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Making Meaning: Inference and Rhetoric in the Interpretation of Cinema: Interference and Rhetoric in the Interpretation of Cinema (Harvard Film Studies) [Paperback]

David Bordwell
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

7 Oct 1991 Harvard Film Studies (Book 7)
With this book, the author provides a history of film criticism and an analysis of how critics interpret film as well as a proposal for an alternative programme of film studies.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press; New Ed edition (7 Oct 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 067454336X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674543362
  • Product Dimensions: 2.2 x 15.3 x 23 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 172,596 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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It's hard to avoid superlatives when talking about David Bordwell's work. Let me simply say that here is a book which, for lucidity, breadth, erudition, and rigor, only he could have written. It addresses and analyzes interpretive practice in a way that only the most self-absorbed critic can ignore, and then only at his or her own risk. -- Seymour Chatman Film Quarterly [Bordwell] approaches the issue with his characteristically refreshing candor, clarity, and wit, proceeding from the direct question, 'How do film interpreters actually come up with the meanings at which they arrive?'...The controversies sure to be ignited by Making Meaning, in the short run, will be anything but dull; in the long run, its contributions to the development of film poetics will be of even greater import. -- Herb Eagle Wide Angle An A-list historian and theorist himself, Bordwell is the unchallenged capo di tutti capi of academic film studies...His industrial-strength overview is a streamlined and steady Eurail pass through the Continental modes of thought that have dominated the American university since the late 60s. -- Thomas Doherty Boston Phoenix Literary Supplement Making Meaning is a startling and important book. -- Barry Salt Sight & Sound

About the Author

David Bordwell is Jacques Ledoux Professor of Film Studies at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Invaluable book for and about critics of film. 22 Oct 2001
I needed a book that explained the practice of film criticism to me in detail, but I was mortified at the prospect of reading this book cover to cover. A book interpreting the process of interpretation? Get out of here. Flicking through the pages beforehand, I struggled to locate a single recognizable word: 'schemata', 'heuristics' - it looked like a foreign language to me. However, I have to say that when I started reading, things became clear. The book details the mechanics of the entire critical process, and focuses on the manner in which the 'meaning(s)' of film text(s) are constructed. Bordwell's prose is concise, on the dry side of humorous, and extremely insightful. At times the new terms and concepts can be overwhelming, and you may begin to think that Bordwell's seeing things that really aren't there, but at other times a single line can contain a revelation. Look out for the cartoon by The Simpsons' Matt Groening, included near the beginning. It's about film critics, and, ultimately, their pretentiousness and/or uselessness. It made me laugh out loud, and that doesn't happen all that often. There's also an interesting chapter on the various meanings that critics have ascribed to Hitchcock's Psycho. I would strongly recommend Making Meaning to other academics seeking to understand their own practices. Invaluable before undertaking any critical work on film.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Liberating! 14 Nov 2007
I can't begin to describe how liberating this book is.

As a student I was forced to read endless drivel about film and television, most of it blighted by steam-age psychology dressed up in postmodern garb, and tedious 'symptomatic' readings based on the 'Zeitgeist fallacy'.

Film was presented as simply an aspect of the 'Ideological State Aparatus', a manifestation of capitalist ideology.

The fact that University is itself implicated in the reproduction of capitalist ideology to a far, far greater extent than film is, and that the politicization of film studies itself was a product of the repositioning of film studies as an academic discipline in financial and academic competition with other disciplines was something which went unexamined.

Above all the fact that the supposedly emancipatory discourses of film studies were elitist in their valoration of the avant garde and amounted to little more than intellectual bullying should have rang alarm bells.

This book freed me from all that claptrap by laying bare the lazy, mechanical procedures that lead to tedious, grossly inacurate 'readings' which are often passed off as analysis. Bordwell shows the audience as active participants in the creation of meaning, not the helpless cultural dupes that Screen Theory and the like would have us believe are 'interpellated' by film.

This, like Noel Carroll's 'Mystifying Movies', should be required reading for all students of film.
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