The visual image is the common denominator of cinema and painting, and indeed many filmmakers have used the imagery of paintings to shape or enrich the meaning of their films. In this discerning new approach to cinema studies, Angela Dalle Vacche discusses how the use of pictorial sources in film enables eight filmmakers to comment on the interplay between the arts, on the dialectic of word and image, on the relationship between artistic creativity and sexual difference, and on the tension between tradition and modernity. Specifically, Dalle Vacche explores Jean-Luc Godard's iconophobia (Pierrot Le Fou) and Andrei Tarkovsky's iconophilia (Andrei Rubleov), Kenji Mizoguchi's split allegiances between East and West (Five Women around Utamaro), Michelangelo Antonioni's melodramatic sensibility (Red Desert), Eric Rohmer's project to convey interiority through images (The Marquise of O), F. W. Murnau's debt to Romantic landscape painting (Nosferatu), Vincente Minnelli's affinities with American Abstract Expressionism (An American in Paris), and Alain Cavalier's use of still life and the close-up to explore the realms of mysticism and femininity (Therese).
While addressing issues of influence and intentionality, Dalle Vacche concludes that intertextuality is central to an appreciation of the dialogical nature of the filmic medium, which, in appropriating or rejecting art history, defines itself in relation to national traditions and broadly shared visual cultures. Angela Dalle Vacche is Associate Professor of Art History and teaches in the film studies program at Yale University. She is the author of The Body in the Mirror: Shapes of History in Italian Cinema.