This book is an analytical inquiry into classical film theory (that is, film theory before the advent of the semiotics and poststructuralism that began to dominate academic film literature in the 1970s). The author brings his training and experience as both an analytical philosopher and a film scholar to bear on its chief tenets. Using Rudolf Arnheim, Andre Bazin, and V. F. Perkins as representatives of major types of thinking about film, he provides clear and concise overviews of their work and locates their thought against the critical and theoretical currents of their times, the historical development of the cinema, and the prevalent issues in philosophical aesthetics. This closely reasoned book characterizes the structure of classical film theory, attempts to diagnose its shortcomings, and suggests avenues of inquiry for postclassical film theory. In addition, it includes many illuminating discussions of particular films and cinematic techniques.
Arnheim and Bazin represent opposing positions on the nature of photographic recording that are so deeply entrenched in our intellectual culture that these arguments seem to return over and over whenever discussion of the photographic arts is broached. Professor Carroll offers a uniquely penetrating appraisal of their work. Perkins, a more contemporary thinker, has not been subjected to any detailed analysis until now.