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Closely Watched Films: An Introduction to the Art of Narrative Film Technique First Edition Edition

5.0 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0520238916
ISBN-10: 0520238915
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Why exactly was Citizen Kane such a revolutionary film? What are the hallmarks of Italian Neorealism? How do directors sew together a smooth scene from five or six different shots? Fabe answers these questions and more in this primer on the narrative structure of filmmaking, which analyzes 14 benchmark movies from D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation to Mike Figgis’s Timecode. (Since each film was selected to represent a significant cinematic movement—expressionism, postmodernism, French New Wave, etc.—the book also doubles as a concise history of film’s most innovative storytellers.) Fabe teaches film theory at the University of California, Berkeley, and her chapters maintain the conversational feel of lecture notes: each one gives some background on and a plot synopsis of the film discussed then provides a close analysis of a particular sequence. Antonio Ricci’s decision to steal in De Sica’s The Bicycle Thief, for example, is broken down to show how moral conflict can be encapsulated in a split second. Fabe’s analysis proves most engaging when it shows how each cinematic element works to add subtext and depth to story and character. Her explication of Hitchcock’s camera work in Notorious, for example, shows how his use of space in a frame could evoke either freedom or claustrophobia. Fabe’s book is best suited for the classroom, but even general readers may enjoy her insights, which allow one to read a chapter, pop in the corresponding DVD and experience the satisfaction of knowing how a classic film was put together. 74 b/w photos.
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Review

"Writing in a clear prose that is nevertheless based on a complex awareness of film history, criticism, and technique, Fabe takes us through the diverse film strategies of exemplary classic directors who have significantly shaped the history of film and made it into a potent cultural force." - Claire Kahane, author of Passions of the Voice; "I am deeply impressed by this book and in awe of its scope. It imparts its wisdom about film with such seeming effortlessness, illuminating the ways that films work. It is an extremely informed book and an extraordinary achievement." - Madelon Sprengnether, author of Crying at the Movies; "Fabe approaches her material in an original and stimulating manner. The writing is fluid and down to earth, yet also addresses relevant issues." - Tim Shively, De Anza College; "In Closely Watched Films revered film teacher Marilyn Fabe brings to life on the page the many lessons proffered in her legendary courses." - Linda Williams, University of California, Berkeley"
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 297 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; First Edition edition (August 2, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520238915
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520238916
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #943,113 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By G. Dix on August 7, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Whether you are a teacher looking for an exciting way to interest you students in why certain stories have such an impact on us, or merely a movie goer who wants to broaden his knowledge of film genres and, discover, as the author says, "the vast possibilities of the film medium," you'll be fascinated by this book. Book groups can also read a chapter for every meeting, watch the film and enjoy great discussions that the book stimulates.

Marilyn Fabe, an experienced teacher of film at the Universitiy of California, Berkeley, has picked wonderfully captivating, classic films that represent each genre. She explains the genre, the director's personal passion that drove him to make this film and the historical context of the each film. But then, in part because each film she has chosen helped move film making forward in some important way or represents new techniques, she takes us on a closer, scene by scene tour of key parts of each film. The combination of breadth and specificty help raise intriguing questions about how filmmakers and story tellers work their magic on us.

For teachers this book is an entire course in a box. All you have to do is show these great films, have students read the book and your class will have fascinating issues to discuss. For book groups who want to watch these films together after they've read each chapter, this book will provoke great discussions.

But this book also takes ordinary filmgoers on an enlightening tour through the scope and history of film making, not in some abstract purely theoretical way, but by examing each wonderful film closely. The fun is you get to watch the films and snoop behind the scenes to catch a glimpse of how these great films get you so worked up.
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Format: Paperback
I have read numerous books on film history and theory, but none more readible and accessible than this. What makes Closely Watched Films special, however, is its reliance throughout on the close analysis of single film sequences to illustrate and test the validity of historical points and theoretical assertions. Visual and aural details go by fast when you are watching a film. We are barely conscious of much that we see and hear. But, as Fabe demonstrates, in great films, much of the power comes from the scarcely noticed details, the result of countless artistic decisions, that nonetheless effect us as we sit in the dark. "Close analysis," she writes, "unlocks the secrets of how film images, combined with sound, can have such a profound effect on our minds and emotions." So, the author says, let's slow things down -- thank goodness for the remote -- and really look at what we see and hear in order to answer some important questions about how films tell stories and what makes great filmmaking. Closely Watched Films deepened my appreciation of film, increased my respect for filmmakers, and, with its many examples of close analysis of film sequences, gave me a model for doing my own analysis of movies I want to understand better. It's a wonderful book.
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I have been searching for a text for an Intro to Motion Pictures class and this might be it. I have dozens of other texts which are usually expensive and which attempt to cover everything. This text restrains its focus and in doing so becomes very useful to new readers about cinema. It has a great blend of comment about major theories coupled with specific examples from films. The "key event" structure spans the silent years to Mike Figgis and Timecode. There are many books which might be in a comprehensive film library, but if you are looking for an insightful guided tour of cinema art, I would choose Closely Watched Films.
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I teach a high school film class and have watched Ms Fabe teach. For those not fortunate enough to be able to attend one of her presentations, this book is a treat. If you are bored by thumbs up thumbs down reviews, silly men jumping out of their seat clapping and other dopey reviews, and want to learn more about how to appreciate a film, this book is it. Rent the movie, read the analysis and enjoy the trip. If you want the gossipy phoney back story, this is not for you. If you love movies and want a fun read that will impact how you watch movies, grab this book.
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