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UK, 1979 (MIFF 1980, Programme 44)

Director: Noel Burch

What we call the language of Cinema is not a "natural" language. It did not grow spontaneously out of the technology of animated photography, it had to be fashioned by social and cultural forces. It has a history. Central to that history was transformation of those projected scenes from a mentally exterior, distant representation "up there on the screen", into an imaginary environment and various pictorial strategies. By taking certain films from the primitive cinema (1896-1906) which prophetically - and often humourously - act out the major gestures of the future Cinema Institution, and by inter-cutting them with stylised evocations of the successive periods of development of the Institutional Mode of Representation, this film suggests possible answers to such key questions as: where do those film-school rules come from? And what do we learn when we learn to "read" narrative cinema?

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