International Journal of Education & the Arts

Volume 2 Number 6

November 8, 2001

Outline of a Developmental-Cognitive Approach for
Comprehending the Art of Cinema

Nitzan Ben-Shaul
Tel-Aviv University

Comprehending the art of cinema is an ability that can be fostered, as other cognitive abilities can be fostered. After all, cinema viewers are cognitively active while watching a film, constantly engaged in figuring it out. Grasping a film does not differ in principle from any other cognitive activity. At one end of the creation process stands the artist who represents to herself various aspects of the world, processes them in her mind while embodying the processed representations in symbolic sets unique to the various art fields. At the other end stands the viewer who tries to decode the artwork symbols based on hypotheses that he raises and which are based on flexible schemes he has in his mind.
What differentiates art and cinematic art from other fields is the aesthetic interest it arouses i.e., interest in the design of the artwork materials. From this aesthetic interest stems the cognitive development that should be considered in educating to viewing the various arts.
These hypotheses are the essence of the developmental–cognitive approach described in this article. The contribution of this approach to the theory of cinema is in the assumption that it is possible to foster aesthetic cognition and sensibility 1. This approach may re-design the way and the nature of the education for viewing and making cinema.

The Developmental-Cognitive Approach

The cognitive approach assumes the existence of an autonomous mentation layer in which mental representations exist by means of symbols, schemes, images etc. This activity enables human beings to represent in their consciousness various aspects of the world (for instance with the help of numbers), to mentally process these aspects, (meaning, to multiply the numbers) and to embody the representations and their processes in the unique symbolic systems of the various fields. For example: (2X2 = 4). 2
The ability to perform such an activity probably develops gradually although it is possible that the basic abilities are innate.3 The psychologist Jean Piaget, who laid down the foundations for the description of this gradual process, held that from the moment of birth the human being is engaged in examining his surroundings and aiming at resolving problems. This is done in four phases:
  1. The Motor-Sensory phase in which the encounter with the world is led by an action on objects.

  2. The Symbolic phase in which the objects are mentally represented even in their absence.

  3. The Concrete Activity phase in which there is coordination between mental representation and the world objects.

  4. The Formal Activity phase in which experience is mediated through mental abstractions that can be processed without any connection to the objects in the world, i.e. mathematical formulas
A general characteristic of this process is the gradual transition from a generalized and boundless representation in which there is no distinction between the part and the whole or their inter-relation (phases 1-2), to a representation which enables increasing distinctions (phases 3-4). This transition is concurrent with the human being's individuation process. According to this assumption, a person gradually passes from the stage in which he grasps himself as an undistinguished part of his surroundings to the gradual recognition that he is separate and different from his fellow people and his surroundings.
Researchers, who have accepted the general model of the development described by Piaget, found out that different abilities are required in various fields, and therefore there are different emphases in the stages of development. Furthermore, it seems that cognitive development is not parallel in different fields. Gardner, who reached the conclusion that there are various kinds of intelligence each with unique phases of cognitive development, developed this concept. That is why human beings develop cognitively in a different way in different fields. Gardner himself mentions seven kinds of intelligence, which require different cognitive abilities (linguistic, musical, logical-mathematical, spatial, physical-kinetic, inner-personal, inter-personal.) Thus for example, spatial intelligence requires a different ability, in respect of the ability to connect a part to the whole, than linguistic intelligence5.
Different kinds of intelligence, according to Gardner, lead to the development of different mental representations and to specific mental processes. Accordingly, the embodiment of specific representations in the various media is made through the unique symbolic systems of each one of these media.

The Developmental-Cognitive Approach for Comprehending Art

According to the cognitive approach, an artistic activity does not differ, in principle, from any other cognitive activity. The artist embodies in his artistic work, which is comprehended as a symbolic system, his mental representations and their processing. The perceiver of the art, on the other hand, decodes the work of art as a symbolic system, relying on hypotheses she raises, and which are based on flexible schemes she has in her mind.
Artistic making and perception differs from other cognitive activities by the unique human interest in them, an interest from which the cognitive development and the unique mental processing of the art are derived. The assumption is that human beings are born with aesthetic sensibility (meaning, a sensory, emotional and cognitive sensibility for formal compositions and for the ways of embodiment of emotion, thought or world representations). This sensibility does indeed overlap other human cognitive activities, such as acquiring scientific or practical knowledge, yet it is autonomous and does not depend on them. Thus for example, facing a painting of a horse, extra-artistic hypotheses will focus on questions relating to the kind of animal (Is it a horse? What kind of a horse is it?). However, artistic hypotheses will focus on the horse’s design (the proportions between the parts, the way and the direction of the brush strokes, the patterns of color) and on the way of embodying emotion or significance regarding the horse from the way it is designed (Does it express passion? nobility? stupidity?).
Cognitivists like Goodman, Gardner and others6 considered the essence of the cognitive processing of the work of art in the building of a composition which creates the context for the formal elements and the various symbols, and in the metaphorization of these elements and symbols. With the help of this process, which creates forms called by Goodman “replete”, the work of art embodies the emotion and the significance which the artist wants to convey and the perceiver wants to comprehend.
Goodman illustrates what he means by comparing the shape of an Electro-Cardiogram line with the function of the same line in the context of an artistic composition. In the first case the line is used to decode the patient’s heart activity. In the hands of an artist that same line becomes “replete”, meaning that its width, direction and angles may embody the feeling of rage7.
The difference between aesthetic and non-aesthetic interest has implications on the fostering manners of artistic cognition. Thus for instance, Gardner and others describe a child scribbling on a paper, as someone practicing the development of a general ability for conventional symbolic manipulation in the motor-sensual phase indicated by Piaget. However, at the same time it seems that the child finds aesthetic and sensual pleasure in this activity itself, which promotes building a variety of aesthetic options of visual representation.
A non-aesthetic examination of the child’s scribbling on the paper will grasp this activity as a prior and negligible stage of developing accurate conventional symbolic representation (numbers, letters etc). On the other hand, an aesthetic examination finds these scribbles crucial in fostering aesthetic sensibility, a sensibility that usually fades away once the ability for accurate conventional symbolic representation is gained8.
The assumption that artistic sensibility is autonomous and innate, and the comprehension that there is a distinct artistic cognitive development, led various researchers to examine what distinguishes artistic cognitive development9.
Parsons10 showed that the progressive comprehension of art overlaps general cognitive progression in leading from a simple to a complex understanding of the artistic medium and in that it entails a process of individuation. However, he also showed that the aesthetic interest of a person and her cognitive development in the context of art have distinctive features.
Assisted by many empiric testimonies Parsons showed that cognitive development in art is distinct and comprises five successive main phases. Attention is drawn to different emphases in each of these phases. From stage to stage the comprehension of the artistic medium is gradually deepened. His evidence also indicated that trying to foster artistic comprehension by focusing in early stages upon emphases pertaining to later stages usually does not interest the artist or the art perceiver and its benefit is low.
Excluding the first phase, the phases according to this approach are:

Emphasis on the adequacy of the representation: at this phase children (or artistically underdeveloped adults)11 are interested in issues relating to the adequacy of the work of art to the image of reality they have in their minds. Questions concerning the adequacy of the representation of reality lead their judgement. Beautiful to them is what is close to the prototype of the represented topic. This phase is concurrent with general cognitive development in that it is possible to see in the attempt to create a correlation between the representation and the represented topic as an attempt to connect the part to the whole.

Emphasis on the emotional expressiveness in a work of art: at this phase attention is drawn to the emotional aspects of the work of art. Perceivers identify the feelings aroused in them with those of the creator. The adequacy of the representation of “external” reality is replaced by an “inner” emotional representation of reality. The emotional identification with the creator parallels in children the beginning of an awareness of the presence of the other.

Emphasis on the symbolic components, systemic modes of expression, genres and traditions in the medium: this is a phase in which artists and art perceivers are receptive regarding learning about the medium's traditions. They look for similarity between works of art, they are sensitive to the medium specific forms of processing and locate with interest a common style between works of art. This phase, which can also be called a conventional phase, is concurrent with general cognitive development because it is possible to see in the desire to learn about artistic conventions a stage of socialization in which the child internalizes society rules and aspires to act according to them. It seems that in this phase a gap is created between the making of art and its reception. Whereas the receiver shows much knowledge about artistic conventions, the creator aspires to imitate in a most schematic way these conventions12.

Emphasis on a reasoned judgement of the aesthetic aspects of a work of art: at this high stage of familiarity with the art medium, based on knowledge of its history, traditions and conventions, the perceiver starts to judge the quality of the work of art. This judgement is based on a deep comprehension of the medium abilities and of self-awareness of the subjective selectivity of judgement. This phase is concurrent with general cognitive development in the way that here individuation is expressed by self recognizing that while being part of society you are distinguished from it.

The Developmental-Cognitive Approach for Comprehending the Art of Cinema

It seems that the developmental cognitive process described by Parsons is common to all arts. However, different arts mobilize different kinds of intelligence, which require a different aesthetic processing.
Thus, for example, the aesthetic connection between the part and the whole requires different cognitive abilities in a song, in a painting or in a film. The song mobilizes linguistic “intelligence”; the painting and the film require spatial intelligence13. The painting is static and calls forth spatial intelligence, but the film exists in motion and requires the mobilization of kinetic – motional intelligence in addition to spatial intelligence. Therefore, an artistic design requires the development of different cognitive abilities for different arts in the framework of the general process of artistic cognitive development.
Cinema studies from cognitive and other perspectives that stress what's unique to cinema, e.g., the combining of moving taped images with a sound track, have decoded different ways of cinema-specific aesthetic processing. Among other things, they discussed camera movements and editing formats that have been used to create moving compositions of space, time, action, rhythm and metaphors within the context of various film styles and genres14.
Thus, a cinematic shot where the camera slowly moves to a Close Up of an object is unique to the medium. Such a shot enables to create an intimate relation between object and viewer. It may intensify emotion or bring about the gradual dramatic and tense disclosure of an event. On the other hand, that same process may enable abstraction and symbolization of the cinematographed object, thus enabling the embodiment of thought, because of the close-up quality to cut off the object from its surroundings15. For example, the gradual isolation of a raised fist, or a composition of a series of close-ups of fists creates the abstraction and symbolism whose significance might be “struggle” or “uprising”16. Alternatively, the sequencing of various close-ups of faces might create a metaphor of closeness or suffocation due to “locking up” the faces within the frame17. Combining a close-up of a character's face with a threatening sound track which reaches our ears from the space which presumably surrounds the figure but is not visually present, can arouse a tense feeling in us that the figure is afraid. Neither the figure nor we know from where danger will emerge18.
Comprehending the art of cinema requires focusing on the unique aesthetic processing of this art. Nevertheless, this comprehension requires a sectionalized, gradual and cumulative focus on these processes, paying attention to the specific interest the perceiver has in each phase in the developmental process of comprehending the art.
According to Parsons, this progression leads in a series of successive emphases, from a simple to a complex understanding of the artistic medium. Hereafter are some hypotheses on the fostering of this progression in the field of cinema, focusing on the device of Slow Motion, which is unique to this medium.
In the first acquaintance stage with the medium, a phase in which attention is directed towards the adequacy of the representation, Slow Motion can be examined according to its success in revealing hidden qualities of the represented object. Slow Motion can, for instance, slow down the race speed of a runner of a hundred meters thus exposing the many movements of the muscles operating while running, movements that cannot be seen when we watch that same run on the field or see it shot in regular speed.
In general, it seems that in this initial acquaintance stage with the cinematic medium viewers will be interested in the cinematic ability of documentation, mainly in relating the representation to the original as a relating process of the part to the whole. In the context of part to whole relation, the viewers might find interest in a discussion and illustration of how an image of a whole event is composed from a sequence of shots offering fragments of this event. It is possible that by deconstructing and reconstructing cinematic continuity editing (periodic return from fragments to establishing shots, eye-line match, cutting in motion, etc) spatial and motional intelligence of viewers is mobilized19 fostering their cinematic comprehension based on the reality type artistic interest they have in this stage.
In the second phase the emotional expressiveness of the work of art is sought for. In this stage it is possible to examine Slow Motion according to its ability to embody emotions intensively and create intimacy with the represented event. It seems that such an embodiment is effective thanks to the qualities of slowing processes and the imaging of hovering in space, characteristics of Slow Motion which we might find as being concurrent with the spreading of emotion within ourselves. The representation of the death of a well-liked figure by its Slow Motion fall to the ground or the hovering-run of a figure as a metaphor for happiness are examples of the embodiment of emotion and of creating intimacy with characters.
It seems that at this phase the viewers will be particularly interested in dramas and films of horror, but also in “first person” cinema which documents the creator’s experiences. The exposure of the way emotional expression is composed through editing rhythm, the use of close-ups, the relation between sound track and moving image and so on, might neutralize direct emotional identification. At the same time it might sharpen the cognitive awareness of another person’s ability to embody emotions and concepts through means which are unique to the cinematic medium.
In the third stage, in which emphasis is on symbolic components, systemic modes of expression, genres and traditions in the medium, it is possible, for instance, to compare Slow Motion as a cinematic time device, to the Close-Up as a parallel spatial device (from the aspects of intensity, closeness and abstraction from the course of events).
It seems that in this stage cinema in general will interest the viewers, especially distinct genre or style films, reflexive films (meaning such that deal with cinema and cinematic process as subject), films that emphasize inter-textual contexts, and avant-guarde films that try to examine the limits of the medium. Decoding a genre or style, illustrating inter-textual relations etc. will win the students’ interest at this stage and will deepen their knowledge and comprehension of the medium.
In the highest and last phase there is emphasis on the reasoned judgement of the aesthetic aspects of the work of art, while being aware of the subjectivity of the judgement. In this stage Slow Motion will be examined in relation to its repetitive usages for expressing over simplified peak emotional moments and its manipulative aspects. This usage will be compared to other complex alternatives the device enables. Thus, for instance, in “Zero de conduit (Jean Vigo, 1933) a surprising backward somersault of one of the pupils in the film is documented in Slow Motion. It is a metaphor, which expresses the youth’s aspiration for freedom. The so called exit from the framework of objective time (Slow Motion) in order to document a sudden and exceptional movement of a back somersault, gives it the quality of a strange hovering in space. Therefore, it is a most powerful expression of the desire for the release from the limits of time and space, meaning the desire for freedom. The intensity of expression stems therefore from the use of Slow Motion.

The Uniqueness and the Contribution of the Cognitive Approach to the Comprehension of the Art of Cinema

The developmental–cognitive approach for the comprehension of cinema sets a challenge to widespread approaches to the medium. The Marxist approach for instance, sees in cinematic creation mainly the symptomatic representation of extra-cinematic social phenomena, while the psychoanalytical approach sees in it mainly a psychological expression that is unconscious to the creator and the perceiver. Both tend to often ignore the autonomy of the unique aesthetic dimension of the cinematic work of art or view this dimension as site of ideological resistance (Marxism) or as the key to decipher slips of the unconscious within the film. In contrast to them, the cognitive approach grasps the cinematic work of art as a conscious activity of creation and reception. Its essence is the conscious processing of unique devices in order to embody representation, emotion and significance so that they are actively cognized in the work of art by the viewer.
Based on its understanding of the cinematic viewer as active and conscious during the process of cognition vis-a-vis the film, the cognitive approach rejects the dominant trend in the NeoMarxist psychoanalytical approach which believes in the unprecedented ideological power of the medium20. According to this approach cinema has a tremendous influence on its viewers, due to their uncontrolled trust in the mechanic and precise documentation of reality. In contrast to it, Cognitivism sees in the medium's documentation ability a possibility for the creation of unique realistic aesthetics, which is only one of many aesthetic options available to cinema. Andre Bazin, for example, developed a realistic cinematic theory which is based on deep focused, long and distanced shots, which enable, among other thing, the symbolic embodiment of continuous time and three dimensional space21. However, this cinematic aesthetics does not exhaust the variety of cinematic styles.
Likewise, the cognitive approach rejects seeing cinema as expressing phenomena belonging to the hidden soul of the creator or as having direct influence on the viewer’s hidden soul. This widespread approach assumes that the art of cinema neutralizes the conscious mental activity in favor of unconscious emotional manipulation22. While traditional cognitivists, in a somewhat reactionary manner, rejected serious attempts at coming to terms with emotions, thus alowing the untempered difussion of psychoanalytic explanations of emotional cinematic impact, recent cognitivist theories offer a view whereby emotion and thought do not contradict but synergetically generate one another. Hence Noel Carrol has recently developed a cognitivist theory of art emotion based on the idea that while all emotional responses appear to be similar in their physiological dynamics and manifestations, what differentiates emotions from one another and even generates them are the contents of thoughts entertained23. As philosopher Israel Shefler said, “an emotion without consciousness is blind, and consciousness without emotion is empty”24. I think this should be the guideline for cognitive approaches to the question of emotions. Indeed, symbolic representations in art do not only represent something in the world or convey significance but also express emotions. However, what is the meaning of “expression of emotions”? It does not mean that the work of art embodies in itself in some mysterious way the emotional mood, in which the creator was in while creating the work of art, or that this mood affects therefore, and respectively, the perceiver of the work of art. On the contrary, it means that the creator, who is responsible for embodying mental representations by means of symbols, knows how to express emotion in a work of art whether he feels it at the time of its performance or not. In the same way the perceiver of the work of art can comprehend an expression of emotion whether he feels it or not while perceiving the work of art. In other words, emotion is not a condition for the comprehensive perception of a work of art. In contrast to that, an active and aware recognition of the embodiment of emotion in a work of art is a necessary condition for its comprehensive perception.
An interesting illustration of an aesthetic processing of this kind can be found in the surrealist film An Andalusian Dog (Bunuel and Dali, 1929). While watching the film the viewer is requested to try and comprehend the embodiment of desires and emotions within the somnambulist logic of dreams. Thus, in the opening scene of the film, in which a character's eye is split open by a razor blade, the emotionally appalling image is accompanied by a cold image of the moon being “cut” by a cloud. The compositional analogy between the cutting of the eye and the “cutting” of the moon creates a riddle for the viewer, and thus addresses him to the associative logic of the dream while simultaneously embodying a potential emotional shock for the viewer.
The cognitive approach rejects also rationalistic approaches to the art of cinema such as semiotic or structural approaches which aspire to reveal the exact mechanism of the cinematic "language system” or of its "structure" respectively25. Such an attempt tends to neutralize the aesthetic dimension in the cinematic work of art in favor of locating an accurate mechanism for creating significance, which can be presumably reproduced any time. In these approaches there is an attempt to lay a set of rules operating in a certain consistency and creating a fixed significance. They do not have a clear distinction between a work of art and a practical or scientific expression. Contrary to them, the cognitive approach sees in the artistic work a compositional process which loads its elements with the particular significance stemming from a given context and embodied only in it. Thus this approach preserves the aesthetic dimension.

The Implications of the Developmental-Cognitive Approach on Teaching Cinema

Discussions on cinema focusing on the right and the good (Marxism), on the abyss of the soul (psychoanalysis) or on exposing the accurate mechanism of the cinematic language (semiotics, structuralism) emerge from an extra-aesthetic point of view.
These discussions have brought about the focus on these emphases in the education for watching and for making films. Thus, for instance, it is a common idea among film educators that the efficiency of such teaching is in providing the pupils with the tools to cope with the ideological manipulations of the medium through learning cinematic “language”. Others claim that teaching film enables the students to open up and to talk about issues bothering them in their adolescence or that films can serve as effective illustrations for learning other, more important subjects. Accordingly, in teaching cinematic skills common ideas include the efficiency of teaching film for enhancing cooperation among pupils due to the collaborative nature of film production and the contribution of film classes to the social involvement of its participants. Also, film skill teaching is viewed as venue for the personal expression of students who usually do not feel comfortable in other frameworks, or as efficient in inserting a sense of discipline, order and organization, inherent in the production of films.
Without underestimating these values, there is a feeling that the carriage was placed before the horses. It seems that the aesthetic aspect of cinema is not the most important focus when conducting such classes. It must be the other way around: to start with what distinguishes the art of cinema, which means focusing upon aesthetic issues, and from there, if desired, to deal with extra-aesthetic issues.
This concept is not innovative. Actually it has a long tradition, though not successive, in the history of thoughts about cinema. Already at the beginning of the 20th century the Russian formalists have raised similar claims. For them the discussion of extra-aesthetic aspects is secondary and even defected if one does not start from what is immanent to the art. The search for artistic immanence in cinema led them to see in photogenicity and montage26 the two central processes forging the aestethization of cinematographed “raw” material. The essence of this process consisted for them in disjointing the raw cinematographed material away from its presumed natural surroundings and significance and weave it into an artistic context and significance, achieved by the mutual compositional interrelation of the cinematographed materials through a consistent style or formal infrastructure. The psychologist of the Gestalt school of thought and the aesthete Rudolf Arnheim followed this line of thought in his cinematic theory. Focusing upon the gap between the documented reality and its cinematic embodiment he strove to delineate a unique cinematic aesthetics27.
Today we find a revival of the aesthetic perspective among cognitive theorists of cinema. It is evidenced in Bordwell's and Brannigan's writings on cinematic narrative devices and cinematic schemes28, in Carroll’s writings about emotions as being led by thought in "art horror" films29, and in the writings of Salomon on the unique cognitive kinetic and spatial intelligence needed for the aesthetic processing of cinema30. They and other theorists writing on cinema from a cognitive perspective have established a new paradigm for an aesthetic cognitive discussion of the art of cinema. The advantage of this approach and the related cognitive-developmental approach outlined in this article is that it offers a gradual educational progression towards the aesthetic comprehension of cinema. This is based on the assumption that cinematic aesthetic cognition and sensibility can be fostered and that pupils as well as people of all ages have an innate aesthetic interest and the desire to comprehend art.
This short outline of the developmental–cognitive approach for the comprehension of cinema is intended to promote its use in research and in the education for watching and making films and other audio-visual moving images. The assumption that it is possible to foster cinematic artistic cognition, as it is possible to foster other cognitive abilities, leads to the conclusion that there is no reason to prevent ourselves and our students from developing an aesthetic sensitivity for such a dominant artistic medium.
I suggest basing the syllabus of cinema studies on the developmental cognitive perspective outlined above. Such program will place the aesthetic perspective at the heart of cinema education. Progression will be according to the aesthetic emphases mentioned (an emphasis on the adequacy of representation, an emphasis on emotional expressiveness in cinema, an emphasis on cinematic mediumal aspects and an emphasis on complex self aware aesthetic judgement). This gradual structure meets the need to adjust the discussion of the aesthetics of cinema for the various ages or stages of education, and offers the schools a framework for a continuous syllabus on the subject.31


1 Other cinematic theoretical approaches do not seriously address fostering processess. The semiotic approach for example concerns itself with how film is a semiotic system but has no clear notion of how this system is “learned” by viewers.When cinematic theories inadvertently address fostering processess they usually imply a vaguely elaborated notion of ideological fostering rather than aesthetic fostering. The Marxist approach for example implies ideological fostering through repetitive manipulation of vaguely defined unconscious processess (e.g., Dayan, 1976) or to the evocation of social awareness by an undefined idea of the training of consciousness through deconstruction of ideological manipulation in “dialectical” manner (e.g., Benjamin, 1969). There isn’t a single approach to cinema I am aware of that considers the process whereby aesthetic fostering occurs.

2 Gardner (1987); For a comprehensive survey of “The cognitive revolution” and its relation to film theory see: Bordwell (1989. pp. 11-40)

3 Chomsky (1957)

4Piaget & Inhelder (1969, p. 98). It should be pointed out that the schematic developmental theory outlined is much more complex and object of much controversy nowadays. One interesting bottom up claim is that the automaticity of some formal activities inheres in motor-sensory perceptions, apparently implying a reversal of the initial taxonomy (e.g., Hochberg, 1989). It seems however that while it is plausible that action on objects is always led by automatic inborn as well as consequently acquired formal activities, what is of importance in the process outlined is not whether action is led by formal activities or not but the difference between nonconscious automatic formal activities and top down consciously managed formal activities. In this respect formal automaticity does not seem to imply reversal of the process.

5Gardner (1983)

6Goodman (1976); Gardner (1990); Gombrich (1960)

7Goodman 1976 (p. XII)

8Gardner and Winner (1982)

9Gardner (1990); Parsons (1987); Housan (1987).

10Parsons (1987)

11 Parson's attribution of stages to age has no grounding, except for its correlation with Piaget's general cognitive developmental stages. However, Parsons himself admits that latter stages are ageless. I find that the cognitive development of art comprehension as of any other specific cognitive activity can be disjointed from age and be applied as successive development to people of any age.

12My observation (NBS).

13Salomon (1979)

14e.g., See Christian Metz's "syntagms" (Metz, 1974)

15e.g., See Tynianov on Close Up (Tynianov, 1981)

16E.g., Mother V. Pudovkin, 1926.

17E.g., Joan of Arc, C. Th. Dreyer, 1928

18E.g., Silence of the Lambs, J. Demmi, 1991.

19Salomon (1979)

20What has come to be termed the Althusserian-Lacanian paradigm. See for example Baudry (1985).

21Bazin (1967). Bazin’s aesthetics has been taken as paradigmatic of the ideological manipulation film excercises upon its viewers. This prevalent view among Marxist analyses does not consider the simple notion that his aesthetics is neither transparent in films nor inclusive of other aesthetic formations of films.

22Metz (1982)

23Carrol (1990).

24Quoted in Gardner (1992, p. 97). See also Scheffler (1960)

25Metz (1974), Wright (1975). It should be pointed out however that contemporary semioticians have been driven to incorporate into their rational systemic analyses of texts the psychoanalytic notion that language and art are desire driven and should better be approached as a process whose traces are evident in the text, subverting its systemic manifestations. This approach, most eloquently formulated by Kristeva (1980), reverts nevertheless to the psychoanalytic framework criticized above.

26Tynianov (1981)

27Arnheim (1975)

28Brannigan (1992); Bordwell (1985)

29 Carroll (1990)

30Salomon (1979)

31 Hence the history of film might be approached in such manner that correlates the gradual progression of film history with the progression of aesthetic fostering. While adequacy of representation was a major concern of early filmmaking (in Lumiere but also in Vertov and Epstein) emotional expressiveness was a major concern of German Expresssionism. American genres and self reflexive counter films are highly concerned with mediumal aspects, whereas contemporary postmodern cinema requires of its viewers a wide knowledge of the medium’s history and a critical approach.


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Bazin, Andre (1967) What is Cinema? Berkeley: U.P. California.

Baudry, Jean Louis (1985) "Ideological Effects of the Basic Cinematographic Apparatus” Movies and Methods Volume II edited by B. Nichols, University of California Press.

Benjamin, Walter (1969) “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” in Illuminations NY, Schocken Books.

Bordwell, David (1985) Narration in the Fiction Film, Wisconsin UP.

Bordwell, David (1989) "A Case for Cognitivism" Iris no. 9, Spring pp. 11-40.

Brannigan, Edward (1992) Narrative Comprehension and Film, Routledge.

Carroll, Noel (1990) The Philosophy of Horror, Routledge, N.Y.

Chomsky, Noam (1957) Syntactic Structures the Hague: Mouton.

Dayan, Daniel (1976) “The Tutor Code of Classical Cinema” Movies and Methods Berkeley, California UP.

Gardner, Howard and Winner, Ellen (1982) "First Intimations of Artistry," U-Shaped Behavioral Growth ed. Sydney Strauss NY: Academic Press.

Gardner, Howard (1983) Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences NY: Basic Books, Inc.

Gardner, Howard (1987) The Mind's New Science, A History of the Cognitive Revolution NY,: Basic Books, Inc.

Gardner, Howard (1990) Art Education and Human Development LA: Getty Center for Education in the Arts.

Gardner, Howard and Davis, Jessica (1992) "The Cognitive Revolution: Consequences for the Understanding and Education of the Child as Artist" The Arts, Education, and Aesthetic Knowing, Ninety-First Yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education, Part II, Ed. by Bennet Reimer and Ralph A. Smith, Chicago, .Ill.: University of Chicago Press, pp. 92-123.

Gombrich, Ernst (1960) Art and Illusion: A Study in the Psychology of Pictorial RepresentationPrinceton, NJ: Princeton UP.

Goodman, Nelson (1976) Languages of Art Indianapolis: Hackett.

Hochberg, Julian (1989) “The Perception of Moving Images” in Iris no. 9 Spring.

Housen, Abigail (1987) "Museums in an Age of Pluralism" Art Education Here ed. Pamela Banks Boston: Massachusetts College of Art.

Kristeva, Julia (1980) Desire in Language Columbia UP.

Metz, Christian (1974) Language and Cinema the Hague.

Metz, Christian (1982) The Imaginary Signifier, Bloomington: Indiana UP.

Parsons, Michael (1987) How We Understand Art Cambridge: Cambridge UP.

Piaget, Jean and Inhelder Barbal (1969) The Psychology of the Child. New York: Basic Books.

Salomon, Gabriel (1979) Interaction of Media, Cognition and Learning San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Scheffler, Israel (1960) “Teaching and Telling”, The Language of Education Springfield, Ill.: Charles C. Thomas, pp. 76-101.

Tynyanov, Jury (1981) "The Foundations of Cinema" Russian Formalist Film Theory Ann Arbor: Michigan Slavic Publications.

Wright, Will (1975) Sixguns and Society. Berkeley, California UP.

About the Author

Nitzan Ben-Shaul, Ph.D.
2 Ha'Congress St.
Herzlia Pituach, Israel 46753
Tel: 09-9547626; Cellphone: 054-924334

Film and Television Department
Faculty of Arts
Tel-Aviv University
Tel-Aviv 69978, Israel

MA (1986); PhD (1993) from New York University, Cinema Studies Department. Acting Chair and lecturer on Film Theory and Israeli Film, the Film and Television Department, Tel Aviv University. Author of Mythical Expressions of Siege in Israeli Films (The Edwin Mellen Press, 1997) and Introduction to Film Theories (Dyonon, 2000). Published articles on film and television theory (e.g., Third Text) and on Israeli Films (e.g., Zmanim).

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