Films And Feelings
Raymond Durgnat here examines literally hundreds of films—from Birth of a Nation to those of the 1960's, from Hollywood smashes to 'avant garde' obscurities, from all parts of the world— in an effort to isolate universals of the language of films and to loft their poetics to an articulate level.
Beyond what interest it may possess as a collection of different cinematic topics, this text is offered also as a basis for re-exploring an art-form which seems to pose certain aesthetic problems more insistently than other media have done.
In addition to the cross-references among a large number of films, a few are selected for extended analysis. These full-length features include Cocteau's Orphee, Hitchcock's Psycho, Chabrol's Les Cousins, Ray's Johnny Guitar, and Newman's This Island Earth. His succinct synopsis of the running plot functions as an analysis of it; thus, much of the critical insight is in the form of entertaining narrative.
The book is divided into four sections. The first is concerned with the union of film style and film content. The second treats the connection between the film as an entertainment and as a picture of reality, suggesting that even films that are unabashedly 'escapist' are really rooted in, and comment on, the inescapable facts of social life. The third section attempts to close the gap between the popular responses and those of 'high culture.' This is not a 'surrender to the mob and to the moguls.'
The author's standards are more stringent than those of the permissive 'camp' followers and 'pop' critics. The final section produces further evidence of the existence of cinematic poetry in the commercial movie.
"The basic approach in this endeavor at defining an aesthetic of the movies is a conscientious and knowledgeable examination of a great many films of the most diverse origins and style. By drawing analogies to other arts, particularly to music, the author probes the conflict between the medium's function as an art form, and as a purveyor of entertainment. He finds that all movies, at all levels, are expressions of complex emotional and economic stimuli which may communicate before they are understood. The brisk narrative style of these critical insights makes for compelling and enjoyable reading."—Film News