He seems primarily concerned with differentiating a film from both a still photograph and from a text. He considers at length the question of whether or not one can "subdivide a film into parts...to be able, in a sense, to quote" (84) it. He notes that "media like the cinema represent precisely the ambiguity between control and loss" (91) and proposes that most analyses of film represent an attempt to gain control of the film. He spends much of the chapter examining and objecting to interpretive strategies that, in his opinion, "reconstruct relations of meaning through an emphasis on montage" (123).
Burnett fears that such an approach will elevate "montage to the level of syntax" and create tendencies to look for "grammarlike systems" when none are present. In the conclusion of the chapter, Burnett returns to the notion of artificial boundaries, such as frames or filmic syntax. He concludes that the absence of such boundaries makes it impossible for the site of filmic interpretation to be either the screen or the celluloid itself, that the resulting assymetry is on "which textual formalism tries to constrain, but which images and viewers almost inevitably transcend, if not undermine" (126).
In the fourth chapter, "Projection," Burnett argues that "the [filmic] image is not so much intelligible (in the sense of a sign system awaiting a reading) as it is a vehicle through which spectators create constellations of meaning in stages, transforming, in an historical and temporal sense, the way images communicate and the many ways we communicate about them" (135). He asserts that he wants to "get away from the simple linearity of screen to viewer, images to spectator, to overcome the notions that images are souces of experience and sources of meaning" (137).
Burnett argues that the projection screen operates as "a place of exchange" (149) between film and viewer and cites Woody Allen's The Purple Rose of Cairo , with its "many layers of plot, action, fantasy, and self-reflexivity" (147) as a prime example of such interaction. Burnett then turns to a discussion of Helga Sanders-Brahms's Germany, Pale Mother to further illustrate the way in which seeing is not always the privileged action in viewing a film. Burnett guides the reader through a recreation of his process of viewing and reconstructing the film's narrative development and asserts that the "projection" that a viewer creates of a film is always a metacommunication --a message about a message (154).
The remaining 60 pages of this chapter consider how this concept of projection will resolve the relationship of the documentary cinema to historical events, how dialogue, which Burnett terms "a projection of natural language," (175) is used in film, and how clever editing can maximize interpretive possibilities. He concludes the chapter by asserting,
[As] sentient beings, we are neither the victims of the image nor in the emple sense do we reproduce its symbolic expectations....The history of this movement between various forms of images and reality suggests that we are finally in charge of the images we prefer. We will decide where the mediations begin and end and be able to comment upon our own status as projections [in an age of multimedia productions] even as we go about recreating the landscape of feelings and emotions we inhabit"(217).
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