Saturday, 8 June 2013

CINEPHILE 8.1 on the Voice-Over in Cinema

Frame grab from Borom Sarret/The Wagoner (Ousmane Sembène,1963). Read Alexander Fisher's article on Sembène's use of voice-over in this film in the latest issue of Cinephile
While it is true that film has been historically considered an image-centred medium, the fact that hearing plays as much a role in perceiving the motion picture as seeing does, transcends it beyond a mere visual art. Furthermore, as noted sound theorist Michel Chion asserts in The Voice in Cinema, “the presence of a human voice structures the sonic space that contains it.” Therefore, studying parts of the cinema in which the voice gains particular significance is not only justified, but necessary. This issue of Cinephile revolves around diverse applications and functions of the voices in fiction films, whose sources are absent from the image frame.

Theoretical approaches to the filmic voice were only developed in the 1980s, and as the works cited in the articles here indicate, at least in the case of off-screen voices and voice-over, they have not been properly updated. One goal of this collection has been to explore various demonstrations of voice-over both in a more contemporary scope and on a more international scale. The main concern of each of the following five articles is the voice-over, showing how concentrating on this under-appreciated technique can lead to bigger conclusions about films and filmmakers. [Editorial Introduction, Cinephile, 8.1, 2013]

Today, Film Studies For Free hails the online publication (earlier this year) of volume 8.1 of Cinephile, the University of British Columbia's on and offline film journal. The special topic on this occasion is the cinematic voice-over and there are marvellous essays on it by Sarah Kozloff (author of the classic studies of VOs and film sound Invisible Storytellers: Voice-Over Narration in American Fiction Film [1988] and Overhearing Film Dialogue [2000]), Stephen Teo, Carl Laamanen, Laura Beadling and Alexander Fisher.

You can download a large PDF of this beautifully illustrated issue from this webpage. The featured contents are as follows
  • 'About a Clueless Boy and Girl: Voice-Over in Romantic Comedy Today' by Sarah Kozloff
  • 'What Does God Hear? Terrence Malick, Voice-Over, and The Tree of Life' by Carl Laamanen
  • 'Native American Filmmakers Reclaiming Voices: Innovative Voice-Overs in Chris Eyre’s Skins' by Laura Beadling
  • 'The Voice-Over as an Integrating Tool of Word and Image' by Stephen Teo
  • 'Voice-Over, Narrative Agency, and Oral Culture: Ousmane Sembène’s Borom Sarret' by Alexander Fisher

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