The life of mise-en-scène

Visual style and British film criticism, 1946–78

By John Gibbs

The life of mise-en-scène


  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-8866-7
  • Pages: 288
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £80.00
  • Published Date: December 2013
  • BIC Category: Film history, theory & criticism, PERFORMING ARTS / Film & Video / General, The arts / Film theory & criticism, Film and Media, Films, cinema


The life of mise-en-scène offers a critical history of key debates about visual style in British film journals in the post-war period. It reclaims an often-ignored or misrepresented history, including: the concept of film poetry in the journal Sequence, changing attitudes in Sight and Sound during the 1950s, and the battle over the significance of film style which raged between a number of small journals and the national press in the early 1960s.

It examines the British school, first associated with Movie in the 1960s, which, in Adrian Martin's words, is enjoying a 'widespread, international revival' - but also other critical movements, more hazily remembered. It explores the role of mise-en-scène in melodrama criticism, and considers what happened to detailed criticism as major theoretical movements emerged in the 1970s. In doing so, it provides a vital context for the contemporary practice of style-based criticism and challenges received notions of critical history, developing our understanding of a range of other key debates and concerns in the study of film.


'Gibbs undertakes an ambitious, large-scale project of critical historiography that, despite its scope, nevertheless manifests a quality of attention to the fi ne grain of concrete detail befitting its primary subject: the best achievements of interpretive or expressive mise-en-scène criticism . Gibbs's book is one of major scope and historical ambition, covering half a century, the origins of and obstacles to the gradual invention of a critical practice, and key developments in an emerging academic discipline. Yet at every point, the book's insights achieve precision and nuance through the deft way Gibbs builds this history almost entirely by sustained, meticulous analysis of primary sources, in which the critical developments outlined above took shape. His work here thus needs to be recognized as an extraordinary feat of scholarship.'
Elliott Logan, Projections Volume 11, Issue 1


1. Sequence
2. Transfusion and transformation: Sight and Sound in the 1950s
3. 'Pistols for three, coffee for one': the battle of form and content, circa 1960
4. Movie: aims and contexts
5. Movie: approaches and analysis
6. Melodrama and mise-en-scène
7. Postscript: Bordwell's interventions
1. Sequence
2. Transfusion and transformation: sight and sound in the 1950s 'Pistols for three, coffee for one': the battle of form and content, circa 1960
3. Movie: aims and contexts
4. Movie: approaches and analysis
5. Melodrama and mise-en-scène
6. Postscript: Bordwell's interventions


John Gibbs is Senior Lecturer in Film at the University of Reading

Sign up to our newsletter
and receive 30% off all future book orders

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!

Your cart is empty.

Select your shipping destination to estimate postage costs

(Based on standard shipping costs)

Final cost calculated on checkout
Promotional codes can be added on Checkout