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Title: The projectionist in cinema and the persistence of film
Author: Jesson, Claire
ISNI:       0000 0004 7961 1444
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2018
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Depictions of films being projected to an audience are ubiquitous in cinema. Yet the projectionist, as a figure of potential interest, has been as invisible to the academy as he or she strives to be in real life when running a film from the projection box. The present research addresses this by uniting, in a full-length study, films in which the projectionist is a protagonist. It aims to demonstrate that he (for it is rarely she as far as on-screen representation is concerned) enriches and complicates the ways in which films are reflexive. Research on filmic reflexivity frequently concentrates on representations of the film director, producer, writer or star. The projectionist can be analogous to these figures. Yet cinema about him makes visible his, and the ordinary viewer's, relationships to film and how films function as public objects. My starting point is the unique positioning of the projectionist as a spectator cum 'filmmaker' who makes the audience visible and raises a set of issues around watching film and its attendant practices and contexts. American comedies are examined in the first chapter. They explore the individual viewer's interaction with film through slapstick play with the screen. In contrast, the films of chapter two depict how collective audiences receive film. The dynamic relationship between films and how they are circulated, screened, received, reconstructed, or even ignored by the viewer in different contexts invite questions about cinema's social uses. Finally, chapter three's films are themed around the audience's retreat from cinema. The projectionist is a figure closely associated with cinemagoing as a declining practice and with the persistence of cinema as a problem. Apart from finding that movies with projectionist-protagonists are deeply concerned with film spectatorship, a distinction also emerges between ways in which a film may be for the audience and ways in which it is about them. This is a thematic concern of the films in my corpus. However, I examine how the films orient themselves towards their extra-diegetic viewer as well. Within this, the intertextuality of film illuminates the filmmaker's own viewing and addresses an initiated audience by means of a shared cinephilia. I attempt to distinguish the range of discursive strategies films deploy to reach audiences and to thematise cinema and its importance. I argue that a film's anticipated reception is often inscribed in the text itself and that films thus tell us how to watch them. I proceed by means of the close reading of films, which is sometimes maligned as a scholarly practice. In the light of this, I attempt to accomplish two main objectives with this study. Firstly, I argue that the concept of reflexivity is extended by analysis of films about exhibition and reception; how films reflect upon their reconstruction by the viewer describes a place for the audience, their reception of film, the exhibition context and the public sphere in discussions about reflexivity. Secondly, the study seeks, by means of its methodology, to re-state the case for film analysis as the indispensable business of film studies. The figure of the projectionist grants access to these related endeavours.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Arts and Humanities Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: PN1993 Motion Pictures