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"Chion is a poet in theoretician's clothing"  

Claudia Gorbman writes: 

Michel Chion, an experimental composer, filmmaker, and teacher in Paris, has published four books on film sound in the last decade, culminating in L'audio-vision (1990) Eng. trans. Audiovision (1994). While the most coherent approach to the analysis of audio-visual relations in film remains the chapter on sound in David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson's venerable textbook, Film Art, and while the most valuable and well-research recent scholarship can be found in Rick Altman's excellent anthology, Sound Theory/Sound Practice, Chion's work makes a fresh and very significant contribution. Drawing often on perspectives of earlier French sound theoreticians such as Pierre Schaeffer and Claude Bailblé, Chion unpretentiously and helpfully suggests new ways to think about structures and effects of audio-visual experience. 


Chion wrote Audiovision as a capstone for three earlier sound books. The book gathers and tries to systematize ideas he developed in the course of a decade of writing on topics in film history and style, essays on individual films, and remarkable phenomenological journeys into insistent figures in sound films, such as the acousmetre and anempathic music. In its effort to be less discursive and more pedagogically organized, Audio-Vision obscure some of the beauty and insight of Chion's usual writing. 


The humorless reader will probably scoff at many of the provocative claims he finds throughout this book - for example, that sound and image are fundamentally incompatible, that television is like a mouth, and that there is no such thing as a soundtrack. Likewise, those who seek unassailable systematicity, and those who insist on a consistent and thoroughly explicit theoretical approach, will find fault with Chion's work. Some of his terminology can be very cumbersome. But despite, or perhaps because of, his coining of such egregious terms as de-acousmatization and energetic fascination with intersections between technique, aesthetics, and psychology, Chion is a poet in theoretician's clothing. His imagination is particularly welcome in a field that has continued to prove largely resistant to in-depth study. 


Joseph Anderson's paper at the 1992 Ohio Uiversity conference on film sound provides a solid basis in cognetive science for Chion's phenomenologically derived assertions. Experiments on perception and attention in infants indicate that "the processing rule" may be this: if auditory and visual events occur at the same time, the sound and image are perceived as one event. (see page 35 in Wide Angle volume 15 number 1 (January 1993) 


La voix au cinéma (Paris: Cahiers du cinéma, coll. "Essais", 1982) 

Le son au cinéma (Paris: Cahiers du cinéma, coll. "Essais", 1985) 

L toile trouvée: La parole au cinéma (Paris: Cahiers du cinéma, coll. "Essais", 1988) 

Láudio-vision (Paris: Nathan, 1990) 

Edited Excerpt: Wide Angle volume 15 number 1 (January 1993) 

Audio-Vision: Sound on Screen  is  available at Internet book stores as  Amazon books   Highly recommended


Other Books by Michel Chion:

Michel Chion Links:   
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