The Cinematic Voice

The voice in cinema is a phenomenon that is in many ways taken for granted. Since the advent of the talkies, the speaking voice synchronised to the human body on-screen is the ingrained process for narrative exposition and character development. However, this accepted synchronisation is one of sound cinema’s fundamental illusions.

This major production for The Cinematologists features the analysis from leading film scholars and critics, each focusing on uses and interpretations of cinematic voice, using a plethora of filmic examples. Many aspects of the cinematic voice are explored including star voices, script and performance, sonic aesthetics of the voice, voice-overs, the singing voice, voices in animation, the disembodied voice, and politics of who has a voice and who listens. We draw upon many of the key thinkers on film sound including the seminal work of Michel Chion. Chion developed concepts like Audio-Vision, to explore how sound shapes how the screened image can be understood, and acousmetré, meaning the cinema’s use of disembodied off-screen voice. Using these ideas he forwards the argument that sound is not a secondary addendum to image in the cinematic experience, but fundamentally structures how we see and understand film.

Unlike our usual conversational format, this episode is an audio-essay; recorded interviews cut together with indicative clips in a sonic collage which is hopefully an immersive experience transversing the boundaries between creativity and criticism. We recommend that you listen to this episode on headphones to get the full effect. As always Dario and Neil discuss the themes of the podcast but also engage with the production and formal approach in the context of film podcasts more broadly.

Contributors to this episode are (in order of appearance are):

Dario Llinares - Website - Twitter

Clive Frayne (11:03-19:18)  - Website - Twitter

Neil Fox - (19:56-29:30) Website - Twitter

Laura Tunbridge - (32:08-37:08) Website - Twitter

Catherine Wheatley - (41:46-47:33) Website - Twitter

Ian Garwood  (48:56-55:00) - Website - Twitter

Farshid Kazemi (55:51-1:01:50) - Website

Jennifer O’Meara - (1:06:14-1:14:24) Website - Twitter

Mark Kermode (1:15:40-1:23:22) - Website - Twitter

William Brown (1:23:56-1:36:14) - Website - Twitter

My profound thanks for their time, labour and critical insight which has made this episode possible.

A full transcript of this episode is available at www.cinematologists.com

Film clips (in broadcast order)

The Jazz Singer (1927, Alan Crosland)

Blackmail (1929, Alfred Hitchcock)

Dead of Night [The Ventriloquist’s Dummy (1945, Alberto Cavalcanti)

To Have and Have Not (1944, Howard Hawks)

The Trial (1962, Orson Welles)

Dirty Harry (1972 Don Siegel)

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968, Stanley Kubrick)

In the Heat of the Night (1967, Norman Jewison)

Inherent Vice (2014, Paul Thomas Anderson)

Dick Tracy (1990, Warren Beatty)

The Shawshank Redemption (1995, Frank Darabont)

Only Lovers Left Alive (2014, Jim Jarmusch)

White Men Can’t Jump (1992, Ron Shelton)

Daughters of the Dust (1991, Julie Dash)

Félicité (2017, Alain Gomis)

Mary Poppins (1964, Robert Stevenson)

Magnolia (1999) Paul Thomas Anderson

The Wind Will Carry Us (1999, Abbas Kiarostami)

All the President’s Men (Alan J. Pakula)

Her (2014, Spike Jonze)

Toy Story (1995, John Lassiter)

Puss in Boots [Antonio Banderas Voice Session]

Frozen (2013, Jennifer Lee, Chris Buck)

Anomalisa (2016, Charlie Kaufman, Duke Johnson)

Star Wars (1977, George Lucas)

The Exorcist (1973, William Friedkin)

The Exorcist Original Voice Recordings

The Exorcist documentary

Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979, Terry Jones)

The Dark Knight Rises (2012, Christopher Nolan)

The Great Dictator (1940, Charlie Chaplin)

Valkyrie (2008, Bryan Singer)

The Wizard of Oz (1939, Victor Flemming)

Some Like it Hot (1959, Billy Wilder)

References (in order of mention):

Altman, Rick. 1980. Moving Lips: Cinema as Ventriloquism. Yale French Studies, 60 Cinema/Sound: pp. 67-79 - https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/2930005.pdf?seq=1

Chion, Michel. 1999. The Voice in Cinema. Columbia University Press.

 Barthes, Roland. 1978. The Grain of the Voice. In Image, Music, Text. New York: Wang and Hill. pp.179-189.

Whittaker, Tom and Wright, Sarah. 2017. Locating the Voice in Film: Critical Approaches and Global Perspectives. Oxford University Press.

Kozlov, Sarah. 1992. Invisible Storytellers: Voice-Over Narration in American Fiction Film. University of California Press.

Cavell, Stanley. 1994. A Pitch of Philosophy: Autobiographical Exercises. Harvard University Press.

Clements, Catherine. 1989. Opera, Or The Undoing Of Women. Virago.

Cavarero, Adrianna. 2005. For More Than One Voice: Toward a Philosophy of Vocal Expression. Stanford University Press.

Kiarostami, Abbas. 2015. Lessons with Kiarostami. Sticking Place Books.

Dolar, Mladen. 2006. A Voice and Nothing More. Massachusetts: MIT Press.

Sobchak, Vivien. 2005. When the Ear Dreams: Dolby Digital and the Imagination of Sound. Film Quarterly, 58(4), pp. 2-15.

Adorno, Theodor., & Horkheimer, Max. 1944. The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception.

Chow, Rey. 2017 ‘The Writing Voice in Cinema’. In Whittaker, Tom and Wright, Sarah. Eds. Locating the Voice in Film: Critical Approaches and Global Perspectives. Oxford University Press.

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