cutting on the action

photography and film – facts, ideas, values

Photography essays x 3 : Camera and Consciousness by Manisha Verma + Seeing Eye to Eye by William T. Vollmann + From Daguerreotype to Photoshop by Craig Lambert

From    3 Quarks
Camera and Consciousness


Manisha Verma

in 3 Quarks

Seeing Eye to Eye

Because it’s the product of three independent parties – the photographer, camera, subject -the photograph cannot be owned, idded it can affect us in ways the photographer might never have seen or desired.

in  BookForum

From Wood s Lot

From Daguerreotype to Photoshop

Craig A. Lambert in Harvard Magazine discusses thought of academic Robin Kelsey.

January 27, 2009 Posted by | photography | Leave a comment

Film editing {2} – fiddling with the footage: learning and pondering

What is impressive is how a short experience of editing demonstrates what all editors write –  editing can happen before the cuts and joins, at the script and shooting stage.

Plenty of “Ah, yes” moments reading this essay, Film editing – a hidden art? by  Vinca Wiedemann for anyone who has set out to intelligently film something,  then begun to inexpertly stitch shots together with digital editing software in increasingly unlikely combinations, slowly beginning to recognise what they tell you anyway: that as soon as the point of a shot is established it is time to move on.  You may enjoy the langorous minutes of a particular shot you have lovingly filmed, but will anyone else? Who hasn’t watched a film/documentary and said,”Yes, yes, yes….I’ve got it”, when the camera seems to hold a scene or figure or face what seems too long?

Though I’m intrigued by the long takes of directors like Bela Tarr, they can be bloody irritating as well. I am struck sometimes by the similarity between extravagantly long takes and film installations in art exhibitions.


Andy Coughlan in

Film editing: Tips and techniques for creating a compelling story

(There are 5 essay with the same title here, by different authors )

begins his essay by saying:

An old Hollywood adage has it that a film is created three times; when it’s written, when it’s shot and when it’s edited.

This isn’t entirely true. Ideally the three stages should be the work of refining a core theme or idea, the act of creation should be a single ongoing event. It’s only if you are presented with footage shot by a clueless director using a poorly conceived script that you might find yourself in the unenviable situation of creating something new.

This is even more helpful and, more to the point, recognisably true to anyone whose spend nay time fiddling with ‘footage’.


Shooting a documentrary on a predetermined subject/theme – ad hoc, ex tempore – is not the same territory as a scripted film where the the script itself  is the beginning of the editing process. Editing can start at the shooting stage in documentary too, through such decisions as how much film to generate, how long to shoot individual actions, whether to stop shooting to wait for, or move to, another hopefully significant event,  the inclusion of zooms or rapid pans which are not destined for the final cut but used to delimit one sequence from another. All these sorts of things can determine, and limit, what can be edited later.


The problem with editing one’s own material is that one becomes overly attached to what one has lovingly filmed, which partially resulted from the inability to stop filming for fear of losing something special!

If you are into long takes because you are attached to the idea of letting the viewers’ eyes and minds roam free within the material presented, it is really hard to drastically reduce timings and edit into subsets of shots.


The more you read on film the more you learn that in general the idea is to edit in such a way as to establish the meaning intended and not go beyond. This is easier said than done:  when filming as things happen, many interesting things are recorded which you may later feel loath to break up into sub-shots/scenes or prune excessively.

I am struggling, for example, to edit a 1:44 minute video sequence which through watching again and again (and again and again…) shows, in a way I hadn’t recognised before, it tells a self-contained story in the entirety of uncut shot, but not if cut down to 15-30 secs. to make it more zippy.  The attempt at drastic cropping into about 5 shots totaling no more than 30 seconds has shown it is a self-contained three part drama( by what is clearly missing in the shortened version).  This does not mean I can cut to three nice short shots each representing the respective parts of the ‘drama’, and that’s it. (Some camera shake had to be cut, removing with it, in a few frames, some telling expressions I would have prefered to leave in, and zoom  excised which was built in to the shot to mark a cut for later editing.

Arriving at the latest cut, where the original is cut to 5 shots totalling less than half the original length, only came about  through trying  to make the whole scene as short as possible – which simpy demonstrated how everything interesting  in the original shot disappeared!  Now I am roughing out a total time of maybe 45 – 60 secs from the original 1:44 mins, which will remove redundancy but keep the  magic of the impromptu filming.


A term like decoupage is something one should understand, partly because it illustrates one part of the journey early film makers took in  mastering  their art.  But also more nuts-and-boltsly because the examination of the word, right down to its etymology pinpointing this key issue of cutting and joining which can begin to take place in the mind of the script writer.


The lost art of film editing by Jessica Winter Boston Globe, 13 August, 2006

Film Editing: History, Theory and Practice By Don Fairservice {GoogleBook}

wiki:film editing

The Classical Hollywood Cinema: Film Style and Mode of Production to 1960

By David Bordwell, Janet Staiger, Kristin Thompson

{GoogleBook}  The book is about 506 pages long. This extract stops about 360 (with the odd missing pages throughout) but there is enough there to make it worth reading.

The Rediscovery of editing in French cinema, 1930-1945 Colin Crisp

January 22, 2009 Posted by | Bela Tarr, film editing, film [its techniques] | Leave a comment

The Hole-in-the-wall experiment

It was a delightful, charming, uplifting, heart-warming experience to listen to Laurie Taylor in Today’s Radio 4 programme Thinking Allowed interviewing Sugata Mitra on the Hole-in-the-wall research project he started in the slums of New Delhi in 1999, which has come to a wider audience , as the notes on todays’ programme mention, because Vikras Swarup, the author of the novel on which the film Slum Dog Millionaire was based, acknowledge the role the hole-in-the-wall research played in the gestation of his story.
Dr. Mitra gives a lecture here at TED, which expands on what he said to Laurie Taylor. He explains how non-English speaking kids used the internet to teach themseves enough English to get round the system!  That the whole learning process was a group acivity and that a young girl were often responsible for organising the the use of the computer.

A 2000 interview with Mitra

There is also a website  Hole-in-the-wall that explains what has been done to continue the experiment in what they are calling minimally invasive education.

In these villages, they computers were not vandalised or stolen. I can’t believe the same would happen here in the UK, though of course, they already know what PCs and the internet are.

January 21, 2009 Posted by | education | , | Leave a comment

Concentrating on Kieslowski: An essay on narrative by Jacek Ostaszeweski

A paper/essay : Comprehension of Film Narrative, by Jacek Ostaszewski examines film narrative through the study of film student exam papers.

Ostaszewski was the pavement flautist in Three Colours: Blue.

My main interest is the section on Three Colours:White beginning:

In the case of the third film – Kieslowski’s Three Colours: White (1993), one of the most characteristic and at the same time, most frequent biases was overinterpretation (in Umberto Eco’s understanding) According to Eco, overinterpretation is seeking in a film the elements of minimal meaning and assigning them with maximal consequences so that they match a prior premise (or premises). The viewer’s initiative in the top-down processes is aimed at seeking confirmations for his/her hypothesis. Overinterpretation is, therefore, not the excess of interpretation, but actually, “underinterpretatation.”  Thus, we might suggest that overinterpretation is reading a film in a paranoid and obsessive pursuit that the viewer takes up.

What is symptomatic of the examined papers is the viewers’ relatively poor interest in the actual contents of the film. On the other hand, their attention is focused on the figure of Krzysztof Kieslowski as the representative of a quality art cinema. Although the viewers understand the story itself, they quickly abandon analysis in favour of judgment (valuation). As a result, they often fail to see the interesting aspects of the story itself. Few of them have noticed that the film deals with such issues as struggle for love and understanding, or that it is extremely packed with action in comparison with other films made by Kieslowski.”


It seems a weakness of the cognitive approach to film not to take account of the unreliability of the witness.

Eyewitness testimony research in psychology is well-established.

wiki: eyewitness testimony

Eyewitness testimony

Eyewitness testimony and memory

Eyewitness testimony from Simple psychology for A level


The trouble with films like Kieslowski’s is there is no way of knowing if white dresses, white chickens, white pigeon droppings or white milk have great symbolic importance in the film or are quotidian images and sounds used as aesthetic props, linking devices, homages or jokes.  This is not made easier for students of Kieslowski’s films when they realise milk appeared in Dekalog 1 (left out overnight to freeze), Decalog 6 and A Short Film about Love (delivered/collected/ spilt), Camera Buff (poured down sink) and Three Colours:White.

The Double Life of Véronique: Through the Looking Glass by Jonathan Romney:

Kieslowski denied that there were any metaphors in his films: “For me, a bottle of milk is simply a bottle of milk; when it spills, it means milk’s been spilled. Nothing more.”

This surely is the joy, excitement,  puzzle, and burden of film over prose: by their very nature images (still or moving) are both arresting, distracting and often prone to ambiguity.

The other element in film, sound, evokes Bresson’s, “A locomotive’s whistle imprints in us a whole railroad.”


The  limits of film are simply yet clearly put in Requiem for Kieslowski by David Winner:

In one of his last interviews, Kieslowski told the English critic Geoff Andrew about the frustrations of exploring the spiritual: Film is very materialistic. All you can photograph, most of the time, is things. You can describe a soul, but you can’t photograph it; you have to find an equivalent. But there isn’t really an equivalent. Film is helpless when it comes to describing the soul, just as it is in describing many other things, like a state of consciousness. You have to find methods, tricks, which may be more or less successful in making it understood that this is what your film is about.

Kieslowski became progessively more frustrated with what he felt was film’s inability to completely express what the filmmaker intends.

If I make a film, I can obtain maybe 30 or 40 per cent of what I tried to achieve.


Photographs have a high level of correspondence to the reality they record, so we tend to trust them.  For example we may know the person who has been photographed.  That is not to say a photograph reliably tells a story: a photograph of a real-life object or event can obfuscate as much as clarify, lie as effectively as tell the truth. One of the fascinations of photographs, any photographs, is the recognition that the surface  may bear no relation to the depths.  The smiling lady in a family group may not be happy, but mortified by the knowledge of her impending death from cancer which she alone knows about.

Debate goes on about whether indexicality is applicable any more with digital photo-manipulation.  It all gets a bit complicated. Is film indexical in the way a photograph is said to be? The basis of our ‘trust’ in a photograph is our belief we can draw many imaginery lines between fixed points on a photograph to their source on the object.  We don’t have to have seen the Pavilion in Brighton in person to feel confident that the photograph of it in front of us represents the building itself.  It doesn’t matter if the lens used was wide angle, created a large depth of field or was fish-eye, or whether a red filter was used to highlight the clouds and sky behind it.


The technical argument that film is a trick of the eye and therefore not to be ‘trusted’, is not helpful. Film is made up of frames or frame equivalents in digital video. We can trust the indexicality of individual frames in a strip of celluloid as much as we can a photograph.  It is often only when, during editing, we examine individual frames in celluloid film or the virtual frames of digital film, truths are exposed. When the footage is watched in slow motion the miniscule  movements of body or face of the person walking towards the camera can be seen clearly for the first time.  How long did the face turn to the right?  was this looking at something off-screen or aversion  of the gaze? When did the smile appear?  What was the reaction of the other person when the bottle was snatched of of his hand? Did he look at the person doing the snatching or at the cameraman doing the filming?

The strangeness of all this is that when the final cut of a film is presented at normal speed (24 fps or its digital equivalent) – which is usually all the viewer gets to see unless the editor decides to slow sequences down or use stills – the very things missing are those the director and editor have seen and found intriguing and beguiling !


Dan Schnieder slams Truffaut’s Day for Night because it fails in narrative terms. A poor script told poorly.  But part of the point of a film about film is to play tricks with the audience. One of those tricks is to be asking whether how the film was made overpowers the story. When the crane soars over the set, exposing the workings of the set, after repeated showings of failed shoots that we seen only in frame, nobody cares about story!  Truffaut has achieved his objective, we love film more than we love the story (or life) at that moment, as he does, but it doesn’t last. The story then takes over again and we forget the cinematography. If  it’s a good script well filmed.

January 18, 2009 Posted by | film analysis, film directors, film narrative, film theory, film [its techniques], Kieslowski, Krzysztof Kieślowski | , | Leave a comment

Concentrating on Kieslowski: Bernard Hemingway reviews Three Colours

Bernard Hemingway on Three Colours  in Cinephilia:

Kieslowski’s reputation depends as much upon the interpretive enthusiasm of his devotees as it does upon the intrinsic merits of his films which are distinguished by high-end concepts and aesthetically-attractive conceits but in affect are remarkably dull, something which doesn’t seem to bother their exegetes but will leave most people wondering what’s all the fuss about.

Maybe read Jacek Ostaszewski  Comprehension of Film Narrative to go with this.

January 18, 2009 Posted by | film narrative, film [its techniques], Kieslowski, Krzysztof Kieślowski | | Leave a comment

Music: Arturo Toscanini Beethoven BBC Symphony Orchestra


For some reason wordpress  does not allow the player code from to be embedded in a post.  In lieu, the link from where you can play or download

Arturo Toscanini conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Recorded in 1937 at Queen’s Hall, London. Transfer and restoration from the original 78 RPM RCA Victor set M-417.

January 16, 2009 Posted by | Beethoven, Music | , | Leave a comment

Film: Chronique d’un été (Chronicle of a Summer) or Every film is a Fiction

Jean Rouch’s and Edgar Morin’s Chronique d’un été: Paris 1960

When people are being recorded, the reactions that they have are always infinitely more sincere than those they have when not being recorded.

Jean Rouch

(source: Transcultural Cinema by David MacDougall [p.111])

wiki: Chronique d’un été :

Chronique d’un été (Chronicle of a Summer) is a documentary film made during the summer of 1960 by sociologist Edgar Morin and anthropologist and filmmaker Jean Rouch, with the esthetic collaboration of director cameraman Michel Brault[1]. The film begins with a discussion between Rouch and Morin on whether or not it is possible to act sincerely in front of a camera. A cast of real life individuals are then introduced and are led by the filmmakers to discuss topics on the themes of French society and happiness in the working class. At the end of the movie, the filmmakers show their subjects the compiled footage and have the subjects discuss the level of reality that they thought the movie obtained.

from French Culture:

In the summer of 1960, Edgar Morin, a sociologist, and Jean Rouch conducted an enquiry into the daily lives of young Parisians in an attempt to understand their concept of happiness. This experimental film follows, over a period of a several months, both the investigation itself and the development of its main characters. The initial question “How do you live ? Are you happy ?” very quickly raises others on a number of key issues: politics, hopelessness, boredom, solitude… The interviewees eventually meet as a group at the first showing of the film, to discuss and approve or disapprove of it ; the two co-authors are confronted with the reality of this cruel but exciting experiment in “cinema-vérité”.

in  Toronto International Film Festival

When Jean Rouch first saw Michel Brault’s Les Raquetteurs, he was amazed by the French-Canadian cinematographer’s work. A year later, as Rouch worked on Chronique d’un été, the progenitor of cinema-vérité, he became worried about the static and verbose interviews conducted by his co-director, Edgar Morin. Rouch remembered Brault’s finesse at injecting life into shots with his “walking camera” and called him to the rescue.

Brault began shooting Chronique in Paris’s Place de la Concorde, and he immediately impressed observers with his camera techniques. Perhaps for the first time in the history of cinema, a French Canadian actually taught something to his French counterparts and was recognized by the French as a master of his craft. The difference between scenes shot by Brault and those filmed by other contributors is striking. One need only compare the lengthy, stagnant dinner sequence to that of Marceline walking through Les Halles and discussing her deportation under Nazi occupation to appreciate Brault’s distinctive, dynamic approach. The truth of this scene is not to be found in words, but rather in the relationship between Marceline and the space through which she moves.

André Loiselle

There seem to only 2 YouTube examples:  {1}   and {2}

Chronique d’un été in Film Reference

Jean Rouch:Cinéma-vérité, Chronicle of a Summer and The Human Pyramid

by Barbara Bruni in senses of cinema

Chronique d’un étéindependent filmmaker Jarrod Whaley review in Oak Street Films.

Technique of Film Editing By Karel Reisz, Gavin Millar

page 301-302   We are cut short just as it gets interesting but there is enough to make us think.


[1]  In a number of ways even before the cutting room they had shaped their material.

[2] The problem of spontaneity and honesty comes to the fore in this film. The film allegedly puts itelf in the hands of its subject totally. Rouch and Morin are, so to speak, at the mercy of their material in a new way. The subject of the film is the actions, reactions and opinions of the people in it, unacted upon, so far as is possible, by the technique of filming it. The role of the editor, it seems is being whittled even finer. But this isn’t so. On the contrary, his position in this situation becomes even more crucial and the moral decisions he has to make even more delicate.

[3] A vérité director has to be very careful not to misinterpret real people by his organisation of the shooting and editing. It must be admitted that the technical challenges in making vérité comprehensible sometime lead the director/editor into making cuts – even at the shooting stage – which may be good cinema but poor vérité.

Film and Phenomenology by Allan Casebier

Page 145-46.

Rouch is quoted:

There is a whole series of intermediaries and these are lying intermediaries. We contract time, we extend it, we chose an angle for the shot, we deform the people we’re shooting, we speed things up and follow one movement to the detriment of another movement. So there is whole work of lies. But, for me and Edgar Morin, at the time we made that film this was more real than the truth. That is to say, there are a certain number of things happening, human facts surrounding us….which people would not be able to say any other way….it’s a sort of catalyst which allows us to reveal, with doubts, a fictional part of all of us, but which for me is the most real part of an individual.

Documentary Film Classics By William Rothman


Chapter 4 – Chronicle of a Summer is the sample chapter –  pages 69 to 97 – mirabile dictu.

Pages 73-74/ 80-81/87-88/94-95/ are left out, but this is still a good read with these pages on the cutting room floor. If anyone has this book in their collection, grateful for a copy of this chapter. You can’t buy every film book you see, and this particular one would for me mainly be for Chronique d’un ete and Bunuel’s Land Without Bread.

P. 70.

In an interview some years after making Chronicle of a Summer, Rouch reaffirmed his conviction that film has the power “to reveal, with doubts, a fictional part of us, which for me is the most real part of an individual.”  The camera is capable of provoking people to reveal aspects of themselves that are fictional, to reveal themselves as the as the creatures of imagination, fantasy, ans myth they are: This is the touchstone of the practice Rouch calls “Cinéma vérité.”

In Rouch’s view, Chronicle is not simply a documentary, because the people in the film are provoked to manifest fictional parts of themselves. And it is not simply a fiction film, because the fictions it reveals are real. Yet a fiction is also a lie.


In his useful monograph Anthropology – Reality – Cinema, Mick Easton argues that Rouch’s aim in filming is not to make people comfortable so they will reveal themselves honestly and directly to and through his camera. “In the disjunction caused bythe very presence of the camera,” Easton observes, “people will act, will lie, be uncomfortable, and it is the manifestation of this side of themselves which is regarded as a more profound revelation than anything a ‘candid camera’ could reveal.”

Cuban Cinema by Michael Chanan

Chapter 9 – The Documentary in the Revolution

p. 184 – 217

Historical overview: free cinema => cinema verita, mentioning Chronique d’un ete p. 190 – 92

Movies and Methods by Bill Nicholas

p. 279 – 285

January 14, 2009 Posted by | cinéma-vérité, direct cinema, film analysis, film directors, film editing, film theory, film [its techniques], free cinema, Jean Rouch, Michel Brault | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Film: A Case for Cognitivism by David Bordwell

This essay, A Case for Cognitivism, from 1989 is introduced with a shorter, later piece, Cognitive Film Theory.

If we want to know how films work upon us, then cognitive theory offers a range of concepts which correlate nicely with notions like norm, form, function, and psychological experience.

January 13, 2009 Posted by | David Bordwell, film theory, film [its techniques] | , , | Leave a comment

Film : The Battle for Algiers vs. La Guerre d’Algérie

The Battle of Algiers in 13 parts [ in YouTube ].


La Guerre d’Algérie 1/20 (1972)

La Bataille d’Alger (3 parts) by Yves Boisset
2007 French TV programme interviewing many of the main characters on both sides. {1}


Algérie Française!  Algérie Française!

“Vive le l’Algérie Française!”

Our headmaster was a tad eccentric to be declaiming this from the stage in the gym to a group of 11 year olds, but it was part of our weekly Current Affairs lesson. He read out news from the day’s newspaper, taking the parts of the main characters, and filled us in on the facts. Looking back, this was impressive and enlightnened teaching.

An actor once came to give us a performance of his interpretation of Charles Dicken’s one-man shows, beard and all. The gusto of our Head’s De Gaulle performance was not dissimilar. He threw himself into it completely, including French accent.  He was de Gaulle: he even looked like De Gaulle: tall, though with undersized suit,  jacket buttoned to bursting, trouser bottoms half way up his socks. He came back later (this was from 1958-62) in other current affairs lessons to explain how de Gaulle had ‘changed his mind’ about Algerian independence. (We learn now that he wanted shot of Algeria from the beginning…and was hoodwinking everbody)

There was a certain frisson for me over Algeria that the other kids probably didn’t have: I left a turbulent Iraq in July 1958 as a 10 year old.


I should have watched The Battle of Algiers decades ago. Reminded of it in Infinite Thought’s Philosophy, Film & Literature course summary, I wanted to see it now I am beginning to examine the documentary/fiction divide in the process of learning to make my own flics.


Battaglia di Algeri, La (1966) IMdb

Gillo Pontecorvo: The Battle of Algiers

Succint Derek Malcom (2000) review.

A screenplay of The Battle of Algiers by Franco Solinas  (which looks kosher, i.e. it has more than dialogue), from, which has a compendious collection of script/screenplays. N.B. each  script is marked as HTML or pdf.  Mostly Hollywood but an occasional surprise, e.g. a script dated as Stockholm May 31, 1957, of Wild Strawberries. I’ve not seen it in it’s entirely and am going to try a little experiment – read the screenplay before watching the film.


Ennio Morriccone’s music from the film:

Ennio Morricone documentary – Part 3
A brief interview with Pontecorvo.

“The Battle of Algiers”.

“Ali’s Theme”

I am intrigued by the film’s documentary style and the use of this music.


Coming to The Battle of Algiers forearmed and forewarned – filmically,  historically, politically – I was not quite as impressed with it overall as I thought I was going to be, disappointed by the lack of a deeper context ( yes, it was a war of independence but  someone might have mentioned de Gaulle, or did I miss that?) and finding instead a narrow focus, with few three-dimensional characters, leaving out much of the complicated politico-historical details. Of course a script is a script and has its limitations.  So often you can watch a hyped-up Hollywood movie and conclude,  despite it being a well-told story, it is thin gruel.

In The Battle of Algiers, Sartre – having written about the Algerian war – was mentioned  by a  subordinate to Colonel Mathieu, in charge of the counter-insurgency strategy, who responds: “Why are the liberals always on the other side?”.  From Mathieu’s mouth the telling remark that he was in the French resistance.( He is made to say: “There are 80,000 Arabs in the Kasbah. Are they all against us? We know they’re not. In reality, it’s only a small minority that dominates with terror and violence. This minority is our adversary and we must isolate and destroy it.” )  He  mentions the paras, which he heads in Algiers, fought (and lost) in Indo-China. In other words we have learnt and don’t intend to lose here. And they don’t, systematically destroying the cells of the FLN in Algiers. But the greater war is lost, which the film doesn’t really describe directly or in any detail. It is suggested by the revolt starting up again after 2 years and the final scene of rioting on the streets of Algiers. One of the things missing is the revolt of the colonists  a few years before and their barricades.

To get an idea of what went on in Algeria as whole,  view in YouTube a 1972 doumentary on the war, La Guerre d’Algérie 1/20 (1972)

Even if your French is not to hot, the moving images tell the story pretty well. One of the things the  images show is that this was the era before the media were controlled. Watching this, reminds of the Vietnam reporting. Then came the Falkands!  There was no footage like this in the Iraq wars of 1992 or 2003.


wiki: The Battle of Algiers links to historical info. from this point to many other wikis such as on Algeria and de Gaulle.

Mention in wiki: The Battle of Algiers, under heading screenplay, that the film tends to take a neutral position, though various previous scripts had tried slanting it differently.

It was released in 1965/6, so people watching it then knew about Algeria. For someone watching now, nearly half a century later, the lack of context in the film (such as the tumult in France at the time, de Gaulle coming to power in the middle of the war, the OAS,  and so one) is significant.

The Battle of Algiers and Its Lessons

by Sheila K. Johnson


The wider political events is missing from The Battle of Algiers.  France was deeply divided over Algeria, even over their attitude to the pied-noire.  Though there was general support for them during the war, public opinion turned against them afterwards. {wiki: Charles De Gaulle}.

Algeria was not considered a colony but three départements. Nearly a million pied-noires resettled in mainland France after Algeria won its independence. {wiki: Pied-Noir}

25,000 pied-noire/military were killed in the war as a whole, set against 1 million Algerians. 1 Million Algerians fled the country during the war, most returning at independence in 1962.

According to wiki:Algeria the European population in 1962 was 15.2 % of the total. Although this is contradicted in wiki: Algerian war, with: ” In 1959, the pieds-noirs numbered 1,025,000 (85% of European descent, and 15% of Sephardi Jewish descent), and accounted for 10.4% of the total population of Algeria. ” Something that seems significant is the urban/rural demographic of Algeria at the time. There were roughly equal numbers of colonists to Arabs in the main cities.


Occupation case studies: Algeria and Turkey
By K Gajendra Singh

The author was an Indian diplomat who served in Algeria in 1964. The details of the Algerian war are there.

There is a substantial  wiki: Algerian War from which many links.

This YouTube

La Guerre d’Algérie 1/20 (1972)

is in French.  Here is an opportunity to compare a documentary-style fiction film with a detailed documentary based on media footage. Note how France retains control over Saharan oil.

This extract from French Cinema and the Algerian War: Fifty Years Later: Decades later, the savage conflict and its political and human repercussions are at last being seriously examined by French filmmakers


..a montage of materials taken from French and foreign news programs of the period, organized chronologically, which told the story of the war as seen by the press (cinematic or otherwise) between 1954 and 1968. In other words, the “news” from Algeria since, officially speaking, there was no war in Algeria. While the military correspondent of Le Monde, Jean Planchais, wrote a long and sympathetic review of the film entitled “The Algerian War Rediscovered,” he nevertheless reproached the filmmakers for producing a mere montage rather than the political tract that could have been expected of them. Months later, Freddy Buache, writing for the Swiss daily La Tribune de Lausanne, accused the authors of having preferred “a sort of photo album of an exceptionally atrocious war” to serious political analysis.

It goes on to describe other films on the Algerian War (documentary and fiction) made since and the changing attitudes of the French to discussing it.

This YouTube titled  Interview Pier-Noire – 14 Juillet 1962 – Oran is an extract from an documentary, which interviews an elderly pied-noir (I was born here. My mother was born here….) who at the time of interview was declaring his intention to stay in Algeria, that he he lived amongst Arab Algerians without difficulty. I wonder what happened to him and others like him who wanted to stay.

De Gaulle and Algeria

On 4 June 1958, de Gaulle declared to a huge French crowd in Algiers, “I have understood you !” even as he announced root and branch reforms. In Mostaganem, he was subsequently heard (though only once) to shout “Vive l’Algérie… Française ! (Long live French Algeria !)”
Behind these resounding phrases, however, de Gaulle presented a more complex face to the skilled observer. In October 1958, in Constantine, his cry was “Vive l’Algérie et vive la France ! (Long live Algeria and long live France !)” and he invited the FLN to “bury the hatchet” with France. Clearer still, in 1959 he confided to a reporter that “the Algeria of our fathers’ days is dead and, if we cannot understand that, we will die along with her”.

“Je vous ai compris” short video clip of De Gaulle in June 4 1958 telling the French Algerians that “I have understood you.”  He is seen in the same shot in one of the later episodes of  La Guerre d’Algérie 1/20 (1972)

“Torture en Algerie Francaise”:  a short extract  interviewing men who had served in Algeria during the war.

The Algerian War in Paris

Lawrence Bohme ( Sorbonne [1961-63]; UNESCO translator, [1981-85]. )



Film, Play, Power and the Computational, or Byting Celluloid February 2006

Daniel Coffeen



wiki: Gillo Pontecorvo

History of Algeria short summar with specific headings, e.g., Nationalism and reaction 1945-1958/The FLN Years 1962-1992

Learning From the Real Battle of Algiers

Robert J Avrech

Not strictly about film (he’s angling to use it to illustrate Arabs are undemocratic, what the Algeria can tell America about Iraq, etc., and how Israel is a pussy cat by comparison in it’s response to the Palestinians) but there are a few bits of info such as the mention of influence Franz Fanon on Pontecorvo at the time of the making of the film.

…the film is a work of leftist propaganda, beautifully crafted, to be sure, but a film that seeks to justify Islamic terror by proposing that the French were so brutal that the Algerians had no choice but to resort to unrestrained terror.

….The Palestinians are lucky people.

Because their enemies are Jews.

I’d put it another way: the Palestinians are unlucky because they haven’t got their own country.

Battle of Algiers by Kevin Beary  in

Written in June 2003.  Primarily about the film. Few mentions of parallels with US in Iraq.

Although nearly forty years have passed since its creation, Battle of Algiers is more timely than ever – especially for Americans, given the American involvement in a contemporary colonial war in the Middle East.

Profile of director Pontecorvo. That the impetus from the film had come from FLN leader Jacef Saadi,  who ended up play the part of FLN commander Kader.
The big picture – Battle of Algiers

An 1996 article from Socialist Review by Martin Smith

De Gaulle – a Lesser Evil? by Shane Mage
A 1960  view from the left  in Internationalist Socialist Review

The Battle of Algiers

Peter Bradshaw on the 2007 re-release of the film:

…torture scenes are laid out in montage for us without any self-conscious emotional affect or drama.

….without any of the internal humanising or dramatising conflict that would be considered vital now: they do indeed look almost like a military training film. Another sort of director, possessed of a more conventional liberal scruple, might have felt the need to show a torturer’s inner pain or the torturee’s hidden backstory. But Pontecorvo shows them in terms of strategy.

Omar Odeh in Bright Lights Film Journal also reviews the new DVD

The blog International law and Films has a considerable post on The Battle of Algiers.


A guillotine was used in the film to dispatch an Algerian. The question entering my mind was, Were they still using it in France at the same time? Didn’t find the answer, but found  The Executioner’ Tale,  a 2002 Guardian article by Hugh Schofield, which  gives a figure for numbers of Arabs guillotined (200). Were any pied-noirs (perhaps a real-life Meursault or twos?)  likewise dispatched (for common-or-garden murder, par example) ?


Who was Lt. Colonel mathieu based on?

Marcel Bigeard

There ia link in the references to Film: French Lesson by Steve Sailer which mentions Bigeard.

No Time for Soldiers Time magazine 18 August 1958

January 13, 2009 Posted by | Algeria, Algerian War, film [its techniques], Gillo Pontecorvo | , , | Leave a comment

Film music psychology

Even music played before or after a film character is shown affects our perception of their emotion

January 12, 2009 Posted by | film [its techniques] | Leave a comment

Film : L’Eclisse (Michelangelo Antonio)

L’Eclisse (1962) – YouTube 12 parts.

Michelangelo Antonioni’s L’Eclisse
– A broken piece of wood, a matchbook, a woman, a man

There is an enormous amount of writing on the film in this website.

January 12, 2009 Posted by | film analysis, film directors, film theory, film [its techniques], Michelangelo Antonioni | Leave a comment

Film : review Truffaut “Day for Night”

Day for Night (1973)

from MovieDivia

Confusion between fiction and reality is the film’s subject. Day for Night is also a record of Truffaut’s directorial method; “I made Day for Night like a documentary, and there is very little difference between the shooting I show and that of my films.” The abandoned set of an American film, The Madwoman of Chaillot, inspired him to stage his own film within a film there, albeit on a more luxurious scale than that to which he was accustomed. “…my intent was to make the audience happy on seeing a film in the making, to infuse joy and lightheartedness from all the sprocket holes of the film, ‘Moi, jaime le cinema.'”

Day for Night by Brian Hoyle (Senses of Cinema)

Truffaut’s trifle in Day for Night by Marjorie Rosen (Jump Cut)

January 11, 2009 Posted by | film directors, film [its techniques] | | Leave a comment

Film: comparison of literature with film

Present(ing) Tense: Temporality and Tense in Comparative Theories of Literature-Film Adaptation

Sarah Cardwell

January 11, 2009 Posted by | film [its techniques], Literature | Leave a comment

FILM ESSAY: After the death of film – writing the natural world in the digital age

After the eath of Film: Writing the natural world in the digital age


Tess Takahashi

This essay argues that the North American cinematic avant-garde’s interest in celluloid film’s materiality goes to the heart of our culture’s current anxiety about the digital ability to seamlessly transcode, endlessly reproduce and recklessly disseminate images of all stripes. It traces the ways in which celluloid film’s capacity for registering the marks made by the artist’s hand, natural elements and accidents function as writing in the work of filmmakers Greta Snider, David Gatten, Lynn Kirby among others.

January 11, 2009 Posted by | film analysis, film directors, film editing, film theory, film [its techniques] | | Leave a comment

FILM BOOK: The Evolution of Film by Janet Harbord

The Evolution of Film By Janet Harbord

How is film changing? What does it do, and what do we do with it? This book examines the reasons why we should be studying film in the twenty-first century, connecting debates from philosophy, anthropology and new media with historical concerns of film studies.When the common frameworks for studying film – the nation, identity, representation, Hollywood industry – have ceased to yield explanatory power, how do we conceive of film’s doings? In this fresh and innovative book, Janet Harbord argues that film no longer represents or stands in for particular cultures, but acts isomorphically, showing us how the world works. Film here is action, energy, matter, moving across space to forge connections, provide encounters, and create schisms in our knowledge of others. The book brings together key thinkers of the contemporary in an innovative exchange between film and theory. Marc Auge’s concept of ‘non-place’ is brought to bear on, and disrupt, the category of national cinema. Manuel DeLanda’s notion of morphogenesis frames an understanding of film as a process of constant evolution, in which the terms of change are immanent to matter itself. And the concept of inertia, from Paul Virilio’s work, allows us to comprehend the different energies of film. Arguing that there is no higher position from which to view the present, either in theory or in film, we move blindly and yet with faith, discovering the present frame by frame. Liquid Film demonstrates how this is an intangible yet critical medium in the contemporary, mediating relationships to place, technology and thought itself.Liquid Film will be essential reading for students and scholars of film at all levels.

January 11, 2009 Posted by | film analysis, film directors, film editing, film theory, film [its techniques] | Leave a comment

FILM BOOK: Realism and ‘reality’ in Film and Media

Realism and ‘reality’ in Film and Media
By Anne Jerslev

Eleven articles by Danish, British, and American film and media researchers focus on two sub-themes: ‘Film and Realism’ deals theoretically with film realism and analyses classic films and modern Danish Dogma films; ‘Documentary Forms, Reality TV and New Media’ treats new forms of non-fiction film, TV and on the internet in a both theoretical and historical perspective.

January 11, 2009 Posted by | film analysis, film directors, film editing, film theory, film [its techniques] | Leave a comment

FILM BOOK: Image and Mind – Film, Philosophy and Cognitive Science

Image and Mind: Film, Philosophy and Cognitive Science
By Gregory Currie

Apparently a book about:

… the nature of film: about the nature of moving images, about the viewer’s relation to film, and about the kinds of narrative that film is capable of presenting. It represents a very decisive break with the semiotic and psychoanalytic theories of film that have dominated discussion over the past twenty years. Professor Currie provides a general theory of pictorial narration and its interpretation in both pictorial and linguistic media, and concludes with an analysis of some ways in which film narrative and literary narrative differ.

Reviewer Robert Hopkins does not seem overly happy with it.

January 10, 2009 Posted by | film analysis, film directors, film editing, film theory, film [its techniques] | , | Leave a comment

FILM BOOK:The Cognitive Semiotics of Film By Warren Buckland

The Cognitive Semiotics of Film
By Warren Buckland

Again only a few pages, but enough to get an idea of what cognitive semiotics is and how it is placed between semiotic and cognitive film theory.

A summary elsewhere {1}:

In The Cognitive Semiotics of Film, Warren Buckland argues that the conflict between cognitive film theory and contemporary film theory is unproductive. Examining and developing the work of ‘cognitive film semiotics’, a neglected branch of film theory that combines the insights of cognitive science with those of linguistics and semiotics, he investigates Michel Colin’s cognitive semantic theory of film; Francesco Casetti and Christian Metz’s theories of film enunciation; Roger Odin’s cognitive-pragmatic film theory; and Michel Colin and Dominique Chateau’s cognitive studies of film syntax, which are viewed within the framework of Noam Chomsky’s transformational generative grammar. Presenting a survey of cognitive film semiotics, this study also re-evaluates the film semiotics of the 1960s, highlights the weaknesses of American cognitive film theory, and challenges the move toward ‘post-theory’ in film studies.

• This book advances to the next stage of cognitive film theory • It is a survey of neglected European film theorists who combine semiotics with cognitive science • An investigation into how Christian Metz’s pioneering film semiotics has reached maturation by assimilating concepts from cognitive science, pragmatics and Chomskyan linguistics

Preface and acknowledgements; 1. The cognitive turn in film theory; 2. The body on screen and in frame: film and cognitive semantics; 3. Not what is seen through the window but the window itself: reflexivity, enunciation and film; 4. The institutional context: a semio-pragmatic approach to fiction and documentary film; 5. All in the mind? The cognitive status of film grammar; Conclusion; Notes; Bibliography of works cited; Index.


If you’re starting at the beginning like me, How to Read Film by James Monaco covers film theory sufficiently to then get back to watching and making film. Though it is inevitable, as realisations and problems arise in praxis, one will turn to books to confirm what one is discovering or clarify the puzzles and conundrums of making and viewing film, it is important to know (which you may not…) as Mononaco says:

…film theory and criticism, two related but not identical activities that have as their common end an increased understanding of the phenomenon of film. In general, theory is the abstraction; criticism is the practice. At the lowest end of the scale, we find the kind of criticism a reviewer practices: more reportage than analysis. The reviewer’s function is to describe the film and evaluate it, two relatively simple tasks. At the upper end of the scale is the the kind of film theory that has little or nothing to do with the actual practiceof film: an intellectual activity that exists primarily for its own sake, and often has its own rewards, but doesn’t necessarily have much relation to the real world. Between these two extremes there is much room for useful and interesting work.


if you like me, had a science eduction, you might assume theory, as in film, would mean the same as, say, theory, as in evolution, which has some explanatory and predictive power. It is another story, but we are here in the realm of [wiki:]pseudo-science {2} {3] and Karl Popper’s falsifiability.

January 10, 2009 Posted by | film analysis, film directors, film editing, film theory, film [its techniques] | Leave a comment

Film: what distinguishes documentary student filmmakers from fiction students

From p.o.v.

Confessions of a Teacher
“Documentarists” and “Fictionalists” – thoughts about selecting students for a documentary course

by David Wingate

January 9, 2009 Posted by | film [its techniques] | Leave a comment

Concentrating on Kieslowski: The Office

Two pieces on The Office (Urzad 1966) in p.o.v.

Kieslowski’s Grey by Laurence Green

A Visual Kafka in Poland by Ib Bondebjerg

January 9, 2009 Posted by | film analysis, film directors, film [its techniques], Kieslowski, Krzysztof Kieślowski | , , | Leave a comment