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Theoretical Discourse in Cinema
© Sotiris Dimitriou
First Publication: in Kritiki Kinimatografou PEKK Athens 2001
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 Film and paradox

Theoretical discourse in cinema has nothing to envy from discourse developed in other cultural fields. One way to assess it is by examining what has or has not been covered by it. Some extensions and references to the object of this discourse, namely the history of the cinema, will be obviously required.
Insofar as we know, among the first to express general views on the cinema was the poet and writer Ricciotto Canudo who, in 1913, founded the Club of the Seventh Art Friends in Paris — in the following year he joined the Garibaldinians. Nevertheless, more than twenty years passed from the time he was discovered until his theoretical discourse became personalized and autonomous. This happened after 1918, through the activities of the avant-garde in France and Proletkult in Russia. It is worth reexamining those events, although they are well-known.

Now that rethinking is being tested and transformations occur in basic categories - progress, identity, narration, biomedics etc. - it would be useful to reexamine some of the related concepts such as "art", "spectacle", or "accomplishment". Let us start by recalling the several meanings of the term "cinema" (short for cinematographe). Initially, and according to its inventors, it described the "device that recorded, developed and projected motion pictures" (L. Lumière 1971:35).
Soon after, three more meanings were added:
1. The place where films are shown, also called a "movie theater".
2. The component processes of film production of a geographical area or an era: Latin American cinema, Japanese cinema, cinema of the 1930s.
3. The particular art founded and developed on the "moving image", which corresponds to painting, the theatre etc.
This inclusiveness of many meanings presents us with challenges. For example, the phenomenon of cinema in its entirety identifies with art. This identification, which I shall discuss later, was produced by the theoretical film discourse produced from 1918 to 1925. Paradoxically enough, both the French and Russian avant-garde formulated the theoretical discourse of film as a work of art on the basis of polemic against art. But how did this come about?
An insertion is needed here. The important point which has eluded quite a few theorists is that we tend to confuse two significantly different things:
a. the feeling of possession of the object, which derives from mimesis, and the object΄s internalization via its image (M. Taussig 1993: XII); when watching a film, internalization is attained by coordinating the passive flux of consciousness with the flow of the film, and
b. transcendence in the potential goal of creative art, as perceived by our culture, based on the reorganization of images and, more generally, representations.

Let us return to the avant-garde. Moussinac΄s article "The Birth of the Cinema", dedicated to Louis Delluc in 1924, starts with the phrases "we live in marvelous times" and "an art is born in our tumultuous age". Many contradictory elements signifying rupture coexist in the feverish activity of Dada and the French avant-garde (Germaine Dulac, Louis Delluc, Francis Picabia, Hans Richter, Fernand Leger etc). In the Dada Manifesto of 1918, it is proclaimed that "Dada has stopped to take an aesthetic attitude towards life, and this is attained by decomposing all slogans about moral values, culture and inwardness" (H. Richter 1983:160). Such an anti-art challenge was expressed in Marcel Duchamp΄s exhibition of the notorious "Bicycle Wheel", a bottle rack and a urinal.

On the one hand, we have a strong anti-conformist movement fighting against academics and intellectuals. According to Jean Epstein, film director and theorist, "it is wrong to think that cinema is for the elite… because then it would not be cinema but literature" (René Clair 1970:310). Furthermore, it is well-known that the elite of the West was negatively predisposed towards the cinematic spectacle. "What made intellectuals reject it… was the love of the masses" (L. Moussinac 1967:33). Therefore, one of the reasons the avant-garde turned to film, was its separation from conformist culture and the potential to take over a virgin field, free from the hegemony of the elite.
In this virgin space, the avant-garde tried to impose its own aesthetic values, combined with carnival elements, exaltation, and burlesque. According to Robert Desnos (1966:166), the contempt of intellectuals for the burlesque is characteristic. In texts written in 1928, he writes that the new art belongs to poetry and dreams, it is in itself dream and sensation, but gets buried under artistic prejudice. Everybody demands the abolition of Hollywood-style narration and its replacement with the projection of dreamy magic. They connect films to musical elation and discover the magic of filmed images as "a music of pictures" (L. Moussinac 1969:63). They are evidently influenced by R. Canudo in their views on the juxtaposition of the static arts, the emphasis on burlesque, the "music of the space" and accept his proposal that "the new art… must be a kind of Sculpture and Painting developed in time, just like Music and Poetry " (R. Canudo 1982:96). Remarkably enough, the analogy of the succession of "optical" and "sound waves" in time is also a matter of concern for contemporary painters (S. Theodoraki 1984:32).

There are significant similarities between Proletkult and the avant-garde. Both trends defy bourgeois art and turn to popular spectacle. Intellectual montage is not a carnival element: "A unanimous outcry against art rose all over: abolition of the "symbolic" element… [and] art΄s own existence, and replacement by a specific, true representation of life without the mediation of myths and depictions", wrote Sergei Eisenstein. However, there is also a difference. Russian directors moved away from Proletkult because "the actual problem was not to denounce the bourgeois ideology, but to discover which techniques could be borrowed from it and how those techniques could be reversed so that, instead of passive and theoretical, they would be rendered active…" (B. Eisenschitz 1975:301).
Generally speaking, the Russian avant garde differed from the French one because it expressed itself mainly through film directors instead of the visual artists; its starting points were the analysis of montage (with Lev Kulechov) and realism, instead of the dreamy and marvelous element proposed by Robert Desnos (1966:104); it focused on the narrative and time-line of human action, not on the visual music of frames. Thus, the Russians were able to formulate the aesthetic rules of film narrative composition (angles and movements of the camera, size and duration of frame succession, connections, rhythm).
More elaborations on the subject followed (such as the anti-narrative theory of André Bazin), and enriched the theory of film as far as aesthetic was concerned. However, none of them yielded an absolute rule because, as Christian Metz wrote (1971:29, 98-213), film is open; it can be neither analysed in ideograms, nor defined by codes. Furthermore, every creative achievement leads to the revision or change of aesthetic rules. Cinema as art rose from a head-on collision between aesthetic categories and eternity.

The Greek element in film

The postmodernist critique of the Western cultural tradition does not monopolise the revision of concepts. Theoretical criticism is generally obliged to examine the conditions under which knowledge is produced, so as to rescue it from sterility and repetition. The means of theoretical criticism are: historical approach, transfer to a broad social or anthropological perspective, holistic examination and analysis of contradictions.
Let us examine the problems which appeared in Greece. Firstly, how was theoretical film discourse established in a country where film production was highly peculiar and only minimally compliant to the western standards of cinema? And the second interconnected issue is: how "Greek" was this production and what was its theoretical foundation? We shall start by examining the second point.

It is well-known that there are several national cinemas. There are many reasons why cinema is connected to the nation-state. First of all, cinema is connected with the rise of the middle class and, since it relies on industrial production, it is in need of a broad market, provided by the nation-state. At the same time, a film is a cultural product of mass distribution and therefore needs mass ideological acceptance, which is produced during the process of development of the cinema. As the film carries shared collective experiences and behavioural models, it assists in the formation of collective and consensual identity. Therefore, there has always been mutual support between film and the nation-state. However, and in opposition to the theatre, film is not addressed at the elite, but is a spectacle for the people; this means that the collective identity formed does not always conform to the official national identity. In certain cases, such as that of the New Greek Cinema (NGC) of 1965-1975 and the Latin American Cinema, national cinema had a mostly social character and was inconsistent with the nation-state.

The Modern Greek State raised barriers against Turkish cultural influence, because its ideology was founded on being hostile to Turkey; in contrast, the bridge to the influence of the West was left open. For the elite, western influence came from the countries where they had been educated: Germany and France. For the rest of society, it came from neighbouring Italy, which contributed anarchist ideas, music, song, and revue. Later, the Italian influence also expanded in cinema, with melodramatic subjects and realistic every-day expression.
Educational institutions and the elite undertook the task to impose the national identity on the cultural level; the effort to that end was multi-faceted and included:
1. The de-culturisation of the heterogeneous Greek tradition and its re-culturisation with the help of folklore.
2. Restriction of influences, as in the resolve of the conflict between the literary school of Athens, and the literary tradition of the Ionian Islands and its Italian influences.
3. Reconnection with the ideals of Ancient Greek civilization; namely, imposition of the official ideology that Modern Greek civilization was its continuation. The notion of the Ancient Greek model had arisen in Europe circa 1650, following the dispute between the supporters of the ancient Greeks (who claimed that Ancient Greece said it all) and contemporary people; it was established by Winckelmann circa 1750. This rhetorical ideology used katharevousa, a rhetorical version of the Greek language. At the end of the 19th century, the notion of the continuity of the Greek people is expressed as follows: in architecture, with neoclassisicm; in music, with the National School of Music established by D. Lavrangas and M. Kalomoiris; in poetry, with the Athenian School; in painting, with Parthenis; in history, with Paparrigopoulos, and so on.
National ideology is oriented towards the worship of Ancient Greek civilization, but Greek cinema lacks its basic features of clarity, austerity in style, and magnificence. Although it bore Italian influences, it never imitated Italian historical cinema (Pastrone etc). The most outstanding feature of Greek cinema is the transfer of the revue show onto the screen. The script-writers and technicians, the sets, the positioning of the camera, the width of shots and the subjects, all come from the popular revue. On the other hand, the heroes are evidently influenced by the traditional shadow puppetry of Karagiozis; but cinema has been called "the art of shadows" anyway.

During the period of internal migration (1948-1973), the cinema offered the semblance of participation in public life to newcomers in the cities. It became more popular than the revue or Karagiozis; it was an expression of the dream to own a flat in the city and it masked submissiveness. The basic film genres were melodrama, folklore, farce, and musical. As A. Goldman wrote (1971:73), there is no "unity of structure", since several film models and breaks coexist in society. The dominant genre was farce, minimally—if at all—compliant with the sobriety of official ideology.

Following that, one should not be surprised by the state΄s callousness and the subsequent constant protest of film-makers during the second half of the 20th century, both through the press (Vion Papamichalis 30-10-52) and professional associations or unions. Despite, or perhaps because of the fact that the state endorsed the production of nationalistic films (The Dawn of Victory, 1922 etc.), its policy on film was described as "a ridiculous model of arbitrariness" (S. Alexandropoulou 6-1-80). Furthermore, the state imposed strict censorship, thus labeling all Greek film production "suspect". It is hard to conceal the gap between Greek film and the nation-state. However, the callousness of the state did not affect the increase in films made or tickets sold.

With the above, I do not intend to imply that the state is to be completely rejected, as it is more complex than just a system of power mechanisms. Apart from those, the state also contains social struggle and its accomplishments, accumulated human effort, formulation of negotiation sectors, as well as the existence of contradictions. The point on which I focus is the contradiction and gap between state and film. Theoretical discourse has undoubtedly contributed to this juxtaposition. However, the callousness of the state, the embargo against film-making, the relationships of dependence and the pressure to modernise have not been adequately analysed; the influence of the structure of film production, as revealed by the fact that most companies were established to produce a singular film (V. Papamichalis 30-10-52), was not studied; the resistance of such structures and their opposition to modernization was not investigated. The aesthetic element was separated from its ideological and sociopolitical definitions.
Intellect and theoretical discourse

The other problem mentioned before is the position theoretical discourse took on films of Greek production.
 Theoretical discourse comes in both verbal and written form. The verbal form includes analysis of films in clubs and special screenings, courses on cinema, and cinema schooling. The written form consists of:
1. History books such as the works of A. Moschovakis (1957), F. Iliadis (1960), N. Mikelidis (1962), G. Soldatos (1979, 1982, 1988-91, 1995, 1999, 2000), A. Mitropoulos (1980), M. Komninos (2000) etc.
2. Books on special issues such as:
     a. manuals for camera operators (G. Kavagias, 1978), film editors (T. Davlopoulos, 1985), script-writers (A. Kechagias, 1997) etc.
     b. critic essays on the Greek diaspora (Ch. Sotiropoulou, 1995), on the position of women in cinema (N. Kolovos, 1989), on pioneer movements (S. Theodoraki), on eroticism (Th. Soumas, 1983), on Theo Angelopoulos (N. Kolovos 1990, E. Stathi 1999) etc.
3. Glossaries and filmographies (V. Rafailidis 1982-83, G. Dizikirikis 1986, A. Demetriou 1993 etc.).
4. Translations (expanded references in D. Kalantidis, 2000).
Two more categories of written discourse are of special interest to our subject: theory books and critic essays in newspapers and journals.
Being the upholders of the nation΄s ideology, it was no surprise that intellectuals faced Greek cinema with indifference or contempt, or even tried to debase it. One reason was that the nation`s discourse collided with the cinema`s commercial character; another, that there was a lack of adequate knowledge on the new art. According to A. Sachinis (22-7-52)—who wrote that "the cinema is not and will never be art"—Fotos Politis (1934) is even more negative and considers cinema "a game of the senses, completely irrelevant to the spirituality and freedom of true… art". Similar remarks were made by Th. N. Synadinos (23-11-1947), who wrote that cinema "almost completely swallowed the theatre…[and] rendered speech useless"; V. Varikas (10-12-1948) held that the cinema "is a business which cares for anything but art… because art is never judged by its immediate benefits", and so on. "Who would ever think of asking the cinema to undertake works that do not belong to it?" wrote Em. Chourmouzios in the press (7-12-1948). Very few intellectuals, such as V. Rotas (1930), Th. Moustoxydis (1943) and T. Mouzenidis (21-12-1948), accepted the inclusion of film in the arts.
It is worth to note that the first works of theory on the art of film analyse its aesthetic but completely disregard Greek productions. Solon Makris, who, like the Avant Garde, rejects academism, provides a psychobiological interpretation of film aesthetic; at the same time, he emphasizes film`s potential of expression and stresses the weaknesses of Greek cinema: "Greek cinema is not art… [It provokes] easy tears and easy laughter" (S. Makris 1951:118). In a book of similar content, Fotis Karamitsos (1963:207) focuses on the effect of montage-découpage in the process of the mental representation in its entirety, without any reference to Greek films whatsoever.
Their distancing from the realm of film production is a characteristic feature of the art elite. Apart from very few exceptions (for example, the film Nychterini peripeteia [Nighttime adventures], written and directed by Angelos Terzakis in 1954), intellectuals avoid film production; and when they enter it, they follow one of the two routes described below:
    1. They introduce Ancient Greek tragedy, which was the national counterweight to popular revue, as for example in Electra (1962), Young Aphrodites (1963), and Iphigenia (1977), by M. Cacoyannis and N. Koundouros. In 1952, G. Seferis wrote about "the important issue… whether the cinema may be used to transmit poetic speech […]. This solution would greatly contribute to the filming of classical Greek theatre". Behind the modernist expression, there lurks the ideology of continuity; this is what separates our two Nobel laureate poets, G. Seferis and O. Elytis, from the poet C. Karyotakis, who did not win a Nobel prize. Perhaps for the same reason, this approach proved fruitless.
    2. Or, they depict Greece as an exotic destination for tourists, just like foreigners want to see us: "a country dominated by the bacchanalian element… (where) Greeks never stop singing and dancing…" (E. Stefani 1997:74). This is evident in the films Never on Sunday (Jules Dassin, 1960) and Zorba the Greek (M. Cacoyannis, 1965).

The New Greek Cinema (NGC) was formulated in the mid-Sixties; as mentioned before, it was initially oriented towards social issues and included elements related to neo-realism. During the Seventies, it evolved into a cinéma d`auteur; its main features were detachment from revue and farce, inclusion of psychological rather than social issues, and exploitation of the expressive means of film, influenced by the aesthetic of André Bazin. The effort to build a "national cinema" was completely abandoned. At the same time, the NGC came into total opposition with "commercial" film-making; NGC directors were not self-taught like "commercial" directors, but had studied cinema mainly in France. Therefore:
a. the influence of Italian neo-realism was replaced by that of the French Nouvelle Vague and
b. film directors who are also producers are replaced by intellectuals of a new generation. These changes had an effect on theoretical discourse.

Auters and critics

Film criticism started from the time pioneer movements were fighting for the recognition of cinema as the seventh art. In Greece, the people who wrote about the cinema immediately after World War II were mostly theatre critics: M. Ploritis, Em. Chourmouzios, T. Mouzenidis. Film criticism was "mostly influenced by advertisers΄ jargon" (V. Varikas 10-12-48) or considered film "a means to entertain the public at large" (A. Sachinis 15-7-52). Following that period, critics well-versed in film appeared, such as K. Skalioras, G. Bacoyannopoulos, V. Rafailidis; they wrote mostly about foreign films, in accordance with the tradition set by G. Makris, film critic of the newspaper Nea Estia before the war.
After 1975, when NGC had already developed, intellectual directors were often critics as well. Most of them had similar credentials (MA in film-making) and culture influences (the Nouvelle Vague aesthetic). Consequently, several directors also expressed themselves in writing: Th. Angelopoulos, G. Korras, T. Lykouresis, T. Papagiannidis, N. Lyngouris, Ch. Vacalopoulos et al. Very few of them were exclusively critics, without ever having made a film. Up to the end of the 20th century, theorists with special studies were rare; there were also many self-taught critics. On the other hand, several people wrote about theoretical issues without being involved in film criticism (D. Theos, G. Dizikirikis, D. Leventakos, Th. Rentzis, G. Soldatos, T. Antonopoulos etc) were also film-directors.
 It is evident that, in this period and through the collective contribution of film-directors, critics, theorists and their associates, there emerged a new intellectual community, prevalent in the realm of film, which won Greek cinema a central place as an artistic activity. Critics stood up for NGC films; theoretical discourse was produced by all members of the community. In other words, if NGC films failed, this would also mean failure for their critics. And this is how it went.

We have already mentioned that, after 1975, the film community consisted of "intellectuals". This new generation elite was different; instead of the national aesthetic culture, they expressed a westernized aesthetic view which set them apart from previous film production. As a result, their perspective on the "old" cinema was based on the following narrow criteria:
a. Distribution, so as to derogatorily pronounce the old cinema "commercial".
b. Aesthetic structure, to condemn the old cinema as a "popular" spectacle.
References on the popularity of the cinema were made in the press; there was the research of S. Alexandropoulou (6-1-1980) and the negative position held by V. Rafailidis (3-10-1982), who connected the "popular" element with "being unfamiliar with complex aesthetic structures" and "having a narrow education… or no education at all". Deep down, the discussion about popularity reintroduced the following dilemma: should culture be homogeneous, or should there be a social distinction between the elite and the "uninitiated"?
Many denounced the "artistically and commercially unfortunate Iphigenia" which drained the Greek Film Centre`s budget (S. Alexandropoulou 6-1-1980), the "non-sensical films" (E. Zachos), and "the ΄arty΄or ΄personal΄ films which are  praised with ridiculously extensive use of superlatives (as critics undermine any and all artistic criteria), and then pass into obscurity due to the indifference or dislike of audiences" (K. Vrettakos 19-10-1980). At the same time, it is discovered that the "approximately 50% fall in tickets" is connected to "the cinema of auters" (N. Manolitsis 22-12-1988).
Today, it is accepted that cinema is a popular art (G. Bacoyannopoulos, N. Kolovos 1-4-2001). Apart from the responsibilites critics bear for the "rise and fall" of the NGC, the coalition between film, intellectuals and art is now a thing of the past. The efforts to win back the audiences by turning to comedy, which was scorned by the NGC, led to an impasse because popularity was confused with populism. Theoretical discourse is once more to blame here, for failing to analyze the difference between the two in its attacks on the latter.

Theorists showed indifference to social and cultural criteria. They failed to discern the contrast between the popular element and low budget production on one hand, and the official ideology, the aesthetic culture, and the theatrical perception of comedy focusing on characters rather than plot mechanisms on the other. They did not investigate the features of this para-culture, which deviated from official culture. Namely, they did not examine whether this para-culture was:
1. an adoption of the popular element, as the latter was defined by the official culture.
2. a culture of resistance, where farce is combined with carnival elements.
3. a performance where the tendency to rise socially is expressed with hypocritically pretending to be "crazy".
4. the reproduction of a climate of submission, where farce either complements or is the flip side of melodrama.
5. intended to be integrated in industrial production as a populistic creation.
According to Brecht (1972:44), "the intended purpose of art is the creation of an islet of non-production". This is why the cinema is called the alibi of paid labour and the industry of dreams. What was the part played by foreign influence and the popular—according to the official culture—element, which seeped through because the manufacturers lacked specialized education? How can the constant refusal to establish a National School of Film be explained? What is the difference between low-budget production and production on an industrial level? Theoretical discourse is obliged to provide answers to these questions.
Discrepancies in criticism

As has been said before, avant garde movements imposed film as the seventh art by opposing their contemporary culture and art. This confirms the view of the aesthetic theorists of our century (W. Deonna, H. Read etc) that there are no constant rules or laws in art. "Since art… is trained to open the gate to things being otherwise… art is transgressive… and iconoclastic", wrote D. Theos (1987:100). But this view undermines the very essence of criticism. According to lettrism, a new avant-garde current, "criticism is constantly being disclaimed… the only appropriate foundation to criticism is to search and project what is new" (M. Lemaitre 1972:44). David Griffith΄s prediction about video was verified, but his 1924 statement that "sound films will never come about" proved wrong; Carl Dreyer (1971:158) was also proved wrong when, in 1955, he upheld that "colour films cannot be art".
On the whole, film criticism faces a serious problem. If we accept that there are general aesthetic rules and that a great work of art can be appreciated by everyone, as some critics argue, "our audience is able to assimilate the very best food for thought" (E. Chourmouzios 1-4-54) and "the audiance… is able to discern and appreciate a fine form intuitively. The proof to that is the unwaning ΄popularity΄ of  the works of Aeschylus and Shakespeare…" (M. Ploritis 24-2-1961). Thus, it is hard to explain the role of criticism.
On the other hand, if we accept that the rules of aesthetic experience and assimilation are not universal, but the product of a specialized education which criticism either contains or complements, the following question arises: how did people comprehend art before the 20th century, when there was no criticism? Does aesthetic education concern knowledge of special "complex codes" constituting a "symbolic capital" (P. Bourdieu 1996:12), so that the initiated may be set apart from the ignorant? If, in comparison with popular forms of art, fine arts are discerned by aesthetic rules and education, how does it happen that aesthetic values are acknowledged in certain previously scorned forms of popular art, such as burlesque, primitivism, or the Greek naïf artist Theophilos? Therefore, the question is: why criticism?

I have already mentioned the pseudo-dilemma whether culture should be homogeneous or whether there should be distinction between the elite and the plebeians. In other words, we must either accept homogeneity of culture where all share the same criteria, as was the case in now obsolete unsophisticated "primitive" communities, or accept that culture is heterogeneous and consists of groups with different values and criteria. In the first case, criticism is redundant; in the second case, it either tries to impose its values on other groups or to resist such imposition. Which of the two does criticism do in our society?
According to one view, criticism mediates between aesthetic culture and the audience which is "unfamiliar" with it, by analyzing the second level of symbolism—namely what the director meant; it explains the way in which the director organised complex codes and suggests which film is a masterpiece. However, directors are usually unable to explain "what they meant" and urge the audience to watch the film, not to read the reviews. Furthermore, several pioneer movements have denounced the concept of masterpiece.

In order to fulfill the role described above and transmit culture, criticism should provide:
1. an aesthetic chart of the film; namely, to explain which genre or school the film belongs to, the model it expresses, the rules it adopts or rejects etc.
2. a social chart of the film; who it represents and who it is about, the ideology it expresses, its position in the historical/political system etc.
3. an analysis of how filmic expressive means are organised (angles and movement of the camera, size, duration and succession of shots, connections, montage and rhythm).
It is obvious that most or all of the above are not included in film criticism, which is mainly restricted to examining the film΄s story and the performance of the actors, and making hypotheses about deeper symbolisms; thus, the reader gets the impression that the critic is ignorant of both the expressive means used in the film and the society the film belongs to, as if the film΄s criticism were addressed to nobody.
On the other hand, by discovering codes and levels of symbolism of which the director is not immediately conscious, criticism also mediates between the director`s creative subconscious and the work. This is achieved by the use of subjective criteria, which have to be further analysed meta-critically; alternatively, the critic becomes an auteur on the aesthetic level, by introducing new aesthetic rules. In the first case, the critic may become difficult to understand or there may be disagreement between views. I shall mention some views of critics on Th. Angelopoulos` Megalexandros: "Megalexandros stands alone… visually abundant and fulfilling… mature in composition and very advanced—soaring above the general standard of Greek film. This is the vanguard of the popular element…" (D. Danikas 4-11-1980). "I shall remind you that it is a poetic political film that flows like a river… with multiple levels, laden with symbols and historical riddles which are mostly left unsolved… (it has three) levels of interpretation" (K. Stamatiou 3-11-1980). "…even the least enthusiastic bow before the magnificence of the idiosyncratic Megalexandros, a most misunderstood and gifted failed masterpiece" (O. Andreadakis 10-11-1980). There was notorious conflict between critics on Laurence Olivier`s Hamlet (E. Chourmouzios 7-12-1948, G. Skarimbas 11-12-1948), Ingmar Bergman`s The Silence and so on.

Weakness or consent?

One big and fundamental irony about theoretical filmic discourse is its inability to liberate itself from the ideology of the hegemony. Ideology is what we call the explicit (in collective experiences) and implicit (in rules of behaviour and emotions) prescriptive restrictions which crystallize into institutional power structures, through the implementation of power relations, and affect us through socialization, social structures and the practices which produce and reproduce such experiences and behaviour.

Let us become more specific, without touching on the complicated matter of art. An artistic film is not cinema itself; it is just a part of cinema and therefore it is subject to the necessities of cinema. Neither the art film nor art itself is something far away; they both lie in culture, which is the system of power structure which we enter in order to act in accordance to certain cultural standards and experiences. Since this system is based on power relations, it is contradictory. In the part of art which concerns us, reaction is expressed through creative or heretic works and by theoretical discourse. The action system of authority imposes itself through academic rules, as well as numerous prescriptive mechanisms, which confirm that the film is not simply art. These mechanisms are:
-the institutional frame (analytically in Ch. Sotiropoulou 1989:48-53).
-censorship, which Jean Mitry (6-11-65) identifies with the state.
-rituals such as a "national festival, an irreverent product of vulgar transactions and extortions…" (Th. Rentzis 26-9-1978).
- police raids on cinemas during screenings of I kangeloporta (22-2-79).
-V. Rafailidis΄ imprisonment because of his article published in the newspaper Ethnos on 17 October 1983.
-embargo on national cinema.
-"efforts through the direct or indirect pressure of producers and distribution companies to restrict or silence the views of critics" (G. Bacoyannopoulos), and so on.
Ironically enough, despite being constantly targeted by the power system , theorists prefer to follow the road of consent. They disengage the celestial work of art from mundane institutional limitations. They judge films according to the rules of their times, which they render eternal—who talks about expressionism or the avant-garde today? Sometimes, they combine strict reproach against institutions with the Hegelian view that "the work of art will become an eternal transmitter of ideas and will exist so as to proclaim, concretely and clearly, the existence of the Universal Spirit… and that the spiritual soars over the mundane" (V; Rafailidis 1995:256). And some other times they isolate the artistic film as a work which, in itself, refers exclusively to the "textual" interaction of its codes (ib. 1995:249); namely, it refers to the process which transforms it either in symbolic capital for the few, or in a means of deception. This exact view of the elite is also expressed by O. Elytis (1992:149): "The dangers threatening it mostly derive from the fact that film is not addressed to individuals but to groups of people, to ΄crowds΄ whose taste can never be on the same level".

No matter how we are surprised by this, it becomes evident that theoretical discourse receives pressure from the ideology of the hegemony; therefore it must be subjected to revision. It must be acquitted from the accusation of consent. When criticism arrives at its best, by analyzing the film΄s multiple and hidden levels for those who "do not understand", it raises suspicions of social discrimination. Speaking against films because they contain a "political message", "spoon-feed ideas" to the audience, are "grotesque" or "militant", signifies collaboration with the hegemony by silencing any kind of political discourse. This collaboration also includes the assessment of films based on "absolute" art, the rejection of emotion and passion as being melodramatic, and the debasement of documentary films as a lower form. It is hard to accept that rendering a film exemplary, detaching it from social and historical reality, and placing it in the realm of timeless art as a manifestation of the Universal Idea serves anything but the ideology of the hegemony, which needs steadfast and timeless values in order to remain steadfast itself.
The director must certainly know the syntactic codes but, to quote C. Metz again, a film is not defined exclusively by these codes. A film is a social event and, as such, it is not assessed only by its structure, but also by its appeal, assimilation, and influence, by the social context and its effect on it. Otherwise, it becomes obsolete.
After 1970, theoretical discourse on film stood clearly opposite to consent with the ideology of hegemony; it resisted its pressures and came to know its problems. I shall quote some relevant texts. "The codes of montage are ideologically oriented… every film is a vehicle of ideology" (N. Kolovos 1988:146); "rhythms and experiences of (censored) culture are being recorded anew on the body of film" (Th. Rentzis 1980:24); "in order to evolve, the Big Mute Audience does not need information; it needs to speak" (D. Leventakos 1972:47). In 1991, the Hellenic Association of Film Critics (PEKK) published a collection of writings on "Politics in Film", by critics A. Tyros, T. Goudelis, N. Kolovos, S. Triantafyllou, G. Soldatos, Th. Soumas, A. Kyriakidis, V. Kechagias and D. Charitos; in those texts, a strong comparison is made with "the doomed glare of the Parnassians΄ fireworks, who, from the top of Mount Parnassus, saw their theories… wane" (A. Kyriakidis 1991:24).

However, it has not been possible to unite those reactions into a comprehensive theoretical body, able to at least confront the ideas of the hegemony, if not replace them. As a result, criticism was restricted to expressing itself dually. The function of criticism in itself renders such a goal difficult to achieve. In order to formulate a fruitful theory of criticism, the prerequisites are a broader anthropological approach which will reveal any silencing, abstraction, or distortion of ideology and will provide a systemic analysis of both the aesthetic experience and the social function of the cinema phenomenon. Thus, it will be shown that:
-art is not an eternal or ecumenical phenomenon, but it depends on social structure, and it is perceived differently or not at all by each culture.
-film belongs to the means of non-symmetrical communication; the contact between transmitter and receiver is broken because the receiver cannot answer through the same channel and has to submit to silence, while the transmitter controls ideological discourse.
-film is not just art; it has several additional functions such as entertainment, research, advertising etc.
-culture is not homogeneous; it contains resistance, refutations and conflicts among various social strata and competitive elites.
-therefore, art and entertainment are not strictly separate; they are either interchangeable or conceal contrasts inherent to the system.
-ideology is produced not only in the production and syntax of the film, but also in its distribution.
-ideology is produced by both the interweaving of codes and the structural models (imaginary, marvelous), which correspond to models of consent or non-consent—not to social structures.
-the communication of ideology is conducted through the "magic of the screen"; namely, the alteration of the viewer΄s identity through the processing of the image and the conditions in the theatre, which coordinate the passive flux of consciousness with the flow of the film.
-this process is reinforced by the economic and political context, and the mechanisms through which the film is commercially distributed (star system, advertising, censorship etc); in Hollywood, critics who wrote negatively about a film were bought off.
There is one more issue. Confrontation of ideology is also ideology. At the same time, there is resistance against ideology which is expressed within the same channel (deconstruction films, documentaries) or through other channels (abolition of the cinema theatre etc). If theoretical discourse is to be critical and perceive the social process and its contradictions, it must not only analyse the socio-political role of the film and the filmic spectacle in general, or the aesthetically concealed function of ideology, which materializes in institutions; it must also analyse the contradictions within and the resistance against this function.

Translated from greek by Danae Stamataki
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