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The Eyes Have It

Cinema and the Reality Effect

Murray Pomerance

Publication Year: 2013

The Eyes Have It explores those rarified screen moments when viewers are confronted by sights that seem at once impossible and present, artificial and stimulating, illusory and definitive.

Beginning with a penetrating study of five cornfield sequences—including The Wizard of Oz, Arizona Dream, and Signs—Murray Pomerance journeys through a vast array of cinematic moments, technical methods, and laborious collaborations from the 1930s to the 2000s to show how the viewer's experience of "reality" is put in context, challenged, and willfully engaged.

Four meditations deal with “reality effects” from different philosophical and technical angles. “Vivid Rivals” assesses active participation and critical judgment in seeing effects with such works as Defiance, Cloverfield, Knowing, Thelma & Louise, and more. “The Two of Us” considers double placement and doubled experience with such films as The Prestige, Niagara, and A Stolen Life. “Being There” discusses cinematic performance and the problems of believability, highlighting such films as Gran Torino, The Manchurian Candidate,  In Harm’s Way, and other films. “Fairy Land” explores the art of scenic backing, focusing on the fictional world of Brigadoon, which borrows from both hard-edged realism and evocative landscape painting.

Published by: Rutgers University Press

Series: Techniques of the Moving Image


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pp. 3-3


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pp. 4-4


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pp. 5-6


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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xii

I have been helped extensively by a very large number of kind people, to whom I owe a very sincere debt of gratitude. These include Sandra Joy Aguilar, Columbia Broadcasting System, Los Angeles; Patty Armacost, American Society of Cinematographers, Los Angeles; Jonathon Auxier...

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Prelude. Corn

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pp. 1-22

“Reality,” no less an expert than Liza Minnelli opined to Vanity Fair in November 2010, “is something you rise above.” In saying this, and without being philosophical, she invokes “reality” as a weight, the humdrum oppression of the everyday. Liza imagines herself — and us — striving to...

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Chapter 1. Vivid Rivals

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pp. 23-76

When things look real at the movies, one can be so enthralled as to lose a sense of reality in the “reality” of the experience. I sat in an audience far below Times Square to watch Star Wars in the summer of 1977, and at the moment — that glorious and epoch-marking moment — when Han Solo...

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Chapter 2. The Two of Us

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pp. 77-124

The leap of mortality, the salto mortale, an old acrobatic trick and crowd pleaser, goes all the way back to a primitive doubling and replacement ritual in which the priest and his priesthood are simultaneously overcome and renewed through an act of extremity. Nietzsche plays upon it in the...

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Chapter 3. Being There

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pp. 125-180

Paul Philidor, who had been projecting moving images of the dead to the astonished eyes of their friends and relatives (having obtained beforehand images that he could have copied in paint onto slides), applied his art by playing to, and with, the properties of light and the imagination, La Feuille...

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Chapter 4. A Fairy Tale

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pp. 181-222

Where is it that one can claim to be, while watching the action of a film? In which of two incomparable, undocumented, unresolvable realities? In the world of the theatrical auditorium, with its dimmed lights, its plush seating, its sweeping screen, its modest projection booth, its hidden projector...


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pp. 223-233

Works Cited

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pp. 235-249


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pp. 251-266

About the Author

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pp. 267-279

E-ISBN-13: 9780813560601
E-ISBN-10: 0813560608
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813560595

Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Techniques of the Moving Image
Series Editor Byline: Murray Pomerance See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 853510438
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Eyes Have It