André Bazin and Roland Barthes both theorize a cinematic realism based on the indexical ability of the photographic image (the ability of the image to indicate an original object). How are their arguments affected by the advent of digital, nonindexical cinematic technologies? The article considers how a nonindexical realism might be possible, by looking at three recent films: Waking Life, A Scanner Darkly, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
This article argues against the standard readings of Bazin’s seminal essay “The Ontology of the Photographic Image,” which are based on Charles S. Peirce’s account of indexicality but for reasons distinct from recent influential criticism of this approach in film studies. The article also moves beyond the accounts of Bazin in the analytic tradition, by building on a rare analysis that takes Bazin’s notion of identity between the photographic image and the model seriously. Whereas Jonathan Friday proposes identity to be construed as psychological, the article argues that, under the dual theory of light available to Bazin at the time, identity between the photographic images and object photographed literally holds for some photographs—namely, negatives of objects which emit light. The article concludes with an explanation of why Bazin thought the identity holds for all photographs.
Can the authorial contribution of the individual cinematographer to classical, narrative-based film be identified and attributed? This article addresses this specific question, but the specific case of the cinematographer must acknowledge the wider debates about film authorship. The article examines contemporary attitudes to coauthorship in film, highlighting the fact that, in terms of cinematography, most commentators still defer to directors when discussing the creation of meaning within images. While examining the works of Gregg Toland and William Wyler, the article evaluates authorial attribution by means of a comparison between the films they made together and the films they made separately. In order to do this, the article defines a method for establishing authorship within the film image. Toland is a prime historical example of a cinematographer whose authorial contribution has been severely underestimated in the pursuit of glorifying the directors he worked with (Orson Welles, John Ford, and William Wyler).
The four films Jean Vigo made between 1930 and 1934 bridged transitions from silent to sound formats and from avant-garde experiments to what he called a social cinema grounded in a documented point of view. This article studies traces of this social cinema in Vigo's 1930 documentary A propos de Nice (Regarding Nice) and his 1934 feature L'Atalante (1934). Links to Parisian surrealism and to leftwing anarchism marked these films as inspiration for postwar filmmakers and critics including André Bazin, François Truffaut, Alain Resnais, and Chris Marker. The government censorship imposed on his Zéro de conduite (Zero for Conduct, 1933) was a test case for similar suppression of postwar films by Resnais, Marker, and René Vautier. Ongoing myths surrounding Vigo and his work persist in the forms of a film prize and research institute, both of which bear his name.