CAPTURING THE HER/OINE: A Comparative Study of the Female as Director and Subject to Define Same-Agent Communication 

This research intends to broaden perspective and form of film evaluation by observing the way select social groups film themselves, and in contrast, observe how these groups are filmed by others. The initial premise is set by determining how 100 female directors use the camera, narrative, artistic expression and symbolism. In the second phase of research, the female subject is explored in 100 films directed by male directors.  Similarly, camera movement, narrative structure, visually artistic expressions such as blocking, mise-en-scène, music, use of silence, negative space, as well as symbolism, are all noted through the guise of traditional and feminist film theorists.

Since the female is the subject of study, the analysis of their films naturally include a fair balance of female and male feminist contemporaries such as Teresea de Lauretis, and her perspectives on works of Chantal Akerman, Agnès Varda and Sally Potter, to name a few. Additionally, Ann Kaplan, Laura U. Marks, Jane Gaines, Ann Doane, Trinh T. Minh-ha, Catherine Grant and Bell Hooks are also incorporated as foundational cues by which to base concluding interpretations.

The significant element of this study is to compare separate structures, with identifiable patterns and methods, first. This lays the groundwork for adapting the model for other "same-agent" groupings to be analysed in the future. Although a slightly closed study to establish a "base-structure" where the female is considered the "same-agent" and the male director as the "opposite agent" (or 'opposing' agent) isn't common, it is not opposed to Deleuzian theory where "differences" are seen as the evolutionary process (ie, process theory) where one develops "identity" encompassed by one's own self-awareness in nature and society. Hence, by establishing two distinct groups and observing their own methods of cinematic communication is to recognise patterns of similarities and differences that exist as "cinematic language".

Further, these discoveries may uncover ways in which "same-agent" groups (where the directing body is the same as the subject) have chosen to film one another and use entirely different methods, patterns and narrative scope. Deleuze's most notable observation in Différence et Répétition (1968) discusses the concept of "identity" being understood through difference itself, so therefore by exploring things of the same genus, we can understand detailed differences in a more comprehensive manner. Hence, by observing visual and narrative comparative similarities and differences within two similar groups, separately, a framework of a truer comparison can take place; leaving observed repetitive practices to speak for themselves -- as a visual language communicating to us, the viewer.

Finally, while initial questions pertaining to cinematic language are premised by classic structural film theorist Gilles Deleuze's books, Cinema 1: The Movement Image/Cinéma 1. L'image-mouvement (1983) and Cinema 2: The Time Image/Cinéma 2. L'image-temps (1985), the significance of current recurring visual trending styles are analysed in parallel with feminist film theory and their female directors or cinematographers. Naturally, addressing same-agent/same-subject methods within one select group -- the women -- shall raise a few particular theoretical questions. For instance, how has feminist theory evolved alongside other social groups or sub-sets in nations that maintain profound standing in cinematic history and cultural archive? And moreover, what does the female as same-agent/same-subject reveal to the "feminist perspective" conversation symbolically and cinematically?

Topical questions I have are if new directors are choosing writers more often with story narratives relating to social issues, rather than literarily classic dramas? Or, in other words, do storylines contain details the viewer is “expected” to understand in reality/real-time, similar to select heroine-lead stories during feminist and social movements of the 60s and 70s? I would also pose questions about experimental/studio film styles to evaluate replications of early experimental film techniques used such as Maya Deren, or early documentary styles of Zora Neale Hurston. These, and other inquiries, are anticipated as they relate to eras when women were novice filmmakers. As result, mirroring patterns of style may occur within a new generation and new set of novice female content/filmmakers, created by the advent of social media and current push for a gender balanced industry.

French film theorist Christian Metz was known for an almost antagonistic approach toward the applicability of cinema as a language. He embraced metaphysics, structuralism, and psychoanalysis, transforming canons of future film interpretation. Although Metz disagreed with other theorists who sought to understand "the language of cinema", he never deviated from his aim to categorise what was seen and unseen. To make the argument delineating cinematic communication, this research uses same-agent methods to discern minutia in visual and narrative methods used by "same-agent/same-subject" groups, and between those, and existing journals and books on haptic, sensorial and performative cinema, further define the seemingly abstract signifiers of trending visual styles. For, realism, surrealism, expressionism, naturalism, and neo-realism, were also at one time "undefined" and "abstract" until enough were made and analysed to solidify their place as cinematic archive.


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