Documentary_Types-1

Documentary_Types-1 - Bill Nichols proposes six typesor...

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Bill Nichols proposes six types—or modes—of documentary. His classification scheme has been rattling around, throwing off sparks in my head, all week. Let me briefly describe it to you. I’m often paraphrasing Nichols below, and borrowing many of his example films. 1. Poetic documentaries, which first appeared in the 1920’s, were a sort of reaction against both the content and the rapidly crystallizing grammar of the early fiction film. The poetic mode moved away from continuity editing and instead organized images of the material world by means of associations and patterns, both in terms of time and space. Well-rounded characters—'life-like people'—were absent; instead, people appeared in these films as entities, just like any other, that are found in the material world. The films were fragmentary, impressionistic, lyrical. Their disruption of the coherence of time and space—a coherence favored by the fiction films of the day—can also be seen as an element of the modernist counter- model of cinematic narrative. The ‘real world’—Nichols calls it the “historical world”—was broken up into fragments and aesthetically reconstituted using film form. Examples: Joris Ivens’ Rain (1928), whose subject is a passing summer shower over Amsterdam; Laszlo Moholy-Nagy’s Play of Light: Black, White, Grey (1930), in which he films one of his own kinetic sculptures, emphasizing not the sculpture itself but the play of light around it; Oskar Fischinger’s abstract animated films; Francis Thompson’s N.Y., N.Y. (1957), a city symphony film; Chris Marker’s Sans Soleil (1982). 2. Expository documentaries speak directly to the viewer, often in the form of an authoritative commentary employing voiceover or titles, proposing a strong argument and point of view. These films are rhetorical, and try to persuade the viewer. (They may use a rich and sonorous male voice.) The (voice-of-God) commentary often sounds ‘objective’ and omniscient. Images are often not paramount; they exist to advance the argument. The rhetoric insistently presses
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This note was uploaded on 08/18/2011 for the course ENG 2100 taught by Professor Christophergullen during the Spring '11 term at Seminole State College.

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Documentary_Types-1 - Bill Nichols proposes six typesor...

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