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Film Form: Essays in Film Theory Paperback – March 19, 1969


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Amazon.com Review

After D.W. Griffith, the most important figure in the history of the international cinema is Sergei Eisenstein. Both men died in 1948, but Eisenstein left a double legacy: not only was he one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, but he was also a magnificent film theorist, perhaps the most important one ever. This book of his essays, superbly translated and edited by Jay Leyda, reprints some of his most vital writings on the art of the cinema, including articles on the language and structure of the movies, the differences between theater and film, and the author's efforts to adapt Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy for the screen. In "The Cinematic Principle and the Ideogram," Eisenstein analyzes the written symbols of the Japanese language as a model for film editing. "Dickens, Griffith, and the Film Today," one of the author's most famous pieces, speaks of Griffith as a Dickensian director and then argues for a kind of filmmaking that transcends Griffith's literal style in order to touch its audience on an ideological and metaphorical level. This volume also includes the notorious "statement" on sound movies, which argues against the use of synchronous sound and in favor of jarring, contrapuntal audio that Eisenstein believed would add new dimensions to the talking picture. Idiosyncratic, engrossing, and brilliant, Eisenstein's essays will inspire you to reevaluate everything you thought you knew about the movies.

Review

After D.W. Griffith, the most important figure in the history of the international cinema is Sergei Eisenstein. Both men died in 1948, but Eisenstein left a double legacy: not only was he one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, but he was also a magnificent film theorist, perhaps the most important one ever. This book of his essays, superbly translated and edited by Jay Leyda, reprints some of his most vital writings on the art of the cinema, including articles on the language and structure of the movies, the differences between theater and film, and the author's efforts to adapt Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy for the screen. In "The Cinematic Principle and the Ideogram," Eisenstein analyzes the written symbols of the Japanese language as a model for film editing. "Dickens, Griffith, and the Film Today," one of the author's most famous pieces, speaks of Griffith as a Dickensian director and then argues for a kind of filmmaking that transcends Griffith's literal style in order to touch its audience on an ideological and metaphorical level. This volume also includes the notorious "statement" on sound movies, which argues against the use of synchronous sound and in favor of jarring, contrapuntal audio that Eisenstein believed would add new dimensions to the talking picture. Idiosyncratic, engrossing, and brilliant, Eisenstein's essays will inspire you to reevaluate everything you thought you knew about the movies. (Amazon.com Review ) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Harvest Book
  • Paperback: 279 pages
  • Publisher: Harcourt; Edition Unstated edition (March 19, 1969)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0156309203
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156309202
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #157,779 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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16 of 23 people found the following review helpful By "vampyroboy" on July 9, 2002
Format: Paperback
As many of the early film theorists, Eisenstein has a tendency to propose as universals the principles of a specific school. The Soviet school of montage, whose heyday was in the late 20s, finds its most brilliant auteur here expounding not only upon its philosophy of cinema, but on ways in which this philosophy is in fitting with Marxism, the Hegelian dialectic and science. As such, it is a brilliant manifesto, a seminal work of greater value than any of those by Kuleshov, Pudovkin, Vertov, Dovzhenko or other montagists.
Nonetheless, it is problematic in several ways, and an understanding of the nature of its idiosyncrasies is extremely valuable. First, in an effort to "prove" his hypotheses, Eisenstein often attempts to reconcile film and physics in ways that are inappropriate and pseudo-scientific. He presents himself, in that sense, as both Eisenstein and amateur Einstein. Further, case studies are often chosen from his own work, in effect limiting the reader's freedom to disagree with his conclusions. Finally, the manner in which he expresses his thoughts is beyond elliptical. At times, it appears that one would have had to have been living in Russia at the time that these essays were written and to have been thinking about the same issues that Eisenstein was to comprehend what he is getting at. [On the other hand, for those who have had the joy of reading Wittgenstein, for example, this should be a good book to take to the beach.]
As indicated above, these problems can be explained. Communists have always had a complex relationship with the Social Darwinists. On one hand, Marxism was born out of progressive, evolutionary thinking; on the other hand, Marxists dismiss the idea of "survival of the fittest" as primitive and untenable.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Kuassivi Mensah on April 9, 2006
Format: Paperback
This is not a how to for wannabe movie directors, the essays revolve around the cinematic medium and its creation, and not so much on its content. Not unlike McLuhan, Eisenstein proposes to understand cinema as an extension of our senses ( hence, his following book, Film Sense ), and retraces the evolution from theather to cinema to sound cinema with a focus on Japanese influence ( Kabuki ) and a revolutionary ( for its time ) approach to montage. Cryptic at times, but a goldmine of insights into the nature of the silver screen.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By John Mervin on October 31, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is an excelent book that go's into sergei's concept of what a movie is.
the only reason its not five stars is that its not really an easy read, its actually quite dificult to understand.
i would have to read a page 2 or 3 times until I understood what he was trying to communicate. often having a dictionary opened beside me. its quite advanced.

but nonetheless its still worth it if your willing to use your little gray cells.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By anne kontni on November 21, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
excellent
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