David Bordwell's website on cinema   click for CV




On the History of Film Style pdf online

Reinventing Hollywood: How 1940s Filmmakers Changed Movie Storytelling

Film Art: An Introduction

Christopher Nolan: A Labyrinth of Linkages pdf online

Pandora’s Digital Box: Films, Files, and the Future of Movies pdf online

Planet Hong Kong, second edition pdf online

The Way Hollywood Tells It pdf online

Poetics of Cinema pdf online

Figures Traced In Light

Ozu and the Poetics of Cinema pdf online

Exporting Entertainment: America in the World Film Market 1907–1934 pdf online


Hou Hsiao-hsien: A new video lecture!

CinemaScope: The Modern Miracle You See Without Glasses

How Motion Pictures Became the Movies

Constructive editing in Pickpocket: A video essay


Lessons with Bazin: Six Paths to a Poetics

A Celestial Cinémathèque? or, Film Archives and Me: A Semi-Personal History

Shklovsky and His “Monument to a Scientific Error”

Murder Culture: Adventures in 1940s Suspense

The Viewer’s Share: Models of Mind in Explaining Film

Common Sense + Film Theory = Common-Sense Film Theory?

Mad Detective: Doubling Down

The Classical Hollywood Cinema Twenty-Five Years Along

Nordisk and the Tableau Aesthetic

William Cameron Menzies: One Forceful, Impressive Idea

Another Shaw Production: Anamorphic Adventures in Hong Kong

Paolo Gioli’s Vertical Cinema

(Re)Discovering Charles Dekeukeleire

Doing Film History

The Hook: Scene Transitions in Classical Cinema

Anatomy of the Action Picture

Hearing Voices

Preface, Croatian edition, On the History of Film Style

Slavoj Žižek: Say Anything

Film and the Historical Return

Studying Cinema


Book Reports

Observations on film art

Archive for the 'FILM ART (the book)' Category

Frisky at forty: FILM ART, 12th edition

DB here:

The first edition of Film Art: An Introduction rolled into an unsuspecting world in 1979. Its butterscotch jacket enclosed 339 pages of text and black-and-white illustrations. It was, I think, the first film studies textbook to use frame enlargements instead of production stills. It was definitely the first to argue for a systematic aesthetic of cinema integrating principles of form (narrative/nonnarrative) with style (techniques of the medium). Our goal, of course, was to enhance the readers’ appreciation of the range and power of film as an art form.

Not that there wasn’t a lot of room for improvement. Across three publishers–Addison-Wesley, then Knopf, and finally McGraw-Hill–the book has gained subtlety, precision, bulk, and color images. It now has a suite of online supplements in the form of aids for teachers and video clips for student reference, and the website you’re now visiting. Then there’s our streaming series on the Criterion Channel.

The core of our efforts remain the ideas and information we explore in the text. That material, happy to say, has found support among teachers, scholars, and writers of other textbooks. Through their suggestions and criticisms, we’ve had four decades to refine what Kristin and I initially set out, and on the eleventh edition Jeff Smith joined us to make things even better.

What’s new about this twelfth edition? Of course, we’ve updated it. We incorporate examples from Get Out, Son of Saul, mother!, Moonlight, Guardians of the Galaxy, Tiny Furniture, Inside Man, Wonderstruck, Dunkirk, Fences, Manchester by the Sea, Baby Driver, The Big Sick, Hell or High Water, Hostiles, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, The Blind Side, Opéra Mouffe, My Life as a Zucchini, Kubo and the Two Strings, Lady Bird, Birdman, The Lost World: Jurassic Park, Tangerine, A Ghost Story, Snowpiercer, The Grand Budapest Hotel, and other recent titles.

One of the biggest changes involves the addition of an analysis of social and political ideology in Ali: Fear Eats the Soul. This detailed look at Fassbinder’s melodrama of prejudice replaces our study of masculinity and violence in Raging Bull. That earlier piece will be posted for free access on this site, joining analyses from earlier editions on this page.

The most evident difference, signaled on the cover you see above, is a new case study of how a film gets made.


Production: The hows and whys

The book’s opening chapter,”Film as Art: Creativity, Technology, and Business,” matters a lot to us. We try to provide concrete, systematically organized information about how people work with technology and within institutions to implement the techniques we’ll survey in later chapters. At the same time, our discussion of production, distribution, and exhibition tries to show how filmmaking institutions shape creative choices about form and style. Perhaps because we try to make those choices down-to-earth, we’ve been pleased to find that Film Art is used in film production courses.

For several editions, Michael Mann’s Collateral served us well as a model of how decision-making in the production process shaped the final film. We thought, however, it was time to refresh that chapter, and La La Land provided us rich opportunities. We had already written blog entries (here and here) about aspects of the film, but we wanted learn more about how it had been created.

Made by a director not much older than our students, La La Land was perfect for a book that tries to be both up-to-date and sensitive to film history. From the burst of ensemble energy in the opening traffic jam to the parallel-reality ballet at the end, Damien Chazelle’s film was both contemporary and classical, what Kristin calls “a modern, old-fashioned musical.” We thought it would help students see that a young filmmaker can draw on tradition while staying firmly in our moment.

The film’s production decisions were well-documented, so we were able to trace four areas of creative choice. By considering the film’s mise-en-scene, camerawork, editing, and sound, we could set up the major stylistic categories to come in later chapters. For example, Jeff could point out unique features of Justin Hurwitz’s score.

We were lucky to get guidance from Damien himself. He reviewed our analysis, and then went far beyond the call of duty. He came to Madison to talk with our students (chronicled here). He sat for interviews with the Criterion Channel on Jean Rouch and Maurice Pialat. He did three Q & A’s. He even took snapshots with his fans.

And Damien energetically helped us secure rights to the cover image, a process that all writers of film books approach with fear and trembling. In short, he proved a total mensch. The fact that he had already read our work when we first contacted him encouraged us in the belief that we might be helping young filmmakers find their way.


Film Art wherever you go

Film Art is now available in a variety of formats and prices. The print edition is now a looseleaf, unbound one. Bound copies still circulate for rental. Students may also rent or buy the e-book edition, which comes packaged as a digital resource called Connect. It’s possible to merge some of these alternatives. The various options for getting the book are charted here.

The Connect package includes teaching aids for the instructor (self-tests, quizzes) and access to thirty-six film extracts, courtesy of the Criterion and Janus companies. There are also four fine videos on production practice by our colleague Erik Gunneson.

As I discussed at exhausting length when I previewed our new edition of Film History: An Introduction, the variety of formats for the book reflects not only changes in technology and the publishing market but also changes in consumer preferences.

However it’s accessed, Film Art: An Introduction still makes us happy. We’ve tried our hardest to help readers understand a bit more about the techniques and effects of cinema. As we point out in the book, thanks to smartphones everybody is a filmmaker now. We think that students’ hands-on experience prepares them for our efforts to understand the creative choices filmmakers have faced from the very beginning.

Thanks as ever to the staff at McGraw-Hill: our editor Sarah Remington and the team consisting of Danielle Clement, Sue Culbertson, Maryellen Curley, Joni Fraser, Ann Marie Jannett, and Elizabeth Murphy. Thanks as well to Kaitlin Fyfe and Erik Gunneson here at the Department of Communication Arts, UW–Madison. And of course thanks to Peter Becker, Kim Hendrickson, and their colleagues at Criterion.

Instructors who want to learn more about this edition can find a McGraw-Hill representative here.

Jeff Smith, who wrote the analysis of Ali: Fear Eats the Soul for our book, also provided an incisive discussion of staging in the film for our series on the Criterion Channel.

There’s a fuller account of how we came to write Film Art in our announcement of the previous edition.

Video supplement: Shifting the Axis of Action in Shaun of the Dead.

The Criterion Channel: The best news for film culture you will hear today (and probably all year)

DB here:

The Criterion Channel is up and streaming in the US and Canada as of today. You can browse the offerings here. Some basic questions are answered here. For help activating your account, try here.

Using Apple TV, I found it very easy to get access. I was immediately and flawlessly playing The Big Heat, Taipei Story, La Pointe Courte, and Le Amiche, that unjustly ignored Antonioni masterpiece.

For background and news on forthcoming options, check out this interview with Peter Becker. For those who miss the Hollywood side of FilmStruck, the Channel will be streaming studio-era classics as well as silent, foreign-language, and independent titles.

And all the extra features from FilmStruck–Adventures in Moviegoing, Ten Minutes or Less, Split Screen, Short + Feature, plus the supplements and interviews and bonus felicities you’ve come to expect from Criterion–will continue and accumulate in an archive. The menu includes our Observations on Film Art series, re-launching this month with me talking about flashbacks in Lydia. (It was up briefly in the waning days of FilmStruck. There’s a blog entry about it too.)

At some point, a vast array items from the Criterion/Janus library will be accessible as well. That’s the iceberg underneath the surface. How many films? Wait and see, and be astonished.

This is truly a momentous event in our film culture. We want to thank the Criterion team, all of them devoted film lovers, for working so hard to make this ever-expanding treasure-house available.

Under our Criterion Channel category, you can find all the blog entries devoted to our installments there, including those from the FilmStruck days.

Is there a blog in this class? 2017

La La Land blog image

Kristin here–
As each fall semester looms, we provide you with a rundown of entries on our blog that might be useful to teachers and students. They also can be handy for other readers who want to check whether they have missed some entries that might interest them.

We started this blog nearly eleven years ago partly with the idea of providing supplementary material that might be of use to teachers who assign our Film Art: An Introduction textbook. But we don’t make any attempt to tie our entries to the textbook. Each year, however, we naturally deal with film techniques, formal strategies, stylistic choices, norms and transformations of them, and genre conventions, and some of these could be useful in teaching or preparing lectures for specific chapters of Film Art.

We haven’t listed every post, but you can find more by using the very efficient search engine or the many categories listed on the right-hand side. You can also see previous entries in this series here: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016.


 Multiple chapters

DUNKIRK Part 1: Straight to the good stuff” and “DUNKIRK Part 2: The art film as event movie.” These two entries discuss aspects of Christopher Nolan’s film. The first talks about Dunkirk’s minimal exposition, which would be relevant to Chapter 3 (Narrative Form), and the color scheme, which would relate to chapters 4 and 5, on Mise-en-Scene and Cinematography. The second part deals with its genre, as a mixture of the war film and thriller (Chapter 9); it also looks at the film’s temporal scrambling, which relates to Chapters 3 and 6 (Editing).


Chapter 3  Narrative Form

Replay it again, Clint: Sully and the simulations” considers some ways of creating complex story-plot relationships, particularly through flashbacks that replayt events. It concentrates on recent Clint Eastwood films and especially Sully.

In “ARRIVAL: When is now?” David looks at that rare phenomenon, the flashforward. He concentrates on Denis Villeneuve’s science-fiction film and its challenges to the viewer.

We have a sneaking suspicion that many teachers will be teaching La La Land. It would work as an accompaniment to several of our chapters in Film Art (narrative, sound, genre, etc.). We’ve blogged about it three times this year. In “How LA LA LAND is made,” we analyze the narrative structure and how the songs fit into it (as well as following the classic template of the Broadway musical).

Fantasy, flashbacks, and what-ifs: 2016 pays off the past” offers a study of depth of narration, particularly in films where our knowledge of the action is largely restricted to that of a single character’s. In some cases there is presentation of the character’s subjective thoughts and memories. Lots of recent films furnish examples.

Anybody but Griffith.” This post also deals with staging, but specifically with a type of staging, often quite elaborate, that was used largely in the period from 1908 to 1920. It depended on sustained takes rather than editing and on the actors’ precise gestures and shiftings of position. David has written quite a lot about it as the “tableau” style. Useful for advanced students or if you’re teaching or studying silent cinema.


Chapter 4  The Shot: Mise-en-scene

“My girl Friday, and his, and yours” is about His Girl Friday. The first section examines the historical sources of the title phrase, while the second part deals at some length with subtleties of staging, both in depth and across the frame.


Chapter 5  The Shot: Cinematography

QP 2 test

Wisconsin Film Festival: Sometimes a camera movement …” offers a close study of a single long-take 360-degree panning movement in Terence Davies’ A Quiet Passion.


Chapter 6  The Relation of Shot to Shot: Editing

Action and essence: Kurosawa’s SANSHIRO SUGATA on the Criterion Channel” examines the “axial cut.” It’s an editing technique that cuts closer and closer to (or, rarely, further away from) its subject straight along the axis of the lens, without a change of angle. It may sound obscure, but it’s actually commoner than you might think. Even The Simpsons uses it occasionally.

Wisconsin Film Festival: Cutting to the chase, and away from it” examines crosscutting in some recent films.

Camera connections: RED on FilmStruck: A guest post by Jeff Smith” looks at cinematographic style in Krszystof Kieslowski’s Three Colors: Red.


Chapter 7  Sound in the Cinema

Spies face the music: Jeff Smith on FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT” analyzes how the musical score of Hitchcock’s film fits into the film’s narrative progression.

Oscar’s Siren song 3: a guest post by Jeff Smith” examines the wide variety of approaches used in the musical scores of the 2016 Oscar nominees for best score.


Chapter 8  Summary: Style and Film Form

Going inside by staying outside: L’AVVENTURA on the Criterion Channel” examines stylistic changes in Michelangelo Antonioni’s films, particularly relating to staging.


Chapter 9  Film Genres

LA LA LAND: singin’ in the sun” has three guest experts on musicals discussing the conventions and innovations of La La Land.

For those who teach film noir (and quite a few of you do) might want to look at “Film noir, a hundred years ago.” It gives numerous examples of “film noir” lighting in films of the 1910s. This could also be used for low-key lighting in Chapter 4.

Thrill me!” discusses the recent prevalence of the thriller movie, even among art-cinema directors.

MONSIEUR VERDOUX: lethal lothario” treats Chaplin’s film as belonging to the serial-killer genre.


Chapter 12  Historical Changes in Film Art: Conventions and Choices, Tradition and Trends

Murnau before NOSFERATU” could be useful in teaching the silent-German section of this chapter or if you show any early Murnau film. There’s nothing on Expressionism but quite a few examples from major German films of the late 1910s and early 1920s, primarily the restored Der Gang in der Nacht (1921).

The ten best films of … 1926” is the latest in our annual attempt to call attention to the classics of the silent era, both famous and obscure. This year’s list covers several countries’ films, including Japan for the first time.



If you supervise dissertations or are writing a book yourself, you might be interested in seeing how David went about researching his forthcoming book, Reinventing Hollywood. Complete with exciting photos of boxes of file folders. See his “Oof! Out!

Every now and then we post a wrap-up of recent DVDs and Blu-rays. “Silents nights: Stocking-stuffers for those long winter evenings, the sequel” concentrates on two releases, one a beautiful restoration of a well-known classic and one a rediscovery of a Native-American feature.

OBSERVATIONS goes all FILMSTRUCK.” For those of you using the rich foreign and indie offerings of streaming service FilmStruck for teaching, class preparation, or personal pleasure, we have an introduction to our contribution to the supplements thereon. Our series of introductions to films, “Observations on Film Art” is, as its name suggests, a sort of extension of this blog. We do close analysis of a specific topic in one or two films, complete with more clips than we could possibly use in our entries here.

Finally, if readers, teachers, and students are curious about how Film Art came to be written, that comes up in our SCMS interview with Charlie Keil, linked in this blog entry.





DB here:

In light of the cataclysm that struck on election day, to return to talking of films can seem frivolous. We’ve delayed posting this blog because we, like millions of other people, are seized with a dread as to what may come for our friends, our neighbors, our country and the world.

At least for the moment, though, we can’t stop living other aspects of our lives. Judging by the attention our entries continue to get in these days, we think that we should keep trying to provide ideas and information about film. Art is important too.


Thunderstruck by FilmStruck

You probably know that Turner Classic Movies has partnered with the Criterion Collection to create a streaming service called FilmStruck. There’s a comprehensive overview of the service on Variety, and Peter Becker has an invigorating introduction on the Criterion site.

The library includes many hundreds of films, mostly foreign imports and independent features and shorts. Many of the titles come from US non-studio distributors, but a vast number are from the Criterion library. Many will be titles not available on DVD.

It’s an all-you-can eat subscription service. For $6.99 per month you can get a basic membership in FilmStruck, and that will provide hundreds of titles, including many Criterion ones. For an extra $4, you can add on the Criterion Channel, with a huge additional selection (about 500 titles at any moment). There’s an annual rate covering both for $99. You can sign up for a 14-day free trial here.

Both wings of Filmstruck include the sort of bonus materials found on DVDs: background information, archival footage, talking heads, and video essays. The Criterion titles include voice-over commentary you can play while watching. I’m especially excited by the prospect of having the filmmakers’ commentaries from out-of-print laserdisc editions (e.g., Boogie Nights). And the FilmStruck site is already hosting, for free, a rich array of blog entries by experts (Pablo Kjolseth, Kimberly Lindbergs et al.) offering perspectives on the library titles.

The films can stand singly, but they’re also gathered into groups by theme, director, nation, or whatever.


The Criterion Collection is richly curated too, with new groupings and titles highlighted every day. There are even Friday night double features, and new releases constantly refreshing the pool. And there are special events, like an evening at Manhattan’s wonderful Metrograph theatre.


This double feature is introduced by Michael Sragow on the regular Criterion website, so the synergy is tight.

In addition, there are new introductions and appreciative discussions of films. For example, our friend Sean Axmaker has some coming up. And there are continuing series with film-struck partisans.


At present, FilmStruck can be streamed on any computer or laptop, Amazon Fire, recent generations of iPad, and other devices. But not on your iPhone, pleeze. Roku and Chromecast access are coming early next year.


In short, this is a treasure house for fans of classic foreign and American films. Some older Hollywood studio films are available (e.g., Brute Force from Criterion), but I bet more of the TCM library studio will migrate to the service. I’m itching for those beautiful Warner Archive items.


FilmStruck and us (and you, we hope)

We are honored and happy to be involved with FilmStruck. Under the blog rubric, “Observations on Film Art,” Kristin and I and Jeff Smith, our collaborator on Film Art have launched a series for the Criterion Channel. We offer short appreciations of particular films and filmmakers.

There’s a video introduction to the three of us…


… including some potentially embarrassing vintage images.


Here’s our first entry, featuring Jeff Smith.



Coming up are Kristin on Kiarostami, and me on L’Avventura and Sanshiro Sugata. We hope to post about one per month.

Our discussions are analytical, focusing on particular techniques of style and narrative. They don’t contain crucial spoilers, so most can be watched before the film as well as after.

Of course we’re tremendously excited to get our ideas out there in a new platform. We conceive the series as like our blog—applying our research into film form, style, and history to films in a user-friendly way. We hope that we’ll find an audience among cinephiles as well as among more casual viewers who simply want to get more out of the films they see.

As the installments go online, we hope to post blog entries that flesh them out. Jeff will soon be posting an entry that supplements his Foreign Correspondent analysis.

My email address is still visible on every page of this site, so if you have responses to the FilmStruck versions of “Observations on Film Art,” we’d welcome hearing them. We look forward to working with our colleagues at Criterion—Peter Becker, Kim Hendrickson, Grant Delin, Tara Young, Penelope Bartlett, and all their associates. This ought to be plenty fun.

Thanks to Mary Huelsbeck and Amy Sloper of the Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research for letting us prowl the premises for our introductory video.

At Stream on Demand, Sean Axmaker reviews the FilmStruck project.

P.S. 15 November: Peter Becker talks with Scott Macaulay of Filmmaker about the ambitions of the Criterion Channel, with many details about films and filmmakers to be showcased.


David Bordwell
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