Essential Brakhage: Selected Writings on Filmmaking. Liza Palmer. Author. Liza Palmer. Animation: Genre and Authorship By Paul Wells London: Wallflower. Essential Brakhage: Selected Writings on Filmmaking over the past 50 years, ” Stan Brakhage” became synonymous with independent American filmmaking. Results 1 – 30 of 39 Essential Brakhage: Selected Writings on Filmmaking by Stan Brakhage and a great selection of related books, art and collectibles available.

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Skip to main content. Log In Sign Up. Selected Writings on Filmmaking. Despite animation’s prominent status in everyday life, from television commercials to the recent spate of popular feature length animation films to various uses on the Web, the form itself has suffered a long history of systematic neglect — both critically and academically.

Frequently dismissed as nothing more than an entertainment form aimed at children, animation has rarely been considered worthy of sustained critical or academic attention. Over recent years this situation has gradually improved. An increase in the number of film festivals focusing on animation, and the establishing of the Society for Animation Studies in have helped to raise the profile and popularity of the animated form.

Its critical and commercial status in Hollywood was recently recognised when it was granted its own Academy Awards category.

However, despite this new critical interest serious academic explorations of animation are still relatively uncommon. Paul Wells is in fact individually responsible for many of the recent contributions to the topic. His publications in this field include Art and Animation as guest editorUnderstanding AnimationAnimation and Americaand a forthcoming title British Animationas well as several shorter pieces.

Continuing this almost single-handed quest to open up the arena of animation, Wells locates Animation: Genre and Authorship as an introduction to the topic while simultaneously engaging with the specific issues of genre and auteur theory and their relationships to the animated form.

Using mini-case studies to illustrate his arguments, Wells enthusiastically draws on a wide variety of animation styles and forms from many different countries and cultures. This broad scope of reference provides an excellent means of giving readers access to animated forms they may not readily have encountered, while at the same time delivering the message that there is more to animation than Walt Disney.

Genre and Authorship is divided into five chapters, the first three of which unite to form Wells’ “introduction” to animation. He begins by offering some definitions of animation, and rather than presenting a linear historical review of the development of animation, Wells chooses to concentrate on the common processes involved in generating the form across its various techniques.

He also considers the special status of animation as an intrinsically modernist art form. The book does not lack a more conventional historical dimension, however, as Wells presents a useful “Animation Timeline” as an appendix, which identifies key “histories” in the evolution of animation across a range of cultures and contexts The bulk of this book, however, is concerned with the unique relationships between animation and two of the structuring theories of film studies: While conceding that many live-action genres such as the Western, horror, and sci-fi forms could be applied to animated forms, and that animation shares various close relationships with the musical and romantic comedy, the question Wells really wants to address is whether animation has any special genres of its own.

Wells looks briefly at some tentative suggestions by Richard Taylor in The Encyclopaedia of Animation Techniques but expresses dissatisfaction with the brief and often vague categorisation. Drawing instead on the concept of “deep structure” which permits animation to be uncoupled from the concerns of “live-action” genrification, Wells identifies and defines seven genres of animated film: Through these categories, all forms of animation can be addressed in a way that focuses on broad “intention” rather than specific themes or iconographies.

Although Wells rather modestly claims that these new generic categories should only be understood as “provisional engagements” with the topic, the originality of this work is sure to become a valued contribution in the fields of animation and of genre studies.

The relationship between animation and authorship proves to be a particularly fruitful area of inquiry. Unique within film making, animation can operate at extremes of authorship: Wells explores animation and authorship through three detailed case studies of Walt Disney, Ray Harryhausen, and Caroline Leaf, defining them respectively as “supra-auteur”, “intra-auteur”, and “an avant-garde, experimental film-maker, working largely independently, and with a more specifically self- conscious auteurist perspective” Of these case studies the sections on Harryhausen and Leaf are probably of most interest, primarily because Wells includes personal interviews with the animators, giving significant insights into their own understandings of the position and status of their work in terms of authorship.


Genre and Authorship addresses some of the significant gaps in animation research in an accessible introductory format and should find a wide readership amongst students and scholars of animation, genre studies and auteurism. Providing a glossary of terms and an up-to-date bibliography, with this book Paul Wells undoubtedly succeeds in further cementing his position as the foremost exponent of the animated form.

Aristotle’s Poetics for Screenwriters: Morrissey, Simon Fraser University, Canada Dante ranked Aristotle maestro di color che sanno, “the master of those who know. But today, in Hollywood, Aristotle is the hot ticket.

Michael Tierno, story analyst with Miramax, and independent guerrilla-filmmaker, aims to reveal the “storytelling secrets” from Aristotle’s Poetics in a new screenwriter’s guide. Despite Tierno’s penchant for Hollywood hype, both aspiring dramatists and movie buffs have much to learn from this book. Aristotle’s Poetics has long had a reputation in Hollywood as a storyteller’s Bible. Fortunately, the Poetics is much shorter than the Bible.

The Poetics is so short that each of its pages can be turned over in the time it takes to navigate a DVD. But due to its bizarre nature a series of terse and opaque lecture notes, available in over twenty cryptic English translationsdespite its brevity, it is practically unreadable by an amateur.

And it has been a time-consuming struggle for professionals to mine diamonds of wisdom from Aristotle’s difficult Greek. Still, the book has long been influential by word-of-mouth, especially through its Renaissance misinterpretations. Tierno calibrates his book well for the attention-deficit Hollywood mind.

Essential Brakhage: Selected Writings on Filmmaking

There are thirty- three chapters, but most are only small bites of two pages or so after white-space. None go very far in applying the Poetics to motion pictures, but Tierno gives enough movie examples for the reader to connect other dots.

He brings his own favourite examples before Aristotle throughout the book: Hence this book is not so much a “how to” manual as an exhortation to “do it yourself” in an Aristotelian way. The ad-man’s schtick gets tiresome quickly, not least because the content of each chapter is thin enough without this extra padding. But at the book’s end, the final exhortation rings true. Tierno self-consciously repudiates his own exclamatory hype and rhetoric, and shows that he has been using Hollywood’s own idiom as a Trojan Horse.

Hidden inside, there is wily Aristotle. Aristotle’s Poetics offers “the soundest principles of screenwriting ever articulated,” writes Tierno, because of its focus on “how audiences respond to drama. Tierno hammers the point home: But Tierno also reels off a number of bloopers, to which he, a Greekless, non-specialist in Aristotle, is sadly destined.

He conflates metabasis reversal of fortune with peripeteia reversal of action to its opposite course.

Like a screenwriter bluffing a pitch before a studio executive, Tierno flies past all controversies over the Poetics’ technical vocabulary. He blithely asserts filmmakiing infamous katharsis Aristotle never explained it has an undisputed literal meaning “emotional purging”.

Tierno tries to make Aristotle’s definition of “epic” poetry Homer applicable to “epic” movies Lord of the Rings by making special effects a defining quality of “epic”; but in the Poetics Aristotle actually defines “epic” poetry by noting the absence of opsis special effects in it.

Tierno alleges Aristotle attests to the preference of ancient Greek audiences for dark, tragic endings. But Aristotle actually says the opposite if one reads Poetics 14 more carefully. Sadly, Tierno suffers from the rampant misconception that Greek tragedies do not have happy endings there are extant counter-examples. While he may get such details wrong, Tierno’s instincts about the Poetics are mostly seected target, and it’s hard to quarrel with his conjecture that Aristotle’s admiration for Oedipus Rex would translate into two thumbs-up for Citizen Kane.

Perhaps the book’s only unforgivable error is Tierno’s confusion of Homer’s Odyssey with the Iliad Thankfully, none of the errors affect the sound practical advice Tierno offers on screenwriting. If anything, his mistakes only cry out for the further refinement of an Aristotelian critical theory. To that end, perhaps what the nascent Hollywood Renaissance needs selecteed is a rigorous re-translation of the Poetics, in the idiom of neo-Aristotelian screenwriting gurus like Syd Field, who have discerned a consistent form for successful screenplays.

There will be little room in its pages, he suggests, to consider the films to which Wilder contributed in the period before his removal to the United States. Nor will the many of Wilder’s Hollywood films set outside of America get significant filmmmaking. Though he concedes that all these have their place in Wilder’s “coherent and important body of work” 6Armstrong’s own tastes lie elsewhere, something that becomes abundantly clear in the book’s highly selective Filmography. For him, the real Billy Wilder is the “rigorous commentator on the American scene” 7responsible for such films as Double IndemnityThe Apartment and The Fortune Cookie All other incarnations are decidedly inferior.


Essential Brakhage: Selected Writings on Filmmaking – Stan Brakhage – Google Books

This is a potentially fruitful thesis, isolating as it does a sequence of works spanning most of Wilder’s career, and opening up the possibility for contextual essentixl of, as Armstrong puts it, “American life in the middle years of the selectef Century'” 7.

A bigger, more ambitious book would be required to do justice to the full scope of this subject matter, but Armstrong does well to show how much social muscle Wilder’s tight, carefully wrought, and often very funny, films pack.

A strong filmkaking on Double Indemnity explains how that film can be read as a commentary on the sexual mores of the s, and recalls that Charles Brackett, Wilder’s usual writing partner, refused to work on a script he considered scandalously racy.

Similar social comment is attributed to each of the other films, with, in many cases, similar stories of attendant controversy: The Lost Weekend is discussed as a brrakhage study of alcoholism; Sunset Blvd. In each case, Armstrong’s argument is perfectly valid, and the notion of Wilder conducting a grand survey of the American social landscape has btakhage appeal.

But this line depends on emphasising similarity and neglecting difference, and the individual movies often seem diminished as a result. About some of them, notably the very odd Kiss Me, StupidArmstrong has disappointingly little to say. That said, Armstrong’s thesis does usefully draw attention to the key aspects of Wilder’s craft, those skills and preoccupations which, though used in varying ways and developed during the course of his career, define his characteristic style.

He is particularly alive to Wilder’s ear for the idiosynacracies of American English, evident as early as the script he wrote for Howard Hawks’ Ball of Fireand so brilliantly exercised in film,aking his own, later, movies.

As director, too, Armstrong credits Wilder with many experimental techniques which served to heighten the impact of his films: These methods were important to him, but were never, according to Armstrong, permitted to detract from the central business wrifings making a film people would want to watch.

Wilder’s most important directorial trait, we are told, was for “subsuming innovation into mainstream filmmaking” It is perhaps in the often neglected area of casting that Armstrong gives Wilder the most praise. Noting the director’s penchant for complex, unconventional, and discomforting heroes, Armstrong makes much of the fact that these were often played, against type, by actors audiences were more used to seeing as romantic leads. He tells a story of Wilder badgering the reluctant Fred MacMurray into playing the insurance salesman Walter Neff in Double Indemnity, precisely in order to toy with the public’s preconceptions of the star as a mild-mannered, family entertainer.

Not only did this result in one of the finest screen roles of MacMurray’s career, but it also lead to him returning, sixteen years later, as the boss of another insurance firm in The Apartment. Similar accounts are given of the casting of William Holden as the morally dubious J. Wilder, it appears, could be very generous in his casting, and Armstrong shows how Jack Lemmon, in particular — with and without Walter Matthau — owed much of his screen persona to the work he did with his favourite director.

But Wilder’s casting could also be cruelly pertinent. On casting, as on other issues, however, the limits of Armstrong’s thesis make for frustration. But as these films do not fall within Armstrong’s remit, nothing is said about why the director cast these great stars or how they performed for him. At such points, the reader may feel that the separation of the oeuvre into two distinct threads is somewhat artificial, and yet, but for a brief introduction, Armstrong never really attempts to justify his approach.

In order to demonstrate that Wilder’s “European” movies do represent a different, lesser strand of his work, Armstrong needs to say much more about them. The limited range of Armstrong’s prose also detracts from the pleasure of reading this book. His writing is dry, scholarly and, at times downright inelegant. Each chapter seems to follow the same formula, so that one gets rather too used to the paragraph about mise-en-scene coming before those on the central performances, and certain key ideas are asserted and repeated rather than properly developed.

In the chapter on The Spirit of St.