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Analyzing Filmmakers’ Themes and Techniques: A Comparative Study

Aug 10, 2023 | 0 comments

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Aug 10, 2023 | Essays | 0 comments

1. We have the advantage of living in a time many years after Walter Benjamin wrote the article “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.” Do you think Benjamin’s ideas about film’s role in creating a “critical mass” have come to fruition? Why or why not?

Merriam-Webster (n.d) defined a “critic” as an individual who expresses an opinion on something unfavorable. The person judges the merits of musical, artistic, and literary works by communicating their opinions and assessments of different forms of creative work. “Mass” pertains to, involves, or affects many people. Similarly relates to what is performed by or participated in by many people (Merriam-Webster, n.d). Therefore, this essay will define “critical mass” as the critical judgments that may be negative, positive, or even balanced after weighing different factors for and against many people.


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The essay believes that the ideas of Benjamin, in his article “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” about the role of film in creating the critical mass, have come to fruition. The argument of Benjamin primarily focuses on the revolutionary film potential as a mode of mechanical production, although he discusses photography briefly. Unlike the stage performers, the film actor does not respond or face an audience. The audience’s views are also synonymous with the perspective accorded to the imperious camera. The net effect of the mechanical production of these innovations is placing the viewer in the position of a critic. This was something that would never have been allowed before the cultic experiences (Larsen, 2010). The prevalence of mechanical productions and films also creates a culture of minor experts who are ready to judge art and films instead of losing them in the participatory ritual. Also, in his article, Benjamin notes that films majorly rely on spliced and cut images that must be combined to form an aesthetic film. The film’s swift movements and juxtapositions strike the viewer violently, disrupting easy consumption and contemplation of the image and creating a critical mass (Larsen, 2010).

2. In his article Andre Bazin “Photography affects us like a phenomenon in nature, like a flower or a snowflake whose vegetable or earthy origins are an inseparable part of their beauty,” makes a distinction between directors who put their faith in the image and directors who put their faith in reality. Choose a film that you think fits into the category of directors who put their faith in reality and explain why you chose this film concerning Bazin

In his thesis, Bazin directly aims at people’s experience in the cinema, which he termed psychological realism. He starts by analyzing the psychological realism of photography, which he differentiated from painting. Between the originating object, for the first time, and its reproduction, there is the intervention of the non-living instrumentality agent. The world image is automatically formed without man’s creative intervention for the first time. Bazin stated that all arts are grounded on man’s presence, and only photography has an advantage where man is absent (Bazin, 1999).

Bazin, a film critic, has a powerful feeling on the subject of realism and montage. In his article, he distinguishes between the directors who always put their faith in reality and those who put their faith in the image. The essay chose a film by “Umberto D” directed by Vittorio De Sica, which it thought fitted into the category of directors who put their faith in reality (Bazin, 1967). Vittorio De Sica’s filmmaking philosophy closely examines the world, continues doing so, and in the end, lays bare all the horror and cruelty for the audience. For instance, the scene where the maid wakes up in the morning. The episode is broken up into smaller and continuously shot units, turning the life itself into visible poetry and spectacle. Moreover, the film does an admirable job of not over-sentimentalizing the Umberto figure himself. A small, cuddly, scruffy dog is sitting on the pavement begging for money with a hat in his teeth (Bazin, 1967).

In many passages of his article, Bazin claims that realism in cinema is grounded not on the notion of reality by the physicist but the notion of the psychologist. Audiences view cinema as they view reality, not how it looks, because it was mechanically recorded and may look unreal. According to Bazin (1999), the inhuman world portrait intrigues the audience and makes photography and cinema of man but nature’s media.

Realism in the psychological sense does not have to do with the reproduction accuracy but with the spectator’s belief about the reproduction’s origin. In painting arts, the origin involves the mind and skill of the artist confronting an object. However, photography involves another physical process confronting a physical object (Bazin, 1999).

3. Michael Moore often “inserts” himself into his films. Is Moore, perhaps, trying to “authenticate” his documentary as a “true happening” in Perez’s sense, or is it what Perez calls a “visual lie”? Explain

Filmmaker and liberal commentator Michael Moore emerged into the scene with his debut documentary featuring Roger and Me. The documentary was a heartfelt and personal account of his hometown’s economic downfall. In his film, he was the main character, and it was more about him with his many attempts of trying to interview Roger Smith, the CEO of General Motors. He refers to himself as “Me” in the film title (Moore et al., 2003).

“Roger and Me” was a commercial and critical success and was the first of the successful documentaries released by Moore. However, despite their success, he received many criticisms for exaggerating his real-life events and how he portrayed the events non-chronologically to reinforce his message better. Michael Moore’s films are what Perez described as a “visual lie” (Moore et al., 2003).

Typically documentaries are subjective because they are normally created to reinforce the beliefs of the filmmaker or even to enlighten or entertain. The film of Moore suffers because it tries to pass itself as unbiased and truthful journalism works. Moreover, Moore is even proud because his film borrows from large and different sources and is well researched. This makes his film borderline propaganda and deceiving (Bernstein, 2010).

4. Do you agree with jean Baudrillard that we are in some way living in a “giant simulacrum,” or are you more inclined to agree with the critics who call his claims “hyperbolic”?

This essay agrees with jean Baudrillard that we are in some way living in a “giant simulacrum.” I tend to believe that the contemporary world in which we live creates a lot of simulations, symbols, and representations, which stand on their own without referring to the things they represented originally, just as jean Baudrillard observed in his essay, “Simulacra and Simulation” ( Lane, 2000).

Baudrillard argued that the initial relationship between an object of reference in the material world and its sign representation in the form of the diagram, image, and language had been altered. Baudrillard further asserted that the sign has preceded the real and that new reality dimensions have become where signs are used and further re-used without referring to the material world (Gane, 2000).

To illustrate this theory, take an example of a map based on another map which is then altered with the received information from another map. This is an endless cycle where the cycle is made and used without even referring to the represented actual territory. However, this does not mean that the map, which is a representation, has no reality relations, but the entire system becomes weightless and a giant simulacrum (Lane, 2000).

“Simulacra and Simulation” “Simulacra and Simulation” “Simulacra and Simulation”


Bazin, A. (1967). Umberto D: A Great Work, in What is Cinema? Trans. Hugh Gray,

Bazin, A. (1999). The Evolution of the Language of Cinema, in Leo Braudy and Marshall Cohen ed., Film Theory, and Criticism.

Bernstein, M. (2010). Michael Moore: Filmmaker, newsmaker, cultural icon. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Gane, M. (2000). Jean Baudrillard. London: SAGE.

Lane, R. J. (2000). Jean Baudrillard. London: Routledge.

Larsen, E. (2010).The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. Retrieved February 16, 2015, from http://modernism.research.yale.edu/wiki/index.php/The_Work_of_Art_in_the_Age_of_Mechanical_Reproduction

Merriam-webster. (n.d.). Retrieved February 16, 2015, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/online

Moore, M., Beaver, C., Prusak, J., Rafferty, K., Schermer, B., Stanzler, W., White, J. B., … Warner Home Video (Firm). (2003). Roger & me. Burbank, CA: Warner Home Video.

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