cinema. Metz seizes this argument in order to turn it around: 'the film totality cannot be language if it is not already art'. Yet this formative essay. relies also on Hjelmslev's (1961 ) and Martinet's (1964 ) contributions to linguistics. It proceeds by "sentences". The difference is that the sentences of verbal languages eventually break down into words. In 1972 Essais sur la signification au cinéma II was published which consisted of material belonging (somewhat confusingly) to the period prior to Langage et cinéma. like traffic signals. as Metz's subsequent work. reply to his critics. 4. 'Le cinéma: langue ou langage' Metz's basic terms (langue/langage) indicate his allegiance to structural linguistics and the writings of Saussure (see Saussurean traditions in linguistics). hand-held shots and direct address to the camera.and' relations in Hjelmslev's terminology) and the paradigmatic ones (the system. it actually escapes the first articulation.2. like other art forms. Metz published Le signifiant imaginaire. has much to say. echoing the auteurist view of the cinema current at the time. it is possible to discern a coherent linguistic agenda across these different phases. because 'one cannot reply to someone who expresses himself'. Benveniste and Jakobson). and again bringing together a number of separate essays.. while the presiding authorities in Le signifiant imaginaire are Lacan. as in other non-linguistic systems. but like signposts. but thanks to its contribution to what he himself named the 'metapsychology of the spectator' rather than to a linguistics of cinema. but like verbal language. Metz's work fits into the theoretical preoccupations of French intellectuals between 1960 and 1980 (the early essays are influenced by Barthes. and successful. Ranging across a number of distinct topics in film theory ('the fiction film and its spectator'..or' relations). the 'or. signalled by the importance in his studies of the syntagmatic axes (the process. the 'and. can be treated as a communication system at all: a traditional issue. Hjelmslev. The cinema like language. its most distinctive feature is the introduction of psychoanalytic categories to address both questions of spectatorship and of the cinematic text.. 9 . that the cinema. Langage et cinema owes a debt to Cohen-Séat. It proved to be Metz's most accessible book. Another historical sub-text is the nouvelle vague. remakes itself by defamiliarization.. arguing that the cinema is not a system of communication.
i. For whatever one might understand by cinematographic language. signification for Saussure results from the paradigmatic and syntagmatic relations between signs. On the other hand.n.a combine to form a meaningful word. basic and specific units' (Metz. A film may be segmented into large units ("shots"). a shot of a face does not correspond to the word 'face'. Within this Saussurean framework. to a statement: the filmic image is 'always actualized'. they do not. and phonemes. 88). p. but already amounts.. After a language: . Given the arbitrary but necessary relation between signifier and signified in the verbal sign.the most obvious unit to single out for analysis -.whereas in the cinema. comparable to phonemes. Metz identified the conditions necessary for a signifying practice to qualify as 10 . the meaning of an image or a shot need not derive from its opposition to or difference from others. 86): the minimal unit of film is identical with the largest unit of linguistics. and thirdly. the cinema does not fulfil the necessary conditions of possessing a langue. but combinable into morphemes .the arbitrary nature of the sign. ie meaningful units. secondly the number of possible images is infinite. Even though an individual shot -.a finite number of morphemes generating an infinite number of utterances. where structural linguistics distinguishes between langue and parole: the former actualized in the latter. 1974 . p. in that neither the graphic nor acoustic supports of the signifier bear an intrinsic relation to the signified . The filmic shot 'is of the magnitude of the sentence' (ibid.can be broken down into discrete frames. it does not have the same organization of constituent units that make the sounds c. non-meaningful in themselves. an impossibility if there is no langue to structure it. and combination with signs from different paradigms (the syntagmatic relations). according to Metz. from their opposition to other signs in the same paradigm (the paradigmatic relations). Metz. nor does it have any units at the second level of articulation. The conclusion of 'Le cinéma: langue ou langage' would appear to put an end to any serious linguistic study of the cinema. but the latter impossible without the former. and the intelligibility of the discourse that results. the cinematic image is an analogue of that to which it refers. it is a complete unit of discourse: 'A close-up of a revolver does not mean "revolver" (a purely virtual lexical unit). which in verbal language consists of morphemes. though not in the sense used by Eisenstein or others reviewing the various logomorphic and nominalist fallacies already mentioned. 67). it signifies "Here is a revolver"' (Metz. A linguistics of the cinema would have to be at the level of parole.e.m. thus contravening the concept of language as a finite system dealing with an infinity of meaningful utterances. argued that the intuited regularities in the organization of shots. These conditions allow Metz to compare cinema with natural languages. however. but at the very least. p. thus minimizing the distance between signifier and signified. More problems are in store: firstly. it does not comprise units of articulation comparable to morphemes.double articulation. justify the term language. 1974.. but these shots are not reducible (in Jakobson's sense) into small.
Nichols was to appeal to systems theory. This contrasts with Hjelmslev's view. 1973a. What defines verbal language for Martinet is the fact that it has a double articulation linked to a phonemic realization of the linguistic forms. but it also confirmed his belief that 'it is not because the 11 . 1974a) was Metz's initial response to his discovery that the cinema constituted a langage without a langue. While Brian Henderson claimed that Barthes had insisted that there could be no linguistics of parole (Henderson. 'Metz uses Martinet not to study the material of expression of cinema but to demonstrate that cinema is not a langue. An intermediary step in his formulation was the shift from a position on language which was close to that of Martinet to one nearer to Hjelmslev's. p. a number of consequences could be drawn.in the film language tradition. published in its revised version as 'Problems of Denotation in the Fiction Film' (Metz. 107). Metz tackled the level of image ordering.3. Metz was far from giving up a properly linguistic investigation of the cinema. p. Heath asserted that 'there is nothing necessarily paradoxical in the definition of cinema as language without langue and the recourse none the less to linguistic models' (Heath. and uses Hjelmslev not to demonstrate that cinema is a language but to analyze the distinctive features of his material of expression'(ibid). p. Metz's defined cinema as a language (langage) without language-system (langue). 1980. These suggestions have never been fully explored. 4. Even more paradoxical. Taking a position between two tendencies: one which would deny the cinema any claim to the status of a language. and he calls upon the glossematique of Hjelmslev to stress the relations between codes and material of expression' (Odin. whose realization in a substance has nothing to do with its structure. Metz's 'Grande syntagmatique de la bande image' The 'Grande syntagmatique' (GS). Peter Wollen argued that Peircean semiotics instead of Saussurean linguistics would yield a better analysis of the cinema's 'signs and meaning' (Wollen. the other which would look for a grammar comparable or equal to verbal language. The GS. 93). Hjelmslev's main distinction is not between linguistic and non-linguistic languages but between semiotic structures (linguistic or otherwise) and non-semiotic structures. although they were in part taken up by the turn to pragmatics. for whom language is pure form. developed between 1965 and 1969. Once it became clear that paradigmatic relations in film could not be defined by isolating individual images. the relation between shots: combination rather than commutation would explain how film comes to be a species of discourse. 163). Gregory Bateson and Anthony Wilden. 1968). 'Metz calls upon the functionalism of André Martinet to demonstrate that cinematographic language does not bear a double articulation. 1976). ie 'expanded' communication models. in order to stress the contextbound nature of cinematic meaning (Nichols. 5. was Metz's audacious attempt to analyze exhaustively one particular example of filmic speech. 1990. Linguistics and Cinema: a first summary From this situation.
repetition. the eight articulations were all modelled on narrative film. because too inclusive) definition of the 12 . and the combination of a theoretical exposition with a practical illustration made the GS the single most influential contribution to the semiology of the cinema. the termination of an event or action.cinema is language that it can tell such fine stories. Metz in the GS still adhered to the photographic analogy. 1982. Adieu Philippine by Jacques Rozier (Metz. Even if among the different syntagmatic types making up the GS. even if their quasi-universality must not be confused with a filmic 'grammar'. the GS set out to show how the spatio-temporal ordering of shots. pp. avant-garde or other non-narrative films). but rather it has become language because it has told such fine stories' (Metz 1974a.1. but also for the small-scale and large-scale formal analysis of socalled classical Hollywood narrative film (textual analysis). after Metz had failed to find them on the level of the filmic image. Furthermore. and Metz himself has tried to define and delimit the pertinence to filmic articulation of the paradigm/syntagm/metaphor/metonymy relations (Metz. which meant that narrative appeared not as one form of image concatenation among others. Metz also applied the GS to an individual film. ranging from the autonomous shot (characterized by spatiotemporal unity) to the sequence (differentiated according to a branching structure around single shot/multiple shots//a-chronological/chronological ///simultaneous/sequential). and the realist aesthetics it implied. in this case images) rather than to a grammar. the GS showed the possibility of isolating paradigmatic relations among filmic syntagms. but was governed by fairly strict rules. the GS was not without problems. Metz groups them in a hierarchy of complexity within an overall framework. and in the fiction film especially. they attained the status of a narrative syntax. recognized first of all by Metz himself: most significantly. 1974a). 197-206). where autonomy is defined by formal features (fade in/fade out) combining into a unit of sense. which since Griffith articulated the narrative logic of a film. p 47). was not only responsible for conferring upon the so-called profilmic event meanings not contained in the analogical relations between iconic signifiers and signifieds. Difficulties and Critiques of the 'Grande syntagmatique' Although it had laid the theoretical groundwork not only for understanding the semiotic function of editing. Metz establishes eight types. alternation and other rhetorical devices were to structure filmic discourse. Secondly. Writers such as Bellour were to demonstrate to what extent parallelism. but intrinsic to all filmic signification (thus raising the question of how it was possible to understand documentary. a proposition especially problematic in Metz's (inadequate. some proved more convincing than others. that of the 'autonomous segment'. More precisely. It led him to conclude that filmic syntax conforms to the rhetorical trope of dispositio (determined ordering of undetermined elements. Within the autonomous segment. 5. marked by a change of location. Not only is the image meaningful in itself. these combinations/articulations were not infinite.
but equally contentious. starting from the cinema's lack of a language system. Engaging constructively with the unresolved difficulties of Metz's model of segmentation. were the textual analyses of Bellour. Raymond Bellour and Textual Analysis These options. his method of analyzing classical Hollywood film can be seen to have a parallel in Jakobson's famous 'closing statement'. itself the single most quoted source for the development of feminist film theory. rather than a 'grammar'. For Bellour.autonomous shot. the level of denotation (which in the GS organizes and hierarchizes the connotative levels) is supported by the presupposition of a time-space world existing independent from its filmic articulations. of discourse. was another landmark. 1979a). Bellour offered insights into the structuring of non-narrative films as well (Bellour. but also going beyond Metz and Bellour. they also offered a practical examination of its difficulties ('To Analyze/ To Segment'. Bellour had a most widereaching impact on film studies.4). on Griffith's The Lonedale Operator. Although dealing mostly with narrative films. As already hinted. paradigmatic relations manifested themselves through repetitions. the other 13 . One of the most successful methods emerging from Metz's suggestion to concentrate on the syntagmatic chain. 1975). Metz's partly negative conclusions proved paradoxically more productive than if he had been able to settle the issues. since theorists. and opening up questions of narrative and narrative grammar. 5. and a scene from Howard Hawks' The Big Sleep). 1978). As far as the image is concerned.Strauss. looking for a linguistics at the level beyond the sentence. coming to varying degrees out of the GS. and drawing also on Barthes and Lévi. it was Italian semiology which would bring new impulses. 1979b). 1975). text and system. Bellour's segmentation exercises were not only the most thorough application of the principles of the GS (see also his essays on a sequence from Hitchcock's The Birds. leading to such trenchantly polemical essays as Laura Mulvey's 'Narrative cinema and visual pleasure'(Mulvey. visual or thematic rhymes and en-abyme constructions. especially in Britain and the United States.2. led to a set of procedures for conducting close readings and textual analyses of individual films: a pedagogical tool which in the 1980s proved indispensable for introducing the subject of film studies into the humanities curriculum (once more underscoring the close affinity of film theory and literary studies). could begin to define its peculiarities by way of concepts less dependent on verbal language. Before examining these paths which had opened up from Metz's Essais sur la signification au cinéma. while the syntagmatic chain was characterized by alternation. dealing with Vincente Minnelli's Gigi: all in Bellour. of enunciation. Bellour developed a kind of 'poetics' of narrative construction. Stephen Heath's analysis of Orson Welles' Touch of Evil (Heath. making up a semiotic system which Bellour termed the 'repetition/resolution effect' (Bellour. or by giving more attention to aspects of language other than phonetics. inspired by. It is around the primacy of time-space relations and the concept of 'diegesis' that one part of cinesemiology redefined itself in the late 1980s (see Section 9.
news photography and advertising. Barthes. 'Rhetoric of the Image'. Metz's own position throughout the Essais is that the image is analogue. it was culturally determined connotations which construct the level of denotation. 'The Third Meaning'. 1970. and that the cinematic sign does not encode reality by transposing it into another system. photo-journalism. 1977) tried to analyze how images signified. indexical. being an analogue. p 18). the two terms no longer naming a binary opposition. But if this anchorage limited 'aberrant readings' (eliminating certain readings. a physical support across which the connotations could be deployed. the verbal part stood in a deliberate tension to the visual.needs to be returned to. along with the privileged place accorded to the filmic image. Barthes had already stated the paradox which was to preoccupy Metz: the photograph. Yet since this denotation was itself part of the connotation of other systems -that of 'glossy' photography. 6. Barthes concluded that especially in the context of mass communication. in three seminal essays on visual messages ('The Photographic Message'. 1976). 1961.1. yet they also programmed one impasse for this semiology: the question of the image as linguistic sign. and the verbal message anchors it'). for instance -there was a kind of 'relay' between connotation and denotation. The Linguistic Status of the Image Given the initial impetus to identify units in film which could be compared to those of verbal language. testing a number of linguistic concepts. 'message/code'.the cinematic image as isomorphic with what it represents -. among them 'connotation/denotation'. because of the contribution made here by a semiotics not exclusively based on spoken language. Roland Barthes and the Rhetoric of the Image It may have been more than chance that Metz's 1964 essay found itself sandwiched between Barthes' 'Rhétorique de l'image' and 'Eléments de sémiologie'. 1977. but denotation 14 . some were looking to the shot as the necessary basis for segmentation (Worth.2). Some writers attributed 'minimal unit'-value to the so-called photogramme (eg Pasolini: see Section 6. it did not necessarily eliminate ambiguity: often. encouraging others). grounded in the 'reality' of an object or view. 6. Analyzing an ad for Italian pasta (in 'Rhetoric of the Image'). 1964. In the earliest essay.problematic aspect of the GS -. but by duplicating it. symbolic. represented 'a message without a code'. all in Barthes. the almost exclusive focus on the visual aspect of film is understandable. situating the denoted message: 'no filmed scene whose objectivity is not finally read as the very sign of objectivity' (Barthes. Barthes found that the denotation of a photograph was no more than a kind of scaffolding. as well as Peirce's tripartite division of the sign into iconic. He contrasted the linguistic part of the photograph (an advertisement) with the image part ('the image is poly-semic. since these two essays laid out many of the key problems a semiology of the cinema had to confront. and thus establish a basic correlation between verbal language and filmic language. In the later essays he was to argue that the connoted messages (what he also called 'style') acted as the code.
and when he sees the combination of these cinemes into larger units (the shots) as corresponding to the moneme in the verbal language. When I make a film . because it already corresponds to the enoncé. Echoing 'realist' positions from the 1920s. Pier Paolo Pasolini The debate raised by 'Le cinéma . The cinemes of Pasolini are still units of the signified. pp.2.. Eco began by rejecting Pasolini's notion of language: When Pasolini considers his minimal units in the field of cinema as the real objects which fill a shot. Eco went back to the possibility of a semiotic account of the image.langue ou langage'. which the filmmaker can use 'poetically'.. it was 'coded' rather than 'motivated'. Also. 6. this larger unit. So the question is: what is the difference between the cinema and reality? Practically none. and these real objects are the minimal units of cinematographic language. as there is in literature' (Stack. For Pasolini real objects make up the shots. Umberto Eco It was at this point that Umberto Eco intervened in the debate.3. when he proposes to call these 'cinemes'. and for Barthes' attempts to derive a semiology of the image on the basis of Hjelmslev's 'connotation/denotation').becoming a special. cinemes. relying on as many as ten codes to secure its readability as a representation of a 'reality' (codes of 15 .. but a language which did not require double articulation. by virtue of the analogical nature of the image. took an interesting turn when Pasolini delivered papers on 'The Cinema of Poetry' in 1965 and on 'The Language of Reality' in 1966. there is no symbolic or conventional filter between me and reality. does not correspond to the moneme.. p 29). the question whether meaning in the cinema was produced 'diegetically' or 'poetically'. Pasolini argued that the cinema was a language. 1972. signifier. (Eco. he does not distinguish between sign. ie its impression of analogy was purely conventional. Siding with Pasolini on the question whether there can be a language without langue he criticized Metz (and by implication also Barthes) for accepting too readily the idea that the photographic image represented an analogon to the real object (which had been the basis for declaring the cinema to lack the level of langue. As Pasolini put it: 'The cinema is a language which expresses reality with reality. analogous to the phonemes. and in particular. by virtue of the shot which breaks up and decontextualizes the object or scene. But Eco also argued against Metz. Pasolini was at once deeply impressed and offended by Metz's argumentation... 1968. are not equivalent to phonemes. The phonemes are not constituted by portions of decomposed signifieds. responding to their expressivity taken from life. These minimal units. and insofar as it could be termed an iconic sign.. 6. pointing out that the photographic image was not 'rooted in the real'. signified and referent. if it was to be both creative (a 'language') and realistic. taking issue with both Metz and Pasolini. which to him seemed to condemn the cinema to 'prose' and to narrative. restricted case of connotation. the shot.. 224-25).
And so is born the metaphysics of cinema' (Eco. Taking an example from Pasolini (the photo of a teacher in front of his class). we are shocked into believing we stand before a language which restores reality to us. 48. p. rather than an instance of 'a message without a code'. 6. The many combinations possible with such triple articulation make it that much more difficult to understand the working of the different codes across iconic representation. Analogy was part of the 'impression of reality'. an ideological effect designed to efface the work of codification: 'Confronted with a conventionalization so much richer. but abandoning altogether the notion of fixed values. 1991. Eco preferred to speak of 'iconic coding' in order to signal the impossibility of any kind of 'natural'. 604). comparable to phonemes and of purely differential value and identifying smaller semic units (such as eyes.4. Barthes' attempt to escape from binarism with his connotative dimension and the positing of a 'third meaning' in some sense acknowledged Eco's insight that the reality effect of the photograph was one of over-coding rather than non-coding. figure/ground). nose. p. Eco notes that only after decoding perceptual units (angles. 1976.perception. combining with other semes (such as 'group of children') to yield the meaning 'teacher' and 'class'. and the image as part of social reality rather than a construction forever separate from it (see de Lauretis. instead of solving the problems of visual messages. Pasolini's 'heretical semiotics' have undergone a revaluation. square surface) does the picture become readable as composed of larger semes (such as 'tall blond man in a grey suit'). and hence a formalization so much subtler than anything else. Muscio. 'spontaneous' or 'essential' resemblance existing between an object and its iconic representation. of tone and line). lines. of which 'signs' are the transitional manifestations. in favour of 'coding rules'. Eco himself moved away from his triple articulation model. 1984. of transmission. More recently. Eco posits a triple articulation of iconic signs. say 'father' and 'his children'. 2942. of iconography. letting any hope of tracking down a 'master-code' of cinema recede further and further. Against Unitary Entities: Deconstructing Image and Sign Not only did Eco deconstruct the argument from analogy. the ten iconic codes of Eco and Barthes' own brilliantly systematized intuitions made matters more intractable. Thus. Bruno. Against the cinema's lack of double articulation which led to Metz's formulation 'language without language system'. 16 . as opposed to. stressing not only the 'social' conventions involved in reading signs. precisely to the degree that there has been a shift in emphasis towards the sign as always a sign for someone. showing how the idea of the image as a pertinent unit had produced a blockage for film semiology. of rhetoric. However. the photographic image is made up of too many codes to allow for the application of bi-polar models. pp. 1991). he also cast doubt on the usefulness of the notion of the iconic sign for the analysis of visual or audio-visual messages.
It is to the latter. reworking them in the light of his experience with analyzing cinema. commodities.beginning with Derrida's critique of Saussure's notion of the sign. and within semiology marks the transition from Barthes' early analyses of photographs. In a sense. for instance. Only towards the end of the 1980s. neither abandoning Saussurean linguistics outright.4). was there an attempt at a 'Chomskyan' version of the Grande syntagmatique (see Section 9. Metz proceeded. among other things. while still adhering to Saussurean precepts. instead of assuming that all symbolic systems function in the manner of verbal language. of which those of a linguistically based film analysis were only one manifestation. the championing of écriture by the later Barthes. signification as process. Beyond Saussure: Codes and Signifying Processes Eco's intervention was too radical to be taken up by film scholars. while remaining as faithful as possible not only to his initial set of problems in film theory but also to his linguistics masters. for whom his grounding of semiotics in information theory was at once too general and too technical. consumer goods. though not identical with the Saussurean langue/parole: pairs such as 'code'/'message'. food and fashion as species of language. 1981). by the Tel Quel group and Julia Kristeva. at least not at the level of the shot/sentence. The other approach was to see verbal language within the context of both verbal and non-verbal symbolic systems. nor returning to the 'Grande syntagmatique'. and holding against the notion of the signifier/signified relation that of signifier/signifier and of infinite 'semiosis'. 'system'/'text'. The third line of attack was that of the deconstructionists . Language and Cinema Metz himself took a slightly different route. adopting key concepts from Benveniste and Jakobson. this move is associated with Chomsky's 'standard theory' of transformational grammar. with Langage et cinéma. but no such quantum leap was taken in the study of the 'language of cinema' for which the notion of transformational rules did not seem to apply. whose key idea is that we need to give up the very ambition of finding a unifying. was able to jettison the straitjacket of the langue/parole division. 7. This move was also designed to replace Saussure's langue/parole dichotomy by a more flexible differentiation of levels. In response to Eco's critique of his concept of the image. to Eco's semiotics which shared neither Saussure's nor Lévi-Strauss's exclusion of the communication context. in France. that Stephen Heath's film essays and analyses showed their most direct allegiance (Heath. to explore concepts which in semiotics are cognates of. all emphasizing. His work since the 1970s can best be understood as an attempt to take on board the wider developments in semiology.1. One tendency was the development of a theory which. Language et cinéma can be read as a summing-up and as an opening-up. In linguistics. single codic principle operating in 17 .7. But it was symptomatic of the problems arising from structural linguistics generally.
images registered on celluloid emulsion are also the basis of still photography etc). in Langage et cinéma was to define.. pp.2. splitting the signifying function further open still. in the face of the heterogeneity of the message.. The notion of the plurality of codes gives prominence to the concept of the 'text'. costume.' (NowellSmith. lighting). dialogue). since one thinks of film as specific and the cinema as comprising more than films. which takes over from parole to designate the actualization of the work of the codes. its homogeneity. 7. Thus the high-key lighting of film noir takes its value not from an intrinsic equivalence between the lighting and 'its' content. p. p. Heath discusses the problems of codes. Codes/System/Text Glossing Metz. Metz identified different cinematic codes (such as framing. for example. 33-6). dialogue can be found in radio plays. codes do not conflict. Film is thus on the side of the message (and of the heterogeneous). and distinguishing them from non-cinematic codes (acting. all of which are functional. Metz differentiates between filmic fact (non-specific) and cinematic fact (specific). but also to point out that systematicity is something imposed by the 'terms of analysis' rather than inherent in the object film. psychic or economic) functions the scope of signification. If lighting. Constituted by messages from the different codes. since every film makes use of codes that also operate elsewhere (lighting is also a code of theatre. Secondly. a film is made up of many codes working together. Here Metz breaks with any essentialist view of the cinema's specificity. 1973c. texts are nonetheless singular 18 . This may be confusing. 40). even though few if any are unique to the cinema. 'is necessary to the form of expression (in Helmsljev's sense) of the cinema. but what Metz stresses is that the specific is embedded in the social practice of cinema. cinema is on the side of the specific and the homogeneous (of the code) (Metz. As such. and different forms of lighting are in coded (paradigmatic or syntagmatic) relation to each other. articulated across several codes' (Heath. 15). a spectre which haunted many of his early essays. 1976. With this. this does not mean that for every lighting effect (signifier) there is a thing meant by that effect (signified). Metz undertakes his 'most radical step in relation to linguistics. against the cinema's other (ideological. but combine with each other. a code is distinguished by its coherence. but from a process whereby an original potential for meaning (dark shadows = mysterious) becomes encoded and part of the languages of cinema' (ibid). recognizing that signification is always a process in relation to something/someone. Metz's task. 1971. It is the way the codes are 'filled' by the sub-codes that make up a particular textual system or define the style of a film-maker. system and text as follows: 'The term 'code' (in the operation code/message) is used by Metz to refer to the formal machines constructed in analysis in order to render account of a particular area (the process of) signification in a set of messages. its systematicity.films. editing. A further category are the sub-codes (eg low-angle v eye-level shots). by defining it in terms of a combination of codes. Instead. Whereas sub-codes are mutually exclusive (paradigmatic).
Psycho-Semiotics or The 'second semiology' of the cinema The inclusion of the spectator as part of the structure and meaning of a film was the most important theoretical innovation of the encounter between film and semiology in the mid-1970s. With it.objects. if it was seen either as a way of 'learning' the codes of cinema. however. giving the spectator no definite role in the process. or as a tool for textual interpretation: instead. the spectator became the producer of meaning and subjectivity.2). Whereas the first semiology had concentrated on ascribing the generation of meaning to the codes at work within the filmic text. since the film may be treated as a unique text (the realization of a singular system). Psychoanalysis. In this respect. or signifying it to anyone in particular. is not to be confused with the empirical member of an audience.was bound to encounter misunderstandings. Instance of whom the text addresses. with its close. 8. 225). Most crucially. but not vice-versa. Psycho) and feminist film theory (see Section 8. Metz thoroughly revised his own earlier 'realist' assumptions. psycho-semiotics (also known as the second semiology or 'Screen theory') concentrated on the construction of an ideologically coherent and gender-specific subject position as the necessary condition for a film's affectivity and intelligibility. the 'reality-effect' or levels of coherence and progression. This also reformulates the structuralist issue of what is preserved of a myth or narrative across different versions or media. too. provided the theoretical framework for the notion that any visual representation implies a (spectating) subject that. p 39). it necessitated an exploration of signification as an effect of the encounter between a text and its reader(s). The distinction between text and message is then a corollary of that between system and code. in the event. Marnie. and necessitated others. Film theory drew on the writings of Lacan. though unorthodox appropriation of linguistics. but it was his reliance on a perceptual structure -. analyzable in terms of 'systems'. 1973b. as redefined through structural linguistics. Every message is a text. Langage et cinéma was a work that both closes one particular line of inquiry. as well as of the text's intelligibility.that of the so-called mirror-phase -. especially that of Benveniste. The direction of such questions may explain why Metz's method --to be systematic about an unsystematic object -. prior to it signifying any reality. even though the play of codes ensures that each text or body of texts lives from deconstructing other texts. in order to explore as minutely as possible what was involved in the cinema signifying at all. while a message is a text that is not unique in manifesting a certain system (Heath. Lacan's famous dictum of the unconscious being 'structured like a language' opened the way to raising fundamental issues in film semiology. such as how the cinema creates 'diegetic worlds'. whose 'return to Freud'. p.to explain the formation of human subjectivity which made him of such importance to film theory. 19 . proved a key reference point for two major developments: close textual analysis of the kind exemplified by Bellour (notably his influential readings of Hitchcock's North By Northwest. Langage et cinéma 'concerns itself with the conditions that permit the establishment of different readings' (Nowell-Smith.
visual) representations.The Imaginary Signifier While the focus on enunciation indicated a deepening of the relation between linguistics and cinema (film as a discourse for someone). relying on analogies with the mirror. cover the gap between story and discourse. on the visual level. 1969) focused on the concept of fetishism. Heath. it also led film theory increasingly to approach its central problematic (representation as signification and the reality-effect as a subject-effect) via concepts such as voyeurism and scoptophilia. responsible for the formation of an ego forever misrecognizing itself in its (linguistic. were it not for Metz himself who. While in Lacan it represents an unbridgeable blockage imposed by the unconscious to any unitary relation between the subject and its symbolizations. the Freudian dream screen. 20 . Secondly. Metz's most influential interpreter and critic. based as it is. Subject-positioning also introduced the Freudian notion of fantasy. 1972. although he did not inaugurate them. and on the enunciative level. or renaissance perspectival projection in painting -all of them tying the viewing subject to visual pleasure and specular fascination by means of optical technologies that give the illusion of reality. 'Screen theory' dominated the discussions for most of the 1980s. 1977/78 . as a structure of belief (and its corollary. Cinema and Psychoanalysis . An influential and much-commented 'reading' of a film along these lines was Cahiers du Cinéma's collective analysis of John Ford's Young Mr Lincoln (Screen. on the spectator being 'stitched' into the filmic discourse through filmic devices such as the shot-reverse-shot or off screen space that elide. which in the formulations taken from the writings of the psychoanalyst Mannoni (Mannoni.1. the same structure serves Althusser to posit that the individual is 'interpellated' by ideology. Stephen Heath.What emerged was the paradoxical centrality of the subject (or of 'subject-positioning') for the question of signification. and mechanisms of exclusion gave it the illusion of being a fixed and stable entity. 1976. offered a brilliant synthesis of all these theoretical moves and convergences. along with his emphasis on énonciation/ énoncé. disavowal). 1973). and Brewster. These latter considerations feature prominently in Louis Althusser's version of Lacan's redefinition of the Saussurean bar separating signifier and signified. 8. which ensured that in the Anglo-American field. were to become crucial to the second film semiotics. and his distinction histoire/discours. that which is absent. in a series of essays published in the British journal Screen. according to this account. the social tissue of texts addressed to the subject. the materialization of a lack. a subject seen as radically decentered in relation to forces over which it had no control: only miscognition. Dayan. at least vigorously contributed to their circulation. These concepts and analogies seem to have less to do with linguistics and would not concern us here. while tightly organized to 'place' the eye/I at the center of the representational space. 1981) to explain the spectator's identification with the flow of images on the screen. Aspects of this account of subjectivity in language were already present in the linguistic theories of Benveniste. repression. This in turn led to the theory of 'suture' (Oudart.
On the other hand. 1986).. 'Metaphor/Metonymy' remains one of the most persuasive demonstrations of the relevance of linguistics for film theory. comparing and contrasting them with the Freudian notions of 'condensation/displacement'. p. and incidentally revising his earlier statement that 'everything is present in film. is complemented by an optico-psychic account (le dispositif) of the cinematic experience. according to his most perceptive feminist reader. The section entitled 'Metaphor/Metonymy or the Imaginary Referent' is devoted to a detailed analysis of the Jakobsonian concepts metaphor/metonymy. One part of The Imaginary Signifier in particular proved exemplary for confronting linguistics with psychoanalysis.From the mid-1970s onwards. such as personal pronouns and shifters. who himself brought together work by Jean Louis Comolli on film technology and renaissance perspective with Althusser's model of ideological interpellation. nor finally. While its technicality makes it the least accessible part of the book. emphasizing the structural analogies with Lacan's infant before the mirror. 69). on psychoanalysis. can be seen to be of relevance to filmic processes controlling spectatorial subjectivity. In the tradition of Metz's purely linguistic texts collected in Essais sémiotiques. Metz seems to have turned to psychoanalysis. a blind spot of Metz's other writings. Helped by Lacan's reading of Freud's fort/da game. while relating both to his own linguistic interest in 'paradigmatic/syntagnmatic' relations. taking in narratological categories... More directly drawing on Lacan and the mirror-phase is Metz's discussion of what he calls the metapsychology of the spectator. I must perceive the photographed object as absent. In the chapter 'Story/Discourse: A Note on Two Kinds of Voyeurism' Metz reads Benveniste as offering important insights into filmic enunciation. while also providing an account of the cinema's unique affectivity. 'Metaphor/Metonymy' can even be seen to offer an understanding of the relevance of gender to signification. The clarification of present by absent units occurs much less than in verbal language' (Metz. Freud's notion of 'dream work' and Benveniste's opposition histoire/discours play important roles in Cinema and Psychoanalysis: The Imaginary Signifier). and the presence of this absence as signifying' (Metz. detailing how linguistically constructed marks of subjectivity. the Lacanian concept of lack finds its echo in Metz's discussion of absence as a condition of filmic signification: a return to Saussure and Hjelmslev. its photograph as present. Rose (Rose. Here. It is also the most systematic attempt to cast the problem of filmic signification and the viewer's participation in constructing the film's meaning in a form that relies neither on a narrowly conceived analogy with natural language. but opens the way for a model that joins linguistic categories to classical rhetoric's concern with figuration and tropes. Metz argues that 'in order to understand the film (at all). nor on optical and specular analogies. 1974. an argument about the opticoideological construction of the cinematic apparatus (the camera. p 57) making substitution at the level of the image a central feature of filmic intelligibility. an 21 . the section is a rigorously technical analysis of these concepts' theoretical status. the projector. 1982. the spectator before the screen) by Jean Louis Baudry. though not exclusively with Lacan as his source.
ellipsis in the classical cinema's construction of enigma and resolution. narrative.issue already taken up in Penley's commentary (Penley. culminating in a summing up of this period of intense theoretical reflections. at least in the United States (see under Mulvey. which revolve around spectatorship and the construction of subjectivity. and the way in which representation and signification can be understood as being 'gendered' which had the most wide-ranging consequences for film theory. Feminist Film Semiotics However. semiotic and narrative codes put in play by the film. 1981).2. Kuntzel's essays are remarkable for going beyond voyeurism and the opticopsychic captivation by the image (Kuntzel. 8. inspiring. in which Freud's dream work (condensation. displacement. Rose. critique and restatement of Metz's work was written by Stephen Heath. ostensibly devoted to a close reading of Orson Welles' Touch of Evil.3. representability) and the tropes of rhetoric are deployed to demonstrate the complex interpenetration of visual motifs. Heath's essays represent the most fully worked out theory of the ideological and psychoanalytic subject: defined. reasserting but also challenging their conception of the formal properties and ideological functions of the classical Hollywood feature film. 1975. his concepts of the imaginary and the symbolic. but also the function of dominant cinema as social and institutional practice. yet at the 22 . if only by re-reading and constantly displacing Lacan's premises. is Heath's extended dialogue with Metz. Doane. Central to the latter is the question of sexual difference as exemplified in classical Hollywood cinema and the workings of the cinematic apparatus in relation to the psychic dispositif. positioned and 'held' by the formal. 8. semantics. It signalled the high-point of the polemical. Silverman). the massive 'Film and System: Terms of Analysis' which. 1972 and 1975) in explaining spectatorial involvement. de Lauretis. p. Heath's essays developed into a thorough engagement with the linguistic. so that 'the postulation of the plurality of codes' opens the film 'to its insertion in the totality of social signifying practices' (Heath. it was Lacan's account of the mirror phase as the founding structure of human subjectivity. Originally intended to introduce Metz to an English speaking audience. interventionist role of linguistically inspired film theory in the construction of a new object of study and of a new academic discipline. Kuntzel's two-part 'Le travail du film'. Stephen Heath The most comprehensive application. an entirely new branch of film studies: feminist film theory. figuration. Metz's chapters also provided the inspiration for a widely-read study of the openings of feature films. For Heath the implication of film not being a fixed language system was that mere exercises in segmentation were formalist unless they could show the filmic system to be the effect of a structuration process rather than the articulation of a structure. Bellour and feminist film theory. 118). psychoanalytic and Marxist assumptions of French film theory. Penley.
Greimas inspired the first tentative formulations of a filmic text grammar. is not wholly endorsed by Heath. the spectator is conceived as playing an even more active and decisive role in the attribution of meaning to the text. a group of European theorists have championed what they call 'semio-pragmatics'. namely that Hollywood's patriarchal texts produce a fixed masculine subject-position. theories of narration. in order to assure filmic pleasure and ideological coherence. and Anglo-American developments in linguistics on the other. In the United States. if Benveniste stands behind work on filmic enunciation in relation to narrative. as an alternative to the problematic transfer of Benveniste's categories histoire/discours to film. Penley 1989. the film as system does not simply place the spectator. or assign a specific role. Analysis of cinematic subjectivity is given a new rigor by a revitalization of the term 'point of view' (Branigan 1984). Narratology. Modleski 1988. which explored the idea of deep-structures. However. Russian formalist distinctions between fabula and syuzet are revived (Bordwell 1985). or by seeking to apply transformational rules. Instead. discursive as well as unconscious structures. spectator and film system depend on each other. while in the choice of the 23 . Narrative as a fundamental issue in filmic signification was already implied in both the 'Grande syntagmatique' and in the 'deconstructivist' critiques of Saussure. with their emphasis on the oedipal trajectory of the central protagonist and on the enunciative strategies of the classical feature film. Text Grammar. They thus build bridges between psychoanalytically inspired accounts of textuality and spectatorship. Other approaches started from a more literary orientation. as a kind of compromise between the Saussurean traditions on the one hand. in response to and as a critique of psycho-semiotics. 9. who prepares the ground for many of the revisions since offered of Mulvey's account of the Hollywood's cinema's modes of address and spectatorial subject positions (see Doane 1987. focus on how meaning is constructed at a level distinct from both the text and reception context. One of the key tenets of feminist film theory.same time. or Bellour's textual analyses. involving cognitive. Its main proponents. also. notably based Genette. and also Rodowick 1991). Finally. each ultimately engaging with the other at the point of maximum instability and tension. reader-response theory and discourse analysis. Roger Odin and Francesco Casetti. cognitivism and semio-pragmatics all take up in important ways the questions first posed by Metz. generative grammar. Semio-Pragmatics It is important to point out that psycho-semiotics and theories of subject-positioning were not the only methodological tools for understanding the function of the spectator in the signifying process. either by assuming a kind of narrative 'logic'. one finds a number of original contributions in the area of narration and spectator/text relationships. Narrative analysis. In so-called 'neo-formalist' theory. This level constitutes a kind of 'preferred reading'. not to mention the pluri-codic model proposed in Language et cinéma.
The narrative structures. Text Grammar and Filmic Competence One of the corollaries of trying to understand narratives within a logical or grammatical 24 . Bellour.term 'pragmatics' they signal their adherence to a basically linguistic perspective. Narratology stands in the tradition of structuralist analysis of narrative which in the 1960s. The Logic(s) of Narrative In France. Kaufman. Kuntzel and Heath had a less lasting effect than they did in Britain or the United States. Nor did feminist film theory find much support. for instance).. Todorov. but also from the debates over context-sensitive or context-free theories of the sign. It was the limiting and partly misguided analogies between cinema as a semiotic system and a linguistics based on phonology which made film theorists look to narratology. discourse analysis and text grammar. Cixous. If the danger of moving from phonology to syntax and semantics was the phantom search for a universal narrative grammar. Genette. being logically prior to their manifestation. Irigary. who coined the term). Greimas himself has given the most eloquent defence of the uses of narratology for the understanding of the formal organization of complex semiotic systems: 'First of all it was important that the narrative structures could be found elsewhere than in the signifying manifestations occurring in natural languages: in film language. The possibility that narratives might help in the search for formalized meaning systems in general was already implicit in Barthes 'Structural Analysis of Narratives'. must make use of linguistic units which are greater than utterances (énoncés) in order to be able to find a place' (Greimas 1970. Although its origins can be traced to one strand of structuralism (Brémond. despite the fact that so many feminist (literary) theorists worked in France: Kristeva. see also linguistic and structural theories of narrative). paradoxically. but also a thorough awareness of the function of the reader. as well as in the analysis of other cultural texts. narratology emerged out of the impasse created by too close an adherence to Saussurean differential accounts of signification. 9. owing to the influence of Lévi-Strauss. had proved to be a powerfully reductionist tool in the debate between avant-garde and popular literature. dream language. . p. 9. focused on the issue whether narratives preserved their meaning across the media and were independent from the recipients' situation. the influence of literary narratology was substantial. 159).1.2. the advantages of looking to narratology were not only a set of often very sophisticated formal analyses of literary texts (Genette's work on Proust. disciplines which had already tried to find units of pertinence that went beyond the sentence.. as had been claimed by Lévi-Strauss for myths. painting. By contrast. the psycho-semiotics of the cinema as theorized by Metz in Le signifiant imaginaire and practiced in the form of meta-psychology or textual analysis by Baudry. where it seemed to him that 'beneath the diversity of narratives there was a grammar of narratives and the laws governing their selection and combination to produce meaning could be found' (Barthes 1977.
9. In the cinema marks of enunciation are more like enunciative 25 .model is to develop categories that not only get beyond the blockage produced by the notion of the sign.4). certain spatial features (left/right. Following along these lines. following Benveniste and Genette. the articulation of time and space is crucial for understanding film's particular narrative logic. Lagny. The effects one wants to explain are on the one hand effects of the surface. tense. but back to the work of Greimas and Genette. Mention must also be made of the work of André Gaudreault who has studied the emergence of a particular logic of time and space in early cinema by means of categories derived from Greimas and Genette (Gaudreault 1988). Such a process might begin by looking again at the different categories of the verb (especially aspect. The object is not the film. if we assume that Saussurean linguistics concentrated on the surface structure. To read spatio-temporal relations correctly belongs to a logical competence. While the consequences of these moves are only beginning to be explored (see Section 9.on the part of the viewer which is brought into play. This may help to understand how films establish (and spectators recognize and accept) a 'total world'. As far as the text/reader relationship is concerned.3. what could be the rules or constraints that tell a viewer how to read a shot or sequence. such as a text's 'coherence' and 'progression'. depart from linguistics towards categories borrowed from cognitive theory. and by extension.and its relation to linguistic competence -. a diegetic coherence. which film shares with language. Typical is a study of French cinema (Ropars. Marie 1986) and an essay on film and still photography (Wollen 1989). fetishism. movements of the camera) not simply as punctuation marks or syntactic features. for instance. next to/opposite. film theory might return to specifically linguistic/pragmatic categories or indeed. Although such a procedure involves examination of specific texts. exploring what in film corresponds to literary perspectivism. incomplete and even conflicting information and data. Narration and Point of View Narratology. even if certain markers of coherence are missing. strictly linguistic terms such as grammatical/ungrammatical are perhaps less helpful than a term such as 'intelligibility' or 'readability' that is. but also to define what might be a text's deep structure. from very partial. made it its task to identify the marks of discours in narratives. On the other hand. a new character entering the frame. moving away from the specular and dramatic categories of identification. there are a number of theorists who have taken Metz's work on metaphor/metonymy not in the (Anglo-American) direction of psychoanalysis. Here. mood) in relation to film narrative (see Crawford 1978. or certain norms are being violated. but the totality of rules underpinning its understanding. but also take in the abstract categories (the Greimasian 'logic' of discourse or narrative) by which a spectator reads. one is looking for elements within film that point to the way the text is organized to allow the spectator to 'make sense'. voyeurism towards a semantics of temporality. but semantically. it is not strictly speaking a textual analysis. 'focalization' and the complex modalities of action and tense. Wollen 1989). the kind of competence -.
and this is his point of view' (see Jost 1988). embedded patterns. Returning to Le cinema: langue ou langage from a cognitive perspective. or point to the presence of something not shown. object. Branigan argues that the different approaches to structure have all led to devising grammars. goal. pointing to an underlying 'event scenario' in which participants. instrument. object and mind. énonciation/énoncé (and its psycho-semiotic elaborations). His own contribution is the 'slot and filler' model which 'seeks to represent not only significant parts. Bresson). and based on the slot and filler approach. The relation between a frame. Recently. experiencer. A hand-held camera shot might signify 'cheap production' or 'authenticity' or 'we are about to see someone running. and Branigan's own Point of View in the Cinema was based on a role table (or case frame) with six slots: origin. aspect and mood (and move beyond the word/sentence opposition). allowing one to allocate to specific filmic devices certain roles. versions of a slot and filler approach have been used to model human thought. Instead. frame. Godard. counteragent. perceptions and properties of objects are related. result. pp. A slot and filler approach is more closely aimed at understanding language as a social phenomenon rather than strictly as a matter of competence. and art. the general representation of knowledge in memory. i. and applicable to both classical Hollywood films. Branigan. some kind of approximation to reality.uses (or contexts) of which the viewer is either aware or not. became the basis for renewed interest in narration and also of authorship and spectatorial competence (the author as an effect of narration. we would have a case grammar.. its enoncé may connote a certain style. Agreeing that the project to prove the cinema's semiotic and discursive nature must be able to specify tense. has become entrenched in too rigid an opposition between mimetic and diegetic theories of narration. criticizing Metz for not being able to account for the linguistic feature of negation. The most influential study in this tradition has been Narration and the Fiction Film (Bordwell 1985) which explicitly repudiates the distinction histoire/discours. and a typology of narration. extensively discussed by Branigan.e. ranging from 'restricted' to 'communicative' narration. A sequence of shots would form a unitary structure. but narration as the product of the spectator). Greimas had used case grammar for literary narratives. out of breath. its slots and the fillers would avoid the problems of 'denotation'. rather than functioning as a mark of enunciation.. and such processes as attention and expectation' (Branigan 1988. in a paper entitled 'Here is a Picture of No Revolver'. reference is conceived 26 . If a stylistic feature 'draws attention to itself'. In the United States.or avant-garde cinema (Eisenstein. vision. the question of point of view. time. but also the functions. source. or roles that elements have in the structure. in favor of the Russian formalist distinction 'fabula/syuzet'. starts from Metz's example of the image of a revolver constituting already a sentence like 'here is a revolver'. and even specify what might happen when certain slots are left empty (ie if in a given segment not all the shots are present in this sequence). and the sequence in which these elements are perceived. actions. 12-3). Branigan reviews the debate which according to him. proposing a set of roles or cases: agent.
Colin's main contribution is his study of certain logical schemas which govern the disposition of filmic space. not of cinema. in order to produce knowledge. Slot and filler models thus go beyond the opposition denotation/connotation. arguing that Metz had conflated the semantic and syntactic level (regulating. explored the points of contact between Metzian semiology and transformational generative grammar. a generative semiology can only be a semiology of film. for instance. syntagm/paradigm to represent signification as a dynamic process. respectively. 'causality' or the 'time/space continuum'. rather than seeking direct 27 . such as the rules of rewriting. by referring himself to Chomsky. The discursive source or authority would be just one slot or role. This model is more encompassing than those based on the sentence.as the relationship that pertains in a function between its variables and specific values. as developed by Petöfi. for which he has recourse also to cognitive psychology (Colin 1985 and 1989). for whom the fact suffices that generative grammar can. he has given a reformulation of Metz's Grande Syntagmatique. analogy and generalization such central terms for film analysis as 'diegesis' without having to invoke either 'realism'. Colin. Metz's ambiguity on this point largely explains the difficulties with the notions of sequence and syntagm in the GS. 9. 'generative and transformational grammar does not start from a "living totality" (a set of actual produced utterances) but from simple abstractions of generative and transformational grammar rules. of deep structure and surface structure. account for some features of filmic construction not touched by other models. The largely negative results of 'applying' linguistic categories directly to film do not worry Colin. according to Colin. For Colin. A certain number of linguistic concepts may therefore be appropriate to the study of both filmic discourse and verbal discourse.4. To this extent. By referring himself to concepts such as the 'semantics of possible worlds' Colin is able to redefine in terms of inference. More specifically. and other features noted by theorists such as Bordwell. 162). had presupposed perhaps too unproblematically. Wunderlich. [Regarding the cinema] it will have to account for syntactic mechanisms and processes of enunciation necessary for the production of a filmic discourse' (Colin 1985. ie of the concrete object and textual system. Colin insisted on distinguishing as sharply as possible. p. For Colin it is a matter of identifying what in a given film belongs to the linguistic and the cognitive domain. the existence of a stable diegetic world. Towards Semio-Pragmatics Other researches in this area are preoccupied by the question of specific codes and nonspecific codes. rather than the theoretical object constructed by film analysis (this distinction was fundamental to Metz in Language et cinéma). Furthermore. between segmentation and syntagm (one having to do with 'independence' and physical discreteness. the other with categorization and hierarchization). a position which reflects the influence of Greimas. sometimes left open to produce invisible observation. Halliday. effaced narration. for instance. while still pointing to a stable underlying structure. the articulations of space and time) and secondly. of transformation.
Another aspect rarely discussed is that of 'failed communication'. turned out to be merely the effects of certain kinds of combinations of sounds and images. Watching or making a film are not only aspects of a discourse. finally. For instance. like Metz and Colin trained in linguistics. Odin. not in the traditional sense of interpersonal exchange. so that his 'film linguistic sets out to argue that the construction of meaning in film makes use of the same processes (process of transformation) as does natural language' (Polan 1989. but as abstract 'forces' constructed by theory). While showing the extent to which logical and grammatical rules are necessary for 'making the filmic message accessible and acceptable' (Bächler 1989). made these norms apparent. for Odin. Jost 1979). One of the few theorists to have analyzed non-fictional films. p. in the first place. 1983. Taking the films of Robbe-Grillet as an example. he distinguishes different areas. Central to the semio-pragmatic theories of Odin and Casetti is the institutional dimension of the filmic discourse. his work points beyond analyzing cinema towards other audio-visual texts. Colin wanted to redefine the structure of a sentence without giving priority to notions of subject and predicate (which as Colin argued. Using the notion of 'actant' (derived from Greimas). his approach to film was. but also how they are not understood. and by that very transgression. monstration. 'Semio-pragmatics proposes to study cinema as the realization and the reading of film as programmed social practices. prominent in the psychoanalytical approach (via theories of the cinematic apparatus and the alignment of the ideological subject with the psychic 'dispositif') but absent from narratological models inspired by literary texts. In the case of the feature film. after Metz. semio-pragmatics sees the filmic communication act as defined by a producer-actant and a spectator-actant (neither seen in terms of individuals. mise en phase (a notion which could be translated as 'setting up') and. such as television. the aim being that 'the application of generative grammar to the analysis of film must help to solve the problem of the relationships between linguistic competence and filmic performance' (ibid).equivalents. within a single theoretical perspective. familial (as in home movies). but as mediated by institutions. the most genuinely linguistic. incorporating work in linguistics not previously taken up. Odin accords pride of place to the notion of communication. This clarifies what might be an 'ungrammatical' film. narrativization. the resulting effect (called 'communication in fiction') is based on a limited set of operations. these are seven in number: figurativization. belief. fictivisation. including the creation of a diegetically coherent narration. by analogy to the 'grammatically correct' nonsense sentence in linguistics (Chateau. institutional facts' (Odin. diegetization. Chateau and Jost analyzed a certain textual practice which transgressed implicit norms. Semiologists not only need to understand how movies are understood. advertising. experimental. such as pedagogical. p. documentary communication.68). were 'still too caught up in idealist conceptions of action'). Although Colin's theoretical writings are not easy to come to grips with. 172). Syntactic features. they are. is one of the few narratologists currently working who has based 28 .
given its wide reception elsewhere. as communicative act. The film thus signals the presence of that to which it addresses itself. On the other hand. and as narrative. it is in search of a body serving it as support. 23). but with linguistic procedures allowed film theory to clarify key problems of film as signifying practice.. too literal a translation or application. these are pertinent questions for anyone concerned with the relationship between linguistics and film. an instance implied by the very activity of the film (hence his preference for the concept of enunciation over that of narration. this neglect --pending a more thorough demonstration of its uses -. from which it undertakes a trajectory' (Odin 1988. assigning it a position.his semio-pragmatics on explicitly Greimasian premises. where the aspects of 'deixis' (Jakobson's 'shifters') are viewed as a central problem for the filmic discourse (Metz 1991). 10. both of whom regard the pair enunciation/enunciated as needlessly idealist). Why Eco's work. a semio-pragmatic approach is necessary to deal with the problems of enunciation (Casetti 1986). drawing an analogy not with verbal language. 'The spectator of Casetti is an interface: insofar as s/he is manifested by traces of the enunciated. s/he belongs to the internal textual structures which regulate its construction and functioning. insofar as the spectator is the 'you' turned to the outside. There was a growing unease. taken up by film-scholars at the same time as it was abandoned by mainstream linguistics. insists that every communicative act assigns roles. His close rereading of Benveniste and the concept of 'discours' have prompted Metz to a reply. because too restrictive for the complex (verbal-visualauditory-kinetic) signifying processes of cinema. Bordwell once asked: 'Why is the employment of linguistic concepts a necessary condition in analyzing filmic narration? Is linguistics presumed to offer a way of subsuming film under a general theory of signification? Or does linguistics offer methods of inquiry which we can adopt? Or is linguistics simply a storehouse of localized and suggestive analogies to cinematic processes?' (Bordwell 1985. However. p. but was logical in inspiration. Casetti. as used by Branigan or Bordwell. as textual system. Hence the move to semiology. already apparent in the 1960s. Casetti sees the spectator as a purely symbolic structure. 'level' (notions crucial to many forms of linguistics). Conclusion Expressing his dissatisfaction with the way linguistics has been used in film theory. The fact that the semiology used was structuralist and linguistic in inspiration has to some extent eclipsed the potential for film studies of the semiology founded by Peirce or that practiced by Eco. on the phonological and even grammatical aspect of language. . has not had 29 . Leaving aside the polemical intent. For linguistics is certainly not the only theoretical approach to film and cinematic processes. about using those areas of linguistics which concentrated on the verbal. on the other hand. p. 138).may have been justified. For Casetti. since Peircian semiology not only lacked the dimensions of 'structure'. The present review has hopefully demonstrated how linguistics could be said to have had a double-edged influence on film theory whenever there was too great a proximity..
signifies. the most productive and energizing source for a reflection on the fundamentals of film and cinema. communicates a reality (assumed to be pre-given). by insisting on the conventional. and interpreted as the construction of male subjectivity (with the exclusion/occultation of female subjectivity). the iconic. not organized according to the spatio-temporal articulations governing everyday life and yet 'readable'. narratology. expert systems. With the ascendancy of Saussurean linguistics in the humanities. But it is difficult to deny that it was. not only has a history almost as long as the cinema itself. the problem of filmic signification fell prey to the opposite extreme to that of realism. but that it is a history around legitimate questions. one can detect a shift away from models based on natural languages. one might agree that the imperialism of linguistics over film studies in the past two decades was not a necessary condition for its development either in constructing an object of study or as an academic discipline. cognitive theory. however. the field has sacrificed the unity of a particular project in favor of a greater differentiation and precision of its partial aspects. the linguistic and the auditory work together according to certain yet to be defined processes. What needed to be shown was that the question of signification in the cinema. communication-oriented or pragmatic. and thus the relation of film and language/film and meaning.more impact in film theory is a question alluded to by de Lauretis (de Lauretis 1984). pragmatics all continuing the language analogy and its linguistic formulations without. in order to account for the cinema's capacity to generate virtual worlds. the struggle to define an object of knowledge and establish a method appropriate to this object has remained a constant. As in linguistics itself. tacit knowledge systems and different kinds of 'competence' as ways of further elaborating the peculiar status of filmic communication. with case grammar. Thomas Elsaesser and Emile Poppe Amsterdam and Nijmegen. This may simply be the view from our present historical perspective: it is not difficult to see in current work the possibility of a new interventionist agenda pointing to the importance of breaking not only with the realist paradigm. Since the feminist intervention. venturing beyond the confines of academic specialisation into the realm of cultural politics. 1991 30 . and a greater concern with artificial languages. 'intelligible' and engaging with the spectators' competence and interests. and if language constructs reality. If the different paradigms reflect the intellectual preoccupations of the day. where the narrative. In reaction to such a 'logical' theory of meaning. Thus. Successive approaches first had to prize the question of signification away from the 'cinema as an art form' argument. 'reconstructs'. be they logical. namely the proposition that 'if cinema is like language. but also with the subjectivist one. despite and because of the inherent problems. psycho-semiotics opened up the question of the filmic text's mode of address and implied spectator. itself redefined in terms of the constitution of human subjectivity. rule-bound aspects of how the cinema expresses. then cinema does not represent reality but constructs it'. before having to confront the realist paradigm.
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