Christian Metz (theorist)

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Christian Metz
Born(1931-12-12)12 December 1931
Died7 September 1993(1993-09-07) (aged 61)
Cause of deathSuicide
Academic background
InfluencesFerdinand de Saussure
Academic work
School or traditionScreen theory
InstitutionsSchool for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences (EHESS)
Main interestsFilm studies and media studies
Notable worksLanguage and Cinema
The Imaginary Signifier: Psychoanalysis and the Cinema
Notable ideasFilm semiotics

Christian Metz (French: [mɛts]; December 12, 1931 – September 7, 1993) was a French film theorist, best known for pioneering film semiotics, the application of theories of signification to the cinema. During the 1970s, his work had a major impact on film theory in France, Britain, Latin America, and the United States.[1] As Constance Penley flatly stated in Camera Obscura, "Modern film theory begins with Metz."[2]

Biography[edit]

Metz was born in Béziers.

He lectured at the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences (EHESS).

In 1964, he published the article Cinema, langue or parole? ("cinema, language or speech") in the journal Communications, and the following books over the next 25 years: Essays on the Signification of Cinema (1968 and 1973), Language and Cinema (1971), Semiotic Essays (1977), The Imaginary Signifier: Psychoanalysis and the Cinema (1977).

In Film Language: A Semiotics of Cinema, Metz focuses on narrative structure — proposing the "Grand Syntagmatique", a system for categorizing scenes (known as "syntagms") in films.

Metz applied both Sigmund Freud's psychology and Jacques Lacan's mirror theory to the cinema, proposing that the reason film is popular as an art form lies in its ability to be both an imperfect reflection of reality and a method to delve into the unconscious dream state.

His work has been critiqued by Jean Mitry in 1987 in Semiotics and the Analysis of Film, and virulently so by Jean-François Tarnowski in Positif.[3]

In his final work, Impersonal Enunciation, Metz "uses the concept of enunciation to articulate how films 'speak' and explore where this communication occurs, offering critical direction for theorists who struggle with the phenomena of new media."[4] Published in French in 1991, Impersonal Enunciation received little attention in the English-speaking world until it was translated in 2016, an indicator of a resurgence of interest in Metz as a scholar whose work on multi-screen environments was before its time.

Metz died in Paris, aged 61, having taken his own life.[5]

Select bibliography[edit]

  • Film Language: A Semiotics of the Cinema (ISBN 0-226-52130-3)
  • The Imaginary Signifier: Psychoanalysis and the Cinema (ISBN 0-253-20380-5)
  • Language and Cinema (ISBN 90-279-2682-4)
  • Impersonal Enunciation, or the Place of Film (ISBN 0-231-17367-9)

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Chateau, Dominique; Lefebvre, Martin (2014-05-01). "Dance and Fetish: Phenomenology and Metz's Epistemological Shift". October. 148: 103–132. doi:10.1162/OCTO_a_00177. ISSN 0162-2870. S2CID 57559768.
  2. ^ Metz, Christian (2016-03-29). Buckland, Warren; Fairfax, Daniel (eds.). Conversations with Christian Metz: Selected interviews on film theory (1970-1991). Amsterdam: Wageningen Academic Publishers. p. 12. ISBN 978-90-485-2673-4. OCLC 1018944950.
  3. ^ Mitry, Jean (2000). Semiotics and the Analysis of Film. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. ISBN 0-253-33733-X. OCLC 44755128.
  4. ^ Metz, Christian (2016). Impersonal enunciation, or the place of film. Translated by Deane, Cormac. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 978-0-231-54064-3. OCLC 936117850.
  5. ^ Flitterman-Lewis, Sandy (1994). "Tribute to Christian Metz". Discourse. Wayne State University Press. 16 (3): 3–5.

Further reading[edit]