خواطر حول هاجس التلقي في السينما / Remarks on Reception Aesthetics in Arab Cinema


Tewfik Saleh



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صالح, توفيق; Saleh, Tewfik

Document Type

Research Article

Publication Title

Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics

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[Egyptian cinema in its early phase may be seen as an extension of the musical phonograph record. In order to be successful commercially, it was imperative for films to depend on what was already accepted and popular, namely the song and the musical record. Only later did cinema make use of the forms of theater, cabaret and literature. Record companies participated in filmmaking. Thus, the beginning of Egyptian cinema differed from other filmic traditions, and this specificity made it popular in Arabic-speaking countries. This in turn encouraged Egyptian filmmakers to introduce the lore and character types of these Arab countries which constituted the market of Egyptian cinema. At one point, Egyptian cinema was indeed Arab cinema, and attachment to it was an indication of patriotism against foreign usurpers. When Egyptian films were shown to audiences all over the Arab world in the Thirties, they were very popular, and although they were not political in the least, the colonial powers opposed them because they contributed to a pan-Arab sense of identity. French colonial powers imposed restrictions and heavy taxes specifically on Egyptian films, while the British used censoring regulations. Realism in cinema is not to represent people walking or sitting and talking in actual situations, but to represent--through such people--a point of view about them which is credible, and in which the spectator can sense his own problems. The internal structure of the film and the cinematic techniques used in making a film have nothing to do with reality: they are sophisticated artifice. The image in cinema is not flat, but dense with significances. The mastery of the director lies in orienting the spectator toward a proper interpretation of the film and a reading of its inner structure. A given geographical location, for example, may be instrumental in evoking certain associations, just as certain modes of shooting a scene may induce the spectator to grasp the implications of a dialogue. The image is polysemic, and the spectator interprets it in terms of his/her education. In my films I use dialogue and often argument to capture the attention of the spectator, but this does not turn cinema into theater. In my opinion, the Arab spectator needs the word to complement the image in order to grasp the meaning of the film. But my use of words is not only an instrument of communication and narration. It has also an aesthetic function and contributes with its recurrence to a cinematic arabesque. My verbal approach to film corresponds to the aesthetic sensibility of Arab spectators for whom I make my films. I have called my method of bringing contradictions to the foreground and dramatizing them "intellectual melodrama." Instead of crude melodrama, I have opted for a political discourse in which two modes of being are opposed and dramatized. It has been shown that audiences respond positively to such films, yet many of my films, including The Duped, have not been shown except in festivals, ciné-clubs and universities.]

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