Most helpful critical review
Really a history of how the search for the E=MC2 of the cinema went to naught.
on July 22, 2015
Prof. Metz was all the rage among the new field of cinema studies, trying to find its core percepts in the 1970s. This book was required reading for aspiring cinema Ph.D.s and "semiotics" the area de jure of several newer fields of popular entertainment studies. The book seeks to elucidate the underlying basic meaningful units of the way the cinema means; that is, to find and exemplify the cinema equivalents of basic units in language. It was riding the highest on the early guess that the cinema must be like language. Despite the considerable effort, Metz did not discover these minimal meaningful units of cinema, and thus this book is one rather large "proof of a negative" either on purpose or by the way it comes out.
The book moves a long way to proving that the cinema has no discoverable unified field theory on the "linguistic level." That effort by many cinema scholars during that hot decade came to the same negative. Sadly, it analyzes a film that was generally unavailable then and now.*
Today in 2015, this book is much more of an important piece of the history of the process of seeking a unified theory of the cinema because it shows how much effort went into looking for the E=MC2 of the cinema and how little came of the search. Cinema studies moved on to gender studies, simple psychoanalyzing of films, and to continue the genre approach, the latter showing itself as the most useful analytic tool (which handily dovetailed with a good historiographical method for the understanding of the cinema).
*Several careers in cinema scholarship during that decade were built on a close analysis of films that no one could find to see.