FILM DECONSTRUCTED: Noobs' Guide to Film Analysis

...the introduction...

Monica Vitti: Auditoire loves Monica in L'Avventura (1960) because she is one of the best looking gal Auditoire has ever seen in whole of film history.

A few days ago I was asked intently by a fellow dormmate on why am I so interested in films. I evaded the question because i know it would take a million years to answer and for the purpose of opening a conversation, he went on asking me: "How do you analyze a film? I mean, given that i don't hold any degree in film, or worst, I am not even a film buff, how can i analyze a film without reading a film book?" I was dumbfounded, I don't know what to say. I know all of you might be thinking of the same question and you might be aware that there is a great void between film scholarship and mass audience, between a film critic and the man on the streets, a film theorist and his students. As part of the local film culture, i want to fill this gap by doing a little project entitled FILM DECONSTRUCTED: NOOBS' GUIDE TO FILM ANALYSIS.


Sabzian's dilemma: the imagined versus reality in Close-Up (1990)

You might be reading this perhaps because you want to crunch down or finish a film paper for a deadline or perhaps you have dreams of becoming a film critic and you don't have the money to go to a film school to learn all the stuff there is about filmmaking, film theory , film history and film aesthetics.

Or probably, you are just like me, a blogger who likes to watch good old movies, who wants to find a niche in the filmblogosphere for a film blog.

Or maybe you are a young filmmaker by heart but cannot afford the tuition fee for a film school, and you want to learn the basics of film aesthetics: cinematography, editing, staging, sound, and other stuff.

Film Deconstructed offers a guide for beginners on constructing film analysis. By presenting the very basics of film criticism, each of you will learn how to write about, discuss and analyze films like a pro. As part of my venture on offering free online film education to the critical and non-critical audiences and for those who are curious enough to ask: why film? Film Deconstructed will layout some of what I have learned in my three-year self-study on the discourse of film. I've read so much content from the film blogosphere, in an out of the day and NO ONE! have posted or blogged about a NOOB'S Guide to FILM ANALYSIS. For the first time ever, the discourse on film will be lay down in its simplest form from the very basic concepts to the most complex, so let's get started by answering some questions.


1 | Why analyze a film?

We analyze FILMS to break THE GLASSY ARMOUR!

Kristin Thompson once said in her book, Breaking the Glass Armour, that "when a film challenges us it warrants analysis." This is true. But what composes this challenge? We are normally challenge pretty much because the film has a disjointed narrative, unconventional characters, unflinchingly and deceptively beautiful visuals, or a hard-to-digest non-chronological order of story.

Films like Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind (2003) and Nolan's Inception (2010) are complex films themselves. But they require less analytical power compared to more complicated films like Godard's recent feature, Film Socialisme (2010) and Tarkovsky's The Mirror (1975). On the other hand we have films like Freddy Got Fingered (2001) and The Hottie and the Nottie (2008) which are incredibly easy to digest but are still challenging films for a critic in terms of generating a rather shrewd and intelligent analysis amidst their notoriety for being obnoxiously banal and unintelligent.

Sometimes, people analyze a film because they want to get out of that high art-low art complex wherein we judge the films via taste biases and prejudices and position. Some people do analyze films because they need it for school while others do it as a hobby because they find it enjoyable. Some find it a method to be a more active, responsible cinemagoer, by offering feedback about films. Some do it for a socio-political and artistic cause as in saving a national cinema from being inactive and repetitive, while others do it to elevate the discourse on film. Some people analyze films because they are paid to do so. For the rest, their objectives are a mixture of all of these: hobby, job, academic, socio-political, artistic etc. The point is every purpose involves some sort of analysis of film/s in any means possible.

Film Deconstructed accommodates each one of these motivations, providing the simplest route to becoming good, responsible cinema writers whose responsibility is to contribute to the film discourse and help in the study and preservation of our own national cinemas, and to generate the most original thought about a movie for everyone's dispense.

2 | What do we analyze in a film?

The Insatiable Kiss from L'Avventura (1960)

We analyze films in terms of many aspects: aesthetics, production, reception, distribution, regulation, politics, history, psychology, philosophy and economy around it. Film Deconstructed will start from the easiest aspect, aesthetics, and will climb to the top slowly with increasing level of generality and complexity.

Film aesthetics
is about the form of the film. Aesthetics is composed of four core idea: cinematography, mise-en-scene, editing, and sound. All analysis are grounded by aesthetics mainly because it tackles about the film text itself. Understanding the form is easy for those who know the grammar of film, but for those who do not know anything about it, they will find it hard and complicated.

Another aspect is Film Production. Production is about the step-by-step piecing together of a film which is composed of three major phases describing the status of film project: pre-production (where ideas are pieced together and a plan is made), shooting or production (where idea is filmed and the plan is executed), and post-production (where the film is polished and prepared for public or private viewing).

Reception is about how people react to films psychologically, physically, emotionally and the totality of its experience. It is concern with the transmission of the filmic information from the work of art to the viewers mind. This requires a bit of inputs from psychology and a whole lot of linguistics which we will cover shortly.

Distribution is about how the film is presented in mass public: is it through cinemas, DVDs, over the net? Questions like what type of distribution is used in the film and what is the response of the population to it in economic, social and political aspects.

Regulation is about how the film, as a form of expression, is regulated in terms of its content. It somehow touches the legal and ethical side of the film reception and distribution which deals about morality, philosophy and social impact surrounding the film.

Each of these will be discussed in Film Deconstructed intensely but with a sheer focus on the most basic: film aesthetics.

2 | Who analyze a film?

Breathless: Did you know that this film is one of the films during the 1960s which broke the ice in film history because of its unconventional style in editing?

Everyone can analyze a film, even 5th graders can comment about Wall-E (2009) as four-year-olds can comment on Peter Pan (1953), but only some can generate the best analysis: they are called film critics and film theorists. They used higher level of analysis, tools that can give the best picture out of a film possible and relate it with multiple stuffs: politics, aesthetics, morality, religion. Most of them follow the rules of rhetoric and writing, and mostly, their output is in written or spoken form. For some who are bit radical on academic writing, they went for alternative form of analysis. The intent is the same: talk about a film; the delivery, however, is different: painting, poetry, drawing, a song, another film, a photo-review without words, a look on the wardrobe the characters wore

There are multiple other ways to analyze a film, but there is only one purpose for everyone: to talk about what the film is worth for. Right here in Auditoire, everyone will be accommodated according to their own motivations, each one is encourage to form their own conceptual track of their own. However, since my motivation for bringing up Film Deconstructed is to offer free online film education to the critical and non-critical audiences and for those who are curious enough to ask: why film?, the track that we are going to take is to create the best of film criticism in you using the most basic tools available in the web.

4 | How do we analyze films?

Criminal Love Letters: Francois Ozon wouldn't mind would he?

There are many ways to analyze a film (see above subsections). We can approach a film in multiple ways, using different strategies of rhetoric and exposition. But one of the most basic things that we have to keep in mind before we start the analysis is formulating a 'hypothesis'. This can be done by: one, problematizing the elements of the film as in asking "What is Orapronobis (1989) worth for?", two, relating the film with other films as in "What is the relationship between Wall-E (2009) and Princess Mononoke (1997)?", or three, relating the film to other related fields as in "What is the socio-historical significance of Jean-Luc Godard's Breathless (1960)?" After that you can start doing some research, some memory dig-up to make a method of how to tackle the film. After constructing a flow of attack, you can start writing your piece of criticism. The level of research can vary from easy research to tedious research depending on the scope and topic you are discussing. One can avoid the hassle by limiting the research to the film itself and talk more about its aesthetics. In that way, you only need the tools of aesthetics to make a review or a criticism.

III. Enjoy!

Mambo: now or never!

Writing about film is as enjoyable as sipping a cup of tea in the morning. It enables yours senses like never before. It's like cocaine with a twist if you know what i mean. You're eyes will sharpen and your ears will deepen and definitely your sense of taste will change after years of engaging in films. Once you love cinema, you can never go back!