LAB: HOU TEST LAB

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Cinemetrics lab is the latest addition to our site, and is still work in progress. When finished, the lab is envisaged to offer students of film history a range of analytical tools that will help them dissect, visualize and compare film-related data. We started with a large-scale comparative chart which looks a little like a star map. It is a scattergraph each dot on which represents a film available on our database. Select areas by dragging a rectangle to zoom in and see better different areas of film history. Once you have found your film on this map you will see how it relates to thousands of other films on the x-axis of time (past 111 years of film history) and on the y-axis of average shot lengths. What we intend to do is to add more tools to the lab in order to augment its statistics apparatus and enhance its means of data visualizations.

Year/ASL chart. Note the Log10 scale on the y-axis. It allows us to see all films in the very widely spread high ASL range.

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This lab's films are shown in yellow.
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List of films in this lab:

Three Times [Zuihao de shiguang]: (7) ASL 29.5
Millennium Mambo: (7) ASL 95.9
Flight of the Red Balloon: (7) ASL 76.5
Cafe Lumiere: (7) ASL 66

Notes.

[1] Udden, James. “This Time He Moves! The Deeper Significance of Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s Radical Break in Good Men, Good Women.” Cinema Taiwan: Politics, Popularity and the State of the Arts. Ed. Darrell William Davis and Ru-Shou Robert Chen. New York: Routledge, 2007.

[2] Udden, James. “Hou Hsiao-Hsien and the Question of a Chinese Style.” Asian Cinema 13:2 (2002): 5-75

[3] Wilson, George M. Narration in Light: Studies in Cinematic Point of View. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986. pg 2.

[4] Ibid, pp 51-52. For the source of the “ideal observer” model, see: Reisz, Karel and Gavin Millar. The Technique of Film Editing. New York: Hastings House, 1968. pg 215.

[5] Wilson, pp 86-87.

[6] Ibid, pg 54. Wilson traces the roots of this conception back to Bazin, which is fair; however, strictly speaking, the conception is much more clearly and forcefully enunciated in the writings of Kendall L. Walton. For instance, see: Walton, Kendall L. “Transparent Pictures: On the Nature of Photographic Realism.” Critical Inquiry 11:2 (1984): 246-277

[7] Wilson, pg 54.

[8] Ibid, pg 135.

[9] This “doctrinal intransigence” stems from the book’s stringent deference to the most rigid tenets of the orthodoxies of structuralism on the one hand (especially Benveniste and Barthes) and touchstones of early cognitivism on the other (invocations of Chomsky are frequent, Neisser and Hochberg also receive mentions). While both of these strands of thought have contributed richly to the study of cinema and media at various points in the history of the discipline, Branigan’s strict adherence to the most restraining aspects of each school of thought often leads him to exhibit the most corrosively doctrinal aspects of each school, rather than the most helpful, in this author’s opinion. It would be a presumptuous and largely empty exercise to systematically attack the assumptions I believe to form the structural roots of the oversights of Branigan’s book, and I am electing instead to address its limitations on a more fine-grained basis.

[10] Branigan, Edward. Point of View in the Cinema: A Theory of Narration and Subjectivity in Classical Film. New York: Mouton, 1984. pg 3.

[11] Ibid, pg 40.

[12] Ibid, pg 44.

[13] Ibid, pg 42.

[14] Ibid, pg 43, pg 68n18. How any form of narration in cinema would somehow manage to not be “camera-like” is a topic not broached by Branigan.

[15] Ibid, pg 43.

[16] Ibid, pg 44.

[17] Ibid, pg 95. Emphasis is my own.

[18] Ibid, pg 123.

[19] Ibid, pg 7.

[20] Branigan, pg 17.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Bordwell, David. Narration in the Fiction Film. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1985. pg 99.

[23] Branigan, pg 3. Bordwell, pp 57-59.

[24] Bordwell, pp 32-33. At one point in his account, Branigan goes so far as to claim that “the notion of ‘memory’ … is useful as a reading convention—a way in which the spectator makes sense of a representation—not as a determinate trait shared by viewers, authors, narrators, and characters in a film” (Branigan 78). Bordwell, on the other hand, believes that the schematas of human memory, and their impact upon the mind’s inferences, are an area that should be explored in any comprehensive account of viewers’ film comprehension (Bordwell 37).

[25] Bordwell, pg 57.

[26] Ibid, pg 58.

[27] For a careful discussion of Hou’s techniques in The Puppet Master, see: Ng, Yvonne. “Essence and Ellipsis in Hou Hsiao-Hisen’s The Puppet Master.” Kinema Spring 1999.

[28] Bordwell, pp 77-78.

[29] I myself was on the fence as to whether or not it was two different apartments or two radically different views of the same apartment even after several viewings of the film. I am indebted to Edo Choi for finally decisively pointing me on the right path on this issue. See our correspondence via notes at the bottom of the Millennium-Mambo-by-location graph here.

[30] For further comment on the use of jump cuts in Millennium Mambo, see shot notes for shots 13, 15, 17, 33 and 53 on the Millennium-Mambo-by-camera dynamics graph here. For comments on the use of jump cuts in Café Lumière, see shot notesfor shots 4, 22, 52, and 59 on the Café-Lumière -by-camera dynamics graph here. For comments on the (single) use of a jump cut in Flight of the Red Balloon, see shot notefor shot 50 on the Flight-of-the-Red-Balloon-by-camera dynamics graph here.

[31] Bordwell, pg 79.

[32] Ibid, pg 210.

[33] This calculation of the ASL of Three Times disregards the intertitles in the middle section of the film. With the intertitles included, Three Times’s ASL drops all the way down to 29.5 seconds, making it Hou’s fastest-cut film since A Time to Live, A Time to Die (1985).  I have calculated Hou’s ASL over the past decade using the intertitle-less figure from Three Times. For data on the ASLs of Hou’s films before 2001, see: Udden, “Question of a Chinese Style,” pg 62. For Three Times, see: http://www.cinemetrics.lv/movie.php?movie_ID=478

[34] http://www.cinemetrics.lv/movie.php?movie_ID=1411

[35] http://www.cinemetrics.lv/movie.php?movie_ID=3228

[36] See shot notes for shots 1, 21, 23, 44 and 55 on the Millennium-Mambo-by-location graph here.

[37] For a percentage breakdown of shots with major camera movement, minor reframing, and no camera movement in Millennium Mambo, Café Lumière, and Flight of the Red Balloon, see data above in this lab.

[38] Ricouer, Paul. “Narrative Time.” On Narrative. W.J.T. Mitchell, ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980. pg 170.

[39] Ibid.

[40] Ibid, pg 171.