Bela Balazs: Physiognomy as Language
Abstract: Balazs was theorizing a phenomenological epistemology for cinema based in aesthetics that was heavily dependent on hermeneutics, affect, performance, corporeality and audience reception. In some ways this is very surprising given that post-structuralism’s most prominent forefather figures (Marshall McLuhan, Raymond Williams, Michel Foucault, Jean Baudrillard, and others) were not pushing at the frontier of these areas of discourse until several decades after Balazs. Balazs’s early work was produced during a period of accelerated technological development, where the mobile apparatus (or unhinged camera), stereoscopic film, colour film, widescreen format and synchronous sound emerged as more than just experiments in advancing the medium’s capacities to represent and present life, both realistically or abstractly. This may help in explaining Balazs’s many prognostications on film theory in the contemporary moment as well as revealing how Balazs accurately predicted the value of the medium as a popular cultural form.