Reading the Silver Screen

No art form is as instantly and continuously marvelous as film. When the house lights go down and the lion roars, we settle in to be shocked, tickled, frightened, elated, amazed, thrilled. We expect magic. Traditionally, moreover, viewing has been a communal experience. Sure, you can watch Wait until Dark in the privacy of your family room, but you haven’t really had the full experience unless Alan Arkin’s lunge out of the darkness at Audrey Hepburn is accompanied by 300 teenage girls screaming in unison. At the same time that we’re being exhilarated and terrified, however, we’re also processing data of all sorts—visual, linguistic, auditory, spatial—to collaborate in the construction of meaning.

READING THE SILVER SCREEN will help movie fans, students of film, and even aspiring screenwriters and directors move from being viewers to accomplished readers of this great medium. To get there, we’ll examine the grammar of film. Every art form has a grammar (or several), a set of practices and if-then propositions that amount almost to rules. Foster will talk throughout about a language of film, a way that movies —by following and by breaking the rules— communicate their meaning to audiences.

Foster will examine this grammar of film through various classic and current movies both foreign and domestic, with special recourse to the “AFI 100 Years – 100 Movies” lists. The categories, as ever, will be idiosyncratic but telling. What he hopes to offer readers is the ability and confidence to take from movies everything they have to offer.