The Theory and the Sociology of Film

By Waller, Gregory A. | Literature/Film Quarterly, Winter 1978 | Go to article overview

The Theory and the Sociology of Film


Waller, Gregory A., Literature/Film Quarterly


Andrew Tudor. Theories of Film. New York: The Viking Press, 1974. 168 pp. $3.25.

Andrew Tudor. Image and Influence: Studies in the Sociology of Film. London: George Allen & Unwin, Ltd., 1974. 260 pp.

Andrew Tudor's examination of Eisenstein, Grierson, Kracauer, Bazin, the "politique des auteurs," and genre criticism, and his much briefer discussion of structuralism and semiology in Theories of Film are governed by his assumption that: "The ultimate justification for looking at works of the past must surely be in terms of future utilities- in the widest sense of that much misused term. Anything else trips dangerously close to scholasticism" (p. 153). And since Tudor believes that "models of film language must be a first priority" in future "theorizing" (p. 164), his primary purpose seems twofold: first, to suggest the need for "models of film" ("theories which are aimed principally at scientific comprehension of film," p. 15) by locating the radical contradictions and deficiencies in what he calls "aesthetics of film," that is, theories such as Grierson's, Kracauer's , and Bazin's which aim at "principally making value judgments" (p. 15); and second, to determine the "future utilities," if any, of various methodologies- auteur and genre criticism, structuralism and semiology. These two investigations ultimately yield the same conclusion, for the critical methods, like the unsatisfactory "aesthetics of film," underline the need for "models of film." Finally, Theories of Film should be read not as a critical guide to select film theories, but as an argumentative preface to some future formulation, more precisely, to the theory Tudor himself expounds in his more recent book. Image and Influence.

In the history of film theory, Eisenstein represents, for Tudor, "great beginnings" towards the "scientific comprehension of film" (p. 25). And Tudor's desire to rescue Eisenstein from his "standard image" as the "archpriest of montage" (p. 17) is admirable. Unfortunately the discussion in Theories of Film resembles more an aerial photograph than a comprehensive overview of Eisenstein's "creative but heterodox Marxist aesthetic" (p. 26). Of the "four main trends" in Eisenstein's thought, Tudor is "particularly concerned" with only two: Eisenstein's "approach to the 'language' of film through the concept of montage" and his " ideas about what sort of cinema this language should be used to create" (p. 27). Further, Tudor devotes most attention to language and montage. Although he suggests some of the complexity in Eisenstein's many discussions of montage, he concentrates primarily and offers his soundest analysis on the important 1929 essay, "Methods of Montage" Film Form, pp. 72-83), in which Eisenstein formulates a five-part classification of montage (metric, rhythmic, tonal, overtonal, and intellectual).

Yet gaps are apparent, even when Tudor discusses montage, which is clearly for him the most important and salvageable "trend" in Eisenstein's theory. For example, "vertical montage," subject of the last three sections of The Film Sense, receives at best minimal attention; and Eisenstein's concern with "conflicts within the shot," another primary source of montage Film Form, p. 38f, p. 54, etc.), is not considered. Thus while Tudor's analysis of the finale of 77?e Wild Bunch does, in his words, "illustrate some uses of Eisenstein's work" (p. 51), still the great Soviet theorist seems shortchanged. One only has to consider the "uses" of Eisenstein in Noel Burch's Theory of Film Practice, or compare Tudor's analysis with the forty page analysis of Alexander Nevsky in The Film Sense to see both the much greater complexities of montage for Eisenstein and the potentially much broader practical "uses of Eisenstein's work."

Along with the discussion of Grierson's "purposive cinema" and some very perceptive (if brief) comments about the problems involved in applying structuralist methodology to film, Tudor's chapter on Eisenstein is the highpoint of Theories of Film.

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