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Reviews155 Cole points out, it is no accident that Descartes had his bizarre dreams at precisely the time when he conceived his radical plan of seeking the foundations of science by rejecting all previous opinions. This intellectual declaration ofindependence is clearly associated with Descartes' personal rebellion against the established vocational path which his father had expected him to follow. It is not surprising that Descartes had strange dreams reflecting the latter after he spent a day feverishly mulling over the former. Cole connects the dreams with another aspect ofDescartes's philosophy: his identification of the selfas a pure res cogitans. This identification required not just philosophical reflection, but the sort of emotional catharsis that dreams can provide. This book is a model of scholarship, and I recommend it highly. University of CanterburyRobert Stoothoff Narrated Films: Storytelling Situations in Cinema History, by Avrom Fleishman; xv & 243 pp. Baltimore:Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991, $34.95. Proverbial wisdom tells us that "every picture tells a story," narratology, how storytelling carries its impact. Avrom Fleishman's investigative foray into the subdeties of filmic narration confronts the oversimplifications to which theoretical as well as conventional understanding can be prone. The result is a genuine pleasure: a book that combines theory and practice in often illuminating ways. Starting with a brisk recapitulation of film narratology, especially that of Genette, Fleishman positions his study with a key emphasis on narration's situational nature: "Narration is, then, the activity of articulating a discourse that conveys a story—and not articulation in an abstract sense, but the interpersonal . . . situation in which the narrating act takes place. What film criticism has generally studied as 'narration' will be discussed below . . . under the heading of 'discourse.' What film criticism has generally neglected . . . , the perceptible activities of telling a story, will be discussed here as 'narration'" (p. 13). In seeking thus to tighten up critical language by acknowledging what he rightly refers to as narration's "social and pragmatic aspect" (p. 13), Fleishman argues for a more subtle, analytical instrument that intentionally deemphasizes the purely theoretical in favor ofthe situational. This fundamental strategy also determines the book's form: a series of chapters that analyze films according to the varieties of narrational situations they represent. Noting that approximately one in six sound films is narrated (p. 22), Fleishman proceeds to describe a set of storytelling variations, "developed 156Philosophy and Literature inductively from ... a body of over 250 films" (p. 20). He acknowledges possible objections to overschematization, and counters with a commonsense emphasis on the importance of die broad overview when faced with the unexamined variety of narrational practices. The introduction and first three chapters touch on an enormous number of films, and a broad sweep of cinematic history, running from silent films to sound, and from the "first wave" to the New Wave, but always as a means of clearing the terrain for the readings of paired films in subsequent chapters. The book thus combines the pleasures of an encyclopedic range with those of the analytical treatise. While this gambit causes the early chapters to read in places like a catalogue, the wealth of references never suffers from arbitrary flashiness. On the contrary, Fleishman's erudition and the distinctions he coaxes forth early on move the study from die general to die particular by sketching for the reader something like a diagonal grid: earlier discussions of variations in die ways films are told set up the subsequent readings, where they are distilled down to five key storytelling situations. They thus flesh out the later chapters without intruding on them, without distracting from their tightly argued cases. Here Fleishman examines voice-over, dramatized narration, multiple narration , written and mindscreen narration, always with the basic concern of "how the story reaches us" (p. 192). He takes well-known and often-discussed films and freshens awareness of them as much by his unexpected pairings (as in "Voice-Over Narration in Orpheus and Sunset Boulevard," or my favorite, "Multiple Narration in Rashomon and Zelig") as by his narratological acuity. But this is of a piece with die book's greatest virtue: unlike too many abstracted, voiceless books, Narrated Films is a model of informed, generous film criticism...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 155-156
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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