David Bordwell's website on cinema   click for CV




Perplexing Plots: Popular Storytelling and the Poetics of Murder

On the History of Film Style pdf online

Reinventing Hollywood: How 1940s Filmmakers Changed Movie Storytelling

Film Art: An Introduction

Christopher Nolan: A Labyrinth of Linkages pdf online

Pandora’s Digital Box: Films, Files, and the Future of Movies pdf online

Planet Hong Kong, second edition pdf online

The Way Hollywood Tells It pdf online

Poetics of Cinema pdf online

Figures Traced In Light

Ozu and the Poetics of Cinema pdf online

Exporting Entertainment: America in the World Film Market 1907–1934 pdf online


Hou Hsiao-hsien: A new video lecture!

CinemaScope: The Modern Miracle You See Without Glasses

How Motion Pictures Became the Movies

Constructive editing in Pickpocket: A video essay


Rex Stout: Logomachizing

Lessons with Bazin: Six Paths to a Poetics

A Celestial Cinémathèque? or, Film Archives and Me: A Semi-Personal History

Shklovsky and His “Monument to a Scientific Error”

Murder Culture: Adventures in 1940s Suspense

The Viewer’s Share: Models of Mind in Explaining Film

Common Sense + Film Theory = Common-Sense Film Theory?

Mad Detective: Doubling Down

The Classical Hollywood Cinema Twenty-Five Years Along

Nordisk and the Tableau Aesthetic

William Cameron Menzies: One Forceful, Impressive Idea

Another Shaw Production: Anamorphic Adventures in Hong Kong

Paolo Gioli’s Vertical Cinema

(Re)Discovering Charles Dekeukeleire

Doing Film History

The Hook: Scene Transitions in Classical Cinema

Anatomy of the Action Picture

Hearing Voices

Preface, Croatian edition, On the History of Film Style

Slavoj Žižek: Say Anything

Film and the Historical Return

Studying Cinema


Book Reports

Figures Traced in Light: On Cinematic Staging

Misprints, Mistakes, and Missed Opportunities

[p. 21] : I claim that Kuleshov completed The Revolutionary after Bauer’s death. That’s an error. Bauer lived to complete The Revolutionary. After his death Kuleshov completed The King of Paris (1917). Thanks to Yuri Tsivian for noticing the slip.

[p. 83] : I attribute The Cuckoo (Hototogisu, 1922) to Makino Shozo. It was actually directed by Ikeda Yoshinobu. Thanks to Alexander Jacoby for pointing this out.

[p. 92] : I discuss a scene from The Life of Oharu (Saikaku ichidai onna, 1952). Oharu receives a farewell letter from her lover Katsunosuke, who has been executed. Grabbing a knife, she runs out into a bamboo glade, followed by her mother. Before Oharu can kill herself, her mother wrestles the knife from her and both collapse sobbing in extreme long shot.

Fig. 1

Fig. 2

I should have mentioned is that this scene carries over a motif from an earlier scene in a garden, when Oharu fainted at Katsunosuke’s declaration of love. That scene ended with his carrying her into the inn, and it marks the beginning of their affair (Fig. 1). At the close of the scene, Mizoguchi’s camera gently tilts down to reframe two small stupas, traditional Buddhist symbols of earth’s elements and of spiritual enlightenment (Fig. 2).

Fig. 3
The stupa motif reappears in the bamboo-glade scene. Trying to wriggle away from her mother, Oharu crawls toward a pair of stupas in the distance. Evidently she had planned to kill herself there. So far away is Mizoguchi’s camera position that the stupas are just barely visible in my frame enlargements on p. 93, but they are definitely there in the original film, and perhaps they can be seen more clearly in this frame, just to right of center (Fig. 3). In effect Mizoguchi gives the love of Oharu and Katsunosuke a spiritual validation, in sharp contrast to the social oppression that divides them.

[p. 94] : I claim that Naruse Mikio arranges five figures in various zones of a shot from The Whole Family Works (Hataratu ikka, 1939). After seeing the film again in a good print, I find that he actually includes seven figures in the shot. All of them are dimly visible in my still on p. 95.

© David Bordwell 2006.

David Bordwell
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