A Semiotics of the Cinema
Translated by Michael Taylor
The University of Chicago Press
Published by arrangement with Oxford University Press, Inc. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago 60637
© 1974 by Oxford University Press, Inc.
All rights reserved. English translation. Originally published 1974 Note on Translation © 1991 by the University of Chicago
University of Chicago Press edition 1991
Printed in the United States of America
09 08 07
6 7 8 9 10
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
[Essais sur la signification au cinéma. English]
Film language: a semiotics of the cinema / Christian Metz:
translated by Michael Taylor.
Translation of: Essais sur la signification au cinéma, tome 1. Reprint. Originally published: New York: Oxford University
Includes bibliographical references.
ISBN 0-226-52130-3 (pbk.)
1. Motion pictures—Semiotics. 2. Motion pictures—
Philosophy. I. Title.
The French edition of Christian Metz's Essais sur la signification au cinema, volume 1, was published by Editions Klincksieck in 1971, © Editions Klincksieck, 1968.
ΘThe paper used in this publication meets the minimum
requirements of the American National Standard for Information Sciences-Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials,
To George Blin, Profesor at the Collège de France, whithout whom none of these pages would have been
A Note on the Translation by Bertrand Augst, ix
A Note on Terminology, xiii
Phenomenological Approaches to Film
Chapter I. On the Impression of Reality in the Cinema, 3
Chapter 2. Notes Toward a Phenomenology of the
Problems of Film Semiotics
The Cinema: Language or Language System? 31
Some Points in the Semiotics of the Cinema, 92
Problems of Denotation in the Fiction Film, 108
III Syntagmatic Analysis of the Image Track
Outline of the Autonomous Segments in Jacques
Rozier's film Adieu Philippine, 149
Chapter 7. Syntagmatic Study of Jacques Rozier's Film Adieu
IV The "Modern" Cinema: Some Theoretical Problems
Chapter 8. The Modern Cinema and Narrativity, 185
Chapter 9. Mirror Construction in Fellini's 8 1/2, 228
Chapter 10. The Saying and the Said: Toward the Decline of
Plausibility in the Cinema? 235
A Note on the Translation
by Bertrand Augst
When Film Language was translated, nearly twenty years ago, very few texts about semiotics and especially film semiotics were available in English. Michael Taylor's translation represents a serious effort to make Metz's complicated prose, filled with specialized vocabularies, accessible to a public unfamiliar with the concepts and terms of semiotics. Excepting the inadequate translation of a few words which either cannot be translated into English or only approximately translated, few semantic and stylistic improvements are needed and the translation does justice to Metz's text. In some instances, usage did not adopt Michael Taylor's solution. The most glaring example of his innovative translation is the word "significate" now usually translated by "signified" (signifié in French)—which is used throughout the text. Langue and parole have increasingly been translated by "language" and "speech," although this is not an ideal solution. Découper, translated by Taylor in a number of ways ("break up," "break down analysis," etc.), would more easily be translated by "segmenting" when used in the linguistic sense, and by découpage when used to describe the final stage of a shooting script. Michael Taylor also coined the expression "mirror construction" to translate construction en abîme, to describe embedded narrative structures like a film within a film. This is not...
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