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Über dieses Buch

Drawing on interdisciplinary perspectives of art, literature and music, Donaldson develops a stimulating understanding of a concept that has received little detailed attention in relation to film. Based in close analysis, Texture in Film brings discussion of style and affect together in a selection of case studies drawn from American cinema.

Inhaltsverzeichnis

Frontmatter

Introduction

Abstract
All films have texture. If we take texture as inviting or appealing to touch through tactile properties of material — rough, smooth, slimy, knobbly — there are many moments of film that spark a felt connection. Some films are prominently textured, featuring elements of clothing, environment and bodies that appeal to our tactile sense. Examples that spring to mind encompass a range of categories of film, from recent art house The Turin Horse (Béla Tarr, 2011) to studio-era Hollywood The Scarlet Empress1 (Josef von Sternberg, 1934) (Figure 0.1); from British costume drama The Governess (Sandra Goldbacher, 1998) to French horror Amer (Hélène Cattet & Bruno Forzani, 2009). There are moments that directly address touch and stand out in recollection because of their synaesthetic effects. The sensory appeal of touch on-screen is underlined when Mrs Danvers asks the second Mrs de Winter to caress the rich furs and delicate lace contained within Rebecca’s wardrobe in Rebecca (Alfred Hitchcock, 1940) (Figure 0.2). Sound too evokes the tactile properties of surface, as with the disconcertingly metallic fluidity created by the mushy gloopy sounds accompanying any occasion when the hardened body of the T1000 cyborg is pierced in Terminator 2: Judgment Day (James Cameron, 1991). Even transitions, between shots and narratives, can be made through tactile encounters, as with the connection of interlocking stories made via the corresponding textures of raised hair on an arm and on a tree in The Fountain (Darren Aronofsky, 2006).
Lucy Fife Donaldson

1. Introducing Texture in Film

Abstract
The etymology of ‘texture’ highlights the word’s connection to making and composition, in both literal and figurative senses.1 In its Latin roots, the literal meaning ‘to weave’ evokes the material construction of fabric, involving interrelationship of warp and weft. Figurative meanings include to devise and to contrive, linking texture to composition in the literary sense: tissue, texture, style. Definitions available in the Oxford English Dictionary expand understanding of texture beyond processes of creation — the weaving of cloth, a web or a narrative2 — to a more definite relationship between the nature of a composition (its form or style) and meaning. Texture is a result of contact between warp and weft and the material used, decisions which affect the outcome of cloth in feel and function; thick, thin, fragile, sturdy and so on. This connection is made in relation to material items, the character of fabric as resulting from its making, and immaterial things, nature or quality as resulting from composition, temperament, character. Cathryn Vasseleu observes that ‘texture is at once the cloth, threads, knots, weave, detailed surface, material, matrix and frame’ (1998: 11–12), the implication being that attention to texture comprises fine detail (cloth, threads, knots, detailed surface) and the total composition (material, matrix and frame). At its core, texture offers a way of acknowledging the importance of minute compositional decisions to our responsiveness to a film and how these contribute to its patterns and overall shape.
Lucy Fife Donaldson

2. Textural Worlds

Abstract
At the basis of seeing texture as the constitution of the whole lies a commonplace understanding: if something can be said to have texture, it is not flat or made up of one note. To describe a narrative or a character as having texture is to say that a story or character contains a richness, detail, complexity. Texture is made up of parts, of strands, of the intermeshing of warp and weft; the sounds made by instruments singly make one part of the palette of the soundscape, the combination of different timbres enlarges and intensifies it. This constitutive relationship between detail and whole is echoed by production designer Stuart Wurtzel: ‘The detail is incredibly important; it all gels together. [&]. I can’t separate it; it’s the total picture’ (LoBrutto, 1992: 202). To look at the overall fabric, the total picture, involves scrutinising the interaction of the detail: the threads of narrative; the rhythmic relations between visual style, sound and action; the pattern arising out of a horizontal movement or unfolding of narrative action. The texture of film which constitutes our understanding of the film’s world leads us to broader considerations of mood and feel.
Lucy Fife Donaldson

3. Experiencing Space

Abstract
In the last chapter I examined the structural qualities of texture, how the patterns and rhythms of films evoke feeling, and how we can discuss narrative and genre as textural. This chapter will deal with perhaps the most immediate sense of the concept, the materiality of texture, contemplating tactility and sensation in relation to the surfaces in the spaces we see on-screen. Texture in film offers the impression of touch, of a material impact on the body. Films are filled with experiences of space, they have tangible properties which evoke responses to surface, shape, fabric, colour and depth. Andrew Klevan, writing about Charles Affron’s discussion of Greta Garbo’s performance in Queen Christina, observes: ‘Affron illustrates how attention to performance may enhance the density of our interpretations because we are responsive, like Garbo in the bedroom, to physicality and texture’ (2005: 11). Taking a lead from this example, I will explore the potential for unravelling such responsiveness that attention to texture brings to close analysis of film. Bodies in films are responsive to the texture of the places they inhabit, as film viewers are responsive to the texture of the spaces presented to them, and as experienced by the bodies on-screen.
Lucy Fife Donaldson

4. Sound

Abstract
Having discussed the contribution of visual style to the texture of space in Lost Highway in the previous chapter, I want to start discussion of sound by revisiting the scene in which Bill Pullman’s character, Fred Madison, returns from the party. Sound plays a significant role in creating the discomfort and anxiety of his movement through the house. Indeed, listening to the soundtrack without the images evokes the sense of a fraught or dangerous space, where sudden shifts between muted reverberations and piercing sharpness build a precarious and threatening atmosphere. As Fred enters the house, diegetic sound (the click of the door latch, the beeps of the buttons as he turns off the alarm) co-exists with non-diegetic music, but as he makes his way up the stairs and into the living room, these sonic indications of his movement within the diegesis disappear under the reverberating strings of the score. That there isn’t a distinct melody, but rather a more abstract creation of dense humming, which tends towards a deep pitch, creates a busy and opaque texture lacking forward momentum, while the edges of the strings are softened by the use of reverberation and sustained notes. The effect is comparable to the density created by the lighting that I described in Chapter 3. Furthermore, when sound originating from within the diegesis returns, it emerges transparently and sharply from under the thickening blanket of score, all the more sudden and jarring because of its contrasting texture.
Lucy Fife Donaldson

5. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia

Abstract
Ted Haworth didn’t work on Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia,1 yet his comment ‘Without patina, Sam just wouldn’t shoot it’ illuminates Peckinpah’s interest in film worlds that look, and therefore feel, lived-in (LoBrutto, 1992: 29), and is entirely relevant to discussion of the film and its affect. In the Introduction I described the film as prominently textured, and strikingly affective, while being difficult to account for in terms of its affect. This is at least in part because Alfredo Garcia is both intimate and distancing in its stylistic and narrative strategies and the movement between these attitudes is not consistent or coherent. The film resists mastery by the viewer. The subject of the narrative is unsavoury to say the least: the pursuit of a dead man’s head (the Alfredo Garcia of the title) for a Mexican crime lord ‘El Jefe’ (Emilio Fernandez), taken up by an American bartender, Bennie (Warren Oates), accompanied by his Mexican lover, Elita (Isela Vega). Peckinpah’s films are frequently challenging to the viewer, and though this is partly because of their visceral qualities, in some ways the directness of physical violence can be more straightforward in its affect.2 The problems posed by Alfredo Garcia are certainly due to what Ian Cooper refers to as a ‘deliberate strategy of “anti-pleasure”’ (2011: 102). Though this is not surprising for a film whose subject matter involves the paid retrieval of a man’s head, the issue of (non)pleasure is central to the film’s affect above and beyond that particular detail.
Lucy Fife Donaldson

Conclusion

Abstract
When V.F. Perkins writes that ‘One must respond to the textures of [Nicholas] Ray’s films before one can understand their meanings. One must appreciate their dynamics before one can see, embodied in their turbulent movement, an ethical and poetic vision of the universe and of man’s place in it’, he is arguing that responsiveness to total form is a crucial part of understanding film (1963: 8). This book emerges from a desire to make sense of certain film moments in a way that that captures their affect and to explore the rich interrelationship of elements that combine to generate feeling in the viewer. Teaching undergraduate courses on Hitchcock and Sirk has involved repeated viewings of scenes from their films. In the process of engaging students in discussions of the feelings they experience in watching Madeleine’s first appearance at Ernie’s in Vertigo or Kyle’s drugstore meeting with the doctor in Written on the Wind, I am always struck by the consistency of my own feelings for such scenes, and it is from this kernel of thought that my interest in texture developed. My use of texture as a critical concept is a direct response to the power of these moments; richly felt scenes designed to evoke powerful feelings and sensuously concentrated in the density of relationships between their component parts: performance, music, movement, colour, fabric, surface, precisely woven together to present and draw us into a narrative moment.
Lucy Fife Donaldson

Backmatter

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