film on the big screen subtitled...

Aaron Gerow aaron.gerow at
Tue Apr 13 11:15:22 EDT 2004

Tom Mes wrote:

> In a good film, the visuals ARE narrative.

This has to be contested. True, there is a long tradition of defining 
cinema as a visual medium, but as recent scholars have emphasized, not 
only does that work into a long standing Western ideology that 
privileges sight over sound, it obfuscates the long history by which 
this definition was created (i.e., assuming that cinema is "naturally" 
visual), and the sound-primary films that history represses. By Tom's 
definition, a major part of Japanese cinema history--the era where the 
benshi dominated over the film--is eliminated from the definition of 
"good film." The fact that many Japanese defined cinema for a period as 
an aural medium tells us that we must be aware that the definition of 
cinema as visual is an artificial creation of various historical 
processes. And we also must recognize the importance of many films that 
focus primarily on the sound track over the visual track. We should 
always be careful that our definitions of "what is cinema" does not 
exclude too many things.

Aaron Gerow
Assistant Professor
Film Studies Program/East Asian Languages and Literatures
Yale University
53 Wall Street, Room 316
PO Box 208363
New Haven, CT 06520-8363
Phone: 1-203-432-7082
Fax: 1-203-432-6764
e-mail: aaron.gerow at

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