cutting on the action

photography and film – facts, ideas, values

FILM COURSE NOTES from Malcolm Armstrong

Unit 1: Basic Approaches to Analyzing Film Meaning

Unit 2: Depth, volume and space

Malcolm Armstrong revision notes for his students. Quite handy to run through to be reminded what film is about!

January 26, 2012 Posted by | film [its techniques] | Leave a comment


The Rules

by Caspar Newbolt, 18 January 2012

January 20, 2012 Posted by | film watching, film [its techniques] | Leave a comment

FILM E-BOOK The Altering Eye

The Altering Eye


Robert Philip Kolker

Preface to the Online Edition

The Altering Eye was published by Oxford University Press in 1983. The book spoke to a vital, worldwide movement in film, a movement full of energy and experimentation. Politically and formally adventurous, it claimed the world for cinema. The movement is over, but the films and their influence remain. The print run of The Altering Eye is over, but because there is now another movement full of energy and experimentation in the digital, online community, it will have a second run in electronic form.

The electronic edition maintains the original text with very, very few alterations. What is new, in addition to easy access, is a rich and changing panoply of visual elements: still and moving images that prove how appropriate the Web is for the serious work of film criticism. The electronic Altering Eye will now continue to be a fully present visual work in progress.

Robert Kolker
Jan, 2007

January 20, 2012 Posted by | Classical American cinema, Eisenstein, European film, film [its techniques], German expressionist cinema, neo-realism | , , | Leave a comment

FILM BRESSON Au hasard Balthazar [1966] – Records of Material Objects in the Cinema #10: A Band-Aid on Anne Wiazemsky’s Leg

Iconic image of famous auteur looking for his cut. Can he see anything with his shades on, through a fog of smoke from his Gitane?

Records of Material Objects in the Cinema #10: A Band-Aid on Anne Wiazemsky’s Leg

MUBI blogs Written by Daniel Kasman, 13 January 2012

Ignore the short post but slip down to the comment by Matt

I’m curious if it is noticeable in the film’s scene rather than just a still from the film? Sometimes a shot like this may last a second or two – but as a frozen frame it seems so much more significant.

David Bordwell once laid out a whole color theory about an Angelopolous film. When I went back to see the scene it passed by so quickly that it barely registered. But, clearly, he had seen it on an editing device [or DVD] and was able to watch the film frame by frame. Which essentially made it a different scene.

There’s the viewer of the film and the maker of the film. Whether film or digital, editing involves looking at individual frames or freeze framing. Nowadays the viewer of a DVD can stop the film in much the same way as the editor does. The difference is the film-maker started off with a lot more footage to edit down to his final film, the viewer only has the final cut, whether to view as a film or frame by frame.

January 20, 2012 Posted by | Bresson, Robert Bresson | , | Leave a comment

FILM Mise-en-scène Analysis

Mise-en-scène Analysis


Essential Points

A Slideshare presentation. 33 slides with graphics. Good for revision. At the bottom a transcription of the text. Other film related interesting slideshows at the side.

January 20, 2012 Posted by | film [its techniques], mise en scene | | Leave a comment

FILM SCENARIO by Jean-Luc Godard for A Woman is a Woman [1961]

Scenario by Jean-Luc Godard for His l961 Film A Woman is a Woman

transl. Michael Benedikt

Godard’s Scenario Subheading: ‘Based on an idea by Genevieve Cluny’

January 18, 2012 Posted by | Godard, Jean-Luc Godard | Leave a comment

FILM Découpage technique for La Gueule Ouverte [1974] Dir. Maurice Pialat

Découpage technique plan par plan du film La Gueule ouverte (1974) de Maurice Pialat

Découpage technique réalisé par Bénédicte Romieu pour

January 18, 2012 Posted by | decoupage, decoupage technique | | Leave a comment

FILM Max Ophuls’s Adaptation to and Subversion of Classical Hollywood Cinema and Their Effect on his European Filmmaking by Lutz Bacher

Max Ophuls’s Adaptation to and Subversion of Classical Hollywood Cinema and Their Effect on his European Filmmaking

by Lutz Bacher

IPRESCI (The international federation of film critics) 2006

Originally published in Luciano De Giusti, Luca Giuliani (editors), Il piacere e il disincanto nel cinema di Max Ophuls (Milan: Il Castoro, 2003). Proceedings of Lo sguardo dei maestri, La Cineteca del Friuli, Cec – Udine, Cinemazero – Pordenone, February 2002.

January 18, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

FILM decoupage VII (Encroyable! Bien plus? Sûrement pas?)

Are there any examples of decoupage? This would be a lot easier than trying to work out what it was from a welter of different ideas. The main thing is that film analysts and theorists see finished films, rarely scripts and certainly not shooting scripts.

The only example I’ve come across, which has been linked to before for anyone following these decouage posts through on an internal blog search, is in :

French Film Theory and Criticism: A History/Anthology 1907-1939 by Richard Abel (Google Book)

An extract from “Le Filmage,” Le Cinema (Paris: Renaissance du livre, 1919), 145-68 by Henri Diamant-Berger (1895-1972), a French director, producer and screenwriter, has an example of decoupage written by him as an illustration:

He explains that “This scene, as cut up into twenty-six pieces in the scenario, calls for fifteen camera set ups and measures 50 metres in length. You will notice, of course, that a scene thus exhibited out of context carried a completely arbitrary significance and that, according to to its placement in a film, it should be treated in a manner that is either more or less synthesised or balenced.”

Also: the median length of a shot is 2-5 metres (1 meter might be about 2 seconds). There is mention of ‘extremely special decoupages’. Footnote 2 of this extract – or is it a whole article – giving as examples where they can be found in Gance’s J’Accuse (1919) and Griffith’s Intolerance (1916)

He finishes with:

The decoupage is as indispensable to the cinema as dialogue is to the theater or punctuation is two writing…..

This presumably is decoupage technique.

Another way of looking at decoupage would be to look for specific mention of decoupagers in credits. The only one I’ve found so far is is for Falbalas or “Paris Frills” (1945).

Maurice Aubergé (scenario and adaptation)

Jacques Becker (scenario and adaptation)

Maurice Griffe (scenario and adaptation)

Jacques Becker (decoupage)

Maurice Aubergé (dialogue)

January 18, 2012 Posted by | decoupage | | Leave a comment

FILM Mais non! Pas encore de le découpage! VI

The classic French cinema, 1930-1960 (1993)


C. G. Crisp

Stages in development of a script, from p. 300.

page 301:

There were [..] five stages listed in script development “manuals”: the synopsis, the traitment, the continuité, the dialogues or continuité dialoguée, and the découpage techniqué. Frequently, mention is made of a prior “stage”, the idée de film, which might be an anecdote noted in a few lines or at most a few pages.

This quoting is a bit complicated – p.301 came from a previous search on the GoogleBook. The recent search had p.301 missing. You’ll have to buy the book, sorry. I just did.


…the complete five-stage process was not necessarily followed for every film. Sometimes there would be more like three stages — synopsis, traitement through continuité dialoguée, and découpage technique; and if all five stages, they did not necessarily or even normally succeed one another temporarily: each flowed and overlapped with the next. The addition of dialogue in particular might well not be a separate stage, but an ongoing procedure beginning at the traitement stage and not be being finally completed till shooting began (or even after). Consequently, the term for this fourth stage fluctuated more than did the others, from adaptation to découpage artistique to continuité dialoguée; many writers simply use a descriptive phrase such as “addition de dialogues.” The term scenario itself was used for the whole process, but sometimes for the synopsis or traitement stages. The earliest of these post-war commentators, writing in the period 1944-1946, showed particular uncertainty as to how to label the stages, as if the range of terms was still there being developed and had not firmed up. “Scenario, synopsis, adaptation,” says Style en France in 1946, “continuity, dialogues, découpage artistique, découpage technique — this flurry of prestigious and recondite terms cluster around the work.”

January 15, 2012 Posted by | decoupage, film-making | , | Leave a comment

FILM E-BOOK How to read a Film by James Monaco [1990]

How to Read a Film : The World of Movies, Media and Multimedia

– Language, History, Theory


James Monaco

3rd edition

A Scribd e-version of this book. Searchable with Scribd or browser.

January 15, 2012 Posted by | film [its techniques] | Leave a comment

FILM BOOK Montage, Découpage, Mise en Scène: Essays on Film Form

Montage, Découpage, Mise en Scène: Essays on Film Form

Jacques Aumont, Timothy Barnard, Frank Kessler with a foreword by Christian Keathley

This book is to be published by caboose in a series called Kino-Agora [Series editor: Christian Keathley, Middlebury College]

January 15, 2012 Posted by | decoupage, mise en scene, montage | 1 Comment

FILM montage / découpage / mise-en-scène V

After reading the Christian Keathley paper Catherine put up on FSFF about découpage [Bonjour Tristesse and the expressive potential of découpage ] can see that the title of my original post on découpage should really be montage, découpage and mise-en-scène. But then I didn’t really understand the connections before. This is a learning experience!

Looking around for découpage vs. mise-en-scéne has brought a few more explanations.


mise en scène analysis needs a reunion with theories of montage (long left fallow in Anglo-American cinema studies, though not elsewhere) — or, at the very least, découpage (‘shot breakdown’, shot-patterning), an intermediate term between mise en scène and montage that was once strongly alive in the writings of Noël Burch and Brian Henderson, and informs the regular reviewing of Jonathan Rosenbaum. And découpage, pushed a little further back to its origin, returns us to an often censored element in *mise en scène* criticism: namely, the script!


Placing Mise en scène: An Argument with John Gibbs’s Mise-en-scène

by Adrian Martin in Film-Philosophy Journal, vol. 8 no. 20, June 2004

Buried in the middle of Romance of the Ordinary [on Chantal Akerman], Jonathan Rosenbaum’s post on Belgian film-maker Chantal Ackerman, is a section on découpage and mise-en-scéne. And in the middle of that:

….découpage. In terms of its popular French usage, it has three separate but interlocking meanings: the final form of a script, the breakdown of a film into separate shots and sequences prior to filming, and the basic structure of a finished film. (The verb découper means “to cut out” or “to cut up.”) The term découpage implies that there is a continuity between script and editing — a continuity imposed not by a writer, director, or editor, but by a filmmaker who carries the project through from beginning to end — and that mise en scène becomes a means toward an end in this continuity rather than an end in itself.

Right after that, this paragraph:

If the term mise en scène implies an industrial model of cinema, the term découpage implies an artistic or artisanal model. The latter term makes sense in France, where a filmmaker’s right to final cut is a part of actual law; it makes very little sense in a country like ours, where even the writer-directors who have an unusual amount of creative freedom — Woody Allen, for instance — do not produce a découpage in the sense that Robert Bresson does. (As we know from Ralph Rosenblum and Robert Karen’s book When the Shooting Stops . . . the Cutting Begins, practically all of Allen’s features are restructured and re-created in the cutting room, and the original scripts are quite different from the finished products.)

It’s all over the place. This from a Criterion Forum, What does a cinematographer do? :

Mise en scène began life as a generic term in French cinema in the 20s and 30s to generally indicate the director – “mise en scène de…” The term gained greater force of meaning with the post war critics, and of course the famous Politique des Auteurs. In fact, a distinction grew up between directors whose mise en scene (to cut it short “means of expression”) were clearly expressive of a distinct directorial personality, or directors who were merely “metteurs en scene” – to cut it short, second rung directors whose felicity of expression did not however manifest a distinctive directorial personality – thus endless feuds and arguments between cinephiles of various stripes over many years. I still have a seriously cineliterate friend who regards Powell and Pressberger as metteurs en scène. I think he’s nuts.

It ought to be pointed out also, the French term decoupage which, during the thirties had a substantially conjunctive meaning to mise en scene, was originally used in essence to express the general filmic rhythms vis a vis cutting, camera movement montage – in short the grammatical “layout’ of the film’s visual style.

But like mise en scène, decoupage got into the hands of English language critics and by the 90s or earlier was becoming so overused that the original meanings have simply become debased.

Section 4 of part 1 of How Movies Work, by Bruce F Kawin [1992], titled Montage and Mise-en-scene in the Narrative Film [starting at page 87], does a very good og job of explaining Mise-en-scene and Montage in separate sections, only once briefly mentioning decoupage:

The French term for simple continuity editing is decoupage: it denotes “ordinary” sequential cutting, where one shot follows another in a linear, easy-to-follow manner

This section is followed by by detailed examples of how mise-en-scene and montage work.

Then there is paper in Continuum:The Australian Journal of Media & Culture, vol. 5 no 2 (1990)

‘The mystique of mise en scene revisited’ by Barrett Hodsdon

January 14, 2012 Posted by | decoupage, mise en scene, montage | Leave a comment

FILM découpage / mise-en-scéne IV

Film study: an analytical bibliography

By Frank Manchel

Fairleigh Dickinson Univ Press, 1990

The four volumes of Film Study include a fresh approach to each of the basic categories in the original edition. Volume one examines the film as film; volume two focuses on the thematic approach to film; volume three draws on the history of film; and volume four contains extensive appendices listing film distributors, sources, and historical information as well as an index of authors, titles, and film personalities.

Google Book

Has a short section on page 112 on decoupage and mis-en-scene. 15 lines on mis-en-scene and then

This forms part of Chapter 1. You’ll find yourself scrolling back and forward from this section finding other interesting things. This quote in the section on The Narrative Film starting on page 107

Note 5 in André Bazin Revisited: André Bazin: Part 1, Film Style Theory in its Historical Context

Donato Totaro, 2003

There are two terms used by Bazin which either take on a different meaning in their English translation or don’t have an equivalent. Montage in English terminology implies a rigorous and expressive editing style. Most editing sequences juxtapose shots of varying space, time, and content combining to create an over- all idea, meaning, or tone. Editing implies the formal construction of the film from one shot to the next and is not nec­essarily expressive. Bazin uses the terms interchangeably. The second term, decoupage, has no English equivalent. The French definition is “to cut,” but applied to film the word is better described as construction. Noel Burch, in Theory of Film Practice, defines the three terms for which decoupage is inter­changeably used for as: 1) The final form of a script replete with the required technical information. 2) The practical breakdown of the film’s construction into separate shots/sequences prior to filming & 3) The underlying structure of the finished film, which has probably deviated from the original “decoupage.”

Film editing: The Art of the Expressive, Valerie Orpen, p.2:

January 14, 2012 Posted by | decoupage, film [its techniques], mise en scene | Leave a comment

FILM découpage / Mise-en-scène III

Catherine has linked to a very good 2011 paper in Movie: A Journal of Film Criticism, 3 by Christian Keathley, 2011, which might be in the category of All One Ever Needed To Know About Découpage But Were Afraid To Ask: Bonjour Tristesse and the expressive potential of découpage.

January 14, 2012 Posted by | decoupage, mise en scene | Leave a comment

FILM The Elements of

The Elements of Cinema

–A Student’s Guide to the fundamentals of film-making

Website produced by film student Gabriel Moura, who says:

Elements of Cinema was designed with young filmmakers and film/video students in mind. Our goal is to provide film knowledge and offer a comprehensive, well-written, easy-to-navigate website that covers many elements of filmmaking, including but not limited to, cinematography, editing, screenwriting, and directing. In our methodology, we break each one of those areas to their bare bones. We focus on the obvious and the obscure tricks of trade.

It is a textbook, as he says, and looks like it will be very useful.

January 13, 2012 Posted by | film-making | | Leave a comment


A Study of Kurosawa’s Ikiru, Part 1

~ What it Means to Live ~

A Study of Kurosawa’s Ikiru, Part 2:

~ Rebirth, the Creative Act, and the Moral Dimension ~

Aryeh Kaufman in Off Screen, 2009

January 8, 2012 Posted by | Ikuru, Kurosawa | , | Leave a comment


Film #81: Mulholland Dr.

A long 2008 post in filmicabilty with selection of stills and only the first two of 8 videos embedded still available

January 7, 2012 Posted by | David Lynch, Mulholland Dr. | | Leave a comment

PHOTOGRAPHY Errol Morris: Two Essential Truths About Photography

Errol Morris: Two Essential Truths About Photography

post from Open Culture 29 Dec 2011, includes video from Guardian’s Comment is free series. Written by photographer Eugene Buchko

A text of a lecture given by Errol Morris from his website which covers the same ground in more detail, both dealing with elements of his book Believing is Seeing.

January 5, 2012 Posted by | Errol Morris, photography | Leave a comment