To: Matt McAllister, via Ron Hoffman
Ron Hoffman's reply to Matt McAllister's request for filmic examples of
non-verbal communication got me thinking about Pudovkin and Kuleshov's
famous experiments on the effects of montage, or "constructive editing."
Barrelfulls of meaning have been ascribed to actors' expressions and
bodily comportments, some of which MAY have been the results of expertly-
handled editing. This is not to deny the reality of so-called "body
language," but merely to broaden the scope of the enquiry to include
montage-suggested [ie, viewer-imposed] examples of body language.
This discussion feeds into earlier discussions on the extent to
which "texts" may be considered autonomous, ie, can be said to "contain"
certain meanings, while other meanings are "outside" of the text, in some
realm called "context." I am reminded of Agnes Moorehead's "expression"
in CITIZEN KANE, an expression that - assuming there is one - might be
the key to the whole film.[though, as the reported concludes, you can't
explain a man's life in any simple way.] Kane's mother is sending him
off to live under the guardianship of a banker, ostensibly to get him
away from his father, whom the young Kane seems to love dearly. I have
tried in vain to "read" her expression at this pivotal point in the film.
It is the context that gives meaning to expression, but the context
here is ambiguous:
1) there are indications that she loves young Kane,
which might mean that she sends him away because his
best interests are served by being "where you [Kane's father] can't get your
hands on him," ie, he'll be treated better and he'll get a good education
[the clear implication is that his father mistreats him];
and 2) she can't wait to get rid of him because she just doesn't love him;
she's perhaps incapable of love and so unable to teach HIM how to love.
Perhaps the conclusion to this rambling post is that context should
always be taken into account when analyzing bodily modes of
University of Guelph
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